Sunday, May 20, 2007

Wong Kar-Wai

It was said about the great painter Monet that in the partial blindness of his old age, "He only had one eye, but what an eye!"

I've never seen a photo or TV interview with the great Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai when he wasn't wearing dark glasses, but I know this artist sees better than most. Maybe his sight is too piercing, too clear to go without shade. His images, like Monet's, capture that fleeting moment, one that is so beautiful you want to grab at it, hold it, never let it go, but that, like time itself, poignantly escapes our permanent grasp. These moments can take place in dingy hotels and can be tragic or ineffable but they are rendered beautiful by Kar-Wai's eye. They make up a celluloid canvas that is unlike any other and mark him as an old-fashioned auteur.

Who knew red-painted toenails on white skin could make such an artistic statement? Or that a wisp of a hem of a luxurious cheongsan in motion would stop the clock? Or that artificial light in a dim interior could vy with the sky for how it bestows beauty?

His work is flawed, perhaps because his appetite for the lush image is insatiable and difficult to balance with narrative. But any new Kar-Wai film is an occasion for cinephiles to get excited.

Speaking of narrative, there is not much there. "In the Mood for Love" was a series of scenes of brief encounters and the subject mostly unspoken longing. The characters in "2046" went farther than longing, but there wasn't much in the way of dialogue and in the end, there was not much action to account for outside all the weeping despite its (excessive) length. But the visual esthetic was expansive and rich. No one makes use of color and composition like Kar-Wai.

So, I'm running to "Blueberry Nights" as soon as it gets here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Update: Turning off the lights

The lights are really going out in Jackson County, thanks to citizens like this. These are the kind of people who thrive on making the world a sorrier place.

Maybe Ashland will no longer be one of the "best places to retire" in the next annual survey. Culture, after all, adds value to a community. And culture starts with a cultured mind, not a closed one.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Gilroy Garlic

Melamine in the food chain got you scared?
A friend told me last night that her net bag of Gilroy garlic was not all that it seemed. The small print, if you cared to look for it, said "imported from China."

BarCamp Portland

I spent nine hours yesterday at BarCamp Portland, the local spinoff of the national unconference founded in Silicon Valley as a response to Foo Camp (to the best of my knowledge). BarCamp is free, supported by sponsors and volunteers, and brings together mostly young emerging tech entrepreneurs who are breaking rules. Because Open Source is so big in Portland, many of the sessions dealt with that issue. I learned a lot.

I also met loads of interesting locals that I don't normally run into as a matter of course. Ward Cunningham, inventor of the wiki; Marshall Kirkpatrick, former TechCrunch blogger and now a strategist at cool Splashcast; Raven Zachary, an Open Source analyst for; Justin Kistner who has a real web 2.0 job where he roams around evangelizing, inspiring, soaking up data to use in company strategy, and socializing. I got to sit down and touch the $100 Laptop of Nick Negroponte fame, think about changing currency models (creativity, reputation are new currencies) and drink free bubble tea.

A few things I learned:
My daughter's generation will be seeking jobs that are only now starting to be defined. Many more have not yet been invented. So, throw out the old school curriculum.
Twitter is the not the waste of time I thought it was. There are various ways of putting it to good use, including getting news out faster than wires can manage.
The human brain is programmed to care for no more than 200 people (results vary). But will social media create an empathy curve that will expand people's capacity to care?
Video is the be all and end all.

I was really proud that Portland could carry such a great event, attracting 250 engaged and engaging people, and sponsors such as Wieden+Kenndy and Portland State University. Attendees were rockin' from 7pm Friday to Saturday at 11pm.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Bees, the tides and seawalls

Everywhere one looks there are signs of faster change than expected. It is as if the planet is trying to get our attention, once last time.

There are the honey bees. It took a long time, but finally the mass media noticed the reports of their die-off. Maybe global warming has nothing to do with it; maybe the cause is cell phone radiation or genetically modified plants. No one knows, but it is fair to consider the impact of a few degrees of extra warmth on all creatures. And not to put too fine a point on it, on us. Ready for a bread and water diet?

The New York Times reported last week on the acres of coastline farms in England that have washed away just in the last few years. The Brits have decided they will no longer support the network of sea walls that have been in place for years. No point anymore. The land is not economically viable. Cheerio.

What the article only barely implies is the sadness locals must feel in seeing ancient farmland, a part of their personal history, and a part of the English landscape and cultural patrimony, disappear forever. What happens when warm weather hemp and jalapeno replace cold weather beets is dramatic in how that changes the character of the landscape, local food culture and other traditions. What is Italy without its olive trees and vineyards? What is Scotland without its heather? Oregon without its Pinot Noir? We are saying good-bye to who we are, who we were.