C and I are here to take a Final Cut Pro tutorial at a place called Anderson Ranch Arts Center. Years ago Mike and Doug Starn told me they took Photoshop classes up here and recommended it for intensive learning. The ranch includes ceramics studios, a large woodshop, a metalsmithing studio, darkrooms, and a full print shop that functions quasi-independently of the ranch center.
Normally, established artists come here to get help realizing a project, or to consult with the younger aspiring artists also taking the tutorials. While we didn’t have specific projects in mind, we were excited by the possibilities offered with these new affordable video and editing tools. With Final Cut one can edit professional quality, high-res video on a laptop if need be. No extra hardware, other than an external hard drive, is needed. And with the new high-definition cameras that have just come out in the last year or so, the image quality available for a relatively low cost has taken a quantum leap.
It reminds me of when Logic and other comparable softwares made audio recording, editing, and mixing available at a more reasonable cost than with Pro Tools, which required that you use their expensive hardware. Pro Tools eventually responded to the competition’s populist approach with more reasonably priced hardware setups, but the cat was out of the bag. It was possible to record audio at home, on a laptop even, at the same quality as in a professional studio.
As others have pointed out, the required gear — mics, headphones, A to D converters, amps, speakers, etc. — is far from free. And though the costs are significantly less than they once were, much of the gear still remains out of reach for many young artists. The investment need be made only once though, whereas the cost of using a professional recording studio must be shouldered every time an artist goes in. I continue to pay for a recording studio from time to time, mostly for the skills and the fresh, creative ears of the mixer, recorder or producer.
On the way to Aspen, in Newark Airport, I used the restroom, and there was a man in the neighboring toilet talking on his cell phone. Of course, everyone could hear what he was saying — not that it made much sense, as we all just heard one side.
There’s free Wi-Fi at the Denver airport, which is a nice, sensible touch. But to my surprise, one of my habitual surfing sites has been blocked. I’m not totally shocked that alleged nudity might be blocked (if there is nudity on the Boing Boing site it’s pretty rare and likely to be arty or ironic), but I’m perplexed by the implication that all blogs and wiki sites are suspect!
Back in NYC however, Danielle explains that not all blogs and wikis are blocked, just those filtered by Secure Computing’s web censorware product called SmartFilter. According to Boing Boing co-editor Xeni Jardin,
“[…]SmartFilter isn't very smart. Secure Computing classifies any site with any nudity — even Michaelangelo's David appearing on a single page out of thousands — as a ‘nudity’ site, which means that customers who block ‘nudity’ can't get through." (see blog post here)
Turns out, Secure Computing and other similar companies have sold their products to government-controlled monopoly Internet providers in places like Kuwait, Oman, and Sudan to name a few, effectively blocking access to filtered sites — like Boing Boing — for entire countries. Xeni wrote an op-ed in the NY Times on the issue, which you can find here.
We transfer to the small plane to Aspen. It arrives over Aspen about twenty-five minutes after takeoff, but there is low visibility, so we can’t land. The plane circles for an hour over the clouds and then we have to fly back to Denver. The airline people tell us the next available flight is twenty-four hours later, so we all scramble to look for ground transportation. A wild man with a van is outside soliciting passengers; as the busses aren’t leaving for hours, a group of us pile in and we leave as soon as the van is full.
As we ascend into the mountains the snow begins falling and the roads are increasingly covered in snow. After an hour or so it’s dark, and the road is a white path amidst a white landscape. The Vail Pass is pretty outrageous, with falling and blowing snow and pretty low visibility. Every time we hit a bump the interior light in the van blinks on and off. The kid next to me is getting restless — after about 3.5 hours, he routinely asks how much further and how much longer. It’s annoying, but he’s only articulating what the rest of us feel.