Monday, August 31, 2009

Just So We All Know What Our Nation's Protectors Are Doing.

You may have to embiggen to see what the search was all about. Although on second thought, maybe they've just taken my advice and are planning a retaliatory strike.


You Only Think You've Seen Bad Cell Phone Behavior.

This was an entirely new one on me.

A little while ago, I go to take the trash out (because, hey, it's trash night) and I figure as long as I'm going that way, I should take some of the recycling stuff from its interim inside can to the outside real recycling can.

So I walk out the front door and there's a guy sitting on the little wall in front of our house talking on his cell phone and I don't think twice about this, because it's not like his ass is going to hurt the wall or anything. Then I put the trash in the trash can and I dump the bottles and cans into the recycling can and he turns around and gives me a dirty look. Which is quickly followed by him saying to me loudly, "Do you mind? I'm on the phone here!"

I smiled at him and said "No, I don't mind at all." Then I picked up the recycling can and shook it around like a big pinata until he stormed off in a huff.

Ah, Brooklyn...we're on the forefront of everything!

Well That Explains A Lot!

It turns out I was strangely prescient when I felt compelled to name this cat Teufel. Except I was a little bit off. Not about the devil part of things -- It's just that I should have named him something in Dutch, not German.

It has become clear that he's a pure-bred WetterKatze, or for your edification...a Frysian Water Cat! How cool is that? And how, you may ask, do I know this? It turns out he's a regular little fisherman. (I have deduced these things and I'll be sticking with my deduces, so there!)

First, we see him stalking his prey!

And then, without warning...he strikes! Granted, he's just fishing for toes here, but the skill and his love of water is purely instinctive.

You may not think these photos prove anything, but I'll have you know that he's fallen in a couple of times and he just stands there, shoulder-deep and gives a look that can best be translated as, "What the hell are you looking at?"

I'm so proud.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I May Be An Idiot -- A Recurring Theme!

Am I the only one who has never heard of Tom Holt before. I went into a bookstore last week and found myself staring at a shelf filled almost to Terry Prachett capacity. This guy has written a lot of books (starting in 1987 or so). Maybe they just weren't released in the U.S. before? I have no idea, but I know who he is now.

Right now, I'm reading For Two Nights Only. It's an omnibus edition containing two of his previously released novels, Overtime and Grailblazers. I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Overtime is a rather witty book centering on time travel, time demolition, financial advisors, insurance salesmen, the music industry, the AntiChrist, automatons, and bullet-proof hats. Really, I swear it. It's a hoot.

I've just started the second book in the volume: Grailblazers, which promises to have something to do with Aurthurian legend, but also promises not to hew too closely to anything I've ever heard or read about it before. One of the opening paragraphs goes like this:

A flash of brilliant electric whiteness cleaves the darkness and reflects, painfully bright, off a man in armour staggering up the steep escarpment of the fell. His visor is up, and his face is lined with agony. He is an idiot. You can tell, just by looking at him. It's not so much his tall, youthful, athletic build or the sopping wet golden hair plastered like seaweed down his forehead that gives him away; it's just that nobody with anything substantial between his ears would climb up a steep mountain in full armour in a thunderstorm.

How can that not grab you?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Release The Hounds!

I got nothing.

Courtesy of Topless Robot.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Do You Think That Would Be a "C" Ticket or an "E" Ticket Ride?

Yesterday's post got me thinking about Theme Parks. Stick with me; it'll make sense in a minute.

All Location Agreements say basically the same thing; that we have permission to film there, that the guy signing on behalf of the location is actually authorized to give permission, and that the Producer will be the owner of all the footage we shoot. It can take up to three pages of Legal-sized paper to say those things.

I've been asked to cobble together a short-form of the agreement for the job I'm about to start. I'm all for that idea. Shorter is betterer.

Anyway, let me show you some language that appears in most Location Agreements in one form or another.

Lessor hereby grants Lessee the right to construct duplications of the Premises, including without limitation any names, signs and identifying insignias at or on the Premises (the "Duplicates") and to use the Duplicates and all photographs and sound recordings made hereunder in any manner, including without limitation in theme parks, studio tours or attractions of Lessee (or any other companies in any manner affiliated with Lessee) or in merchandising or filming, and to exhibit the Duplicates and all photographs and sound recordings made hereunder in perpetuity in any and all media (now known or hereafter devised) throughout the universe, including all advertising or publicity for Lessee or any other companies in any manner affiliated with Lessee.
You can certainly understand how that might come in handy. Say you shoot a new 007 movie and you shoot a really great chase scene through some really cool space-aged factory full of nifty machines and bright shiny panels and buttons. You might want to duplicate that for a ride at your theme park. That makes sense.

But why would any studio want the right to re-create your house for a theme park attraction? Why? Weren't you paying attention yesterday!? People like to look at the places where movies were shot. They even like to look at recreations of places where movies were shot.

With apologies to W.P. Kinsella and Phil Alden Robinson, please imagine James Earl Jones reading the following paragraph to you:

People will come. They'll come to your theme park for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children. "Of course, we won't mind if you look around", you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it. And they'll look at cheap recreations of sets and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. . Oh... people will come. People will most definitely come.

So, what, you may ask, would be so great about recreating, say...The Heffernan's Home from King of Queens? How the hell should I know? Maybe you get to pretend you're delivering a package and when you ring the doorbell, the door opens and an animatronic Jerry Stiller stands there and yells at you! That might be fun.

I bet you could set up a street of nothing but shoe stores so Sex and the City fans could pretend they're window shopping.

Really, it works for anything. Would you like to pretend to be part of a SWAT Team? Come visit Crack House- The Ride!

The truth of the matter is that if I were really ambitious (and smart), who needs to build this stuff or have a whole Theme Park just to cash in? I bet I could sell tickets to raid a real crack house! It's not like the owners pay a lot of attention to those properties.

Another thing that got me thinking about Theme Parks is the commercials that have been running for Six Flags. They've still got this creepy guy in all their commercials, but he doesn't dance so much anymore.
Now, he rates the fun level of different activities by the number of flags -- with Six Flags obviously being the pinnacle of fun. So, in one commercial, they'll show some teenage girl with her family at some historic educational place. She's churning butter while an old guy dressed in Colonial garb hollers "Churn the butter! Churn the butter!" In another commercial, a teenager is mortified watching her mother dance to the music of some tweenies pop star. In yet another, a father is teaching his little boy to hit a baseball and takes a line drive to the crotch.

In each commercial, the first activity gets a rating of two flags. Two Flags! I'm not going to say that any of those things sound like fun, but in what universe does getting hit in the nuts get the same rating as churning butter? If you're the hittee, I'd think this rates Zero Flags. If you're the little kid who hit the ball, we're probably up to a Three.

My point is...if they're so pitiful about rating the less fun activities, why the hell should I believe them when they give themselves Six Flags? Maybe they only rate four flags and they're just inflating their rating for the credulous. And if flags are so much damned fun, why don't they just buy a few more and offer Nine Flags!?

Or maybe they assume that anything more than, say seven flags would just overload most peoples' elation quotient.

Just to make this more of an interactive post, I'll conclude with this question. What scene from a movie would you want to see made into a ride? Tell us about it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Have You Seen This House?

Movies make a lot of people obsessive. Some will debate the merits of a movie vs. the book it was adapted from. Some will stand for hours behind a barricade hoping to get a crappy photo of a star or...swoon, an actual autograph. Some sit in front of their DVD players watching movies frame by frame so they can catch mistakes and be the first to post about them on IMDB.

And then there are the people like visiting the locations that show up in movies. That's fine. The store where Madonna bought a jacket in Desperately Seeking Susan did a bang up business for years from that scene. You can go on a Kenny "The Real" Kramer Tour and spend 3 hours visiting sites from The Seinfeld Show. I can't tell you how many times someone has asked me where they'll find Central Perk, the coffee shop on Friends. (Take the Lincoln Tunnel to New Jersey and continue about 3000 miles west. You'll find it on a studio backlot, but it probably looks like a 1920's era Communist bookstore or a newsstand right now. Just sayin'.) The point is that these peoples' existence can increase a location's cache or at worst, it's almost always harmless. (Sex and the City fans are an entirely different species and shouldn't be let out without restraints and muzzles.)

Which brings us to today's topic. A friend of mine forwarded me a copy of an email correspondence he's been having with a fan in Connecticut. It seems that this guy, (we'll call him Mr. X), has been going crazy trying to find out where the house is located that was used for the exterior shots of the Heffernans' house on King of Queens (that shot at the top of the post). Since the show was shot almost entirely in a studio, all establishing shots were what we call "Dallas" shots. (Camera slowly tilts up massive impressive office building. CUT TO: Interior palatial "rich guy's" office -- in the studio.) Typically, the producers will call someone in NY (or Dallas or Cleveland or wherever) and hire them to put together a minimal camera crew, find some exteriors that work for the show, and shoot them. Then those shots get recycled over and over and over again for as long as the series runs. The people who shot them get paid for the few days it took to get them and promptly forget they were ever involved.

And it's not the type of thing that shows up in the credits. IMDB doesn't have a listing for the guy who found a great view of 42nd Street for Episode 3, Season 4. (And I bet you thought even the guy who pumps out the port-o-potties got a credit.) Mr. X had run into a brick wall and was at a loss on how to get the answer he was looking for. (Please note that I'm not slamming this guy in the least. He did a little bit of normal, every-day type of searching and suddenly, getting the answer to his question had taken on a life of it's own; the answer was no longer the most important thing -- but finding the answer had become like a schoolyard dare. I've been there.)

So, putting the story in order, it seems Mr. X found an email address for King of Queens' Production Designer and asked him if he knew where the house was. The Designer responded that “the shot of the Heffernan’s house was a stock shot that was in the Studio's library. It had been taken for a movie a few years earlier. There was no information on the shot as to the location. We will probably never know the exact location. Over the nine-year run,(of the show) no one ever contacted us that it was their house.”

Mr. X wrote back to ask if the Designer knew which movie the original shot had been done for and was told that the library just lists things like "red brick house" and some Post-Production Supervisor had chosen it years ago. There just wasn't any way of finding out the shot's history. Mr. X was not to be deterred.

The Studios' libraries are accessible online (with watermarks over the shots) to encourage people to look through them and buy stock footage for their projects. Mr. X went surfing. He found a variety of shots of the house he was looking for, but no further information. He was still at a dead end as far as getting any information about the house went. He decided to leave a note on the site's message board. That same day, he gets a phone call from the Studio's VP of Media Productions!

He was told that the footage had been filmed for something else years before King of Queens came on the air and that by the time it was used, nobody had any idea where the house was.
Studio VP said the house was in NY (he was wrong!) but that nobody seemed to know where. They thought for sure at some point the owner or a neighbor or somebody who recognized the house would contact them, but nope. Studio VP left his number with Mr. X and asked him to call if he was able to piece together any information. Apparently, this has been a mystery to the Studio folks for years and they were dying to know the answer too!

After much digging, Mr. X was able to discover that the shot had originally been done for a TV series called Sibs in 1991. So he decided to watch all of the stock footage in the library associated with Sibs, hoping a clue would drop. And sure enough, it did. At the head of one shot before the camera tilts up a "nondescript gray building", there's a slate in the shot for a second or two. And on that slate, were two names.

So Mr. X has a new clue and starts an internet search for those of whom is a friend of mine here in NY. In 1991, my friend was just transitioning from being a Location Manager to being a Producer and those gigs getting establishing shots of the city were his bread and butter to begin with. He's pretty easy to find online. So Mr. X emails him asking him if he's that guy who shot the house in Queens for Sibs that became the Heffernan's House on King of Queens.

Now, as I mentioned, these jobs are pretty forgettable. The only reason my friend remembered at all is that A) he remembered having to hire a Korean Translator to make sure the homeowner really knew what the hell he was talking about because the homeowner didn't speak a word of English, and B), he'd gotten a good laugh the one time he had ever watched King of Queens and noticed the house in the shot. (He was only sure it was the house he had shot because he could see his 1990 1982 Honda drive by in the shot with a PA he'd hired driving it!)

So after a bit more emailing back and forth, my friend finds the original Location Agreement in his records and let's Mr. X know the address of the house (in New Jersey, not Queens).

And everybody is happy...but there's more!

It turns out that this job was done in the days before my friend had incorporated so all of the paperwork is in his name. And since there's no record of of a transfer of rights and ownership, all of that stock footage is actually owned by my friend -- not the Studio. I wonder what the back-licensing fee is for 9 years worth of using a stock shot and then putting it into syndication. Hmmmm!

Oh, and one more thing. The other location that has defied Mr. X in identification is a mansion in a scene at the end of National Treasure. The scene is the one where Justin Bartha is complaining about Nicholas Cage not accepting the government's 10% finder's fee before driving away in his new Ferrari. Mr. X has talked to a number of people who worked on the movie, but depending on the source, the mansion is variously in New York, Washington D.C. or London.

If anyone knows the answer, I'll be happy to pass it along.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Brooklyn Carriage Houses.

Most older cities in America, especially on the East Coast, have carriage houses leftover from the days of...well, carriages. Brooklyn, which I'll remind you was a city unto itself until consolidation with NYC in 1898 quintupled in population between 1840 and 1870 (1870 pop. approx 280,000). Two of the most fashionable sections were Brooklyn Heights and Clinton Hill with their close proximity to Manhattan. The first of the bridges, the Brooklyn Bridge, was completed in 1883, but until then there had been regular ferry service.

If you walk through these neighborhoods, you'll find old mansions, most dating from the mid 1800's into the early 20th Century. And where you had mansions, you'll also find carriage houses. It's actually a little rare to find a carriage house on the same piece of property where the mansion stands, I suppose because space may have been at a premium even 150 years ago. I also suspect that those who could afford the mansions preferred to have their carriages, horses, and the men who worked them stashed away out of sight (and out of olfactory notice).

Nevertheless, there must have been some element of keeping up with the Jonses because some of the remaining carriage houses are absolutely beautiful and you can tell they weren't built on the cheap. (Note: I suspect that the grander ones are the ones that still exist because they were so nice. Some independent carter with his wagon and un-matched nags probably would have had some wood-frame shack of a garage that nobody would have thought twice about tearing down when the city was expanding. I also suspect -- I'm doing an awful lot of suspecting here, aren't I -- that the wealthy would have continued to use their carriage houses even after replacing the carriages with an automobile and chauffeur.)

So, let's have a tour of just a few Brooklyn Carriage Houses. First, let's look at Grace Court Alley, a small street that seems to have been dedicated to Carriage Houses. It's one block from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, near some of the Heights' grandest houses with the grandest views and it's downwind of the prevailing breezes off the river.

Here are some of the houses at the corner of Grace Ct. Alley and Hicks Street. Note the hoist thingy sticking out above the garage doors where, presumably there was once a hayloft. (If anyone knows the proper name for the "hoist thingy" I'd love to hear it. It's not a davit, since that's nautical and it's not a gantry since it's fixed in place as opposed to movable on rails).

I'm not sure, but I think these first four carriage houses were actually one really grand carriage house for a really wealthy family. The three peaked roof sections seem to house two separate garage bays (with space for a hayloft above) and the central section seems to have always been dedicated as living space. The only reason I think the one on the corner is part of the original is the matching stonework around the windows. I could be completely wrong here, but they're 3 separate houses now. The entrance to the one on the corner is on the main street around the corner.

Here are some more of them at the end of the Alley.

And another one. I'd love to get a look inside this one.
And anchoring the end of the alley is this shack. Pity the people who have to live in that.

If you walk further down Hicks Street, you run across some more carriage houses. These aren't quite as grand, but they're still quite beautiful. The only drawback to these is that they're next door to a fire station. But then again, you could live next door to a fire station and not be in an adorable carriage house.

These are a little further down the same block.

And these are across the street.

I'd imagine a bunch of you live places with renovated carriage houses as part of the landscape and I'd love to see pictures if you want to link them. I'd be interested to see what kind of variety there is out there.

Just Go Watch This Dammit!

This is from a British show called X Factor. Another one of those Outer Mongolia's Got Talent type shows. The bastards have embedding disabled, but the video is here. It doesn't hurt that I think Joe Cocker's version of most songs he's covered make the originals sound second best, but I have to wonder why this guy is competing instead of recording his second or third album. Not to mention the fact that the guy shows up in shorts and t-shirt for his audition and acts like there's a sold-out crowd there who all paid to see him! Really good stuff.

P.S. If D stops by, I'd love to hear his take on the camera movement in the Fiona Apple video on the linked post above. I may have had it all wrong, but I'm a big boy and I'm willing to take corrections from a pro.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Looking to Squeaky's Future.

Just this past week, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme was released from prison on parole. Under federal guidelines, she would have been eligible almost five years ago, but those nasty feds tacked on some extra time just because she escaped once and, on another occasion, tried to perform a brain-ectomy on a fellow inmate with a claw hammer.

All of that just for waving a gun around at Gerald Ford! Just to put things in perspective, she has always claimed that she never intended to shoot the President. (This is actually backed up by her claim, at the time, that she had deliberately ejected the round from the chamber before leaving home and police did find a round on the bathroom floor when they searched her home.) Frankly, all this does is add to her tally of whack-job points -- she only wanted to make sure she got a chance to talk to the President about pollution.

Secret Service Agent: Drop the gun!

Squeaky: It's OK! There's no round in the chamber! I only want him to stand still long enough to talk about the environment!

Secret Service Agent: Oh! Well, that sounds OK. Stand down men!

Yeah, that was a likely scenario. But anyway, she's free on parole now and we should all look to the future. And the thing that concerns me is -- Where is this poor woman going to find a job?

My first thought was that she might make a good greeter at Wal-Mart. They hire a lot of retirement aged people and Squeaky certainly fits that bill, right? The job might be good for her, what with having her social interactions so limited for the last 35 years. On the other hand, that might be a slight drawback.

Squeaky: Welcome to Wal-Mart. Can I help you find anything?

Mother with little girl: Yes, thank you. Tiffany wants a Miley Cyrus lunchbox. She's just starting First Grade. Do you know what aisle they're on?

Squeaky: Well, you could go with the lunchbox, but wouldn't you really feel safer if you knew she was properly outfitted for recess? There are some lovely little ice-axes in aisle 12.

OK, maybe Wal-Mart wouldn't be such a great idea. Maybe we should play to her strengths. Maybe there could even be an element of community service involved. Elizabeth Hasselbeck just had another baby. Perhaps Squeaky could fill in for her on The View while she's on maternity leave?

Whoopi: Last week, The Sierra Club released the findings of their latest...

Joy: (interrupts) Do my boobs look really saggy in this dress?


OK, that might not be a great idea either. Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! I've got it. The NY Giants should have her fill in for Plaxico Burress while he's doing time. Granted, she's led something of a sedentary lifestyle since 1975, so I can't say she'd be all that much of an asset on the field. But on the other hand, when she goes clubbing with her gun tucked into her belt, she always ejects the round from the chamber before she leaves the house. Not shooting yourself in the leg has got to count for something.

Because Jim Asked For It.

He may claim he wasn't really asking for it, but he was. Oh, yes he was.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

We Don't Do Important Here!

Let's start by (kinda) updating yesterday's post in which we talked about the MASSIVE CONTROVERSY surrounding the issue of Michelle Obama wearing a pair of shorts in public. This morning, The Today Show on NBC revealed the results of their (nonscientific) poll on the subject. The result is based on people voting on NBC's website, so I'd say the voting pool is limited to people who give a shit. And, I'll be honest -- you either have to really give a shit, or you must really need to find the poll so you can get a screenshot for your blog, 'cause finding this damn poll took me almost 15 minutes! So, anyway, among those searching for hours and hours to find a place to express their outrage, 83% think "it's fine" that she wore shorts and 17% thought it was "inappropriate".

Look! Here's the damned screen shot. Do I win anything for my diligence?

As Matt was telling us the shocking results of this poll -- "It's our biggest response EVAR! Over 300,000 people voted!" -- a thought occurred to me; all of the stories I'd seen on this started with some version or other of "Michelle Obama was seen wearing shorts while exiting Air Force One...sparking outrage in some quarters." (I'm as guilty of having reported this as anyone else, BTW.) But suddenly, I realized I couldn't, for the life of me, find out what quarters the outrage was coming from.

So I proceeded to do what passes for research these days -- I Googled the shit out of the subject. I filtered the search so that the results showed up in order of publication and tried to find the earliest stories about it. I spent an exhaustive 10 minutes looking at shit (that's 25 minutes of research if you're counting), and I'll admit, I couldn't find a single instance of anyone identifying any outraged quarters (or eighths, or sixteenths, or any other outraged fractions or factions). All I could find were bloggers and news outlets asking the question; Is it appropriate for the First Lady to bare her legs in public.

So all of this is my long-winded way of telling you that the outrage seems to have been entirely manufactured to provide content since there's no other news going on that warrants any airtime, newspaper inches or webspace. (Damn! If only there were something worth reporting? Where are all the wars, elections, corrupt politicians and instances of random violence when we need content?)

Allow me to provide a further example, if I may:

During the day, you may see 12 teases/promos breathlessly announcing: "Have microscopic aliens from a distant planet INVADED EARTH and infested 22% of Earthlings' colons? Tune in at eleven for the results of Channel 67's INVESTIGATIVE REPORT!

Then Eleven O'Clock rolls around and you tune in because THERE ARE MICROSCOPIC ALIENS INFESTING YOUR COLON! The story gets teased before every commercial break and then, finally, at 11:27 p.m., you get some frightening music and a big graphic (Maybe a silhouette of some guy with a microscope lodged in his ass?) and the screen dissolves to INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, JOSH HOODWINK who seriously intones: "Have microscopic aliens from a distant planet INVADED EARTH and infested 22% of Earthlings' colons? Uh...not that we're aware of. We'll keep you abreast of the situation as more information comes to light.

Googling "Michelle Obama Shorts" will get you more than 2.8 million results. I apologize for being one of them.

Moving on to another subject... you may remember me blogging "...and it's not a good stigma". I thought it was a particularly "Duh" moment in reportage. Well, there's another story being reported that has a moment like that (at least for me).

As the NY Post (and others) have reported,Liskula Cohen went to court to force Google to reveal the identity (or at least the IP and email address) of an anonymous blogger who started a blog for the sole reason of calling Cohen (as publicly as possible) "a psychotic, lying, whoring ... skank", among other things.

The judge agreed with Cohen and Google turned over the information yesterday. Now I'm not stupid -- I realize that the story and the case have some pretty deep ramifications and set a new (I think) precedent regarding anonymity on the internet and BLAH, BLAH BLAH, BLAH, BLAH! Those are important issues. Didn't you read today's headline -- We Don't Do Important Here!

Nah, the part of this story that caught my eye is this quote from Cohen's attorney:

"Under these circumstances, in the context of the blog at issue, the words 'skank,' 'skanky' and 'ho' carry a negative implication..." and "are actionable."

Ya'think? Thanks for the clarification. Duh!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

This is a Thing? SRSLY! This is a Thing?

Apparently, half of the country is FREAKING OUT because the First Family went to the Grand Canyon over the weekend (where it was something like 7000º) and Michelle Obama WORE A PAIR OF SHORTS!

How dare she?!?!!!?!!!? Doesn't she know First Ladies DON'T HAVE LEGS? And a lot of the reports refer to them as short shorts. Frankly, I just don't see it. I know that whatever a First Lady wears is supposed to be newsworthy but there are really people who think she's not ever allowed to show her knees? Gimme a break.

Apparently, the last First Lady to show up in public wearing shorts was Jackie Kennedy. Here she is with the family at Hyannis Port. Yeah, sure! I know this doesn't really count as showing up in public. This was private time with just the family and the White House photographer and the other photographer from LIFE MAGAZINE. Yeah, this was a captured private moment. Totally different.

The thing is, I wouldn't begrudge any First Lady the right to dress comfortably in the right surroundings. It makes them look normal.

OK, maybe Laura's dressed appropriately in this shot.

But what about here? Would America have FREAKED OUT if Laura had gone white-water rafting in a pair of damn shorts? (Note: The water here looks like it's got delusions of grandeur just trying to qualify as a Class One rapid, but a boat?...go ahead and feel free to show your legs!)

Hillary doesn't count in this discussion. She's been officially running for President since Fifth Grade, and she's convinced that there's a different set of rules governing what qualifies as presidential vs. what's First-Ladyish (lady-al?)...whatever. If she ever does get elected President, she'll be sunbathing topless in a thong on the roof of the White House every weekend (with the aircraft restriction expanded to 500 miles), and the Secret Service will be recruiting blind eunuchs.

George the First and Barbara used to go to Kennebunkport all the time. I sure as hell wouldn't have begrudged her lounging around in a pair of shorts. My grandmother always wore shorts when we went to the beach and I'm not aware of having been scarred by the experience.

And really, if Barbara had been wearing shorts in this next shot, could you honestly say that would have been the most disturbing thing about the picture?

I'd have even cut Nancy Reagan some slack on the issue. Other than that unfortunate tumor growing on her ass, she appears to have had totally respectable legs.

I am, however, only willing to go so far with my equanimity. I'm thankful that there aren't any shots of Bess Truman or Mamie Eisenhower in shorts. I don't think even Abe saw Mary-Todd out of her full length black dress.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

♪ ♫...The People Ride In A Hole In The Ground ♫ ♩

What the hell is that? See that ladder leading down into a manhole cover? Do we have some subway stations you can only get to by climbing down a ladder into a hole? Nope!

What you're looking at is the entrance to the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel (via a small manhole in the middle of the intersection of Court Street and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn), and this is one of the periodic tours where folks can go down and get a look at the place in person.

The short version is that there used to be a train that operated from the foot of Atlantic Avenue at the East River (meeting the ferry from Manhattan) with the intention of connecting to the Long Island Rail Road and eventually, (via more ferries) all the way to Boston. The project underwent a few incarnations, starting with a train at street level, then an open cut in the street (a big ditch, really) and finally a tunnel. Between the fact that the line impeded traffic trying to cross Atlantic Avenue and a few other problems, (the grade between the river and Court Street was too steep for early locomotives; the smoke was a blight on the neighborhood, the locomotives had a nasty habit of exploding), the line was never a great success and never even remotely approached popularity with the nearby residents.

In the early 1860's the City of Brooklyn (it was separate from NYC til the end of the 19th Century), assessed the adjacent businesses $125,000 to have the tunnel sealed up and closed. (I'm not clear on whether or not that was what the contractor was "paid" to do, but instead of filling the tunnel completely, they just sealed up the two entrances.)

The tunnel quickly faded from memory and became a thing of urban legend for over 100 years. It was searched for in the 1930's (there were rumors of bootleggers and other nefarious activity) and during WWII there was talk of finding it and refurbishing it enough to serve as an air raid shelter.

In 1980, an engineering student by the name of Bob Diamond, finally found an entrance after researching old news articles and city engineering documents. He founded the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association and hopes to eventually create a working trolley line with spurs along the waterfront and through the tunnel. Go look at the BHRA's site for pictures and some cool documents about the tunnel's history and planned future.

P.S. I was down there once in the late 80's to scout it for some project I can't remember. It's one of those places I'd love to bring a shoot to, but there are still some pretty serious access problems. To the best of my knowledge, there's still only one way in and out (through the manhole cover that's even smaller than most manhole covers), and the idea of getting a full crew and equipment (much of which won't fit through the entrance) is pretty daunting. Without a compelling reason to use it, I'm pretty sure that most producers would kick my ass and then fire me if I suggested it as a location. Ah of these days.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Does this mean Matt Lauer will invite me to be on The Today Show?

Photo mashup courtesy of Jeff Hentosz (who is passing out far too many of these, but I forgive him).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dinner with the Sekret Scientist (or, When Will I Ever Learn?)

So, not only did I have lunch on Wednesday with Ilya, on Thursday, I met John the Scientist for dinner. Ultimately, we had a really good time and some really good food, but meeting up proved to be a dangerous proposition. John and I had been trading emails, the gist of which was that he'd be getting out of work around 4:45 p.m. and he'd be on the east side near 14th Street. That sounded fine and I mentioned that it would be a whole lot more convenient for me to meet him there than near the hotel where he was staying.

On the appointed afternoon, I tried calling the cell number I have for him and the call went directly to a robot-woman telling me that the "customer I was calling had not yet set up voicemail to receive messages". Fine. I sent an email (which I figured he'd get on whatever phone he was carrying), telling him what time I'd be heading into the city and that he should call my cell when he got out so we could meet up.

I got off the train at about 4:30 and made my way to a nearby park where I could comfortably sit and read my book while waiting for him. (The Chronicles of Narnia if you must know -- which I've oddly made it to this point in life without ever having read before.) All was good.

Now some of you live in the middle of nowhere and apparently, you have to concern yourselves with bears and moose and rabid coyotes and killer bees and a bunch of other shit I don't have to think about on a regular basis. That's one of the reasons I live in a city. If I want to see nature, I'll get on the damned train or into the car and I'll go to where nature belongs. Nature is a thing to be visited. And in my preferred version of nature, the wild animals who would like nothing better than to eat me, trample me, sting me, piss on me, or just afflict me with various parasites are kept safely separated from me by things like bars, fences, pits or moats...or even better, all of the above. I'm a big fan of the Bronx Zoo, where they've created acres and acres of natural habitats and it's not uncommon to stand at the rail looking at a big giant habitat created to mimic African Savanna and be told that I'd be looking at lions or cheetahs or killer marmosets if they weren't hiding in the trees 6 miles from the railing. I can live with that. And I'm certainly not one of those douchebags who's ever likely to fall in with the polar bears because I need to lean over the rail to get a better picture. That's why zoom lenses were invented.

None of this should make you think that city life is without it's dangers. While sitting there peacefully reading my book, I began to realize I was hearing a steady scratching and chittering. I looked over the top of my book and saw this guy approaching me.

At this point, you guys are all probably thinking, "Aww! Look at that cute little guy." which I'd respond, "You wouldn't survive a minute in the city, you dumb country putz, you." See, your reaction is what they're going for. The cute guy is just the advance team...there to distract you while the rest of the little fuckers move in for the attack. It's a little known fact, but city squirrels are directly descended from those velociraptors you saw in Jurassic Park. They are just a multi-organism, highly efficient killing machine.

Don't believe me you silly Rural-tanians? Look here. While the first guy is being all cute and shit on the ground distracting me, this guy is quietly sneaking up.

And he's got friends! Oh yes he does!

Remember that scene in Braveheart?...the one where Mel Gibson is riding quietly through the muddy little hovels with his hands in plain sight? And when he gets close enough he reaches behind his back and you find out that he used Midievel duct tape and he's got a war hammer stuck back there and he whips it out and BLAMMO!...some schmuck's head isn't attached to the rest of him so good anymore? Yeah, like that! Well look at this other little guy trying to get close to me. If you don't think there's something lethal hidden in that bushy little tail, you're out of your cotton picking mind.

And while we're at it, here's one of those rare NYC black squirrels I've talked about before. I'm not 100% certain, but I'm pretty sure they're the squirrely version of REMF's...just more competent. They direct the battle but they never expose themselves to direct conflict. They're some of the most dangerous opponents you'll ever face.

So anyway, I'm no fool and I went and found a nice safe little bar to hunker down in while waiting for the Sekret Scientist. Eventually, he called me a little before 6:00 p.m. and I remembered that he can only tell time in Greenwich Mean Time - plus or minus whatever -- and he'd forgotten to carry the "3" when calculating for Eastern Standard Time, so he was off a little. It can get a little annoying when he's being all scientific and stuff, but really... no biggy.

So we met up and decided that we were both in the mood for Sushi and until the moment we walked into the restaurant and he started babbling away in Japanese to the hostess, I had completely forgotten that he likes to order gross shit in languages I don't understand and make me eat it. I was going to make up some story about how he tried to get me to eat Tuna-Testicle Soup and how three guys came to the table with a live tuna and held it over a bowl full of some smelly broth and a fourth guy wearing scrubs took a scalpel and carefully sliced out the poor guys 'nads which splashed into the broth and we laughed and laughed and...but I'll restrain myself.

In the end, the most exotic thing we ate was a salad made with grilled eel. I like grilled eel, so this wasn't really all that adventurous on my part. I did, however, demand that we call it seasnake instead of eel. That made it sound a lot more alien. It tastes sorta like chicken.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Oh C'mon! Give Her A Break!

There's a story making the rounds today about how a cop in Long Branch, NJ found some bedraggled bag man wandering aimlessly around a local neighborhood on July 23rd. The man didn't have any ID on him, but claimed to be Bob Dylan, just killing time before a concert that evening.

She had her doubts.

"We see a lot of people on our beat, and I wasn't sure if he came from one of our hospitals or something," Buble said.

Even though a second officer joined Buble, he also did not recognize the singer, who was not carrying ID.

Hey! Cut her some slack! I remember going to a Dylan concert at the University of Florida in the mid-70's, during one of his incomprehensible periods. I would have gone up on stage and asked for ID if I'd had the balls.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Back Pages: Showering the World with My Genius Since 1966.

Recently, my sister was going through boxes and boxes of stuff that had been packed up and left in her care, the idea being, that eventually, she'd be in charge of figuring out what on earth my mother had saved that required 20 or so boxes to store. Well, it turned out to be terribly important papers from all of our childhoods. She sent me some of the stuff that I had made and/or written and I must say, the world will one day thank her (and my mother) for preserving these documents. They clearly demonstrate early signs of my wit and keen intelligence and one day, when a museum is erected in my honor, these documents may just be the cornerstone anchoring the many exhibits that will be there.

Let us begin with this essay written by moi, in first grade. The depth of my research and my dedication to scientific methods is beautifully displayed here.

If you can't read it even after embiggening it, let me provide an accurate transcript:


A dinsar is vere danjoris. Thay'are vere Big.
The Brontosauras was The
Biggest of them all.
The names of them are
Brontosaures, Tyrannosaur.
that is two of the have
A Dinsar is omost Bigger
than the InpIyr Bildeg.
Most Dinsars eat tree Tops.

I was also uniquely politically involved at a tender age. Here, I offer you evidence that LBJ was taking my thoughts into account while governing. I won't say I was one of his closest advisors, but clearly, my input was appreciated.

And what, you may ask brought on this outpouring of appreciation from the President('s Personal Secretary)? This little missive.

Once again, a transcript for those of you unable to decipher my brilliance:

L.B. Johnson
President Johnson is calling
President Deigal. Deigal is the
President of france. Johnson
can't get to Deigal's party
on time. So he will catch the nearest bird and fly

(There's a highly perceptive subtext hidden in there. If you're to dense to grasp it, I'm certainly not going to explain it to you. Let's just say there would have been a second term for Johnson if he'd followed my advice more closely.)

Lastly, I wouldn't want you to think I was some freak of a child -- dedicated solely to lofty issues. I had my lighter side as well. This one is self-explanatory and while showing my early whimsy to good effect, also spotlights my nascent deal-making talents.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Clock: She Mocks Me!

For some odd reason, I was falling asleep on the couch last night and finally decided to stop fighting it. I went to bed a 10:18.

Then, for some damn reason I woke up at precisely:

- 11:11
- 12:11
- 1:11
- 2:11
- 3:11
- 4:11
- 5:11
and finally, at 7:17.

I slept soundly through 6:11.

I can't explain it. Your conjecture, surmises, speculation, suppositions and wild-ass theories on the subject are most welcome. Have at it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Another Link On The UCF Hairball.

Today, I had lunch with Ilya! Yay! Here's a picture.

Noooo. Ilya's not intertoob-phobic. The waitress must have been drunk.

Here's a better picture.

-I can faithfully report that his accent is Russian and hasn't been infected by any Limey-ness at all. (He says it's a generic Eastern European accent, but since I can't tell the difference between a North Carolina accent and a South Carolina one - I'll stick with hearing it as Russian.)

-We had minor difficulty meeting up since it's hard to find someone when you're standing almost a block away from each other, but we got over that.

-When I asked him if he had any particular hankerings for a lunch choice, he said, " long as there's meat." I knew we'd get along fine. (Corned Beef for me, Burger or Ilya, beer for both -- excellent.)

And if my email serves me right, I may be seeing our Secret Scientist tomorrow. I feel so special!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

And Here's Another Blog Post Worth Reading.

Sam Hutchins is a NY Location Scout I've known forever and he's been chronicling his experience crossing the country with a few Frenchmen. I love this post:

A Scouting Life: A bar packed with heavily armed, paranoid, and seriously drunk men.

Hillary's Tizzy

You've all, no doubt seen video of Hillary Clinton's response to a question from the audience at a Town Hall meeting in Congo yesterday. You haven't? Oooooh, go look at it; the video is here.

In the video, regarding a certain issue, she's asked, "What does Mr. Clinton think through the vows(?) of Mrs. Clinton...?"* Hillary,...uhhhh, takes umbrage. In response, she says, "Wait, you want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not the Secretary of State; I am." After a pause, she says, "If you ask my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I'm not going to be channeling my husband." (I think her body language and tone make that little added emphasis accurate.)

On the one hand, I don't think it's unfair to expect our nation's chief diplomat to be....oh, diplomatic? On the other hand, I can imagine how that question might sound a wee bit insulting to Ms. Clinton. And just look at the lady. She's clearly having a bad hair day. She must be exhausted from the trip she's on. (Hey! Flying around the world on Sec. State's little Cessna is a big step down after you're used to Air Force One as a First Lady. Cut her some slack.)

On the other, other hand (yeah, I've got three...don't you?), as World-Figure Hissy-Fits go, this one's pretty damned funny.

*I've seen reports that claim the question was asked by a college student who got a little overexcited and misspoke, and others saying it was a translator relaying the question and screwing it up. All reports seem to agree that they shook hands and made nice after the event was over.

It's All About The Food.

Recently, I read a blog post about production meals. So, I followed that up by writing a post about production meals. And I followed that up with another post about production meals. If you think we, in the film biz are somewhat obsessed with food, you'd be absolutely correct.

So, imagine my joy (nay, rapture) to discover that one of my favorite bloggers, BTL is now also participating in a group blog, (let her tell you about it), and her first entry there is concerned with...wait for it...wait for it...waaaiiiitttt for it -- food on set! Trust me, this is an entirely different take on the subject than I've been, uh, subjecting you to lately.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you BTL and "What's for Chicken?"

Monday, August 10, 2009

Stupid Human (Municipal and Corporate) Tricks.

I'm hot and annoyed and I can't be bothered to give you links for any of the crap I'm about to tell you about. Trust me. Have I ever steered you wrong?

Stupid Humans

The Oxygen Network ran a survey recently of women between the ages of 18 and 34. (Presumably, these were fans of the network or at least Oxygen's website). When given the choice, something like 80% said they'd prefer to win next season's America's Next Top Model instead of a Nobel Prize. I've got a few problems with this. First, and most obvious is the fact that anyone who's top aspiration is to be America's Next Top Model probably has a better chance of contracting Swine Flu, the Ebola Virus, and getting hit by lighting and a train all in the same day than they do of ever being in the running for a Nobel Prize.

Second, just how many potential Nobelists do you think spend a great deal of time following the Oxygen Network.

Stupid Municipalities

I've talked about how hard it can be to park in NYC. Well, since it is NYC, practically every country in the world has a Consulate or Mission here. And since they want to be convenient to the U.N., most of them are scattered around the east side of mid-town. And they all have parking spaces reserved for them on the streets. (They park outside of the reserved parking and get tickets for it all the time, but since they have diplomatic immunity, they never pay the tickets. But that's another topic.)

Anyway, some poor schmuck hit parking gold last week. He pulled into a space just after street cleaning ended and figured he wouldn't have to move the car again for an entire week. He says he even walked the block and confirmed that he wasn't in one of the areas reserved for diplomats or any other oddball agency. Jackpot!

Unbeknownst to him, one of the consulates had requested (and gotten approval) for one more parking space on the block. So the city workers showed up after he'd parked and moved the no-parking sign one car length so that now he was parked in a no parking zone. Of course he was ticketed. And then he was towed. It took him almost a full day and about $300 to get the car out of the tow pound.

BTW, a store owner and 3 doormen on the block saw what was going on and tried to reason with and the tow truck driver explaining that the car was legally parked until the sign was moved. The tow truck driver is quoted as responding, "I don't give a fuck!"

Stupid Corporations

You'll also recall my difficulty getting tickets to a Yankees game from StubHub (that paragon of suck). Well, StubHub (may they rot and go bankrupt), has an official relation ship with the Yankees, so now I get emails from the Yankees telling me about wonderful deals they have to offer. (I've unsubcribed twice, so far). This morning, I get an email telling me I can come take a tour of Yankee Stadium for $20.00 (which I'd bet is more than it costs to buy a bleacher seat at most ballparks in America). Woohoo, Such a Deal. I didn't read all of the details since I have no interest whatsoever in paying for a tour of Yankee Stadium, but I did notice these things:

-You can specify the day you want to tour the stadium, but you won't know what time your tour is scheduled for until you print the tickets.
-They offer a $5 discount for seniors and children, but you can only buy those tickets in person at the stadium (presumably with said seniors and/or children in tow with 3 types of government issued I.D.)
-They note that the tours sell out on a regular basis, so you shouldn't take a chance on any senior or children's tickets being available when you get to the ballpark so they recommend you buy the full priced tickets on line to guarantee you'll all get in.


Friday, August 7, 2009

French Hours.

The other day, I wrote a longish post about meal breaks on a movie set. There is one other strategy for meal breaks called French Hours. The first thing you should know about french hours is that officially speaking it doesn't exist. You can't ask the crew to work french hours, and if you do, the crew is bound by their union contract to turn you down. Then, they're required to call their union rep and rat you out.

But, shhhhhhh, french hours do exist. The most reasonable explanation I've heard for the origin of the term french hours is that in the 50's and 60's it was common for French movies to be shot on a regular schedule of starting at noon or 12:30 p.m. and wrapping by 7:30 in the evening...without any meal break. The quick and dirty definition of french hours is that it's a day that's scheduled without any meal breaks at all, but the production has hot catered food brought around to the crew on set all day long. Some people will eat on the run (a few times) and department heads will usually tell individuals in their department to take a periodic break to sit down and eat like a human being. And the main thing about french hours is that every single crew member has to agree to it in advance or you can't do it.

Now, since there is officially no such thing as french hours, the producer will usually offer or the crew can ask for other incentives. Maybe the producer will pay the meal penalty for the 5 or 6 hours that ellapse after a meal break was owed. Maybe he'll just make a lump-sum cash deal to offset the meal penalty. Whatever.

Anyway, this isn't a strategy that comes up often. There has to be a compelling reason to work french hours. Phone Booth was reportedly shot in 10 days utilizing french hours. The only time I've ever worked french hours was on a day that had the following complications:

-It was winter, so we had about 7 hours of usable daylight available.
-All scenes to be shot were daylight exteriors.
-The location was more than an hour from the crew hotel.
-Once arriving at the location, all of the equipment had to be walked into the shooting set about a 1/2 mile further down a snowy trail. (We had already bulldozed and graveled two miles of additional road just to get that close.)

Now, this was a great location and it was going to make the scene, so after some bartering about details, everyone agreed to work french hours. On the shooting day, everyone stopped by the catering truck before going to set and got a good hot breakfast. For the first couple of hours, they hauled more breakfasts down to set so people could eat more. Starting about 4 hours into the day, they started hauling an assortment of lunch-type food to dogs, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, sloppy joes, burritos, you name it. If it could be created as a hot meal that someone could pick up and eat on their feet, it was served.

On that day, the caterer kept cooking until the last union crew member left set. That's really different from your usual day on set.

One thing that was not different that day was that about 10 minutes after we called camera-wrap for the day, the director, the director of photography and the first assistant director were all in a car headed back to the hotel. That's fine. They'd done their work for the day and, frankly, while the rest of us are wrapping things up, the more people with nothing to do who just get the hell out of there...the better. Otherwise, they're just in the way.

I'm guessing that the working stiffs, the producer and I were all there for another hour or so after camera wrap. Eventually we got back to the hotel. Since we were shooting again the next day, a bunch of us, myself and the producer included, had more work to do once we got to the hotel.

Imagine this scene if you will. The producer and I walk into the hallway where we've created temporary offices. We're talking about something -- I don't remember what, but it's surely related to solving some issue for tomorrow's shoot. We've been out in the snow all day, so we're not only tired, we're cold and wet. And waiting for the producer outside his office's door is...well, one of those people who get to leave set as soon as the camera stops rolling each day.

He's wearing different clothes than he had on when last, we saw him. His hair has to look of the freshly showered. He has a friggin' cocktail in his hand. And he wants to speak with the producer if he has a minute.

Now, I'm piecing this together from what I could hear down the hall (some of this was quite loud) and from what the producer told me later. Mr. 'Gets to leave set at camera wrap' says, "Uh, I know we agreed to french hours today, but my hamburger was cold."

Producer: "Excuse me?"

Mr. GTLSACW: "My hamburger was cold. We agreed that there'd be hot food on set and my hamburger was cold".

Producer: "Get the fuck out of my office".

Mr. GTLSACW: "You didn't live up to your end of the bargain. I'm representing the crew here and you need to negotiate some sort of offset to make it up to us."

Producer: "Get the fuck out of my office".

Mr. GTLSACW: "I don't think you understand. If we don't come to some sort of agreement, you're going to have a mutiny on your hands."

(at this point, the part that could be heard down the hall really got going.)

Producer: "I don't think you understand. If you don't get your freshly showered ass the fuck out of my office right this fucking minute, I'm going to punch you in your fucking face."

Mr. GTLSACW: " that all you have to say on the subject?"

Producer: "If you're not out of my office by the time I stand up, I'm going to punch you in your fucking face and then I'm going to fucking kill you."

This discussion then proceeded to relocate to the parking lot behind the hotel. I don't recall any actual punching (or killing) occurring, but I distinctly recall there being two large Teamsters holding the producer back.

I'm guessing that the French temperament may be better suited to french hours than we are here in the U.S.

P.S. I will neither confirm nor deny, the name of the project on which this took place nor the identities of any of those involved. In fact, I may have shamelessly stolen this whole story from a fellow Location Manager. Or maybe I just made it up. Yeah...that's the ticket!