Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 A Jam-packed Year!

It's been a jam-packed year. I've written a lot of blogs that need posting.

Last Spring, I continued what I now call the "honeymoon with a Bolex" period of film school. The Bolex is a 16mm camera with a wind-up motor. It's very basic, yet very versatile: the motor runs for only 29 seconds per wind, but you can capture stop motion animation with it. For my second non-synced sound film, my goal, initially, was to use longer shots and fewer shots than in my first film. I planned to follow a more straight forward narrative theme rather than an experimental one. I ended up with a more complicated, experimental narrative film, combining three visual styles to tell one introspective story – how an inanimate object can take on emotional weight. Instead of fewer than 24 shots, I ended up with more than thirty!
The assignment was to use sound to enhance or change the meaning of the film's visuals. So there were fifty sound clips to accompany the 4.5 minute film. 

On top of the complexity of the film's structure, I found that in order to match the main character with existent family photos, I had to play the part myself (mine field!!). I had to direct and act at the same time, after not acting for over a decade. Luckily, thanks to some awesome friends, I didn't have to operate the camera while I was in front of it. 

Rose, Suede, and Lace was pretty well received. My professor would only say that I had done everything that I set out to do, so I'd earned an A whether I thought I'd succeeded or not. The lack of constructive feedback left me wondering what to improve! I am a student, after all.
Rose, Suede and Lace poster pic. I made the purse and the hanky just for the film.

Another challenge of this Spring was that I was constantly trapped on campus by snowfall. Burnaby Mountain Campus is over 1500 feet high so it snows frequently throughout the Spring term. I did have studded tires, but my parking space was at the end of the lot at the bottom of the hill. Half the snowplow operators were too lazy to push snow all the way off the pavement, so I spent most of the Winter with a three foot wall of ice behind my car. Whenever the weather cleared, I would hop a bus downtown, just to be there. Vancouver is a wonderful place for that.

Escape to Downtown - gorgeous, almost sea level and snow free!

A highlight of the Spring Term was an evening spent with fellow students and Andrew Currie who is an SFU grad & the director of FIDO (a wonderful zombie, lassie spoof starring Carrie-Anne Moss and Billy Connolly). It had incredibly ornate set decoration that I loved. Currie has a true knack for directing children; so it was really fun to watch. Anyway, the evening was exciting if somewhat daunting. The prize is attainable but the road is long.

I spent the first half of the Summer in Syria. It was the first time that I had gone there in nine years. A lot of things have changed there in the interim. I had a wonderful time swimming in the pool at the farm cottage and seeing all my

cousins, some of whom are barely in Jr. High. I have twenty-five first cousins on my father's side. We had a celebration at the farm after the children finished their end of year school exams. The party included second cousins, so I lost count!

My favorite pic with my favorite papa!

One of baba's friends took this snap of us together. It's now officially my favorite father-daughter pic. It was taken at a real estate office opening in a Christian and Muslim mixed village. The night would make a great blog; but it would need photos and video to truly express the event. There were drummers, callers, and sword dancers; food, drink, and floral arrangements fit for a grand wedding. I learned the hard way, never to leave the camcorder at home, even if I was too sick to use it (I had such horrible allergies that I had to get a cortisone shot later in the week)!

The pool at baba's farmhouse. My sometimes sanctuary (when the gardener wasn't around).

The home cooked food in Syria was amazing and I got to shoot some footage for a food documentary that I hope to put together. It was really hard to leave, having reconnected with so many loved ones and lived a luxurious lifestyle. The lack of freedom did grate a little, but I'm mellower than before and I knew it wouldn't last, so it wasn't too bad. Also, apparently, I'm past the age of being able to shame the family easily, so Baba actually let me go on a date…without a chaperone!!! Wow.


On the way home an Air France snafu landed me in Paris overnight so I walked past Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Seine, Arc de Triumph, the Eiffel Tower and everything between in about 7 hours. Awesome!!!

Notre Dame

I returned to Oregon for the second half of the Summer, which proved more busy than relaxing. After pulling an emergency shift at the cotton candy booth (I think I spun my 1500th cone at Scandinavian Festival, this year), I went home to a gravely ill cat who we had to put to sleep the next night because she was dying painfully from congestive heart failure. It has been a rough Fall without that green-eyed fiend. I pray from the bottom of my heart that none of you ever has to go through such an experience. Having to weigh Eowen's chances of survival over her suffering from one hour to the next as first one antibiotic and then another failed to stop the swelling around her heart, was excruciating. The decision to put her down, though the right one, will always haunt me. My friend Shannon and my Aunt Sharron have reminded me, she is always with me, now, which is a comfort, except when I think of her famously soft fur and her infamous purring bear hugs. I wrote a blog about losing Eowen, mostly to help my own grieving process. Thank you to those who have been so sympathetic.

More later!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Paris in Seven Hours!

Notre Dame. It almost looks like a cartoon with the sky behind it like that.
The final adventure of my travels this summer was that my flight out of Damascus was delayed leaving, so I missed my connecting flight in Paris. As a result, I got an overnight in Paris, gratis. I took a train into Paris from Charles De Gaulle Airport and then walked from Notre Dame, through some of downtown, along the Seine (past the Pont Neuf Bridge) to the Louvre. Continuing through the Tuileries Garden toward Place de la Concorde, I stopped to ride a three story swing. I'm saving the six story ferris wheel for next time! It just seemed like it would be more fun with a companion. Then I proceeded to the Pont Alexandre III Bridge where I looked at Les Invalides in the distance, and fell under the charm of a sea nymph sculpture. I enjoyed the amazing mosaic work on the front of the Grand Palais before going up the Champs Élysées to the Arc de Triumph and from there to the Eiffel Tower.

I didn't know what half of what I saw actually was until I looked it up later. I'm sure I've left a lot of places out of this post, like a famous Metro station, and other palaces that I could see in the distance as I walked past. I didn't stop moving except for the swing and a snack at the Eiffel Tower. Ironically, French fries were all the vendor had left when I got there. No crepes, no waffles, no macaroons. Finally, I got on a train back to my hotel. 

Charming "little" Sea Nymph (probably twice the size of an adult).

The whole time I walked through Paris, I just kept taking pictures and hoping I had enough daylight left to get to the Eiffel Tower before dark (I had discovered in Syria, that my flash didn't work!). I took 148 pictures in Paris.  Luckily, it was July first - very near midsummer - so I had as much daylight as possible. I actually got to the Eiffel Tower just as the sun was going down. I have shots of the Eiffel Tower that look like daylight, more that are in twilight, and more attempted in full dark; all taken within a twenty-five minute span.

I fully expected my feet to be bloody stumps when I got back to my hotel: without my checked luggage, I wasn't equipped with walking shoes. But, I was fine. According to maps, I probably only walked about eight or nine kilometers plus a little more added for meandering, and walking around things to get a better angle with my camera, or just see better. Your eyes physically can't take Arc de Triumph in all at once from close up! I also didn't have a purse or a coat, so I kept my purchases to what fit in my hoodie pockets. I froze half to death when the hotel shuttle took 45 minutes to arrive at the unheated train station. 

I think I did the walk in exactly the right order.  Kudos to the French for having street signs that matched the free map on the bus tour brochure I used to navigate. It was a much better experience overall than getting lost in Vienna 9 years before without a single road sign matching my map! Of course that could have been because I wasn't in the area covered by the map. But that's another story.  

The Louvre: Can yo see the Ferris Wheel in the distance?

Although Notre Dame was impressive, the Louvre was more so. You really can't imagine how large the Louvre is until you've been there. You could spend a week just walking through it, I'm sure. In the back courtyard of the Louvre, I paused to listen to an opera singer who was busking. That mezzo-soprano was better than anyone I've ever heard. I recommend entering the Louvre from the back courtyard on your first visit. Everyone has seen the front. You get a much better sense of scale when you walk through the rear courtyard before emerging behind the glass pyramid. It's a special perspective that you shouldn't miss.

Swing in the Tuileries Garden. Okay, maybe three stories was an exaggeration.

Once I got to the Tuileries Gardens, across the street from the Louvre, I could actually see the Arc de Triumph in the distance, looking Mammoth from two kilometers away! Once I got to the Arc, it didn't seem quite so huge, until I saw these itsy bitsy things on the top and thought at first there were some statuettes on top of it. No: they were full sized people who looked like ants from the ground. It really is colossal! I didn't spend the 23 Euros to go up, since I didn't have time to stop. The Eiffel Tower was still a ten minute walk away.

Arc de Triumph. Those itsy bitsy dots at the top are people!

After so much grandeur - no wonder the French can be arrogant about the beauty of Paris - I didn't expect the Eiffel Tower to be very impressive. I arrived there just as the sun was setting. From across the river, it looked just as you'd expect from postcards. But once you get to it and walk underneath it... I don't think I've ever seen anything so beautiful, industrial, and large all at once. The rolls royce merlin propeller at Chatsworth, runs it a close second in the industrial beauty category. But, this is HUGE!!! The open ironwork makes it look delicate and beautiful while the form and size give it amazing presence. It's funny; but it didn't occur to me to feel small, it only made me wonder at how beautiful industry could be if only it tried. The Eiffel Tower may be a hundred years old; but it still feels like something out of a Sci-Fi movie. For me, it was like the first time I saw the USS Enterprise on big screen!  I half expected to be taken up into the "mother ship!" 

Eiffel Tower, duh!

C'est trop bon! Now, I completely understand why people come back from Paris with all sorts of little Eiffel Tower souvenirs. I wanted to get all sorts of things, but managed to keep it down to the basic two key chains and a magnet. Someday: bookends or a lamp or... It's hard not to want something; to hold onto that moment of experience: a trigger for a grand memory.  The experience of the Eiffel Tower alone is up there with Zion National Park, on the must see short list.

I left the hotel at almost 4 PM and headed back to it about 11:30 PM; so it was more than 7 hours; but I don't think the train counts as it was decidedly ordinary unless you've never taken a bus or train through suburban Europe.

If you have a layover in a foreign, or even domestic location, don't hesitate to grab all the experience you can in the short time you have. You won't regret the adventure. 


I've had quite the vacation already. It will be years before I do anything half so impressive, I'm sure. I think I actually might be ready to do some studying and ordinary living by September.

Bon Vacances!