five year eye-blink

The me of 5 yrs ago, at this very moment i type, was laying in an ICU bed, hooked to machines, drainage sacs filling slowly at my neck, a jigsaw swath cut across my head, wondering where i'd be in 5 days much less 5 years, thoughts of the future reduced by brain tumor to small bits, all durations now measured by the length of time to the next medical event: the next treatment, the next doctor appointment, the next specialist, the next MRI, the next follow-up, the next moment of being swallowed by black pools of fear and uncertainty. Reaching backward through time, the me of this moment is watching the icu me, saying to look past the immediate, to summon the strength to place yourself five years into the future. I am telling myself that a mere five years from now you'll be alive, having a dream-like weekend:

friday you'll have dinner w/ m and discuss her grad-school rejection and how outside affirmation doesn't matter as much as the doing. later you'll see The White Ribbon, the 1st of 5 movies you'll see in 48 hours. Saturday, you'll run around the mt tabor reservoir; Later you'll see old friends in old neighborhood and context will widen as they are changed but not really; Later you'll see Brute Force; later you'll attend a glorious and unique celebration dinner where issues of life, art, fear intersect in smashing magnificence, food and wine and drawing breath; Sunday, you'll see the inspiring and tremendous Syndromes and a Century. You'll have breakfast and read the sunday times. Later you'll see Kings and Queen. Later you'll see Red Road. Earlier, as you're en route to pick up the footage for the last short film you directed you'll see the hospital up on the hill where you're currently recovering. You'll note the normal sensation of the afternoon, the rain, the drivers, the walkers, the bikers, all moving with a normal unhurried gait, all caught in the splendid gift of simply being. You'll know that at this very moment, five years hence, there are others arriving at the hospital, choked w/ fear but you right now you are just a man in the passenger seat, headed east on Hawthorne, thrilled to be alive, remembering the strange gift/s of trauma, the radiant and sometimes transcendant power. And you'll keep going.


take as long as it takes

RS: How long was the edit?

LH: Just under two years. I had a cut ready for the 2007 Sundance deadline and I was about submit it, but I didn’t feel strongly that it was the film I wanted to present. A friend of mine said to me: “Don’t show anybody anything until it’s perfect. Take as long as it takes. You only get one chance.” Those words were looming large at that time, so I decided to pull back and take a full year to re-edit and submit to the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. The film completely changed, totally transformed.

RS: Could you say what the other possible Ballasts you created along the way look like?

LH: Some of them are horrific. That’s the difficult thing about directing and then editing: you’re locked away in a room with a bunch of bad material. Only filmmakers understand that most of what you record is shit. And then you spend two years constantly looking at stuff that’s failed miserably. And in the end you whittle it down to only what works. Still, in your brain you’re thinking, “God this film is horrible.” If anyone gets a hold of my hard drive, I’m finished.

from an interview w/ lance hammer, dir. ballast, 2008


spring cleaning

one of those wknds: car returned to our clutches on friday. we park it on the street instead of our driveway b/c the street is better-lit...we watch 'hunger' friday night and as a result spend saturday am on internet learning about the ira and ulsterism and the 6 disputed counties of northern ireland...saturday AM i go for a run, m goes up mt tabor...we get bad news from a friend...we begin emptying our kitchen of all the things that do not belong. this takes much longer than anticipated and is exhausting...somewhere in there we get bad news of a different stripe from a different friend...bone-tired we ride our bikes to montavilla and eat dinner...sunday am, walking lennie, we are both consumed with worry and sadness for friends in distress, 2 entirely different scenarios but each w/ life-altering implications. we have lived in that zone before but still fill ill-equipped to say/feel/do the right thing...at yoga later that morning the focus is on equanimity - it is the spring equinox after all - and the breath. The way intake/exhale should be the same and how a certain pose or practice will interfere...we meet an old friend in town for a couple hours. she has her own news w/ ramification and implication...we go home and clean out two closets using the same principle as the kitchen: we subtract what does not belong...we load the car w/ everything we're losing voluntarily. we donate it...later we think of the open heart, the equanimity, the meeting joy/despair with the same face...later the health-care bill passes...


my sister

my amazing, lovely, courageous sister continues to inspire me. here's a video i shot for her this wknd to help her as she tries to get on 'the biggest loser'. send her your good thoughts and support. i love you sis.

...we've been selected in this beautiful lottery...

it is of utmost importance to remain grateful, to recall the finite nature of breath intake, the ticking clock that tocks as you're sitting here. It is imperative to recall this when the mechanics of daily life intercede, say, when you go to pick up a pharmacy order that was a week late in arriving - despite info to the contrary - and you're told that the cost has tripled for no reason and is now so pricey that you cannot afford it so you have to tell them to send it back or, say, when moments thereafter you go to pick up your freshly-repaired car at the mechanics b/c they fixed the steering column and shaft after thieves took the car from your driveway last week and you start the car and it doesn't sound right so you look under the hood and there's smoke and radiator fluid 'coming thru the seam' so you have to leave the car there and get back in touch with the insurance company to alert them that the thieves screwed up the engine as well. these are moments when frustration, anger rise familiarly but you have to beat them back. it is a gift to stand here. you are lucky to be breathing.


oscars, the

historic year this was, not merely b/c of kathryn bigelow's win but b/c it was the 1st yr in, oh, 13 plus years that m and i did not host an oscar party (sorry coco!). next year we'll be back. meantime, enjoy this bounty of assorted thoughts:

-i have yet to see avatar and i didn't love hurt locker per se but i was so thrilled to have the latter best the former. a resounding win for the little guy, female directors, iraq movies, etc.
- thrilled to see logorama win best animated short. well-deserved.
- not so thrilled to see The New Tenants (the worst of the live-action shorts) win. movie feels like a naked bid for legitimacy, w/ name actors, 'comedic' deaths, bag of drugs, hijinks. not so good. i much preferred 'the door' and 'instead of abracadabra'
-unlike a lot of people, i liked the li'l testimonials before best actor/actress.
-why is the death tribute always mawkish and awkward instead of solemn and honorific?


wknd in thumbnail

friday morning, i go to kaiser to pick up prescription that according to automated response would be ready the previous day. not there. come back at 4pm they say but i have to work so i'll get it on monday...friday night we see The 39 Steps at PCS and stay out way late talking w/ dear friend about acting, cinema, life etc. We don't pull into our driveway until 130 am. We stay up late and drink tea and watch something called carson daly. we go to bed around 2 am...saturday we roll out of bed around 10 am. i'm downstairs w/ the dog and m calls 'are you here?' to which i say 'yeah, of course i'm here'. she asks this b/c our car is not in the driveway and for a split second she considers that i may have gone off to procure double-americanos but since i'm there it leads to her next sentence: 'our car got stolen'. indeed, our car got stolen...we phone police, we phone insurance. police officer shows up an hour later, wearing braces and looking all of 16, fresh from academy. officer says 'i had a feeling this would happen'. later during a lull in getting details from us says 'hmm...i'm trying to remember what else to ask you' like the police-y mind is running down recently learned information. this doesn't instill confidence for our chances...later we're riding bikes to laurelhurst park to see michelle and hethir...later we're at zupan's in the old neighborhood recalling how great the old neighborhood was compared to current neighborhood where creepy people lurk and cars get stolen out of driveways. we decide the car theft is the most decisive of recent signs for us to remove ourself from current neighborhood. we feel oddly excited and optimisitic: we have no car, fine. we'll ride the bus. we'll ride our bikes. no problem!...the next morning preparing to leave the house on bicycle, we get call: car been found 20 blocks away. being towed b/c steering column is been tinkered w/. we're to call lot the next day and let insurance know...20 min later we're riding to meet michelle and heathir for breakfast. we're still excited and optimistic. Look at us making it work for us! Look at us riding our bikes! Just then m runs over glass and her bike tire goes instantly flat...after breakfast we put bike on bus, take it to clever cycles for repair. we leave it there. we take bus home.....we go to academy theater and watch oscars...monday am since we can't drive we have to leave earlier for work to get bus. thinking ahead i go to kaiser to pick up prescription that we were told would be ready by friday at 4. not there. i am late getting home b/c they made me wait. we miss our bus. waiting for next one m calls tow lot. they tell her to come down w/ a screwdriver and 180$ and she can drive it away. the screwdriver is to approximate a key b/c of the screwed up steering column. 'don't worry, the voice tells her 'it's easy. we'll show you how to do it'...


another blog!

Endings and Beginnings people. Doors slam shut and windows present themselves open, just enough, for you to slither through. All by way of saying:

You will be (dis)heartened to know that i am discontinuing the Sentence of the Day feature, on this blog anyway. Should you want to revisit all the glorious pearls that have been documented thusly you can still search by tags on this blog or you can go over to the new one
which will contain Sentence of the Day and only that and which can be found quite quickly merely by clicking 


recently seen

ever since reading 'red harvest' a few wks ago i've been on a film noir tear. some highlights:

the asphalt jungle, the killers (1946), doa (1949), i wake up screaming, in a lonely place, the third man, murder my sweet, thieves highway, the naked city, night and the city, detour, drunken angel, the big sleep, the big heat, the line-up, the sniper, murder by contract, blast of silence

this is all going somewhere upcoming-project-wise, but i don't know yet exactly where. stay tuned.



i know everybody and their brother is posting this but i 
can't not. too amazing.

To Pay My Way With Stories

Sunday night, I got to see Brian Lindstrom's documentary To Pay My Way With Stories about local non-profit group Write Around Portland. I exhibit slight bias here as Margaret has been a facilitator for them for several years (and further since she actually appears on-screen) but the film is a perfect encapsulation of everything WRAP stands for: the importance of community, the beauty of personal expression as a release, and above all, the collective nature of human experience no matter how varied the specifics at the individual level. Age, Income, Trauma, Addiction, Incarceration, Cancer. These are merely different prisms through which the same pristine light is refracted. WRAP honors the fact that the we are all the same. To Pay My Way With Stories captures these themes precisely with Lindstrom's hands-off approach. The camera watches. There are no administrative talking-heads, there are no voice-overs, there is no moralizing or guiding the viewer to a pre-fabricated conclusion. The camera merely watches. I can't think of a more perfect approach cinematically to encompass the complex beauty of Write Around Portland since both of them - the film and the group - trust the participant to arrive at their own conclusions.  But for some reason, Write Around Portland has zero mention of the film on their website. (I went there looking to link to the film thru their site for this post)  I do not understand. They should be tweeting and facebooking and emailing and post-carding about this film. They should be shouting about this film from the rooftops with manic, full-throated vigor. With all the abandon that they usually inspire.