Saturday, January 31, 2009

Channeling My Inner Larry Tate.

When I was a kid, Bewitched was one of my favorite shows. For those of you who may not have been aficionados, Larry Tate was Darrin's boss at an ad agency and a running joke on the show was that Larry would invariably love or hate one of Darrin's concepts until the client chimed in. Then Larry would do a complete 180º to agree with the client, as if he'd thought the same way all along.

A while back, the Script Goddess ran a piece about being asked to work for next to nothing and that got me thinking about some events from my early career. When I was getting started, it was fairly common for Ad Agencies to try to endear themselves to clients by producing Public Service Announcements. Production Companies would happily lend their services to endear themselves to the Ad Agency and, likewise, crew folks would throw in a day of labor to endear themselves to the Production Company. Public Service Announcements were always produced for little or no money, so everyone involved was either providing services for free or for some drastically cut percentage of their normal rate. Most people figured throwing in 4 or 5 days of labor per year was a cost of doing business and did so happily, depending on Karma (and owed favors) to smile on them somewhere down the line.

At some point, a friend and I decided we wanted to be a Production Company. She wanted to direct and I wanted to produce. There were two ways we could think of to get our break and get something done that would start to create a reel for us. One way was to shoot a "Spec Spot". I don't know what people do now, but at the time, some starting companies would shoot spec spots to show ad agencies their massive potential. The problem with shooting a spec spot is that unless a lot of people either really love you (or owe you big time), you're going to have to pay for everything that a normal commercial costs to produce. And nobody's paying you anything to shoot the spot. This is all upfront cost against the possibility of getting agencies interested in you. Neither my partner or I had any money, so this wasn't an option that ever got any serious consideration.

The second option was to convince an agency to let you shoot a Public Service Announcement for them. To take advantage of this option, you had to convince the agency that your director was capable of bringing some unique vision to the P.S.A. and that your producer could get the thing done for some minusculey cheap bottom line. (Is minusculey a word? It should be). Anyway, in the circumstance, this is the option my partner and I decided to give a shot.

We both had agency contacts at the time and put the word out that we were available for any projects they might have in the pipeline. Miraculously, we got a meeting fairly quickly. They sent us the storyboards and some background info on a P.S.A. they were planning and gave us a few days to come up with a presentation. I have absolutely no memory who or what the P.S.A. was for, but the gist of the commercial was that this is a scary world for some children and whatever bureaucracy the spot was for was the solution to the problem. The storyboards and the script we got were boring as hell and we reworked it into something we thought was pretty dramatic and much more eye-catching. The agency agreed and awarded us the spot.

O.K., so we had a job. Now, all we had to do was actually pull it off. We both started calling in every real or perceived favor we were owed. We found a crew to work for free in no time flat. I was still managing an equipment rental house, so free gear and a studio fell into our laps. We knew editors with their own gear so they signed up. In those days, (and maybe still), if you shot film in Boston, you shipped it to a lab in NY for processing. They knew us and signed on. Even Eastern Airlines said they'd ship for free. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you we were on our way to producing a 30 second commercial while spending less than $1,000 in actual money. Coming into the shoot day, we were looking like total heroes.

The commercial we wrote would play on all of the classic childhood fears: monsters under the bed or in the closet, strange noises, that creepy clown doll that took on such a fearsome persona when the lights went out. The commercial was designed as an absurdly ambitious single shot on circular dolly track. The camera would track around the child in bed, and one by one, reveal all of these childhood a single take. This was the early 80's and the computer generated tricks that are so easy to produce now, just didn't exist yet. So, to make this work, we'd be doing a highly choreographed dolly move timed to run simultaneously with various lighting gags (headlights passing outside a window to produce just the right menacing shadows), and physical bits (a doll falling just the right way as the camera panned past it).

Cut to the morning of the shoot. Let's start with the fact that as an equipment rental house manager, my usual uniform consisted of steel-toed boots, torn jeans and a ratty t-shirt. At work, I spent most of my time on the phone with customers and the rest of my time helping haul heavy dirty equipment around. I had practically zero face-to-face contact with our customers, so my wardrobe was more about comfort and utility than being presentable. On this particular day, I chose to wear what I imagined was the Producer's Uniform...pointy black cowboy boots, knife-creased blue jeans, a button-down shirt (open at the collar), and a sport coat. I imagined this ensemble had the proper mix of casual Je' ne se quoi and authoritarian weight required for the day. (Please recall what constituted fashion in the early 80's and you may be properly horrified.)

Since we were not (complete) idiots, we had planned our day to accomodate rehearsing and tweaking the move for much of the day. Don't forget, ultimately, we were looking for one good take and all of the sound and Voice Over would be added in post production, so we really didn't think we had bitten off more than we could chew. Unfortunately, nobody on the spot had had any prep time other than the director and I. This is where we proved to be at least partial idiots.

To make a long story less than interminable...nothing worked. The lighting gag with the car's headlights became much more complicated than we'd imaginged. The shadows thrown happened at the wrong time...or were so diffuse as to make the shadows some amorphous, unidentifiable, unscary blob. The doll that was supposed to lurch forward in its chair either just fell on the floor or laughably flew across the room. As lunch approached, the director and I were huddling in a corner trying to figure out some way to simplify the whole thing and, somehow, salvage the day.

When I returned to the space we'd set up for the agency and client, one of them asked me how I thought the day was going. In a moment that could have been lifted from a Bewitched episode, I jauntilly responded, "It's going marvelous...(er), how do you think it's going?" Face, meet palm!

Over lunch, we had a rushed meeting with the department heads relying on their experience and expertise to try coming up with something we could actually get shot by day's end. Ultimately, we ditched the whole dolly move and shot the spot in about six different pieces. I remember seeing it air...once. It wasn't good.

At least it didn't cost much.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Confession Is Good For The Soul.

I have something to admit. And I'm man enough to admit it to the tens of people who read my blog. ::Cue ominous music::

I am apparently an UnAmerican Scheißekopf.

Just what do I mean by this. Well, my sin is so grievous that during WWII, it probably would have gotten me shot. "Really"?, you ask. Yup! Take, for example, this scene which could have been written for practically any war movie between 1942 and 1949:

Ext Forest - Night

A small outpost of soldiers huddles in their foxhole nervously listening for any noises on their perimiter. Chippy, the young kid from Omaha is cowering in the bottom of the hole cupping a cigarette while Boots McGee, the grizzled vet from Trenton, NJ remains attentive.

A twig, sounding like a rifle shot, breaks nearby.

"Halt! Who goes there?"

Chippy snuffs his butt and shrinks even further into their hole if that's possible.

Nathan (from the perimeter)
"Private Gendzier. Don't shoot. Sarge Joiner sent us out on patrol. We're coming in. Don't shoot!"


"Mango Pudding"

Boots (whispering to Chippy)
"That's the password alright. But somethin' don't seem right."
(aloud to Nathan)
"OK, who's the mayor of NYC?"


Chippy (practically crying)
"Anybody could know that one. Give him another."

Boots (shouting)
"Fine. Who won the battle of Brandywine?"

"The British. They took Philadelphia on September 26, 1777 and held it until June 1778."

"That doesn't prove anything. Give him a tough one."

Boots (clearly annoyed)
"Where was the Lewis & Clark expedition when they reached the Pacific?"

Nathan (growing desperate)
"They built Ft. Clatsop on the southern bank of the Columbia River and wintered over at what is now Astoria, Oregon. They thought they'd live off of Pacific Salmon but discovered that the salmon only return to the river to spawn in the Summer months and were therefore disappointed."

Boots (to Chippy)
"He seems to know his stuff. I'm gonna let him pass."

Chippy (suddenly courageous leaps up in the foxhole and shouts)
"Who won the 1939 World Series?"


Chippy and Boots open fire and wipe out Nathan and his 4 man patrol.

Yup. The truth is, I don't much care about sports. Until a day or two ago, I didn't know that the Super Bowl was being played this weekend. Until I Googled it, I didn't know which two teams would be playing. It's entirely possible that I'll forget that detail some time later today. The fact is, this All-American event that unites us all (separately) in front of the biggest screens we can find with massive quantities of food and beer doesn't register on my scale of things worth caring about.

I was made keenly aware of this personal deficiency as a young child. Growing up in Jacksonville, Fl, there were two major football events each year. There was the Gator Bowl Game each year, but this was edged out, in my family, by the perennial battle that was the Florida-Georgia Game. This was played in Jacksonville because the Gator Bowl was the biggest stadium around and it was (sort of) mid-way between the two colleges. This game was THE EVENT and my family got tickets every year. My most distinct memories are of sitting in the very last row and clutching the chain link fence which was the only thing standing between me and the certain death of falling what seemed to me to be 500 stories to the parking lot below. I don't know if it was this irrational fear or the fact that the players were just a bunch of ants scurrying aimlessly on the field, but somehow, I just never caught the football bug. (Note: a lot of little kids are distracted by all of the wonderful treats available at sporting events until the game finally catches their attention, but since we kept kosher, we made do with brown-bagging our treats. I could have had the same treats in front of the TV at home, so this expedition just seemed completely pointless to me.)

Hockey was unknown in Florida, so I had no exposure to it. Anything to do with snow or ice were utterly foreign to me. Basketball never hooked me. I always wondered why, since everything seemed to happen at the end of the game, they didn't just play two-minute games and let us get on with our lives.

I will admit that baseball caught on with me when I was at college in Boston. I remain a Red Sox fan, but a really lazy one. I don't follow box scores on any regular basis and if the Red Sox get into post-season play, I have to re-acquaint myself with who is on the team that year. Sorry. Most of the fun is in vilifying the Yankees, not rabidly following the daily achievements of my team. It's mostly a Shadenfreude thing.

So, anyway, on Sunday, when many of you are living and dying by the clock, glued to your big-screen and lustilly cheering or groaning each gain of three yards, I'll be watching something that Netflix lovingly popped into my mailbox. I will keep up the tradition of mass-consumption, however. Not having Chicken wings, chips, pretzels, dip, crudite, hot dogs, and every other snack we can get our hands on would definitely get me a reservation on the next flight to Gitmo. I know it's getting closed down, but why take chances.

Oh, BTW. For a few years, I did regret missing the commercials but I still couldn't bring myself to watch the whole game (much less the awesometacularly lame half-time show), just to see the entertaining bits during time-outs. Now I can console myself with just watching the good bits on YouTube.

Don't shoot! Mango Pudding!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

As Alaska Goes, So Goes The Nation!

There used to be a saying in politics, As Maine goes, so goes the nation. It was a reference to Maine's ability to choose a Governor and then for the nation to elect a president of the same party. I'd link the stats, but, 1.) they're a little iffy and 2.) they're boring. But it all makes me think that I'm ready to get behind a movement to follow Alaska's example in all things.

Allow me to provide some introductory information.

1.) Jim posted something the other day about one of my state's Representatives introducing a mostly harmless (if useless) bill in Congress. Frankly, I didn't get too excited over the whole thing for a number of reasons. I did, however, experience a slight pang of lameness over what my state's representatives are getting all het up about.

2.) Alaska's scandal-laden Governor was able, (with seemingly little or no effort), to provide hours and hours of entertainment to the entire nation, (dare I say World?), by merely opening her mouth on a (briefly) regular basis.

3.) Jim's post made me want to find something from his neck of the woods to talk about, be it wonderful or woeful. (Yes, Jim. I'm aware that Fairbanks is as much your neck of the woods as Richmond, VA is mine, but work with me here. It's all Alaska, dammit!)

3.) I have no idea how I missed this story a couple of days ago, but it just has AWESOME written in flashing neon script all over it:

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, The Alaska Publine has applied for a state liquor license so that in addition to shuttling the drinkers of Fairbanks Alaska from pub to pub, he'll be able to reinforce the buzz as they navigate the cold, dark, snowy streets of that fair metropolis. If you read the comments in the article linked above, you'll find that some people think it's, maybe, not such a great idea. I beg to differ.

I love the idea of mixing drunken soldiers and college students together on a bus and then making sure they get drunker before the next stop. This has WIN written all over it. My only issues are that Alaska Publine hasn't thought nearly far enough out of the box. I have some suggestions.

1. I don't know the condition of the roads in Fairbanks or what sort of turns are involved on the route the bus takes, but I think there should be a second bus including "falling-on-your-lap-dances". I presume the bus is sufficiently heated to support the removal of enough sealskins to make this properly titillating. I'd also suggest a pre-recorded message that says, "Close the damned door. Where'd you grow a barn?"

2. There should be a casino-bus. There are already gimbals produced so that roulette can be played fairly on the high seas. Surely they can balance the wheel on a bus. Dude! Play your cards right and the patrons won't bother to ever get off at the stops.

3. Not to be a buzzkill, but I highly suggest some sort of towed/separate restroom facility and vomitorium. The ancient Romans knew of what they spoke. Just sayin'.

4. Please don't limit yourself to sloppy American drunks. The presence of a Foreign Exchange Window will open things up nicely. Discrimination against Canucks and Ruskies is just plain short sighted. It also minimizes the potential for belligerence and therefore limits the amount of bouncers you'll be employing. Don't forget, as long as you can say you're providing jobs, you can just sit back and wait for the Federal funding to pour in. Have you learned nothing?

Anyway, this is an idea I totally support. Alaska should take pride in its visionary thinking. I'm all behind the idea of letting them try out new and unique opportunities and then letting us import the ones that work well. My only request is a temporary closure of the AlCan Highway during the test run.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Johnny And The Easter Bunny. (A Horror In Two Acts)

“Johnny, Johnny, Johnny. I don’t have to tell you, you’re a little behind on delivery and I can only keep my bosses quiet about it for so long”, said Rita Braithwaite.

John who despised being called Johnny, looked at Rita and considered his response carefully. “I’ve given you a new book every 13 months for the last 14 years. You’re just going to have to be patient on this one.”

Rita gave him that fake look that says, We’re both on the same side here, and said, “It’s not me Johnny; my hands are tied, here. If I don’t show them something soon, they’re going to kick in some of your penalty clauses, and there really isn’t anything I can do to help you once that happens”.

John knew that Rita only had one side to be on, but he had to trust someone. He had tried talking to his wife, to friends; he’d even tried psychoanalysis. Everyone thought he had lost it. And why not? How could anyone spend his life known as the writer of the creepiest horror stories in American Literature and not be a little...odd? John assumed that Rita would at least recognize her own self interest and maybe be of some help. Finally, he decided to take the dive.

“Rita, I’m having a big problem with the next book.”

“They can’t all be your best Johnny. Let’s just get it done and out there and we’ll move on to the next project.”

“You don’t understand”, he pleaded, “I’ve been working on this thing for months and I’m still on the first chapter. It just isn’t any good. Here, look.”

Rita took a disappointingly thin sheaf of papers and began to scan the pages. “Hmm, broad daylight…yeah, scare them when they should be off their guards. The noise from behind the wall in the laundry room…I see where you’re going here. Good. Good.” Rita went on, continuing to make approving noises and then fell silent. “Uh, Johnny. There’s a big stuffed Easter Bunny behind the wall? It’s like a killer zombie bunny with really sharp teeth, right?”

“No, Rita…just a big stuffed Easter Bunny.”

“I’m not sure America is going to buy a bunch of books about a fluffy bunny. Is it a mind reading bunny who extorts money?”

“Nuh, Uh. Just a big fluffy pink bunny. It’s really very sweet and cuddley.”

“I don’t get it, Johnny. Maybe you’d better explain it to me.”

John took another deep breath and spilled the whole story. “I’ve written this chapter, I don’t know how many times already. He’s broken down that wall and found evil dead ancestors, angry murder victims, the gates of Hell, giant Hell-hounds, ghosts of his own victims…you name it; I’ve written it.”

“Well, those all sound great Johnny. Why don’t you just keep going with one of them?”

“Every time I write it, it really happens to me. I go to bed at 11:00 O’clock and I wake up down in the laundry room in the middle of the night. Every time, I’ve broken through the wall in my sleep and I really find whatever I’ve just finished writing. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I had to take a cab here ‘cause I don’t even feel safe driving in this condition.”

“So, the other stuff scared you and you changed them all into a fluffy bunny?”

“Well, yeah”, John said, “But even that hasn’t helped. Even the bunny creeps the shit out of me now. He's so damned insistent all the time. And all the other stuff is just on the tip of my mind. One fluffy Easter Bunny just can’t erase all those other images from my mind”

“How about if you write that…a first person account of a horror writer who’s finally scared himself too much?”

“I’ve tried that angle too. I just don’t know how to make it work.” He rubbed his stubbled chin and continued, “I’ve had a best seller about a slave cemetery haunting the ancestors of their owners. I’ve gotten America to buy into the concept of a telephone that sucks people into another dimension. I had millions of people lining up to fork over $29.95 to scare the piss out of themselves reading about an evil possessed toddler. But I can’t think of any way to get people enough into my own fucked-up head to scare them with a cuddly 4’ tall stuffed bunny.”

Rita considered a moment. “I can see where that might be a problem. Maybe we could do the whole thing as a tie-in with one of those caffeine drinks; ya’know, get ‘em all really sleep deprived first?”

John gave her a sardonic look.

She held up her hands, “O.K., I’m just brainstorming here. There’s got to be an answer, though.”

“Well, I’ve been agonizing over it for months now. If you can come up with an angle, I’ll be happy to try it. I’m at the end of my rope, here.”

Rita said, “Look. You go home and I’ll think about this some. I’ll give you a call and maybe we can come up with something together. In the meantime, go home and try to distract yourself with something else. You’re not doing either of us any good in this condition. You look like shit.”

John left Rita’s office and climbed into the taxi he’d had wait for him. The ride home was short and uneventful. He entered his house and dropped his keys in the bowl on the side table. Without bothering to announce his presence, he went immediately down the basement stairs to the laundry room. There was a large hole and a pick-axe to the left of the dryer with a glow like a blast furnace coming out of it. Standing with its back braced against the hole, apparently all that held back…whatever…was a 4’ tall pink stuffed Easter Bunny. “John, I sure as hell hope you figured something out ‘cause I can’t hold this shit back much longer”, cried the bunny.

“I’m on it”, John said. “I’m sure Rita will come up with something soon.”

“Well she’d better. You dreamed me and the rest of this shit all up. None of this is my fault.”

“Well, it’s not my fault either”, John whined. “I was just doing my job. I’m supposed to come up with stuff like this.”

“Yeah, John, you just keep telling yourself that. But it’s only a few weeks before I have to start hiding Easter Eggs and looking adorable. When the time come, I’m outta here, and you’re on your own pal.”

“Fine! I’ll just write Santa tonight. He’s had a few weeks off and nobody’s expecting him again for months!”

“Good for you, John”, said the Easter Bunny. “Just make sure you write the fattest one you can think of. This hole’s getting bigger every day.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An Open Letter To Hollywood.

We all know times are tough. There are a great many movies and television shows that are in the pipeline and for various reasons, including the current economy and the unsureness about a possible strike by S.A.G., you are understandably loathe to commit to move ahead with production at this time.

I'd like to take this opportunity to make you a very generous offer on my behalf.

I am willing to entertain all proffers of Pay or Play and/or Retainers for my services. You all know that once the dam breaks, you'll all be flooding the market with work. And the current glut of available crew will dry up like the L.A. River in no time flat. You know you're going to need a Location Manager pretty soon, and there are only so many of us to go around.

Go ahead and reserve me for your project now! And, like I said, I'm very reasonable. Need a low-cost retainer? Pay me less now to make sure I only accept so many retainers in total (1st come, first served). Or maybe you want to pay me quite a bit to completely lock up my services and availability. Hell, I'll sit by my phone with an open email connection if you pay me enough.

Please note that as a newly reminted DGA member, I can only entertain proffers from imaginary productions that imagine they'll be DGA Signatory companies when they imaginarily (or otherwise), go into production.

Don't forget, If you want to not make your movie for a really reasonable fee, I'm your guy!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Jeez! Look At Those Plums Charging Over The Hill.

Q: What's the difference between an elephant and a plum?
A: Their color.
Q: What did Tarzan say to Jane when he saw the elephants coming?
A: Here come the elephants.
Q: What did Jane say to Tarzan when she saw the elephants coming?
A: Here come the plums; she was color blind.
In the recent past, I've seen some other FilmCrew Blogger-types writing about their own subjective perceptions of different film sets...particularly with relation to the locations. Everyone, mostly dependent on their jobs and how they interact with a location, seems to have their own perception of what makes a good or bad location. Well, I'm no different, as I was reminded last night.

Allow me to take a step back because, for me, like I suspect for others, these perceptions change over time. When I was in Film School, they were teaching me all of the arcane theories and techniques behind Film. I found myself going to movies and walking out without the first clue what the movie had been about. I was too busy analyzing structure and composition and hidden meanings in the editing to actually pay any attention to the story and whether or not it was told well. Watching movies that way truly sucked and I trained myself out of the habit fairly quickly.

I still find myself wondering where certain scenes were shot, especially if it's somewhere I'm familiar with and want to know how the location manager pulled off such a coup in scoring the place. (Some places are notoriously difficult to get permission for filming and/or, just cost ridiculous amounts of money.) For the most part, though, I've gotten to a point where I can just escape into a movie like everyone else.

There are two notable exceptions:

1. On occasion, I'll see a scene that's so magnificently (or horribly), shot, that I can't help but take notice. I'll leave it to another post, but there's a case to be made that either of these examples might mean the filmmaker has made a mistake, i.e. they were either so incompetent, or so proud of what they could pull off that they compromised the movie as a whole for the sake of a scene.

2. Movies I've worked on.

The second is what I'm going to talk about today.

If you're a Grip, here are the some of the things you care about when seeing a location for the first time:
-Is it easy to get all the gear inside; stairs or elevator, any narrow doorways or weird corners to navigate, etc.

Electricians care about how to get cable into the place without running it through the shots. They care about windows and how easy it will be to control the light during the day. (In fairness, grips care about this one as well. One of the simplest explanations I've ever heard of the difference between Grips and Electricians is that Electricians make light and Grips make shadows. So, while the electricians may want to know if they can easily get a really big light right outside of a window, the grips may be looking at how easy it is to black-out the same window.)

The Camera Department mostly cares about there being some huge spare room just for them, so they can empty their truck into the location and have every lens known to man, twenty steps away.

Teamsters want to know where they'll park and how long it takes to get there.

P.A.'s care about how close is the nearest Double-Mocha Grande Latte Frappaccino, because, God-forbid it be cold by the time it's placed in the D.P.'s hand.

The Sound Department doesn't want to work anywhere near airport landing patterns, factories, playgrounds, subways, grocery stores with refrigerator-units on the roof, nightclubs, beaches, wind, trucks, or anyplace with upstairs or downstairs neighbors. (I've known one Academy Award winning sound mixer for years and when I work with him, he's graduated to saying, "Can you chase down that car alarm, or shall I just go fuck myself?")

Everybody cares about crew parking almost to the exception of anything related to the work they'll be doing.

At any rate, I found myself watching Loving Leah last night and realizing that when I watch a movie I've worked on, I find myself completely distracted remembering how easy or difficult a particular location was to deal with. The following is not specific to Loving Leah, but here are some examples of how I might be taken out of the moment:

I recall shooting in a specific small southern town. The owner of the General Store set himself up as the ipso-facto contact for every other merchant on Main Street and proceded to do two things: 1.) he made sure every deal benefited him financially, and 2.) he neglected to tell most other merchants exactly what we were really up to, so they were invariably surprised (unhapilly), when we showed up to make their store look like something completely different. Whenever I see scenes from that movie, I cringe thinking about how much extra work and money this guy cost us. (This was not helped by the fact that when this particular town was victim of a natural disaster, my favorite General Store owner in the world, showed up in an interview on Nightline.)

I've had (at least), one location I managed without ever setting foot on the property. The scouting for this site had gone on to the last possible minute and I was too buried with other things to go scout it with the creative types. They came back to the office professing their love for the location and we proceded to make the deal. At first, I stayed out of the negotiation because other people working for me knew the particulars of the location and what we wanted to do there better than I did. Then, I stayed out because it was valuable for those actually negotiating to have some unseen superior approving or disapproving the costs involved. Then, I stayed out of it because the property owner became somewhat crazed with regard to rewriting the contract from scratch and it was just easier siccing them on the Studio Attorney. I have a distinct memory of seeing those scenes and thinking, "Oh, that's where we ended up shooting that. At least it was a pretty location."

I've had street scenes where everybody on the block got together to try to make sure everyone on the block got paid the same. At first blush, this might seem to make some sense. When you think about it, however, you'll find that, at one end of the spectrum, there may be a scene outside of a nightclub where the scene is centered. I need to have them closed down for the night. I need to completely control who is going in or out of the place. I need someone to stay there all night to give us access to the place. I probably needed access to the place since early in the day for lighting and set dressing. At the far end of the spectrum (and the far end of the block), maybe there's a children's shoe store. 1.) They close by 8:00pm every night, an hour before sunset and the start of filming, 2.) we'll never see the store on camera, 3.) we're not asking them to do a single solitary thing for us. I can't tell you how often I've met that shoe store owner who thought we should pay for their kids' college education for the honor of working on their block.

I won't go into details, but I have a distinct memory of one location where every neighbor seemed to be on furlough from a psychiatric facility. This was no fun at all.

Anyway, the gist of all this is that whether you're in the business or not, you probably have something in particular you notice when you're watching a movie. Maybe you notice how beautifully a scene was lit. Maybe you notice a particular bit of camera movement and try to figure out exactly how they pulled that one off. Maybe you notice a particularly wonderful turn of a phrase or how some actor performed so well that you were completely sucked in emotionally.

Me? I notice those things too. But first I remember whether or not I liked the homeowner.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Television Trivia

I've got nothing right, I propose a game of Television Trivia. I'll start the ball rolling. You answer my question in the comments and then put up your own question. Since it's Sunday and traffic will be light, feel free to answer and ask as many questions as you like (but only one at a time).

I'm only setting one rule: Your question has to relate to a TV show...movies (and movie versions) don't count.

So, here's my question:

On The Jetsons, the family dog is actually discovered to be the long lost pet of a millionaire, J.P. Gottrockets. What did the Jetsons call the dog (too easy and doesn't count as the answer), and what did the original owner claim his name really was?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Just What The Hell Is Wrong With Me?

I mean really. What's it take to satisfy me?

I'm talking about books here and how I'm seeing in myself that most insipid of characters; the ungrateful reader.

I've just finished Dead Reign by T.A. Pratt. I love these books. The debut, Blood Engines, and its followup, Poison Sleep both sucked me in immediately and Dead Reign didn't disappoint in the least. There's a fourth book announced for Spring 2009.

All of these books follow the exploits of Marla Mason, Head Sorcerer for the town of Felport. As the series progresses, Marla continues to be a "kick all their asses and sort 'em out later" type, but she's also becoming much more three dimensional; conflicted, but willing to do what needs to be done at the moment; able put her feelings aside and confront her demons on her own time. Her list of supporting characters are also becoming more real...not just spear carriers in the chorus. They have their own strengths and weaknesses, and while you see them mostly through a lens of loyalty (or disloyalty) to Marla, you also begin to see that they all have their own motivating agendas as well.

This is as it should be. I love it when I already know a character and I get to see what's new in their lives as well as getting backstory filled in along the way. The fact is, I'd feel abandoned if Pratt's next novel wasn't about Marla. Her story isn't finished, dammit and I want to know more. (Side note: I know, to a large degree, authors get stuck with whatever cover art they get, but I really like the covers on this series. Marla comes off as not exactly plain, but certainly as real. I likes me my share of Amazons and Valkyries as much as the next guy, but Marla looks like she ought to.)

So, what's my problem? I want more. Yes, more Marla, but also some completely new stuff. Like many authors, I like Pratt's writing style and Marla just isn't enough. I want new characters in new settings in new worlds...and I want them now. There it is: I'm just another damned ingrate.

So, to Mr. Pratt, I have this message. Stop all that damned sleeping and eating and going shopping and crap. No clubbing for you. Your family can be satisfied with a quick email on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Stay in your damned office and keep writing. With a little diligence on your part, you could not only keep up your output of Marla stories; I'd bet you could get another two or three series started up.

You write 'em and I'll keep buying ' And BTW, if you're wasting time reading this...stop it right now and get back to work. (As the joke about Hell goes..."Coffee break's over! Back on your heads!")


Oh, BTW #2: I'm starting Half A Crown by Jo Walton next. This one promises to be the third and final installment in the Small Change series, set in 1940's and 50's and positing a world where Hitler was appeased and WWII never happened. This is another author and series worth your time and I'm looking forward to the latest installment. And I'll be looking forward to whatever world she comes up with next. In fact, I'll probably go back and read some of her previous stuff that I missed before. (Note: For some reason, I've had trouble finding her stuff in brick and mortar bookstores and I've had to chase down each book on Amazon or the like. She's not exactly obscure, so somebody should do something about that.)

Correction: Imagine my surprise to get to the second paragraph and discover that we've moved all the way up to 1960. WooHoo!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Oh! By The Way...

I keep forgetting to mention that the last movie I worked on will be on CBS this Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. (EST) or whatever time your zone throws things into. They've changed the title to Loving Leah. (For some odd reason, my name doesn't show up on IMDB's credits yet, but I'll remedy that.)

I have no idea whether or not it's any good, but the locations are fabulous!

The Ultimate Bendy-Straw From ????

I mentioned last night that I had received a really awesome gift in the mail. May I now present, the ultimate Bendy-Straw.

Lookit all-o-them pieces you can put together in soooooo many different ways.

Two people can share a drink.

One person can have two drinks!

Even three drinks. It's madness! Madness, I say!

You can even have three people share three drinks...though you might need more bits to prevent head butting.

Or you can keep your drink to yourself and watch it come from two different places and go every which-way before getting to your mouth. This is a tremendous invention.

Now here's the deal. (I'm going to use the words Someone and Somebody a lot here, even where I know exactly who I'm talking about...and also, where I don't know.)

A while back, somebody's husband was sick. I commented that a bendy straw could make everything better. Next thing I know, yet another somebody has sent someone, (not me), some kind of cool bendy straw. And I whined. Then I got sick.

Then, the Ultimate Bendy-Straw in the World showed up on my doorstep...without a hint as to the sender. Now, I have my suspicions about who the someone was who sent it, but I'll be honest; with this bunch of people, it could actually have been someone else. So, I'm going to refrain from guessing because I'm sure to slight someone and we wouldn't want that, now would we?

Would the sender of the awesomest piece of mail I've gotten recently, please stand up and take a bow?

And Thank You!

I Dis-Remember It Well.

My brother Seth introduced himself in the comments the other day, so now I get to blog about him with impunity. (Hey, I don't make the rules, I just follow them.)

It turns out he and I were experiencing opiates on opposite sides of the world sorta-kinda simultaneously. He messed up his knee when we were kids and his doctor over there in Asia decided the repair had been fine work for 1976, but that it needed a 21st Century overhaul. So, now we're both convalescing in opposing time zones. The thing I remember about his first knee surgery is that it happened right before my 16th birthday (shut up...this is all about me).

Growing up in Florida, we could get our Driver's License when we turned 16. In my family, there was a strict protocol that was followed thereafter. First, you'd get to drive with Dad during daylight hours for a few weeks. Then, that would expand to driving with Dad after dark. Eventually, you'd get to drive somewhere with only Mom in the car. After 6 months or so, you'd get to take the car out on your own. (I think the deciding factor was that if you drove with Mom and her fingertips no longer reached the deepest gouges in the dashboard, you were ready to drive by yourself.)

On my Sixteenth birthday, Seth was just home from the hospital and knee surgery with a cast that went from his toes to his armpit. (It might not have been that big, but this is my memory.) I don't remember all of the details, but for some reason, there must have been two or twelve other assorted family members in various hospitals at the moment also. In other words, Mom had a fair amount of running around to do. Mom and I were sitting outside the DMV to get my test about an hour before they opened and she was quizzing me mercilessly and reminding me that if I didn't pass the test on my first try, I'd be out of the family. Luckily, for me, I did pass. I dropped Mom off at one of the hospitals (I think), and was given a permission slip to skip school and a loooooong list of errands to run all day. I was in heaven driving all over town in the 1972 Plymouth Fury Station Wagon all day. Look at me! I'm buying milk!

Now, for a brilliant segue. On The Office last night, there was a scene where Michael and Dwight were arguing over the relative merits of Denny's vs. IHOP. This reminded me of "The Great HoJo/HolIn Debate of '69 or '70" when Seth and I would have been somewhere in the 9 to 11 year old range; he's the older one. (I don't remember exactly what year this was, but I asked Seth in an email last night and he's no fucking help at all, so we're going with my recollection.)

Anyway, apparently that summer, all of our older brothers and sisters were gone away to summer camp and Mom and Dad decided to take a road trip with just Seth and I, the culmination of which would be a visit to our siblings at camp.

There are three things I remember about this road trip.

First of all, this was in the days when the back seat of a family car sat 32 people comfortably, seat belts were for wusses and the speed limit was 130 m.p.h. Since Dad's main goal was scoring mileage, meals were eaten in the car. Knives and forks and glass bottles of Coke were deriguer. I haven't got a clue why any of us are still alive.

Second, Seth and I had OUTFITS set aside for when we visited our older sibs so we'd look cool! We each had the following matching items. 1.) a pair of bell-bottoms. (These were either the one style of bell-bottom available that year -- those horrid blue denim things with the wide white pin-stripes, or maybe real Navy-Man pants, since our grandfather owned an Army-Navy Store and those would have been cheap/free); 2.) a 'peace-sign' pendant on a leather thong, and 3.) a suede vest with fringes all over. Each morning, the OUTFIT had to be laid out flat on the bed before being packed up for the next leg of the trip to make sure we'd look appropriately cool when we arrived at camp in front of all the big kids. (To paraphrase Seth, "Gawd, what a couple of dorks we were!")

Last, but definitely not least, for some unknown reason, I was a Howard Johnson's afficianado and Seth was firmly in Holiday Inn's camp.

I need to take a slight aside here to set the stage a little better. I've mentioned that Dad's over-riding goal was to put as much mileage on the car as possible each day. Mom, on the other hand, had to find an acceptible motel. There were three criteria for choosing an acceptible motel: Mom refused to stay anywhere that didn't have, at least, a Queen sized bed for her and Dad (No I love Lucy bullshit for her -- Yay, Mom!); there had to be a connecting room for the kids; and it had to be clean. I don't think she had any kind of CSI kit or anything, but she knew whether or not a motel met her standards.

The HoJo/HolIn debate complicated issues to a degree that I can only imagine made my father want to just shut Seth and I in the trunk every night and be done with it. It was decided that we'd alternate nights between Howard Johnson's and Holiday Inns so that the two of us would shut the fuck up. This. Did. Not. Work.

First, Dad would have to pull off the road and start looking for a motel around 4 every afternoon. This was so that Mom would have time to reject 4 or 5 motels before we comfortably settled in each night. Since each evening's choice was limited to one chain or the other, we might cover an additional 30 miles before choosing the night's lodging.

And once we got there, the fun had only begun. Seth and I devised a checklist to compare the quality of each chain against the other: Did all of the lightbulbs work? Did the bed have Magic-Fingers™? Was there a pool, slide, diving board, high-dive? (and why did we care since we'd be getting back on the road before getting a chance to use it.) In all fairness, I'm sure Seth is the one who came up with the check-list, but he could get me to eagerly argue with him about absolutely anything then, so I was a willing participant.

Eventually, we got to camp and proudly donned our OUTFITS. I'm pretty sure our sibs were embarrassed to be seen with us, so all I remember is playing with a goat.

Note: Family members are free to contradict me on any of my recollections here, but until you get your own blog, my version is the true one. Hey! It's on the internet---it must be true!


P.S. The nifty gift I got yesterday will show up later today. It's worthy of some careful photography I'm not ready to deal with yet.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Need I say more? (Well, the cats forgot me, but they'll get over that.)

Damn, I Wish I Had A Good Headline!

I was trying to find a great quote about people getting sprung from prison, but everything I found was a whole section of dialog. Great stuff, but way too long.

Anyway, as you might have figured, I'm getting sprung from the hospital either later today or first thing tomorrow. I'm hoping for sooner, rather than later; I've really had enough of this place. There's one last thing I wanted to leave you with about the place (unless, of course, they give me something else to boggle about before they cut me loose). Some of you have sort of wondered what sort of Third-World place I'd found myself in here. The truth's a fine hospital in the middle of Brooklyn with mostly a great staff of Doctors, Nurses and Techs.

That having been said, during my first few days here, the heat was set to "Sub-Tropics". The nurses would complain every time they stepped into the room and immediately started sweating. So, the day before yesterday, some guys came in and pulled the heating unit out of it's frame under the window, did some stuff to it somewhere else for a while, and then returned it.

I didn't notice anything different about how it was working, but they came back yesterday and took it away again. Around 6:30 p.m., I noticed they'd never brought it back. What kind of freakin' hospital thinks it's O.K. to take the heater out of a room in the middle of winter without bringing it back. Hey, it's not like I was trying to live in an igloo or something (the rest of the floor and every other room has heat cranking, so some of it's getting here), but there really ought to be heat here in NYC in the 21st Century.

But guess what? I don't give a shit. I'm getting sprung!

(Oh, and suggested headlines are welcome as usual...but no prizes today.)


And one last thing. A friend of mine managed to score an invite to one of the Official Inaugural Balls (I think Eastern States). She managed to get pretty close to all the excitement. I am seriously fucking jealous.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Take Me To Your Pain-O-Meter.

First of all, if you notice any contradiction between this post and one a few days ago, you are cordially invited to shut the hell up about it. Anything you read on my blog is correct at the moment you’re reading it. (Yeah, you heard that right! This blog’s accuracy is fully dependent on the moment when you are reading it, not the moment when it was written. Live with it.)

I got my first pair of eyeglasses when I was three or four years old. (Why, yes, I was adorable, thank you very much.) At that appointment and at every other optometrist's appointment since then, I’ve gone through the portion of the exam where they keep flipping back and forth between two lenses and asking “Is this one better…or this one”? And I’m always sure I’m going to get it wrong. I mean, they’re the ones who went to Eye-Doctor School. Who the hell am I to tell them when they’ve got it right?

I complained a few days ago about doctors who, more or less, ignored my presence in the room so they could discuss me like a specimen under a slide. Today, I’m going to complain about the ones who care too much about my opinion in the whole thing. (I’m contrary that way. Live with it.)

Let’s start with the part where they’re pressing and patting and prodding different parts of you and asking, “Does it hurt here?” Well, everything is fine as long as you keep expressing pain where they expect you to. Then, all of a sudden, you rebound and cringe from one particular prod and they say “It hurt there?” And their look utterly screams, “OMG, OMG, OMG, it’s not supposed to hurt there and there…is it?” And you’re left lying there thinking, “Oh, crap. I failed the test.”

It’s my understanding that during my first few days in the hospital, they just kept me doped up on morphine and I may have missed a lot of what was going on. Then, they switched me to another pain medication and the instruction was that I could have it as often as once every four hours, but only if I asked for it. These were both fine situations as far as I was concerned. Then they switched me to yet a different pain-killer, but the new wrinkle was that when I requested it, I was asked to rate my pain on a “one-to-ten” scale. WTF? I was supposed to study?

The truth is, I had a whole lot of difficulty rating my pain on a “one-to-ten” scale. I mean, just think about it! That’s an awful lot of pressure for some schmuck whose gut hurts and all he wants is to get back to sleep.

Well, as a public service, I’m going to advise you on how to react to these questions if you find yourself in a similar situation sometime down the road.

First, and most importantly, you need to be aware that it’s totally a trick question. Let’s dispense with the top of the pain chart.

TEN is reserved for situations in which someone with access to heavy-duty painkillers takes one look at you, says, “Oooh gross! I don’t think that really belongs there”, and decides that anyone with their parts rearranged thusly, is probably in pain. You will receive painkillers with nobody's request or explanation required.

NINE is reserved for people screaming incoherently. Once again, it's likely you have some parts in places or positions not usually considered correct. The major difference here is that someone in charge requests enough pain-killer to quiet you down. Altruism is not the major consideration here, but once again, your own expressed wishes are not required.

EIGHT is reserved for people similar to William Wallace at the end of Braveheart, being shown his own entrails. In a modern version of the movie, he would have screamed “Morphine”, not “Freedom”. (Note: This is the only Mel Gibson movie where he scores a solid Eight. In the Lethal Weapon movies, I doubt he ever gets higher than a Six.) This is the lowest level of pain where you can express a need for the the heavy artillery and be believed without question.

Note that in each of the above cases, standing with a nurse and contemplating your pain level is neither an option, nor anything that might be expected of you. You’ve made it clear that you are in great pain, and the pros just want to alleviate it. Yay, pros.

At the other end of the scale, is what I’ll call, S.I.U.A.Y.G.A, or Suck It Up Asshole. You Get Aleve. This is what happens if you respond that your pain should be rated a One, Two, or Three. I won’t describe One and Two, but Three is pretty much Homer Simpson hitting his thumb with a hammer. No Percocet for you!

Which leaves us with Four through Seven. These are the only answers available to you when you’re asked about your pain level. Use too low a number, and you get an Advil…too high a number, and you’re clearly faking.

SEVEN is the most important one to be aware of. Think Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man. Laurence Olivier has been drilling your teeth without any anesthetic and asking you questions to which you don’t know any answers. This is a pain you can imagine. You can also imagine looking pleadingly at the nurse while begging for morphine. I think she'll believe you.

FOUR, FIVE AND SIX are actually variations on the same theme and somewhat interchangeable. Any Looney-Tunes cartoon in which one of the following occurs, rates one of these numbers:

a.) Daffy Duck’s bill ends up spinning around his head and or lands at his feet.
b.) Any character is hit in the face with a cast-iron pan which takes on the shape of his face.
c.) Any character is fired from a cannon and leaves a perfect silhouette-shape of their body in the wall. (Note: Only counts when fired from cannon. Purposeful escapes through a wall that leave the same shape do not inflict the same pain.)

So, basically, when a nurse asks you to rate your pain before giving you your meds, you’re limited to Four through Seven…and only use Seven if you’re having trouble articulating it.

P.S. Kindly refrain from sending me rabid comments about how I don’t know pain and I shouldn’t be making fun of people who might have chronic or acute pain. That’s kind of the point, after all. If I want to know how firm of a bed I should be sleeping on, I can check out that “Sleep Number” bed that Lindsay Wagner’s always hawking and figure out what my sleep number is. (And who doesn’t want a bed sold by the Bionic Woman?)

I’m not aware of (nor would I want to participate in), some test at the hospital that lets me more accurately rate my pain so that my charts can be filled in more accurately. "You say, that level of slamming a door on my foot rates a Six? OK, put me down for 5.75."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Shall I Return To Being A Jackass?

The D.C. Motorcycles appear to have sidecars, yet there appear to be no passengers. What's the story? Is no cop willing to ride the sidecar for fear of looking like an utter dork?

And if no-one will ride in them, why bother?

I'm sure someone can explain this...even if the explanation is simply that I'm a jackass.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Eye to Eye Across an Interval of Forty-Five Years.

On August 28th, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave, what has become known as his I have a dream Speech. The event was the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom. There was disagreement among the organizers over the purpose of the march...ranging from a show of support for Civil Rights legislation that the Kennedy Administration was considering to contempt for the Administration for what some considered glacial and grudging movement at best.

If you listen to the early parts of the speech, it centers on the dignity of common men and the withholding of that dignity. In the midst of the speech, King says:

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

This, is the core of what he came to say, and it's a shame that it's forgotten in it's stirring aftermath.

The "I have a dream" portion which ends the speech, and for which it is remembered, was an afterthought. It was part of his standard stump at the time, and witnesses on the stage, say that he turned his papers face-down on the lectern as he began this portion.

All of the speeches that day were given from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, facing across the Reflecting Pool, past the Washington Monument, and finally aimed at the Capitol Building, where they hoped their words would be heard.

Until 1980, Presidents were inaugurated on the East Side of the Capitol Bldg. Ronald Reagan, no slouch when it came to symbolism, decided it would be more appropriate for Presidents to be inaugurated on the West Side...facing the nation, as it were. By all accounts, Reagan had a clear mandate going into office, with over 50% of the popular vote. Photos of his 1981 inauguration looking over his shoulder at the crowd show a respectable turnout...reaching all the way across the street to the Capitol Hill Reflecting Pool. Take a good look and see how conveniently they were able to park those six or seven tour buses on The Mall.

Tomorrow, they are estimating 3 million people showing up for Obama's Inauguration. I, for one, think they're underestimating that number. The talk is that the crowds may reach all the way from the Western Steps of the Capitol Building all the way past The Mall, past the Washington Monument, past the Reflecting Pool, and up to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. So by virtue of Ronald Reagan moving the inauguration from one side of the Capitol to the other, Barack Obama will be looking out over a sea of people tomorrow...eye to eye with Martin Luther King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, albeit with an interval of forty-five years.

Those years seem so interminably long and at the same time, gone in an instant.

First: The Rant!

(Guys, I just know you've all built this up into more than it's gonna be, but...)

I have to say that where you have Doctors, you've got the Doctors they're teaching. And I also have to say that...for the most part, all the Doctors I've seen who are in charge of stuff have been fine. Obviously, they all know what they're doing and what they're talking about, but they're also willing to take a moment to explain to me...the patient...what the hell is going on.

At the bottom end of the spectrum, there's a bunch of really young men and women who I imagine are still students. They're the ones who come in at 7:00am with a list and ask you a bunch of questions. Since one of these idiots left his cheat sheet in my room yesterday, I was able to see that it's just a list of patient names, symptoms, some abbreviated orders, etc. My own little list of orders included "NPO" which for the uninitiated means "Nothing by mouth". Hence my disappointment when three different ones of these Wunderkinds have asked me if I'm "having trouble keeping food down".

Like I said, they're the bottom of the food chain and since they don't get to touch me, I can live with them making mistakes.

Somewhere in the middle are those vaunted individuals who are, in fact, Doctors, but may not yet have scads of experience. For some reason, these individuals are also always followed by a gaggle of students. Their need to be important in front of their students (combined with the fact that they don't have the experience to back it up) manifests itself in being an asshole to me...the patient.

In all fairness, I was pretty doped up my first bunch of days here, so clearly, there are Doctors who introduced themselves and I just don't remember them. Others, I swear, lead in their entourage, tell me depressing shit and then leave. And God-forbid I should ask a question.

Here's how one part of my stay has gone down:

Last Friday: A Gastro-Interologist, and a Surgeon visit to tell me that they "definitely do not want" to insert a catheter to drain the fluid near my pancreas. They see no sign that there's anything wrong with the fluid and they'd just as soon let it go away all on it's own.

Saturday: Another surgeon (with entourage)(let's call him Dieter since he's never introduced himself and he just strikes me that way), comes by and tells me they "definitely want to insert a catheter to drain the fluid near my pancreas". Gastrointerology and my own doctor concurs. When will this happen? I ask? "Oh, as soon as possible. Probably later today."

That is the last I hear from anyone on the subject until 7:00 this morning. Dieter and his friends came breezing in and basically he says, "Ju vill not haf eny type of fud nor drink cross jur lips for months to come und ve'll take anodder CAT scan at de end of de veek to see how jur doink." To which I respond, "Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, what's going on with the catheter?"

He looked at me like a particularly loathesome variety of pus (I like to keep Jeff happy), and says, "De cazeter iz off. Dr. ___ from radiology don't tink it's a good idea, so no cazeter". Now, bear in mind, he's looking at me this whole time as if I'm just not bothering to read all the memos as they come down from on high as opposed to the fact that nobody has said two words to me since Saturday.

So I'm sitting there feeling all depressesed when one of the G.I. fellows came in. I haven't figured this part out yet, but he confirmed that I wouldn't be getting the catheter, and that my treatment would be continuing pretty much as they were going (meaning, no food for Nathan).

Ten minutes after he left, my nurse came in and informed me that he'd put me back on a clear liquid diet. (The Mind Boggles). Is there some reason he couldn't just tell me?

A Brief Interlude.

I had a couple of posts in mind (which I intend to get to today), but some of the developments in the previous comment thread are just too important to let go by without comment.

1. We are now officially calling it "Nathan's Zombie Pancreas". If the damned things gotta be on the fritz, giving it this name pleases me no end. It also brings to mind visions of it trying to figure out a route to my brainzzzzz, but that may be carrying the imagery a little too far.

2. Michelle has found major biblical questions and answers in my illness. This is as it should be.

3. I want 10% of Janiece's lawsuit against the flower people for sending me a "faith-based" balloon (I giggle just thinking about it). (The flowers are still really pretty.)

More later.

BTW - There's some good signs this morning, not the least of them being that I feel well enough to be pissed off at some people today and I intend to rant about the assholes later this morning.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Loot, Thanks, and a Retraction.

I mentioned that I've gotten some "You're in the Hospital" loot. In addition to a bunch of cards that have shown up from family (always enjoyable), I've gotten this book from Michelle. Apparently, I put it on an Amazon 'wish list' some time, it really is exactly perfect.
Thanks Michelle.

Last night, GF got home to find this arrangement waiting at home. It comes from the incomparable Janiece and not only does it brighten up the hides some of this ugly crap on the wall that they don't even use anymore. Thanks Janiece.

I also mentioned elsewhere that since I still can't eat, they decided they needed to get some IV nutrition into me. I joked that it was going to be Soylent Green. I'm no longer sure I was joking. And I also expect this stuff to stink something awful when it comes streaming out of my pores.

Last, but not least, I once posted this bit. Everything about it is now officially wrong. Pauley Shore, no longer has even one redeemeing quality in my mind. Pancreas my ass!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Just Enough Information.

Sorry folks. I've been more or less out of it and haven't had the energy to write. In the meantime, I've been put on less "crazy-making" drugs. So I think I'll leave out some of the TMI. (I may add some of it at a later date, 'cause some of it's pretty funny, but I'd rather make that decision when my mind is all my own.)

So, anyway, the first thing they do is a bunch of blood tests, x-rays and other stuff. Stones of the kidneys and gall are eliminated immediately. I have no "sludge" whatever the hell that is. After some other tests, it is decided that I have Pancreatitis. They've noticed a "tiny" cyst on the pancreas (which they believe is completely benign and irrelevant), a pocket of fluid around part of "Mr. Pancreas", and a small "necrotic" area on "Mr. Pancreas".

Basically what they think has happened is that my pancreas has been creating digestive enzymes, but forgetting to send them where they're supposed to go to do their job...they're just hanging out at home and digesting my own pancreas. This is why they don't want me eating = no creating digestive enzymes. Anyway, they're really hoping to just get the inflamation to go down and then get everything back to normal. They're hoping they don't even have to deal with the cyst or the "necrotic" section. (I don't know about you, but since, I'm not a Zombie, I don't like being told I have necrotic parts.)

I'm waiting for the results of last night's CAT Scan to get their next set of edicts. (Incidentally, I've been running fevers and none of the tests are telling them why. They decided to have an Infectious Diseases guy stop by yesterday to see if he had any bright ideas. While asking me questions, he became quite excited because he was actually able to palpate my pancreas. Apparently I've got the biggest swingin' pancreas on the block. Don't mess with me kids.)

Usual Disclaimer: Only healthy people and other wimps proof their work.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

T.M.I. Begins. (With Really Not All That Much T.M.I. Involved, So If This One Bothers You, You Should Definitely Skip My Next Entry.)

So, when I left off last week, I told you I felt crappy...I thought I had a bug. At first, truth be told, I thought I was just horribly constipated...but sooner or later, I was proved wrong on that account. My gut didn't feel the least bit better, but constipation was not the problem.

I basically went where I could get an immediate appointment, but unfortunately didn't get in to see the doctor until late in the afternoon. She was thinking ulcer and sent me to a medical imaging place around the corner for x-rays just in case she'd see something imminent. She said she'd have the x-rays sent to her immediately and call me if anything looked urgent. She also said, that if "anything exciting" happened that night I should get to an E.R.

About 9 O'Clock, I discovered blood in my urine. I deemed that exciting. So, off the the Hospital we went. We signed in at 9:45pm. After Triage and Registration, we finally got into an E.R. Room at 2:30 a.m. (You'd think blood in your urine would get you some kinda damned priority!)

Anyway, most of what happened in the E.R. was eliminating things. First of all, there was no blood in my urine, just some red color. Since I haven't in any recent past, eaten any beets, rutabagas, cranberries, raspberries, or any other inherently red foods, I can't figure out what that's about.

Some of the things that were immediately off the list were: kidney stones, ulcers, any other holes in my gastric system where they don't belong.

To be Continued Tomorrow.


P.S. I just went to the ice machine and for the first time I noticed this sign near the Nurses' Station that says "Robot Docking Port - Keep Area Clear". I mentioned to my nurse that I haven't seen any damned robots yet and I feel totally cheated. She said the robots don't come to this floor anymore. I said I Disney World was a hell of a lot cheaper than this place and they'd show me robots.

Second: Catching Up.

Do you have any freakin' idea how many words you people have written while I've been out of touch? Well, let me tell you. Catching up is going to be an utterly Sisyphean task. (Note that I haven't had any pain meds in about 7 hours. I'll give it a shot, but no promises.)

Also, a note about upcoming posts.

I will post some warnings about when T.M.I. is going to come into play. (Yeah, I know there's no such thing for J.T.S., but the rest of you have standards). Anyway, it'll mostly be pretty mild, but there's one story that just can't be told without more than I'd usually say. You'll be warned.

First: The Bloggiverssary

I'm sick you assholes. You expect me to come up with massively genius retrospective while I'm lying in a hospital bed having my arm pumped full of god-knows-what; giving 1/5th of my blood volume for testing twice a day...and wearing a gown with my ass hanging out the back?

Next year we'll do something really special...o.k. kids? If you like, you can do one of those "Hey, remember when....?" in the comments. Frankly, I've got a very short attention span still...and percocet (which is the current drug of choice since they don't want you to get used to any one particular thing for too long.)

Yesterday, I turned on TNT or TBS or who, the hell knows what and sort of watched it from 9:00 a.m. until Noon. And by "sort of watched it", I mean during brief moments of being awake, I was utterly absorbed. I'm sure I saw no more than 10 cumulative minutes of any particular show or 4 consecutive minutes of any of them. I just saw snippets (including some commercials). The thing is, the Doctor came in at Noon and wanting to look me over, asked me what I was watching. I proceeded to tell him a completely coherent story made up of snippets from three hours of TV.

(He didn't look at me like I was insane, so I maintain it was a coherent story.)

Time for a nap. I'm going to need a fair amount of energy to give you the story of the illness, but rest assured that (speed bumps or no), I'm on the mend.

Thanks for the support.

(P.S. Prooofreading is a luxury fot the healthy!)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Coming to You Live From The Planet Demerol.

I have to keep this short because I'm on battery power and I don't suspect it's going to last all that long. Suffice it to say that I am on the mend...I've gone from "nothing by mouth" to a "liquid diet". I can't begin to tell you how good shitty jello tastes. Anyway, I'll have lots more details when I have time to write it all down. They haven't said how much longer I need to be here but I don't expect it to be all that long.

Then there's that other thing. For a week or so, I was thinking about something special to do for today. Then, I had to stop thinking about writing something special. because, unfortunately, my thought process was suddenly limited to "Ow, dammit", "I'm not sure I knew I had a there there" and "Oooooh, make the bed go up and down again." Yes, deep thoughts.

Anyway, please be advised that we shall be celebrating Polybloggimous's one-year bloggiverssary a few days late.

Thanks for all the good wishes. It's really nice to know how many people care and I can't tell you how much it's appreciated.

Be in touch later.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Good News is...

When I get out of here there shall be many fine rant to follow...although sadly, no pitures of me with my ass hanging out of one of those gowns..

Thanks for the good wishes.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Oh Where, Oh Where can Nathan be?

i won't go into great detail, but Thursday Night I went to the E.R. and after only 15, count' em 15 hours, they admitted me to the hospital. Don't get excited, it's something with lots of electrolytes and apparent dehydration and anti-something or other out of whack. I've had all sorts of blood tests, x-rays, amd other "look at your insides tests" whose names I can't remember since I'm a litlle out of it. (Typing this has bee hell, and included massive amounts of backspacing.)

Anyway, I don't expect to be online a whole lot for the next few days, but I expect to make a full recovery, hopefully in the next few days.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Displeased continued.

First, let's dispense with the weather. This widget on my computer tells me it's 38º out. I have my doubts due to the little snow squall that's going on right now. That's OK. I prefer a little snow to cold, sideways rain.

Otherwise, I've got a bug. My stomach hurts. I've got a cough. It hurts my stomach when I cough. And I slept like shit last night, alternating between chills and soaking in sweat. Yes, this is all a blatant play for sympathy. I need something cold to drink with a bendy straw.

This morning, I decided soaking in a hot tub might relax me and make me feel a little better. It was a fine idea...until Teufel came for a visit. He peered over the edge of the tub, reached his little paw down to touch the water, and then, without warning, just jumped in.

Now it's my understanding that most cats are not that fond of water. Most cats might make the error of jumping in (or more likely, accidentally falling in), but their reaction would probably be to scramble out of the water. Teufel just stood there...his head soaked and water coming up to his shoulders. He just stood there.

Since I figured I should dry him off before letting him run all over the house, that was the end of my relaxing soak. I'm not especially happy with any of this.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


It's 36º out and it's been raining sideways all day.

I want something done about this!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Last week we got a new dual-fuel Electrolux range. I'm in love with this sucker. The inaugural meal for the oven was a roast chicken. I bought the smallest whole chicken I could find at the grocery store...which turned out to be a 6 lb. monster.

After having dinner that night, we put 1/2 the chicken in the freezer and put the rest of it in the fridge for leftovers. Tonight, I used some of the leftover chicken to make chicken pot pie (which was delicious, thank you very much). We ate one pie and have a second one leftover. There's still leftover chicken in the fridge from garagntua-bird.

We'll be eating that chicken forever.

Homeland Insecurity.

I've been seeing commercials recently for a new show premiering tonight on ABC called H0meland Security U.S.A. The commercials really rub me the wrong way. The show is presumably a version of Cops that will follow Border Patrol, The Coast Guard and all the other agencies under D.H.S. And the commercials are heavy on all the things we need to fear and how these agencies are all going to protect us.

Frankly, I'm surprised someone in the Bush administration didn't get a show like this on the air years ago. In all fairness, I've only seen the commercials and the video I linked above, but the whole thing just screams propaganda at me. Tom Shales' review , however, makes me think D.H.S. might end up questioning their reasoning behind cooperating with the producers. Shales writes:

Armed officers surround a car trying to get through the San Ysidro checkpoint, forcing a woman inside to get out and kneel on the ground with her hands behind her head while agents shout threats at the male driver, still in the car (or, as the agents tend to say, the "veekle").

It turns out they had entirely the wrong man. Angrily, the wife tells the agents, "You always get my husband confused with someone else," indicating she has gone through similar humiliations before. The announcer finds a silver lining: "It doesn't take long for the officers to discover this is a case of mistaken identity!" he trumpets. Goody for them; it probably seemed very long to the driver and his wife.

He continues:

It's doubtful that very many viewers will feel more secure after witnessing that and other Keystone Kop-like operations; there's little about "Homeland Security USA" that's warmly reassuring in the post-9/11 world.

I have to admit that part of my distaste for this show I haven't even seen is The Department of Homeland Security and it's very existence irks me so much. First, I hate the name. Homeland Security sounds too much like something from the Third Reich. Second, I don't, for a minute, believe that the agencies within its purview are any better coordinated now than they were before they were all tossed into the same handbasket. And third, I hate that FEMA is in there, as if the weather is some malevolent being bent on America's destruction.

Guess what. NCIS is on at the same time. I think I'll watch that instead.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Well This is Fairly Obscure.

Soaring to My Own Level of Incompetence.

There's a reason I don't work with my hands for a living. Projects are happening in the kitchen. They're getting done...well, they're getting done.

Nuff said.

Advise Me...Cause I'm a Little Dumberer Than You.

My cell phone service is supplied by T-Mobile. I'm happy with it (now). For a bunch of years, I lost service two steps from entering our brownstone. I couldn't make or receive a call from home. When I'd call T-Mobile and complain about the crappy service they'd tell me that "some rural areas were not as well served as major cities". I'd mention that I could see the Empire State Building from my front porch and they'd run out of answers. Eventually, things got better, so I'm happy.

Everything else is powered by Verizon. My landline is Verizon. My DSL is Verizon. My "Internet Anywhere" doohickey is Verizon. I'm happy with these items. They work.

Here's the problem. I'm pretty sure it's been about two years since my landline rang and it was a call that was actually for me. Oh yeah, it rings on occasion, but it's usually a recording letting me know that the extended warrantee on my Ford F-150 is about to expire and if I press '1', then give them my bank account number, my mother's maiden name, my PIN code, my social security number, the name of my first dog, my birthdate, the street I grew up on, etc. etc. etc., they'd renew my warrantee. For the record, I don't think I've ever driven a Ford F-150, much less owned one. I realize the robo-caller can reach a lot of people, but how often will they hit the unique combination of someone who 1.) owns a Ford F-150, 2.) bought the extended warrantee, 3.) has a warrantee that is about to expire, and 4.) is stupider than a soap dish.

So, here's the issue. I'd love to dump Verizon but I don't want to change DSL providers. I'm sure there are others that are just as good, but I don't want to change my "" email address. I'd have to let everyone know and I don't want to do that.

I could change my cell phone to Verizon, but I like the cell service I've got right now. I use the pre-pay plan on T-Mobile and this works very well for me. When I'm not working, I just don't use the phone all that much and it's cheap as hell. When I'm on a job, I put the bills into my petty cash expenses and it costs me...nothing. I've looked into it, but Verizon, doesn't seem to have the same cell service. I'm told that I can sign up for the cheapo service and then upgrade to the "Gazillion minutes plan" when I'm on a job (and downgrade again afterwards), but I'm hesitant to do that for some reason.

I think I can dump the actual landline and maintain the DSL, but I'm not sure about that either.

Advise me please, geniuses. (I'm open to switching everything as long as I don't have to change my email address or my phone number.)

P.S. I called Verizon a few months back and tried to figure out a way to bring their cost down. The woman on the phone tried to sign me up for a different "bundled plan" than the one I was already on. When I asked what it cost, she kept quoting me the costs by line item. When I finally got her to tell me the total cost including tax, it turned out to be a plan that gave me three new features I didn't care about and cost 47¢ per month more than I was already paying.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A New Year's Resolution...Ever So Slightly Late.

I resolve to use the word "tool" to describe people more often.

What? You thought there'd be more?

The Resolution Morphs Into a Multi!

Uncle Gudolf was always an embarrassment during the holidays.



We're going all highbrow and shit here in Brooklyn tonight. Pressing the 'play' button on Reno 911 shortly.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Sorcery, Magic, Ass Kicking....and Goats.

I've mentioned before that I've become a big fan of T.A. Pratt. I loved Blood Engines and the follow up, Poison Sleep didn't disappoint me. So, I've just started his third novel, Dead Reign, and I think I'm going to enjoy this one too.

Marla has to plan a big fancy ball and that's about as out of character as she's likely to get. DEATH wants something from her. And there's another sorcerer who has just reanimated the mummy of John Wilkes Booth to be his servant.

And on page 62?

The goat was locked in the men's room eating a potted plant and drinking from the toilets.

Yeah, this one's gonna be good.