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Stateside with Rosalea: Out and About

Treasures from a Chest

As part of the San Francisco Film Festival the Pacific Film Archive hosted a programme of restored films from the early days of French cinema. They were presented by Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films, Paris, who related how he was alerted to the presence of this forgotten silver nitrate in an armoire in an abandoned house by someone who'd been to one of his earlier showings of old films, which he tours around France (something like the NZFA's "Last Picture Show").

What a find! All the films are from around the turn of the last century, many of them by George Melies, who was a magician in real life as well as in the new medium he was experimenting with. Bromberg, who has the enthusiasm and charm of a child putting on a magic show in the family living room, plays the accompaniment and introduces each group of films. It was uncannily like the showing of trailers for this summer's upcoming movies which I'd seen the day before at WonderCon. Even the sight gags were the same. Plus ca change...

Shades of Gray

Two of those summer trailers were crossovers. "Tomb Raider" is a film derived from 'the most popular interactive game of the 20th century', using real actors and real sets. "Final Fantasy" uses live actors but they are completely re-imagined as computer graphics, as if they were video games. Huge saving in sets and costumes, but the computing power that's necessary and the hours of shoving pixels required must be giga to the power ot ten. No money left over for writers, I guess.

According to a talk I once went to on such matters, there are three types of beings in cyberspace - simuloids, which have no connection to any actual person; avatars or shape shifters, which are just a different version of a person; and shades, which are indigenous to cyberspace. Perhaps that category includes the "visual human male" and "visual human female" - sliced-up representations of a 39 year old man who was on death row and a 59 year old housewife from Maryland who donated their bodies to science. Specifically to biogramatics, and to ADAM - Animated Dissection of Anatomy for Medicine - a kind of Gray's Anatomy for Nintendo surgeons.

Cuarto de Mayo

On Friday I went to a potluck lunch for the Mexican national holiday that is celebrated on the 5th of May. Search as I might, I could not find any French Vanilla ice cream to get stuck into but the Cherry Garcia and Double Fudge Brownie varieties of Ben and Jerry's ice cream went down a treat. At last - dairy to die for! The curious thing about Cinco de Mayo is that it doesn't celebrate Mexican independence, just the Mexicans' victory in one small battle with the French. But it was the turning point in forming a belief that they would eventually prevail against being ruled by outsiders. In honour of this, President Bush gave his Saturday radio address in Spanish.

Venice to Xanadu

Mud brick is a terrible thing. The damned stuff dissolves and the solid evidence of ancient civilisations is lost forever. One such place where this has happened is along the Silk Road, where Marco Polo travelled with ease because it was at the time all part of one empire. Try doing that today. That whole crescent of clumsily created artificial nation states is the stuff of nuclear nightmares, which was perhaps a factor in this week's hard line here on the antiballistic missile treaty and in the creation of a new anti-terrorism agency.

"Where are my people? Where is my village? Where are my sheep", goes the Tuva song sung by one of the musicians at this combination of lecture and cultural event. You may have seen him - Paul Pena - in "Genghis Blues". In honour of the two-way traffic on the Silk Road, the musical segment started out with music Marco Polo might have heard around Venice before he left, dances of turkic origin from central asia, and music from Mongolia and Xinjian in the NW area of China. Watch that place. 'Foment' is the word that springs to mind.

Jet Body

I have trouble with vowel sounds here in the States. This morning, sitting knitting while I waited for the train I showed the pattern to someone who asked me what I was doing. "Oh, a stalking hat!" he said. "Is that as in 'stalking deer' or 'stalking people'?" my avatar, Polly Paranoia, asked. Turns out he'd said 'stocking hat' as in something you roll down over your head like a sock. Later in the day this turned out to be a two-way street of confusion, when someone came up to me to check the name I'd given of the composer who'd turned me on to the use of natural sounds in music. She'd heard 'Jet'; I'd said 'Jack' Body.

Actually, my interest in natural sound goes right back to the recording of whale sounds that came out years ago. That recording had the same effect as the image of the planet earth from space had in its influence on how people perceived our natural environment. Now there's ELF. Not the 'invisible but it's doing stuff' environmental terrorists who allegedly set fire to car sales lots of SUVs, but the 'inaudible but it's doing stuff' environmental terrorists in the US Navy who are using extreme low frequencies to detect radar-eluding submarines.

The stuff they're doing is tearing whales and porpoises to bits. Ever seen those fluffy socks TV news crews have on their mics when they're interviewing people outside? They're there because microphones are sensitive to such tiny amounts of air displacement by sound waves that huge amounts of air displacement - like wind - cause damage, not to mention creating a noise that hides the sound. Creatures in the sea are just as susceptible to damage caused by what is the equivalent of gale force winds in the ocean. This week some people were sent to jail here in the States for sawing through the poles holding up the ELF antenna at a naval site. Their defence was that they were destroying an illegal weapons system.

Forget the dairy products. Send more wool. I am now knitting socks for cetaceans.

Lea Barker
Saturday, 5 May 2001

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