Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Hey! Guess what! I'm gonna be in the Great (not so white right now) North and Vince has invited me to be a guest on his radio show, end of the road radio on WELY. I'm going to try to make it in time to be on, but the Gods of Travel will have to cooperate.

Will I make it? You'll have to tune in (listen live with the link above) to find out. Listen this Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. Central Time. (For the geographically challenged, that would be 8:00 p.m. on the East Coast, 5:00 p.m. on the West Coast, 6:00 p.m. in the Rockies and some damned time I can't figure out in Alaska, London and/or Bangkok. Actually, I think it might be Monday morning in Bangkok by then. And it'll be something:30 in Newfoundland. Hey, I didn't draw the time zones...obviously.)

Monday, June 29, 2009

My Neighborhood Turned Irish While I Wasn't Looking!

I have to admit, I'm a little bit pissed off about getting scooped on this little item. Especially, since I knew a couple of weeks ago that this was coming and I was waiting for the awning to go up. Oh well. I still think it's pretty funny.

(I probably won't be going there all that much, even though it's owned by a cousin of my buddy at The Cheap Cigarette Store -- you know, the one who has the chutzpah to wish me Merry Christmas on Hannukah even though he's a Muslim! The new store is almost two blocks further from home!)

It's The Pitch Me A Spinoff Contest!

I've been promising you guys a contest and here it is! Last night, I posted a (somewhat lame) episode of CSI: Camelot. You're assignment -- should you choose to accept it-- is to come up with your own spinoff ideas for a show that's on now or was ubiquitous enough in the past. I'm going to suggest some shows, but you can create a spinoff from any show that is 1.) well known, 2.) already has at least one spinoff, and 3.) annoyed you because some (or all) of the spinoffs pissed you off.

Potential shows for spinning off:

CSI (of course)
Law & Order
All in the Family
Star Trek
The Cosby Show

The Rules:

1. Only shows that already have at least one spinoff are eligible for spinning off.

2. In keeping with Rule 1, The Simpsons is a spinoff from The Tracey Ullman Show and doesn't have its own spinoff. (i.e. not eligible.)

3. This contest will remain open for a little while since I'm going to be doing some traveling soon. ENTRIES WILL BE ACCEPTED UNTIL 10:00 a.m. (EST) on Monday, July 13, 2009. The WINNER WILL BE DECLARED on Friday, July 17, 2009.

4. ENTRY FORMAT: Your entry can be practically anything. Write a script (it doesn't have to be long...just enough to convey your idea). Create an ad for the show. Make a cartoon of the show. Describe the pitch meeting. Send a video tape of you and your friends acting out a scene from the show. Whatever you want!

5. JUDGING: Obvously, the judging will be subjective. Many (I hope) will enter; Most will lose! I'll be the chief judge. In addition to myself, I'll be choosing a panel of judges from the people who post such lame entries that they don't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning. (Note: Please don't just tell me you want to be a judge. At least have the decency to submit an entry that's so lame it doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning.)

6. All entries should be posted as comments in this thread. I'll keep linking back to it at the top of the blog so it's easy to find. If you have pictures or video, please post them as a link. (I'm think that's the only way you can post them, but some of you are geniuses and showing up my internet skilz won't score you any points.)

7. Not that I think I'll get inundated here, but you may submit a maximum of two entries.

8. THE PRIZES: I promised movie schwag and movie schwag I'm providing.

FIRST PRIZE will (of course) go to the best entry. Your very own nifty-as-hell reusable metal water bottle that was provided to the crew of the movie SALT, which just completed filming! Suitably embossed on one side with the name of the movie and serendipitously embossed with my name on the other side. (OK, the bottles are made by Nathan Human Propulsion Laboratories.)

THE LOSER PRIZE will go to the lamest entry (in my sole judgment.) This one only has my name on it sucker!

Here's some pictures.

You're encouraged to invite your friends and enemies. Now go get creative!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

CSI: Camelot

Arthur ran to Merlin’s hut, slipping in the mud as he climbed the shallow slope. Arriving out of breath, he found Merlin stooped over a body resting upon the trestles…clearly a dead body.

Arthur, while gasping for breath, said, “I came as soon as I heard.”

“This one’s in no hurry”, Merlin responded while turning toward the door. “Clearly, he’s been bludgeoned by a club. See how his head is stove in on the right side”?

“Yes”, Arthur replied, “but there’s dimpling present. I don’t think a club did this work. Meritius”, he yelled out the door, “come in here immediately.”

Meritius entered the room pushing a barrow filled with a variety of heavy implements. Arthur began sifting through the pile, pulling some out for closer inspection. Finally he held a war mace, testing its heft at the end of its chain. “This, I think, is the weapon we’re looking for. See how the contours match”, he asked holding it next to the dead man’s gruesome wound.

Merlin joined him and agreed, “Yes, you’re right, but this is only circumstantial. We need proof positive.”

“Proof positive, you want? I’ll give you proof.” Without warning, Arthur swung the mace with all his might. Meritius went down like a tipped log. Merlin looked and saw that the wound was, in fact, identical.

“Fine Arthur, I believe that’s the weapon. But we’re no closer to finding the killer.”

“Ah, but we are”, opined Arthur. “You fail to notice the one difference between the wounds. I am right handed and struck Meritius swinging forward. The wound, you can see, indents in a clearly upward motion. Your victim has the wound on the right side as well, but with the indentation moving downward. We’ll need to conduct further experiments, but I think our killer is left handed and struck downward with a backhanded motion.”

Merlin looked closer and said, “I believe you’re right, but how can we be sure?”

Arthur hollered again. “Chrisantia, come in here” Chrisantia came through the door and Arthur immediately swung backhanded with his left hand, dropping her before she’d taken two steps into the room.

“Yes, yes”, Merlin said. “This wound is more identical.

“It is, isn’t it”, said Arthur. “But there are no left-handed men in the realm. So clearly, we’re looking for an evil sorcerer who can mimic the motions of a left-handed warrior.”

Merlin hesitated while he thought and then said, “People have commented that Prius’ horse seems to gallop while making no noise. They say they’re not even sure it’s running! And I saw with my own eyes, a blood spot in an egg he cracked last week. He must be our sorcerer.”

Arthur said, “As usual Merlin, you’ve solved the crime. Prius will be burned at the stake tomorrow at dawn. I don’t know how we’d get on without you.”

“No, no Arthur. Without your dedication to the scientific method, I never would have put the pieces together.”

With that, Merlin clapped Arthur on the shoulder and they sat down to the roast chicken at the foot of the table. Arthur said, “Mmm. This is quite tasty. Good thing there are only the two of us here with it being so small.” They both chuckled and dug in.

Tune in next week when Arthur and Merlin only have to execute 36 serfs to identify the distinctive marks left on their beheading victim.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

How Much Does It Cost To Have An Elephant Run Into A Lake? A Whole Lot More Than You'd Think!

In 1992, I went to Oakland, CA to work on Made in America. The Location Manager had been promoted to Asst. UPM and I'd be something between an Asst. Location Manager and a full-fledged Location Manager. By the time I arrived, much of what I'm about to relate was already set in motion. Note: On reading this a second time, I realize it might be taken as me trying to dodge responsibility for something. The truth is, I'd love to be able to take credit for making this one work...but I can't.

The movie centers on Nia Long discovering that her mother, (Whoopi Goldberg) has been hiding from her the fact that she's the product of artificial insemination. She goes off in search of her biological father (aided in an early movie appearance by Will Smith), and discovers that Ted Danson's character was the donor. Hilarity ensues! (Actually, it's a cute movie and managed to gross about 6 times it's production budget. You could do worse with a rainy afternoon.)

Anyway, Danson plays Hal Jackson, a stereotypical overexcited car dealer. His "schtick" is that he regularly appears in his shlocky commercials with various animals. A running joke through the movie is that something usually goes wrong in the course of shooting the commercials. The script had one commercial where Jackson would be riding an elephant and something would startle the elephant, causing it to stampede down the street with Jackson along for the ride. The scene would end when the elephant ran into a nearby lake.

The relevant part here is that when they were scouting for Jackson's car dealership, they wanted to find it in close proximity to some body of water. And while the car dealership does have a few interior scenes, most of the scenes took place on the lot, so the exterior was a more important consideration. Eventually, they decided on building a facade (with a couple of workable interiors), on a parking lot two blocks from Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland.

Here, look! Could that work any better?

Close proximity to a body of water. Enough streets to get as much stampeding as you could want or compress the action to get him to the lake quicker. The lake was in a city park and the City of Oakland was being extremely cooperative, so everything looked great. They started building the dealership.

At some early stage, they had the Elephant Wrangler and the Stunt Coordinator come and scout the location to make sure everything would work for them. It was quickly agreed that there should be a ramp built just below the surface of the water so the elephant could charge into the lake gradually and have solid footing throughout the stunt.

This may have been a little more complicated than anyone had originally envisioned, but not really a huge deal. This wasn't a no-budget picture and you budget for stuff like that. So drawings were drawn and engineered to handle being submerged in water and supporting 7 tons of elephant. As soon as possible, they went and had meetings with the appropriate city authorities and folks from the Parks Department to get permission to procede. During this meeting, a new complication was discovered.

Here, look at the lake when we zoom out a bit.

No problem yet. We just wanted to use a tiny piece of this largish lake. It's all within the City of Oakland.

But zoom out just a tad more and what do you see? Is that a little river flowing out of the south end of the lake? And does it connect the lake to the Oakland Inner Harbor Channel?

And, oh crap! does the Inner Oakland Harbor Channel connect to San Francisco Bay? Why, yes it does.

And what, precisely does all of this mean for us building an itty-bitty ramp in an itty-bitty corner of a lake entirely within the City of Oakland?

It means the lake is tidal...which means the water is under Federal Jurisdiction. Suddenly, the idea of pounding footings for the ramp into the lake bottom is going to require environmental impact studies and a plan for its removal and soil samples for the lake bottom. It didn't really matter what all that would have cost (a butt-load), because the estimated timeline for doing the studies and filing for the permits would have taken too much time. If permits were issued at all, they wouldn't be issued until a few months after we were supposed to wrap the movie.

Nobody was happy.

The solution, which wasn't all that cheap, but, at least, only required the City's cooperation turned out to be digging a pool of our own next to the lake...an infinity pool, if you will.

Sample photo stolen off the internet to remind you what an infinity pool looks like next to a real body of water. To enhance verisimilitude, please envision murky water with 6" of visibility and lots of "stuff" floating on the surface.

Since we weren't allowed to have any impact whatsoever on the lake itself, including ever having any of our water (clean) mix with the lake's water (nasty), we had to build a coffer dam at the lake's edge before we even began digging the pool.

And then we shot the scene. And then we drained the pool. And then we filled the pool with the dirt we'd pulled out in the first place. And then we removed the steel coffer dam. And we never got any of our (bad) clean water into their (good) polluted water.

It's a good scene, but a pretty short one when all is said and done.

When you're wondering why it costs so much to make a movie, this is one of the many answers.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Please Pardon Our Appearance While Redecorating For Your Shopping Pleasure.

Apparently, I'm too broken up over the loss of The Gloved One (The One-Gloved?) to blog. More likely, some of my friends pointed out that I was maybe being a tad too snarky over the whole thing and maybe I ought to keep it to myself.


So, fine...here's a FarmTown Update. Yes, I'm redecorating. I've bulldozed all my fields and started over again because I think my farm requires a message.

You can't see them because I've got them hidden, but most of the area you see as grass is covered with trees just randomly crammed there out of the way for the moment. I'll be having a huge tree sale in the near future.

Here's another thing I thought I'd mention about FarmTown. They made such a big deal out of getting flowers recently. Here are the things I've discovered about flowers on FarmTown.

-They're worthless. In fact, it costs you coins to water them.
-You can water other people's flowers and get paid for it...diddly squat.
-Watering your friends' flowers saves them coin...also diddly squat.
-Therefore, watering your friends' flowers is more of an investment in karma than anything else.
-Some of my friends have gone batshit with the flowers and planted them all over the damned place.
-Watering their flowers takes for-fucking-ever!

Conclusion? I'll risk my virtual karma by letting them water their own damned flowers.

And since I'm the very model of self-control (not)...

Allow me to be the first to start the rumor/conspiracy theory:

Michael Jackson isn't really dead! He's gone into hiding with the aid of some government agency. All of the plastic surgery you've seen over the years has been a well crafted hoax. He still looks just like he did in 1978. The reason that Elizabeth Taylor is speechless is that she's been in on it all this time and she's just not good at lying. Michael will be staying with La Liz for a few months until the ruckus dies down and then he'll reappear in his original visage pretending to be a Michael Jackson impersonator.

The public will think he's pretty good, but not that good and he'll be allowed to fade into obscurity. He will join the Americas Brigade, which includes Richard Nixon, Elvis Presley and Harry Houdini. They'll be fighting communist zombies (or something...I'm not really clear on the whole plan yet).

If you are aware of any other part of this plan, please let me know...but quietly. It's a secret!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

This Morning's "I ♥ NY" Moment

You just had to know the opening of The High Line was going to have some unintended consequences. Well...a woman whose fire escape faces the new park has begun staging impromptu performances for park-goers.

Sometimes, I just ♥ NY!

Photo shamelessly stolen from High Line Renegade Cabaret!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Enough With The Rain Already!

Where's a decent drought when you need one?

Embiggen to enlighten yourself. Well, not really enlighten...more like endarken.
And I don't want to hear anybody whining about how "Where I live, it's dark for 6 months out of the year." You chose to live on top of the world. I didn't sign up for anywhere with a monsoon season.

I Give and I Give and I Give. But Does Anybody Listen?

My upstairs neighbors are out of town for a little vacation and their parents decided to use their apartment to have their own little vacation here in NY. They're from Maine.

Their car got towed this morning.


See why reading this here blog is so indispensable? Sheesh! I tell you this stuff for your own good.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

And Now, For Something Completely Different...

I am at a complete loss for something to write about today. I am bored...therefore I bore.

Usually, when one of us bloggy types has nothing to say, we fall back on a picture of a cat. I refuse to take the easy way out.

So here's a picture of a cute puppy. I don't know who this puppy belongs to or who took the picture or anything else about this puppy.

It's a cute puppy, dammit!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Walgreens -- As Welcoming As...Oh, Really Unwelcoming Folks.

My neighborhood has been steadily gentrifying in the 14 or so years my GF and I have lived here. With gentrification comes...new stores. One of our new neighbors is a Walgreens that moved in sometime in the last year. In fairness to Walgreens, there wasn't a suitable site for them in the neighborhood before their new home was built; there just wasn't a vacant space large enough, so I won't accuse them of, oh...showing up here just because there were suddenly white people here.

In spite of gentrification the Ft. Greene section of Brooklyn continues to be more racially mixed than a lot of other neighborhoods with a noticeable cross section of people coming in all shades of black, brown, yellow and white. We're all happy to have a store like Walgreens in the neighborhood. Disclaimer: I'll continue to go to the little 'Mom-and-Pop' pharmacy a 1/2 block away because they've always been really nice to us and I'd hate to see them put out of business by the competition. But OTOH, I don't mind having a place to buy toothpaste that doesn't have the label printed in four languages.

I was a little taken aback by the sign posted at Walgreens' entrance when I stopped by there the other day. Take a gander at this.

Now I've mentioned before that Walgreens isn't the only store in the neighborhood that doesn't want you shopping with your own re-useable bags. But the grocery store just asks you to check all your bags at the counter before you start shopping. And, true -- they do have a 'wall of shame' with pictures of people they've caught shoplifting (all labeled Thief!), but somehow, none of this seems quite the same as telling every customer who enters the store that they're suspects to begin with. Something about it just seems a little -- crass?, insulting?

Anyway, I know Inventory Control is a problem for stores everywhere and I really would like to do my part to help Walgreens. I know it's hard keeping an eye on all of us potential thieves -- pre-guilty? I intend to make things easy for your staff by just staying out of the place.

BTW Walgreens Peeps, I'll admit I haven't been into many (any?) of your other stores lately, but is this sign your standard welcoming banner? Maybe you want to rethink the policy a little -- or at least the wording.

Update (sorta) 7:45 p.m.: I was waiting to see if Walgreens has anybody who searches the internet for mentions of them, but no joy as of yet (including anything obvious on my stats). If nobody from there shows up in the next day or so, I'll forward this to somebody in their corporate evil lair offices.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Oh Yeah! I Wanna See This!

Zombieland, coming in October.

If I Smoke Enough, I May Just Live Forever!

Every time I turn around, some bastard is trying to get me to quit smoking. Last week it was a set dresser while we were standing in the middle of the street as we shot a scene on a doorstep in Harlem. Then she moved on to the topic of something about all prescription drugs being poison designed to kill us all. I politely invited her to get away from me.

Every medical professional I cross paths with feels the need to lecture me on smoking. My chiropractor says something during almost every visit. I take it with a grain of salt, since this is the same guy who wanted me to take valerian root at some point in the past. I don't remember what the benefit was supposed to be, but the downside was that it made me smell like I'd been grazing on dog poop.

I've had regular checkups with my doctor since my little visit to the hospital earlier this year. He's been making slight adjustments to which drugs he's got me on and he's expressed that he's very pleased with how effectively I've reacted to them. (Unless he's only a shill for whatever evil cabal is trying to kill me with pharmaceuticals.) And, of course, I get a primer on the dangers of smoking during each visit. We'll come back to that in a moment.

There was an article yesterday in The Guardian about Henry Allingham becoming, not only Britain's oldest living WWI vet, but also the world's oldest man at 113. Read the article. He's an interesting guy. But the part that warrants including him in this little post is:

Despite an apparently blameless life, he attributes his longevity to "cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women..."
My friggin' hero! Here...just look at him!

No!...Not that picture! (And even if that was the one I meant, he's just pining for the fjords, there...honest!)

No...this one.

So, anyway, you can see where I'm going with this. I'm holding up the one genetic mutant I could find as my exemplar to prove that you should all leave me the hell alone. Yes, thank you very much, I do know the definition of specious.

But that brings me back to the topic of my last doctor's visit. As I mentioned, he gave me the usual smoking lecture. In all honesty, this one may have lasted...oh, thirty seconds longer than usual. I chalked it up to being the equivalent of the lawyer who gets overruled and says, "No, I strenuously object, your honor". Hey, you can't blame the guy for trying.

And then, I got the bill. I was surprised to see that I owed a co-pay of $55.00 for a Smoking cessation session. Really? REALLY!??!!! I am so telling him to shut up next time I visit.

BTW, I know some of you are going to lecture me on this subject in the comments. Fine, go ahead. But if you try to bill me for it, you'll be getting a little bottle of valerian root and a lovely note telling you to "Eat... "

Friday, June 19, 2009

LuLu the Wonder Cat.

...as in we wonder what the hell is wrong with her!

If you've been paying attention, you know we have three cats. Teufel, the young lad, gets into stuff. That's his specialty. If you try to pull him out of stuff, he deploys all of his pointy bits in a valiant attempt to stay inside of whatever stuff he's gotten into. He's very single minded. (That's actually a polite way to say that he's got a tiny little brain incapable of holding more than one thought at a time.)

Widget, the older one likes to throw up. Often. If you're in the room when she does it, she'll look at you proudly while standing over it. Then, Teufel and LuLu will come and eat it if you don't clean it up fast enough. (By fast enough, I mean you could have Star Trek's transporter and still not be fast enough.)

LuLu farts. Really noxious, peel the paint off the walls farts...which taken all together makes the current storyline on Girls With Slingshots totally appropriate.

Recently, we've noticed that there's only one thing worse than her farts. That would be her contributions to the litter box. They're worse. Much worse. Like what the fuck is that, chase you out of the room worse. And since she only makes the most paltry effort at burying her...contributions, they last much longer. This too, is a pride thing.

(Please note that this is an old recycled picture, but it seems to show everyone's appropriate attitude and I didn't think you really wanted to see any of the other choices for visible evidence.)

I'm at a loss as to how to deal with this. We're in Brooklyn, so, by necessity, our cats are strictly indoor cats. And it's not like we have a barn or anything to banish her to. Changing her diet isn't really an option either. We already have to close Widget into the bathroom twice-a-day so she gets a shot at her fat-cat-diet food before the other two monsters can get at it. We're not about to feed them in a rotation or stick one of them in a closet at meal times.

I've found all sorts of suggested solutions for this on the internet, and truthfully, all of them seem to involve major expenditures of time, money, effort and/or some combination of all three. I'm honestly not desperate enough to go there yet. Mostly, I just thought you all needed to hear about cat farts this morning.

You're welcome.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Space Captain Smith - A Review

In the 25th Century, the British Space Empire is on the verge of war with the evil and somewhat disgusting Ghast Empire, an alien race bent on the destruction of all humanity. In a marriage of convenience, the Ghast are allied with the Republic of Eden, a collection of religious zealots bent on the destruction of Godless heathens. The marriage is not an especially happy one.

Enter Captain Isambard Smith. He is assigned the light freighter John Pym and ordered to pick up and deliver Rhianna Mitchell to his superiors. His crew consists of an escaped simulant as his pilot and his friend, a homicidal alien who collects heads and has long conversations with his spear.

The book is a clever mix of Science Fiction and SteamPunk, but doesn't dwell heavilly on either. You won't get long involved explanations of how their technology works because none of the characters understand it either. They mostly know which buttons to push and which end of their weapons to point at their enemies. You know it's SteamPunk because their weapons mix involves both lasers and elephant guns with thyroid conditions. They don't go to the galley or to the crew rec-room because their ship has a kitchen and a comfy living room.

Smith is an Edwardian Englishman, possessed of all the arrogance and nationalism you'd expect. He's also a complete neurotic, crippled by his upbringing. Am I making this sound less than fun? Well it is...fun.

Space Captain Smith is filled with dry British humor and double entendre. It's a romp through space just begging to be compared to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, with enough Monty Python and Terry Pratchett thrown in to keep you laughing throughout. Better still, it's the first book in a series and the second one is out: God Emporor of Didcot.

This book is the first by Toby Frost and while it may not quite hit the heights for which it aims, you can't fault its aspirations. I'm looking forward to reading the second installment.

Nathan's Weather Service.

I really didn't need to check the weather today. I was offered a ticket to this afternoon's ball game at Yankee Stadium.

What else could the weather possibly be?

Unmasking The Flavor Infidels

In the comments to the previous post about Cappuccino Brownies, a disturbing trend has revealed itself. (OK, maybe two comments isn't really a trend, but it's a significant sampling of my audience.) Anyway, two of you have objected to adding coffee flavoring to chocolate.

Those two people (I'm lookin' at you Vince and John), have it wrong, wrong, wrong. The actual rule (because I say so), is:

- Adding flavoring (other than inebriants), to coffee is an abomination and not to be tolerated.

- Adding coffee flavoring to other good things is often wonderful and experimentation is to be encouraged.

Hazelnut Coffee = Gak!
Coffee Ice Cream = Yay!
Coffee with French Vanilla = Get out of my house.
Coffee Peanut Brittle = Come sit next to me.

Chocolate covered espresso beans! -- Case Closed!
As a side note, (just because my brain farted up this memory), coffee in a production office and on set is basically a constitutional right. Lots of items on my petty cash may be disallowed, but coffee is damned inalienable right. (True, some accountants won't accept Starbucks' receipts, but that's an understandable prejudice.)

I was on a show a number of years ago and there were five choices of coffee in the office -- each flavored with some nasty substance. So I went out four or five times-a-day and bought $3 cups of coffee from the chi-chi joint across the street. Of course, I turned in the receipts.

When the accountant asked why I couldn't just drink the coffee in the office, I pointed out that none of the coffee we had was coffee-flavored. She told the office P.A.'s to get some plain-old unadulterated coffee. Sure enough, the next morning, there was a can of honest-to-goodness coffee in the kitchen.

Two days later, I turned in another 20-odd-dollars worth of receipts for coffee from across the street. The accountant was...displeased with me...until I pointed out that the P.A.'s had neglected to buy a can opener.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gratifying Your Inner Homer.

GF found this recipe for Cappuccino Brownies and made them tonight. They're absolutely obscenely delicious. I'll hear no more of your extolling chocolate until you've tasted these.

Go ahead, have a late-night snack.

Bonus for some of you slackers: Kitchen-Aid mixer is not required.

Note from GF: This recipe is worth using the "good" chocolate. If you really like mocha/espresso flavor, up the amount of powder. I sprinkled ground espresso powder on top.

As Usual, I Don't Care About The Part You May Think I Care About.

Let's start with the story I'm talking about... (That's the whole story there, but I'm linking it anyway so the Associated Press doesn't sue my little ass.)
Bomb squad blasts suspicious package, finds Bible

Tue Jun 16, 8:59 pm ET

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. – A bomb squad used a disrupter gun to blast a suspicious package left on the counter of the Leavenworth post office, but only a Bible was found inside. Police said the person who left the package on Friday night took off in a hurry and probably didn't put enough stamps on it to get it delivered.

The woman to whom the package was sent to said she was expecting something from a relative who had been acting a little strange. But she had no idea what it was.

The package and the Bible were taken as evidence.

No injuries were reported.
You could be forgiven if you imagined I might be a little amused that the police were suspicious of and terrorized by a bible. You could be forgiven if you imagined that I was tickled over the image of someone running from their Post Office because they may (or may not) have put adequate postage on their package. You might even imagine that I'm pondering whether or not "The woman to whom the package was sent to..." is proper sentence structure (and even if it is, couldn't they have come up with something a little less clunky).

You'd could be forgiven for imagining any of those things. But you'd be wrong. "What else", you may be asking yourself, "in this tiny little article could have Nathan all worked up?"

Only the apparent FACT that the Leavenworth, KS Police Department is FROM THE FUTURE! They have DISRUPTER GUNS!!1!l!lll!!!!! Holy Crap! How have I not heard about this?

I did some extensive research (O.K., I googled it), and this is the only disrupter gun I could find. And while I'm sure it makes a nifty accessory at cons and stuff, I have my doubts about its actual efficacy when it comes to suspicious bible blasting.

Somebody knows something and they damned-well better start talking -- and I mean pronto! Next thing you know, they'll be trying to tell us the moon-landing was real!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fluff Up The Pillows and, For God's Sake, Somebody Please Vaccuum.

We seem to be getting some visits here from other than the usual suspects. I may have to class-up the joint a little.

(Anybody got any idea how one goes about doing that?)

Are We Really Doing Ourselves Any Favors?

And by we, I mean liberals (which I'll cop to for the moment). The truth of the matter is that I usually come down on the side of fairly lenient immigration policies (and I despise the RightWing™ habit of refusing to differentiate between legal and illegal immigration at all).

This morning, The Today Show ran a report (with MSNBC) about the issue of immigrant families being separated because of one or more family members' status. I'm not embedding the entire story because that's not what I'm interested in talking about. If you want to watch the whole thing, you'll find it here. I'm also not going to talk about whether or not the story, as a whole, presents a balanced picture -- I know I saw some opposing viewpoints, but frankly, I wasn't paying all that much attention.

What did catch my attention was the interview portion at the end with Ann Curry talking to (or would that be talking for) three children tragically separated from their parents. Watch the video.

Sorry, but it just seems to me that having Ann practically sobbing over these poor kids' plight is just ammunition for Rush and Sean and their ilk. I'm fairly certain the poor urchins could make the point for themselves if Ann would just ask some questions and pretend to be a journalist.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I'm An Old Fart...No, Don't Say I'm Not. There's Evidence!

OK, first, I just watched a commercial and while I'm 90% sure it was meant to be amusing in that the people in it portraying cool people were, in fact, meant to be seen as uncool people doing a pale imitation of cool people, I'm only 20% sure why that was meant to be amusing in the first place.

The preceding sentence is further evidence that I'm an old fart.

And then there's Skype.

For decades now, we've been promised picture phones. The only thing I wanted more were the flying cars (and they're not even on the horizon -- pun intended). Well, now there's Skype and it's pretty much a picture phone. You and the people you're talking to show up as little grainy icon sized pictures on each other's computers or you can make the picture bigger, in which case -- well, it's bigger, but you could either be talking to the person you think you're talking to or you could be speaking to Babar the Elephant wearing a yellow liesure suit and a purple fedora.

Fine. I've now spoken on Skype a few times...and it scares me. The first problem is one that was associated with speaking on the telephone in the early 20th Century.

Odds are, you had nothing in particular to say, you just had to use the damned thing for the novelty of it all. Those people had it easy. They just heard each other not having anything much to say. In the case of Skype, not only am I heard to have nothing to say...I'm seen dithering as well.

And it's really a lot more limiting than I expected. You can't pick your nose. You can't fart. I know what you're thinking -- the person at the other end isn't any more likely to hear it than they were on a telephone, and there's no smell-a-vision involved. True, but that cheek-lift you'd do on the phone to help silence the fart is now visible as a rising of the entire left side of your body. At the very least, you'd look spastic as hell. And I'll be honest -- I've peed while talking to people on the phone. Oh, tell me you haven't! But you do it as quietly as possible, aiming for the porcelain, not the water. You wait to flush until after you hang up. Can you get away with that on Skype? I think not!

The only way this is going to work out for me is if they make it so I have control over which sized picture you get to see. Everything will be fine if I can enlarge your view so that you think you're just looking at a potato wearing a feather boa...lifting one cheek.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and the...(OK, It's Really, Really Bad But Secretly, It's Kinda Good).

A few days ago, I promised to show you something new in New York City that I think is really terrific. First, a brief history lesson. Prior to the 1930's, rail freight in Manhattan ran level with the surface streets. Responding to years, of problems with freight trains mowing down cars and pedestrians, the High Line was built. The High Line ran down the west side of Manhattan about 30' above the ground. It went directly through buildings which built their own sidings to accept rail freight and got a hefty bit of traffic up in the air and out of everyone's way. It operated until 1980 when the last train ran on the High Line. (It was a delivery of frozen turkeys!)

Since the High Line closed to rail traffic, there's been a constant argument regarding what to do with the elevated rail line, which frankly was just decaying and becoming either an eyesore or a dramatic background, depending on your perspective. An organization called Friends of the High Line was founded and their dream of refurbishing the structure and opening it as a public park was realized last week. The first section of the High Line opened to the public last week (from Gansevoort to 20th St), and it's spectacular. Ultimately, the park will be open all the way up to 34th Street.

Here's a couple of links that are much more authoritative on the subject:

The History of the High Line, and a gallery of photos of the High Line in operation.

As a side note -- currently, there is no freight rail connecting NYC to New Jersey...which might have something to do with the amount of truck traffic on our streets, but that's a topic for another post.

Anyway, I went and took some shots of the new park last Tuesday, the day it opened. I deem it excellent.

First, a couple of shots from street level as an introduction. This is a shot showing the last existing portion at the southern end of the line. If it hadn't been demolished, the line would continue through the yellowish building there at the end.

Here's another spot. The part on the left is the main line and the part on the right is a spur leading into a building on the west side of 10th Avenue. (Later in the tour, you can see the same spot from track level and if you look at the link with historic photos, it also shows up there.)
This is one of the stairways leading up to the park. The building in the shot is brand new and they built it on stilts to accommodate the High Line (I don't suppose they had a choice by the time they built it, but still...)

Most of the length of the park incorporates walkways with old rails and wildflowers. It feels a lot like being a kid and exploring a secret place. One of those places your parents told you not to go to.

There are quite a few places to sit and watch the rest of the world go by.
More rails and flowers.

Unlike most parks, there's no attempt to create an illusion that you've removed yourself from the city, you're merely above it all -- both literally and figuratively.

There's an amphitheater built above 17th Street. I'll admit I'm not entirely sure what this is about, but people seem to be enjoying it. (Because of the choice of wood, it looks and smells like you've entered a sauna. Come August, it'll probably feel that way too, but that's not a knock on it.)
Here's the amphitheater from street level. If you embiggen the picture, you'll see that there's an uncompleted platform outside of the picture windows. Maybe there'll be performances in the air for folks to watch at some future date.

In the meantime, everyone seems happy to sit here and watch traffic go by under their feet.

I saw quite a few people posing for pictures with the traffic as a backdrop.

Along one stretch, there are these attractive wooden lounging chairs. They face an opening in the buildings to the west with a view of the Hudson River a block away. I'm betting these will be extremely popular on sunny afternoons. (You're invited to remember this version of lounging in a public space. Later in the post, I'll show you another, hideously tragic vision of the same idea.)

Note that they're built on rail wheels and positioned on the tracks. (I only saw ones that had the wheels clamped, but a friend said you can move some of them.)

There are a lot of really nice views from the park.


In some spots, the juxtaposition of the city and the park are quite fanciful. I was struck by this relationship and snapped off quite a few shots. I can't tell if my favorite was the one with this guy...

or this one.

The park includes some little nooks that come closer to removing you from the hustle and bustle.

This is right there in the middle of things but somehow, it's separate and idyllic.

Remember that shot from street level? This shows you where that spur used to enter the building on the west side of Tenth Avenue. To the right is the continuation of the main line. There's an almost identical shot in the historic photos link showing a rail car entering the building.

Now...onto the Really, Really Bad...

I've mentioned that I can't stand Times Square. I'll drive blocks out of my way to avoid trying to fight my way through it if I'm in a car and I rarely even walk through it unless someone is paying me to be there. It's noisy and crowded and full of clueless tourists who have no idea where they're going. It's a crushingly annoying place.

For better or worse, though...this is what it's supposed to look and feel like.

Well, Mayor Bloomberg got a bug up his ass and decided he'd try to transform the place into..something...I'm not sure what. Times Square exists because Broadway runs south through all of Manhattan, but at a slight angle...constantly angling east as it heads for lower Manhattan. Times Square is where it crosses Seventh Avenue. Our dear Mayor decided to close a few blocks of Broadway to traffic and make them into a pedestrian mall. I'm not entirely sure what he ultimately envisions, but the execution of the "temporary experiment" is...sorry...words fail me.

Remember those attractive wooden loungers on the High Line? In Times Square, apparently, you're supposed to feel like you drove in from Indiana with some lawn chairs from your backyard. And since they're just haphazardly plopped into the street (uh, is there supposed to be some direction you should focus on?), they're less about a moment of relaxation than they are about boredom. Frankly, it seems like people sit in them because they think they're expected to sit in them...and then they spend their time wondering how much longer they have to stay before they can go look for a bar.

But, (as I mentioned), secretly, I think it's a kinda good thing. We love tourists in NY and we really love tourist's money in NY...we just wish they'd come here and spend it without getting in our way. Maybe Mayor Mike has just provided a convenient place to pen them in...a place none of us locals wanted to go in the first place.

To paraphrase George Patton, "Bloomberg, you magnificent bastard!"

Friday, June 12, 2009

Contrary to Popular Opinion...That's Not My Fucking Job!

There are lots of jobs, both big and small, that the Locations Department is expected to do. If you need to make arrangements for a grand piano to fall to the street from the 33rd floor of a building, that's our job. If the men's room in the extras' holding area is out of toilet paper, unfortunately, that's our job too. There are scads of things we can appropriately be asked to deal with and they run the gamut from how cool is that kinda stuff, to oh shit, where's the new guy kinda stuff.

There are, however, a bunch of things that I don't know about and I don't want to know about.

-I don't know how you can get your SAG card.

-I don't know who's doing the music for the movie, who you might ask about who's doing the music for the movie, or how you'd find out who's doing the music for the movie.

-In a related note, I don't have the time nor will I be engrossed if you wish to tell me about the brand new 98 track recording studio you just installed in your basement.

-I don't want to read your script and I can't hook you up with anyone who's going to produce it for you.

-If you're not someone intimately related with a location or service that I need, I can't get you anybody's autograph. Or an 8" x 10" of them. Or your picture taken with them. Or backstage passes to see them perform next week.

-This movie isn't going to win any awards. Even if it does, I can't get you invited to the Oscars.

-I also can't get you invited to the Premiere of the movie.

-I can't get you the DVD. The movie might come out next year. By then, I'll be so forgotten by the assorted powers-that-be that I'll be happy if they remember me when there's a crew screening. (You can't come to that either.)

-I don't find the picture cars, so I'm really not interested in your 1949 Ford pickup truck. Yes, I'm sure it is beautiful. Now go away.

While we're at it, here's the answer to a question I've been asked way too many times...

-The reason you've never seen this movie is that we're not finished shooting it yet. We don't beam this shit live into the theaters 5-times-a-day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hey! It's Art...In the Subway!

I've mentioned before that I really like this guy's sculptures. Well, he's also got a bunch of them in three or four subway stations.

Here's just a few of them from 14th Street on the C-Train.

I love this little guy with the moneybag. The gun in his holster is cute as hell.

Here's a rich guy handing out pennies to a little guy.

I'm not sure about this one, but I like it. If it's hard to tell, she's sitting on the rich guy's chest and I guess reading him something.

This is a sorta payphone.

And this is a guy crawling out of the bottom of the phone with some change.

This is what I got for you all today. It's not the post with the really cool new thing in NY. I haven't had time to go through the hundreds of shots I took to distill it down to an easy post.
Maybe tomorrow (but probably not til Saturday). Ah well.