“There was a very cool energy,” said PechaKucha first-timer Kara Safley. “Everybody in the audience seemed open and receptive to the new ideas and different perspectives. You felt kind of like you were a part of something special.” Indeed, the seventh volume of PKN in San Antonio gave eight diverse presenters the stage for just long enough to share something special with audience members and invite all those present to explore a new passion, if only for a few (20, to be exact) moments. (For the run down on speakers and PechaKucha in general, check out this previous post on The Rivard Report.)
1. Lanny Sinkin, Chief Advisor to the King. Beginning and ending with a Hawaiian chant, Sinkin’s presentation traced the history of Hawaii from pre-colonial days to the present. He relayed stories of an established indigenous kingdom, disease and religion brought by foreigners, and the overthrow of the native government, concluding with a look at the birth of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement. “The Hawaiian civilization refused to die,” explained Sinkin. “From the day the Queen was overthrown there have been those who worked to restore the nation.” In recent decades, this movement has gained some momentum, opening Hawaiian language immersion schools, rebuilding traditional fishing ponds, rekindling the appreciation for and practice of hula, and “otherwise [beginning] to put the pieces of the Hawaiian civilization back together.” In Hawaii, Sinkin worked to free the imprisoned native king and leader of a barefoot sovereignty movement, noting that “the odds against him are phenomenal, however, the endurance of the Hawaiian nation from what can legitimately be called attempted genocide suggests that the Kingdom of Hawaii may yet rejoin the community of nations.” Mahalo, Lanny.
2. Aaron Prado, Musician. With the smooth KRTU voice that so many know and love, musician and composer Aaron Prado walked the audience of PKN7 through a piece he composed last year called The San Antonio Jazz Suite. Prado took a page from the book of jazz great Duke Ellington, who often composed music based on his impressions of a particular place. “With Ellington in mind,” Prado said, “I wanted to tell the story of San Antonio using the language of jazz and focusing on the major moments of our history.” With music from each section of the Suite playing in the background, the composer narrated moments of our city’s history captured by his music. The piece began with the birth of San Antonio, when Spanish explorers made contact with the Yanaguana people. The first organized government came next, playful tunes evoking the memory of Canary Islanders sent from Spain to settle the area. The third section conjured the intensity of the Battle of the Alamo before the suite moved on with mariachi melodies announcing San Antonio’s turn of the century growth. Trombones guided listeners through the Riverwalk, up the Tower of the Americas, and into HemisFair ’68. Concluding in a triumphant fanfare, the final two sections explored themes that unite the city and impart hope for the future. A reprise performance of The San Antonio Jazz Suite the will take place on October 7 at Trinity University’s Laurie Auditorium (see KRTU.org for more info).
3. Andrew Porter, Writer. Andrew Porter shared a glimpse of the intimate process of writing and publishing his second book, his first novel. Images of the initial, one-page synopsis of the novel and the contract Porter signed with his publisher gave way to pictures of his workspace: an outside patio complete with books (reading helps him get in the mood to write), coffee (and “backup coffee,” he pointed out, eliciting a laugh from the audience), paper, pen, and faithful dog. “I’ve always written longhand,” he explained, as a picture of a notebook page (and then stacks of notebooks) filled with his handwriting appeared on the screen. He described the lengthy process of editing, selecting a title, and choosing cover artwork that accurately reflects the tone of the book. Publishing Australian, French, and Dutch editions of the book, Porter noted, requires similar and even additional steps. Perhaps the most crowd-pleasing stop along the novel’s journey to publication came in the form of a screenshot: the book’s Amazon.com listing. Concluding with an “aww!” inducing picture of his daughter and the actual book, Porter’s presentation illuminated details of a labor known by few that results in a work enjoyed by many.
4. Nathan Cone, Cinephile. In a total departure from the standard PechaKucha still-slide format, TPR’s Nathan Cone presented 20 brief movie clips. Uniting his slides with the question, “How did they get that shot?,” Cone used every one of his 20 seconds to share filmmakers’ secrets with the audience. Emcee Randy Beamer joked afterwards, “That is the fastest I’ve ever heard a Texas Public Radio guy speak!” From Singing in the Rain, his favorite movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Wings, to The Exorcist, French Connection, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Cone quickly and clearly explained the magic behind shots so beautifully constructed that many never stop to question their production. As his presentation came to a close after what seemed like far too short a time, the room erupted with delight and was left wanting more. Nathan Cone’s presentation was certainly a highlight of PKN7. Let’s hope it’s on YouTube soon!
5. Edwin Blanton, Humanitarian. To Edwin Blanton, changing the world is not as daunting as it first might sound. By his definition, world change can be brought about by “a series of little changes that can culminate to cause a large change. It can be positive or negative, and can be completed in one’s spare time.” Blanton, who co-founded a non profit serving children with disabilities on the Caribbean island of Dominica after volunteering there as a Peace Corps member, shared his six simple, distilled steps to changing the world little by little in an endearingly quirky and charming presentation. “Be naive,” he said; ignore the naysayers and believe you can do the impossible. Be positive and “steer clear of negative people. They can only bring you down and discourage your dreams of changing the world.” Be patient, because “it may take a long time for change to come along.” Be creative, but also, be stubborn in your resolve to realize your goals. And finally, “Sell fleas to a dog; be persuasive,” Blanton said as a picture of a duped golden retriever illustrated just that point. “You can do amazing things and change the world in your spare time.”
6. Mark Oppelt, Architect. An architect by trade, Mark Oppelt used his 20 x 20 to share the story of a place close to his heart: the Land Heritage Institute. The LHI is a living land museum (meaning “everything that’s in the land and on top of it,” Oppelt explained) in south Bexar County near the Medina River and serves to educate the public about the interaction between man and the land. Passionate about the environment and ecosystem of the LHI, Oppelt walked the audience through the history and significance of this area. Forty-five Longhorn cattle comprise one of the living, walking exhibits of the museum. These direct descendants of Longhorns from the 1880s are characterized by a unique triple twist of their horns. The museum features an Ansel Seale exhibit, which beautifully and dramatically illustrates the undeniable relationship between man and the land. The LHI maintains a relationship with AmeriCorps, engaging volunteers to undertake various projects on the premises, including the conversion of an old trailer bought for a buck into a well-designed bunkhouse. Oppelt stressed how the strategic management of relationships and resources has benefitted the Land Heritage Institute, proposing that cultivation, appreciation, and utilization of the two contribute the success of any endeavor.
7. Brooke Harris, Florist. In a polished and informative presentation, florist Brooke Harris spoke to the power of flowers. “The power of flowers is seen throughout all cultures all over the world,” Harris stated, going on to share details of how vibrantly colored flowers are used in ceremonies in India and in many Chinese traditions. She explained how floriography, the language of flowers, flourished during the more emotionally reticent Victorian times as a socially acceptable method of conveying intimate feelings and sentiments. Every part of giving or receiving flowers carried meaning, from the type of flower to the hand with which it was presented. “Flowers are nature’s natural pick-me-ups, … and the results [of a study conducted at Rutgers University] showed that flowers are indeed a natural and healthful moderator of mood.” With the Rutgers research and several other studies attesting to the positive effect of flowers on emotional wellbeing, Harris concluded with a suggestion: “The kindheartedness of the gift of flowers crosses all … boundaries. Just think of what such a small token of thoughtfulness can do. What better way to empower than with flowers.”
8. Davis Sprinkle, Architect. Last but not least, architect Davis Sprinkle presented reflections, images, and video from a recent month-long sojourn on and off a motorcycle through Vietnam. Sprinkle described the building styles as a mix of French colonial and mid-century Communist, with a bit of “do it yourself” architecture thrown in the mix. Upon seeing Angkor Wat in neighboring Cambodia, however, Sprinkle had this to say: “I thought I understood architecture until I came here.” Sprinkle interspersed street video he took of rambunctious school children and silent young monks in training with pictures of terraced rice paddies and propaganda posters. He shared an expression used in Vietnam and Southeast Asia: “Same same but different.” Observing the pictures and hearing the stories of his time there, one came away with the feeling that, though distinct in setting and culture, universalities do exist in the human experience.
The next PechaKucha is scheduled for November 13 and, because many hopeful attendees were turned away last night due to space restrictions, will likely move to a larger venue, perhaps the nearby Pearl Stables. This event contributes in a valuable way to the intellectual and creative capital of our city by dedicating a time and place to the development and dissemination of worthwhile but uncommon dialogues and ideas. In my opinion, an event that accomplishes that is one worth attending, expanding, and replicating.
Miriam Sitz works for Accion Texas Inc., the nation’s largest non-profit microlender. A graduate of Trinity University, she blogs on Miriam210.com and sells handmade goods on TinderboxGoods.com. Follow her on Twitter at @miriamsitz. [Click here for more stories from Miriam Sitz on the Rivard Report.]