2004 Retrospective – part 4

Finally, this one is all about October to December…


Saturday 2nd: Imelda screening at the Michigan Theater, Q&A session with the director of photography. Nice people but the film wasn’t my cup of tea. Sunday 3rd: Sumo East and West screening at the Michigan. Same people, this time they produced and photographed. Again, not my thang. They’ve now got a feature film deal, by the way, for a fictional film.

Sunday 3rd, earlier: Barn Bash. This was a political rally out in Scio Township, which sounds like a town but is really a kind of area that includes a lot of farmland. I got free food, met some nice folks and looked in the barn but couldn’t see John Book. We bought some more lawn signs and the boys whacked trees with sticks. It’s what they do best.

Monday 4th: Brian Wilson, last of the Beach Boys, at the Michigan Theater. Top concert. I enjoyed. Got a free beer, met some nice folks and clapped along with the three bobble head guys in the row in front of us.

Tuesday 5th: took Sam to soccer practise and read a chunk of the latest Dune novel. We kicked the ball around the park on the way back to the car and I still have no idea why this sport is so popular. That’s just me, I guess, although I’m not worried. More time to try out other stuff if you’re not obsessing on football.

Wednesday 6th: first Leadership Ann Arbor get together at the chamber of commerce. Met some interesting people and was still talking to the last guy as we headed out into the car park. Well, they did say to network.

Thursday 7th: John Desjardin, visual effects supervisor on the Matrix sequels gave a talk at the UofM. Laura asked him a pointed question about art and I asked if they render handles on the digital shots. They do, in case you’re wondering. A whole extra 8 frames, I think he said. Wooo.

Friday 8th: me and m’ baby went dancing. Our first swing dance lesson together with the Russian girl who turned out to be Polish but it’s still more fun to count the steps with a fake Russian accent. Actually, it’s probably more fun to count the Steppes with a Russian accent too.

Saturday 9th: swing dance at the Pittsfield Grange. The grange is like a big converted barn where country folk go for social events. There was still no sign of John Book and I didn’t know much about a lot of things but we learned some new spins.

By this point in the month, I think I was pretty much worn out. I’d flown across the country to both the west coast and the east and done something pretty much every day. The next week was a bit more laid back, at least according to my diary. We went dancing again on Wednesday, another lesson in Saline. Then we met up with Nancy Doyal for cocktails at Zanzibar.

Ah, yes. Vodka martinis (shaken, not stirred) and plenty of them. Laura got there an hour or two after we’d started but soon caught up. We pretty much closed the place down, almost managed to eat (burgers at the Red Hawk) and somehow stumbled home. Next day, we drove to Chicago. What? You thought we were going to pause? Foolish reader. You know we don’t stop. Well, not when there’s a party to be going to, at any rate.

It was the weekend of Laura’s highschool reunion and a chance for me to take in some fine American traditions, like the homecoming parade, free bar and pretending to be an alumnus. Yuk yuk. So, the English accent was a dead giveaway but I’m sure I could have got in more photos, if there’d been any. Which there didn’t seem to be. Which was probably best.

Bank home, some doofus drove his truck into our new mailbox stand, which Richard, the nice guy over the road, had built. It was pretty bent up and I was a bit ratty with him, mainly because I felt miffed for Richard. He’d gone to a lot of trouble making that and we’d had it concreted in place when the guys put the fence up. So, they fixed it but not as good as new and now our mailboxes all lean to the side.

October 20th, I went to a talk by Steve Hayden, vice chair of Ogilvy and Mather. This was the guy who came up with the cool Apple ads when Apple started having cool ads and then went to work on the IBM account. He came up with the cool stuff for them too. As you might guess, it was a cool talk. I thenk yew.

October 21st-22nd: Leadership Ann Arbor Retreat. This was two days at a nice lakeside resort in Ohio. Lots of networking and some steady drinking at the bar in the evening. I discovered lemon drops which seemed to be vodka shots late in the proceedings and I fried the neurone which reminds me to drink lots of water. I made it for breakfast the next day but was a bit spacey for the morning. I don’t think I was the only one.

One more shoot for BMC Media to round off the month and it was suddenly Halloween. Laura took the boys out trick or treating while I manned the door, wearing a Superman T-shirt under a half-undone shirt and some large rimmed spectacles. The boys were dressed as Zorro (Jack) and a knight (Sam) so they were both carrying swords. Jack wimped out part way through so Sam ended up with twice as much candy. The last folks to call at our house appeared to be three college student–one wearing a fuzzy-perm wig, one wearing a top hat and the third with his sweater pulled up over his nose. I gave them Snickers bars.


It was the elections on November 2nd. I went with Laura to the polling station, a local school. Schools don’t close here like they do in the UK when they’re polling stations, by the way. They find plenty of other random reasons to take days or half days off, but not election day. We joined the queue and waited about an hour before Laura got to vote. The official guy wouldn’t let me join her to see the ballot paper, “You can’t go in there, sir!” So I’m still none the wiser about how the whole thing was rigged, I mean what the process was.

November 4th, I met with Bob Crowner at the chamber of commerce to get some business counselling. However, I didn’t really know what I wanted to know so I came away not much wiser although Bob did point me at some helpful resources. November 5th, my niece was 17. It was also the day of the Edible Rex film festival in Ann Arbor. Shrihari had asked me for a Cinema Slam compilation, so I made sure The Car was included.

Monday 8th: random half day at the boys’ school. Tuesday 9th: chamber of commerce member reception at Clear Channel, which I had to leave early because it was also Cinema Slam. Oh, I’d arranged to meet a writer from Detroit called Robert Fox. Robert had sent me some feature scripts earlier in the year and, as I was showing one of his films at CS, it seemed like a good time to meet and discuss them. Following on from that, there’s now a strong possibility of shooting one of them in 2005. Much work to be done before that, though.

Wednesday 10th: Leadership Ann Arbor Development Day. A fascinating tour of the city arranged by Barb Shofner from the chamber and hosted by Peter Allen, a local developer. Peter could sell ice cream to eskimos, I’m convinced. One of his favorite (spelled correct for some you anyway) is a scheme to introduce a cycle route linking one side of the city to the other. To me, this seemed like a great idea and I’ll be following it up in 2005 as a potential video project with Peter to appear on camera as a guide. Needs a budget, so I’ll be following that up too.

Thursday 11th: I was invited (thanks to Shrihari) to join the screening committee of the Ann Arbor Film Festival. I didn’t make the first meeting but decided I could take on the commitment and it would be good on many levels. Incidentally, one thing I’m finding extremely useful is seeing so many other people’s films, both good and bad. The bad ones often come so close: they have great title sequences, high production values and maybe even a good script. But all too often they have dire acting. And they fold, like a deck of cards, before they’ve even begun.

Friday 12th: started working my way through an After Effects training manual, Creating Motion Graphics by Trish and Chris Meyer. This is an excellent guide and having now completed volume one, I’d recommend it without hesitation. I’ve learned loads and am now using all these new compositing and animation skills in various video projects on the Mac.

Laura and I also went to see The Incredibles. I’d recommend this without hesitation too.

Saturday 13th to Sunday 14th, Laura’s mom, Nancy, came to visit. Russ called in the morning. “Hey, you wanna go to a football game? I have a spare ticket.” Sure. My first tailgating party, my first jello shot and Michigan won. It was an excellent way to spend an afternoon, especially when your mother in law is in town.

Back at home, I told Nancy I’d like a marble roadway thing for Christmas and put a big star next to the picture in the catalog. She did one of those gentle eye-rolling laughs that say, “You’re a nutter, aren’t you. But I’d better not let on because I don’t know how much of a nutter you are yet.” I smiled back and pointed out that the glow in the dark roadway with luminous marbles would be preferable. Then I watched pro ball on the TV and Jack nearly died of shock, not so much that I’d become a sports fan, but that he was deprived of the god box for nearly five hours.

There was more filming for the university the next week, plus networking, our final dance lesson in Saline and my first screenings with the film festival folks. We also put together a parcel of American goodies for my sister’s family in the UK. Friday, we went to an exhibition of bizarre symmetrical photos by an artist called Mark Mothersbaugh. Sunday, Laura hosted a meeting of the Move On people at our house and they tried to figure out what to do in four years time after this year’s close run thing that really shouldn’t have been so close. According to some. Thwup thwup thwup….

I managed to get a chunk of editing done, worked through some more of the After Effects book and then, suddenly, it was Thanksgiving. We went over to Anthony’s for Thanksgiving dinner and consumed large quantities of food, for which we gave thanks. Laura made the thing with yams, ginger snaps, lots of butter and melted marshmallows on top which can only be eaten in small amounts but which tastes absolutely amazing.

We had a long weekend free after that, so we went to Pittsburgh. We would have gone to Cleveland but Ohio were to blame for the election so that was out. Steel town it was. Hurrah! We discovered that downtown Pittsburgh is eerily quiet when all the office workers go home. Nevertheless, we managed to find a bar which did food and good beers on the first night.

Second day, we hooked up with Barb, one of my online friends, and she took us on an extensive tour of the city. We saw modern art, we saw the university’s Cathedral of Learning, we ate hotdogs at the O, we ate pizza someplace else and we drank beer everywhere.

Back home, I watched more films for the A2 Film Fest, mulched leaves into the grass so that I wouldn’t have to rake them up for the leaf collection on Monday and had a meeting with Bob Fox and his associates on the 29th about the possibility of filming one of his scripts, Awaiting Identification. A dark story. I’m still not sure if I like how dark it is but I have to hand it to them–it is well written.


December started with a random half day at the boys’ school. I did the film fest thing in the evening on Wednesday and Thursday, and on Saturday we had a house party. I’d told the Leadership Ann Arbor this was a networking opportunity, which it kind of was, and a few of them turned up. It was really just an excuse to have a get together at our house as the nights got longer.

Next week was the chamber of commerce Year Ender, with endless free beers for a couple of hours and another chance to meet potential business contacts for 2005. Wednesday 8th was the next Leadership day, which was dedicated to finding out more about non-profit organizations in the area. Groups of us went out to spend the morning with various charities and I visited Food Gatherers, which collects surplus food from supermarkets and restaurants and distributes it to those in need.

That evening was the coolest though, and I don’t mean December cold. Lee at the Michigan had asked if either of us could get some pix of the Backstage Club (Michigan Theater sponsors) at the BB King concert. Which meant we got free tickets to see BB King. And we got into the sponsors’ party beforehand. But even better, we got to hang out with BB King. Laura spent about 30 minutes sitting in the back of the tour bus with BB while various people came and went and she took photos of them with The Man.

Random factoid: we discovered BB doesn’t sign Fenders. He has a deal with Gibson, so no Fenders are allowed on the bus. Oh, and the concert was awesome.

Film festival screenings continued throughout the month. The boys had a karate grading on the 12th and I met up with filmmaker Beth Winsten on the 13th. Beth is making the documentary about Thomas Lynch and I’ve offered to help her edit it in the new year. Wednesday 15th was Cinema Slam, another fine selection of quality short films from across the nation and a few local ones too. Thursday 16th, I met with Joe Marr who runs a training agency. Nice guy. Good coffee.

Friday 17th and Saturday 18th, I was invited to judge student films at the University of Michigan’s end of term Lightworks Festival. So I did. Tuesday 21st, I met with local developer Peter Allen to talk about a project called the Allen Creek Greenway, a potential cycle and jogging route which would run across the city from The Big House down to Argo Pond. This strikes me as an excellent idea and something with great potential for a video to visualize how it could look, where it would run and what it would link.

Thursday 23rd, Laura and I used up some free theater tickets to see Ocean’s 12. I’m glad we didn’t pay. This was a film in desperate need of a good editor. No shortage of talent, but it sucked worse than almost anything I’ve seen sent into the film festival. Then it was Christmas. Did Nancy send the glow-in-the-dark marble chase? Yes. Yes, she did. And there was much rejoicing. I built Spybots with the boys and somehow finished editing Serial Dating over the holidays. Artrain was delivered and I’m set for the new year.

December 31st: New Year’s Eve. We partied. We’re just so deserving, we had to.