Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ether Twist

Back on track!

Now, for the next film in my one-woman show: "Ether Twist." This film has sound! It's strange and quiet, but it's there...

Sounds from very low frequency (VLF) radio emissions make up the soundtrack to this film. These sounds include aurorae, solar flares, lightning and other electromagnetic phenomena that affect the Earth's ionosphere. The imagery is composed of various pieces of transparent plastics (try to guess what some of them are- you might be surprised) whose colors are revealed through polarized light. Neither the sound nor the image would be detectable if it weren't for careful manipulation of electromagnetic waves.

Many thanks to Stephen P. McGreevy for recording the incredible VLF sounds and allowing me to use them. This is a rather large file- the film is about 10 minutes long.

(Click on the image to play the quicktime movie- with sound!)

Footnotes: Ether (or Aether) was once considered to be quintessence, or the "fifth element." It was thought the be the medium through which light waves (indeed, all energy) traveled. It has since been dropped from the world of scientific thought and is considered to be, well, more...ethereal (not sure if that can qualify as a pun, but it was intended). It is considered to be the unifying energy for all living spirits in Wicca and some other religions.

The film title owes its existance to lyrics in the Tori Amos song, "Suede:"

i'm sure that you've been briefed
my absorption lines
they are frayed
and i fear
my fear is greater than my faith
but i walk the missionary way
you always felt like suede
there are days i am your twin
hiding underneath your skin
are revving yes revving from
an ether twist
call me 'evil'
call me 'tide is on your side'
anything you want

I connected with these lyrics instantly, but really keyed in on the phrase "ether twist." The liquid crystal materials I use do a sort of "ether twist." By twisting (refracting) the direction of the light waves at different wavelengths (colors), the bland, transparent plastics become vibrant, colored light sources.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Mid-winter Blues

the days are getting longer and the days are getting longer
yet the hyacinth clouds of mid-winter still brush the mountain peaks
far too low, far too early for sleep, yet far too late for light

In other words, I haven't been able to find the time to get the rest of my films online! Veuillez patienter...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


This is a short film that I originally shot on 16mm. It is my first "narrative" film (well, apart from "Exploding Science Lab III" from my early days as a filmmaker). The film was shot in New York State at the end of 2003 and didn't get finished until just recently (though a rough copy of it played in the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Festival Market in 2004). The film stars Perry Daniel and was shot by Carl Fuermann (and hey, this one has sound!)

The above link takes you to the IFC Media Lab. If you like it, give me a vote. If not... well, maybe just make a graceful exit (don't "single-star" me- I'm beggin' ya! Think of the ducks!)

If you'd rather not deal with the stress (or you are a chronic "single-starrer"), but would still like to see the film, go on over to Snowbird on blip.tv where it plays just the same!

Special Features Section: Perry is sitting in front of the reservoir that supplies New York City with its drinking water. Needless to say, when the sun went down we were harassed by both the local Police and the Feds for our "suspicious" activities! On top of all of this, it turned out that the car we had borrowed from a friend was recorded as having been impounded but never released. Translation: as far as they were concerned, we were driving a stolen car and up to no good. Oh, and they also suspected that our bottle of water was actually a bottle of vodka (Absolut and Smart Water have similar bottle designs). We managed to clear everything up, though. The Police were actually very friendly and let us finish filming- with a stern warning that if we crossed over the guardrail, they would "turn us over" to the Feds!

Monday, January 22, 2007

In the House of Equal and Opposite Reaction

My apologies- I slacked over the weekend!

The next film in my series is not an easy one to watch, I must warn you. It juxtaposes a moment of pure joy with one of horror. While there is no up-close imagery of violence or bloodshed, it captures one such moment from a distance- the burning of the World Trade Center towers before their collapse. I felt it necessary to warn any readers who might not want to relive the moment in images (I often fall into that category myself).

(Again, this film is silent. Originally shot on black & white super-8 film.)

Click the above image to watch the film. For more information on this particular piece, please visit the link in the title.

Friday, January 19, 2007


"Munphilm" came to me through a dream:

I had a great job working with the orcas at a monastery (yes, a monastery with killer whales- what?) I swam with them at night, which was quite frightening. I couldn't see them approaching me and suddenly, my body would lurch through the water. I would find myself tumbling through the air and plunging down to the bottom of the pool... luckily, we can do things like this in a dream and not drown!

One morning, a monk approached me. He handed me a toothbrush and told me to clean the orca pool, brush stroke by brush stroke. I took this duty and found that just as I had made a complete circle around the entirety of the pool, algae began appearing at my starting point. My day became an endless circle of the minutiae of whale care!

The monk in the dream was my friend Phil (hence the title). In this film, I try to explore yin and yang- depth, mystery and darkness interrupted by cuts of smooth, metallic vibrancy (note: you guessed it, this film is also silent - there will be sound in later films, but aren't you glad you don't have to turn the volume down at work?)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Snow Flukes

Next up: "Snow Flukes"

I'm going a little bit out of sequence, but this was the next video that I felt like publishing. This is "Snow Flukes." I happened upon this 16mm silhouette footage several years ago. I was told that the artist who drew the cartoons was Otto Messmer (Felix the Cat) and that the skater is Dorothy Hamill, but I'm not sure. All of my searching has turned up very little on this little film.

I'm glad I have breathed some new life into it (and I always credit Otto and have never made a cent off of it- I'm really not sure if this footage ever fell into the public domain). The "psychedelic" background is shrink wrap and the skater is made of the same liquid crystal paint that went into "The Light Touch Dust Nebula" (ah, that's probably why I felt like following it with this video). I really love the fact that a paint activated by heat can be made to look like snow (note: this film is also silent):

Click the image to open the video. For more information about this film, click the title to this post.

Art in Science/Science in Art

I briefly interrupt my film show to announce that tonight is the opening of the Art in Science | Science in Art show at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS). Yours truly was lucky enough to have a piece chosen for this show (which will be traveling- I will announce venues when they become available) as well as two pieces for the online show.

I was interested in how many of the finalists also worked with polarized media. I can't wait to see some of these pieces "up close." I felt that the competition was somewhat slanted more toward "Art in Science" than "Science in Art" (I think I fall into the latter category), but there are some really amazing pieces (such as this one, below, by Marshall Dines).

In this piece, the artist injected "cells" of bubble wrap with paint.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Light Touch Dust Nebula

As you can tell, I have been playing with the look of my blog. Please don't hesitate to leave comments if you find that it doesn't perform well for you.

My second film, made as Gossamer Conglomerate's twin, is "The Light Touch Dust Nebula." Click on the image below to watch (note- this film is silent):

This film was made by applying thermotropic (changing with heat) paints to decayed film leader and filming the result before the heat of the projector lamp. The color of the paints changes from red to blue with heat. These are the same paints found in mood rings. For more information about this film, please click on the link in the title of this post.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Gossamer Conglomerate

Now that I have my technical wires uncrossed, I plan to post one of my 16mm films here every day for the next few weeks. Although the compression looks much better than I thought it would, I do have to take a moment to say that this is not the preferred format for my films. They are best seen in their original 16mm format in a darkened theatre.

Well, not all of us live near an experimental film venue, nor do we have finances at our disposal to rent film prints from places like Canyon Cinema, The Film-maker's Coop, CFMDC (Canadian films) Light Cone, or Le Collectif Jeune Cinéma (though you can click on any of these if you do- they have many great films in their collections). I decided to make my films available online, too. You can also subscribe to my podcast (you'll need iTunes) or check out my blip.tv channel.

Okay, enough. Here is my first film, "Gossamer Conglomerate" (click the image to play- note: this film is silent):

This film was made by filming cuts of splicing tape placed upon decayed film through polarized filters. Click on the title of this post if you want to know more.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Chicken Little and the Notion of God

Well, Colorado is in for another storm. Earlier this week, I awoke to winds so strong my ears were hurting from the change in pressure. Today, the temperature has plummeted 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) since this morning and is going to keep dropping as an Arctic front moves through the region this weekend.

Don't get me wrong. I love weather phenomena. I used to chase tornadoes when I was a teenager. In fact, one of my favorite cable channels was The Weather Channel. I am a weather geek, but boy, I'm getting sick of being indoors! I guess I prefer my storms to be a little faster...

(From my film "Petrichor." Click image or link to play Quicktime.)

There have been some interesting things falling from (or through or beyond) the sky lately, and I wanted to comment on some of them.

First of all, the weather has put me in a pensive mood. I recently recalled going through bouts of insomnia as a kid. I was absolutely terrified of aliens (if you read my posts below about my early fears, you will understand this). One year my brother and I both got cable television in our bedrooms as a Christmas gift (woo hoo- a kid's dream come true). I found that watching the Weather Channel was the only thing that helped me sleep. While I will acknowledge that the lack of action-packed story lines at 2:00AM might have contributed to this, I must also add that I felt an odd sense of security knowing that I wasn't the only one awake in the world. I think it also comforted me somehow to know that satellites were monitoring the Earth's atmosphere. I thought that if there were UFOs, surely the National Weather Service would see them and alert us all (or at least the person standing in front of the weather map, appearing to hover above us all from his Star Trek Enterprise-like view in the television studio). In a sense, it was almost like verifying God's existence on a physical level: I was being watched from above by wiser forces...

Of course, that was before I learned that the National Weather Service would likely do everything in its power to keep UFO information from us (and that those watching me from above are neither gods nor wiser humans)! Additionally, I'm not so sure how safe I feel anymore knowing that there is a bunch of bus-sized space junk floating around over our heads. This sense of unease was confirmed early this week as a "Russian rocket body" fell through the Colorado skies at 6:15 in the morning. I'm sorry I don't have a photo. Most of the images were taken by local news traffic helicopters, so they have a monopoly on the images. I HIGHLY encourage you to click on the link and watch this clip, though- it is incredible.

It is also an incredible example of media stupidity. Thankfully, the video above is silent. When the clip was first released, the news media were calling it a "meteor shower," saying that it was the Quadrantid meteor shower. They then went on to say that the shower is named after an "extinct" constellation. Well, I wrote my first angry "letter to the editor" (I think this is a sign of aging- the older we get the more letters we end up writing).

First of all, I wish meteor showers looked like this! This is clearly something bizarre. From my first viewing of it, I knew it was not a natural object- it was too scattered. It would be highly unlikely that a solid, dense meteor that large would break up in that way. Additionally, it looks a lot like the footage of space shuttle Columbia when it exploded in the atmosphere.

Secondly, there is no such thing as an "extinct" constellation. Yes, the Quadrans Muralis constellation is obsolete, but it didn't go extinct! With the exception of a handful of supernovae, the stars have remained pretty much fixed throughout recorded history! I digress...

Well, I got a response and the web site, at least, was updated. Turns out a Russian rocket body fell from the sky, Chicken Little. Strange how it took NORAD five hours to identify the object, yet they were quick to say that they knew it was coming all along and that we really shouldn't find such a thing remarkable. Huh...

In related...news...I was tickled to hear this NPR report on a UFO sighting at Chicago's O'Hare airport (here is the interviewee's report, as well). Their story pretty much sums it up. Strange!

Tonight I will be missing one of the brightest comets in 30 years: comet McNaught. I encourage anyone in the Northern Hemisphere with a clear view of the Western horizon to take a look right at sunset. I've heard it's spectacular! I've tried to see it several times now, but each attempt has been thwarted by either mountains, bad timing, or dense cloud cover. Damn! I even dreamt about it last night. I don't have a camera in my dreams (well, at least not one that will let me share images in this reality...yet), so I will close this lengthy post with another video clip from my storm chasing video "Petrichor." This one is silent:

Click the image to view the quicktime movie.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Okay! Enough snow, already!

I haven't been able to do much of anything lately. One week after the first snow, Boulder was hit with THREE new blizzards that left over one foot of ADDITIONAL snow. Snow is piled up in parking lots in hills so large you could ski down them (this is NOT an exaggeration- people are actually skiing and snowboarding down them).

Now we are being hit with yet ANOTHER storm! This one is expected to dump an additional 12-18" on Boulder (that's on top of the foot that was already there from these last storms). The University has been either closed early or closed entirely an unprecedented FIVE times in three weeks. Needless to say, the new job I started three weeks ago has been the easiest I've ever had...

The thrill is gone (no more snowrkeling), and now it's time for some quiet contemplation. Many of these images look better in a larger size. You can download large pics from my flickr page.

First of all, some fractals of nature:


Falling Snow:

And in the darkness: