All posts by Jared

Watch like there’s nobody dancing

If you’re a young college type like me, in twenty-five years you may find yourself trying to explain The Harlem Shake to your children. From their end, I suspect it’s going to be a lot like your Dad trying to explain the Berlin Wall.

And you may have seen my school’s crack at it.

It was last week, the height of the fad, and hundreds of my schoolmates in Spider Man costumes and inflatable bananas showed up in front of the library, but after twenty minutes with no moves bustin’, I reached for the iPhone.

See, white people like to see other white people being fun and cool, but they especially like to see white people being humiliated.

So before the cops ran everybody off, Myranda and I immortalized the achievement for YouTube. But getting my first taste of YouTube success wasn’t like I suspected. Interestingly, the more views we got, the more aware I was of my place in this internet.

But here’s the thing about our video: You may have actually seen it without me showing it to you. And for a blog with exactly eleven regulars, that’s pretty much the big-time.

Besides, it made a local dent, at least. Right now it has 150K vies; Local blogs, the Tuscaloosa News, and even someone from the Huffington Post embedded it.

But it has also become Alabama’s official entry into the Harlem Shake collection (a gathering permit will take ten days, and the fad will be ancient history by then). Soon I realized my first glance from the internet has come at a terrible cost.

But at least with all the YouTube earnings I’ll be able to take everyone out for Sonic (at happy hour, of course).

Let’s makah movie!

Last night we had a short film festival here at UA. Of 16 student films, 11 were dramas. I made bingo:

This event is called Campus MovieFest. It gives you exactly one week to shoot and edit a five-minute movie, and they’ll even lend you a camera and MacBook to do it. At the end they screen the top 16 films. Most are actually creative and clever, some are a little iffy. The latter generally fall into three categories:

(Generally one or more of these applies to everything I do.)

Still, as long as you remember to calibrate your standards, the festival produces some pretty good stuff from all sorts of kids. Of course, it’s something else entirely for the film students. Sometimes they plot and plan all year long, waiting, until CMF week finally begins and they bust out in crack filmmaker commando squads.

My girlfriend Myranda is film major, so I got it firsthand this year. Ho boy, did I get it. For me, making a movie is a fun project. For her kind, it’s Thermopylae.

The buzz this year was a sci-fi flick called Manta. Supposedly the team used a crowdfunding site to raise $2800 for everyone to cut class, fly out to the desert for the week and also build a space station. Myranda was miffed.

No, she was feral.

I saw her point. It’s a five minute film fest open to everyone; this kind of thing is geared toward amateurism and creativity, not for the film school’s Spielbergs Jr. to roll out their heaviest Hollywood artillery. Well, baring certain special cases, of course:

But I wasn’t as worried about it. The judges are students and faculty from all departments, not just film. So while the Manta guys are thinking like film students, the judges are thinking like us layfolk.

This gives the little guy two advantages.

First, what film students think makes a good movie and what normal people think makes a good movie don’t always line up.

Second, the judges usually seem to get the spirit of the competition.

Each year we see pretty Vimeo fodder get upset by flicks that are rougher around the edges. It used to confuse me, but I realize now that if the judges judged simply on being-the-best-ness, we would always just end up with a handful of film school titans battling it out while everyone else beat eachother with rocks and sticks.

So the top 16 was a hodgepodge. You saw clever ideas without technical know-how and know-how without clever ideas, but most often films somewhere nicely in the middle.

The only problem was the last film of the night. It was about talking fruit; they picked it to end on a light note, which is fine. Unfortunately, to bring up attendance nobody knows beforehand if their movie will be screened or not, which meant this happened to everyone who didn’t get screened:

Manta got nominated for best drama. And that’s all it got. I thought the dialogue was great but the story lacked an arc, but whatever. The film that won the whole thing was a comedy about a hiring people to be living furniture, and I was very excited about that.

Oh, almost forgot, we made a movie too!

Nocturne in Blue

When I came back to Denver for this break, I decided to drive it. I tell people it was because I enjoy road trips and it’s more cost effective if my siblings tag along.

But I only tell them that because they wouldn’t accept the real reason I don’t like to fly.

The reason is this:

Outside the airport is a statue of a horse. A nightmarish blue horse. It rises from the prairie like an azure specter, a 50-foot equine nightmare for anyone fool enough to enter or leave the city via airplane.

They call it Satan’s Steed, Blucifur, Beelzeblue or simply, The Blue Devil Horse. And it is very real.

Nobody really knows why it exists. The city requires that every public improvement project over $1 million put 1% of its budget towards artwork. It isn’t always spot on. One installation, “National Velvet,” is particularly unfortunate:

(It glows in the dark.)

Still, the ordinance has painted murals under bridges, put common-use pianos on the sidewalk and transformed the ordinary public library into a public library with an enormous brass mule on the lawn. On the whole, the art thing works out pretty well.

But nothing could have prepared us for that horse.

“Mustang” was commissioned in 1993 to the late Luis Jiménez, and when it finally went up fifteen years later, nobody understood why an airport that modeled its building to look like mountain peaks, where the chipper voice of the mayor welcomes you to Denver…The mile high city! as you ride the terminal shuttle, would make its final greeting a hysterical expression of pure, demonic fury.

But somewhere deep down we all know what really happened in those fifteen years…

But we will never know for sure. Jiménez died working on the sculpture, leaving it for his sons to finish. The official report says he was crushed when the torso of the horse fell on him in his studio. But, again, we know the truth…

And so passed Luis Jiménez and with him whatever dark secrets lie behind that terrible blue enamel.

Don’t be silly, you say, this was no work of unseen spectral powers. Nobody really intended it to be so startling. Likely it was just an impressionist experiment that maybe went a little overboard for an airport greeter. I want to believe that.

But at night the eyes glow red!

Which means that each and every sunset, someone turns them on. Someone intends for those unseeing orbs to go aflame. Someone wants to make the horse a lighthouse of madness and chaos that shines out over the black prairie.

Someone, or something.

But the daylight is no better. True, in the daytime the eyes are a just a dull yellowish, unsettling but harmless…save for one moment when you drive past, look into them at just the right angle. The red bulbs catch the reflection of the sun and flash red as you pass.

So one of the first things Senator Barack Obama saw when he came to Denver for the 2008 Democratic National Convention was this:

Needless to say, the Facebookosphere has been crying out against the thing from the first. But it’s sticking around at least until next year; a city policy requires a five-year period to let people get used to new public artwork. Common arguments supporting the statue include…


They have a point (though you can attack both arguments with a copy of Goodnight Moon), but you can still put substance in your art without hurling us into the State of Nature when we’re just trying to catch the 7:25 a.m. to Atlanta.

But I don’t get into the debate. First, because the horse has killed once and it could kill again. But also because I kinda like the thing. Ultimately inappropriate? Sure. A bit embarrassing? Of course. But it makes Denver more special, more human. After all, you wouldn’t see that sort of bungle from New York or Chicago, with their Medici-level arts endowments and world-class curators. But ol’ Blue is the kind of civic quirk that gives this town its character. We may never know what evil purposes lie within Devil Horse, but at least it brings Denver together.

But that doesn’t mean I have to fly back to Alabama…