June, 2004

Price Of Free Speech

June 21st, 2004 June 21st, 2004
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Eric Idle: “Hereís a little song I wrote the other day while I was out duck hunting with a judgeÖ Itís a new song, itís dedicated to the FCC and if they broadcast it, it will cost a quarter of a million dollars.”

One Wedding and Four Funerals

June 17th, 2004 June 17th, 2004
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This week I’m working on a film about poet and undertaker Thomas Lynch. Actually, I’m doing the lighting for Robin Browne, a cinematographer friend of Geoff Glover, who did the camerawork for my first short film, Last Train.

This has meant I’ve seen my second body, lying out in the funeral home. As we were carrying cases down the stairs, I craned my neck to have a look. The relatives looked back at me, lugging all these heavy boxes. I kept a sombre expression and resisted the temptation to say, “Spare parts.” Which was good.

Also this week we’ve been to see David Byrne, touring with the Tosca Strings. It was awesome. There was dancing. Which was kind of precarious on the two foot of space available up in the balcony at Ann Arbor’s Power Center venue.

And last night I went to see Mel Gibson’s The Passion. I thought it was pretty faithful to the Bible, the sadistic violence was representative of the time, the plebians were indeed sheep and the Latin/Aramaic dialogue stopped it devolving into Python’s parody or a string of soundbites.

Wait. There’s more. Candide has now been edited and a disk delivered to Russ at the theater. Sunday evening was spent recording music over in Detroit. Somewhere. I have no idea where, really. This was music for the Artrain project. Tuesday I met up with an artist friend over in Royal Oak. Life is busy, as usual. Magical. Moving.

Next up, maybe we can convince Anthony to help us finish painting our fence with his sprayer. Maybe we’ll go to see The Chronicles of Riddick and the new Spider-Man movie in the next few days. And go to the Ann Arbor summer festival to hang out and hear live music. And and and. Maybe it’s time for a beer.

It’s Not Much Of A Cheese Shop

June 15th, 2004 June 15th, 2004
Posted in It's life, Jim...
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The INS wrote on June 1st to say my travel documents were ready–I could go down to Detroit any time between 7am and 3.30pm to pick them up. This is effectively a visa which allows me to come and go while they process my Green Card application. It means we can go to Toronto to see the Blue Jays. Yesterday, we got up at six o’clock and drove over to Detroit.

Amazingly, we got a parking space in the INS lot, which is otherwise always full. That’s where the amusement ended. We joined the line, which started at the doors, and went through the usual dull security check, where armed guards made sure we weren’t carrying a cellphone with a camera (photographs can steal your soul, you know).

Twenty minutes of waiting during which they started showing Aladdin on the TV monitors around the room. Twenty minutes, and we got to the reception desk. I presented my letter. The woman behind the desk pulled out a huge stack of alphabetically arranged travel papers. She went through them, one by one. It skipped from Kim to Mackie. There were no papers for Jefferies.

Of course there weren’t. It’s Monty Python’s Cheese Shop sketch every time. This time they even included a video in lieu of a bazooki player. “I’d like a visa, please!” “Certainly, sir!” And then they make you guess until, eventually, they admit they don’t, in fact, have any visa’s at all. But they are remarkably clean.

Desk woman called the people who process the travel documents. She left a voicemail and promised to call them every five minutes until she got an answer. We sat down. More people came. The line never got any shorter with people waiting to get to the reception–the reception being the place where most people got numbers to join other lines. Officers occasionally came out and called names for people to interview. Half of the names didn’t seem to be there.

Forty five minutes later we were still sitting waiting. The queue hadn’t got any shorter. The woman at the desk seemed to keep vanishing off to run errands and chase things up. Aladdin, presumably provided for our entertainment, turned out to be a sadistic form of mental cruelty as the video was unwatchable. It had been played and stretched so many times that it constantly flickered and rolled. Occasionally it settled and you could start to watch a scene. Then the colors would split and it would hurt your eyes.

I jumped to the head of the reception line where another woman was now at the desk. “You need to join the line,” she said, which I interpreted as “I dare you to try punching me in the face when I have armed guards at the door and no one has a camera, not even in their phone.” “Actually,” I said, “I was thinking I should take my letter…” I pointed to it on her desk, “… and come back another day.” “Oh. Is this yours?” “Yes, the other lady told us she’d call in five minutes. That was forty five minutes ago. It’s now eight thirty.”

Desk Woman number two seemed puzzled. “That department doesn’t come in until 8.15 so I don’t know how she was going to call them before that.” She made the call while the line “they don’t come in until 8.15” echoed around my head, driving out all other thoughts. “No one seems to there yet,” new Desk Woman told me. “I can’t get hold of anyone.” No supervisor. No drones. Yip. “I’ll check again in fifteen minutes. You don’t really want to come down from Ann Arbor again.” No. No, I didn’t. I settled down with Laura to be assaulted by the Aladdin video some more.

Five genies appeared. “Ix-nay on the wishing for more wishes,” warned Robin. Ix-nay on the wishing for INS to get its act together too. The picture never improved. I texted my sister in the UK. “We’re at the INS and they’re torturing us with flickering Disney cartoons.” She texted back with news of my niece’s and nephew’s exam results. Three more people managed to get to the front of the reception line to be assigned their numbers for lining up elsewhere. More hopefuls took their place. About twenty had actually been seen by case officers since we’d arrived according to the boards showing other lines and numbers in the office.

Aladdin flickered to an end and the screens showed static. At last I heard Receptionist Two on the phone talking about travel documents. It was a brief conversation. “Keith Jefferies!” I went up to the desk. “Sorry you’ve had to wait. I just found the papers. They were here all along. Do you have some photo ID? Sign here. Thank you for being patient.” I signed, stunned, and took the papers, which, incidentally, cost $165 to acquire.

At 9.30, we left the Detroit offices of America’s immigration services. The line outside now extended all the way from the doors and down to the car park. There must have been about two hundred people waiting out there, spilling over on to the sidewalk outside the gates. We were lucky we hadn’t gone later. As lucky as you can feel if you get up at 6am and feel completely shattered for the rest of the day. As lucky as anyone can be if they’re invited to drive for an hour to have flashing lights shone at them for two hours before getting what they came for.

No, it’s not much of a cheese shop. But unlike Michael Palin’s establishment, they did, in fact, have the products they claimed to have. Some of their staff were friendly and helpful. And that’s saying something, given the nightmare of the line to the desk which never ends. Whatever. It’s done. Now we can go over to Canada and watch baseball at the Sky Dome. And tonight, in unrelated but still pleasing news, we get to see David Byrne, live, at the Power Center in A2.

As for the bazooki player… “Stop that bloody nonsense!”

When You’re A Jet

June 12th, 2004 June 12th, 2004
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White picket fence, it’s a dream come true. Well, it’s a landscaping plan come true anyway. Sort of. We’re about a third of the way along painting thanks to our “Tom Sawyer Fence Painting” party last week. Straw hats, white stain and beer. Most of the neighbours bailed because it looked like there were going to be thunderstorms. But, like the Mega Millions jackpot, the bad weather passed us by.

Amy and Kate, our neighbours from across the street, came over to help out, along with Russ and Deb and Laura’s friend, Anthony. Since then, it’s rained most of the time and the rest of the time, I’ve been working and teaching Benji some basic skills in editing. I’m still not sure why I had an intern but hopefully he learned something useful from the experience.

We spent most of the week creating one-minute vignettes for the Artrain docent training DVD. These are short videos featuring exhibition curator Joanne Bigfeather talking about the artworks in Native Views. Car one is now pretty much done. Just two more to go. I’ve also been talking to musicians about doing tracks for the other Artrain videos. Wednesday, Carl Michel, a local guitarist and I went over to Detroit to meet Joe Smith, a native American DJ, drummer and singer. That was an energising meeting which I’m hoping leads to more.

Yesterday, I put Artrain aside to work on the video I shot of Candide at the Michigan. I now have graphics from the show and have been using those to cover a multitude of recording sins. Hopefully, Russ will like the sequence of Cunegonde and Candide singing about their garden growing while sunflowers appear all around them.

Actually, Candide wasn’t the only thing I worked on this week. On Thursday, we went to a Chamber of Commerce networking meeting at lunch time. We arrived on time to find the venue was on a private estate and the gate barrier was down. Laura waited. A large SUV went around us and the barrier went up. Laura gunned the engine and we followed. Bump, bounce. Just a little paint on our roof and we were in.

Our Starsky and Hutch entrance went unnoticed, however, and the Chamber’s networking highlight was an actress talking about public speaking. She reminded us to breathe, feel the floor being solid and claim the podium. I inhaled a sandwich, felt my wallet being shrunk and claimed a $5 gift certificate in the prize draw. Laura thought the actress was scary. Like maybe she should have a T-shirt along the lines of the Piston’s Ben Wallace–“Fear The Fro”.

Thursday evening we went out to watch the third NBA play-off at a local sports bar, The Arena. The had big screens and I had a big sandwich. A deep fried sandwich. Ham and turkey with cheese in slices of bread all coated in batter. Apparently this is called a Monte Cristo and they gave me maple syrup to dip it in. It was humongous.

Back at our semi-white picket-fence home, we’re almost in a position to make our own maple syrup. Okay, well maybe in twenty years. But it’s looking good. Hundreds of helicopter seeds have come down off Hiawatha’s big maple tree and landed on our yard and in our gutters. And every single one of them seems to have sprouted a little tree.

It’s weird. There are maple trees everywhere. It’s a bit like the Stepford Trees; they seem to be trying to help cover all the bare patches of earth in green. It’s like they’ve watched us go out four or five times with grass seed, sowing everywhere with limited results and gone, “Hey, if they can’t have a lawn, let’s give them a forest.” Which doesn’t explain the baby trees growing in the gutter. Maybe it’s an aerial Entmoot.

Whatever. The birds and squirrels love it. They’ve been sitting up there, chattering to each other and stuffing themselves silly on seeds and seedlings. They haven’t found the strawberries yet and if we’re lucky, they won’t. We have a whole collection of wildlife, including red and grey squirrels and various brightly coloured birds. One of these is a blue jay, which is looks like a large woodpecker. He’s pretty impressive and sits on our bar before going off to fight the squirrels. Maybe we should call him ‘Sheeeed, which was what all the students chanted at the Arena when the Pistons came out on Thursday.

We left at half time, by the way, to come home and finish watching the game. Across from the Arena is a large parking structure and we were up on the second floor. We called the lift (aka. the elevator) and got in. Just at the doors start closing, two more people stop them and get in. Then a couple more. Then they hold the doors open for ten of their friends. Loooong pause. We could have walked up by this time, so I take my small-minded revenge on them all and giggle like a nine year old who’s discovered beer. Yes, it *was* me!

I don’t know. Maybe I really haven’t grown up. In some ways, I don’t think this is such a bad thing. Is it? We went to Cedar Point, a huge roller-coaster park in Ohio a couple of weeks ago and we had a blast. It’s not so much being a kid still as simply enjoying life. Which reminds me of seeing West Side Story recently at the Michigan. Which reminded me of every Cliff Richard film I’ve ever seen. Which reminds me, I must finish editing Candide.

Impending Benji

June 1st, 2004 June 1st, 2004
Posted in It's life, Jim...
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So, Benji is coming in about five minutes. Benji is coming on a week long internship to find out about filmmaking. I don’t have a chair for him. Or a desk. Or a computer. Or a pair of headphones. So, Benji is going to sit and watch me edit or something and not hear any sound. Anyway, I think he just drove past the house. And not for the first time.

Benji is hopefully bringing his parents laptop so we can plug him into the network, wirelessly. I forgot we don’t have a router. Ah, that might be him again, driving past in a golden orange car. Benji will be collecting posters and programs for Cinema Slam, methinks. And I was thinking about teaching him to use photoshop so he can forge an ID card and go out for beer.

It’s Benji time.