I just watched Roma on Netflix.  It transports the viewer to Mexico City in the 1970s.  The cinematography is outstanding, shot entirely in black and white. The plot is compelling and the characters are very real. There is plenty of drama and emotion, but also a lot of tranquil long-held shots without human characters. This gives the built environment a role in the film.  The sets are recreated with exactitude and the soundscape is also compelling.  Combined, these attributes almost place the viewer into the scenes. The indigenous maid, Cleo, plays the staring role, and her relationships with the other characters is quite impactful, and reminiscent of the role played by Viola Davis in The Help.

As an aside, apparently, despite being nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Davis says she regrets doing that role.

Cleo is played by Yalitza Aparicio, a pre-school teacher from Oaxaca, who is making a lot of waves for a first time actress.


Recently Acquired Drone

I’m just learning to fly my new drone and here is a short video I made with some of the initial footage. While it is fairly easy to fly, there is a lot to learn, because it has so many features. This footage was taken from the back yard of the house where my wife’s brothers live in Georgetown, SC. As you can see, there is a great big marsh. It exists upon the remains of the rice paddies that prospered here before the Civil War in what was called the Willowbank Plantation. While you can’t quite see the rivers, they are in the distance. There are two rivers in the marsh: The Black and The Waccamaw. If the drone goes down in the marsh, it is essentially lost forever in the Pluff Mud.

AFI Documentary Festival

AFI DOCS runs June 14–18, 2017, in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD

I have not studied the program in depth, and none of the films that I screened made the festival, but, if you are interested in documentary film, I recommend you buy advance tickets to at least one film. If you do not buy tickets in advance, you will likely be relegated to the stand-by line, which is not as futile as it sounds. Most films screen once in DC and once in Silver Spring.

Here are a few films that did jump out at me:



I note that two films below appear to be showing only once (instead of twice) and also seem to be programed for the smallest theater in Silver Spring (theater 3). Seems like one of the high level programmers thought these were very important films, but not anticipated to appeal to a larger audience.



If you are a serious documentary film buff or an inspiring filmmaker, you may want to check out the AFI Docs Forum. In the past, it has only been for filmmakers and Industry people. You may want to look at the schedule of events. It does not include films (or food) only lectures. It seems like a good deal, although last year all of the forum sessions were streamed live.

Free Topographical Maps

National Geographic has built an easy to use web interface that allows anyone to quickly find any 7.5 minute topo map in the continental U.S.A. for downloading and printing. Each topo map has been pre-processed to print on a standard home, letter size printer. These are the same topo maps that were printed by USGS for decades on giant sized presses but are now available in multi-page PDFs that can be printed just about anywhere.
Click the link to the website below that contains the instructions:

Anacostia River Trail

This extension of the trail is not yet officially open, but there were many people riding it.  We started just north of Benning Road and turned around at the Blandensburg Waterfron Park.  The trail passes the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and some very lovely sections of river and wetlands.  It looks like it could be completed in the next 4-8 weeks. In the meantime, ride the section that goes from RFK to the Nationals Stadium:


Access trail 100 yards north of Benning Road from Anacostia Ave (see green marking on photo below).

Google_Maps AR trail

AFI Documentary Film Festival 2016

As always, there were many great films and short at the festival. My two favorites were Following Seas and Gleason.

Following Seas

1960, Bob Griffith sailed into Honolulu Harbor and met Nancy. Together on the 53 foot cutter Awhanee they spent their lives trying to balance the love of sailing and adventure with the responsibility of raising a family.


Steve Gleason was not your typical NFL football player. After leaving the NFL, he was diagnosed with ALS. At the same time, his wife revealed that she was pregnant. The confluence of these two events and the realization that he might die before his child is even born spurred him to create a video blog, which he initially used to pass along fatherly advice to his yet unborn child. The blog then morphed into this astounding film, which captures not only a father son relationship, but also the unrivaled tenacity of a man confronting a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.