It's hard to believe that it's been two whole months since I've logged a blog post. Mostly, I've been focusing on the micro-blogging phenomenon, which for me consists of posting status report updates on my facebook status or my twitter account or both (I've got them connected so one updates the other) and mostly doing the updating from the convenience of my Black Berry...The BB upgrade has been an intense leap forward - I still carry my laptop around everywhere, but I open it only to WORK, not fiddle around on the Internet - all of that is now on my phone and it's been an amazing shift in my use of two devices - the laptop gets used less, the phone even more, which, given my use of the device before it was Internet capable, is pretty amazing. The phone is my CONSTANT companion now, and not just on my ears. My fingers have become nimble on the keyboard (and yes, even when I DRIVE) and I'm constantly in touch with facebook and my email, which for me is excellent, because I am more driven to distraction than YOU - which I've realized just means that silence frightens me, making me quite in touch with the true nature of the Western modality of living - keep moving or else you might become AWARE, and who wants awareness when there's a new update on facebook?
Okay - enough. There's been plenty of cool shit going on in the world of New Mexico arts, though I've had my head in the sand to a lot of it because I've been re-arranging my own world to fit in a movie that I've been working on called "I Was a 7th Grade Dragon Slayer." Produced by New Mexico natives Ryil Adamson and Gavin Gillette, the movie is about three kids who play a role-playing card game called ElixirQwest in the sewers of Albuquerque. In the course of play, they find a real troll (well-played by Albuquerque actor Richard Sellers) who reveals to them that a real Dragon named Darksmoke is in their midst and they must join the fight to slay him. Made for under a million bucks, this scrappy children's action adventure movie is being made almost entirely with a student crew from the CNM Film Technician's Training Program (FTTP) but features a name director (Andrew Lauer) and several name actors, (including Lea Thompson, Wendy Malick, Eric Lutes and Amy Pietz, all alums from the television show "Caroline in the City") as well as a number of child actors including Hunter Allan, Jordan Reynolds, Abigail Victor and Ryan Norris. My job is the Unit Publicist, and it's been a real educational experience both about how movies are made and how things get done on and off set.
My talented friends: Last Saturday night, the city of Albuquerque became the first city in the United States to designate a "Slam Poet Laureate" position. Determined by public acclamation via the slam poetry process of competition and scoring, the winner of the event was poet Danny Solis, who won with his previously award-winning poem "Song for Solomon." Solis has been a fixture of the Albuquerque slam scene for over a decade, winning many events and awards and serving as chairman of the National Poetry Slam that took place in Albuquerque in 2005. He has competed at the national level in at least a half dozen National Slam teams, and in 2006 took home the International Poetry Slam individual championship title with "Song for Solomon," a chilling poem about love, loss, and restraint in the face of the terrors of tragic circumstances.
A proven piece of work by a proven talent, Solis' win was quickly attacked in the local alternative weekly The Alibi, when writer Gene Grant offered the truly provincial suggestion that the poetry within the event should've been about the area in which the poet lives. It's a shame that universal themes such as the ones offered by Solis failed to cut the mustard with Grant, who conceded that Solis will make a fine poet laureate but that poet Damien Flores may have made a better one because he wrote three poems about Albuquerque. When all was said and done, however, the Slam Poet Laureate of Albuquerque was chosen by Slam Poets rules with judges plucked from the audience - and not by writers like Grant with axes to grind. Grant's criticisms undermine not just Solis and the Poet Laureate process, but Slam Poetry itself, because it suggests that maybe this time, the judges - the people - are wrong. Grant's criticism of the event's lack of criteria towards "local poems" is also a direct assault on the people who determined the rules of the event - namely, organizer Zach Kluckman, without whom there would not have been a Slam Poet Laureate contest in the first place. Maybe next time Grant can can hand-pick the judges himself and whisper his criteria in their ears so that his pal Damien Flores gets the prize. For now, however, Albuquerque's Slam Poet Laureate will be Danny Solis, despite the sour grapes of writer Grant, who really shows total arrogance in suggesting that both the organizer - and the judges who are the real people to decide - are wrong. Thanks Gene, for your faith in the process - next time we'll let you decide, promise.
Did I mention Danny Solis is a good friend of mine and a fine-ass poet to boot?
And for another talented friend - this week New York-based artist Josh Schrei came back to New Mexico to screen his latest project, a short film called NM Powered, which was shown at Warehouse 21 in Santa Fe. Schrei, who grew up in Santa Fe, has been many things in this lifetime, including the lead singer of the SFe alt-rock band Mobius Trip; a spoken word artist who once wrote and produced a 90 minute long monologue piece called "Katmandu," about his experiences in Nepal; the chairman of Students for a Free Tibet and co-producer of the Tibetan Freedom Concerts; a writer, a DJ, a poet, a photographer, and currently the VP of DrillTeam Media in New York City.
The film, titled "NM Powered" was produced in conjunction with New Mexico Youth Organized, (NMYO) and featured camera work by 25 youth leaders, each of whom was given a 15-minute long disposable video camera and told to shoot footage of their lives in New Mexico. The resulting footage was then sliced and diced by Schrei, and shown as part of a fundraising campaign for NMYO. The event at Warehouse 21 also featured excellent performances by poets Hakim Bellamy & Rose Simpson, as well as a special show by human beatboxer Say What?
An interesting exercise in remote collaborative film-making, the finished project highlighted the diversity of New Mexico youth and the potential that our community has in using the arts as a means to organize young people towards positive futures. It's definitely worth a watch, and can be found right here.