Lately my dinner-party conversation has been devoted to the race for the Papacy. Living in a world without a pope is a scary thing. It makes me want to go see Constantine again. I may not have much pull with the cardinals, but I do have a line on a new bookie with a high-speed connection to the Vegas odds. I'm tempted to vote for the Nigerian, I like the Belgian even though he's probably too progressive to win, and at 62 the Honduran is probably too young. The frontrunner has to be the Italian, Dionigi Tettamanzi, if only because he's already got a Microsoft sponsorship (they published one of his books).

Speaking of contests, The Stranger is once again gearing up for its 28 Seconds SIFF Short Film Contest. Contestants need to submit a movie, no longer than 28 seconds, on a VHS screener by April 29, and The Stranger needs to be somewhere in the movie. That's it. The winning movie will screen before the four Stranger- sponsored films at SIFF, with the victor receiving two VIP passes to SIFF and a "scholarship package" from the Northwest Film Forum. The contest is open to amateurs and professionals alike.

And speaking of the Northwest Film Forum, this weekend it's bringing back its ByDesign series. Friday it's hosting Quick Cuts and Split Screens: An Evening with Pablo Ferro. Having designed innovative title sequences and trailers for movies from Dr. Strangelove to Napoleon Dynamite, he's been a master in his profession for decades. On Saturday at noon he'll be teaching a collage-animation workshop, which is an amazing opportunity for young animators and indie filmmakers alike. The series continues with a panel discussion and programs of innovative shorts and music videos.

Sex on Screen returns to Consolidated Works in conjunction with the Seattle Erotic Art Festival. After an opening night of short films on Friday, Saturday kicks off at 5:00 p.m. with a Maria Beatty retrospective highlighting the hardest-working woman in erotica. That'll be followed by a documentary about the myth and power of sluts, and a feature about anonymous gay sex. Sunday is the Lord's day, and it starts with an Andrew Blake retrospective, followed by a conversation with Andrew Blake himself. The festival ends with the documentary DJ Hound Dog, which looks at his messy love life and features cameos by some of the world's greatest DJs.

Speaking of documentaries, Seattle's Deacon of Documentary Film, Lyall Bush, will give a presentation over at 911 Media Arts Center about the birth and evolution of the doc format. The cost is $50, which seemed a little expensive to me until I put it in the context of a public-radio pledge drive. It's no secret that 911 Media Arts has been going through rough financial times. Just like public-radio listeners will pay a little extra for a logo mug or T-shirt, 911 and Mr. Bush are giving the gift of education for your donation. And there are few better teachers around.

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