Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

flwyd: (Trevor glowing grad macky auditorium)
Last week was my favorite week in Boulder: Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado. I missed several interesting panels due to sleeping in until 10 AM and because I had to finish moving out of my apartment, but I managed to make it to a dozen or so. I took notes at some panels, at others I just listened. The latter were often more enjoyable, but correlation is not causation. Questioning parentheticals indicate places where my notes and my week-older brain don't connect.
KEYNOTE: Twenty-first Century International Relations - Chuck Hagel (former U.S. Senator from Nebraska)
A former Senator, Chuck Hagel is pretty boring. I remember him opening with a few lighthearted remarks about the CU-Nebraska football rivalry. I have vague recollections of notes about U.S./Russian relations, the Middle East, and the financial crisis. At least I was able to enjoy the morning sun on the Macky porch.
Energy Conservation is a Waste of Time )
Winning Islamic Hearts and Minds )
Yes, The UN Can! )
Cyborgs: Aliens Among Us )
ARIA - Words and Rhythm: Rony Barrak
Rony is a fantastic darbouka (= dumbek = Arabic tabla) player from Lebanon. He mixed discussion and question answering with playing. There were a lot of heads in the way, but I saw some hand techniques I hadn't seen in my hippy pagan drum circles. I tracked him down later and learned that the main move I was seeing was to have the thumb in front of the palm and then strike the head with the thumb followed by loose fingertips. The event was billed as bilingual in English and Arabic and he began by introducing himself in Arabic, but only one question was asked in Arabic and he answered in English.
How the Spirit Moves Me )
Climate Threat to the Planet: Implications for Intergenerational and Environmental Justice )
ARTFUL DUET - Rhythm: Rony Barrak and Shodokeh.
Middle Eastern drumming meets a human beat box. This was the most fun panel I attended. Rony started by saying he felt uncomfortable because Shodokeh was there, so he pulled on a CU hoodie and put on a backwards baseball hat. The PA system cut out as they started performing, but I could still hear in the back. They took turns leading, playing back and forth with intricate rhythms. At one point, they switched and Rony took the beat box role (he can do a drum kit, but doesn't have the full range) while Shodokeh played around on the drum. Rony also played a coffee mug and some clay flower pots. At the end, they got the audience into a human percussion piece, with one group snapping, one group stomping, one group clapping, and one group doing a vocal high hat.
Comedy: A Laughing Matter: Rony Barrak, Robert George, Andy Ihnatko, Terry McNally
I didn't take notes, so I don't remember Rony and Terry's parts very well. Robert George (black Republican stand-up comedian, columnist, New York Post editorial page editor):
  • Some comics have worried that Obama is too hard to poke fun at because he sets himself up as very serious, compared to Clinton and Bush. Robert's found that Obama works well as a setup to a punchline. For instance:
  • Some racial stereotypes are getting reversed. All of Obama's white cabinet appointees seem to file their taxes on colored people time.
  • Some stereotypes remain. Would the media be so obsessed about the size of any other president's stimulus package?
  • Maybe Barack will replace the N-word. "Baracka, please!" "Word up, my baracka!" And white people trying to be hip will call each other "Caracka!"
Andy Ihnatko (tech columnist and über-geek):
  • Comedy that spreads easily because we can repeat it (think Bill Cosby and George Carlin) and comedy that is hard to convince other people to listen to because delivery is so important. In the latter category, he mentioned a couple modern comics and the old team of Bob and Ray.
  • He couldn't figure out why he doesn't like Family Guy but loves Monty Python's Flying Circus, even though they have very similar elements.
  • Rather than trying to be a comedian, he uses comedy for his own purposes. Usually starts a column off with a joke to grab the reader's attention, because the actual subject of a tech column can sound pretty boring.
  • Noted that your two color choices for the Microsoft Zune are black and "diarrhea brown."

The Global Society: What the Economic Crisis Has Taught Us )
ARTFUL DUET - Baltimore Beatboxer Meets Reno Cowboy Poet: Shodokeh, Hal Cannon
A mix of questions and performance, the two were unsure how things would work out. It's harder for a beatbox to improv with folk singing and guitar than with Middle Eastern drums, but it was still fun and interesting. Shodokeh made lifting-a-needle-from-vinyl sounds to playfully tell a woman to stop suggesting they skip questions and just play.
Molly Ivins Freedom Fightin' Memorial Plenary - 1968-2008 How Barack Obama Completed the Unfinished Journey of Robert Kennedy: David Bender.
Bender is the host of Air America's "Politically Direct" show. He dropped out of 7th grade to work on Robert F. Kennedy's presidential campaign.
  • He started by quoting Molly Ivins: "Obama is the only Democrat with any Elvis in him."
  • Obama also completes the journey of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eugene McCarthy.
  • He also invoked influential assassinated progressive leaders Al Lowenstein and Harvey Milk.
  • Many people's political journey ended with the RFK assassination and didn't begin again until Obama.
  • Al Loweinstein said "Bobby Kennedy's loss was the only one that gets harder over time."
  • David was an advisor to Ted Kennedy on gay and lesbian issues in 1980. Ted started on shaky footing, saying "I support the rights of everyone who has a sexual orientation." He got better over time.
  • While looking for a transcript of RFK's speech after MLK was assassinated, David found this YouTube montage and felt that showing it would be better than anything he could say about Bobby Kennedy. It's very moving: take six minutes and watch it.

Cinema Interruptus: "Chop Shop:" Ramin Bahrani, Roger Ebert, Jim Emerson
Due to health issues, a few years ago, Roger Ebert had to take a leave of absence from the CWA after 38 years of analyzing movies a shot at a time. He returned this year, though he can no longer speak. He made a few announcements through his new voice synthesizer (dubbed Sir Lawrence for the booming British accent), but most of his participation was in the form of notes passed to Jim Emerson, fellow film critic, who's taken up the Cinema Interruptus mantle. For the first time, the director of the film (Ramin Bahrani) participated in the analysis. This provided a lot of interesting insights like how many takes a shot took, how a purse-snatching scene was filmed in a live crowd and most folks didn't do anything (one guy tried to chase the kid down, squirting him with a water bottle), and whether an insight into the plot was placed intentional or inferred by the audience.

Cinema Interruptus was curtailed to three days instead of the usual four, but with Roger unable to speak, things went quicker than I remember. I missed the first day, but got a lot out of the remaining two days. I recommend the movie; it's about a brother and sister trying to get by in an industrial neighborhood in Queens. It's got sad parts, it's got sweet parts, it all feels real. It's got a very beautiful ending.

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