I got a lot of e-mails and phone calls from friends over the last two weeks asking about the fires in Southern California and whether my family and I were being affected at all. Well, other than being treated to a steady diet of what my friend Kim Morgan calls mesquite-flavored air, we were lucky enough to be far removed from all of the threatened areas. And so it went, thank God, for my relatives in the San Diego area as well. The weekend before the fires erupted, I attended a family wedding in Rancho Bernardo, just north of San Diego. My uncle, the groom, his new bride, and one of my uncle’s daughters (who lost her home in the fires of 2003) all live close by. This time all of them escaped the recent conflagrations with their property and lives unscathed, though I still have no idea whether the hotel where the wedding took place is still standing. And now, as temperatures are expected to heat up again this week, accompanied by another blast of those dry Santa Ana winds, we here in Southern California go about our business praying that some would-be arsonist doesn’t decide it’s time for his 15 minutes, that the winds won’t carry a stray cigarette ember into a brittle, parched patch of grass, that it won’t be our neighborhoods, hillsides and roofs that are lit up next.
Those of you who have read this blog from its humble beginnings may recognize the nom de plume the Mysterious Adrian Betamax. The genially cranky M.A.B. could always be counted on for a sassy comment or two and really helped get SLIFR on its feet in terms of reader participation in the early days. After a long break from putting in his two cents, the M.A.B. recently dropped a couple of comments on some recent posts (the Bunuel Blog-a-thon notice was one, I believe). It was good to hear from him again. And it turns out the M.A.B., who has always had sharp, sometimes oddball, sometimes just plain annoying and contrarian critical facilities at his disposal, has talent as a filmmaker too. During the recent disasters, the M.A.B. ventured out into the burning landscape and turned his camera eye on some horrifying, and horrifyingly beautiful images, for a filmmaking class project. The result, Elements, is a short film edited to Stravinsky’s Concertino for 12 Instruments, a collision of natural beauty, signposts of civilization, and the tragedy of a ravished landscape. M.A.B. (whose real name is revealed in the end credits) displays a keen eye for textured, immediate and jarringly juxtaposed imagery in this, only his second effort as a budding filmmaker. I’m sure he would appreciate any honest reactions, either positive or negative, that you care to submit in the comments thread below. I look forward to seeing him develop his obvious talent with the camera in future projects and continue to hope that he has a far less grave subject to document next time out.