A School Project With a JVC GY-HM150 U, Apple, and Final Cut Pro X

Because I wanted to try some documentary work, back in January of 2012 I bought an iMac, Final Cut Pro X, and a JVC GY-HM150 U video camera from B & H Camera in Manhattan.  I’ve been meaning to write about how I like these products and what’s it has been like to learn how to use them. The video you’ll see below is something my daughter and I worked on last weekend.  She was to do a project on sheep and so the whole family collaborated over a weekend at Queens Farm. Yes, we do have a big farm here in one of the five boroughs of New York City.

That's Me With the Black Video Camera

Charlotte’s Cover Image for her Video

One of my films is almost finished, the one about Kathy Patrick and the Pulpwood Queens’ Book Club. I’d been researching what sort of camera I wanted to buy, when I realized that my trip to Texas to see the Pulpwood Queens would make for a great story.  So I bought the camera and read the book on how to use it on the way down. If you see the film, it won’t be too hard to figure out I was a rookie cameraman, but the content of the Queens and the authors is so great that I think it carries the documentary.  I was also very fortunate that two friends, Natalie Brasington who is a photographer, and Jeremy Vogt who is a musician, provided some great content.

Since my trip, I took all four of the Apple Pro Lab courses in Manhattan at the store on 14th Street. They were FREE and fantastic.  Now I’m reading Larry Jordan’s Final Cut Pro X: Making the Transition. The “transition” refers to those who are coming from the old FCP programs. I didn’t really have any editing experience so I haven’t had much new to get used to.

I’m calling the Pulpwood Queens documentary For the Love of Books. The second film will be about my father and his buddies and will titled The Mushroom Hunter. I don’t think my daughter and I talked about what she wanted to call her film. Given her title page, I guess it’s Charlotte’s Sheep Project. 

“The Church and the Fiction Writer” Prof. Torg Talking With O’Connor’s Text

I’ve previously described myself as a Christian who doesn’t go to church.  This may or may not be a permanent part of my life:  not going to church.  Sometimes I miss the sorts of sermons that are like the best classroom lessons I’ve experienced, or I miss the lift in spirit I have previously felt when I raise my ugly singing voice within a congregation.

Recently, I attended a writing conference at Wesleyan University in Connecticut where O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners was often invoked.  It’s book I had somehow not yet read, and while I waited for the copy I’d ordered to arrive, I browsed the library collection at St. John’s University in New York and came across  O’Connor’s “The Church and the Fiction Writer.”  It’s  an essay that interests me from the standpoint of being a Christian who writes stories which often contain curse words, sex, and people doing ugly things to one another.  It’s subject matter that might be tricky if I was teaching somewhere such as my fictional Pison Nazarene University and it’s also subject matter that is tricky when I’m talking with my parents about my work.  As some of you might know, parents often weigh in with their thoughts no matter how old you get.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I imagine O’Connor possibly responding in her essay to questions such as these:

  • Why can’t you write a happy story?  Why does there have to be cursing, violence, and sex?
  • Why does there have to be so many shadows from your own life?  Why can’t you just make everything up?
  • Why do you have to write so much about the place you come from?

Here are some lines in bold I’ve plucked from O’Connor’s essay and a few of mine own thoughts which follow. 

“The writer learns, perhaps more quickly than the reader, to be humble in the face of what-is.”  Life works with my mind to give me ideas, people, and situations about which to write.  I have those to choose from.  I try to become the characters and report what happens in and out of minds. I try to point to spots in life that are interesting to me and so might tend to be interesting to some of you.

“A belief in fixed dogma cannot fix what goes on in life or blind the believer to it.”  No matter your belief in God or no God, life is happening in front of you.  Art such as O’Connor’s helps me to pay attention to life that I would have otherwise missed. 

Perhaps partially in response to, “Why can’t you write about happy things?” O’Connor wrote this:   An affirmative vision cannot be demanded of him (the writer) without limiting his freedom to observe what man has done with the things of God.

What would make a person fearful of reading fiction?   It is when the individual’s faith is weak, not when it is strong, that he will be afraid of an honest fictional representation of life…  O’Connor’s line evokes for me those who would never read Barack Obama or Bill O’Reilly.  If they are one side, they can’t stand to hear the other. 

Citation information:

O’Connor, Flannery.  “The Church and the Fiction Writer.”  Flannery O’Connor Collected Works.  Comp. Sally Fitzgerald.    New York:  Literary Classics of the United States, 1988. Print.

William Torgerson on Flannery O'Connor The Church Fiction Writer

Click Here to Read About O'Connor's Cartoons


Prof. Torg’s take on Jennifer Egan’s A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD

If you have a Facebook page, own one of the latest cell phones, blog, or tweet, then you ought to at least check out chapter 13 in Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad.  In the following quote from the last chapter, a once big-time music executive laments about the state of the business.  Feel free to substitute ART in the place of MUSIC.  Here’s Bennie:

“The problem is,” Bennie went on, “it’s not about sound anymore.  It’s not about music.  It’s about reach.  That’s the bitter pill I had to swallow” (page 312).

Whose taste in art is for sale?

So when Bennie says “reach,” he’s talking Tweets, he’s talking Facebook Friends, and he’s talking hits on somebody’s blog.  The last chapter takes place in the future—and she could just almost be talking about right now—we all have to wonder if a book or album or any kind of art is really good or it’s just being promoted very well.  What is the Tweeter getting paid to say that this new artist is the next Bob Dylan?  What perks or gifts have been sent the book blogger’s way?  I just attended a BEA blogging panel where there was talk of ethics in the blogging world.

It may or may not have occurred to you that a novel can pay-off in various ways:  you can be made to feel as if you get to know the characters like people, the text can make you think, cause you to believe you are getting smarter, or make you bawl your eyes out or want to break stuff.  Another pleasing feature of a text can be the language, the words the writer chooses and the ways that the writer puts the words together in the form of sentences.  Egan’s text has that feature.  There are sentences beyond this one that would make for better examples of word choice but there are some original choices here—prewallet, overhandled, Sow’s Ear—and the clever detail of the guy who drinks flakes of gold.  An expensive habit, especially these days when an ounce of the stuff would cost over $1500.  This quote comes from the first story (notice also that it is a long sentence, not an always easy thing to pull off) when Sasha remembers stealing a wallet from a woman in the restroom while she was on a date.  We’ll also hear about Bennie here and we get to see him in the stories that follow.  He’s worth meeting.  Now here’s Egan’s sentence:

“Prewallet, Sasha had been in the grip of a dire evening:  lame date (yet another) brooding behind dark bangs, sometimes glancing at the flat-screen TV, where a Jets game seemed to interest him more than Sasha’s admittedly overhandled tales of Bennie Salazar, her old boss, who was famous for founding the Sow’s Ear record label and who also (Sasha happened to know) sprinkled gold flakes into his coffee—as an aphrodisiac, she suspected—and sprayed pesticides in his armpits.”

I tore that brown thing out on the side and used it as a bookmark.

This is a novel-in-stories, and I loved the first two.  I moved very logically with Sasha the kleptomaniac to her once boss Bennie in the second story who drinks the gold flakes and picks up his son from a previous marriage.  Most of the characters in the book are connected to the music business.  Egan almost lost me on the third story which takes place on an African Safari.  I felt internally frustrated as I was reading and trying to link each new story to the ones which had come before it.  On page eighty-seven, I wrote in the margins:  “I don’t know what the hell is going on or where I am.”

I gave up on trying to connect the stories and just tried to live in each one as a separate world.  I’d say this reading tactic helped, but really I think what happened is the stories got more interesting.  There were many good stories in a row and then on page two hundred and eight, I knew right where I was.  The stories were puzzling together.  I could see where all the pieces might go.  And then Chapter 12 is a Power-Point slide journal.  I don’t generally go for the story that could be called gimmicky.

I was just at a Writers Conference at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and most of the table moaned when I held up the book and showed off some of the slides.  One student is doing an MFA graphic novel thesis.  Suddenly, she was more interested in the book, and another guy at the table said, “I’ll never read a story like that.”

Fine, readers have their tastes I guess.  For me, Egan and The Goon Squad had won me over by the time the Power Point came up.  By the fifth slide I was laughing and my wife was wondering what was up.  It’s great the way I was taught by the text how to read it.  I say Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad is one you ought to read if you’ve got grown up and thinking tastes in reading.  I do.

Citation Information:

Egan, Jennifer. A Visit From the Goon Squad. New York: Anchor Books,    2011. Print.

Drop me a note if you want:

william.torgerson (at) gmail.com