Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

...if it's showed up already where you are or if you've still got a while to wait. Here's a little fireworks show over the NY skyline that I found for you. (Though, it's a little like those cartoons that give kids seizures in Japan....look away.)

Take Me To Your Leader (Now With Hats)

Oh, I'm the leader? Who knew.

Thanks to Janiece, (2nd in command; do my bidding lackey) Murphy, I've been made aware that I'm in charge. That's right, I head up the Uniformed (Currently or Formerly) Counter-Intelligence Force.

Here I was thinking I was being all aggressive and vulgar and stuff just for the fun of it and now I discover that I'm really part of a Tax-funded conspiracy. And we're a big secret. That's why we all have UCF logos on our blogs. And we have T-Shirts. And we give them out to unsuspecting authors at super-stealthy undisclosed locations. Just a note to my fellow conspirators (or should that be underlings?), you all suck at keeping secrets. We're really gonna have to do something about that.

Take a look at the motto. I think our work here is done.

Edited to add: Keith Wilson, spouse of UCFer Kimby has made me this awesome teak Admiral's Hat. (Well he photoshoped it so I can't actually wear it, but I'm totally cutting out a paper version of it to wear to the next super-secret UCF meeting. And while we're on the subject, Michelle, you were supposed to bring the onion dip last time and you forgot. Do that again and you're outta da fambily.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Word About "Recent Comments"

I went looking through some of Blogger's Help stuff and found out that this feature is broken pretty much everywhere in Blogger. There's a couple of different threads complaining about it and someone from Blogger showed up to say they're working on it...but no elaboration in the last day or two.

One person said that the widget stops working when it clocks your 5000th comment. I have no idea, but theoretically it'll either start working again soon or Blogger will notify of a fix.

And We Liked It!

You had rocks in your rock soup? We were lucky to have soup in our rock soup...and we liked it!

Yesterday's post degenerated into one-upsmanship over how tough we all had it when we were kids.

"I had to walk five miles to school, in the snow, barefoot, uphill both ways when I was your age!"

Your challenge today is to prove that today's youth are utter wimps and tell us what agonies you suffered as a child. If you're still a child, you may pretend to be much older.

Our family car was a '57 Studebaker without a motor. Us kids had to push the thing. Dad liked to vacation in the mountains...and we liked it!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Teufel Loves Widget

Yes, he does. You can't see it but Tuefel has his little arm hugging Widget.

And Widget is fond of Teufel but prefers pizza. Hmm. Furry pizza!

New Yorkers Bitch A Lot.

We do. Really. But put yourself in our shoes for a minute and see if you wouldn't bitch too. Think about it. The population here is something like 8 million people. At least half of those are clueless jerks who think the place exists solely for them and nobody else counts.

And I'll admit that tourists pump lots of money into our economy, but can't they just send a check and stay in Omaha? Why must they impede my progress down the sidewalk.

I'm not alone in my disdain for the native assholes and the ignorant visitors. Peruse some of the threads on and you'll find that lots of my neighbors are pissed off and have plenty of time to tell you about it. Here are a few random things you just need to stop doing right now!

1. Golf Umbrellas

They're called golf umbrellas for a really good reason. They belong on a golf course or some other place with a population density of 1 person per 200 square yards. When you walk down a NYC sidewalk with one of these huge things, there isn't room for anyone else. And God forbid, you raise it or tilt it when you walk by me. Nooooooo. It's my fucking job to get out of the way or get poked in the eye so you can stay dry.

2. Baby Strollers

I'm glad you have a baby or two...or three. Yay for you. But guess what. The aisles in the grocery store, the book store and pretty much everywhere else you can imagine were not designed for you and your massive multiple baby conveyance. You are in everyone else's way. If you must take your big-ass stroller with you when you go shopping, how about taking along a friend who can stand out on the sidewalk so you don't need to take your Mack Truck of a stroller into the store. And when you ingnore this request, how about if you at least refrain from leaving the damned thing in the dead-center of the aisle while you trot off to grab whatever you missed in the previous aisle.

3. Walking

Move your ass. Really! This rule has a few parts. First, I get to use the sidewalk too. This means that just because you want to walk three abreast and gawk at the tall buildings doesn't mean it's my job to get out of your way. I'm already walking all the way at the edge of the sidewalk...make some room. (And if I'm behind you, I'm actually going somewhere...I'd like to get there today.)

Second, those "Walk/Don't Walk" signs? They're just a suggestion. If you plan to take them literally, stay on the sidewalk and get out of the way of the rest of us. We tend to look at the traffic and cross the street when there's enough of a gap to get to the other side. (Or even when there's not enough of a gap, but we figure the cars aren't going to just drive over us. Note: This is a rule that changes depending on whether we're being pedestrians or motorists at the moment.)

4. Cell Phones

Feel free to babble as loud as you like on the street. Once you step into a store, theater or bus, shut the fuck up. I don't know you. I'm sure I wouldn't like you if we were introduced. I don't want to hear any of the details of your life. (Those of you having loud conversations without the benefit of owning a cell phone or being with anyone else are excused from this rule. Crazy people add color to the city.)

5. Bitching

I reserve the right to bitch about anything that's annoying me at the moment. You, however, should just stop whining. You're annoying me.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

I Can't Remember What You Call It...

But, then again, you almost certainly call it something different than I do.

This morning, I was deciding what I wanted for breakfast and I decided I wanted that thing where you tear a hole in the middle of a slice of bread and fry an egg in the hole...and I couldn't, for the life of me, remember what the hell you call that. Still can't. On the one hand, it doesn't mean I can't have that thing where you tear a hole in the middle of a slice of bread and fry an egg in the hole. On the other hand, it means I can't tell you succinctly what it was I had for breakfast.

This is driving me nuts. So, the first assignment today is for you all to tell me what the fuck you call that thing where you tear a hole in the middle of a slice of bread and fry an egg in the hole. Odds are that due to regionalisms, you'll all have different answers and it's likely none of them will be whatever the hell I was taught to call that thing where you tear a hole in the middle of a slice of bread and fry an egg in the hole when I was little. (Growing up in Northern MN, Anon GF called it Indian Eyes.)

Anyway, this had got me thinking about regionalisms. We've discussed how I grew up in the South and everything carbonated was a Coke. You guys call it soda, or soda pop, or pop or whatever the hell. Where I grew up, every playground had a sliding board. Odds are some of you grew up calling it a slide...or something else even. I went to college with someone who called it a sliding pond! (First of all, I can't, for the life of me imagine where that comes from, and second...yes, the discussion of what to call the thing was fueled by things ingested.)

So, your second assignment is to tell me your favorite regionalisms. What odd term do you have for stuff that if you used it far from home, nobody would know what the hell you were talking about?


BTW, I was just watching one of the Sunday morning news shows and they were interviewing Illinois' Lt. Governor. He was asked when he had last spoken to the Governor, he answered "August of 2007". Wow!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Bloggity Update.


New template. New banner (now properly attributed so you didn't think I was just threatening you. New profile stuff. I tried adding the feature that let's you rate individual posts, but I don't think it's working. Also, the "Recent Comments" seems to be broken, but I think that a Blogger-wide problem.

I'm still looking at some other templates, so this may change again quickly. Who knows?

Happy Boxing Day.

We don't have Boxing Day here in America. We fought a Revolution a couple of hundred years ago to rid ourselves of the iron fist of tyrannical Royals. In the spirit of the season, though, (and since I don't hold a grudge), I'd like to wish our neighbors to the North a Happy Day of Boxing. Hey, if you guys up there want to keep putting on airs (and heirs) and kow towing to some lady in a funny hat, who am I to tell you different. Go ahead. Be all fake Britishy and stuff.

Anyway, here are some ideas on how you might want to observe the holiday.

If you're thinking of getting a dog, a Boxer makes a lovely addition to the family. They are clearly not members of any of the small yappy varieties of dog and therefore, totally acceptable for Canadians. Their woof even kinda rhymes with aboot.

The following idea would have required a little forethought (and a greenhouse). Today is an excellent day to consume box shaped melons. You can start collecting the wherewithal to be ready for next year.

And please don't forget that the day finds its origins in a religious tradition (don't ask me which; it's your holiday).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

B-B-B-B-B-B-Benny and the Bags.

I don't know if I ever stated this publicly, but I made a rule that I wouldn't re-post anything until this blog was a minimum of one year old. It just seemed to me the height of laziness to fall back on archives when my history is so much less than...historic. But I'm being forced...forced into re-posting a post that I posted in the past (or at least linking it and pointing you there).

Let's do a little background first. You all know that I slavishly check to see how the hell people end up visiting here. The Dominos escapade is a massive draw. I didn't bother posting about it, but I had six separate visits yesterday from Mexico as a result of searches related to Dominos Pizza. They were all from different places and I don't have a clue what Dominos did to piss off so many Mexicans yesterday.

Oddly enough, "stupnagel" and "beat up your car" rate a ton of visits.

When I started this blog, I expected to write whatever brainfart I had on any particular day and then forget about it forever. This, however, is not the case. Believe it or not, Dear Kid at the Grocery Store is my absolutely most popular visit based on oddball searches. This morning, I woke up to Benny the Bag Boy taking me to task for daring to suggest that grocery store baggers might put a little thought into bagging my groceries. Truth be told, I put less thought into that post than many. It was brainfartier than most. But, apparently, I struck a chord with Benny. Benny is pissed at me. I'm not going to make the claim that I've achieved the heights of pissing off children that Mr. Scalzi did with 10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing, but I'm unaccountably proud to have elicited a pissed off reaction.

And I'll cop to the fact that I wrote a point by point refutation of Benny's harangue and then decided it was a whole lot less funny than I thought it would turn I deleted it. Anyway, I do think Benny's comment (actually somehow double posted more than ten minutes apart), is pretty amusing, so just go look there.

In the spirit of Christmas, I hereby consider myself chastised and pwnd by the kid from the ND town with a population of roughly 17, and my French-wine-swilling, Donald-Trump-imitating ways.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Construction Begins!

I'm messing around with the blog. Feel free to comment as random changes magically appear. Also, please note that since I'm a blurter at heart, there will be new postings during this period of visual mayhem. Scroll down to see if anything new has shown up. Hint, hint.

They're Made Out Of Meat.

I'd never seen this before. I deem it excellent!

What's Not To Like?

I have a hard time believing this apartment listing is real, but scroll down and read the Additional Rules/Conditions. You'd think people would be lining up to rent a barred basement apartment with video surveillance and an exercise yard.

Proof Positive That the NY Yankees Are Aliens Who Will Devour You All in the Most Devious Fashion.

It's no secret that I'm a Boston Red Sox Fan and as a result, I view the Yankees as vicious reprobates, but I've noticed something else lately. If you live in NY and watch the local news, you've witnessed the following lately. Each night, there are roughly 23 minutes of local fires, car chases, and shootouts lightly leavened with stories of ECONOMIC DOOM. Then the Sports segment begins, and we're told which new star the Yankees have signed to a multi-million-dollar contract.

I completely buy the logic explaining how the Yankees can afford these contracts at the moment, but I wonder if they're not just copying Chrysler's model of offering huge gas guzzling cars shortly before gas prices soar and the economy implodes. Yes, sports fans are...well, fanatic, but if they're unemployed when April rolls around, are they really going to be springing for tickets?

I know my readers aren't the biggest sports fans around, but I find this to be ironical.

Hey, it's a blurt. Sue me.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Do These Pants Make My Ass Look Big?

I'm planning Extreme Makeover, Blog Edition in the next few days. I'm tired of the look. Brilliant ideas on your part will be entertained. Know any great places to find Blogger-friendly templates? Have any opinions about how the sidebar is set up? Too much there? Too little?

Please remember that cheap (read free) is the way I'll be going and ease of use for the computer-retard (read me) are really important considerations.

A Little Holiday Entertainment

For those of you who have never met a grip, this is a little funnier if you've heard the joke, "How do you tell the grips and electricians apart? - - The electricians take the dishes out of the sink before they piss in it." (I kid!, I kid!)

Hat tip to Totally Unauthorized.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Melange, If You Will.

I probably don't have anything Earth shatteringly new or unique to say on any of the following subjects, but since that's never stopped me before...

NBC sucks. Jay Leno, five nights a week at Ten O'Clock? Are you out of your minds? I find Jay mildly amusing, but the only time I turn on his show now is for his Headlines or Jaywalking features. Once those are over, I switch over to Letterman. So now the guy's going to be on every night at Ten. This means a whole bunch of people who used to work on the scripted shows that aired in that time slot are out of a job. It means one less channel to consider when I decide what to watch at Ten.

Caroline Kennedy wants Hillary's Senate seat. I'm a little conflicted on this one. One school of thought goes like this: What harm could it do to give her the seat? It's like a two-year tryout and then the voters can decide when she has to run for it. I think that's a really stupid school of thought. It presumes she'd be some kind of Intern-Senator and whatever she does for those two years somehow wouldn't count. That's just not the case. For better or worse, she'd be an honest-to-God-real-live Senator for those two years.

On the other hand, talk about a Senator with potential! First of all, she's already got Obama's ear. How many other Junior Senators can get the President on the phone whenever they feel the need? For that matter, how many people around the world aren't going to take Caroline Kennedy's call? And I don't buy the arguments that she doesn't have any record of public service. That's not supposed to be a prerequisite. Show me where it says differently in the Constitution. Jefferson wanted people to serve for brief periods and then return to life on the farm or wherever.

And none of the other names popping up get me overly excited.

And last...I may be a moron. In the last few weeks we've bought two different items that presume they'll be bought by people speaking a plethora of different languages. Instead of including directions in multiple languages, they make the directions in pictographs. These are supposed to be so simple that anyone can understand them. Well, I, for one, have no fucking idea what they say. The Dyson super-duper vacuum cleaner has multiple features that have not been used yet. Some of them, I can't even figure out how to get them off of their nifty storage positions. And that external hard drive I got so I could responsibly backup my computer? All I can get it to copy is all of my applications. None of the documents want to go there. The fact that it comes with a choice of Firewire, USB, mini-USB and some other connection I don't even recognize doesn't help matters either. I'm not one of those people who think we need a national language, but if you're going to sell me stuff in the U.S., can you please tell me how to work the damned things in English? Feel free to repeat the instructions in as many languages as you like.
(Disclaimer: No, I'm not missing the irony of the fact that when they do print instructions in English, I play with the product without reading them first anyway. It's in the chromosomes.)

Edited to add: I'm also eagerly awaiting January when the annual glut of incomprehensible perfume commercials will end. WTF?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Respondez Moi S'il Vous Plait.

I'm getting emails from various film networking website administrators who have happened across my blog. This morning's invitation to join comes from Unusuals. I'm not entirely sure I'll join, (I do mostly Features and not commercials), but hey, it couldn't hurt, could it? This video they have posted about Location Scouting feels all too familiar (with or without the accent).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow Pictures...As Promised...With Bonus Cats!

It was pretty much turning over to rain and sleet and starting to get dark when I shot these, so...

Excuses, excuses.

I don't know if they do this anywhere else (I've never seen it), but NYC has all of its garbage trucks rigged so they can mount a plow. There are some trucks that are dedicated strictly as salt-spreaders and plows, but mostly, they use the garbage trucks. I think that's a pretty bright idea, so we don't end up with a massive fleet of trucks that sit around doing nothing 90% of the time.

And here's some damn cats. You're welcome!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Just How Wordy Am I?

Steve had a post up today titled I've got over a 7000 word vocabulary and I ain't afraid to use it. I suspect that he's shortchanging himself but searching the internet for what the average English vocabulary should be yields results that are all over the place. It actually seems like something of a contentious subject. I think we can at least say that the average High School Graduate should know better than 10,000 words.

In my search, I ran across a vocabulary test I thought wasn't bad. Basically, you just identify the words you recognize at each level. There are ten different screens you go through, each of which shows 6 levels with 10 words in each. When you get to levels 5 and 6 of each screen, there are some pretty obscure damn words there. The fewest amount of words I knew on a screen was 45/60 and the highest was 53/60.

Two things to note:

1. At first, I couldn't see how to get to the test. Then I was amused to see this line:

If you have a problem to see the following tester, please click this link.
Hey, it's a vocabulary test, not a grammar test.

2. They're not really clear about what qualifies as knowing a word. For my purposes, I decided I knew a word if I could use it in a sentence correctly, whether or not I could give a dictionary definition. Example: One of the words was "occiptal". I knew that I could have a doctor say, "His occipital lobe was badly damaged in the accident" without being an idiot. In spite of that, I still had to look it up to be sure it was the rearmost portion of the brain. Thus, I give myself credit for knowing the word. YMMV.

I'll be interested in hearing how the rest of you guys do. It doesn't take as long as it sounds like it would.

BTW. Snow has turned to sleet and rain here. I shoveled right as it was changing over. Pics will be up later.

Winter! Take Two!

So we're getting our first real snow today. It's actually accumulating and if it doesn't turn to sleet or rain, it should stick around long enough to get snowed on again on Sunday. They're predicting 3"-6" here in Brooklyn and closer to a foot of the stuff north of the city. I'll let it pile up a little and then I'll take some pictures for you.

So, I expect to have to actually shovel this time. Granted, I don't have an acre of driveway to clear, but I do have the front steps and the sidewalk in front of the house to deal with. And, ironically, I actually do need to buy milk if I don't want my coffee black tomorrow...and I don't. (Damn, I feel like a cliche'.) Which brings me to a question. Who are those people who show up on the news every freakin' year buying a snow shovel the night before the first snow. Salt, I can understand. It gets used up (even though I've still have some leftover from last year). But shovels? Do these people throw out their shovels at the first sign of spring? Has there been some massively wondrous development in snow shovel technology that I haven't heard about? Is there one with a heated blade that makes it go through ice like butter? I've had the same snow shovel for about 5 years if memory serves. It still shovels snow as well as it did when it was brand new, by which I mean it still won't operate itself. I'll buy that shovel when it comes out.

Check in later for pictures of NYC looking all bucolic and shit.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

13th Child: The Legend of a Crappy Movie

A while back, I mentioned my huge windfall in the form of a residuals check earned for working on 13th Child, The Legend of the Jersey Devil. And while I alluded to what an awesometastic movie this is, I didn't really get into many particulars. Let us remedy that situation.

When I talk about a production, I'm talking about the cast, the crew, and the actual process of making a movie. There are certainly wonderful productions that for some reason or other, result in less than stellar movies. I'm sure there are soul-suckingly horrible productions that somehow result in excellent movies. But usually, if you have a supremely crappy production, the odds are pretty good that the resulting movie will achieve appalling levels of craptasticness.

13th Child, Legend of the Jersey Devil is such a movie. (It occurs to me that if someone was mining reviews for blurbs to promote the movie, they could use the previous sentence completely out of context. Go ahead. You're welcome to it.)

First, let's start with a question: Just what the hell is the Jersey Devil. Here's one description of how the monster came to be.

The origin of the creature dates back to the 18th century. The story goes as follows: when Mrs. Leeds, an indigent woman living in secluded poverty with her twelve starving children, found out she was to have another child exclaimed: "I don't want any more children! Let it be a devil." When the child was born, it was horribly deformed. It crawled from the womb and up the chimney and out into the woods. It is rumored to have fed on small children and livestock while haunting the area for years to come. Hence, the creatures other name is the Leeds Devil.
Another version says that the Jersey Devil was the 13th Child of a Lanape Shaman who was murdered and mutilated by a British Soldier during the Revolution.

The legend goes on to describe the monster as standing 6-7' tall, having the head of a horse, with dragon wings and claws and a vaguely reptilian body. O.K., as monsters go, this seems like a fine one to have haunt your movie.

Note: According to IMDB, this movie had a Premiere and a limited release at the end of 2002 and came out on video in 2003. I do know that they had a lot of problems and had to do a lot of re-shoots, so that jibes with my memory that we probably shot this thing in the summer of 2000 or 2001. Some things you don't want to remember so well.

Back to our narrative. We shot most of this film in Batsto Village in New Jersey's Pine Barrens. Granted, this is not an area surrounded by luxury resorts, but my first hint that this might not be any fucking fun at all came when I drove up to our hotel. I couldn't find an actual picture of the motel, but this one is a very fair representation. Imagine arriving there...home for the next 8 weeks.

In all fairness, the folks who owned and ran the motel were a very nice bunch of people, but no offense, the place was a dump. If this were the actual motel, my room would be on the ground floor on the "L" portion and our "office" was a double sized room in the middle of the long section. I had my desk right up to the big giant window, where I had a most excellent view of the parking lot and the two lane highway out front.

I'm not going to rag on the crew too much. When you're making a low budget picture, you hire a lot of people who are trying to take a step up the ladder or to break into film in the first place. Experience and talent usually take a back seat to a willingness to work cheap. If you check through some of the credits, you'll see some people who have gone on to have fine careers and a bunch who seem to have disappeared from production almost entirely. Most of the Producers certainly have.

The one thing I'll hang on the crew is that they were all really young and all really drove like crap. My unobstructed view of the parking lot allowed me to witness uncountable instances of them driving our vehicles into each other while leaving in the morning or returning at night. Somehow, the damage was always just a few scant dollars less than our deductible. There was a shop just down the road that was doing repairs for us. At one point, I called to tell them we had another repair for them. The owner told me he already had three of our vehicles in the shop and he didn't have room for any more until he was done with those. He did suggest that if I left this one at the motel, maybe it would get hit again and do enough damage for the insurance to actually kick in.

No, let's talk about the Producers. I don't think we started shooting with any more than possibly half of the financing in place. The producers were constantly kiting the production on their credit cards and one of them had to personally hand over every check after confirming with the bank that their balance would cover it. I know that there were numerous versions of the budget, and even the one I was privy to had entire sections deleted. This was an interesting way to work since a U.P.M.'s main job is to keep the picture on budget. The most commonly asked question on this show was, "Can we meet payroll?"

For weeks leading up to the first day of shooting, I'd been shopping around for deals on the equipment and found rental houses who were willing to make us some pretty sweet deals. Since we were a completely independent company with absolutely zero credentials to point to, all of these companies wanted some fairly large deposits before they'd let us take out any of the equipment. Nobody likes getting stiffed. Fair enough. The first shot on the first day of production was scheduled to be a 100' dolly shot. The only problem was that the producers hadn't coughed up the deposit for the rental house providing the dolly. If I recall correctly, the dolly arrived on set just before they broke for lunch on Day 1.

Nobody ever knew the full details about the financial precipice this movie was made on, but the crew were certainly aware that the money was a day to day concern. Because of this, I considered getting them paid my number one priority. On most any movie, we use payroll companies. For a small percentage of the payroll you run through them, they become the employer of record. It's a sensible arrangement in movies since most production companies are formed to make one movie and then eventually cease to exist.

So, you calculate the payroll for the week and send all the timecards and a check for the total to the Payroll Service. They issue paychecks for everybody and do all the withholding and other stuff. At the end of the first week, I asigned one Production Assistant to drive to NYC and be waiting at the Payroll Service's door when they opened at 9:00 a.m. This P.A. was instructed that her sole job was to pick up the paychecks and then drive back to our office as quickly as possible. She was not to stop anywhere on her way back. If she needed to eat, she could go to a drive-through, but she was not permitted to be physically separated from the paychecks and neither of them were to get out of the car for any reason until she was back at the production office. (I literally instructed her to pee before she left the city and to hold it if she had to go again before arriving at her destination.)

There was only one hitch in this plan. The producers knew that the crew was worried about being paid and they thought it would look much more heroic if they were able to personally hand out the paychecks at lunch. So, without telling me, they also showed up at the Payroll Service and intercepted the paychecks. Then they proceded to do other business in NY. At 1:00 p.m., when we broke for lunch, they weren't back from the city yet. At 1:45 p.m, when it was time to go back to work, they still weren't back from the city. The crew had a little meeting. The crew decided that they wouldn't actually leave but they weren't going back to work until the paychecks arrived.

So they sat. They played touch football. They played cards. They drank coffee and ate snacks. They did not touch any lights or cameras or any of the other things you'd usually associate with making a movie. The producers arrived with the paychecks a little before 7:00 p.m. If I recall, there were heated discussions about whether or not the crew had been on the clock during their sit-in and/or whether or not to attempt to shoot anything more that evening once they had been paid. I'm pretty sure we just called a wrap so we wouldn't have to push the following day's call time.

Another wonderful thing about the producers was their firm belief that every problem under the sun can be solved by screaming at it. This production was the home of much waving of arms, gnashing of teeth, throwing things and raising the decibel level. Pleasant, it wasn't.

One nice thing I have to say about this show was that both Christopher Atkins and Cliff Robertson are two of the nicest actors I've ever worked with. The "suites" in this motel were immediately adjacent to the production office, so the first time I met Chris was when he walked into the office the morning after his arrival in his boxer shorts, scratching his belly and asking if there was any coffee. He actually only had one scene to shoot in the first few days, so I got to know him pretty well while he was just hanging out at the motel with nothing else to do. One day, he asked if I wanted to see a picture of his (then) wife. I'm a personable guy so, of course I said "sure". He then pulled a miniature laminated version of this out of his wallet:

Yes. At the time, he was married to the covermodel of the October 1981 Australian version of Playboy and he just loved seeing peoples' reactions when he showed them that picture.

Lastly, I'm going to leave you with just a little of this movie for your viewing displeasure. I found it on YouTube and I had a little trouble deciding which of the 10 minute clips to show you. It was a hard choice. All of it is paced like a glacier. All of it is really dark and shaky lest you get a good look at the laughably bad "guy-in-a-monster" suit, or any of the effects that just didn't work. (At one point I remember us shooting what was supposed to be a big explosion in a pond that looked more like a medium sized fart in a bathtub.) Eventually I decided to give you just the end of the movie with the credits so you could at least watch my name scroll by (3:37 into the clip). Unfortunately, they've disabled embedding, but here's a link to the clip.

The other reason I've pointed you at that clip are two important things in it. One: At the very end, they mention that all of the deer that are mutilated in the movie "were collected as roadkill" with proper permits. Yum. Two: The actual title of the movie is 13th Child: The Legend of the Jersey Devil Volume 1. Holy shit. The threat of a sequel? Now that's scary!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Contradiction Occurs To Me.

Above the salt...a phrase indicating social stature. Salt was an extremely valuable commodity and not to be wasted on hoi polloi (A "the" would be redundant so I resist the urge.) Salt was so valuable as to be used as currency. And yet..

Another popular phrase of the time was to salt the earth, rendering fields...well, the opposite of arable, (a word that eludes me at the moment).

Where the hell did they get enough salt to salt someone's fields?

And The Moratorium Ends.

Just how fucking stupid is everyone associated with this commercial? Watch it and then tell me if you see the little detail that eluded the actors, the director, the agency, the client, the script supervisor, the key grip, the gaffer, and the craft service guy?

The last thing the actor does is point behind the camera to what the original blast zone was supposed to have been. It's a fucking news crew. They always set up the shot with the talking head in the foreground and the object of the story in the background. If they've got their backs to what they think is the story, just what the fuck are they supposed to be looking at?

Answers To The Great Questions of Our Time

Note: I found this on an otherwise blank page, so I have no idea who to credit.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


We're having our first snow of the season that's actually sticking to anything!

Cool beans!

(Teufel and LuLu were sort of mesmerized this afternoon watching their first snow, but since it wasn't sticking, that didn't count.)

A Quiz To End All Quizzes.

I know some of you are compulsive. Go ahead. Tell me what you think of this quiz!

Hey, It's Content, Isn't It? (With Science!)

I mentioned yesterday that I had taken some pictures to put on the blog, but I thought they might suck. So I wasn't sure I'd post them. Well, here's the deal. First of all, the weather was less than cooperative, providing me with a less than spectacular sunset to shoot. Second, (and here's the science, guys), I neglected to take the Earth's axial tilt into account. This, unfortunately means that even if the sunset had been spectacular yesterday, it would have been setting far to the south, over Staten Island instead of behind Manhattan. Due to the fact that Staten Island is particularly un-photogenic, this is would not be optimal under the best of circumstances.

While contemplating the non-blog-worthiness of my photos, I came to the conclusion that sucky pictures from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade are better than no pictures from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. So, here, without further ado, I present to you...Mah Pikturs! (Note: I shall try this again in the summer when the Earth cooperates by leaning a little bit more in the right direction. Thanks Earth.)

Here's a map showing where I took the pictures from. If you embiggen the map, look at the spot where the second "O" in "Brooklyn Queens Expressway" is located. That's where I was. (Note: Blogger approves of the way I spelled embiggen.)

Here's the entrance to the Promenade at the foot of Montague Street.

While we're here, let's just take a moment to look at this house at the corner of Montague and Columbia Heights. I've been jealous of the folks who live there since the first time I saw it. They've got one of the best views anywhere in NYC.

This is a view down the Promenade looking toward the Brooklyn Bridge with the Empire State Building in the background.

And just in case you were wondering how I stood in the middle of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, this shows how the Expressway runs in two levels under the Promenade. You can't see them, but there are three lanes running in each direction.

Here's 180º pan of the view. Embiggen this one too. One of the things worth noticing is that the piers in the foreground used to all have ginormous warehouses on them. Those have been torn down and the whole area on this side of the river is going to be remade into a park...with grass and stuff.
The water in the foreground is the East River (which isn't really a river at all since it connects the Long Island Sound to NY Harbor). The Hudson River is the water you can't see on the far side of Manhattan.

This picture shows Governors Island (no apostrophe necessary) with the Statue of Liberty behind it. Note that the view of the statue from New Jersey is of her ass. Take that New Jersey!

The white building you see on the left side of the frame is the ventilation tower for the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

That white boat is the Governors Island Ferry. The Governors Island Ferry Terminal is the three arched greenish things you see toward the center of the picture.

And the Staten Island Ferry Terminal is the one directly south of there.

Oooooh! Two ferries crossing in the harbor.

And look! The sun setting somewhat unspectacularly over Staten Island (that land mass behind Governors Island).

If the sun had set in a more dramatic fashion and/or a little further north in the sky, you'd see all sorts of gorgeous glow-y action on these buildings. Trust me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bad Blogger!

It's almost 9:30 and I didn't post a damned thing today. I did go out and took some pictures that were intended to be part of a post. I haven't looked at them yet, but I suspect they may suck.

I'll look at them tomorrow and decide whether or not they're usable. We'll see.

I will pass on one thing that happened today. I was at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. That's a spot with a great view of Lower Manhattan, The Brooklyn Bridge, and The Statue of Liberty. While I'm standing there, a woman walks up to me and with a heavy Caribbean accent asks if that's the city. I said yes and she said it was her first time seeing it. When I asked her where she was from, she said, "Flatbush". For those of you who don't know, Flatbush is a Brooklyn neighborhood about 3 miles from where we were standing. I asked her where she lived before Flatbush, she said she'd lived there all her life.

So here's a woman (she looked to be in her 30's) who's lived in Flatbush all her life and she's never seen Manhattan before. Don't get me wrong, I love Brooklyn. But you know what? There are things about living here that are hard. And if I wanted to go 30-odd years without seeing Manhattan, I sure as hell would do it somewhere cheaper and easier than Brooklyn.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Our Big-Ass Awesometastic Wreath...

isn't too shabby at night either!


I don't claim any particular genius when it comes to knowing who's who in national politics. Until a week or so ago, I don't think I'd ever heard of Rod Blag...Blago..the Governor of Illinois. I created this little quiz for you to test your knowledge of current and past politicians in the U.S.

I don't think you have to sign up for anything heinous to take the quiz, but if you do, let me know in the comments and I'll ditch the evil thing.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Our Big-Ass Awesometastic Wreath...

is all hung up!

I braved the wilds of Brooklyn yesterday to go get this. There was traffic to dodge. Wild animals and children had to be overcome. An old lady had her eye on this wreath, but I was not to be denied!

And then hanging it up was waaaay more of a production than it should have been. But it's up now. And guess what? It ain't coming down until at least two weeks into January.

Update: Visiting Vince's blog has made me feel like a total slacker.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue. "

If you read the comments for yesterday's post, you'll know that I'm currently the subject of a self-imposed F-bomb moratorium...which sucks a little, considering...

Nothing long and involved here for the moment but I just wanted to point out how amused I am by the number of people who seem to be equally offended by Gov. Blagojevich's liberal use of the F-bomb as they are by the various felonies he's accused of. I mean it's one thing to sell Senate seats, but for the love of all that's holy, please watch your language!

Think of the Children!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

God! This Shit Just Tires Me Out.

...he said with the faintest whiff of irony.

I rarely do serious because, frankly, I don't do it all that well. I tend to ramble. I'm waaaay too lazy to do a bunch of research. I'm keenly aware that I'm just one more schmuck on the internet and why should anybody give a shit what I think?

Today, I'm doing serious. Well, my version anyway.

Those of you who know me, know that I grew up in an observant Jewish home and I still self-identify as Jewish, but of the utterly unobservant variety. I'm not Atheist and I don't think I'm Agnostic. I'm fairly certain I believe there's a God. Here's a short (incomplete) list of some things I believe about God.

-He's the same God everybody else believes in regardless of what they call him
-His ego doesn't require that I praise him. He's really secure like that.
-He's got enough people asking him for crap all the time. He won't miss it if I don't join in.
-He doesn't really care if I have cheese on a burger or think shrimp is totally yummy. (O.K. he might care, but shrimp is really really delicious so, hopefully he'll give me a pass on that one.)
-He's so Almighty, he was capable of Intelligently Designing a world where Evolution is just how shit works.
-He may have been a Details Guy once upon a time, but now he just checks in every once in a while and lets us sink or swim on our own. (That whole Noah and the Flood thing was sort of like a kid growing bored with how the ants were tunneling in their ant farm. Hey! Let's shake this sucker up and see what they come up with if they have to start over again.)
-He doesn't really care whether or not I believe in him. (See item 2)
-He doesn't give a rat's ass who wins any sporting event (except when the Red Sox are playing, but even then he's got a rule against interfering).
-There may or may not be a Heaven. People who live their lives solely for the sake of going there really piss him off.

So that's the short list. And what, pray tell, prompts me to bother you with this? Only the annual You stole Christmas-I want a Menorah-Look at my Yule Log-Pagans did it first-Name your offended sensibility Season. Yesterday, Jeri threw out a little post about the annual controversy and a display put up by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. I don't plan to talk about that one specifically. Go read it there.

No, I want to talk about how every year, a bunch of rude, self-important assholes of every variety seem to make it their goal in life to fuck up everybody elses' December. It turns into taking what should be a really enjoyable part of the year and doing everything they can think of to fill it with angst and anxiety and confrontation. How did we get here?

Let's start with a common assertion that is wrong, wrong, Wrong, WRONG, WRONG! Regardless of which religious argument taking place, there are a bunch of people who start out with the assertion that this is a Christian Nation and somehow, they're just letting the rest of us live in it. Well, it's not a Christian Nation. Christianity is certainly the dominant faith in our society, but the Founding Fathers went out of their way to set things up in a fashion that prevents Christians from lording it over the rest of us. (Note: Anyone who steps in from the cold to argue that point with me will not get an argument from me. You're just wrong. You're as wrong as you'd be if you tried to tell me I won't get wet if I stand in the rain. You're as wrong as you'd be if you tried to tell me I can breath on the moon. Get it? You're just wrong. Stop saying that.)

Anyway, despite what the Founding Fathers set up, Christians basically lorded it over the rest of us for the first 170 or so years of our history in an unofficial sort of way. Then, during the Cold War, in an effort to differentiate ourselves from Godless Communists, God started showing up in all sorts of official places like our National Motto and the Pledge of Allegiance, etc. etc. A few spoil-sport Athiests started complaining almost immediately, but in a fairly quiet sort of way, cause, ya'know, they may have been Godless, but they sure as hell didn't want to be called Communists. And besides that, nobody was listening to them because...well, they're Godless!

Now all along, every Town Hall and Court Bldg. and you name it, had been blithely going along putting up their Christmas decorations every year and, for the most part, nobody complained becuase....well, just because. That's the way things had always been.

Eventually ( and I don't know when---remember that lack of research thing?), somebody did complain. I have no idea who complained first or when. Coulda been some Jew. Maybe the Atheists. Possibly Space-Wiccans from the Planet Solstice. Doesn't matter. Let the court cases fly!

Now, the (incomprehensible) rules are that if anybody gets to put up their decorations, everybody gets to put up their decorations. But all of the decorations have to be some generic non-blatantly-religious celebration of the season and it can't offend anyone elses' beliefs and it can't push your own beliefs and yadda, yadda, fucking yadda.

A little aside here: This seems to be something of a four-horse race here. Christians, of course have Christmas. Jews have Channuka, which, truth be told, is a really really minor Festival, but just happens to fall at the same time of year. Wiccans and Pagans and I guess some other people have the Winter Solstice. And Athiests don't have anything in particular except an aversion to having any of that other shit forced down their throats. (I have no idea what a Ramadan display looks like, but I'd be interested in seeing what would happen if a bunch of Muslims showed up at City Hall with a few decorations at the end of next summer. On second thought, one shitstorm a year is enough.)

It's been suggested (and I mostly agree), that none of these religious displays belong on public property especially if they're paid for with public funds. I mean honestly, aren't there enough Churches and Synagogues and private homes around that get decorated? I light a Menorah for Channuka and it doesn't offend my girlfriend. (It doesn't have any deeply religious meaning for me; it's just kind of festive and homey.) We also usually hang a fairly big wreath over the front door and I don't feel the least bit oppressed by it. (We don't put any lights on it, but that's only because there isn't a convenient outlet to plug them into.)

Stores and businesses are free to decorate any way they want to, although if they choose to cater to one religion to the exclusion of all others, they shouldn't be surprised if those they ignore choose to ignore them right back.

So where the hell am I going with all this? This is my impassioned plea to everyone to just grow a little thicker skin and Shut The Fuck Up about it all already. As much as I'd like to see all of it eliminated from public property, that's just not going to happen any time soon. There's a reasonably fair balance now and just how the hell does it hurt or coerce me if there's a fucking tree in front of City Hall. Hell, I grew up when Nativity Scenes were the norm at public buildings and while I think it's apprpriate that they've toned that down, I also have no memory of Baby Jeses ever leaping out of the manger and going all Chucky on my ass.

And I don't really have a problem with different towns and neighborhoods putting up lights and wintery decorations and the like. Hey, I'm bummed enough that it gets dark ten minutes after my second cup of coffee. Go ahead and cheer up the joint a little.

The way I see it, every time one of us starts hollering about what should or shouldn't be included, we're simultaneously depriving someone else of their cherished traditions. Does it really hurt so badly to have a cashier say Merry Christmas to you even if you don't celebrate the holiday? She's just being nice and friendly to you. Get over it.

The guy who owns one of the Delis in my neighborhood is Muslim. He knows damned well I'm Jewish. If I walk in there on December 25th, he's going to wish me a Merry Christmas and offer me a shot of brandy, just like he does every year. How dare he trample my rights like that, the evil fuck?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Breaking News of the Really Stale Variety.

It has come to my attention, that as of 22 years and 290 days ago, I am no longer eligible to be drafted by the Selective Service Administration. I don't know how I let that slip by without due notice.

Granted, I didn't have a blog then...or a computer...or any concept of the internet.

Well, better late than never. That's one less thing on my mind.

So I Loaded Up the Truck and I Moved to Beverly...Hills That Is. Swimming Pools. Movie Stars.

Yup, that's right! I'm about to come into untold riches. A life of ease and recreation is right around the corner. Phillip sent me the following email this morning. This is copied and pasted directly from the email, so no creative spelling on my part.

good day my name is mr philip cole from the south africa i will like to
inform you that your email address was among the 50 lucky emails that
was selected under the 17,million us$ contract payment concering the
2010 world cup that is coming up in south africa please keep this
confidential becaurse of some security reasons,And I most not fail to
tell you that this fund will involve a lot of documents so a sum of
$2800, US$ only will be paid by you please bear that in mind before
get back to me but right now you are advice to get back to me along
with your.

1,your full name
2, your mobile phone number
3, your home address
4, your occupation
5, your position
6, your age
7, your sex
8, marital stutus
9, a copy of your international passport
10 your driven license

i am waiting to hear from you as soon as your receive this email

Oops, I was supposed to keep this confidential becaurse of some security reasons. Only I could blow an opportunity like this. Shit!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Eight Things They Didn't Teach You in Film School...

Granted, most people who read this blog either aren't in the Film Biz, or Film School is in their distant past, so this post will be of limited utility to them. On the other hand, I expect someday to be recognized as an Eminent Authority, thereby making this post incalculably valuable to future readers who will seek it out from my archives. To you, future reader, I say, "You're welcome".

1. Lots of people make a lucrative career doing Craft Service.

Yeah, sure! You went to school to become a Director. Maybe you're willing to settle for being a Director of Photography, but that's as far as you're willing to compromise your dreams. Good for you.

Guess what? The vast majority of people on a set are not the Director...and odds are you won't be either. Do yourself a favor. Stay after a movie and watch the credits. There's about 10 minutes of peoples' names whizzing by who all worked on the movie and didn't direct it. Those are good gigs. And the Director is fucked if they're not really good at their jobs.

Unless you're really special, you'll end up doing one of those jobs instead of directing. In fact, unless you're fairly special you'll end up selling auto parts or insurance or fixing computers. (I'm making no value judgment about selling auto parts or insurance or fixing computers; I'm just saying that people who do those things do not decide what Harry Potter is going to say in the next movie.)

2. Getting a job on a movie does not mean you get to watch the movie get shot.

For the vast majority of people, getting your first job means being a Production Assistant. There are P.A.'s in pretty much every department and none of them are getting paid to watch the movie get shot. Maybe you're working in the office. The closest you'll get to set is when you get the honor of running paperwork to the Producer on location. Maybe you're working in Wardrobe...doing laundry in the trailer.

If you're in Production, you might be herding the extras back and forth between the set and the Holding Area. If you're a Set P.A., you're doing lockups; making sure the crew knows when to be quiet for a take, keeping civilians from inadvertently walking into the shot. The fact is, if you're in Production, your proper position is with your back facing the set. If you're not looking outward, odds are you're not doing your job.

3. Be careful what you say on your resume.

This is pretty universal advice, but it bears saying anyway. And it actually falls into some sub-parts.

A.) Don't lie about what you worked on. I've been handed resume's by people who claimed to have worked in the Locations Dept. on movies where I was the manager. I didn't remember them. Fail!

B.) Don't inflate the scope of your involvement. If you were a day-player on a movie, make that clear. It's no strike against you and people resent it when you try to make it look like you were on for the run of the show.

C.) Don't try to puff up the importance of your job. If your resume' says you "balanced and accounted for Production Expenses", I'll assume you reconciled your Petty Cash. Big Fucking Deal. If your resume' says you "oversaw the comfort and well-being of Executives", I'll assume you picked up the Producer's dry cleaning and called in the lunch orders. If your resume' says you "interfaced with the public to facilitate the filming process", you were doing lockups.

Just give your job title, the department you worked in, and your department head. Those of us who are hiring know what's involved in the job.

4. Garbage Maintenance (Note: this applies to all P.A.s on commercials but only Locations P.A.s on features.)

A.) Any trashbags larger than small kitchen bags need to be the heavy-duty contractor bags. You may either take my word for this or learn it the hard way the first time you find yourself wearing the contents of some flimsy-ass bag.

B.) When you call your garbage company to have the dumpster swapped out for an empty one, they won't get to you for a day or two. Plan ahead.

5. Toilets

A.) There's no such thing as too many toilets.

B.) Portable toilets are just plain nasty. Get Production to spring for the best ones available.

C.) Occam's Razor does not apply to clogged toilets in Extras' Holding. It will be clogged for the stupidest, most complicated reason imaginable. (I once had to call in a plumber to snake the pipes and discovered that an extra had tried to flush a pair of underwear.)

6. Permissible Deceptive Behavior.

There's a common misperception that most people on set just stand around all day. While it is true that there's a lot of standing around involved, that's because things happen in stages. Electric may not look like they're doing anything, but that will be because they're staying out of the way while the set gets dressed. And the Set Dressers have to wait for the Director and D.P. to finish blocking the scene. The Sound Department obviously has nothing to record until the camera rolls. These people all have a good reason to be waiting to do their jobs. You don't!

O.K. fine. Maybe you really don't have something to be doing every minute of the day. I suggest, however, that you create the appearance of having something to do every minute of the day. You don't want to be seen sitting. You may be only heading to Craft Service for another cup of coffee, but walk there purposefully! Aimless wandering should be done as if it is a mission!

Trust me. If you spend the first eight hours of the day purposefully scurrying about, the first time the Producer will notice you is when you decide to spend a few minutes flirting with the cute extra at Craft Service. Fair? Hell no. But you will be judged harshly for this momentary lapse.

7. Beat your boss to work, (but don't be annoying).

Being on time is a cardinal rule of any job, but especially for jobs in film. If your boss has to do something that is your job because you're even 5 minutes late, your boss will hate you. Your boss already worked his way up the ladder, having done the shit jobs when he got started. He has hired you for the express purpose of doing the shit jobs so he won't have to do them any more.

Having said that, your main purpose in beating your boss to work is so that you are seen to have beaten him to work. Asking him what he wants you to do is asking him to work before he's ready. He's there early to have a quiet cup of coffee with nobody bugging him. If you make him start working earlier than he's ready, you're annoying the shit out of him. As long as you've been seen, you've succeeded. He'll start bossing you around when he's ready. (Also, review Number 6.)

8. Thou shalt not Fuck up.

Studio Executives are notorious for Fucking Up. They make Big Decisions. Those Big Decisions often have disastrous unforeseen consequences. They get fired. They reappear three weeks later with a better job at a different Studio. They have Fucked Up.

You, however are not being paid to make decisions, much less Big Decisions. You are being paid to do exactly what the fuck your boss told you to do...nothing more, nothing less. You are expected to follow instructions to the letter and not to take initiative...except when you're expected to take initiative. Since it is entirely impossible to magically divine those situations where initiative is expected, this rule is a total crap shoot. You'll probably get this one wrong at least as often as not. Fair? Hell no. But its a fair bet that nobody in Film School told you about this and I just did. And I'm not even charging you anything.

You're Welcome.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Just How Boring Can I Be?

Plenty boring, thank you very much. I've been trying to think of something to blog about this morning and I'm coming up empty. I did find this nifty site where you can listen to Captain Picard say stuff. And sure, it's nifty, but I can't get an entire post out of it.

I thought about telling you all the difficulties I ran into yesterday shopping for the most basic crap in life, but frankly, I bored myself just thinking about it.

We got a little snow yesterday, but it didn't stick, so it's not yet time to show you Brooklyn as a winter wonderland.

Dinner came out fine last night, so no horror stories there.

And the plan for today isn't all that exciting (at least to anyone but GF and I). We're going shopping for a new range. We want one of the dual-fuel ranges. I love cooking with gas and having gas available for broiling, but baking in a gas oven is problematic...setting our current oven's temperature is more of an art than an exact science. The one thing that should be fun is that I can't remember the last time I shopped for a major appliance with the expectation of being able to haggle. We've got two stores in mind to start with so we can practice in the first one without missing out on anything if we suck at haggling.

The other issue is that we'd really love to get 40" worth of savage heat throwing monster cooktop with griddles and grills and rotisseries and more burners than we have pots, but unless we chuck the refrigerator, we've only got about 32" of space to play with. Maybe we could do without the sink?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My Blog Looks Like This...

A visual representation:

You can watch it grow from scratch here. Also, at the bottom of the page is an explanation of the colors and at the top of the page, you can plug in any other website and get one for it.

I like it.