Return to Traverse City Film Festival

We spent last week at the Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan. This was the second year of the festival as well as our second year attending. Unlike last year, there was no “Freedom Festival” organized by Michael Moore-haters this year. Perhaps they are still recovering their debts from last year, when they lost money and had to stop their showing of “Michael Moore Hates America” after discovering it had inappropriate language for the family audience they were targeting.

We saw nine films in just five days — four in one day was our max. (Rachele saw one more — The Beauty Academy of Kabul — that I missed, unfortunately, and we gave our tickets to Jesus Camp to Rachele’s parents.) Our selections were:

The one that sticks most in my memory is La Moustache. The essence of the plot is revealed in the first minute of the movie: a man shaves off his mustache. His wife of fifteen years doesn’t notice. In fact, she doesn’t remember he ever had a mustache. While the film starts as vaguely comic, it quickly spirals into a psychic breakdown with a possibly unreliable narrator. It was quite nearly perfect.

The beautifully restored virgin print of Monty Python’s Holy Grail was astonishing. The film was shown for free on a large outdoor screen by the lake, and the sound was crystal clear (now in stereo!) no matter where you sat. There are a bunch of scenes everyone always remembers in the Holy Grail. I realized after watching it again that the movie is composed entirely of these memorable scenes. (I had the same feeling watching the Wizard of Oz after a ten to fifteen year hiatus recently.)

Finally, Stanley Kubrick’s first film, The Killing (1956) also merits the maximum rating, whatever that is (5.5 stars?). While it lacks the surreal/experimental feel of his later films, Kubrick was already beginning to play with narrative structure and sequencing. The film walks through the events leading to the climax several times, each time from a different character’s point of view. But really it’s just a great heist flick.

Mani Haghigi, the Iranian director of Men at Work, had an interesting observation about the festival. Unlike most other film festivals, he, as a director, could just hang out and enjoy the films and the company and not worry about impressing executives and distributors. The festival’s motto is accurate — “Just Great Movies.”

Family News

I’ve been blogging a bit about my family lately — this entry about my brother Jonah’s band and this entry about my wife’s blog, so I didn’t want to leave out my youngest brother, Andrew. He has gained some renown as a tennis star at Macalester College. Men’s tennis gets help from a ‘Trainwreck’ perhaps captures it best:

Picture this: nervous first-year, short shorts, longer t-shirt, brown dress shoes, newly broken glasses taped together with white sports tape. He begins his first varsity tennis practice, he is excited. So excited in fact that he tips over the ball hopper while doing warm-ups, spilling tennis balls all over the court.

That’s when they started calling me ‘Trainwreck,’ coach wanted to call me ‘Shoes,’ but the team agreed on Trainwreck,. Andrew ‘Trainwreck’ Kessel ‘07 said.

See also Athlete of the Week (scroll down to “Week 29”) and Cobbers Beat Scots 7-2 in Moorhead . I never even played intramural sports in college, so I can only appreciate Andrew’s success vicariously.

Also, I’m now hosting a website for Jonah’s nascent photography business, Kessel Imaging. (Kids these days, they want to do everything with Flash! In my day, we hand-coded HTML and CSS.)

Montreal Memorial Day 2006

Rachele and I went to Montreal for the day this past weekend. It was the longest time we’ve ever left our one year old daughter Esther—just over twelve hours with my parents. Remarkably, she survived, and didn’t even miss us.

Every time I go to Montreal I’m reminded of just how much better Canada is.

For example, Senzala, a Brazilian breakfast place in Mile End, served the most delicious gourmet poached eggs (pictured here with Rachele):

We also had a great time visiting the Botanical Garden, a vast park that dwarfs anything Boston has to offer. Here are a few examples of the flora—click on the image to see the full size version.

Along with poached eggs, beautiful gardens, and socialized healthcare, what more could one ask for?

Rachele Made The Globe Blog Log

Rachele (my wife and recent arrival to the blogosphere) made the Boston Globe “Blog Log” this Sunday — see the bit entitled Kiss Contractor Goodbye. Too bad she didn’t actually name the contractor in her blog entry!

The original entry: sexism in the building trades.

Warm Skiing

Yesterday, it got up to 53° F (11° C), after a very cold and blustery week. There was still quite a bit of snow on the ground, so we went on our first ski trip of the year. It’s great to be able to ski with no jacket or gloves. (The hat came off later as well).

Song is Cool

I’m flying Song airlines for the first time, en route to Orlando on business. The individual interactive multimedia consoles are pretty cool. You can check out your altitude, flight path, etc., in real time, which I think helps mitigate the lack of control and attendant anxiety most people feel while flying. There is also a decent selection of “MP3s” (I wonder if they are actually stored as MP3s?) that you can queue up for a personal playlist. I’ve found more than enough selections to last the rest of the flight. (Strangely, I seem to have to hit ‘pause’ at the end of each track to advance to the next). There are also a bunch of satellite TV stations, pay-per-view movies and games, although I haven’t checked those out.

I’m curious about how the music licensing works. The airline would like to provide the attractive feature of a broad variety of music for its customers; at the same time, it probably serves as effective marketing for the labels, just like radio play. You might, for example, check out an album you were thinking of buying on the flight, and purchase it later if you liked it. The chance that inflight music will be copied by customers is very low and presumably they don’t need to worry about DRM. So which way does money flow—from the airlines to the labels or vice-versa? Or are the tracks “free?”

Now playing: The Beatles, Revolver, “Got to Get You Into My Life.”

P.S. After we landed, the interactive multimedia consoles rebooted. It turns out they are running Red Hat Linux, circa 2002. Smart.

Is the World Ready for Curdnerds?

Jamie recently created a drupal site for cheese aficionados. So far the main feature is the blog, but it’s coming along quite nicely. Jamie has had some pretty hair-raising cheesemaking experiences, including a near death brush with mozzarella (photos).

Curdnerds is clearly ready for the world. The question is whether the world is ready for Curdnerds. Time will tell.

Chicago 2005 Highlights

Excellent latte at Metropolis Coffee Company near Loyola University. Hypothetical for any law students reading this: could this design be protected by copyright?

Lincoln Park Zoo. Click the image to advance. Watch out for the tiger, he’s a little scary.

(click for big version)

Chinatown. Click the image to advance.

(click for big version)

Happy Belated Chanukah 5766

So I’m a little late, but Happy Belated Chanukah 5766. Among other gifts (to ourselves), we got a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30, about which more later. In the meantime, I’d like to do more photoblogging, and toward that end, I declare all content here to be licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License. I’m certainly open to granting less restrictive licenses, I’d just like to be asked first.

Oh, right, and no more sweets for the month of January. I’ve had enough.

Winter Sunset