Feb 23, 2008

Hamilton, Mid-Course Correction and whatever else enters my brain as I type this....

Man, I bitch a lot.

This morning I was re-reading through a lot of old posts on this blog, and most of the entries not devoted to film reviews usually vent about lousy sales, lousy attendance at trade shows, and lousy attendance at screenings. I had created ESR as a refuge to escape to, not as something else to complain about. I realize that all dreams, no matter how big or small, are only realized through a lot of determination and hard work, and sidestepping obstacles is the rule not the exception. But rather than share and celebrate all the unique and interesting experiences that ESR has garnered, it seems that all I do is complain, and quite frankly, I don't need any more negativity in my life.

What with my worrying that I'm going to put myself into cardiac arrest with the stress surrounding my day job(s), and the constant frustration of not finding another position in my industry because everyone only wants to hire a 25-year old babe instead of a world-weary 40 year-old who has, you know, experience, the day-to-day "What the fuck am I doing?" as I look into the mirror, and the resolution amidst the process of finding visual ideas for Gordon's reading project that I don't have a creative bone in my body, and regardless of how all or most of the above may be true, I really don't need to crab about anything else, thank you. And plus, in light of the recent disaster downtown (see below), I am sick and tired of the daily fog and malaise that has clouded my existence. It is time to focus on something positive, no matter how big or small it may be.

I think a lot of my decision to embrace the light instead of retreating to the dark corner may have to do with the fact that on this morning's commute, I finished Paul Cox's autobiography, Reflections (proper review coming soon), which affected me much the same as his own films: astute, subversive, yet mostly haunting in a quiet sort of way. Here is a man who has consistently battled many obstacles to make his personal films, despite their small budgets, in the face of many financial committees who fret that they aren't commercial enough.

And despite that there are numerous anecdotes throughout, chronicling his efforts to fund such works as Island and Man of Flowers, what actually remains in the memory after one closes the book, are the quiet moments of beauty. The latter is also a phrase I often use to describe what I most remember coming away from one of Cox's own films. Throughout are passages about stopping to admire some natural beauty, and taking the time to appreciate the little moments. And in our world, this is something increasingly hard to do. But where I'm going with this narrative, is that this blog needs more moments like that.... more emphasis on those precious little moments and less on the adversity.

Three weeks ago, I was invited by Mark Innes, whom I met at the 2006 edition of the Hamilton Small Press Fair, to come down to his own version of the Hamilton Small Press Fair, which he was holding the following weekend. The people who originated the fair in 2005-6 apparently had no plans to do another, so Mark saw it fit to continue the tradition on his own, yet nonetheless had to re-title the event to "The Crawling Eye."

I never pass up an opportunity to go to Hamilton, as I always come away with a very positive vibe. In fact, before we continue, I'd like to do another of my classic segues... and don't worry, it will fit the subsequent context.... kinda. I've been wanting to share this subtle moment for over a year now, just waiting for the proper opportunity to fit it in. When I was at the 2006 Hamilton Fair, I was invited to a screening the following Friday at this gallery called The Factory. One Friday every month, Hamilton has the James St. Art Crawl, in which the numerous galleries on the James St. area stay open for people to hop from one gallery to the next to schmooze and check out the new work. Ultimately, people end up at The Factory, which holds a screening on that Friday night. On that night in question, they were showing a retrospective of films by the great Arthur Lipsett, followed by the documentary Remembering Arthur, with its director, Martin Lavut in attendance. It was a lot of fun, with good ambiance all around-- the members of The Factory also gave out free refreshments and popcorn. What I also loved was the loose, yet communal feeling surrounding the event.

On another completely unrelated note, when I got back to Toronto that night and turned on the computer (this was now about 1:30 in the morning), I had learned that Jack Palance died. At that moment, I watch a bit of my DVD of the Palance spaghetti western It Can Be Done, Amigo, and Luis Bacalov's enchanting opening song score (right-click or apple-save here to download it) has stayed with me all this time. In fact, whenever I think of this night in Hamilton, that song instantly appears in my head. That is my quiet moment of beauty.

Hamilton was-is a second home to me, as back in the 80s on Friday nights while I lived in the town of Simcoe I'd drive down to go record shopping. And because I live in Toronto, with a population of two million versus a town of fifteen thousand, I consider myself to be a long way from my roots. Yet, Hamilton brings me that much closer to "home" because it's a smaller city, geographically closer to my hometown, and I still easily see the ghosts of my youth as walk down its streets.

So for all of this, I happily accepted Mark's invitation to come on down to Hamilton on the 9th. The event was held at the Sky Dragon Centre downtown on the Friday and Saturday, but I could only make the Saturday show. Upon my arrival, Mark told me that the Friday night fair was really happening, as there were about ten vendors and lots of traffic, as it was held in conjunction with the James St. Art Crawl. On the Saturday, Mark and I were the only two vendors, and traffic was down to a trickle. However I did sell one Roger Corman issue. And in truth, Mark was more concerned than I was that I hadn't sold enough to even pay for the bus fare I spent to come down. That's the kind of guy Mark is. But I think appearing at this fair was more of a spiritual necessity than a financial one. And as such, it felt good to be back for an afternoon, learning about the scene and old haunts I used to visit.

If anything, I'm grateful to Mark and his generosity for putting the event on, and for keeping that community spirit going. He has been a publisher of comic books for about 20 years, and is still going at it. That weekend he launched what is perhaps his magnum opus, "The Comic Eye", seen above. This book is a collection of comics, submitted by many artists with widely diverse styles. Each story is about the appeal of comics-- collecting them, and their influence in the authors' lives. In fact, some of the styles in the book will remind you of other comics which you would have read thirty years ago-- this only adds to the nostalgia. I haven't bought comic books in well over 20 years, chiefly because I became more interested in film (appropriately, another medium that told a story within a frame), but also I grew tired of the long underwear superhero titles. And in a small town, that's all one had exposure to-- the indie direct sales boom did not hit us. If I had had more exposure to those books, which were much more personal and spoke to the livelihoods of their readers, I'd likely still be reading them today. So picking up this marvelous anthology was another way in which Hamilton felt like home.

To order your copy of "The Comic Eye", visit Mark's website here. To learn more about events at The Factory, click here.

1 comment:


You do not bitch a lot. You say how it is. After more than giving it a shot, we sometimes think, "why am I doing this and what does it all mean?"

Don't people want more than what is hurled in their faces "on Thursday nights at 9!"?