The Midwest: kind of interesting, actually

Hoarfrost by Jean Paley

It turns out my Moms is a good photographer. All those years growing up it was my Dad who carried cameras everywhere, built a darkroom in the basement, walked around in a khaki vest stuffed with oversized lenses… but last year my Moms decides to get a digital camera, and the next thing you know she’s sweeping all the awards at my Dad’s camera club competitions. Here’s why.

My parental units still live in Urbana, IL. As my sister once said, “I’m glad I grew up in Central Illinois, otherwise I never would have seen it.”

Speaking of my hometown, I recently read Finding Iris Chang by Paula Kamen. Iris Chang was also from Urbana; we were the same age and attended the same High School, which I discovered we both hated. But I barely knew her. Iris went on to write the famous book The Rape of Nanking. She committed suicide in 2004. That’s a conversation stopper, huh? Um, anyway…I liked the book. And not just because I’m quoted in it. It’s a good read.

Got Accent?

We need some VOICE EXTRAS for a last-minute crowd recording for Sita Sings the Blues. If you’ve got an authentic accent from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, or anywhere else in South Asia, or even Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia or Indonesia (all of which have Ramayana traditions) and can come to a recording studio in Manhattan this Thursday Dec. 20 around 7pm, please email ASAP. No $, but you’ll get a credit in the film. nina underscore paley at yahoo (dot com).

Render Unto D-Cinema

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So I haven’t raised enough money to make a 35mm film print (yet). But I did raise enough to make a Digital Cinema Package, because the Stuttgart International Animation Festival offered a deal. And I borrowed enough to buy a new computer to re-render the entire 82-minute feature at a suitable higher resolution.

See, when I started Sita Sings the Blues, I couldn’t afford the processor power or disk space to work at the ideal resolution: 1920 x 1080 pixels. Instead I compromised at 1280 x 720 pixels, which in spite of being half the ideal resolution looks almost as good. The 35mm film test I did of Battle of Lanka looks great, anyway. But film has a natural grain, plus film floats around the screen a little, a result of analog frame registration (aka sprockets), both of which mask and “warm up” digital flaws. D-Cinema, however, has rock-solid registration and no grain, making it potentially less forgiving than film. Meanwhile computers and hard drives have gotten predictably cheaper since I began the project, and December is a “lost month” in New York anyway, it’s not like I’d have any freelance gigs or make any headway on promotions, and everyone gets lazy at work or leaves town, so… here I am, watching little blue progress bars for hours and days on end. Boring? You bet! But it will make the movie look infinitesimally better, so it’s all worth it. Also, D-Cinema supports 6-channel audio, so my sound designer is planning a super-duper surround-sound experience, which will make the picture look a lot better.

“Depression Is Fun” Blowganza!*

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Update: all 10 copies are now sold or spoken for.

When I recently visited San Francisco, my best friend Ian picked up the last of my boxes stored at the old apartment I once shared with my ex-husband. Riffling through the contents I discovered a treasure-trove of still shrink-wrapped copies of my first book, Depression Is Fun. This has been out-of-print almost since its publication in 1992. But now I have 10 copies here in New York, and they’re on sale for $25 postpaid (and signed, if you want) each. These puppies are going for $30, $50, and – holy crap! – almost $90 online as “collectibles.” As always, my email address is at the bottom of the middle column, the one with the pictures linking to my movies and cartoons and stuff.

*”Blowganza” coined by Anne Altman

Meet Agni

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One of the most frequent questions I hear about Sita Sings the Blues – from desis, no less – is “Who is that red dude on the goat? Is that Satan?”

This is Agni, people. The Vedic god of fire! God of priests and Priest of Gods! I know he’s not worshipped much these days, but he was a big deal back in Valmiki’s time. When Sita enters the fire, Agni carries her right back out, unscathed.

Agni’s vehicle is the ram. I screwed up by putting him on a male goat, rather than a male sheep, which I learned is what a ram is while researching this post. Oops. Although he’s sometimes depicted riding a chariot pulled by goats, so it’s sort of a compromise. But he’s still Agni. He’s got two heads, one for the creative, useful power of fire and one for its out-of-control destructiveness. He’s got multiple arms. He’s red.

He’s Agni.

Buy my Mac G5!

Update: SOLD! 12-9-07

pmg5.jpgSure, there are lots of used dual 1.8GB G5 Towers with 2GB RAM and internal 80GB hard drives for sale at $800 (negotiable). But how many were used to make Sita Sings the Blues? Only this one. Also, it works good. I’m only upgrading because I have to re-render the entire film at higher resolution (1920 x 1080; it was 1280 x 720) and patience isn’t one of my virtues. I can also throw in a complete Final Cut Pro HD Production Suite, which is great except it won’t open fcp files made on newer Final Cut systems. No problem if you’re working alone. And I’m still hawking my excellent printer.