Goodbye 2010

I’ll always remember this as the year in which I finally broke ground – I started shooting my first ever feature length documentary, I got my first ever fan mail, and my projects attracted money from funding agencies as well. 🙂 Well, I can say it’s been a good year (and I’m not talking about that joke, where they ask, ‘what do you call it when you have 365 used condoms at the end of the year?’ 😮 ) Quite a good year.

I guess I should congratulate myself, slap myself hard on the back, especially with regard to how much effort I put it to make this first documentary. Having to learn Nepali, and now I know it so well that I can edit without having to rely on a translator! Jesus, all this hard work should pay me in gold. I hope it’s not all in vain.

Maybe I should wait until tomorrow so we can start the party? But today is supposed to be my actual birthday, yet I celebrate 31st because it’s a much funkier day, something you can always tell people ‘you know, my mother spent two years trying to push me out of her womb.’ and they go like ‘what?’ and I laugh, knowing I’ve got them and say, ‘well, she did spend two years trying to push me out.’

Happy New Year mother ducker 🙂

Cold Christmas Coming

And all I’ll get this Christmas is e-cards and long distance cold messages wishing me well. What I always want to ask those who send e-cards is simple, ‘Can you hang an e-card on a Christmas tree?’ Gone are the days when Christmas was actually Christmas — what days were those?

Well, it’s going to be cold this Christmas. last Christmas, I’d just arrived in Nepal, and there was a whole bunch of us, and we made merry at the Pacific Guest House. Was nice then. Don’t seem to see what holds this time, I guess I have the editing to do.

I’m sitting up waiting for the lunar eclipse to happen, but it hasn’t yet appeared. Wonder if I will see it tonight, or if it was so brief I missed it. I should have sat outside, and waited, but it’s so cold. You can see the mist floating through the trees, with the moonlight shinning through the leaves, and it makes you think of ghosts and vampires. So cold.

I couldn’t sit out. And inside my heater broke. At least I’m talking to someone I’m infatuated with, at least that’s keeping me warm for a while. 🙂

Too bad she won’t be online during Christmas to warm me up through the electric wires.

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And the Edit Begins

I woke up this morning and started to edit, something that had stalled since last week, and I was so happy about it, because for three straight hours I worked and worked and felt so good with what I had done. I was afraid she’d crept into my mind and stolen away my ability to work.

Apparently, she hasn’t. I know I’m thinking about her a lot, and wishing it all materializes into something solid, but I also know once I get lost in the thick of editing the documentaries, I’ll think about her less and less, and I don’t want that to happen.

I feel like I’ve won the lottery, and not wrapping her up in my arms eventually is like not cashing in on the winning ticket. Only that I don’t know what to do.

Only today did I realize I was pronouncing her name wrong – and we’ve just had a good joke about us ending up in church and I keep telling the priest that he is calling her name wrongly – crap… anyway, it’s maybe starting to get to that point where daylight breaks into the darkness of the crush, the cloudy emotions that mask the newly born love, and then you start to see things clearly, and ask yourself questions about your emotions, you try to rationalize the decisions of your heart, and if you get the answers to these questions right, and the crush is still there – if the sun raises, but the night persists (what a stupid imagery :-o, but I can’t find anything better) then you know that you are meant to be together.

Maybe. I guess we’ll have to give it time.

Only that she’s sent me another poem. Bless her. She has a sweet voice too. A really sweet one, especially when she sings.

Okay, so as I’m beginning to again seriously edit the documentary, I know that I’m also now editing my feelings for her 🙂 if there is any such thing. Cutting, re-arranging the sequences, seeing what sounds match with what picture, and actually re-thinking the whole purpose of why you are making the film. What you want the audience to feel after watching it. So at the end of the day, I’ll have either a ‘love story with a happily ever after ending’ or a ‘might have been story with a friends for-ever kind of ending’. 🙂

Let’s see, honey.

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the a*hole machoman disses a poor girl

I noticed that someone – the only follower I hitherto had, has withdrawn – now I have no follower. And I’m suspected to think that my recent posts were the cause of it.

 

 

 

Poor girl, she never really showed me that much interest, and only spoke about it after I mentioned kissing a Nepali girl.

Now I think she has withdrawn her followership because she think’s I’m completely lost to her. If only she were to know sometimes love takes patience.

But why am I writing about her? To boast? Is it a macho thing, that though I’m coveting someone who is only a picture and probably won’t ever marry me, there is another girl who is running after me and who I’m saying no to? Is it only that?

What a dick I am! I should go to hell! I should hump an old cow to make my life better rather than spill emails some poor chic sent me. What an a*hole I am — okay, I’m hurling insults at myself so that she should not do it!

Sorry, hun, the picture above aint clear, and there are some things I wrote in this exchange that i want to share with the world… any way, since I’m trying to be an a*hole of a man 🙂

So I wrote this line in my Facebook status – I thought Nepali lips would taste different, but all lips taste the same! — and a lot of people sent me various messages, some congratulating, others not so nice messages, and she sent this in my in-box. Here is the conversation.

BABYRW…October 16 at 9:04pm
And here I thought you were going to wait until my lips arrived to taste lips in Nepal. lol!

How’s the film coming along?

Dilman Dila October 17 at 10:23am
🙂 It’s going well, very well actually, though the cameraman understands only half of what I tell him.

Well, I thought since I’m making a film about love in Nepal, I should actually experience that in one way or another… and you know what she did after I kissed her?

she washed her mouth. I kissed her again, and she kissed back and immediately washed her mouth. I asked her why? and she said ‘you papi me’.

Papi means sin, but I don’t know what the sentence ‘you sin me’ means 🙂

She didn’t wash her cheeks when I kissed her there though. But it made me wonder, will she wash ‘that part’ if we actually ‘do it’?

BABYRW October 17 at 1:08pm
I am sad. I had a little fairytale going in my head that you were my Prince Charming. Oh well, I’m probably going to end up like the wicked witch anyway.

Do you have a whole crew or is it just you and the cameraman? Did you apply for any of the funding opportunities I sent to you? I really think you could get people to give you money if you tried.

Happy to hear it’s going very well. I’ll check in for an update soon.

Be well heartbreaker.

:_(

Dilman Dila October 17 at 5:47pm
Is that for real, or do you still don’t know how to throw a punchline?

BABYRW October 17 at 5:53pm
Both. That is for real AND I still don’t know how to throw a punchline. lol!

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Cakes at 3am

I woke up with a burning urge to write a story about a man pursuing a girl who bakes cakes – he is working at his desk when he catches the scent of cakes in the air, and he follows it to the next office where he finds this girl delivering birthday cake to a client, and without even knowing her names, or anything about her, he asks her to marry him.

Apparently, this guy had spent a long time in a culture where — oh crap! I’m not writing all that BS here 🙂 Anyway, I had to fight the urge to write the story, though the two were yelling so loud that I could hear them outside my door, on a 2am of a very cold night in Dhangadi. I instead went to listen to the love story of Parbati and Manoj, whose affair ended up in a bloody battle between the higher-castes and the lower castes (untouchables) in her village

I think making a documentary about love and marriage screws up your head, in many ways, just as writing horrors will screw up your nights and drive you to substance abuse and a reclusive life.

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Becoming a Native?

I can’t believe I asked a girl who I’ve never met to marry me! I mean the only reason I have a crush on her is because she is my first ever fan, and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, what a great biography it would make!’ When some reporter asks me years later, after I’m rich and famous, ‘how did you meet your wife?’ And I will say, ‘Well, I wrote this story that knocked her stockings off without taking off her shoes…’ 🙂

Am I seriously asking her to marry me?

I think I’ve stayed in Nepal too long! I speak their language. I behave like them. I’m what you would call a participant observer in anthropology. I think I’ve gone beyond being just a filmmaker to think and behave like the people I’m filming. I had to, so I could understand their cultures better, and I think it will be a good film about love and marriage in Nepal.

And here, you can so easily get married. They have the arranged marriage system so deeply entrenched in their cultures that even though ‘love’ marriages are so popular among the youth, strangers can still easily get married to each other. All it takes is for you to paint her forehead with red vermilion powder, sindur, and she’s your wife. I think the notion here is that the moment you sleep with a girl, she automatically becomes your wife. Actually, the application of sindur is a symbolic breaking of a girl’s virginity, because she parts her hair to create a ‘virtual vagina’ and the man paints that part red.

I get offered a woman once every week, or a girl pops the question so easily to me so often (amazing how bold the girls are!) that I’ve begun to think it’s the same the world over.

If I was in Uganda, I wouldn’t have even mentioned to this girl that I have a crush on her, but now I have and gone so far as to say ‘Will you marry me?’

Okay, wait a minute. What you write in these blogs, are they honest or are they a clever way of getting into the girl’s pants?

Well, she lives a thousand miles away, so this certainly can’t be a clever way to get into her pants, unless I’m prepared to pay a thousand dollars for an air ticket to go to wherever to get laid. And why would I do that?

But does that make them honest or is it that you miss writing prose so much (because of the bloody documentary you are making) that you are actually trying to play a character in one of your creepy stories? And for the moment these blogs are the only chance you’ve got to write prose.

Come to think of it, how do people date online? Because I’m thinking that I can date this girl online, can’t I? Let’s see, if you met a girl in real life, you’d ask her, can’ we go to the movies? And she says, ‘Friday is cool’, so you take out to the nearest Cineplex, you deliberately choose a boring movie so that you can get an excuse to eat her lips in the darkness.

But what happens when you meet her online? You are in your part of the world, and she is in hers a million miles away, and you ask her, ‘hey, there is this great movie showing in YouTube, let’s watch it!’ So click click click, you watch the movie – definitely a trashy five minute youtube comic – and after the movie is over, what do you do? How do you kiss her? Do you kiss her photo on your desktop and ask her to do the same to your photo?

Might be a nice way to date. No expenses. No taxi fares. No condoms. Just say, let’s meet at this website, and you both go there, or you get tired of chatting in Facebook and you go to yahoo messenger to have a quick chat over a cup of coffee…. crap!

Has the internet made our dating easier or harder? It certainly is very boring, this internet dating thing. Very unreal.

I better look for those two documentaries they recently made about facebook. Whatever their names are.

I’m writing this blog at the same time talking to the girl, making the indecent proposal, and she says she is speechless, and doesn’t know how to respond to my proposal. Of course who would want to say anything in response to such a ducked up idea? (ducked up, my friend Joseph will tell you 😮 )

I think I told her so that I can embarrass myself so much that I would feel ashamed of myself every time I thought about her in that manner. The only problem is that she is being so nice and polite about it that she is laughing it off and that’s not making my plans work.

A*hole – stop making a duck out of yourself. I can’t believe this internet thing. I should go back to writing such stuff in my secret diary where no one will ever read them. But I know now that I’ve spoken it out aloud, I’ll get over the crush and go back to the business of editing the doc without a lot of distractions. There’s already three fronts distracting me – the cold, the fund, the wheelchair guy, Felistas, and now her! – that actually makes it five.

I haven’t mentioned her name in this blog. Funny. Maybe I’m trying to protect her honor, for in Nepal, if a man so much as proposes to a girl, and the world gets to know about it, even if the girl says no, her honor would be ruined! It still happens in the rural areas, so by not mentioning her name, am I trying to protect her honor?

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Laughter Sells More Than Horror

Oh no! Felistas is back in my life! I was kind of hoping I would never run into her again, because I don’t like her story, but she crept back – or rather she jumped straight out of the blue and grabbed my neck and is now strangling me with a promise of success. Well, what she has done is kick out this guy who I was growing to love, this guy who is stuck on a wheel chair and runs an illegal FM radio station from his bedroom.

Finally, I shot the film! here is a pic of the heroine.

Every writer has a garbage bin where he or she dumps the stories that collect too many rejection slips. Mine is a folder labelled ‘useless’, and Felistas suddenly clicked her way out of this folder, and now she has a grip on me that is threatening the completion of the documentary. Well, think about it, this wheelchair radio DJ also threatened the documentary, because he would creep up on me while I’m interviewing someone – I think he did it while I was talking to Dr Khrisna B Battachan, and for a few minutes I was not listening to the professor but to this guy screaming out of a radio – and for a while I couldn’t think of anything else but him. But Felistas has resurrected because someone is offering money to put her on the big screen.He came to me shortly after I watched the fabulous documentary, Murderball, and Oliver Stone’s Talk Radio, and I was looking for a story that I can work on when I return back home in a year or so, something that can be shot entirely on one location, or maybe 90% on one location. One single room. Once you put the equipment into the room, you shoot and don’t stop shooting until you are done. So this guy creeps into my head, and his only fan, a stressed housewife who falls in love with him, pops up at his window. Then his ex-girlfriend (she dumped him after the accident that bound him to the wheel chair), staggers into the scene. And these four characters (oops, the fan’s husband also looms somewhere nearby, he has a temper and a violently insatiable appetite for sex that leaves his wife feeling like a sex toy, one of those inflated rubber women who the guy jumps onto and bangs, bangs, bangs…), well these four were crawling out of the ground like zombies out of the grave when the ugly Felistas came screaming out of that land where rejection slips sent her to.

And that is threatening my concentration on this documentary (let’s say documentaries) and now suddenly I’m looking at the docs not as a masterpiece but as a stepping stone kind of thing.

Last year, I participated in a study about the most significant change that getting involved with Maisha had on me. One of Maisha’s donors wanted to find out, and this amazing Claudia Fontes, Argentinian beauty, came and took us through the session, which got me seriously thinking, and it made me realize that I had actually changed a great deal in terms of the kinds of stories I told since getting involved with Maisha.

At first, I used to love horror stories. I wanted to write like Edgar Poe and Steven King. Mostly because horrors have the biggest market share on the internet. I wanted someone to read what I write and e-zines seemed to be interested only in horrors, and fantasy, and sci-fi.

So when I started writing Felistas’s Fable, I wanted it to be a horror. I submitted it to Maisha for the 2006 Lab. When the mentors read the script, they told me, “No Dilman, this is not a horror, this is a romantic comedy!”

I tried to make any comparisons between a horror and a romantic comedy, but I couldn’t find any.

Some of the mentors told me that my niche is in funny stuff, and I didn’t believe them. I wanted to write horror. But like I mentioned during this ‘most significant change’ study, writing horror is very stressful. It makes you a loner, a depressive manic, and it might mean you end up a substance abuser like Steven King and Edgar Poe did, or a reclusive old man like HP Lovercroft.

What ultimately changed my perspective was my experience during making that documentary for UNICEF, where I went to Acholi and met some children who had suffered because of the twenty year war between the LRA and the UPDF.

Okay, so I started writing light stuff, but let’s go back to Felistas. I think that re-writing it with the help of Steve Cohen helped me to make it into a comedy, and though I didn’t think about it then, I started to shift focus. Evidence is in the story Homecoming, which I’d done maybe in 1999 as a morbid story about burying a bloated body, but which I re-wrote sometime in 2007/2008 for Gowanus Books, and it got me a nomination for the Million Writer’s Awards. Working for the UNICEF documentary was the most tangible evidence of my change in direction.

And now, I’ve got an email saying I’ve been awarded money from the Goteburg International Film Festival Fund, to make this film Felistas (something that started out as a horror but I turned into a romantic comedy – I should stress this for it’s a significant point in my career, or rather ambitions). Honestly, I didn’t submit the script to this fund, for I had long given up on making it. I am pessimistic most of the time, but a friend sent it on my behalf. He was a postman, really, and I wasn’t really thinking much about it until I saw that email.

And now Felistas is back. She is uglier than ever and more determined than ever to kidnap me and…. It might turn out to be a good film. But for now, I need to concentrate on finishing this documentary. I have to figure out a way to gently shove her back into my subconscious, while at the same time start to seriously look for ways of either securing more funds or shooting the whole thing with the little money Goteburg is offering.

It’s strange that Felistas returns almost at the same time that I develop a crush on this girl who sent me an email praising my work, ‘Homecoming’, and who I started to think of as a possible ‘first reader’. All my writing life, I’ve always wanted to fall in love with a woman who knows what writing is about, who reads a lot and not just for fun, and I think at the back of my mind that’s why I’ve never gotten really serious in any relationship, because I’ve never met a girl who actually enjoys reading fiction. And so here she comes, not only an avid reader, but one who sends me my first ever, genuine fan mail. Yes, it was fan mail! I can’t believe it, but that email of hers was my first ever fan mail, since it came from a complete stranger. Why then can I not have a crush on her?

And it must be a bigger crush than I’m admitting for within twenty-four hours of our first ‘real’ conversation – online – and by real I mean one where we were past that ‘who are you’ business, I wrote a short story about her. Or one that she inspired. I talked to her at night, maybe up to midnight, for about an hour or so, and in the morning, I woke up and went straight to my laptop, though it was freezing cold, and within an hour I had a 2000-word story. It must be a really big crush you know.

I hope it leads to something solid :-)) I hope she doesn’t read this, but if she does, maybe it will save me a lot of explaining to do later. Thank God for blogging (who invented it? He deserves a million dollars!) now shy guys can actually propose to a woman without meeting her face-to-face :-))

But I know how crappy my life is, I’m always having these silly crashes and sooner or later something will come up, and I’ll forget her.

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 updated 27/10/2013

Another Rejection

I woke up this morning with a sense of exhaustion and that feeling you get while watching a soccer match, when the beginning is so intense and so exciting and one team goes three up, and then the last fifteen minutes they start to defend and what started out as a really exciting game finishes in a bore… well, that’s what I’m feeling like right now.

I’ve basically done the filming. And the good news I got the other day is that I actually have a lot of time, and a lot of money as well, to edit it! Yessssssss! So now I can lie back, relax, and then do a really good job in the post production.

And I won’t have to edit both (or is it three) docs at the same time, first I’ll do the main one, Untouchable Love, and then I’ll do the other two – the sound of one leg dancing and shristi as thisability. Oh yes, I do think Shristi’s story should be a separate documentary from that of the one leg dancers, maybe only because I love that title, The Sound of One Leg Dancing, and Shristi’s, a powerful story, is about that of a blind girl…. so her’s might be The Sound Of No Eyes Dancing? Crap! Shristi has ThisAbility sounds cool, though she wants it to be shristiko antardristi — oops, I might have got that spelling wrong, but it’s translated into Shristi’s innervision, she wants her name ‘shristi’ to rhyme with ‘dristi’, in Nepali.

But I started out to write about the most recent rejection letter I’ve received, for my prose writing. A story I first wrote many years ago, but recently re-wrote feverishly after an editor had told me he liked the concept, only that now he sends me an email saying ‘sorry buddy, you did a good job but it’s not good enough. Still requires a lot of editing.’ Maybe I like that kind of rejection letter.

But while I seem to be on the verge of some sort of breakthrough in the film industry (certainly a feature length documentary will look good on my CV) I still seem so far away with regard to what I really love. Writing prose. Where it all started.

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After the Storm?

Is it quiet? I think before and after the storms, there is always a strange calmness, a moment when silence grips the world like the gentle touch of a lover (what kind of imagery is that? – so crappy) Anyway, you know what I’m talking about?

Well, I feel like that now. But I think I feel like the storm, who came with the wrath of the skies, and huffed and terrified the world, but after all the chaos, the storm feels like it should have done more. Destroyed a few more houses. Torn down that ugly tree. But now the moment is gone, and until the next time, it won’t have a chance to wreak havoc.

I’m feeling like that. Some things I should have done during the shooting, that I did not do. Now I’ve started to edit, and sometimes I want to throw the laptop out of the window (only that there is a mosquito mesh on the window, so if I tried to throw out the laptop, I wouldn’t succeed) because I feel I’ve not done everything I should have done.

But maybe I should be happy with what I have, because I think I can safely use 80% of what I shot. That I can actually make a decent documentary about love in a Hindu society from what I already have.

And I should congratulate myself because I worked with a cameraman who hardly knew English. He only knew two words ‘look this’. 🙂 So sometimes I would try to tell him what I want to shoot, and he would simply say ‘look this’ and I would try to say that it’s not what I want, and he would try to tell me what he is trying to shoot, but it would all boil down to those two words. ‘Look this’.

Okay, give him some credit (and me also) because I speak at least 70% of his language, so I was able to communicate myself most of the time. Sometimes, when I failed to speak, I would frame the shot using my still camera (canon sx200, lovely beauty) and then he would get the idea. But then he’d only roll for a few seconds and then shoot what he wants.

Which is really annoying. Which only makes me determined to do a large percentage of the camerawork in my next project (what will it be about?) So I have to get a camera. Somehow. A decent one at that.

Probably I’m a control freak. But I’ve read of other control freaks, like Ken Burns, and Errol Morris (they do confess they like taking control of their documentary projects) and I think that making a documentary is like writing a non-fiction book. The writer has to have a lot of control over what he wants to say. It’s not like making a film, where the director’s voice can be watered down and you still have a pretty good movie. Documentaries need the total control of the director, from the planning phase, to the camera, to the editing.

Sadly, money determines who controls what. I remember ‘the young ones’ (a project I thought would have been a great one for me, but it turned out a disaster, because this lady – well, she was the producer or something like that – gave me the job, but didn’t trust me to do it, so she had all these people spying on every move I made, and she questioned every decision I made, until I ran mad with frustrations).

But I’ve really enjoyed this shooting. Only one incident of a quarrel, way back in the early days, and we soon put that behind us and worked smoothly. Only that I realize that small quarrel ruined a really beautiful sequence I had in mind, one involving a love letter one of the characters wrote to her lover. Shit!

At least I will be in total control of the edit. In this project.

So I’m nearly done with my first feature length documentary. I must say congratulations to myself. It’s now slightly over a year since I came to Nepal (November 11 the anniversary) and I think I have already archived what I came for. So how will I spend the remaining year?

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The Quiet Before the Storm

Now I know how sportsmen feel like just before a world cup final! I’m in that place, between inactivity and activity, between darkness and light, knowing something is going to happen, and even knowing what is going to happen, and just biding my time for it to happen. That inevitability of it all.

Tuesday 5th October, the official starting date of principal photography. For the next two months, I will travel from the far west, to the (far) east, and back to the far west, shooting, and shooting, and talking in Nepali until my tongue falls off my mouth.

It’s the biggest event of my life. It’s like waiting for rain, when you see storm clouds brewing and rolling about in the sky like angry packs of starving dogs looking for a bone – like waiting for rain after a long draught – but I pray it doesn’t rain. Oh please God, no more rain! No more! Just give me a lot of sunshine, and blue skies, for I’m making a film about love, and I want the cheerfulness of the sun, and the brilliance of the colors that’s so evident in these people’s clothes, to shine above the misery, and the agony, and the frustrations that the young people of Nepal find themselves in when they fall in love with someone from another caste.

I haven’t written a thing in this blog for nearly two months. And now I don’t know what to write. Just that I’m waiting, and I know I should be preparing, but I’m at that point where further preparations will not mean much. Oh where I’m afraid to make further preparation.

But what else can I do? Nothing. I’ve done my best. I feel exhausted. I’ve made phone call after phone call, most of the time I’m ignored. Some of the time I’m given false promises. Some of the time they tell me they don’t understand what I’m saying because I don’t know their language, yet the same mouths will be quick to tell me how much I’ve learnt their language in the short time I’ve been here. But yes, there are lots and lots who are willing to speak to my camera. In the words of one of them, “we are people who have been tortured, so we shall speak as much as you want”, and that gives me the courage to dive right into the thick of things and start shooting, and shooting, and shooting.

Two bloody documentaries – well, only one is bloody. The other one is a dance documentary. I will simply start it this time, and finish it later next year. But I think at the end of it, people will always wonder – What was Dilman’s first feature lengh documentary? Untouchable Love? or was it The Sound of One Leg Dancing (maybe that title will change to ThisAbility to Dance, or maybe to The Dance of the ….- the dance of the what?) But I like the first title, only that if I include a blind dancer in it, maybe it will be turned to The Sound of ThisAbility Dancing, or maybe, The sound of one something dancing, or the sound of half a body dancing? Crap!

I better go home.

PS. My gas ran out, and I don’t know how to change the cylinder, so maybe today I’ll sleep hungry. I better get someone to teach me.

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