The past couple of days I've sold my non-profit soul to be a volunteer (Whiteshirt) at the Cleveland International Film Festival, which runs from Friday March 20th to Sunday March 29th. The only night I missed was opening night because I was playing a concert at the Book & Bean, and because first-year volunteers usually aren't asked to work on opening night.
My five-hour shifts at CIFF have been crazy, exciting, and incredibly rewarding. I've only had time to attend one of the 140 features and 170 short subjects representing 60 countries--well, actually I saw a shorts program, so I guess I've seen 7 so far. Still, just being downtown with so many enthusiastic, excited people who love art and film as much as I do is absolutely thrilling.
These people are totally devoted to film, some of them taking all nine days off of work to duck in and out of dark hallways and into buzzing theaters, bursting with hushed anticipation. Some of them live on popcorn and Raisinets, afraid that a journey to the food court might force them to miss a pre-feature short. Seeing hoards of people emerging from each theater all at once, some crying into their ballots, some cracking up and grinning, some looking either blank or utterly confused, has become one of my favorite things to observe at the festival. I just smile, ask people's opinions, direct them to the restrooms, and feel like a steward to the community.
Being one of around 400 volunteers, I've had the opportunity to meet, network, and interact with some really interesting people, including a few directors, producers, and composers. Some of the films at this year's festival are World Premieres.
I've also been able to catch up with a few friends I'd lost contact with. Last night Daniel and I stood outside of Jerusalema counting theater patrons, handing out award ballots, and doing our best Harvey Pekar and Toby Radloff impressions. My friend Steven who works for the Cleveland Film Society told me about a great opportunity he has to work in L.A. I already feel close to several other people I've just known for a few days.
The work is non-stop. You can always find something to do, whether it's refilling wasabi peas and Whole Foods cola in the hospitality suite or putting together collector sets of buttons (Festival Flair!) We fight over who has to work on the "cold half" of Tower City Cinemas, which is also where the volunteers are hulled up. We talk about film constantly.
Tonight I'm seeing my first feature. I'm meeting Bridget at the Hard Rock Cafe and then we're heading into the cinemadness to see "Blind Loves," a Slovakian film that's part documentary, part fiction, in which several blind people play themselves in a series of love stories.
This weekend I'm seeing a German movie where filmmakers film peoples' worst fears, a documentary about the practical and artistic uses of origami, a feature in which a small theater puts on a play based on "The Brothers Karamazov", a New Zealand screwball comedy, a documentary that an acquaintance of mine made about the end of Cleveland's 107.9 (The End), a Japanese romantic comedy about a manchild, and "The Brothers Bloom."
Where else does this stuff happen? I'm so proud of my city. I'll be sad to see the festival go, but I'm already certain that I'll volunteer next year, no matter how taxing it can be to work another 5 hours on my feet after an 8-hour work day...
For years I wanted to make movies and I attended the festival thinking that maybe someday my name would make it to the credits. It's good to know that even though my path is leading in a different, unknowable direction, I can still feel fulfilled, happy, and just as in love with film and life as I always was.
In December I traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio for Over the Rhine's 2o year anniversary Christmas concert (and to see my big sister and her husband).
I took my first Greyhound ride and did some journaling along the way. I meant to post these journal entries earlier.
In a serendipitous nod to travel, Jolie Holland’s freewheeling “Goodbye, California” becomes my departure song from Cleveland to Cincinnati. A genial hippie kid with a hole in his right sock sits cattycorner to me, less chatty now that we’ve boarded the Greyhound. He has precious time to sleep on his way to LA. Earlier at the ticket window he chatted me up about my Bob Dylan bag. “He’s just the ultimate,” he repeated, then asked me if I was going to L.A. too, as if this was the thing to do. I get the feeling that we would have had the exact conversation, even without any prompting from my handbag. I’m glad he’s here. I’ve long romanticized my first trip on a Greyhound, my eyes filled with Kerouac’s “aww” inspiring fireworks and Simon & Garfunkel’s unwitting gabardine spy. We need guys on buses who look like Devendra Banhart, whose voices are warm and groggy and free, breath sweet and earthy. I want to kiss him in the bathroom at the back of the bus.
Completely angry about misplacing my 2nd pair of Sony studio monitor headphones (they’re huge—how does that happen?). The tiny, spongy plastic ones I grabbed in haste and shoved into my bag only yield sound through the right earpiece—the window side. It’s as though the road is delivering my music to me, and this morning it’s taken on a melancholy tone: Nico (Fairest of the Seasons), The Minus Five (Cemetery Row) and Weezer (Butterfly—what a weepy track!) Ha. As I wrote that, “Poison Oak” by Bright Eyes came on. I hope my weekend isn’t reflectively sad. I just finished Amanda Petrusich’s It Still Moves. I can’t think of a better book I could have finished as the bus noisily hissed and pulled out of the parking lot of Cleveland’s gorgeous time-frozen art deco Greyhound station. Petrusich’s obsessions, hopes, and teetering between new American hipster cynicism and earnest nostalgia and respect for the past are all shared by me.
Being a highway traveler after reading about a highway traveler feels thrillingly like a marriage of art and life (which I suppose all art or all life is, but this feels much more fated.)
The second leg of my bus ride was warm and crowded. I had to share my seat with an Amish woman who must have been wearing a cloak and a cape, and a large bonnet she removed and set on her lap. I was forced to squeeze myself hard against the metal wall of the bus, which, except for the pressure was cool and soothing in the face of a packed vehicle full of smells and hot breath. The woman next to me smelled of wet ashes and smoked meat. It was overwhelming when she first sat down and swept her cape toward the aisle.
The ambient humming of the highway eventually lulled me to sleep, which was interrupted by three phone calls.
At the station a German kid complete with yodeler cap and green knee socks, is smoking a stately and fashionable pipe. Here he comes.
I almost prefer the aged and beaten feel of the Cleveland station to this one. IT feels dated and shitty here, because it was never beautiful. A flat, square, squat building, its brown gradient tiles look like the ones you find on McDonalds floors. Every doorway is numbered with a tacky silver sign. This place was built for nothing more than function. I wish I had my…
Sometimes I go to Great Clips to get my bangs and layers trimmed because I don't feel like shelling out too much cash for my stylist. I wrote this song tonight for the girl who cut my hair. You can hear a super-rough draft of it on my myspace page.
Hey Loriann will you please cut my hair I’ve waited so long I’ve waited so long I tried to be someone I couldn’t be I know it was wrong I know it was wrong If you could fool me into thinking that it’s okay Just to take a nine to five and live for Saturday I want that haircut please just make it right I want to look that way
My head feels heavy but you talk so sweet I’ll write you a song I’ll write you a song You wrote your number there on my receipt But now that I’m gone But now that I’m gone You’ve got a son and a vampire man late at night I’ve got my own man and he’s perfect and it’s right But in my blood I want to cut it off I want to run away
Loriann if this is all you’ve done Just cutting it off Just making it stop For twenty minutes in a barber chair Well I owe you one Yeah I owe you one I’ll float to work and do my job and then get paid I’ll write these songs and write my poems for love instead I’ll get my haircut in the evenings when you’re away I want to leave you that way
Clearly, there's a new banner on my blog. I designed it using GIMP--you know, the open-source user-unfriendly version of Photoshop? Man, Photoshop is cool.
I don't have much to blog about today, except that I've decided to join a few of my friends in making a promise to read 50 books this year. I'm a little behind since it's almost February, so I decided to count the book I finished in January and the one I'm currently reading. Of course, I'm reading The Fortress of Solitudeby Jonathan Lethem right now, and that's a healthy 500 pages. Still, I plan to finish it by Friday and then start a collection of shorts on Saturday. That gives me three in January--almost the four I need to make one a week.
I imagine that in school, I easily read 50 books each year. Taking a lot of fiction courses makes that a pretty simple task. In my contemporary short story class, I think I read a total of thirteen books. Add that to all my other classes and my pleasure reading, and then there's no need for any more maths.
Today I was listening to an instrumental demo by my friend Jason Panella. I started writing words and images that his piece evoked and eventually that sprouted into an entire set of lyrics. I don't know if he'd like what I wrote, but I thought it was worth posting. I don't think he'd mind if I liked to his myspace so you could hear the music that inspired me:
Come hide beneath the couch tonight Forget the scrape of a rust belt love Headlights crown our eyelids Vigilantes of the summer swell It's just as well We should never leave here.
Your hands are moving like cracked glass I shake like pollen I shake like love The television set's still lit The timestamp unaware That we're still breathing here It's time to go.
Hey we are seasons We melt and meld and coincide For two weeks aching, hints of rain And separate for moons and crashing tides oh, oh This is over A desperate quake the wind shifts and it's done I don't mind. We let our colors run.
You were in my rib cage playing Some song we knew upon my bones I swallow you again With the others you colonize It's no surprise We should never leave here.
Tonight let's have a window dance Let the cars that pass know us this way The fingerlace of sprouting love I've worn that glove And now it's fallen.
Hey we are seasons We melt and meld and coincide For two weeks aching, hints of rain And separate for moons and crashing tides, oh oh This is over A casual sigh your winter coat and its done I don't mind. We let our colors run.
After a year of hearing how totally awesome My Morning Jacket's Evil Urges is, I finally received it last week though inter-library loan.
I haven't finished it yet (on track five now), so I'll reserve judgement...sort of. After listening to "Highly Suspicious" (or "highly suspicious", according to the track listing, since apparently it's hip to avoid using capital letters), I have to ask the following questions:
What? Are you serious? Who let this happen? Could this be any more annoying?
And the past two tracks, "i'm amazed" and "thank you too!" are nothing more than adult contemporary wedding dances, especially the latter.
I hope this album proves me wrong soon. I don't mind when bands take chances, and usually risky albums don't take long to grow on me. I immediately fell in love with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, for instance, and Kid A is quite possibly my favorite Radiohead album. But Evil Urges? It's dubious.
This is the album I keep seeing on 2008 best-of lists, right?