Video Week! pt. 4: Ephemera

Ephemera. We use that word a lot here on this site, generally under our daily poetry posts. There are several ways to phrase the meaning of the word, depending on which dictionary you ask, but a few general themes keep coming up. It’s a word used to describe things or writings that are temporary, fleeting, transitory. Things only intended to be used for a short time or not to have lasting value. It’s generally used to refer to paper collectible items, such as ticket stubs, programs, postcards etc. Collins dictionary categorizes it as an “uncountable noun”

Reading the dictionary entries, there are implications that these ephemera, collectively, can be used to give us insight into a time that no longer exists. Though something intended to be fairly limited in scope, a collection of concert flyers can tell us many things: the tastes of the times concerning entertainment, what font and design styles were in fashion, etc. And since all times are times that no longer exist, one can look at something like a band setlist, snatched from the stage by an eager fan, as something of a miracle, pulled from the ether, like Nancy pulling Freddy Kreuger’s hat from the dream. It’s proof, it’s evidence.

It should come as no surprise, then, that they can take on another life as collectables. If these discarded items as a whole can imply facts or relay certain atmospheric data to researchers, they can certainly transfer information to a deliberate eye motivated by nostalgia. Someone can hold a ticket stub in their hand as a method of focusing their powers of recall. They may keep it displayed because it reminds them of a certain person, or period of their life. We’re no strangers to this. We could make a post a day for the rest of our lives and not completely display all the ephemera we’ve collected over the years.

We feel like there’s also a warning here: items that were not intended to be reused or permanent nevertheless becoming valuable as memories or sources of knowledge might be something worth trying to look out for. Looking at old show flyers, it’s easy to think of all the other flyers out there, representing shows long forgotten.

We started thinking about, what video ephemera would look like. On one hand it could be a video of room full of dancers, either not knowing or not remembering they were on film, who were never supposed to be on film in the first place, but were captured by someone in a revel, trying to create a Freddy’s hat to bring back with her. Or it could be something filmed for no reason at all, something more accidental. Perhaps something one films that only becomes representative of a time or place after the fact. We found a lot of examples of these in our archives, and present some here for your viewing pleasure.

Video Week! pt. 3: The Trilogy, an introduction

Today we’re going to talk a little bit about a movie we didn’t make. This would have been 2012-2013. The idea was to do a novel, and album, and a movie all with the same three characters, but telling different stories for each medium. They would still be interdependent on each other as a trilogy. The whole concept is actually sketched out somewhere on paper and the plan is to revisit it at some point fairly soon – but that’s the not the point of this post. This post is about the movie: PRICK (tagline: it’s all in his bed)

We had a bunch of these sketched out: not 17 of them, but maybe eight or nine. These are the ones that survived. The movie basically revolves around three characters: Genevieve, Maxwell, and Deacon. Maxwell is the audience surrogate, a blackout drunk criminal who receives a strange gift. Genevieve sort of presents as a riptide to a stabilizing power, and Deacon is the manic, scheming, chattering in his ear, a sort of mix between Iago, Kramer, and Ratso from Midnight Cowboy.

Maxwell’s gift also comes with a judgement. In the movie, it’s bedbugs. So many great horror and existential mindfuck movies have some insectoid element. Them, The Fly, Creepshow, Naked Lunch, Arachnophobia, even slugs and leeches have had their moment. But there had never been an a movie that explored the existential mindfuck of bedbugs. As victims of an infestation in early 2012, we felt inspired. After it was over, we were eager to channel the dread and anxiety from the experience into our art. We’d been doing a lot of freewriting and that translated into a lot of rambling, philosophical monologues for Deacon.

Obviously the video quality is not great. Clearly our prepaid phone’s camera had problems in low light settings. We knew that there was obviously no way, with everything else going on, that we were going to be able to learn enough about video to do anything more than a back of the envelope sketch. But to us at least they come fairly close to the feel of what we were going for in those scenes.

We would still like to make the film someday, or at least finish the screenplay. Screenplays are hard, though. We have no idea where to even begin. The whole trilogy deserves to be finished in some form. We have maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of the novel written, but it’s in poor shape due to only being worked on sporadically. The album is written, but not recorded (though demos of all of twenty songs and decent recordings of maybe twelve of them do exist). We’re grateful, at least, to have something to do.

Video Week! pt. 2: Animation

Many years ago, an iPad 2 was purchased. This would have been 2011-ish. At the time things were going pretty good and Apple was at the crest of its cultural rise. We ourselves were for our main computing needs using an outdated but still very useful Mac tower and were having good results filming open mic sets with our new iPod shuffle (with camera). It seemed a full transition to Apple products was perhaps inevitable; the iPad 2 was intended to make music recording mobile. Instead of dragging around the 4 track or relying on Zoom handhelds, we figured it might be useful to have a portable recording studio around. We thought it would be perfect to record practices, shows, or do pro sounding tracking in the rehearsal space. It wasn’t.

Call it a lesson on doing research in advance. The iPad 2 did not come with GarageBand preinstalled, and had to be purchased as a separate app. When we finally got it on the machine, it was clear, and obvious in hindsight, that it was not the full version, but one specifically tailored for the iPod 2’s capabilities. Downloading beats and instruments was a whole frustrating process that we never really finished. Connecting the audio inputs to the iPod 2 was near impossible. We bought and returned two $40 adapters before giving up entirely. We’d basically just wasted $400 on the machine. Things were better those days, but that was still a lot of money. Six years prior, this would have bankrupted us, but we managed to absorb the blow with just some wounded pride. We emerged stronger, wiser, and a lifetime hatred of Apple products. We have not bought one since.

One thing we could do with our very expensive paperweight, however, was basic animations. We did a handful over a couple months before moving on to other things, and here are some of the best. We set them to some of the early ambient music that was coming out of the studio at that point, as we halfheartedly tried to get good at animating. It was ultimately too time consuming for what we would have needed to do with it, and it fell off as so many things do.

This is fine, of course, we were grownups at that point and had come to understand that artistic projects come and go like waves, some come in and some go out, sometimes overlapping, sometimes not, but always cycling. There’s always more coming, and there are always some that will just be gone forever.

We used the iPad 2 periodically over the next few years until the summer of 2016, when it fell off a bedside table in the Washington DC suburbs and its screen cracked, rendering it unusable. We made a couple of uninspired attempts to sell it for $10 on craigslist before putting it in a drawer and forgetting about it. By the time we moved out of the Apartment it was gone – nobody was really sure quite when we got rid of it or how, but thanks to the sturdy construction and robust constitution of Apple devices, it is probably in some landfill somewhere, buried under sludge but likely still mostly intact.

Video Week! pt. 1: Promos

Welcome to video week here at Sunshine and Wind! This week we’re going to be looking deep into the S&W Archives to show you how we’ve approached the video format in the past.

Many years ago, we were involved with an ingenious and artistically ambitious theater group called amuse collective. This group produced shows at theaters and bars and other underground venues mostly in the east village in the late 00s. We had a show on the Manhattan public access channel that ran at 2 in the morning that consisted mainly of video clips of our shows and advertisements for our other ones.

A few of these have survived for our show Grudge Match, a music vs comedy variety show that featured three comedians and three musicians each doing 12 minute sets, and the audience votes at the end. The winner got to pose for a picture with Grudgeasaurus, a ridiculous objet d’art that looked this this:

it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

The shows were always fun, and watching these videos really takes us back. These were made with Windows Movie Maker (unless we still had the old G3 Mac tower in those days) and always took forever to put together. The public access show itself ended up being more trouble than it was worth. It was a pain to put together, a pain to deliver to the station, and we never got any confirmation that anyone ever saw it. But as random late night viewers ourselves, it was thrilling to know that someone, channel surfing late into the night, could find this weird little show and get lost in our world.