Thursday, June 28, 2007

Why I Don't Love My Wife

Or so she concluded.

The tale:

To learn how to do elementary multimedia, I signed up for last week's Digital Storytelling workshop in Berkeley where I produced Fade to Cat -- this is really a better story if you watch it first. I chose the Storytelling Center because most tech workshops are so boring. You are taught the software, but there is no time spent deciding what the workshop product will be. Usually, there is not a workshop product, just a series of exercises.

Stone chisel today. Let's crack some rocks. Marble frieze tomorrow on your own time.

On the face of it, this seems efficient. Time spent on formulating the What takes time away from the How. But practically speaking it is harder to concentrate on the How when you have no clear idea of just what the How will make possible. Indeed, I've found that in technique-only workshops I start to think on two tracks. I begin to think in some half-formed way about some interesting What I can make with the software, and I stumble in that direction, actually stealing time from the How lessons. I am out of step with the class. I wander off. I learn less and not more.

That's a reason I chose to take the Digital Storytelling workshop. Brother John Higgins took it, and I had seen Brother Higgins multimedia contemplation of estrangement from and reconciliation with his dad. It seemed to me that having something to say that you cared about would focus and perhaps even inspire your working through the processes of making.

The DSW materials suggested they were just a little touchy-feely, their notion being that telling stories that matter to the maker might well be a life-changing experience. These workshops are not something they market to would-be gearheads, which I understood.

That said, I did not begin prep for the workshop until 24 hours beforehand, dragging out some cat pictures. Our dead cats: Admitting that degree of loss and sadness would be my ante in the empathy game, and a damn small one. But then I started thinking about how our cats have been our surrogate children, and I dragged out some other pictures....

I wrote my script beforehand as instructed. We spent the first morning of the workshop around a big table reading what we had prepared and discussing why we wanted to tell our stories, which included: a video letter to the birth mother of an adopted child;a loving tribute to a "nana" who became more than that, her death fresh in memory; a wedding celebrated; a first child celebrated; getting lost on a glacier and surviving celebrated; a trip to the third world celebrated. And so on and so on.

That first day was designed to encourage the group to go deeper, to disclose, to share. I did. That which was to be implicit in my tale became pretty damn explicit. I ended my little multimedia production with an image of my wife as a little girl (fade to black; wanting to fade to black was my motivation for learning how.) The point of that fade was pretty clear. I will always wonder what our daughter would have been like, given my opinion -- quite a high opinion -- of my wife.

My wife will love this, I thought. She'll weep. There will be hugging and kissing, and on a weekend where there is time for hugging and kissing.

My wife watched the video -- if that's the correct thing to call it; it's what I'll call it. She said she liked it okay. Hmmm. No hugs. Definite absence of kisses. She watched it second time, third time. And then she got mad. She said that she had asked me long ago to erase one of the images I used in the video. She asked me to erase it when it was first taken, asked me again to erase when it appeared in a digital slide show (for just the two of us; not public) and then begged me to pull it down off the web when I put it on Flickr, and now I had put it into a video in what was obviously a cruel and vengeful act (even snide) because dammit that is not how she looks and how mean of me to think so, much less parade that lie before the multitudes.

That picture makes me look square, she said. I stipulate she is definitely not square. I really like the picture.

The next 24 hours were a little tense. Then she talked to a psychologist friend about my obscene taste in pictures, and the friend said that disagreeing about photographs is a topic on which research has been done. It is common, she said, for one half of a couple to have a photograph of the other half of that couple concerning which profound disagreement exists. Demands are made that a certain picture be destroyed. But the picture emerges years later because one half of a couple loves it so.

Well, our psychologist friend said: The point is that sometimes a person finds beauty and joy in a particular image of one's sweetie, and that the sweetie finds such judgment odd to the point of madness, or even to the point of malice. But there it is, our friend said. It's beyond the My Funny Valentine syndrome.

My funny valentine
Sweet comic valentine
You make me smile with my heart
Your looks are laughable, unphotographable
Yet you're my favorite work of art

Is your figure less than greek
Is your mouth a little bit weak
When you open it to speak, are you smart

Don't, baby don't
Don't change you hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little valentine stay
Each day is valentine's
Each day is valentine's day

Stay little valentine stay, stay, stay
Each day is valentine's
Each day is valentine's day
Valentine's day

Wrong! It's not pleasure in imperfection. One person finds something wonderful in a picture based on .... I forget what my wife said our friend said. I'll just say Love, since I'm a fool for oversimplification.

So my wife has forgiven me for my fond blindness or my blind fondness. I have asked the workshoppers to sub another picture of my wife for the offending image before they burn the definitive CD.

Check back for the final cut.

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