Sunday, February 28, 2010

overlapping media

Overlapping media is my new phrase. It seems to express what I do better than multi-media or combined media or even immersive art.

Friday, February 26, 2010

welcome to my nightmare

Dream Account
April 01, 2008

Welcome to my Nightmare

If I were to ask people at random to describe their worst nightmare, I don’t think I’d get reports of anything like what just woke me up. It had my heart pounding like I’d been running, and I had to take several long, slow breaths and assure myself it hadn’t actually happened. It left me feeling I’d been given a second chance, like Ebenezer Scrooge awakening on Christmas morning just after wailing over his gravestone.

No murderers at the front door, no quicksand, no alien invasion, no burnt-out buildings or abandoned pets or friends turning into enemies; not even that old horror-dream classic: teeth falling out. What just woke me up was one of the most deadly clever and on-point dreams I’ve ever had in terms of echoing my deepest concerns.

If I had to place it into a dream-genre, I‘d place it in the School Anxiety category in that psychologically speaking, it most closely resembles those dreams of not having one’s textbooks, arriving to class on final exam day without having studied or even attended class all semester. But compared with a normal school-anxiety dream, my nightmare was far, far worse.

In this my worst nightmare, I wasn’t dressed formally enough for dinner.

No, I’m not kidding; that’s the crux of it. So now, driven by the need to purge myself of this dark tale, I’ll describe the dream in narrative order, then I’ll break the code. And then, apparently, I’ve got work to do.

* * *

NOT PREPARED: A Formal Dinner at the Scorsese Home

There is some kind of a film shoot going on in a large building, and I’m there with a crew. The dream doesn’t really start here, but what came before is harder to recall; it was something about a house with various rooms I was working on fixing up, a pleasant scenario.

Anyway, everything is just sort of happening in what feels like an ordinary way: crew people going about their business, equipment stacked around, no actual shooting going on at the moment but just the sense that things are fine. This is at some kind of indistinct interior location with a lot of rooms. [In corporate film and video production, this is the equivalent of a normal work day for me]. It is emotionally neutral.

At one point I find to my pleasant surprise I am having a small-talk conversation with famous film director Martin Scorsese, although I’m dimly aware that he doesn’t look like the real guy; he just looks like some generic man, but very pleasant. My husband is somewhere around here too, for some reason, but we are each doing our own thing.

Then I seem to be talking to a woman who I understand to be Scorsese’s wife, and she is making preparations for a dinner party. I hadn’t known anything about this, and look around and see there is one large room where the large crew seems to be, milling around and just starting to take their seats at a long table for an ordinary film shoot meal break.

But I see there is another room off to one side, through a large arched doorway. In there I can see a much nicer room, beautifully decorated, with another large dinner table. This table is set for a formal dinner, and I can see a sedately-uniformed wait staff preparing the table settings and chairs.

Mrs. Scorsese is talking to me and I suddenly realize I am expected to be part of this formal dinner. I was shocked at this news because nobody had said anything to me about this, and I had no idea. Now it appeared this amazing event was about to unfold… and I was standing there in my utilitarian work clothes! She seems disappointed that I hadn’t been told of this, and said she was definitely hoping for a formal dinner for “us”, presumably her and her husband and a select group of guests including me.

Panicking, I find the production manager and ask her about when the dinner was supposed to start. Crouched over a notebook on her haunches and working on something, she looked at her watch and laughed, saying it was already later than they’d originally planned, but they were hoping for nine o’clock. My mind raced as I tried to solve this problem. Horrible, just horrible! What a nightmare! This was actually about to happen and I wasn’t dressed and ready for it, even though I have formal wear hanging in my closet at home! What about my hair and makeup?

This is a nightmare of epic psychological proportions, and even while it’s happening, I’m aware there’s an irony to a hair/makeup/costume person (me) struggling to get those very things ready for herself.

As I’m trying to solve this problem I see a producer I know [in real life], a woman N. I notice N. is wearing some bright green and yellow two-layered designer shoes, very expensive-looking and arty and quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen her wearing because she always wears black.

Somehow it is arranged I will be getting a ride home and back, hopefully fast. The dream jump-cuts somewhat; my sister is around here, too, and we are talking about the situation. I tell her she should go home and change clothes, too, and then when the dinner party was over she at least could come around and be part of anything that could possibly happen afterwards. At this point I’m not sure if I’ve actually gotten the problem solved or not, as there is no part of the dream where I actually go home and change clothes. My sister and I are talking to each other very near to where the film set is, and I see we’re in a shopping mall. At this point I realize I could alternatively have run into one of the stores and just bought a gown on the spot instead of going home.

The transitions are vague, but soon I am talking to my husband. He has apparently, in the meantime, been chatting away with Mr. Scorsese. He seems hurt and annoyed I did not take him home with me to prepare for the dinner, so I make some kind of excuse to him, saying I had to act fast on my chance to dash home, and that he could now take a taxi home and back if he wanted to get himself ready. What I’m saying to him is essentially true, but privately as I spoke with him I realize I’d merely forgotten he was around. But it all seems the situation is supposed to be for me anyway because I’m the one who’s supposed to be at the dinner.

* * *

Unless you know me well, this dream might seem a bit puzzling. Background to all of this is that I work in corporate film and video production as a freelancer, a 20-plus-year career that came about via a low-budget feature film being directed by a (then) friend of mine.

Working on even a small real movie was a considerably heady experience for a small-town girl who had, up until then, only worked in local theater doing costumes and makeup. This experience was pivotal in that I quit my salon job of over a decade and gave myself over to the unique opportunity of being in the world of film.

To make matters better (or worse, depending on one’s angle of reflection) the film was being funded by Francis Coppola. (I apologize for the name-dropping, but it's critical to understanding my angst over all this). We department heads met with him several times, and he always said he would read any screenplay any of us happened to write. He was really great to us, very warm and accessible. We even shot several of our scenes on his property in Rutherford.

This opportunity, layered with the overall exciting feel of that time period, has always had a kind of haunting effect on me, even as its viability as a promise has no doubt faded a bit over the years. Francis Coppola has come to represent a very powerful idea to me, the idea that life has some amazing opportunities that require us to step up and be ready. I was somehow able to rise to the occasion, succeed in my efforts, and turn that opportunity into a great career. I’ve proven to myself I can step up when I hear the knock at the door. Would more opportunities come my way? Would I be ready? I still have strong dreams of writing for the screen, and possibly directing. (The latter is the first time I've said that aloud, by the way). And I have written a screenplay, but haven't done anything with it yet. Tick, tick, tick, tick.

The doubt is never that I have the ability, oddly enough, but the nightmare is that I won’t have properly prepared myself in a timely fashion for the next opportunity, the next Clownhouse. Or that the best opportunity I've ever had, I've somehow squandered. My screenplay is a good one, but I should have more than one. And I should do something with the one I've finished.

So why is this particular dream about Mr. Scorcese? I believe it is because I had been reading in Julia Cameron’s creativity self-help books as motivational material for my would-be screenplay writing career. Ms. Cameron had been married to Mr. Scorcese, and is herself a sometime playright and screenwriter. And as I read between the lines, it seemed to me that she still carried some melancholy about having lost something wonderful around having been with him, in that world, even many years later.

Having a place at the special, exclusive table is a great metaphor, no?

* * *

movie posters

The Thief of Bagdad was my first movie poster, a replica of the 1924 artwork created in the 1960s.

When I was a teenager, this lovely image was tacked to my closet door, and I woke up to it each morning. I also had a Gone With The Wind poster for a while, but I eventually took it down once I realized I was one of the five people on the face of the earth not to care much for the film.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

being neal stephenson

Author of many edgy bestselling novels, two of which I find particularly fascinating-- Snow Crash and The Diamond Age-- Neal Stephenson has an unusual distinction: these dazzling flights of fancy have directly inspired the two very real modern developments of Second Life and Kindle.

to be continued

* * *

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

road trip

The drive from Northern California to Southern California, or vice versa, is one I've made many times. It can be accomplished in as few as 7 1/2 hours or so, but it makes more sense to allow 9 hours. Usually I do this drive alone.

For some time, after moving to San Diego for my husband's career in 1996, I continued to seek out and accept freelance corporate video work in the San Francisco Bay Area where I had lived my entire life. This allowed me to retain the source of income I'd enjoyed since 1987 (and, truth be told, a good portion of my identity), but also to ease the overall change.

Once I eventually realized I hadn't lost a home town but had gained a lovely new area and lifestyle, our unexpected 500 mile relocation ceased to be a source of deep anxiety. This relatively unexplored, balmy, less counterculture part of the state proved to be nearly perfect for me; it only remained to reassure myself that my old friends, family, and livelihood was a mere half day's drive away.

And so it was.

But I didn't always take the overland route from point A to B. I'm no longer sure of the sequence, but for a while I managed this new living situation by flying back and forth on Southwest Airlines, maintaining not only two complete sets of work kits, but two cars. The ambivalence demonstrated by this elaborate duplication seems painfully obvious to me now, some fourteen years later, but I didn't question it at the time.

That first year of my new life now has a hazy, dreamlike quality to it.

Just how much was crammed into that time period wasn't clear to me until the other day when I was sorting some boxes of slides. Before digital photography eclipsed film and rendered it a quaint folk art, most of my photography took the form of 35mm slides. I unfailingly sorted them for perhaps the first ten years of our now 30-year marriage. The rest are in unmarked stacks, awaiting my attention.

Looking at these slides a couple of weeks ago, I noted that some time during that blur of a year that was 1996, my husband and I moved to a small furnished apartment in downtown San Diego with our four cats, awaiting our eventual move to a new home in North County some six months later. I had never lived anywhere but in the suburbs, and the urban setting felt unreal. It would be some time before I figured out how to grocery shop there; restaurants proved easier. All of our furnishings and most of my art and craft supplies were packed up and sent away into long-term storage. Life, as I knew it, would clearly be in a kind of holding pattern. I can't recall where we spent Christmas.

This was also the year my husband and I took a trip to the UK for his work; grafted onto this excursion was a side-trip to a small, elegant Human Consciousness conference at Jesus College in Oxford with a difficult friend and writing partner while my husband stayed back in High Wycombe and carried out his work.

There was another conference that year, this one in Tucson, Arizona, a twelve-hour drive away. This was the time of my growing involvement with the lucid dreaming and consciousness community; dreaming and psychology had long been of interest, but my sudden immersion was evidence of restlessness and indecision about my life path. In this quirky world (scientific, but with whiffs of new age-ery) I was making my civilian contributions wherever I could, losing myself in a kind of extended pseudo-academic reverie. It escalated to the point where I spent nights in the Stanford dream lab with electrodes glued to my head, and even co-authored and presented a sound and respectable paper despite lack of any official credentials. Caught up in the magic and yet aware of the limitations of being a fringe player, I toyed briefly with the idea of returning to school for a psychology degree, before coming to my senses and realizing going back to school would, in my case, be a stalling tactic.

More stacks of slides later, I'm reminded this was also the year of our trip to New Zealand. Like England, this too was a trip undertaken for my husband's job. I can remember packing and wearing a spray eau de parfum called Red, new at the time. The scent reminded me of my mother because we'd bought bottles of it around the same time.

The people we met there were unfailingly kind. They fed us, and drove us everywhere, and the scenery was spectacular at every diverse turn; New Zealand seemed like a half dozen marvelous countries combined. We peered into exotic Maori houses, scampered around steam vents and mud pits, savored gourmet food in convivial restaurants, and rowed through quiet caves with ceilings lit by fairytale glowworms. Every day we felt the giddy rush of being further from home on this amazing blue orb than we'd ever been.

All too soon, my husband and I were on the long flight home. For many surrealistically long hours where we'd never fall more than half asleep, we felt the plane drop from the sky again and again in the worst nauseating turbulence we'd ever experienced.

By October, my mother would be losing her year-long battle with colon cancer. My father would later recall a conversation they had about our pending move to San Diego, and that athough her thinking wasn't as sharp as it had once been, she was aware our relocation plans were becoming more definite. I recall the months just prior to her death as a blur of video jobs, staying at my parents' house in my old bedroom and helping my father and sister with her care as best I could. Throughout this, I must have been travelling from one end of the state to the other, but I have no recollection of it.

Our new home was ready in the spring, and we moved in. I'm sure my mother would have loved seeing it.

Our move to San Diego was cushioned by some work benefits, including compensation from my husband's company for what would undoubtedly be my lost income. I spent some of this money in one extravagant and unforgettable night attending a party at the winery estate of Francis Coppola with the idea of casually wearing my fashion designs, theoretically facilitating career contacts with the event's promising guest list. Because hotel rooms in the Rutherford area turned out to be prohibitively expensive, I rented an Airstream trailer to serve as a hotel room, situated in a funny little trees-and-dirt park in Calistoga.

The trailer floor swaying under my high heels, I stepped into my evening gown, put on my makeup in waning sunlight, and stepped out the doorway with my original, elaborately decorated handbag. I walked carefully across the dirt parking lot to my car, drove a winding road leading to the gated estate, and wandered among the rich and famous for one magical night.

* * *

When we are young, we're told again and again that time passes more quickly as one grows older. This has certainly proven to be true in my own life, but never more so than after 1996.

Moreover, just as the process of evolution seems to happen with glacial slowness and then in cataclysmic mutations, the forces of change seem to come in stunning clusters, seemingly from out of nowhere, followed by periods of repetitive quiet that slip by with unnerving speed.

Last week I drove up north for the first time in nearly three years, the longest period without going home since my move to San Diego. Enough time had passed such that as my car descended into the Livermore valley on I-580 for the last hour's stretch, the vista was noticably changed with large new electronic billboards and sleek new car dealerships. There's nothing like a greatly changed landscape to make a person feel like Rip Van Winkle.

It occurred to me during those long hours of driving that this older version of myself hadn't made this trip before. Just as one never steps into the same river more than once.

Southern Californians call freeways "the" I-5 or "the" 101. Northern Californians do not use the "the". I now take the I-5 when I drive from one end of California to the other.

The drive is a long one, a kind of extended meditation, an endurance test, a game, a session of mind control, a tributary of time removed from the river's flow. I calculate and re-calculate mileage and speed, plan when I'll stop, when I'll refuel, and what book on tape I'll listen to. I remember a car trip I took with an old friend from the production business, now deceased, a trip planned not for speed but for the special, quirky sort of adventure that a road trip can be. The I-5 allows the miles to slip by quickly, but other routes with greater narrative value await anyone willing to spend the extra time.

In some ways, my life has become quieter. I leave home less often, I've lost family members and friends, and I'm no longer either driving 500 miles in the blink of an eye at the drop of the hat, nor am I turning road trips into idiosyncratic personal theater. It's been many, many years since I've had two complete sets of work gear and two cars, in two worlds. My work has slowed, and last year for the first time, I had no income to report.

This is not a bad thing. Mostly, my days are spent at home now. This is something that feels good to me, and feels right. I'm not always on the road chasing either a fast trip or an eventful one. I now appreciate my life, my gifts, my marriage, more than ever before. I spend my time keeping my home, making art, interacting online, and doing the writing I'd long promised myself. I'm reminded of the old saying about doors closing and windows opening. Or is it the other way around?

With the passage of time both leisurely and blurry-fast, I've now learned in my soul what I've always intellectually known: except through the power of dream and memory, we can't keep everyone we love with us forever. We can't seize every dream, take every route, and be every version of ourselves. But we can find good paths, and zero in on the goals that matter most.

There will come again someday another year of upheaval where too much happens, where good and bad episodes jam up against eachother and rearrange my life as they did in 1996. Some of this will be purposeful as I push myself to complete my projects. And some of this, outside my control, I steel myself against. And dare not even mention.

That's life.

Road trip. Not a metaphor I invented, but it certainly fits.

Monday, February 22, 2010

the adventures of cleo and toby

It must be close to ten years ago now that I came up with a theme for a paper doll set that relates to time travel. I did several sheets of illustrations, and had a nice time doing them.

Called The Adventures of Cleo and Toby, the backstory was a single woman living in a small flat in New York. A white cat named Toby lives in her building, wandering freely and provided with kitty-kibble via the soft touch of the building superintendent. When the super dies and a new one less fond of cats takes over, Cleo lets the grateful but still independent and irascible Toby live with her.

Newly cleaned and fluffed, Toby insists on sleeping on Cleo's pillow next to her head. Each night he does so, Cleo begins to have spectacular dreams that feel like real time-travel adventures. The next day there is always something relevant happening in the news, or even in her life, that makes the previous night's dream even more uncanny.

Only these two outfit pages were ever scanned into my computer, but I have five or six more sheets with the rest of Cleo's outfits relating to an adventure where she travelled back to the early 1990s.

Perhaps this is obvious, but had I pursued this project any further, the concept would have taken me via clothing to a vast, virtually endless array of fascinating time periods.
* * *

Sunday, February 21, 2010

sample dream account

Nowhere in this blog, other than a brief dream account I reformatted into poetry a couple of years ago (link here), is there a good example of a transcription from the dream journal I keep on my computer. To begin to open up this topic here, I selected this one at semi-random. Above is a digitally altered photo of my late paternal Grandmother; the following account is about her house, which is one of my primary recurring dream locales.

* * *

Dream Account
April 22, 1997

Moving In to Grandmother’s House

This was another odd-feeling suite of dreams. The morning dream was the one I best remember. The setting was my Grandmother’s house in Richmond, CA. I was there with my family… my mother, father, and sister. Unusually, I did not remember during the dream that my mother has actually died. I almost always realize this truth immediately.

Plans were being made for us to move into this house, and we were evaluating just how this would work out. I was in the living room, and noticed that my grandmother had a kind of shag carpeting throughout the room with very long blue and green yarns. The pieces of yarn must have been 8 to 10 inches long. I remarked that this carpeting would need to be replaced since cleaning would be too difficult, and it would make working on my various sewing projects problematic. I said I didn’t think it would be too expensive since the house was small. I felt a little uncertain asserting my wishes this way at first, but then figured some things really needed to be done. The house didn’t need to be perfect, but it did need improving.

I remarked that I was glad they were letting me stay there since not too many 43 year-olds could expect to be housed by their families. I then said I wanted all the kitchen cabinets torn out and replaced with the new ones that had slots for dinnerware, maybe the new colorful Fiesta being sold now at Macys. I also wanted glass fronts to some of the cabinets, and new countertops and sink. It hadn’t been remodeled in decades, and was long past due.

Then there was an incident where some small animals had gotten into the house, and we were trying to get them out. My mother really surprised me by picking up these animals, petting them, and getting ready to carry them out. They seemed to be like squirrels, or something similar. One was peeing all over the kitchen floor so I began using a sponge and water to clean up.

I then wondered what it was going to be like living in Richmond, and I started getting concerned that it wasn’t going to be as nice of an area as I was used to. It may not be all that great of a situation, I realized.

Never did I even briefly reflect on this situation in any larger sense, I.E., why I was there with my parents, and why it was happening. The details of the situation were absorbing enough, and it is interesting that I correctly understood my age to be 43, my taste in decorating was consistent with waking preferences. Yet I missed such important details as my being married and living in San Diego, and the death of my mother. I seemed also to have accepted the oddly long carpet yarns; they did seem long to me, but somehow I was able to rationalize them as being from another period.

end of entry

Saturday, February 20, 2010

screenplay in 21 days

Ladies' Twilight Cottage Society

Brenda Cox Giguere

an original screenplay

* * *

Yes, I'm sure it's possible... but will I? Will I write a polished, full-length screenplay from my spare notes and simple outline in less than a month?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

1969 journal tribute to apollo 11

My sense is that I wrote some sort of essay at the time, but the only thing in my actual journal turns out to be this little star-studded tribute in red ball point ink. It did deserve more than a single date's worth of space... note that I extended the entry through the next day.

My memory of that day lives here: Moon Landing Memories.

How far we have come. We barely seem to acknowledge the miracle of space stations, or blink an eye at shuttle takeoffs and landings. But some of us still look to the skies and remember the greatness of such dreams.

* * *

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

august coppola 1934-2010

"To write, you can't be interrupted," he said. "It throws you off. It's like trying to make love and people keep walking in on you."

August Coppola

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

reading list 1969

Before I post my reading list for this year, I'd like to take this opportunity to share my 1969 personal journal's last page (see above scan).

At the time, one of my primary considerations was creating an identity for myself as a thoughtful, well-read person. I had this recurring fantasy I would become a writer at a prodigiously young age, but first, I had some serious reading to do. Part of this came about because my reading and comprehension level was tested when I was a high school freshman in 1967, and I was subsequently told I measured at second year college level. Woo hoo! A prodigy for sure.

Surely if I did some heavy lifting (and Michener's The Source was a real doorstopper; I remember being impressed with myself for taking it on) I would begin to earn my place in the literary universe.

The path from Then to Now has been paved partly with good intentions, but also with indecision, immaturity, distraction, and an array of not atypical life choices I neither laud nor regret. Now, at the half century mark, I am finally getting around to writing My Book. Hurrah!

In the meantime, I read, both past and present tense. I have always done a lot of reading, probably not grounding myself with enough of the so-called classics, but my far-flung choice of reading material has always been a real pleasure and education.

It's been a while since I've been as organized about my reading as I was during my Junior year at Mt. Diablo High. So, partly in honor of my nearing completion of my fabled First Novel, and partly because it's a cool idea copied from my brilliant blogging friend Mike Wilson, I intend this year to have a reading list.


to be continued

Monday, February 15, 2010


My main website has been temporarily retooled away from fashion miniatures. It now has two pages of photos of a new diorama project (listed as diorama one and diorama two) which I will eventually discuss here at DLCS.

The only two non-diorama pages still up (besides the home page, of course) are early morning on a street of dreams and details of uncommon luxury.

* * *

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Recently I have begun sorting my slide collection. The full psychic weight of this endeavor has yet to be fully realized.

This project-- one both joyous and depressing-- began the other day when I was mentally composing a blog post about the most recent film starring Sam Rockwell (Moon), and was wondering about some makeup test photos I shot of him at my home when I was working on his very first film (Clownhouse) back in 1986...

to be continued

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Friday, February 5, 2010

market tote, 1949

The other day I finally got around to renting and viewing the film Julie and Julia, which overall I enjoyed.

The costumes, props, and set decor in the 1949 segments of the film were done unusually well, especially given the Hollywood propensity for reimagining other eras to increase their aesthetic appeal to modern eyes. The art department went to some trouble to correctly portray a time and place.

In one scene, Meryl Streep is shopping in Paris, carrying a...

It made me scream. My husband almost choked on his popcorn, he was so startled by my outcry.

"That-- that basket!"

I began pointing wordlessly at the screen, gesticulating, practically sputtering.

She was carrying a metal-framed collapsible canvas shopping basket, what I now realize is called a market tote, with navy, yellow, red, and white stripes. It was absolutely identical to something my parents (who got married in 1952) had when I was a child. It's been gone from my life, and my consciousness, for decades.

There are many objects from my past I remember vividly, but there's only so much room in there and some things fall away. If not for that movie, I feel quite certain I would never have remembered that particular object. And yet once I could see it again, it was as familiar anything could possibly be.

If we'd kept it for some reason, it would be like the ubiquitous, infamous penguin ice bucket, an object that has retained it's presence in my life, gradually transforming from a household item into a personal historic icon. But because that humble market tote fell away from the continuum of my life and then turned up right before my eyes a lifetime later-- or for reasons I may never understand-- it created an especially strong emotional response.

In one form or another, this is what it is to have photo albums, to collect things, to go to certain kinds of museums and look with the delight of recognition at ephemera from the past. It means the past isn't gone, not really... both our personal histories and those we share.

Keeping certain objects close, we carry the past with us. Collecting replacements, we reconstruct it, validate it. We take an old dream and eventually fullfill it to a level beyond anything we imagined; we rescript the story with a better, more sastifying ending.

When the past re-emerges from nowhere, when an object appears as if by magic, it can stop us in our tracks with its power.

What happened to that steel-framed canvas basket? Was it a wedding gift? My parents must have used it. Did it eventually get rusty in our garage? At what point did either my mother or father donate it to the Salvation Army? I phoned my father as soon as the closing credits finished rolling; he doesn't seem to remember the details, although he vaguely remembered the item.

So I'll never know. But there is was, evidence up on the movie screen although of what precisely, it's hard to say. I'm tempted to say the experience, as with all such experiences, affords the illusion of cheating time.

* * *