WORD UP: Watch The Emmy-Nominated Documentary Short “Ars Magna” & Vote


an·a·gram  /ˈanəˌgram/

A word, phrase, or name formed by rearranging the letters of another, such as cinema, formed from iceman.

In 2008, I was working at a bakery/cafe in the Wallingford district of Seattle.  [Hint: it was the Essential Bakery Cafe on 34th St.]  Since then, a lot has changed in both my life and within that business in general.  The brick building, which now only consists of the cafe, used to house the high volume bakery in the back–it has since been relocated across the city.  A handful of delivery trucks would leave throughout the day from the side that was connected to it.  Upstairs was an administrative office and the actual cafe section was in the front, where it still stands.  Providing the only real separation from the front of the house and the much larger, open production area of the facility was a small, yet very productive, kitchen area.  My job was to sell pastries, make espresso related beverages, and take lunch orders from customers that ranged from biological engineers and Dave Mathews (a nice enough guy) to humble, salt of the Earth regulars and uptight, upper-class, new age, REI wearing, hybrid drivers with chips on their shoulders.  All-around wordsmith, Cory Calhoun worked in the kitchen.  His wife Miriam handled human resources.  Cory has been credited with writing the greatest anagram of the 20th century.

I wasn’t aware of the extent of Cory Calhoun‘s lexical prowess until I had already been working alongside him for quite some time, but I did speculate that there was something “up” with him.  The break table was back by the kitchen and, after times when we were especially slammed, dipping back towards that area would provide a short, welcomed break from seeing the clientele munching down on spinach salads and pithiviers.  I’d often find myself speaking with Calhoun, because he’s one of those random individuals that I can hold entire conversations with that are based strictly around absurdities.  That, of course, involves a hefty dose of pop-culture references, but, in one extreme case, I’m fairly sure that, we spent the majority of a shift actually communicating through nothing other than the usage of Billy Joel and/or Elton John song titles and lyrics.  That’s why I was only half surprised when a co-worker said to me, “You know that Cory’s an anagram wizard, right?”  Of course I hadn’t, but it did make sense and I was intrigued.  I, myself, am familiar with obsessions pertaining to otherwise trivial mental association puzzles–I had a fairly unhealthy Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon habit back in the Nineties that made it maddening to even walk into a simple video rental establishment (those were stores where you could get your Netflix handed right to you, kids).  That night I went home and google searched “Cory Cahhoun” with “anagram.”  What I found was some really impressive stuff, including the following Kurt Vonnegut quote and anagram:

Original Quote:
Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn’t mean we deserve to conquer the universe.

and here is…

Cory’s Anagram:
A masquerade can cover a sense of what is real to deceive us; to be unjaded and not lost, we must, then, determine truth.
(by Cory Calhoun)

I wanted to feed this machine and see what it did.  So, from then on, I shamelessly asked him to talk about his obsession.  He would randomly throw me a bone, usually with something quick like pointing out to me how “The Sopranos” anagrams into “Shot a person.”  When I’m working at a repetitive job like that, it’s easy for me to get obsessed after finding out that someone else has a quirk or obsession.  This was an interesting one that would keep me entertained for a while (still does).  I was making  “a decaf” once and realized that it anagrammed into “facade.”  The poison was infectious, like the feeling you might get after watching a Kung Fu film and then, starting to believe that you then have the automatic ability to employ the Buddha’s Fist, immediately afterward.  Overall, Cory was much more receptive to my hounding than the Jewish girl that we worked with who I was always trying to get to speak to me about assault weapons and her mandatory tenure as part of the Israeli military.

Coincidentally enough, within a mere week or two of me first discovering that my co-worker was a master wordsmith–not a newly acquired skill for him, by any stretch– a small film crew began coming into our place of work to videotape him as the subject of a documentary.  It was like a miracle at 1604 34th st.  Operating under the moniker of Team Juicebox, the Seattle-based independent filmmaking collective was comprised of at least one member who had been friends with Calhoun for a while and felt that he and his unique skill would be the perfect focus for a project that they had planned to submit into the 2008 International Documentary Challenge being held by the prestigious Hot Docs festival in Toronto–“North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market.”  There were specifics and restrictions related to the contest, as far as length, time-frame to produce it, etc.  The resulting film, Ars Magna, was approximately 7 minutes in length and took 5 days to complete, in total.  From my understanding, the time frame included handling all editing, sound etc.  If you needed to get music cleared or do any post-production, that all had to be completed within that short window.  I happened to be working a shift on one of the days that they were filming the footage and was interviewed.  By taking a darker tone with my answers and providing an element of “danger,” I insured that I was not one of the people to be eventually cut from the film.  Ars Magna went on to win the American Documentary /P.O.V. Short Film award and to air on PBS later that year.  It was even nominated for an Emmy, but ultimately didn’t take home the award.  [I’m not sure who did win, but I do know that it was going against some sort of film about the African AIDS epidemic, which is, apparently, more vital subject matter(?)]

Like a life preserver constructed from Ivory Soap, Cheerios, and Sandra Bullock hope, Ars Magna cannot be sunk and has been resurrected yet again for your viewing pleasure.  It’s not over folks.  Now PBS.org is hosting the PBS 2013 Online Film Festival, which runs from March 4th to March 22nd.  Here are the full details about the festival, taken from the official website:

Check out the PBS Online Film Festival on all PBS digital platforms, You Tube and PBS social media channels.  We are showcasing 25 short films that feature a diversity of subjects, voices and viewpoints.

You will have the opportunity to vote for your favorite short film from March 4 through March 22; the film with the most votes will receive the People’s Choice Award. The winning film will be announced in early April.

Here… watch the goddam film already!

Go and vote for Ars Magna right now!  It’s easy, just CLICK THROUGH HERE!  Don’t be a jive turkey!

[side note: the Jive Turkey was a sandwich that I was inventing, but that never made it onto the Essentially Bakery Cafe’s menu due to the fact that it wasn’t cost effective.]

If you already know Cory, please encourage him to finally finish that fucking anagram book of his.  The guy already had hundreds upon hundreds of them half a decade ago.

For now, check out this other Shakespeare-related anagram of his through Wordsmith.org, by clicking HERE.
Watch the full “Poor Milo” film that was used in his marriage proposal HERE.
And THIS LINK will take you to an old article from the Sidney Morning Herald about Calhoun, as well.

Dead C

Located in Seattle, Dead C is the founder/editor, as well as the principal writer and photographer, of Monster Fresh. Creating the site in 2007, he did so with a specific dream in mind. Unfortunately, being a muscle relaxer-fueled fever dream, it's hard to recall all of the details. "I remember that my mom was there, but it wasn't actually her in the dream, it was actually 70s heart throb, Jan Michael Vincent. And everything took place here, in this room... but it wasn't actually here... it was different. The colors were washed out and, for some reason, there was a raccoon kicking it with us and it was wearing a holographic monocle."

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