12 June 2008


I pride myself on a decent grasp of the English language - but terrible punctuation, I just have no patience for grammar or punctuation so forgive me in advance for flagrant use of commas and an over-fondness of dashes - and a relatively healthy vocabulary thanks to being a Reader. Studying for the GRE's last year disabused me of this notion. So many words I let float by with just a fuzzy idea of what they really mean, letting context fill in the meaning of the sentence.
Take "Ephemera". I think I had it confused with ethereal, and my guess is it meant a sort of gossamer detritus. Close, but uh, not quite.

1: something of no lasting significance —usually used in plural
: ephemera plural : paper items (as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles

In other words, I was already in love with ephemera and just didn't have the right word for it. I collect old instructional books, manuals on life and hygiene, textbooks, advertisements, instructional films - my house is full of it. (See above picture for a small sampling, on a library truck, natch.)

Why do I love ephemera? Look at the preface to the Compton's Encyclopedia. It earnestly declares a mission, wears its hearts on its sleeve:

To inspire ambition, to stimulate imagination, to provide the inquiring mind with accurate information told in an interesting style, and thus lead into broader fields of knowledge, such is the purpose of this work.

ANYWAY. I was listening to ReSound, a podcast from the Third Coast International Audio Festival, compiling radio and sound from around the world, well worth a listen. And they announced their audio contest for this year, based on the theme Ephemera. And to make it even more exciting, this year they have partnered with the Prelinger Library in San Francisco aka the library I would give my right arm to work at for a living wage. Have you seen Rick Prelinger's film archives of instructional and commercial films? No? Good lord, go now! Now!

So here's the challenge: Create a 2:30-3:00 minute audio piece that tangentially or completely references TWO of the five books the Prelinger Library has submitted for your consideration. Also include the voice of a stranger. Submit by midnight, August 3rd. Complete rules and guidelines can be found here. You can browse the complete books via the Internet Archive - I am NOT a huge fan of digitizing everything in sight, which is the current modus operandi of libraries and vastly over-discussed in Library School, trust me - but the Internet Archive does it right. They capture some elements of the tangibility of the book and the browsability too. Check it out.

Audio is low-cost, low-stress and one of the most creative mediums you can experiment in. In a situation where you may feel weird to whip out a video camera, a voice recorder goes unnoticed. People open up on tape the way they would feel too embarrassed to do on film. Audio editing programs are easily found and have a much lower learning curve than video editing programs. I'm going to make Ephemeral Audio. Won't you?

06 June 2008

Perpertual Pickle

Friends, it is HOT here in the NC. 97 degrees today - for the rest of the world, that's about 36 degrees Celsius. Yowza. But unlike the complaining weatherpeople and newspersons on the TV, I don't mind a bit. I come from the Pacific Northwest where June is truly the cruelest month. June - it sounds so summery doesn't it? But instead, June usually found me wearing sweaters and knee socks and wishing for blue skies, bitterly resenting those across the country who complained of being hot. So I'm not complaining - I'm coping. Here's how: ceiling fans in every room, a gentle boost of AC at night for a good sleep, shady porches, tank tops, and of course, food.

Meals have been as simple as a juicy tomato, sliced, sprinkled with basil and salt. A bowl of cold zucchini soup swirled with yogurt. A leftover slice of Spanish potato tortilla. And two mainstays: the Perpetual Pickle and Sun Tea.

The CSA delivery the last several weeks have included fistfuls of chubby little pickling cucumbers. I've been known to can my own bread and butter pickles, dills and chow chow but it's too hot to think about dragging the canner down from the attic. So enter the Perpetual Pickle. The dressing is based off of The Gourmet Cookbook's Quick Dilled Cucumber Pickles, just messing around with it a little:

2 tsp good salt
1/2 C cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/4 C sugar
2 tsp horseradish, the jarred kind - trust me, it provides the little kick this needs.
Mustard seeds - tbsp or so
Fresh dill, liberally snipped. If your dill is still in seedling state, like mine, dried works well too.

I mix it all in a medium Pyrex bowl and as my little cucumbers arrive, wash and slice them into the bowl with the dressing and pop them in the fridge. As we nibble away at them - they're better the longer they soak - I just slice more cucumbers in. When the dressing gets a little low, I refresh it. Fresh, cold pickles always on hand. I received some turnips in this weeks delivery and I'm going to try pickling them and adding them to a cold noodle salad. I'll let you know how it turns out.

I've also been drinking gallons of sweet tea, that Southern mainstay. Here's me on the porch brewing a pot of sun tea - 4 Luziane tea bags to the quart and a few hours in the sun and heat - with some simple syrup to add in.

Now excuse me, I'm going to go fan myself.

02 June 2008

Hot Hot Hot Super 8

This Saturday we both Made and Did at the same time. It was the summer edition of Flickers "Attack of the 50' Reel" - a bi-monthly non-competitive Super 8 film challenge. I am old enough to remember Norwood Cheek visiting Vancouver with his Flicker Super 8 film festival back when the name Chapel Hill seemed to conjure up a mysterious and glamorous location - how could I know I would actually end up living here one day? Here are the rules:

You pay $15 and pick up a roll of film at 11 am.
You make a film on a prescribed theme - all edits in-camera of course.
You return the completed film at 7 pm. and enjoy a backyard cook out.
They send the film off to be processed and when it comes back, screen it at the Cats Cradle - where everyone, including you, see it for the first time.

It has been a long while since I busted out my Super 8 camera. When it comes to difficult-to-acquire media like Super 8 film and now Polaroid film, I get a little hoardy and afraid to use it unless the project is Absolutely Perfect. The structure of this event meant I had to throw out perfectionism and hoarding - they provide the film after all - and Just Do It. I love that.

The theme was Hot Hot Hot, fitting because it was in the 90's and hazy and golden that day. And we needed to be able to shoot this film while toting around our baby girl. A roll of Super 8 film is about 3 minutes and 20 seconds and of course, there is no sound, so you have to stay simple. Thus the theme Making Strawberry Ice Cream was born. We filmed ourselves driving out to a farm and picking 11 pounds of strawberries. We filmed picking up the rest of the ingredients: milk, cream, ice and rock salt. I washed sliced and pureed quarts of strawberries. And as a thunderstorm growled closer, we frantically churned and churned and churned. At 6:45 pm, we tried our first scoop - cold and sweet and pink - on camera, of course. And then hustled over with our film and about a gallon of homemade ice cream to share. If you have to attend a party where you don't know anyone, may I suggest arriving with homemade ice cream? It helps.

I wish I had some pictures of us cranking the ice cream in the baby blue ice cream maker - but we were too busy trying to get it on film. The thing about Super 8 - no instant feedback and no do-overs if you screw up. I have my fingers crossed it's in focus and there was enough light. I'll be out of town when it screens but Sergio will be there, representing and reporting back if we made fools of ourselves.

I can't wait to do it again.