07 December, 2015

Oral traditions, digital transmission

This multimedia essay, gestated four months, is intended as a gentle critique, clearinghouse, and attempt to set the tone for future discussions on making the most of online resources available to the folkdance community, via an analysis focused on the contradance universe. It's a bit long, but i hope if the topic area is of interest to you that you'll set aside an hour or so to fully digest what the linked videos convey, that you'll share and discuss it with other practitioners of your own folk tradition, and that the effort put into writing this will positively impact other performers' development just as the efforts of the contra-verse's documentarians have impacted my own, adding zest to contras everywhere.

~

Much has been said by folklorists and musicologists on the methods of oral transmission in folk traditions. But while oral transmission remains a valuable conduit for the propagation of tunes and action of the folk process, the majority of learning musicians today rely on printed collections of tunes. This is positive in light of how the uniformity of printed texts allow musicians from different regions to share common repertoire without the obstacle of strong regional variations in a given melody. Ear learners, however, have access to a far broader range of tunes that may not exist in printed form. Audio recordings, MIDI transcription and the internet have allowed an explosion in the number and variety of folk tunes accessible to musicians anywhere on the planet. 

Folk music, storytelling, and community histories are easily recognized examples of orally transmitted traditions. Dance calling is another, and despite publication of dance sequences, calling arguably remains more dependent on oral transmission than its allied traditions. Like musicians, dance callers collect repertoire, often at weekends and festivals, from peers and mentors, from printed texts including event syllabi (for example, syllabi of the annual Ralph Page Dance Legacy Weekend being an excellent resource available online, one of a number of valuable online resources available from the University of New Hampshire Library special collections) and through exchange via email and listservs. Unlike musical constructions, which do not require the performer to generate a method of instruction, dance sequences obtained in printed form are often collected lacking key information - information on how best to teach sequences and transitions, information on how dancers respond to a given sequence and its transitions, and information on the technical elements of dance calling that relate to personal performance style and stage presence. This missing information is gathered through observation at events, in workshops, and in verbal and written conversation among peers and mentors, and generated through observation of similarities among sequences in a growing caller’s repertoire. 

Over the past five years, the efforts of a handful of professional documentarians and many more enthusiastic amateurs have revolutionized digital transmission of the contra dance tradition. At this writing in December 2015, a YouTube search for “contra dance” yielded some 177,000 results, many of which are full dance sequences from various festivals and regular dance series, along with instructional videos such as contrasyncretist’s flourish tutorials, George Marshall’s beginner session, and Dennis Merritt's performer interviews. Any caller can easily collect a range of dance sequences, and as videographers post and choreography nerds continue to identify dance sequences, possibilities for caller - and musician - repertoire collection expand rapidly. 

This rapid expansion is not without thorny questions of intellectual property, release waivers, and dancer privacy, matters with which the dance community will need to grapple in the future. Regardless of those implications, YouTube and similar video sharing platforms now occupy a unique niche with rich potential for the tradition’s future.

Let’s take a dance break. 


The above example includes a number of different types of information beyond the sequence itself (“Lanier Equation” by Bob Isaacs). Not only does the video clearly capture Nils’ full prompting and timing of calls in early iterations of the dance, it reflects the mechanics of the sequence and how dancers respond to transitions. 

Repertoire collection is an important but relatively small part of callers’ ongoing development. An equally important element of calling skill is to modulate the voice, respond to dancers' movements, adjust calling to reorient and reinforce when dancers are uncertain, and engage in on-the-fly set management. 

Two videos of Lisa Greenleaf’s calling aptly illustrate the potential utility of recorded sequences for learning these skills. Note the set management occurring around the 1:11 mark here; voice modulation and the use of clarifying prompts are illustrated here. In some ways recorded sequences are superior to in-person observation in that they allow repeated observation of ephemeral elements that may slip by unnoticed when one is engrossed in the immersive momentary experience of interactions with partner, minor set, and music (note dancers' response to the Free Raisins’ exemplary musical climax at the 3:23 mark here).

Such online resources may be of particular value to developing callers in rural areas for whom opportunities to learn from the best national-level performers are often infrequent and subject to financial, scheduling, and travel constraints. While they are no substitute for personal peer and mentor relationships, online recordings have a demonstrable potential to increase performer and therefore dancer skill and enjoyment in remote dance communities lacking the economic resources to regularly import top-flight talent for events and workshops.
More can be learned from a recorded sequence than simply figures and calling technique: the careful observer may note how a tune set works with a given dance and, with diligence, how several different tune sets modulate dancers’ kinesthetic responses to the same dance, a possibility that grows as recordings are added but which requires that uploaders identify the dance sequence in the video title or at least in the description. Learning musicians can observe how performance situations differ from studio recordings (e.g.: how the best bands abbreviate phrases early in a set to accommodate the calls, which was my reason for selecting that particular video of Nils and Elixir), and how arrangements are built and deconstructed. Ear-learners can collect tunes, and online mp3 conversion and tempo alteration tools can facilitate ear learning. 

On YouTube, digital transmission grows to resemble oral transmission: dance tunes are heard in their living, amorphous form, and thanks to DSLR onboard audio quality limitations, with enough noise to result in meaningful variation through signal degradation much as orally transmitted tunes achieve variation through limitations of human memory.

Here’s another fantastic example of an information-rich recording: while the calls are not as clear, it’s easy to observe dancers’ response to Marty Fager’s “Balance and Bounce” early on, and visible details of the Syncopaths’ adventurous arranging offer learning musicians inspiration, echoing Colin Quigley’s observation in the 1993 paper Catching Rhymes: Generative Musical Processes in the Compositions of a French Newfoundland Fiddler that “experimentation is always within the structural parameters of the fiddle-tune form.” 



The utility of recorded sequences to callers, however, turns on the inclusion of key information. Ron Buchanan’s “Glenside Promenade” is challenging to successfully collect from this video because Ron does not use the terms “partner” and “neighbor” in the prompts, and the camera motion that makes it such a watchable video complicates a learner’s ability to deduce which of the swings is with partner and which is with neighbor. Dancers’ behavior suggests that would be the first swing, a deduction reinforced by the nature of whole set promenades, which are almost always done with a neighbor. Potential for collection errors would be reduced if the camera lingered on a single region of the hall for a full iteration of the dance. 

At this point it is important to note an enormous absence within the vast trove of recorded dance sequences online: the absence of the walk-through. It may be possible to ascribe a certain sense of privacy to the walk-through, as it is the time when dancers are learning - but it's more likely the walk-through's absence stems from a key difference in status between bands and callers. Callers have fans, sure, but from an organizing perspective the average dancer is more likely to turn out for a particular band than a particular caller; excitement resides in dance time, not teaching time. Teaching workshops are useful, but the best tool for a developing caller is to observe the best callers in action, and the absence of walk-throughs is a limiting factor in what can be gained from recorded sequences. 

~

While next-generation digital transmission offers rich possibilities, questions arise both about the intellectual property ramifications of video posting and about how videographers can maximize the utility of these publicly available archives to current and future developing performers. Many contra choreographers already make their sequences freely available online, but some do not. What are the implications of identifying recorded sequences for intellectual property among dance composers? Has the late 20th-century effort at dance-book publishing acceded to this digital evolution of oral tradition sufficiently that taggers need not consider whether a dance has been previously published when commenting with a sequence name? 

For an oral transmission to make the most of what digital transmission allows, it is important to recognize that different documentary approaches will facilitate different results. Videos which afford the best learning opportunities to callers and musicians may not be the best videos for organizers to leverage as tools to recruit and train new dancers in dance etiquette and uncommon courtesy. How can the contra community as a whole shape this emerging resource to best transmit the tradition? How can the community guide developing musicians and callers to gain the most from YouTube’s possibilities as a learning tool? 

At some point in the near future, i would argue, it may be beneficial for an organization like CDSS to dedicate resources or the efforts of a qualified individual to develop a “curriculum” of videos like the ones i have included in this post, explaining what the particular types of information learners should look for. The efforts of tagger extraordinaire ccpage19143 would do well to be abetted by others with a similar depth of choreographic knowledge, and a new layer of comparative analysis of tune-dance pairing would be possible were uploaders to note sequence names in video titles. Adding links to recorded sequences would give Michael Dyck’s dance index vastly more utility than the resource's current list of links to printed texts offers. Dance organizers could include in outreach and advertising materials or on “second dance free cards” a URL or QR code linking new dancers to an orientation video on basic style and etiquette.

A significant advantage in harnessing the power of this unorganized body of information is that efforts need not be local. It is our local dance communities that nourish us, but when we invest effort in enhancing the body of contra performance knowledge on a meta-scale, that effort improves communities across the contra-verse including our own. There are many dedicated and passionate practitioners of the form - here i sing the choreographers, veteran local callers, musicians, organizers, wearers of many hats - whose efforts are seldom recognized outside their local communities but whose contributions to the contra-verse amplify the effectiveness of initiatives at many scales. There is a human resource dimension to the questions of digital transmission, and it is perhaps a dimension characterized by the problem of coordinating distributed volunteerism in ways that have direct benefits to local communities while simultaneously enhancing the meta-resource.  

I’ve outlined here some of the key possibilities and considerations i think must be raised and discussed throughout the contra-verse in order to make the most of the opportunities inherent in digital transmission. Focusing the raw potential of an as-now-unorganized resource will require ongoing dialogue and some application of fiscal and temporal resources, but that outlay of effort may be key in ensuring community dance is as accessible as we dream it to be and continues to flourish on into the 22nd century.

~

Footnote: The role of video editing has been left out of this analysis - despite that being a primary skill area of mine - because the role of editing is worth an essay of its own.

I'd like to thank Doug Plummer, Doug Heacock, Dave Pokorney, Ray Sebold, John Newsome, John Michael Seng-Wheeler, Chris Page, Ryan Holman, Dennis Merritt and all the others whose investments in documenting the contra dance tradition online have been instrumental to improving my skill as a dancer and caller.

09 November, 2015

Winter garden (prologue)


I picked the garden spot because it was the only place in the back yard that made sense. With a neighbor and his pickup truck, a few cubic yards of composted horse manure were procured, and with the help and viking metal proffered by a visiting midwesterner learned in the arts of soil, the horseshit was given a proper burial. Then came leaves from the neighbors' pistachio tree and leaflets from my mesquite, roots left behind after leafy early summer harvest; micturated beer mingled in the soil with three months of laundry water and above-average September rain.

When i pulled back the basil, three feet tall and mostly lying on the ground, what i found was astonishing. Little trace of the leaf mulch remained: the top three inches of soil were filled with filamentous fungal hyphae. As i forked and raked the soil, i found shriveled fruiting bodies. My desert garden grew mushrooms! Thanks to all that leaf mulch (and urine, putting leaf decomposition on speed), in just under eleven months the soil's organic matter content has increased considerably.


We'll see how things do with a Nov. 7 planting date. What went in the ground: Danvers 126 carrot, Cylindra beet, Romanesco cauliflower, Tokyo Bekana, Tatsoi, and mesclun mix, along with hardy mustard and "dancing kale" gene pools from Restoring Our Seed all those years ago.

04 November, 2015

Gratitude season

So picking up the story where i left off, after the abrupt loss of job and temporary work left me severely depressed, I decided to head back to Maine where i could work for an old friend and keep an eye on my 77-year-old dad, who had given us all a little scare with pneumonia earlier in the spring and would continue to live alone until October. While there, i hoped to get my motorcycle on the road so i could ride it home to Tucson and have wheels here. Turns out Virago carbeurators are as finicky as they tell you, and when you're earning ten an hour to the mechanic's sixty-five, professional help is hard to finagle.

Because life is never stressful enough, one of my tenants contacted me in early September to report boxes in his room had been tampered with, personal documents were missing, and he was dealing with identity theft. Soon i too found myself receiving decline notices on credit cards i'd never applied for. When i returned to Tucson, two pieces of furniture were missing and three camera lenses and my violin had disappeared from the storage closet, along with my mortgage documents. The tenant who now, nearly a month later, admits he allowed an unauthorized occupant in my home - something i initially knew only from others' reports - says he's going to sue me.

It wasn't just an armoire, lenses and violin missing. So many of my personal belongings had migrated into that tenant's room that it took days to get any real sense of what had been stolen versus simply appropriated.

You don't really know the value of an item until it's stolen. Sure, it has a replacement value, and keep a list of serial numbers just in case. Sentimental value includes sweat equity: I poured every bit of earnings from my first job into buying those lenses. The violin i was looking forward to play in the neighborhood's Las Posadas processions this Christmas season; all that's left of it is a single Pirastro string envelope by the trash cans. I can get another dozuki saw, but that one belonged to my mother. Because the universe is never finished, while i was putting dishes away, my favorite mug decided to fall and shatter.

Trying to accurately gauge my losses, i ended up with a dual-entry. For everything i had to replace, there was another reminding me of its origin memories, its latent value as art, its usefulness.


Out here in Arizona, November is a comfortable, slightly rainy month. The basil had grown so out of control it took up most of the garden - even started putting down adventitious roots - and smells glorious. The soil was actually damp two days after rain, thanks to all that prostrate basil. Three volunteer jalapeño plants that sprouted in the potted jasmine already held pendant podfuls of capsaicin. I can't really think of a more appropriate "welcome home to Tucson" sign from the garden than volunteer jalapeños.

Bronzed beech trees and bare boughs or mesquite and cacti, November has a special feeling for me no matter the climate and flora. I start staring down that fourth Thursday and think to myself, "it's gratitude season." 

26 June, 2015

Sackcloth and ashes


For many of my friends, GLBT individuals and cisgendered / heterosexual allies alike, today is a joyous affirmation of equality and dignity under the law. After reading through the court's momentous decision and four impassioned dissents, however, i must confess i don't feel like celebrating. My thoughts are instead with those for whom the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is proof positive of America's decline.

For starters, the left's scorn of the four dissents is palpable in comments like "your tears are delicious." Such sentiments are as toxic to our civic discourse as the fearful rhetoric used to impel voters to pass the laws today's ruling overturned. As tempting as it is to go all argle-bargle and impugn the dissents, particularly Justice Scalia's (see #AskTheNearestHippie), demonizing dissenters is disturbing. But i digress. What bothers me most is the rush to proclaim, whether in "showy profundities" or shrill disapproval, what marriage is and is not.

"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family," Justice Kennedy writes in his concluding paragraph. "In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were."

Can embody. Can become. Marriage, whether civil or religious, is not a magic bullet. Marriage can be an utter hell, should the participants therein not act in the best interest of their union. It is, like anything in life, what we make of it, not to be taken lightly. Does marriage make our nation stronger? Not if it's a bad marriage. Does today's ruling render marriage meaningless? One could make the cynical argument that secular straight folks, Vegas wedding chapels, seventh marriages and shotgun weddings long since have. I would argue that it is in the love and actions of married individuals that marriage finds its meaning: We as a society collectively derive meaning from the sum of individual meanings, religious teachings and cultural experiences of marriage writ large. I stand with Evangelical left leader Tony Campolo when he writes that "the institution of marriage should always be primarily about spiritual growth," and believe that if indeed gays and lesbians wish to claim the rights, responsibilities and "transcendent purposes" of marriage, we must diligently aspire to those purposes, and demonstrate dignity to those who would deny it.

But to the subject of America's decline. Yeah, America's in decline. America is still exceptional, just not in all the positive ways we used to be: highest incarceration rate in the world, for example.

I'm turned inside out tonight. It was surreal to see the White House lit up in a rainbow. And something about the decadence with which that postdiluvian gesture was displayed throughout media and social media made my stomach churn. What started the churn was a shorthand reference to Proverbs 16:18. "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."

Pride was everywhere, and nobody was talking about the TPP, TTIP or TiSA -- leftwing-conspiracy theorists are probably loving that -- or about this morning's trio of terror attacks in France, Kuwait and Tunisia. Nothing wakes up an atheist like adhan. (I know from experience.)

Nature offered no respite from rainbows. As i waited for a bus, a massive and intense bow spread across the pueblo's sky. It remained there for more than half an hour.

Christians, and it's the ones of you who are upset be today's ruling i'm talking to here: You know those bold displays of homosexual conceit (and of LGBT dignity being affirmed by a world sometimes more Christlike than you)? Those you are responsible for. Pride, in the sense of that thing gay people resort to to keep from feeling less-than-human, is the offspring of shame promoted by body negativity and sex negativity (again, speaking from experience), and you've had a big hand in that. You created the need for all those rainbows by promoting a morality that pushes LGBT people to the margins rather than welcoming them, sexual orientation and all, as God's beautiful handiwork. Morality does not consist of how others' actions affect us. It consists of how our actions affect ourselves and others.

While some of y'all are celebrating marriage equality and some of y'all are flipping your lid, a great many people don't have the economic luxury to notice. But a few people on the other side of the world (who are as unhinged on Divine Revelation as you and even more keen on the afterlife) did notice, and they saw the White House lit up like a great big rainbow target. So sure, have a great time celebrating Pride and have a great time greasing the wheels of the Republican reaction machine and have fun bitching about unelected judges and lamenting as disastrous America's decision to affirm in secular civil legal tradition, on civil legal precedent, the right of all consenting adults to marry the partner of their choice. 

The rainbow has a very specific meaning in the tradition i come from: God's symbol of his promise never again to destroy the world with a flood. Education and good sense do not permit me to read as literal that story, but meaning transcends the literal. The rainbow to me represents a promise of grace: the promise that God will never again destroy the Creation. "He" is leaving that up to us. The question is, do we destroy ourselves through the consequences of our choices? You can blame natural disasters like drought or the Houston flooding on homosexuality if you want, or you can realize that, among the things that *are* true and which you *should* be flipping your Christian lid about, is the utter waste our society is laying to the planet. Who needs fire from heaven when we're adding this much CO2 to the atmosphere?! Denial doth not the consequences of complicity in capitalism's crimes against creation absolve. And you may discover, if you happen to be even the slightest bit wrong on that bit about every word of your Book being literally, infallibly true as translated and taken wildly out of its historical context (which is a pretty reasonable possibility), that Jesus is not in fact going to reappear to make you magically transform into a heavenly being, and that if we continue to mindlessly soil our nest you are just as frelled as all of us, and just as much to blame.

So can we stop fighting about what other people do in their bedrooms and start talking about whether or not your God would approve of the violence we're doing to each other with guns and greed and words, and of the damage we're doing to the planet via our fossil energy habit? And whether maybe those things actually matter more in the scheme of Luke 10:27 than whether or not consenting adults are allowed to marry? Can you apply your sense of Divine Wrath to things that actually piss God off as per Matthew 25? And can we all try to live by Jesus' actual teachings? Please and thank you!

Meanwhile, in Mosul, comeuppance for George W. Bush's immoral, illegal invasion of Iraq is brewing.

Once more, in case it didn't sink in the first time. Morality, as described by Christ in the gospels, does not consist of how others' actions affect us. It consists of how our actions affect ourselves and others.






24 June, 2015

A dispatch from the kitchen

Since rather abruptly becoming former employee of a now-defunct website, the past few months have been a rough ride, prompting a good bit of introspection. I've also had a bit of time on my hands, and while i rather firmly believe time is more valuable than money it is, like money, something to invest. For several years i've attempted with fits and starts to take up bodybuilding, and while too often i've let life changes knock me off that horse, the progress i've seen since October of last year has spurred me to use some of the extra time to invest in developing more bulletproof habits of diet and athleticism.


Michael Matthews' book "The Shredded Chef" has been an inspiration, but i've never been one to follow recipes much. They always call for something i don't have. I'd rather use my senses and what's on special, and on occasion the results are worth sharing. With a bundle of soba noodles from the pantry, bottom round steak on special, and tuscan kale from the co-op, i turned to the kitchen garden for sungold and yellow pear tomatoes, basil, and green onions. A block of parmesan left behind by recently departed tenants provided the perfect finish.


You can't see the soba under there but, a buckwheat product that should be in every lifter's pantry, they're adding a little extra protein punch. With one bundle of noodles, 8 oz. of steak, about 2 cups tuscan kale, a handful of bell pepper, a dozen cherry tomatoes, and grated parmesan on top (the green onions and basil are negligible from a macro perspective), the two-serving recipe adds up to about 950 calories, 23g fat, 88g carbohydrates, and a whopping 93g of protein. Hard to beat those macros for bulking.

It also helps, being between jobs, to really savor life and the simple gifts it brings - to appreciate what i've learned of food from family and friends over the years, and how growing your own food, even just a few cherry tomatoes, nourishes both body and spirit. And food so good it seems amiss not to say grace.





05 May, 2015

God on his thirsty Zion's hill


Lightning season has started in Tucson. With it comes the year's first real rain. In late afternoon, after the mouse that hangs around my garden had scuttled under a tarp, it began, a quick shower that yielded a rainbow for a few moments; as dusk fell, cloud lightning cast the Santa Catalinas in sharp relief.

It was the end of another sort of drought for me, a drought of awaited news. The job at my local credit union i had been nigh altogether banking on was filled by someone else. So it's back to the search while i work at a temporary job.



As i walked home from an errand this afternoon, i felt like singing Stan Rogers tunes. I'm a broken man on a Halifax pier and looking for one warm line through a land so wild and savage. But another song came unbidden.

Shapenote hymnody remains one of the ways i can access the religious. At a certain musicological remove, albeit, but still a sort of access. The language of early American hymns speaks to a sense of the Divine that, while not that far removed from the patriarchal totalitarianism i was raised with, allows me to see in the religious more nourishing metaphor more than opaque literalism.

Here's a video of the William Billings' "Africa," with lyrics by Isaac Watts, which doesn't represent the truly rambunctious nature of the shapenote sings i've participated in (my favorite, at Maine's Common Ground Fair), but is best representative of both the traditional harmony in octaves, fourths and fifths, and the tradition's disregard as to which gender sings the alto and tenor parts, often as here giving rise to octaves on the melody line. Better still, the Minnesota State Sacred Harp Convention recording, at the beginning of which you'll hear the parts sung once through in their notation, an interesting aural experience for those unaccustomed to shapenote.

But enough nerding. Try singing this at full volume and tell me you don't feel better about your place in the universe.

Now shall my inward joys arise,
And burst into a Song;
Almighty Love inspires my Heart,
And Pleasure tunes my Tongue.
God on his thirsty Sion-Hill
Some Mercy-Drops has thrown,
And solemn Oaths have bound his Love
To show'r Salvation down.
Why do we then indulge our Fears,
Suspicions and Complaints?
Is he a God, and shall his Grace
Grow weary of his saints?

18 March, 2015

South by Northeast

(In which life offers a jarring, unanticipated change of circumstances)

Sometimes you throw yourself into the arms of the Universe, and the Universe catches you with a right hook. At least that's what it feels like.

Friday. I've long wanted to attend Austin's SXSW festival, though that wasn't a desire i pursued with any measure of single-mindedness. When actor Daniele Watts and her raw food chef S.O. traveling to the festival broke down in Tucson and needed a place to crash, the calculus changed. While i couldn't afford a festival badge, offering a place to stay meant a ride to Austin had fallen into my lap.

It was less than two hours between realizing the trip was a possibility and walking out the door, which meant i was sending couch requests from couchsurfing's mobile app as i drifted off to sleep in the car.

Sunday. Road buddies dropped me off at Austin's flagship YMCA, a facility i've come to deeply appreciate in the past two days. I got in a workout and sent more couch requests; so far, neither the official CS community or the folkdance community had yielded a place to stay. At a cafe i worked my usual Sunday night shift for theplazz.com, and then proceeded to wander.

Not all who wander are lost, Tolkien wrote. Some are just looking fruitlessly for a place to crash.

The next morning at 6am an email hit my phone. I had not slept, and there was the news that the parent company had decided to shut down our site, effective immediately. That suddenly, i was for the first time in my life officially unemployed.

I found a spot well hidden behind a grassy knoll, wolfed down a spoonful of peanut butter, unrolled my sleeping bag on the wet grass and crawled inside. Three hours later, when i emerged groggy from the cocoon, i wasn't exactly a butterfly. I had just lost my job and slept outdoors in the city. The fear of becoming a homeless person one day had never felt more real. But not having to log in for work meant more time to explore.

With a little time to digest, the situation became clearer. Working that job, i could work from anywhere - but working from home most of the time, i was slipping into a sort of interpersonal stagnation where the only people i regularly interacted with were my homemate-tenants and, when i ran errands, cashiers. While that's not exactly a proper, personal-growth-stimulating social life, it was all too comfortable and familiar thanks to being homeschooled.

But i had made the trip to Austin for a system shock, because it had been too long since the uncertainties of my default seat-of-the-pants travel style had forced me to stay open to anything in my path. I had come to Austin to embrace the unfamiliar, and that's exactly what the Universe gave back. Losing a job with zero advance notice and by no fault of my own was something utterly uncharted.

So here i am, participating on the margins of what locals simply refer to as "South by," open to new possibilities and opportunities heretofore not considered. I just saw A Poem is a Naked Person, a newly restored 1974 stream-of-consciousness/cultural anthropology/concert film about musician Leon Russell, which i'd highly recommend checking out when it hits limited release later this summer.