Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Snowstorm, Editing, and British Commercials

Last night I saw the 2008 British Television Adveriting Awards.  I never have before, and I almost didn't last night.

Yesterday, I spent the day being very responsible.  I scrubbed down the windowsills (lovely weighted windows, vintage Minneapolitan architecture from when everyone was rich), lay down the double-sided tape like nobody's bidness, and adhered the plastic sheets over the windows.  Last year I discovered I actually have a talent for this, and this year I have gotten better with each window.  Doing all seven windows in the sunroom, I was sufficiently warmed up for the rest of the house.  The dining room taught me that not all windows in the house are the same size: those in the sunroom are three feet across, while the living and dining rooms sport portals two feet and eight inches wide.  I'm all, "Why am I suddenly trimming so much plastic off?" for my learning curve grinds slow (but fine).

Then I printed out 23 sheets of poetry, donned my Slovenian army cloak, and ran/walked four blocks up to Urban Bean.  I was meeting a fellow editor there to talk about this stack of poetry; a third editor could not join us, on account of her having to drive so far to rendezvous and also it was snowing like a bitch.  Yes, the second editor told me, "No problem if we have to postpone tonight's meeting since there's a storm brewing," and I'm all, "What storm?"  I looked outside (it is amazing how I can run around the house and be here all day and never think to look out the window, especially considering how many windows we have) and it was just a sheet of white coming down diagonally.  Hence the army cloak and the hampered movement.

I'd never met this other editor before, though I'm sure I've seen her at another writer's function, maybe the open mic thing my university hosted a couple months ago.  I apologized for causing her to wait and we got down to business: judging poetry.

I don't write poetry and I barely read it.  It's just that some editors were leaving the literary journal my university puts out, and I was recommended by some of the other editors but they had no specific job function for me.   When they realized a dearth of poetry editors, well, they let gravity take its course and I fell into place.

I actually would have had a better time editing the poetry.  That would have been easier.  Apostrophes are like mathematics: there is little or no room for interpretation.  When they are clearly wrong, I am become an Old Testament God; full wroth, my fist strikes strong, and none who fall may rise again.  I could also render a substantive edit: "I understand you feel a conflict with society, but could you mention the nature of this conflict?  It's not coming across."  I love Dorothy Parker (who doesn't?  Pol Pot didn't) and W.H. Auden, but after that I couldn't tell Rod McKuen from Wallace Stevens.   Sorry.

Luckily, the other editor and I agreed on each piece down the pike.  We came away with five strong "yes" pieces, four "maybes" and we simply pressed a pillow upon the faces of the rest until they stopped moving.  With time to kill, we discussed what it entails to write full-time as well as our blogging ventures.  Where before I could only shrug and ahem and hint at attempting to get things published but it's just so hard in this market, now I have a conversational ace in the hole: "I was plagiarized this weekend."  That is topical.   Anyone who is a writer to any extent snaps to attention, and the conversation pretty much writes itself from there.

The editor went home and I finished my Americano and The Onion's crossword puzzle before my wife picked me up.  She sent me a couple updates on the dire traffic situation: every year, Minnesota needs to re-learn how to drive in snow.  We received our first really big snowfall yesterday and everything went to hell.  Accidents, spin-outs, back-ups--my wife's bus was over 45 minutes late.  She still made it home, got the car, and picked me up with plenty of time for the 2008 British Television Advertising Awards.

We hung out in the lobby of the Walker for half an hour.  Her sister and brother-in-law showed up (good thing: they had the tickets) and we conversed lightly on the news of the day.  There is plenty of news, so there was plenty to talk about.  I got in some decent people-watching, all these affluent artistic types dressed mostly in black, which I find very attractive though gods know I could never live with any of them.  I imagine they take art very seriously and love every bit of it, but I have definite lines.  I'm only as contemporary as Edward Hopper; I have zero tolerance for "I'm brilliant because I sliced this canvas just so," or "See!  See how cunningly I have replicated this box of cereal!" or anything by Jasper Johns.  This disappoints my wife very much, as she is drawn to modern art.  We can't talk about it because I only see it as comedy gold and I'll start riffing until she wonders what exactly it was she liked about me in the first place.

Now, take me to the MIA and it's a different story.   I could lose a week in the ancient sculptures, metal crafts, tapestries, and artifacts.  I'm astonished and awestruck by genuine craftsmanship, maniacal talent, innovation amid primitive technology.  That, to me, is real skill and vision, true mastery of technique and media.

Anyway.  Eventually the waiting was over and we all filed into the theater, took our seats, and the rundown of the best of British commercials began.  These were astonishing, artistic and striking.  Most were comical and many were thoughtful.  The PSAs were particularly effective: an ultra-fast camera captured a sequence of a bullet striking various things, an apple, a bottle of water, a watermelon, etc.  It was beautiful to see the slow-motion detail of how these things erupted, watching the skins rip and peel away, watching fruit spray to the front and back.  The final object in the sequence was a young boy's head.  My eyes widened and I stopped breathing.  He was looking straight into the camera and there was a long pause, just as there was with the apple and the water bottle and everything else, and then that small black missile came gliding in from the edge of the screen and I couldn't believe what I was about to see.  Then the bullet dissolved and changed into a sentence, appealing for guns to be taken off the streets.  The most effective and compelling anti-gun PSA I've ever seen.  It certainly earned its award.

It was a fantastic showing and we four spent the next hour recounting our favorite clips.  We drove out to the Herkimer for dinner (turns out none of us had eaten beforehand), chatted some more, and wound up our night.  I was impressed with how social and fun it was, considering it was a Monday night.

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