Sunday, November 30, 2008

And Here's A Little Puzzle For You.

It took me a buttload of trial and error to get everyone across the river. Give it a try!

It's Sunday Morning and I'm Still Not Dead Yet...But That's Not Because My Parents Weren't Trying!

I've mentioned that I'm a little amazed that my generation exists. The fact that we survived childhood is nothing short of miraculous. Playgrounds were built of stuff designed to choke you and break bones. The jungle gym was situated on packed earth if not concrete, clearly an admonition to fall on a hard surface from a height of 9' or more and suck it up you little pansy. The swings were an invitation to swing as high as you could and then see who could parachute-jump the furthest from the top of the arc...once again to the hardest surface available. The merry-go-round was a challenge to hang on as long as you could while your friends turned the thing as fast as possible. Of course, you could hang on while it was spinning at moderate speeds; you didn't lose your grip until centrifuge velocities were achieved...and you went flying. It was considered the ultimate in good form if you took out a couple of other little kids during flight. Another fun game was to slide off of your side of the see-saw when your friend on the opposite side was as high as you could get him...causing him to learn interesting things about the existence of the coccyx...once you stopped giggling about the word itself.

Helmets? Knee-pads? Elbow-pads? Gloves? Even if they had existed, you'd have never gotten us to wear that stuff. In hindsight, this stuff all seems more-or-less benign ignorance. My mom used to tell how she and her sisters used to take their little brother in his baby carriage to the top of a hill in Scranton, PA and let it roll to the bottom of the street all on its own...with him in it. Compared to that, we were leading utterly sheltered lives.

But that doesn't explain some of the toys they bought us. Each of us received our own set of Clackers. This toy had any number of problems. Used correctly, they tended to send acrylic chips flying and even if the chips didn't actually get your eye, damn they smarted. If you weren't terribly coordinated, (a word that just perfectly describes childhood), you'd usually end up smashing an arm or finger between the two little balls once you got them really going. And forget the fact that children are notorious for inventing alternate games for toys they've grown bored with...such as, hey, these look like bolos...let's throw them at each other!

We also got a set of Lawn Darts. These were awesome! When we first got them, we were (briefly) satisfied with trying to hit the little target that came with the darts...but that didn't last. We decided it would be more fun to use balloons as targets. A hit yielded a most satisfying "pop"...when the dart didn't just bounce off and fly in a completely unpredictable direction. We decided that bounce might be dangerous, so we solved the problem by going to a neighbor's fathers workshop. The electric grinder had those darts needle-sharp in no time flat. Yup. Much safer that way.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's All For Jeff!

Frequent visitor Jeff Hentosz has some questions and I have some answers:

Saturday...? Why, yes it is.

::checks calendar:: No need, I've acknowledged the fact.

::checks clock:: What time was it?

Where my multi-posts at? You might have to live with an archive.

::considers saying f' it and starting own blog again:: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

::discards idea for the pain in the balls it is, per weekly routine:: Boo!

Does anyone know if two kittens can even take down a healthy adult, let alone consume one? Even with a grown-up cat to help? Should we call NYPD? FDNY? CSI/FBI/IRS? The Directors Guild? There's a grown up kitty too!

Dominoes? I prefer chess.


::goes to rake leaves. or put up Xmas tree:: Those are the only two choices?

The truth is, I'm at a distinct loss for anything to blog about. In fact, yesterday is the first day since I started this here thing that an entire day went by without a post. I'm horrified.

So, today is not going to be a multipost (unless inspiration strikes and I change my mind). Today will be Inspire Nathan Day. That's right can drive the blog. Give me three words, (any three words) in the comments, and I'll write you a hysterical paragraph that uses those three words. So, go ahead. (Note: I'm counting on slow weekend visitorship to protect me from having to do too many of these. Note #2: No single commenter may load me up with a ridiculous number of hysterical paragraphs I have to write...just sayin, Michelle!)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

O'Dark-Thirty: The Thanksgiving Edition (This Post Behaves Like a Multipost...But I Swear It Isn't) Just Scroll For More.

I mentioned somewhere yesterday that GF and I are doing our Thanksgiving without any assistance from pesky neighbors and relatives. We have all the traditional stuff standing by. Breakfast is all stuff that I bought yesterday and requires a minimum of effort to prepare.

GF has volunteered to do all food prep and I have volunteered to be a slug and eat whatever is placed before me. Since GF is currently employed (i.e. has to set the alarm for every morning), and I am liberty...the one major concession I made was that I would get up when the zombie-monster hordes adorable kitty residents decided it was time for breakfast. This morning, at precisely 4:53 a.m., one of the little shits munchkins enthusiastically chomped down on the big toe of my right foot, leading me to believe that they had overheard and comprehended that I was in charge of kitty breakfast.

Dutifully, they have been fed. At the sight of NEW FOOD(!!!111lll11!!), they proceeded to dive right in, eat two bites each and then chase each other like maniacs for 15 minutes. No other kitty food has been consumed yet, but the proper equilibrium has been established. GF has been permitted to sleep-in, as is entirely proper. The kitties have returned to the land of the comatose. I am wide awake...drinking my third cup of coffee and watching the fourth bit of breaking news concerning the inflation of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Floats.

When do we get to start on the Bloody Marys?

First Nap: 8:30 - 9:15 a.m. That's what's known as dedication.

GF invents a new snack treat:

GF ran across a recipe for biscuits that she had to try. I don't recall GF or I ever having a biscuit in each others' presence before...ever. I guess we're just not the biscuit type. But GF decided to make biscuits. Hey, fine. I'll eat biscuits.

This recipe says they'll rise in the oven. Not so much. The two dozen little flat round things GF has produced are flat and tasty as all git-out...but they're not biscuits. I suggested making them in a different shape (thereby removing the expectation of them being biscuits) and calling them biscookies.

1:45 p.m.: Turkey is in the oven in its brandy new roaster pan. We'll be eating by 6.

What's for lunch?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Nobody Said I Can't Have a Wednesday MultiPost.

Oblibatory Turkey Talk

This place is in my neighborhood a couple of blocks from home. Every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas, they've got a huge line of people waiting to pick up turkeys. They don't take orders in advance for pick up, so it's first come, first served. I've never gotten a whole turkey from them, but I have had their takeout meals and those are pretty terrific. As of 2:00pm when I walked by, the line was a block long and threatening to wrap around the corner.

You can also have one of their whole birds shipped pretty much anywhere UPS goes (I think). A couple of days ago, I saw a huge wall of stacked up boxes being loaded into to UPS trucks. Hey, maybe you want one of these for Christmas. They certainly have some interesting flavors.

What are we doing here? I'll be brining the bird tonight from a recipe GF found a couple of years ago. It comes out really tasty.

Hey, that's what I've got for you right now.

Surprise, surprise.

Guess what? It turns out The Hollywood Juicer is a closet stargazer. (OK, the closet part is just would he see anything?)

Cadillac Records

I just saw an ad on TV for the movie Cadillac Records which is opening December Fifth. It's the story of Leonard Chess (Chess Records) who discovered the likes of Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and Etta James. I got this script almost two years ago from a Producer I know when they were trying to put together a production to shoot the picture in Connecticut (ah, tax credits).

Well, that production fell apart and when they finally got everything together to actually produce the movie, it was with an entirely different producing team. I've worked with the Line Producer who ended up doing this movie a number of times, so I'm going to assume the reason she didn't call me was that this was a DGA picture and I hadn't re-joined at that point. I may get pissed if she doesn't call me next time, though. Yeah, I'm looking at you P.H.

Anyway, I'd completely forgotten about this picture until I saw the ad this morning. Guess what? The casting looks good. The parts of the trailer I saw look good. And I remember reading the script. Let me clue you into one thing. Most scripts suck. Oh, they're not usually terrible when they've made it to the point that they're actually trying to put a production team together, but beyond that...they're mostly just...not good. That's why there are re-writes going on constantly during production. This, however was a fantastic fucking script.

I just don't see that many scripts where my reaction is I must work on this movie. I really wanted this one. (Side Note 1: The script for Mermaids is probably the best script I've ever read. I didn't end up working on it and the movie they actually made is good, but somehow doesn't live up to the magic that was on the written page. Oh, well. If you can make a not-so-terrific script into a terrific movie, I suppose you're just as likely to miss the mark with a terrific script.) (Side Note 2: I was once interviewing with a Director to work on a picture and I was doing my best to project eager enthusiasm about the job. About 15 minutes into the interview, he sort of stopped mid-sentence, looked me in the eye and said, "Just so we're clear, this pig is just a paycheck for you, right?" I sheepishly agreed and he said, "Good. I don't want some idiot Location Manager who doesn't know a piece of shit when he sees it.")

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to seeing this one and I really hope it's as good as the script was. If it is, we're talking Event Movie. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

P.S. I could tell you why the movie is named Cadillac Records and not Chess Records...but I'm not going to. I never signed any confidentiality agreements with the production, but I like to think that sending me the script implies a trust that I won't give things away before the studio does. Go see the movie; then you'll know.

Update: I just saw Beyonce perform At Last on the Today Show. This is a song that I've heard botched a whole lot more often than nailed and she totally hit it. Good sign. (Disclaimer: I didn't see anyone playing strings on the stage, and Beyonce didn't seem to be wearing an ear-whig, so she may have been lip-syncing to playback, but regardless, she ain't gonna be at the theater when I see the movie either.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Bush - Obama Transition.

I watched Obama's press conference earlier today and it got me to thinking. Then, I ran across this post over at Janiece's place and this one on Steve's. First, let me say, I haven't seen what both posts refer to as people calling for Obama to just take over now, or any reports of Bush seeking Obama's input. I'm not saying I doubt the existence (or veracity) of those reports...I just haven't seen them. (Feel free to point me to them.)

Anyway, I have a couple of reactions to the Press Conference.

On the one hand, Americans have been asking Obama to name his team since long before the election. He declined, during the election to even name a short list and I think that was proper. Now, he's naming people daily...and doing it in front of the Press and taking questions. It's entirely possible, that by the time he takes office, he'll have held more Press Conferences that Bush has held in his entire 8 years in office. It's entirely appropriate for him to hold these Press Conferences, and I believe he is acutely aware that he isn't President yet. He reminds the Press of this every time he speaks. And the manner in which he answers the "what will you do" questions is also entirely appropriate. He's not evasive, but he's careful not to say anything that would possibly influence what Bush or Congress are doing now.

I think this is a good thing. With his weekly YouTube address and with his freqent Press Conferences, he's returning to FDR and JFK's attitude toward accessibility to the electorate. He's got means at his hands to communicate like no President before him and his inclination to do so gives me a good feeling.

And (returning to that 'Bush asking for input' thing), if Bush is actually listening to what Obama says and is actively trying to help Obama to be in a position to act on his words in a few weeks, that's a damned good thing. Bush is in a position to do one of three things right now. He can petulantly use his last weeks to make all sorts of moves that he knows will just slow Obama down as he reverses them. He can actively make moves that grease the skids for Obama. Or, he can do a lot of nothing, neither making things eisier nor harder for the incoming Administration. That I don't see any signs of petulance, at the moment, leads me to grant Bush more credit for graciousness than I'd have expected.

Everything I've seen since the election just reinforces the reasons I'm glad I voted for Obama. He continues to project depth and calm reason. He's not evasive, but he's willing to flatly answer a question with, "I'm not going to discuss that". He seems a leader in a way I don't recall seeing in my lifetime.

That people are eager for the Bush years to be at an end and that they're eager for Obama to just get started is understandable. But have a little patience folks. Bush doesn't seem to be actively harming the country in his waning days. Obama is using the time to prepare. He needs that time and seems to be putting it to good use.

Having said that, I'm really looking forward to January 20th. I think we may be on the eve of great things. I'm optimistic in ways that no other President-elect in my memory has made me feel. I'm trying to caution myself against unreasonably high expectations, but at the same time, I'm hoping Obama exceeds the expectations I'm allowing myself.

You Know You Like 'Splodey Stuff.

Let's start the day with a link to some cool pictures. Filming in Brooklyn has some nice shots from a contributor of a car exploding for the TV show, Life on Mars. Let me tell you a couple of things about what you're looking at in the pics.

First of all, marvel at the trust the City of NY puts in our Special Effects people. That isn't some backlot they're working on. It's a relatively narrow street with real live buildings and real live people living there...and one big-ass explosion. When you want to do something like this, you need a permit from the FDNY Explosives Unit. They'll come do a site survey with the Location Manager and the Special Effects Coordinator. The Effects guy has to have the proper Pyrotechnics License and the Location Manager needs to get letters signed from all the adjascent property owners stating that they don't have any objections to the proposed 'splodey activity. It helps that there really aren't that many Special Effects Coordinators and they tend to be very well known to the folks in the Explosives Unit (i.e. FDNY knows that the guy exploding shit in the street knows what he's doing).

You can't see them, but I garauntee you there is a fire truck and an ambulance on standby somewhere really close to the set.

A couple of other things. In the lower left part of the frame, there's a 6' X 6' silk with a light shining though it. This is a way of difusing the light. Direct light can be very harsh and nobody wants that. Also, the "black screen" FIB refers to is a 12' X 12' griflon. This is a sort of plasticized tarp that is black on one side and white on the other. In the shot, the white side is facing the action and there's a light or two being bounced off of it. Once again, this is a way to light a shot with indirect lighting to soften it. Go ahead, aim a light at one of your walls and you'll see what that's all about.

And the doorway you see just to the right of the griflon is the building they use to stand in as their precinct on the show (you can see the fake, engraved precinct sign over the doorway in most of the shots). You'll also note the green lights on the sides of the entrance. Green lights make any door into a precinct entrance. And not that I'd take anyone to task on it, but if it's a precinct house, it should be flying both the U.S. flag and the City of NY flag. Just sayin'.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Apparently, It's "Make Nathan Dance Like A Monkey" Day!

Since early this morning, I've been letting people push me around and tell me what needs to go on my blog. If you scroll down to today's earliest posts, you'll see that pretty much everything I'm posting is in response to some helpful tip, request, goad, demand, etc. Somehow, I'm OK with that...for a day.

So, I've set it up so that this post will stay at the top of the page until midnight. I tried to make it so that this post would stay at the top of the page until midnight, but it only showed as "Scheduled". Hey, people visiting here today may become confused. Strangely, I'm OK with that too.

So go ahead. Make the monkey dance. I'm spending most of the day at home so I'll try to respond quickly. Every response will be in the form of it's very own new post.


Note: Occasionally, things come completely off the rails here at Polybloggimous. This is one of those days. I'll try to remember to keep changing the time on this post so it stays at the top of the page; otherwise nobody will have a clue WTF is going on here.

For Vince...

...who is likely to find less cheese here than he wished.

For Kim...

...who isn't enjoying the rain in the great (non-)white north. The remastered version...

Granting Wishes Near and Far.

Honey, the vacuuming is done. But I couldn't figure out how to attach that new attachment you bought. So the places that attachment is designed to vacuum...not so much.

Update: And the trash cans are out at the curb!

Update part deux: I'm glad you found a spot to keep the new roasting pan. Where does the braising pan go now?

P.S. To all of you eavesdropping on this little reportage of homelife here in Brooklyn, lest you think I'm chiding GF, you should be aware that about 5 years after we moved in together, I once asked, "Where are those crackers we bought yesterday?" GF responded, "In the cracker tin."

After a moment of silence, I said, "We have a cracker tin?"

Update part troix: GF! Quit the job! I just got an email telling me I'd won 650,000 Euros. We're rich! I tell you, rich!

Tania's Wish

"happy memories of childhood and holidays."

A Group Monkey Dance

1. John, I can say I'm clicking the links and you'll have no way to know whether I really did or not. In any event, "Ewwwwwwwwwww, God, my eyes. Make it go away. Argghhhhhh!" Happy?

2. Alas Jeri, no video camera...really.

3. GF has caught Nathan on Dance Like a Monkey Day. I cannot disobey. It shall be done. (Besides, the kitties chewed that cardboard box to little pieces which are currently strewn everywhere. I think I'd have dealt with it without direction.

4. Carol, No offense to Eric, but let him get his own day.

We Interrupt "Make Nathan Dance Like A Monkey" Day to Bring You the Awesomest Video You'll See Today!

You must watch this. Really. You must.

Louis CK on Conan.

With thanks to Jeff Hentosz, who mentioned it on Whatever, providing a link to Discover / Bad Astronomy which tipped the hat to Fark. Now somebody go warn Fark that I linked them so their server doesn't go down when all my traffic heads their way.

Matt Vince Gets His Wish. Sort of!

First of all Matt Vince. This is very much like the wishes a genie grants. Once you utter the wish, you're stuck with it, so think things out. No going back and changing your mind.

It is also, dis-similar to the wishes a genie grants in that I'm just not that competent (as is clearly demonstrated in the title). This is the best I could do. Or more accurately, the best I could be bothered to do.

Sorry, This is the Best I Could Do.

Do I Have To Do This All Day?

Updated to include Whirled Peas:

Or maybe this is more what you had in mind:

The Fans Are Clamoring For It.

I'm not sure how long this is going to be a workable concept, but you all seem to be in need.

That having been said...It is now Tuesday in Tokyo!

Thank you. That is all.

Monday Now!

That's all you get right now.

And, BTW, this isn't a fucking calendar.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It Has Been Brought to My Attention...

...that it is Sunday and that it has been for hours.

Why, yes. Yes it is.

Happy now?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

IIIIIIIt's Multipost Saturday!

(That title is supposed to be read like Ed McMahon introducing Johnny.)

First a little housekeeping. If you haven't noticed, there have been a few changes over on the sidebar. First and foremost, I've removed my Badge of Shame. I started NaNoWriMo and put their little bug up in a prominent spot on the sidebar. I wrote diligently for three (count 'em...three) days logging a word count of over 6000. This was slightly above the target for each day. (In fact, this was about 20% ahead of goal for those three days.) Then, I just...stopped. I left that little bug there, publicly shaming myself for all to see. No more.

I've also retired any reference to Charlotte Misner. She made it further than I got in NaNoWriMo, but she too just ceased to be. I wouldn't want to shame anyone for being the interruption in the chain, but you know who you are Santa. :D I'm not the only one who can inflict Writus-Interruptus! Yay. (Pointing fingers and snickering is a fine time-honored tactic for taking the attention away from my own failings.)

I'm planning to add some more blogs to the sidebar today. For some odd reason, I'm missing a few UCF blogs and that's just unforgivable. There's also some film crew blogs that I've started following and they'll be added as well. This is going to be on the part that updates as people post, so you won't have to look at some enormously long list unless you click to expand the list.
Note: For those of you who are new and don't know what the hell the UCF is, it stands for Union of Collaborating Founders. Our logo, created by Teh Awesomest Michelle, is over there on the sidebar as well. Click on it to embiggen. I think if you search GoogleBlogs, for Union of Collaborating Founders, you'll find some answers. It's morphed meanings a few times, but the short answer is that its 20-30 of us who have become online and offline (as opportunity arises) friends.

Last but not least, down at the bottom of the sidebar, you'll see that I've added the widget denoting that according to Blogged, this is a "very good" blog with a rating of 7.5 out of a possible 10. When you register at Blogged and submit your blog for review, they come back a few hours later with a rating. On the one hand, I think one of their criteria is how often you post...and I'm nothing if not prolific. I update constantly. On the other hand, I doubt they'd look at any newly registered blog, give you a 1.2 rating and a note that say, "Dude, you suck". (I may test this theory. I could start a little "test blog", put up two posts from a year or more ago seperated by three weeks, and see what they think about that.)

Anyway, there's a link on the widget that says, "Rate this blog". Go ahead, give me some clicky love. With a little diligence, I think we can beat that "ten" limit.

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don't know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.

MultiPost Part 2

Once upon a time, when they would run trailers for new movies, the music often wasn't ready yet, so they'd just borrow the music from some other movie and slap it on the trailer. "Hey, it's a dramatic action pic. Just get some dramatic actiony music and slap it on there." I'm not sure how often "waiting for the music" is the excuse for using previously used music on trailers now, but it seems to be standard operating procedure anyway.

Me? I find it distracting. I always go, "I know this music" and then, instead of watching the trailer, I wrack my brain trying to figure out what movie its from. I've actually been able to watch the trailer for Australia now because the music from Pirates of the Caribbean is pretty instantly recognizable.

MultiPost 3: A little Bitching.

It's 27º here this morning with a windchill of 19º. I'm completely aware that for many of you, that actually qualifies as just plain balmy, but this is NY. The average low for today is 39º. The last week or so has been consistently 10º below normal averages.

No Like.

Oh, and it isn't bitching and has nothing to do with the temperature here, but I'm just swimming in Schadenfreud over Sarah Pallin doing that lame Turkey Clemency thing, but setting up the event so that other turkeys were being slaughtered in the background as she announced it. That's some savvy media manipulation, huh?

MultiPost Part 4

Tadaaaaaaaa! Roomba Kitty!

Friday, November 21, 2008

On Loot, The Giving and Receiving Of...And Some Other Stuff.

Giving of Loot.

OK, So a couple of days ago, I posted a post without a headline and Matt called me on it and inspired me to have a "Write me a headline" contest. I have now chosen a winning headline, which won't, ya'know, actually become the headline, but we'll all know that it really should be the headline, only I'm too lazy to make the number of changes to that post which would allow it to be the headline and for everything else to still make sense.

And the winner is MattW with "Hey Kid Come Over Here and Hold This and I'll Give You 65 Bucks." So, Matt, soon, you'll have a nifty Panavision cap winging its way to you. (Hint: Check with all my previous contest winners and I think you'll find a concensus that while my prizes all eventually make it to where they should go, I'm a little slow about...getting them in the mail, so I wouldn't hold my breath while anxiously waiting by the mailbox. Go about your business and that way it'll be a nifty surprise when it shows up.)

Receiving of Loot.

A package showed up in the mail the other day. First, there was a card in the package.

Embiggen it if you can't read it here.

From Michelle: A T-Shirt with message on it. (I decided that the message was the important thing for you to see. The rest of the T-shirt looks like...a T-shirt.)

Thanks Michelle.

And Some Other Stuff.

A whole bunch of folks were posting sunsets the other day inspired by Scalzi's periodic sky on fire over the cornfield shots. It started with Jim. And soon, MWT ponied up, followed by Anne.
Here's my entry. You should know that if I were to take a ride on the B38 bus and if I were to walk an additional 4 blocks down to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and if the sky were cooperating, I'd be able to show you a really dramatic unobstructed view of the lower Manhattan Skyline with the sun setting in all it's glory to the south and west of the city.

But I didn't do that. I walked two blocks to the top of the hill in Ft. Greene Park and shot what there was to see.

First, looking essentially northwest. That's the Empire State Bldg. and a couple of stacks at the ConEd plant on Manhattan's east side.

This is looking due north. There's buildings!

Here's a view to the south. Park benches, a street lamp, trees buildings and totally obstructed sky. Where's my cornfield, mountains or river when I need them?

And a cat!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cover Me Please.

A while back, we did a little thing where we all talked about our favorite Post-Beatles music by Ex-Beatles. That worked pretty well, so let's try something else. Let's talk about people covering other people's music.

For me, covers come in two basic type is very faithful to the original and the other takes the song and makes it entirely new. I don't think one is superior to the other, but some pretty cool things can happen. I'm gonna throw out three that I particularly like.

1. The Box Tops' original performance of The Letter. (Don't get all technical. I know that they're actually covering Wayne Carson Thompson, but I've never heard his version and if you can find it, good luck and send me a link.) The Box Tops' version is kind of Bluesy and it's totally appropriate to their era and to getting on TV and stuff. (In the video, toward the end, I really got a kick out of the keyboards player goofing on the fact that they're just miming to playback. (The lead singer may have really been singing...I don't know.)

Joe Cocker's cover kicks it up a few notches and just makes the song exuberant. Pay special attention to the backup singers. To be fair, I'm sure they were all stoned out of their minds, but look how much fun they're having. The Box Tops could have played their version in the garage while dad watched his football game. Cocker's version would have brought the cops.

2. The Beatles original performance of With a Little Help From My Friends. I couldn't find any performance video of this one, just a slideshow with the music. Doesn't matter. Just listen to the beginning, maybe up to the first chorus. Can't you just see Ringo swaying his head back and forth while he seranades us?

Again, we'll go to Joe Cocker for the cover. Joe takes a very sedate little song (nothing wrong with that), and completely changes it to a soul bearing blues-shout. Throughout the song, there are these recurring moments when he's standing on the edge of a cliff and you never know whether he's going to pull back at the last moment or just dive off. I think it's amazing.

Edit to add: The thing that really tells you why this version is not the Beatles version is during the Call and Response, "Do you need anybody". Ringo's performance says, I'll be sad if I don't find someone to love, but I'll get by anyway. Cocker's anguished scream in response, shows his primal need. Yup, these are two very different songs.

Note: I found both the "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" version and the "Woodstock" version. Cocker's vocals and instrumentally, the Woodstock performance is better, but the backing vocals at Woodstock are truly cringe-worthy. You get MD&E.

3. Across the Universe by The Beatles. I've always thought of this as more of a John Lennon song, but technically, he was still a Beatle at the time, so...

For the cover, we'll go to Fiona Apple. This is an example of a cover that is absolutely faithful to the original. It's haunting and it's really beautifully done. And to add to that, it's got a kick-ass video. If any of you don't know, there's some very intricate and technically difficult camera work and choreography going on throughout.

The first shot comes into the broken window and finds Fiona in a corner a little less than 30 seconds in. No cut yet. They also manage to avoid seeing the camera or any crew in that huge mirror behind mean trick. I suspect this shot was done with a crane...the arm reaching in through the window, panning over to find her and then "arming" toward her as the pivot point gets close enough to the window to make the swing. As she stands and walks toward the crane, the arm starts swinging the other way and maintains perfect distance from her. It looks almost like one of those shots where the actor is standing on a platform connected to the camera dolly (it's that precise), but that would be impossible without a cut, so, this must be exquisite crane work. It also makes you suspect (wrongly), that the crashing, flying actors and props must have been shot separately and she's in front of a green-screen, but there's too much evidence to the contrary. I'll eat my hat if I'm wrong, but this stuff must all be happening in the same place at the same time.

At 1:12, they pan off of her, setting up for the first cut at 1:21 in. That's because in the next shot, they do have her on a rig attached to the camera. When you do that shot with her spinning in the room on that axis, you're using a gimbal, either she spins or the entire room does. (When Fred Astaire danced on he ceiling, the entire room was spinning.)

Fiona's the one rotating here, because her hair declines to disobey gravity. This shot may have been done in front of green screen. There's an awful lot of shit flying through the air, and it looks like the foreground "flying shit" is a bit more controlled looking. 2nd cut at 2:00 in. At 2:30 she leans out of frame, followed by a cut where she leans back in. This happens over about 2 seconds. Camera is back on the crane (I think). They're working in a fairly tight space, so maybe this is a jib arm (a mini-crane arm that mounts on a dolly). Not sure, but it's a nice shot.

4th cut at 3:25 in. She walks out of frame at 3:40 in. This is a total red herring making you expect another cut, but she's just moved to the corner booth and the camera searches until it finds her and keeps moving closer and closer til the video end.

I can't begin to tell you how truly difficult it is to pull all of those elements together so seamlessly, but it's all pretty damned impressive.

I really didn't intend to go off on that behind the scenes stuff so much here, but I just got sucked in and couldn't help myself. Enjoy the video and tell me what your favorite covers are and why.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oops. I Did it Again.

I couldn't help myself. Really, I couldn't.

I just ordered a pizza from Dominos. The tracker says Christian put my pizza in the oven at 5:45 p.m. (Which seems like it was just nanoseconds after it confirmed my order.) Hmm. I'll update as this progresses...good or bad.

Everybody send happy thoughts to the Pizza Karma Gods.

5:53 p.m. The pizza's in a box and placed in their special "HeatWave" delivery bag.

Note: That seems like awful damned fast Pizza cookin' to me. They must have them some magic ovens.

Also, this is the point where things usually break down. We'll just have to see if it ever leaves the store.

6:04 p.m. Holy Shit! It's here already.

That didn't really make for a compelling post, did it?

They forgot to slice it. :D

Oh, And By the Way...

Yesterday, my back was bothering me a little. Sort of a mild ache across my middle and lower back. So, I went to see my chiropractor. He did the usual knocking and cracking and bending and then did some new kneading thing at the bottom of my rib cage. As he was doing this, he said, "This is going to be pretty tender later tonight and tomorrow".

Dear Nathan's Chiropractor,

My back is not tender. My back is not sore. My back aches like I just went 15 rounds with Evander Holyfield throwing nothing but kidney punches. Owwwwwwwwww!


Owner & Operator of Nathan's Mutilated Back
(A non-profit organization)

It's Been a While Since I Played With This!

My Meez Avatar!

Meez 3D avatar avatars games

And look. I'm on the red carpet.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The "Write Me A Headline" Contest

Matt points out that I published this without a headline. I usually write the headline first, but couldn't think of one when I started. I figured something in the post would suggest one, and then I totally forgot to write one. (Also, I started writing this last night and I forgot to adjust the "post date and time" when I published it.)

So, you get a contest. Whoever suggests the best Headline for this wins a lovely Panavision Ballcap.

This cap was part of the wrap loot from "Marker" which is the Steven Seagal movie I worked on that was eventually released as "Pistol Whipped".

Now...on to today's post.

I've mentioned that my first job in film was working at a Rental House for lighting and grip equipment. My usual job was pulling orders of lights and cables and stands and flags and scrims and spare bulbs and you name it. The job consisted mostly of loading trucks with heavy, dirty equipment. We also built a lot of our own equipment. Equipment has changed quite a bit in the last 20 - 30 years. Banks of fluorescent lighting are common as dirt now . In the early 80's, no one was manufacturing them, so we built them ourselves. The ones we built had eight two-foot tubes. They actually functioned really well, but between the steel bale and yoke (the thing that mounts them to the stand), and the fact that we made the case out of plywood, these suckers were heavy. That's O.K. Lots of equipment used to be heavy. Today's fluorescent banks measure in ounces, not pounds.

We had some old Mole-Richardson "Heavy Head" arc lights. These were made of iron and were just unimaginably heavy. You should also be aware that the old carbon arc lights were just that. Inside this head, and behind the fresnel lens, were two carbon rods, going off like a welder's torch and some schlub had to be on a ladder behind the light turning a wheel a small increment every minute or so to keep the gap between the two rods close enough to continue to arc.

So, I guess what I'm saying here is that once upon a time in the film biz, a lot of jobs had a lot more to do with brawn than anything else. Lifting an arc was always a two-man job, sometimes three. I totally remember having to be rescued while trying to lift my end of one of those mothers onto a tailgate...much less over our heads onto a stand.

All of this is leading up to my move to NY in 1986. Oh, c'mon, that totally goes with the flow of the story; please try to keep up! When I was in Boston, it was a union town, but the union was NABET (Natl. Assoc. of Broadcast Engineers and Technicians). Nobody in NABET gave me any shit over touching a piece of equipment. They called our company if somethingt broke down and if I could rebuild it or rewire it, it was all good. (Moment of truth: our shit broke down a lot. We bought a lot of our gear second hand and those fluorescent banks we built had a 32-pin connector to power them. You try connecting that many contacts correctly and securely.)

At any rate, nobody in Boston at the time thought twice about seeing me handle gear on a set.

When I announced that I was moving to NY, all of my friends took turns taking me aside to clue me in that NY was an I.A.T.S.E. town. I was warned repeatedly that as a P.A....I'd be eaten for lunch if I dared place hands on a piece of equipment. It just wasn't done.

In the years since I moved here, there have been a great many innovations in lightweight equipment (and I have no inclination to touch the stuff anymore anyway). Most of the guys hauling cable and pushing dollies went to college and majored in film...or archeology...or philosophy. Make assumptions at your own risk. But when I arrived in NY in 1986, the gear was still heavy and the guys were still all about the brawn. (Nobody's figured out how to make a 25 lb. sandbag weigh 5 lbs. yet, but I hear they're working on it.)

One of my first jobs in NY was as a P.A. on a commercial shooting in a studio near Grand Central Terminal. I'd been recommended for the job by a friend, but I didn't know a soul on the job. To be perfectly honest, I'd spent a lot of time one step removed from sets, but practically zero time on sets. And I was fairly clueless as to what I was supposed to do. But thanks to my friends in Boston, I knew exactly what not to do...don't touch the equipment.

So, fairly early in this day, I was standing in a corner trying to take it all in and figure out some way to be useful, (indespensable if I could figure out a way to swing it), and what do I see? One of the grips is pushing the McAlister Dolly onto the set.

Let's take a brief moment to talk about the McAlister Dolly. Prior to the invention of the McAlister Dolly, camera dollies were absolute behemoths. One guy had to push the thing. Someone else turned a wheel that steered it. Yet another person tuned a wheel that made the camera go up or down on the boom. The McAlister Dolly could be controlled by one person; all of the controls were reachable from the pushing position. But it was still made out of extremely heavy metal. Here, take a look.

Photo courtesy of these guys with more photos on the link.

I won't go so far as to say that being a dolly grip in those days was all about brawn...he had to be able to do a delicate dance...pushing the thing at the right speed, twisting the knob to raise the camera, switching the steering mode and stopping the dolly on the correct mark. But before you could even be considered to do all of those things, you had to be capable of getting the damned thing moving at all. Between the dolly itself, the camera, the camera operator and, at least one Assistant cameraman, you could easily be pushing 1000 lbs. So, one of the job requirements was that you be a beefy guy. It was a battle with inertia.

O.K. let's not sugarcoat it. The dude I saw pushing the dolly onto the stage had a beer belly the size of Oklahoma, a stained T-shirt that didn't conceal all of his nether regions and a chewed up unlit cigar in his mouth. He was...scary looking to this 26 year old naif who had only been warned about how severely I could suffer if I dared tread on any I.A. crew member's turf. Unfortunately, at precisely the moment I looked over and noticed his arrival on the stage, he was encountering a roadblock; one of the many pieces of feeder cable snaking around the stage was blocking his path. I'm not shitting you when I tell you that this paragon of intellect walked over, lifted the cable into the air and then looked back at the dolly...seemingly wondering why it wasn't moving through the path he'd cleared for it.

He looked at me and jerked his head in a "C'mere" gesture. I did my best "deer in the headlights" impersonation. He jerked his head again, annoyed and emphatic. I walked over to him. He put the cable into my hand. I held it up over my head as he pushed the dolly under it. At some point during this process, one leg of the cable came loose and a light on the other side of the stage...exploded.

This was followed immediately by the Gaffer looking over at me with the cable in my hand and him storming over to ream me a new one. I just stood there and took it. The grip with the dolly never even looked back. I got sent home about six minutes later.

Oddly enough, that company never called me again. On the plus side, I did get my $65 paycheck a month later. Sweeeeeeet.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Hat Full of Random!

I had to put the lining into my jacket today. This does not please me. It's not really all that cold here yet, (especially not by many of your standards), but I've liked it just being a little cool and wearing a light coat. Yesterday, I wore sandals when I went out for my morning bagel. Tonight and tomorrow, there's a chance of light snow.

Speaking of going out for my bagel, when I go there on a Sunday morning, there's usually a long line. I always figure I'll outsmart the system by calling my order in before I go up there. I've done this three or four times now. Not once, has my order been ready when I showed up for it. Yesterday, they hadn't even started on it. (In fairness, the first time I called in my order, I actually called it in to their other store in Park Slope.)

In addition to not being pleased about having to put the lining in my coat, I'm really miffed about how early it's getting dark. Sunset at 4:30? This truly sucks and I want something done about it. I'm fairly certain this came up during the recent election and I'm expecting Obama to keep the sun up til at least 6:00 p.m. Maybe an Executive Order or something. And none of that pansy-assed resetting clocks...I want more daylight.

Side Note: I don't think I've ever mentioned that when I got hired to work on Iron Will, one of my first thoughts was, Hey cool. A movie about a dogsled race. It'll be all daylight exteriors...nice short Winter days. Sweeeeeet. Then I got the script and every third page had some crap about "they race through the night." D'oh!

Anyway, the early dark has thrown the Feline Overlords into a tizzy too. The morning ritual remains the same...anyone who sleeps past 4:30 a.m. gets a paw upside the head. There is an alternate tactic that involves claws and toes. The evening ritual is a little more polite. They come in and stare at you beatifically and you imagine this sweet voice saying, "I looooove you". This is followed by them turning downright demanding and saying, "Feed Meeeeeeeee! Feed Me Now!"

Earlier today, I stocked up on kitty food. The dry stuff that comes in a bag went into the cupboard where it's semi-safe. The canned stuff just went onto the kitchen table. I mean it's in cans fer-chrissake. So, I heard this noise a little while ago, and, sure enough, Teufel and LuLu were trying to get the plastic wrapping off the case.

I have no idea what the plan was if they ever got one of the cans free, but I'm pretty impressed that they recognized the cans at all. I mean, hey, we're talking about cats. With apologies to anyone who has, like an actual brain injury, I've always contended that cats are just born that way. How else do you explain how they can be playing with a cat toy for 10 minutes or so, then they leave the room and take a nap, come back a couple of hours later and notice the toy right where they left it. This is followed by a cautious investigation and culminates in the cat looking at you ecstatically and clearly thinking, "HEY, WHEN DID WE GET A CAT TOY?" before pouncing.

What else can I randomly babble about? Yesterday's haul of new visitors came to eight additional visits and even a 2nd shout-out. Yay for International Bloggy Love. Man, Blogger's gonna be pissed at me for using up all of their bandwidth.

I also ran across this story today. The short version is this...Richard J. Peltz has dropped a lawsuit against The University of Arkansas, Little Rock and a student group after the University launched an investigation and came out with a statement agreeing that Peltz had done nothing racist or inappropriate.

One of the examples of his alleged racial insensitivity was that he used an article on the death of Rosa Parks from The Onion to prompt class discussion. The black students’ memo called The Onion “a conservative based medium that uses satire” and said that the article “poked fun at the contribution Rosa Parks made” to the civil rights movement. As Peltz has noted, The Onion is not seen by most people as conservative and in fact regularly makes fun of conservatives (as well as liberals), and the article in question appears to mock, not Parks, but Republicans who think that racial discrimination is all in the past.

As various accusations circulated about Peltz, the law school didn’t say that hs was in the wrong, but it didn’t say he was being unfairly accused, either — and it prevented him from teaching constitutional law or other required courses, relegating him to electives. The statement from the university that Peltz said made him comfortable dropping the suit reviewed the various charges and said that there was no basis for calling Peltz racist. “With reference to any charge of racism levied against you, there is no evidence that you are or have been a racist or acted in a racist fashion during your employment at the law school,” said the statement, signed by John DiPippa, interim dean of the law school, and Joel E. Anderson, chancellor of the university.

Another complaint against him was that he handed out a "basic grammar worksheet" to the entire class which was somehow seen as racist.

This episode seems to be on its way to culminating the way it should, but it makes you wonder why anybody would want to teach anywhere in the first place. Students are, by definition, ignorant although hopefully less so by the time they're studying Constitutional Law. If a Professor's attempts to relieve his students of their ignorance is seen as singling out individuals or groups then he's facing a steep uphill battle.

I'm going to leave off here. I've kept the kitties waiting long enough. Even Widget's getting into the act now and she's usually the patient stoic one.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Everybody Behave. There May Be Visitors Today.

On the one hand, it's Sunday, so traffic here should be really light today. On the other hand, I got an email from Michael Taylor a few days ago. He said some really nice things about the blog and told me he'd be recommending it today on his blog. My first reaction was, "Hey, Cool. My evil scheme to dominate the blogosphere is one step closer to fruition".

My first reaction was quickly followed by a second reaction..."OMFG, People I don't know are going to stop in and expect to see brilliance." Arggggggh, the pressure! I imagine most of his readers want to see Industry Stories...and I just don't have a brilliant industry story in my back pocket for today. Arggggggh, the pressure!

So, how do I go about introducing hordes of strangers to Polybloggimous? (You're sending hordes over, right Michael?) First of all, I think I should make sure they all know I'm a blurter...both in real life and online. I don't understand the bloggers (some of them friends of mine), who do massive amounts of research to write a post over the course of a week and then publish it after slaving over it, editing it, re-writing it, proofing it, and re-writing it again. I've been known to hit the "publish" button before I get the first three words of the headline written. I tend to publish everything about 5 minutes after the words fall out of my head. Blurter.

Here's a brief Bio:

I went to Emerson College starting in 1978 intending to be an actor. The guys running around with Super 8 cameras seemed to be having a lot more fun, so I switched majors. Soon, I decided that most of the courses I was taking were a waste of time (sometimes a cigar is a cigar, dear professor), and got a job at a lighting & grip rental house during my sophmore year. I proceeded to take half the course load and invent ways to get course credits for my job to get my B.S. and stayed there for 6 years. I moved to NY in 1986 intending to get out of commercials and into features. For no reason I've ever been able to figure out, somebody hired me to be their Location Manager on a music video. In 1991, Hollywood decided to boycott NY, so I moved to L.A. I got a phone call 3 hours ( I swear), after arriving there telling me to get on a plane to South Carolina for a job. Over the course of the next three years, I took airplane rides to pretty much every job site and worked a total of 4 days in L.A. County (also, I swear). In 1994, I decided I liked NY better and figured I could get on airplanes at LaGuardia or JFK just as easily. So, I'm back in Brooklyn and since early this year, I've been blogging the shit out of it.

Since I don't blog anonymously, you won't see a lot of inside dirt here. I prefer to remain employable. Most days, I just write whatever the hell pops into my head, but I try to tell at least a few war stories every month.

Here's a sampling of the film biz posts:

Singin’ in the Rain

The Legend of Al, John, Jack and Nathan

Filming the Flop Factor

Here are my reviews of a couple of Jefferey Deaver books from his Location Scout Mystery series, (One of my internetty friends asked me if they portrayed the biz realistically):

The Location Scout Series: An Early Report

Shallow Graves: A Review

And an example of random inanity:

Dominos Pizza Needs to Rot in Hell

And lest you think I'd dare run afoul of International Intertoobs Law, yes, there be cats.

Now, you're all caught up. To anyone who's new here, Welcome. To Michael, Thank You. And to everyone, including the Usual Suspects, go ahead and say something...I'm a total Comment Whore.

I'm Stalking Myself.

Ever since I started this blog, I've been getting frequent visits from somebody in Flushing, NY. This person visits every day. S/He never comments.

Yesterday, I upgraded my SiteMeter to the one that is capable of showing you somebody's path through the blog. Today, I discovered my lurker is me. Weird considering SiteMeter is supposed to ignore visits from my IP.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bruce Wayne Unavailable For Comment

The City of Batman, Turkey is suing Warner Brothers.

No, really!

I Want Something Named After Me.

As you've noticed, if you visit here regularly, we Film Folks (I love saying that), have a lot of our own jargon. And we're kinda like magicians. We don't want everyone else to be clued in because understanding all of it proves that we're on the inside and you're not. Hey, it's bad enough that a bunch of kids who never leave their basements knew everything there was to know about the last Star Wars movie before the script was even written.

I will now (cue dramatic music), clue you in to a few things we know that might leave you scratching your head. Please use this information only for good. Evil is EVIL and using this information to get on to sets where you don't belong will result in an outbreak of Zombies, Vampires and Hitler's Brain-in-a-jar plaguing the earth...and you wouldn't want that, now would you.

Recently, I discussed using radios on set. We also have some hand signals we employ when using the radio would be a problem. One, that I learned early was when I was standing near the Craft Service table with all the other P.A.'s on a commercial. The 2nd A.D. waved to get all of our attention and then, with a really dramatic scowl, he made a motion like a slow-pitch softball pitcher lobbing the ball. This sign, I discovered, meant one grenade, which was shorthand for, "You assholes don't belong all in the same place at the same time where one grenade could wipe out the entire production staff in one fell swoop."

Another archane hand signal is to get the attention of a coworker and then wave your hand over the top of your head, hand flat and palm down, followed by a motion in front of your chest with both hands similar to wringing out a wet towel. This signifies, "Cover for me while I go choke the chicken", meaning, "Damn, I gotta go pee right now!"

There are a couple of terms that are among the most important terms we can hear on a set because they both signify that we'll get to go home soon. First and most important is The Martini Shot. When the Assistant Director announces that we're on the martini, he's telling us that it's the last shot of the day. Presumably, this originated as a way of telling the crew they'd be having that after-work cocktail soon.

Another term used near the end of the day is when the A.D. tells us we're on The Abby or The Abby Singer. The Abby is the 2nd to last shot of the day. The reason for this is that when he was an A.D., Abby Singer was notorious for announcing the Martini and then when it was done and the crew was furiously packing their gear away, he'd take it back and say, "Oops, we have one more shot. I need everybody back on the set."**

I had the pleasure of meeting Abby Singer once (when he was shooting exteriors for St. Elsewhere in Boston). At the time, I only knew that he was "the guy in charge"...not that he had a term universally used, named for him, nor that he was a legend in his own time. I mean really! Take another look at the guy's credits...Wagon Train? Newhart? Cannibal Attack? Holy crap! What a resume'.

At this late date in my career, I'm probably not going to match his output, so I can only hope that somehow, I get some shorthand term named for me. I'd be proud as all get-out to know that future P.A.s were saying, "Call me Nathan" in place of making that hand signal about choking the chicken. Yeah, that'd be a legacy.

**There's an alternate version of the story that says when he was a Production Manager, his appearance on the set was a warning to the Director that he could finish the shot he was on and one more before wrapping. This is probably the true story, but the first version is more prevalent.

Friday, November 14, 2008

All The Cool Kids Are Doing It.

Is your cat plotting to kill you?

Hey, There's Rain In It. Part II

The massive outpouring of comments about Part I leads me to believe that I may have bored the crap out of most of you. Tough. I'm gonna post Part II anyway. Before I get to it, I just want to mention a minor scare I got earlier today. While looking at my stats, I noticed a visit from an domain. You'll remember that I expressed mild trepidation that someone from the film office might read yesterday's entry. It turned out to be someone reading one of my posts about Ft. Greene Park. Whew! Of the hook.

So, I left off with the end of the NY exteriors.

The second night of NY shooting involved all of the interior scenes at Grand Central Terminal, including Ricki getting on the train. Trains add their own set of complications to things. Luckily, for the scene of her boarding the train, we were planning to cut as soon as the doors close and we never needed to see the train move. That means that we were able to run cables into the doors we weren't looking at to light the inside of the train. If the train needs to move, you need generators on the train and all the cables need to be safetied and lots of other not fun stuff.

Having said that, that's the only bullet we dodged. If the train in your movie is going from NY to Boston, it's either Amtrak or some anonymous railroad. When you're contacting a railroad to ask them to get involved in your movie, many of them just say No, out of hand. The rest of them are concerned about liability, how their railroad in particular will be portrayed, and how the railroad industry in general will be portrayed. I was not at all surprised that Amtrak didn't want to participate in a movie that is set up by a derailment.

That left us to create an anonymous railroad. And we knew that we'd have to shoot trains in NY using Metro-North equipment and in Toronto using VIA rail equipment. And we'd have to make them look like the same train. We did this by putting sandblast paper on the outside of the cars to make them seem to have a different paint scheme and then we'd just do the same thing when we went back to Toronto. Here's a (bad) screenshot from the movie showing the horrendous clown-car design we settled on for some unfathomable reason.

I mention going back to Toronto. When scheduling this movie, it was decided to shoot Toronto first, then all the scenes in the U.S. The reason for this is that if you start in Canada, your cast is working under AFTRA rules except for the end of the movie in the U.S. where SAG takes jurisdiction. If you were to start in the U.S., SAG would have jurisdiction for the duration. That would have been a big difference in costs. The shots of the train flying by in the rain, however, didn't call for any of the cast, so we left that to last and went back for it.

We shot this scene on a pretty dramatic piece of rail in the Don Valley, just east of Toronto. One of the cool things about the location is that in the background, you see the Bloor Street Viaduct crossing over the valley perpendicular to the railroad. And Toronto's subway system has a train that crosses it. It's all quite dramatic looking.

Side note: I mentioned that railroads' first concern is their liability...they don't want any. This scene involved prepping one railroad's equipment in a second railroad's maintenance yard to shoot the scene on a third railroad's line. It ended up being a ridiculously complicated 4-way contract in both English and French. And the liability language could fairly be construed as meaning that if the head of one of the railroads ordered his engineer to drink a quart of rum, then forced him at gunpoint to run us down on the tracks, it would be our fault. As the Location Manager, I'm the one who normally signs location agreements. Occasionally, I'll get a Producer to sign one if I feel like I need to cover my ass. Twice, I've felt it necessary to get the Studio attorney to be the one to sign. Nobody wanted to have their name on this document and it had to go straight to the Chairman of the studio.

Anyway, back to the story. The shot starts high up, looking at a subway train crossing the Viaduct and then cranes down to pick up our train speeding toward us through the rain.

Here's two more bad screenshots for you.

The beginning of the shot:

The train speeding toward us:
Our Effects guy in Toronto was a genius and the rain looked great and worked exactly as advertised. (I apologize that you can barely see anything; the video I took these shots from on YouTube is really muddy.) He had about a dozen raintowers and spinners on the Viaduct, another bunch along the length of track approaching us, and a rig directly over the camera crane for foreground rain.

Here's where things turned special. Sandblast paper is supposed to peel off really Post It notes. But to make things easier, in NY, the scenic artists had only peeled the backing from the edges of the paper. They neglected to give that little tip to the Toronto scenics when they sent the paper and info on the color scheme. So, the Toronto scenics removed all of the backing. They were scheduled to show up at the maintenance yard at 8:00 a.m. the next morning to remove the paper and give the train back to its owners. The head scenic expected it to take about 5 hours for him and 3 more guys to clean up the train.

I got a phone call at about 9:30 a.m. to tell me there was a problem. The paper was not coming off. They'd get an edge loose and manage to peel about 2 inches of the stuff before it ripped. He needed more bodies and more equipment and some solvent. And blow dryers. No, better make that heat guns. So, I O.K.'d him hiring 4 more guys and told him to get whatever gear he needed, just get the train cleaned up.

The thing to realize here is that for every hour until we could hand back their train, we were paying for being in the yard. We were paying a rental on the train. And we were paying a four-man crew who had to be there in case the train had to move. Ultimately, it took two full days with 12 scenics working in rotating round-the-clock shifts to get the damned train off of payroll.

Generous & Thoughtful

Those aren't two attributes one generally thinks about when contemplating U.S. Presidents. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure most previous Presidents have been generous and thoughtful in the context of their personal lives and even in their extended social networks, which by definition would be quite extensive. But usually, just because of circumstances, the things you hear about a President relate to wisdom and courage and honesty...stuff like that.

I'm already on record as being happy and proud of who we elected as our next President. I'm hopeful and optimistic about the upcoming Obama Administration. Note: I'm not jumping on the ecstatic "Obama farts bunny rabbit rainbows and shits little nuggets of gold" bandwagon (yes, that's its official name). I think a lot of people have some impossibly high expectations and they're just setting themselves up for a monumental disappointment. What I do expect to see is a Presidency that will work toward restoring our country's standing in the world; a Presidency that will lead calmly, confidently and somewhat quietly; a Presidency that is deliberative, informed and competent.

I wouldn't have thought to add generous and thoghtful to that list until I saw this story in the NY Daily News. It seems that the Obama Campaign is giving a bonus to all workers who have been with the campaign since September equal to one month of their salary. Now, granted, most campaigns are so deep in debt by the end that such generosity is impossible, but to have thought of these folks who are suddenly out of work in a bad economy is...well...generous and thoughtful.

Bravo Mr. President Elect.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hey, There's Rain In It. Part I

A couple of weeks ago, Scripty said I should write a post about rain. It turns out, I don't really have a whole post worth of talking about rain, but this story will have a lot of rain in it.

In 1995, I was the Production Supervisor on a movie called Mrs. Winterbourne. The first thing you should know is that Production Supervisor is a more or less made up job title. The reason I wasn't the Location Manager is because I couldn't have gotten into Canada if I was taking someone else's job. As it was, I ended up functioning as not quite the Production Manager overseeing the Location Manager. It's a funny business.

So anyway, Mrs. Winterbourne, if you've never seen it, stars Ricki Lake as Connie Doyle who finds herself homeless and about to have a baby in NYC. She tries to get on the subway and mistakenly boards a train bound for Boston. There's a big train wreck and in the aftermath, she's mis-identified as Patricia Winterbourne. The real Patricia had been living in Hong Kong since childhood and is taking a trip to the U.S. to meet her husband's wealthy family for the first time, so the Mother-in-Law has no reason to doubt that Connie is really Patricia (the husband was killed in the crash). Hey, it's a little less confusing if you watch it. (Note: I'm not really recommending it, but if it's on TV some afternoon and you have nothing better to do, go ahead and watch it. Besides, some people I like still get residuals from it.)

The movie is scripted as taking place all in NYC and Boston, but this was the heyday of running to Toronto because of the exchange rate. The plan was to shoot most of the movie in Toronto, then move to Boston for 8 days and to NY for two. Early in the movie, you see the train wreck, which sets up the whole movie. This would involve:

-A shot of Connie walking down a NY street as the rain begins (to be shot in NY)
-A confrontation between her (on the street) and the boyfriend who threw her out (he's yelling out of his apartment window)(to be shot in Toronto)
-Connie running down 42nd Street and entering Grand Central Terminal (to be shot in NY)
-Connie gets on the train (to be shot in NY)
-Connie's train ride prior to the crash (Interiors and Exteriors shot in Toronto)
-The train wreck seen only from inside a compartment on the train (Studio work in Toronto).

In that first shot, we're supposed to see the rain begin as she starts down the block and by the time she gets to the end of the block, the rain has built to a monsoon. In every other shot, you're supposed to see torrential rain. We were finishing the movie in NY, so we had scheduled to start the day in the afternoon at Central Park, then move to Grand Central Terminal to shoot the two exterior street scenes. We'd shoot all of the Interior Grand Central scenes the following evening.

A few thing happened that made this plan fall to shit. In the 90's, it was unheard of for the police to shut down a production just because they went longer than the permit said they could. Their supervisors routinely approved overtime, and the cops just stayed till we finished. On this particular day, one of the folks at the top of our food chain managed to piss off the cops enough that they told me we would be held to our permit which said we had to wrap by Midnight. These were cops that I knew very well and had a great working relationship with, but no amount of begging could get them to bend. (This will be important later in the story.)

You'll recall that we needed a generic NY street for the beginning of the scene and 42nd Street for when Connie enters Grand Central. The first street we planned to shoot was 43rd Street, looking away from Grand Central. The Special Effects Coordinator had been hired well in advance and his marching orders (from me), were to make sure he had enough people and equipment to prep both shots simultaneously. I told him that the only thing I wanted to have to move between the two shots would be the water pumping truck. With a schedule as tight as we had, this was not a day to pinch pennies.

So, we all show up on 43rd street which has had the effects people and a rigging crew pre-lighting all day and we're right on schedule. We broke for lunch and were all back and ready to shoot as soon as the sun went down. We decided to test the rain. The pumper truck didn't work. Nada. Effects dude tries to fix it. Nothing.

Remember that thing about not wanting to pinch pennies? I, being the genius I am, had followed my own advice. I'd hired an FDNY snorkel truck to be on set. I figured it might come in handy. So we brought the fire truck around the corner and hooked it up to Effects Dude's equipment and it worked great. Except for one thing. The valve that Effects Dude had created to make the rain start as a light shower and ramp up to a torrent didn't work. Left with two possible volumes of rain, (lots or none), we decided to forego the fancy stuff, so the scene plays more like the sky just opening up.

Now, all of this messing around has put us horribly behind schedule. and we have to be wrapped by Midnight. We move one block to 42nd Street and set up for that shot. We move the fire truck and hook it up to Effects Dude's equipment. We turn on the water.

Let me interrupt for a moment. To get this shot, we've got four huge cranes working; two for rain bars and two for huge lights. There are also rain bars and spinners on stands spread out all over the place. Our equipment is taking up two of 42nd Street's four lanes. This is a big fucking shot with 100 or so extras.

So we turn on the water...and the rain is just...wrong. Effects Dude says the wind is blowing it in the wrong direction. "Has the wind shifted since you started to set up?" "No." Now he wants to start shifting cranes all over the place which will take forever and we're butting up against our Midnight deadline.

I go to talk to the cops again. Just as I approach, they get one of those "Officer needs assistance" calls on the radio and suddenly, all of our cops are running like I had no idea they could run. This bought us an additional hour, during which the following happened:

-I suggested we see what it looks like when they spray water from the snorkel truck.
-We discovered that it didn't look bad at all, we could move it quickly if need be, and lastly, that the rain it created hurt like hell when it came down on you. Tough Shit extras.
-We also didn't get the shot.
-Oh, and I fired the Effects Dude. (Don't bother looking at IMDB for him. He's not listed and I'm not naming names.)

So, now it's 1:00 a.m. on a Friday night/Saturday morning. The cops are absolutely not going to bend...we got an extra hour and we are wrapped. And even if I could get a permit to shoot the exterior again the following evening, it would be too late to get any cops. In the end, we decided to shoot the exterior without a permit. We did have a permit for the interior and for all the truck parking that would go with that. We decided that if we came outside at 11:00 p.m. The cops headed to the precinct to go off shift would want to get home, so they wouldn't bother with us. The cops coming on shift would see a massive set already in full swing. They wouldn't bother us because they'd figure that nobody would have the chutzpah to do anything that big without a permit. Worked like a charm.

I'm realizing that this has turned into a really long story. I'll break off here and continue tomorrow.

P.S. If anybody from the film office is reading this, it was more than 10 years ago. I'm assuming there's some sort of statute of limitations on this kind of thing. Right?