Thursday, September 20, 2007

Vic's First Editing Assignment for Blue Horizons, Ocean Kayak Collage

Right now, Vic is at Java Jones, Isla Vista. She decided to try working here (without much success). She needed a break from being in her new room. Above is the byproduct of Vic's first editing assignemtn. The flick called "Ocean Kayak Collage" is about two minutes long, and is some of the best foortage from 20 minutes of raw mini DV tape video shot by Michael Hanrahan. I belive these individuals are professional surf kayakers. It had to be a music video (with some captions), so I appropriately chose the song "Blue" by Eiffel 65. I edited according to the dominant beats of the music, and I received a mental high from doing so. I think I am genetically ingrained to construct music videos and the like, especially since I received a pleasure center rush the very first time I was given a video-editing assignment.

"Blue" was extracted from my first mixing attempt: a collection of some of my favorite MODERN songs (excluding more classical and non-contemporary stuff). My collection of songs is called "space/time/form/mind/stream/line/flow..." It's trance-ish music that inspires rational thought, correlated with strong emotion and long-term very rhythmic beat for long-term mental endurance. I hope the song in part represents Blue Horizons. In fall of 2003 (in panic of being in graduate school), I applied for this nationwide, prestigious scuba-diving scholarship tour around the world and was rejected, though I was offered an internship by the same group. Since then, I had this dream that I would one day create a film about the ocean and "Blue" would be the background music. That was 2003. Now it is 2007. Finally, after a four-year lag-time, I have accomplished what I dreamed. Somehow, I never seem to let go of my ideas.

Michael Hanrahan was in the film a little bit, as the videographer "spitting" on the lens. Spitting on the lens (or putting toothpaste, learned from an older fellow police officer at the Santa Margarita LA Fitness who was going to the Carribean for a major anniversary) prevents the lens from fogging up. Based on my limited experience, toothpaste is a more effective defogger. But we are internally equipped with spit and saliva, and it can be a hassle caring toothpaste with you. So, the music goes, "Yo listen up, here's a story about a little guy that lives in a blue world and all day and all night and everything he sees is just blue like him inside and outside, blue his house with a blue little window and a blue car wreck and everything is blue for him and hisself and everybody around cuz he ain't got nobody to listen to." The lyrics aren't exact, but close. For my own personal attachment to this song, and to describe my degree of mental rebelliousness, I would change "guy" and "he" and "him" (etc) to "girl" and "she" and "her." But somehow, since Michael is a rebel, guerilla journalist and has worked hard to seek "alternative means of distribution of media" than traditional, incumbent Discovery Channel types, through creating the Ocean Channel and now Blue Horizons... I hope somehow he may have connected to this song (even Constance Penley is brave and daring with all the things has done). He's brave for doing that he does. Surviving in the vicious economic world outside the university, and bringing opportunities that no professor in his ivory towers could bring to us. Something called "practical knowledge." Hmph. What a concept. I think university professors can sometimes be overanalytical spectators of the outside world, and they think they know the system well, but the truth is they don't because they are detached observers rather than players and manipulators. I think I stated in a previous meeting with a potential funder that Michael Hanrahan and Constance Penley were barely a step ahead of me. They created a door for me to open, and just through myself right through, staggering across the floor, as if I were deprived of water and air for MONTHS, and somehow I was still alive. They saved me from drowning in my own abyss. They convinced me to go back to school from my leave of absence. They basically took all my random experiences outside of school and put all the pieces of the puzzle together. "Thank you" will never ever be good enough for those people who provide me with mental sanity.

I was so eager to get my hands dirty with Final Cut Pro that I ran to the lab one hour after the assignment was given to us. I stayed in the lab with Annie (lab tech) and "Pickles" (chicano studies student) until like 2am in the morning... Annie was working on an essay that was due the next day, and Pickles was working on a very interesting project demonstrating the corruption of the Mexican government in their implementation of "conservation policy" with fishing in certain regions in Mexico. The battle is should conservation management revolve around conservation of species or conservation of indigenous pratices? What is more valued? And there are outsider companies and groups twisting the arms and legs of these indigenous people just to buy permits to fish whatever existing depleted resources. Gxd. Again, another example of conflicting value systems. People in Mexico don't value endangered species. They value survival. So a Mexican eating an endangered sea turtle from the Sea of Cortez is perfectly common sense. Why? Because he is hungry, and he and his family need to EAT today. But the girl filming a National Geographic special has "moral and ethical" issues of this survival behavioral practice, of course, because she on a daily basis in America consumes hormone-infested, mass-produced livestock instead of endangered sea turtles. Her stomach is well-fed with other things, so instead she wails and moans all over Mexicans consuming endangered sea turtles. It's all a matter of ecological relativity. Ecological frame of reference. Perception. Dude, if I were in the circumstance in which I needed to resort to cannibalism for survival (like in the movie Alive), YES, I would become a cannibal. Sorry, so much for conservation of the human species. Too many of those anyway. Values, ethics, morals, language, perception. It all drives our science. It all taints our science to non-objectivity. Science is done by humans, who are biological organisms like the rest of them. So I think it's about time we make a long-list of disclaimers about the properties of humans before we resume to pursue our so-called "science."

Annie Wilkes and Oscar Flores (and Manny) were my primary helpers with Final Cut Pro. They are the lab techs. They are both my heroes. They trained me a lot. They were there for me. I was a nervous wreck on the day of my first edit, and then late in the evening I found out that Annie was from Riverside, my home town. Not only that, she is from my same high school. North High School. Dude, that's frickin' cool. To be in a world of unknowns, and then to land upon an island of familiarity, Annie and I hit it off right away. At first she and other people were acting like "ooo... Victoria's a Ph.D. student." So fxckin' what? I'm a Ph.D. student? Ha. You can be one too if you wanted to. I know jack shxt. I bet you know more than I do. Not only that, this ain't no hierarchy. You know a piece of the puzzle, and I know a piece of the puzzle. If we put all the pieces of the puzzle together, we might solve a problem. Or a suite of them. We might make a film. We might create a better world. Because all the older people above us certainly gave up and decided to stay in the comforts of their known boxes (or most of them at least). Academic Caste System is bunko and whacko. I'm sure it only exists to masseuse the ego complexes of this still-male-dominated academia atmosphere. Ph.D. means nothing. Nothing more significant than getting a college degree. Anyone can get a Ph.D. if they can learn new things and are pro-active about solving problems. Get over it. Come on. I'm just a human like you guys.

All these thoughts had been swirling silently in my mind... for at least a couple of weeks. After a week-and-a-half, I'm estimating, I think the "Ph.D" definition of me wore away, and everyone in the class realized I'm just another human being like them. And I started to realize the same. Our stigmatized pre-conceptions and stereotypes just melted away as we started to gel and form a fabric of humanity amongst our former alienated, isolated, disconnected relations of random pinball human bodies thrown into an arbitrary room on an arbitrary building on an arbitrary university on an arbitrary continent on an arbitrary planet. No, this is the first guinea pig crew of Blue Horizons at UCSB. Words and people and faces and interactions started to assign meaning to my mind, to our minds. Unknown became familiarity, and the assignment of value led to my pleasure center in my brain becoming more and more and more stimulated by everyone's presence.

Back to Annie. That late night, we all ate pizza from Dominos. I had two slices. I hadn't eaten anything for a few days. I also had the privilege to meet Saul the janitor. It's always VERY important to get chummy with the janitors. (1) Because they are intelligent for getting the job that they have (2) You should be thankful for their work, otherwise you the grad student would be picking up the trash (3) Janitors are great to hang around with the evening, they are super social life and (4) Janitors have KEYS. That get you places in very unexpected times. Janitors are powerful people, you know. Saul is a very nice, intelligent person. He is a high-energy personality who I think was a professional soccer player in a South American country. He was in a car accident though and had serious surgery on his head/face? I am not entirely sure what happened, but he is alive and functional. I am not religious, but it's good. I'm glad to see him alive. Planet Earth could use a few more Saul's.

Annie and Oscar had been there for me this summer. They stayed late for me--so late that I was very eager to give them rides home, which I did a few times. I gave Annie and Oscar top acknowledgments for the production and editing of my intro to the crab film.

Anita David runs the labs with the Macs and Final Cut Pro software, but honestly, I hardly saw her this entire summer. Just a few times.

In the "delicate balance" of finding my place in the university, though I am a scientist, I am much more amused to socialize with artists and geologists. Their personalities tend to be unsterilized, rich and full of character. I think due to environmental circumstance, scientists tend to acquire personalities of great systematism and dulled emotions. Or maybe they come in with a pre-existing dulled personality. Hence, they match very well with a mass-production molecular biology lab. Bummer. I'd die out of insanity. It's like flipping MacDonald's hamburgers. And instead of flipping burgers, all you're doing is flipping genes and proteins, day-in and day-out. Sucks.

Wow. What a rambling blog. Back to the video itself. "Ocean Kayak Collage." I worked with music, captions, cropping visual tape (it's like splicing up DNA into meaningful chunks of information, ha ha ha). Working with film is like working with photography. It's all about staring at images for hours on end, finding the best sequences, and putting them together in a film (or in the past, I created photo-essays). I am flashing back to my two weeks up in the science library at UC Irvine (summer of 2006, after a year of mental hxll in the UCR Earth Sciences Department), endlessly choosing images and photoshopping them to create my first-ever professional portfolio.... *sigh* those were the days.... With ocean kayaking, I was detecting COMPARATIVE MOTIONS, and then started grouping random sequences of phenomenon with similarities in motions and trajectories. It worked very well in the end.

Working with film is like analyzing and reconstructing sedimentary layers. you mentally strip the layers of the existing outcrop, and start to mentally rebuild it, all over again, in a tightly intertwined synchrony of events. Yes, making films is like make a multi-factorial, multi-layered sedimentary outcrop for the human mind. Beautiful, isn't it? I guess I'm feeling metaphorical and simile-ish. It's a chronic condition, I suppose.

Since it was my first film, I was very inefficient. What? 8-10 hours just for a two-minute film? Insanely inefficient! I had to play with a lot of files. Whether it should be VOB or quicktime or mpeg. I had to figure out where the basic buttons were... Lots of trial-and-error. Lots of mental knee-skinning. But it's a property of a scientist being a part of the system. Poke. Poke. Poke. Tweak. Tweak. Tweak. If it doesn't work, scrap it. If it works, keep it. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I just had a nice talk with Annie's former roommate--blanking out on her name--it's late--we talked about how my name is anything but "Victoria." First it must be Vanessa, Veronica, Virginia, and then Vicki (horrors!) and then maybe "Victoria" or "Vic." If it were the movie Superbad, I'm sure those characters would have called me "Vxgina." Just like how they called Fogel "Fag-el."And that would have been the end of it. Probably the first time in my life I would punch a guy if he called me that.

I'm sleepy. I'm going to shut up.

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