Thursday, April 30, 2009

Watching The BlogOmeter!

At exactly 4:17:50 P.M. (EST), Polybloggimous scored its 33,333rd visit. Not that it's such a miraculous landmark, but you all know you watched the odometer on your first car and got all excited when it rolled over to nifty numbers. (I guess I missed the 12,345th visitor. Ah well).



Anyway, I even know who this mystery visitor was. Take a bow John the Scientist.

I realize that at this point, John, you're probably wondering what fabulous prize is attached to this auspicious achievement. Uh...no prize. But years from now, when this blog is all famous and stuff and I have my big giant retrospective, you'll be able to say, "Hey, remember way back when? You know, when I was your 33,333rd visitor?" And then you'll be able to lord it over all the noobs about how cool you are.

Well done John.

P.S. I didn't announce that I was looking forward to this landmark because A.) frankly, I didn't notice it was coming up until an hour or so ago, and B.) did any of us really need Jim popping in and out all day asking "Did I win yet?" I think not.

Arnold Sniffle.

Fine. Half the world is panicking over the possibility of catching swine flu, so I'm not surprised that a post of mine with pigs is getting a lot of hits. I am surprised that nobody's getting there by searching 'swine', 'pig', 'hog', or anything else like that. They all get there by searching "Arnold Ziffle".

I may have missed something but did this whole thing start in Hooterville?

I Totally Stole This...

...from Ken Levine. And I'm not giving it back no matter how much he cries. That'll show him for never having friended me! Rat Bastard!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

For Those of You (StubHubSucks) Who (StubHubSucks) Might Want (StubHubSucks) To Get Tickets to An Event (StubHubSucks).

A few days ago, I talked about my issues with StubHub(Sucks). A kindly person who goes by the name Anonymous suggested I try VividSeats.com. I'm pleased to announce, for those of you who care, that I've found a couple of seats on their site that make me completely happy (assuming they show up). The website was even easier to navigate than StubHub(Sucks) and my only real problem was that there was an awful lot to choose from.

And while I got these tickets for even less than the original (non)-tickets from StubHub(Sucks), I should also mention that Vivid Seats charged a whopping 36% in service fees and shipping (FedEx). Truth be told, though, I don't really mind paying the premium if I actually get what I paid for. I'll let you know.



GF and I will be sitting in the front row of the GrandStand (Section 420C). I think we'll like that.

BTW, when I was madly Googling "Stub Hub Sucks" to find out where I was showing up, I discovered that I'm far from the only person with this opinion. In fact, the opinion is apparently so common that StubHub has seen fit to register StubHubSucks.com and FuckStubHub.com so that they each forward you to their site. I guess they figure If we can't not suck, we'll suck you in anyway. Way to battle that image problem!

Oh, and another thing. It seems the Yankees organization has noticed that the Field Boxes have been sitting empty for most of the games so far. Imagine...folks have balked at shelling out $2500 per seat (and I think that was the discounted rate for those buying season tickets). So they're cutting the price by 50% and offering idiots who already shelled out that much an extra seat for free. Wow! That sounds like a deal that's way too good to pass up. (For anybody who's curious, I shelled out $60.00/seat for the nosebleed section. I can live with that.)

Oh, and another, 'nother thing. GO RED SOX!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Vanity, Thy Name Is Florida

Florida has a buttload of choices for vanity license plates. And in case you missed it last week, they've introduced a few Jesus Plates for those who need more than a bunch of bumper stickers. To be honest, I can't work up a whole lot of bile over this one...it inspires more of a sigh and a "head meet desk" moment.

But I couldn't pass up the chance to introduce you to one of my new heroes. In response to the Jesus Plates and bitter over proposed salary cuts for state workers, State Senator Al Lawson has put an amendment onto the bill calling for a "Can A Brotha Get A Break?" license plate.

"The plate must prominently display an image of state Senator Alfred 'Al' Lawson, Jr. The phrase 'Can a Brotha Get a Break?' shall appear in bold letters on the bottom of the plate."

Proceeds from the plate would go to, "Employees Relief Fund for the purpose of offsetting salary and benefit cuts by the Legislature and providing grief counseling."

I've got a serious man-crush going.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Brooklyn...

...just like Appalachia but without those annoying hills and fewer cinderblocks.

"It Was A Photo Op! Get The Picture?"

Thousands of people in lower Manhattan and New Jersey evacuated office buildings this morning due to what the Department of Defense and the F.A.A. are calling a "routine training mission and photo-op". Local Authorities seem to have been notified in advance but also to have been directed not to notify the public or even the rank and file within their own organizations.

The F.A.A. has said they will issue a further press release later today, but in the meantime, Polybloggimous has done some digging on it's own. Immediately upon hearing about the incident, Polybloggimous contacted it's own Pentagon Informant, Brigadier Cletus Flightline, IV who had the following to say while requesting anonymity. (Cletus, I keep telling you I can't use anonymous sources, but if you get into any trouble just tell them I said, "Oops. My Bad".)

Some of us in the Defense community were extremely pleased by the previous administration's tireless efforts to keep the public fearful of future terrorist attacks and felt we could not sit idly by while the current administration flushes eight years of hard work down the drain with their Chill Out attitude. We felt that America required a reminder that the terrorists are still out there and fear is the most prudent response.


When Flightline was asked if such an attack was really likely, he responded,

Well, sure, we're talking about the terrorists getting pretty damned lucky on a day when 70 or so City, State and Federal agencies are all asleep at the switch simultaneously, but hey, it could happen. We just managed to pull this off, didn't we? I dare you to say people weren't terrorized.


Further inquiries into this event have revealed that not only was the operation partially funded by "an adult incontinence garment", but that DoD took along an unnamed passenger to "honor his past good works." Brigadier Flightline refused to reveal the identity of the mystery passenger but did let slip that during one particularly low pass by the aircraft over the city, he was overheard to say, "Damn, Lookit 'em run!"



Polybloggimous will reveal additional information as it becomes available.

Disclaimer: The proprieter of Polybloggimous did not leave his home, phone anyone or have direct communication with anyone while researching this story. Details of this incident are still sketchy and Polybloggimous cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of any information contained herein which later proves to be faulty, pulled from his ass, or completely imaginary. If any of this proves to be the case, please accept this hearty, "Oops. My Bad".

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Brooklyn (And San Francisco) Conspire to Fuck Up A Perfectly Good Sunday.

If you read the previous post, you already know how StubHub started my day off so cheerily. They're the San Francisco part of this post and I'll just take a moment to repeat that they suck. Since there isn't much else I can actually do in retribution for StubHub's massive suck-osity, I may just change my tagline to something like "The Blog that tells you StubHub sucks at least once a day". And then I'd say something clever and jaunty, like "StubHub sucks" as the signoff to every post. I'll take over the entire first page for any Google Search for StubHub sucks. (If StubHub happens to be one of those companies who Google themselves to see what people are saying about them and decide to drop by and make some attempt at, oh I don't know...GETTING ME YANKEES/RED SOX TICKETS somewhere in the same time zone as the game for a comparable price, then I'll retract my comments about what a bunch of IDIOTS WHO DON'T GIVE A CRAP about customers, their customer service reps are. I'll probably even say something nice. In the meantime, c'mon everybody, all together...StubHub Sucks!)

So, what else has transpired to make me all irritable and curmudgeonly? Let's start with the lovely lady behind the counter at Barnes & Noble, hereinafter LLBC@B&N. (Shit, that's barely even worth abbreviating.)

LLBC@B&N: Do you have a Member Card?
Me: No.
LLBC@B&N: Would you like to get one?
Me: No, thank you.
LLBC@B&N: You'd be saving money if you got one.
Me: No, thank you.
LLBC@B&N: Why, you'd be saving $4.80 right now on this purchase.
Me: No...I'd be spending $25.00 on your card and then I'd save $4.80 on this purchase and then I would finally break even after I spend another $200.00 and I've told you really nicely that I don't want your card and would you please stop asking me and let me pay for these books and I'll feel like I got a $25.00 discount just for not buying your card!

By this time, people in line were looking at me funny. Good! It's about time people developed a healthy fear of us short Jewish guys.

Then on the drive home, I encountered two of my favorite types of NY Drivers. (Actually, they're both sub-species of the "Oh, I didn't notice anyone else was driving here" drivers.) Idiot #1: I'm stopped at a red light about 4 cars back from the intersection. As soon as the light turns green, the jerk parked next to where I'm stopped decides it's time for him to pull out. Never mind the fact that there's only enough room for him to pull out and block me from moving...there's not enough room for him to actually pull into the traffic lane. Never mind that he honks at me and flips me the bird until I back up and give him room to get out. Never mind that if he'd just waited for me to go, there was no traffic behind me! Asshole.

Idiot #2 was the guy who was double parked on State Street. State is just wide enough for a car to drive around a double parked car. Once again, there's not a bunch of traffic...in fact, I think I had the only moving vehicle on the block. So why does this asshole have to open his door into traffic right when I'm approaching so that I have a choice of slamming on the brakes or taking his door home with me? And then he gives me a dirty look while he stands there.

Last on our list, let me impart this lesson to the lady at the pet food store. When the customer buys $10.62 worth of cat food and you're out of pennies, charge the customer $10.60...not $10.65. It's not my fault you're out of pennies. I love how you decide that I should be the one to pay for it anyway. Sure, we're only talking about three fucking cents. Well, it's only two cents if you eat it. This strikes me as a really cheap way to fail at customer service.

So here we are at 5:00 pm on a Sunday that has just kept tossing things of varrying importance (or lack thereof) in my way. Every time I get my blood back to a light simmer, some putz decides to turn the heat up again. I'm going to avoid leaving the house again today. The unsuspecting citizens of Brooklyn have no reason to know my cumulative level of annoyed and I'd hate to become tommorow's Fark headline just because I can't get by some clueless twit with a triple-wide baby stroller.

I Am Pissed Off At StubHub Because They Suck and Their Customer Service Rep Sucks and Her Supervisor Sucks and Did I Mention That Stubhub Sucks?

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I'd be going to the Red Sox/Yankees Game on Monday May 4th. Uh, not so much.

My phone rang at 9:30 this morning. It was someone from StubHub calling to let me know that the tickets I bought for that game aren't actually tickets at all. They're apparently something that allows me to tour the Membership Club, but that if I'd want to actually stay and actually watch the ball game, I'd actually have to already own SEASON FUCKING TICKETS. He was very careful to enunciate each time that the seller had posted the wrong information but even though this isn't even romotely their fault at all, they were going to generously refund all of my money and it would only take 2-3 weeks for me to get it back.

Could he help me get actual tickets to the game for a comparable price? Uh...no, I could go on the website or call their customer service number and someone would help me get new tickets. I asked him if he didn't think that maybe having had 10 days elapse might not have caused many of the better/cheaper tickets to have already sold? He didn't want to speculate about that possibility.

I called their customer service rep. She took 12 minutes to let me know that my refund would be processed in only 7-10 days (not 2-3 weeks), but was otherwise not terribly helpful. (What is the deal with the fact that companies can take my money instantaneously, but have to ship the refund by Pony Express?) When she kept telling me that she couldn't do anything for me, I asked her, "Is there any question I could hypothetically ask you where your answer would be that you'd have to check with a supervisor?" She said, "Yes". I said, "How about if I just speak to your supervisor now?"

I held for a while.

Supervisor Dude picked up. He was no help for a much longer period of time than the first person had been which is the only measure by which he seemed superior.

The upshot is this (and StubHub can't understand where I might be anything less than thrilled by this): I have no tickets to the May 4th (or any other game). My refund will show up significantly after I spend more money to get tickets (if I decide to try buying tickets again). The deals I might have gotten 10 days ago are, most likely gone. And I can just sign on to StubHub and start from scratch like any other schmuck who just thought about looking for tickets today.

The thing that really gets me about all of this is that the asshole supervisor at StubHub didn't even have the grace to acknowledge that I might have any reason at all to be unhappy. His attitude seemed to say that I was being horribly unreasonable to expect him to actually do anything that might cause a customer to be satisfied.

Even airlines have better customer service than this. For Chrissakes, Dominos Pizza has better customer service than this.

Fuck StubHub.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Another Saturday Multi-Post. Admit It. You Missed These, Didn't You?

So the cats did their normal thing and woke me up around 6:30 this morning. Stupid felis domesticuses. (That probably isn't the right way to pluralize that but I don't know any Latin even after I'm properly caffeinated.) Anyway, the local CBS Morning Show (whatever they call it), had this guy on. And they kept announcing, "We'll be back with Paul Potts right after this message.", and I kept thinking they were going to have Pol Pot on the damned show. And I thought that was going to be one hell of a get, what with Pol Pot's rather negative opinion of all of us American Running dogs, and what with him being severely dead and all.



I was really disappointed when they put the singing guy on. If I were him, I'd have changed my name just to avoid any negative connotations. Something like "Paul Potts, the guy who sings and hasn't killed anybody at all", would work for me. And if he doesn't want to change his name, he could at least foam at the mouth a little just for ambiguity's sake.

I'll be back later with something else. I don't know what it will be and I can't promise it'll be worth your time or mine...but it'll be something. Hey! It's Multi-Post Saturday. Yay!

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The Worst Shopping List In The History Of Shopping Lists.


Yesterday, one of us here was in charge of making the grocery list for dinner and one of us was in charge of going to the store to buy the things on the list; I won't say who had which responsibility. (And while we're on the subject, I've never been able to decide if it's nice of the grocery store to keep my stuff on their shelves until I need it or if I'm pissed at them for keeping my stuff on their shelves and making me come all the way over there for it.)

Anyway, last night was taco night. At first glance, the list appeared to just have every ingredient needed for tacos without any regard to what we might actually have in the house already. A quick perusal of the cabinet and the fridge allowed a number of ingredients to be crossed off the list. A second perusal of the list revealed that there were other ingredients that were on neither the list nor on our shelves.

All of this prompted me to say to GF, "This has got to be the worst shopping list ever!" (Oops, I told.)

I can live with this slight indiscretion, since she's likely to read this and say, "Oh, so is this some of that brilliant you've been waiting for?"*

*See yesterday's post if this makes no sense to you.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

So I was doing something that made complete and utter sense to me...


and GF says, "You just make this stuff up as you go along, don't you."

In her defense, she kissed me after she said it. (Also, in her defense, I thought, "Just how many years has it taken you to figure that out?")

Friday, April 24, 2009

You May Bask In My Genius...Others Will Just Have To Wait.

Transcript of actual conversation:

GF: You haven't put anything on your blog today.
Me: I haven't thought of anything particularly brilliant.
GF: (hesitates) You wait for brilliant? I had no idea.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Go Ahead. Kiss® My Ass!

Some of you prize winners and some of you non-winners may be pleased to know that not only does Jacques Torres make some wonderfully awesome chocolates...he also has a fairly awesome attorney who majored in STFU.

Way to go Jacques!

Advanced Mommyhood - Mortification 101

I'm convinced that there's some secret institution of higher learning where all mothers are taught that the one sure-fire way to prove their love for their children is to perfect their methods of embarrassing them.

When I moved to Los Angeles in the early 90's, my mother remembered a newspaper article she had read. She doggedly tracked it down, wrote to someone at the NY Times and got a copy of it sent to her. Then, she cut it out and sent it to me. Here's the article. Being a dutiful son, I read the article and then set it aside.

I didn't think much about it until the next time I phoned home. Mom wanted to know if I had gotten it so, I assured her I had read it and found it interesting. Mom wasn't having any of that and wanted to know what I was going to do about it. I said, "Uh.......".

Mom proceeded to explain it to me: "Steven Spielberg's mother owns a restaurant less than 10 blocks from your apartment! She talks to her customers! Get your butt down there and get a job with her son!"

"Does it work that way?", I asked, stalling for time. "All mothers love their sons", she said. "Tell her your mother sent you and you'll have an immediate connection."

I really didn't want to pursue this strategy and started flailing about for acceptable excuses. "Mom. If it was that easy, there'd be a line of guys showing up there just to get jobs with Spielberg. I'm not sure this is such a great idea." Mom, having an answer for everything, said, "Their mothers didn't read the article. Put some pants on and go have lunch!" (How did she know I wasn't dressed yet?)

Thinking I finally had an excuse she might buy, I said, "You know I don't like dairy restaurants, Mom". Falling back on the standard attack of mothers throughout the world, she said, "I was in labor with you for 16 hours. The least you can do is go eat a blintz to make it worth all the trouble."

After a few more minutes of this, I thought I had successfully changed the subject, but she delivered her coup de grace as we were saying goodbye. "You've got one week to go have lunch there and tell me all about it. If you don't, I'm calling her myself!"

I lived with that threat hanging over my head for the next three years every time I faced a bout of unemployment.

--------------------------------
Note: I was trying to write the first of a new semi-regular feature I want to try out and it made me think of this incident. Which is why you're not getting my new semi-regular feature (that you didn't know you were waiting for yet). Well, that and procrastination.

(And I still don't want to eat a blintz.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Then We Went to That Place...You Know...That Place With The Thing We Saw That One Time. Yeah, That Place.

Like most NY neighborhoods, I've got a lot of delis nearby.* And to be perfectly honest, most of them have stupid names that I've never bothered to notice. There's no way in hell you'll catch me saying, "I'm just going to stop by the 218 Operating Corp. Grocery on the way home".

So, GF and I have our own names for these stores...names that just came about all on their own and were so obvious (to us, at least), that neither of us ever had to explain which store was which to the other. Here's a short list of the delis I frequent:

-The Prison Window Store: After 11:00pm, the steel gates come down but you can line up at the bullet-proof plexiglass carousel to place your order. Money goes in -- bread and crunchy Cheetos come out.

-The Cheap Smokes Store: Usually the best priced cigarettes in the neighborhood. I don't even think they fell off of a truck.

-The Soap Store: It's closed now but for years, they had their window display lined with faded boxes of some obscure soap powder. I think the boxes were actually empty to prevent anyone from trying to buy one and messing up their display.



-The Al Jazeera Store: The TV over the front door is always blaring something in Arabic. Good luck getting the attention of the guy behind the counter. I don't think he's moved in 6 years.

Do you have anywhere you go that you refuse to call by its real name?


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* A deli in NYC is more or less, our version of the Quikee Mart.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

All Perfectly Reasonable Statements (in their day).

"A racist is one who despises someone because of his color, and an Alabama segregationist is one who conscientiously believes that it is in the best interest of Negro and white to have a separate education and social order." -George Wallace

“We must limit to a reasonable amount the Jewish influence… Whenever the Jewish percentage of total population becomes too high, a reaction seems to invariably occur. It is too bad because a few Jews of the right type are, I believe, an asset to any country.” -Charles Lindbergh

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” -Trial Judge in State of Virginia Vs. Loving

"I think it's great Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody there, but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be, between a man and a woman." - Carrie Prejean, 1st Runner-up in 2009 Miss USA Pageant

You're smart people. Draw your own conclusions.

Monday, April 20, 2009

How Nomadic Are You?

You can choose to see this as a meme or not. I'm generous that way.

A few days ago, I showed you a picture of my childhood home and it got me thinking about all of the different places I've lived over the years. It turns out, I've lived in a whole bunch of places. (You military folks and military brats, are, of course invited to play, but I'll concede that most of you probably have me beat.) What follows is a list of everywhere I've lived during my life, mostly in order. (The order of my Boston residences is a little jumbled.)

Note: If you stay in a hotel for more than 30 days, you get the taxes refunded because the government considers that to be a residence. For the purposes of this list, I'm counting those places (and most of them, I was there considerably longer than 30 days). They'll be identifiable because they'll have both a numeric (maintained home residence), and an alphabet(ic?) designation.

1. Cresta Way in Arlington, Jacksonville, FL.
2. La Loma Drive in Southside, Jacksonville, FL.
3. Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, Israel (about 20 minutes north of Ashkelon).
4. Fensgate Dormitory, Beacon Street, Boston, MA
5. Kenmore Square, Boston, MA. (My first real apartment on my own. A horrible pit of an apartment)
6. Worcester Square, Boston, MA.
7. East Concord St., Boston, MA.
8. Worcester Street, Boston, MA.
9. Washington Street, Boston, MA.
10. Beacon Road, Hull, MA.
11. I-Forget-The-Name-Of-The-Road, Hull, MA. (It overlooked the town dump and had no heat.)
12. ?? Street, Watertown, MA.
13. Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn, NY
14. Some Hotel, Charleston, SC (I was moving to L.A. but got sidetracked before actually getting an apartment.)
15. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA.
15A. Walnut Creek, CA (a house I sublet while working in Oakland. The owner's stuff was boxed and filled everything but one bedroom and the kitchen.)
15B. Holiday Inn, Duluth, MN.
15C. East 2nd Street, Duluth, MN. (Great view of sunrise over Lake Superior and a really weird neighbor.)
16. Another Hotel, Cincinnati, OH. (I knew I'd be moving back to NY, so I had given up my L.A. apartment and everything I owned was in storage.)
17. Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY.
17A. One More Hotel, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (I was just a tourist...I swear it!)
17B. The Charles Hotel, Cambridge, MA.
18. My Present Location, Brooklyn, NY
18A. White Horse Pike, Hammonton, NJ. (Arghhhhhhhhhhh!)
18B. East Main Street, Stamford, CT.
18C. Main Street, Bridgeport, CT.
18D. Summer Street, Stamford, CT.

So, that's 27 places. It doesn't count any place in Maine--I was there for longer than 30 days, but I moved around constantly. It doesn't count any of my 2-week deployments to Miami, Las Vegas, New Mexico, Philadelphia, Colorado or Washington.
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Edited to add: I realize I've left out four summers at Camp Ramah in Palmer, MA. ('73, 74, 76, 77...on kitchen staff the last year). The camp was 8 weeks long, so definitely counts. The next town over was Ware, MA. The joke is that a couple of explorers were traipsing through the Berkshire mountains and one of them just stopped all of a sudden. "We're here!", he announced. The other guy looked around and said, "Where?". "Exactly", the first replied.

We also had great adolescent fun knowing that Belchertown was just down the road.
------------------
I have no plans to go anywhere soon, but maybe I should pack a bag just in case. Where have you lived (going by my rules)?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Eh! It'll Be Close Enough.

The roast isn't as big as the one called for in the recipe. The thyme, sage and rosemary aren't fresh. The mustard is sorta like dijon. Onions are very much like shallots. I don't think the author had an oven that had convection bake...but I like convection bake. When it comes time to make the sauce...I don't have any vermouth...dry or otherwise.

I'm sure it'll be delicious.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Masochism For Fun & Profit!

If I had a nickel for every time somebody on a movie said, "You couldn't pay me enough to do your job"... I'd have a shitload of nickels. The thing is, once you've decided you want to work in movies, there are still a lot of career paths to choose from. There are, of course, Directors and Producers. There are Writers, Production Designers, Art Directors, Prop Masters and Set Decorators. There are the Electricians, the Grips, the Carpenters and the Special Effects guys. There's a script supervisor and there are Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists. Of course, there are Assistant Directors and Production Assistants.

I apologize if I've left out your niche, (and I can think of a few right off the top of my head), but there really are a buttload of people involved in making a movie. Their jobs vary wildly, but the thing they all have in common is that there is very little any of them do that isn't solely focused on getting the movie "into the can" and "onto the screen".

The Location Manager is unique in that he or she is one of the only people whose job it is to satisfy the needs of the production at the same time as satisfying the needs of the public. I've described the job as being the conduit between a Hollywood vision and the real world. We deal with City, State and Federal authorities as needed. We work with property owners, store managers, and just your every day citizen trying to get to work in the morning.

In a perfect world, we're taking in the Production's needs and translating them to the real world...


And then we're taking in the real world's needs and trying to keep that working while the Production goes about it's business.


In truth, there are an awful lot of days where we're just sitting in the middle getting screamed at by both sides.


Why the hell would anybody volunteer for that?

I've told you how I got my first Location Manager gig after I moved to NY. Then, I got hired as the Parking Coordinator for Crocodile Dundee II, and while that's not really doing Locations, per se, it is in the Locations Department. (There are a number of people who make a full-time living as Parking Coordinators in NY, but I was never in any danger of going that route.)

The point is, I had some entre' into Locations by then, but I still had choices open to me and, at some point, I made a concious decision that I wanted to pursue Locations as a living. The truth is, that my decision was as much about discarding some choices as it was an affirmative choice.

My background was as the manager of an equipment rental house, so I had a really good knowledge of lighting and grip equipment. There were a few reasons I didn't go that route. 1.) In the late 80's, getting into the union still had a lot to do with what your last name was. I'm not saying that nepotism was rampant, but at the same time, I had no close, distant, or imaginary relatives slinging cables or pushing dollies. 2.) After 6 years in a rental house, I really never wanted to touch any of that equipment again in my life. It's heavy. It's dirty. 'Nuff said. And 3.) Knowing what everything is called and what it's used for is not the same thing as being good at using it. Understanding how to diffuse or focus a light; knowing how heavy of a cable needs to be used with how many amps of lighting; knowing how to switch a dolly from 'steer' to 'crab' to 'roundy-round'...these are good things to know, but they don't actually make you good at any of them. (So, let's break this one down: I had no wish to suck at a job that was heavy and dirty and a union wouldn't let me do anyway.) Lighting and Grip was not a hard thing to reject.

I never had any wish to Direct, so I wasn't looking for the bottom rungs of that ladder. There was never any thought at all to me going into any of the Art Department jobs or Hair/Makeup or Sound. I had no knowledge and no interest. That left Production (the A.D.'s, P.A.'s and Production Manager), and Locations.

Being a P.A. usually leads to being an A.D. There are a couple of reasons I didn't want to go that route. First, a P.A. starting out in NY spends most of their time on a street corner doing lockups. A lockup is when you spread your P.A.s around the perimeter of a shot to keep the public from walking into the frame. True -- it's an important job. But it's also a somewhat mindless and thankless job. You can also imagine how much abuse a P.A. gets when he's trying to stop you from walking down the street, just 50' short of your subway entrance. (Hey, it's only for about 90 seconds, but 30 people waiting at a barricade can heap an awful lot of abuse on in 90 seconds). It also doesn't pay very well. In the late 80's, P.A.'s started at about $75.00 per day and the really good ones could score $125.00.*

Now I'm not saying I was above any of the things P.A.'s have to do to pay their dues, but I also had no interest in achieving the goal they were working toward...namely, being an A.D. A.D.s do a great many things I'm glad I don't do.

-They schedule the movie. (I can deal with that one if I have to.)
-They do the paperwork keeping track of every detail that happened on set that day. Start and stop times for every individual on set, first shot of the day, first shot after lunch, equipment malfunctions: 1/2 hour delay caused by picture-car being stuck in reverse, injuries: Assistant Greensman stepped on rake causing painful injury to crotchal region -- refused medical attention. (Yeah, that shit bores me to tears.)
-They tell the extras where to be in the background of scenes. (I loathe extras.)
-At the pinnacle of their career, they get to be a First A.D. That means standing next to the camera all day, trying to keep everything happening on time (and getting the next thing ready to happen on time), and getting blamed when it's not happening on time and trying to look calm and collected and sane in front of the entire crew while everything goes down the shitter. (This is my idea of a bad place to be...not the culmination of years of dues paying.)

So, I was left with Locations. And there are some great things about doing locations.

An Assistant Location Manager is one of the only jobs on a movie that has any real responsibility and pays well before you're in a union. (The days count toward joining the D.G.A. if you play the paperwork game right, but that's another story.)

The Location Manager is among the first people hired on any project...sometimes the first. A job that might mean 5 weeks of work for most of the 'on-set' personnel usually nets a Location Manager 11 weeks of work. There's a lot to prepare for and a fair amount to be wrapped up after filming is completed.

No two days are the same. Even if I'm working in a location I've used before, what we're shooting isn't likely to be the same as what we shot the last time I was there. New problems to solve keep the job interesting.

The job has a lot of independence. My job is to get the job done...simple as that. Nobody knows where I'm supposed to be at any given moment during the day and nobody knows what I'm supposed to be doing. Or...put another way, I'm always exactly where I'm supposed to be doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. (When we made Iron Will, the Transportation Coordinator made a deal with a local dealership for 15 brand new Ford Explorers. He took me to the garage to look at them all lined up and pick which one I wanted. When I pointed at the red one, he pointed out that there were six green ones and that if I had one of those, nobody would ever be sure if I was on set or not...a good lesson to learn.)**

Oh, and that thing about the A.D. solving all of his problems with an audience of 150 people? The Location Manager gets to whisper emphatically into his phone, or hide while he's solving tomorrow's issues. Unless he's really fucked up by the numbers, the Location Manager will get a chance to fix everything long before anyone else even knows there was ever a problem.

So, let's recap, shall we? The people I work for have impossible demands. The people whose cooperation I need put up impossible roadblocks. The crew bitches about where they have to park and they bitch even more if any other department has their truck closer to the set. There's always some merchant who wants to sue the production for costing him business. The lunch space isn't big enough. The extras holding area is too hot. There's a water main break a block away and the jackhammering is interfering with sound. Somebody down the block is about to paint their building yellow and I have to stop them right now! The river is 3' lower than it's supposed to be at this time of year. Hell, I've got the best damned job in movies! Why would I want to do anything else?
--------------------------------------------------------
*When you work in Production prior to being in the D.G.A., a "day" is a "day". It means from when they tell you to get there 'til when they tell you, you can go home, (and it frequently includes an errand on the way home). 12-13 hours is a normal day. 16 hours isn't uncommon.

**If all of that sounds like I'm spending half my time stopping off for massages or window shopping at the mall, that's not the case. More often than not, "getting the job done" means I'm always racing from one place to the next wishing there were one more week of pre-production. But the fact that I could stop off for a massage is what counts. One of these days, it might even happen.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Yankee Stadium on April 16, 2009

The new Yankee Stadium opened today.

Before the game, Bernie Williams performed on the field. (This isn't it, but it's what he played.)



Kelly Clarkson sang the first National Anthem at the new stadium.

Yogi Berra threw out the first Ceremonial First Pitch at the new stadium.

Derek Jeter was the first Yankee to bat at the new stadium. (very fitting since he had the final at bat in the old stadium.)

Jorge Posada hit the first home run in the new stadium.

Oh. And the Yankees lost their first game in the new stadium.

It would have been better if it had been the Red Sox who beat them, but that's all pretty close to perfection anyway.

Edited to Add: As GF has mentioned before, I'm easily influenced. So, of course, I just went on line and bought two tickets for the Red Sox/Yankees game on Monday, May, 4th. We'll be sitting in the front row of the "Membership Club". (See it in red there in the left field corner?)
I have no idea whether or not these will be good seats or not, but I do know two things. First of all, the seats were highly reasonable in price (much less than a bunch of the other seats that were available). And second...the membership club has waiter service. So, no matter how good or bad the seats may be, someone will be bringing my my $12 hot dogs. Yessssssss!

LuLu's Bigger Too!

Hey, remember Lulu in the sink?


Looking all tiny and innocent?


Or in the tub looking adorable?

Well, she takes up a lot more space in the tub now.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lunch Today.

I just sliced up the left-over corned beef, heated it up in a frying pan and ate that...dipping it in hot mustard. Fritos on the side with a Coke to drink.

I may have that leftover 1/2 of a chicken salad sandwich next.

More announcements as events warrant.

FREE STUFF!

Not really. I just want to see how many hits this gets from people searching Google.

In keeping with my basic contrariness, you're welcome to guess how many hits this will generate between now and Noon EST tomorrow (April 16th), but there's no prize. Hell, there won't even be bragging rights. (If you were fooled into visiting by the title, feel free to call me nasty names in the comments. Creativity is encouraged.)

Tough Toenails!

Edited to make note of the fact that a search of Google (both for the web and for blogs) doesn't point you here at all. This experiment is shaping up to be a dismal failure.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Swear. She Was Like This When I Found Her! Can I Keep Her?

Teufel is a little needy sometimes.

Dear Natalie, Chris, Michelle, Vince, Jeri, Kimby, Tania, Todd & Barb...

INCOMING!

A History Lesson Of Limited Utility.

Until I was 12-years-old, my family lived in a house on Cresta Way in the Arlington neighborhood of Jacksonville. I think I was 7 or 8 before I realized the 'a' was part of the first word. I always heard it as Crest Awaaaaayyyyy! (Hey, I liked the Lone Ranger.)

When I was 12, my parents built this house on the South Side and I lived there until shortly before my 18th birthday. I spent a couple of summers there after that, but I never lived there again on a full time basis. That little marker and palmetto at the end of the driveway are new, but the big-ass tree on the right side of the picture is one of the only ones that was already there when the house was built.


My grandparents, on both sides lived in a neighborhood called Riverside, which is one of Jacksonville's older neighborhoods. This was my father's parents' house. It looks pretty much exactly how I remember it, except the picket fence wasn't there before.


My mother's parents' house is the one that's changed the most. First of all, it was always completely covered with ivy when my grandparents lived there. At some point, I was sure the house had just grown there and I didn't know there were normal walls under the ivy.

That little driveway in front was never there before either.


Here's a wider shot.


When I get around to it, you'll get some shots of some people and a little bit of some other neighborhoods. I bet you can't wait.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Like Beating A Dead Kerfuffle.

Last week I gave you my Introduction to a Kerfuffle. At first, I was holding off from giving a full response because I wanted to be fair. I was having difficulty achieving that because, frankly, the first few emails from those people just got me Uber-Pissy. Now, I'm more bored with it than anything else, but I promised you guys a kerfuffle and a kerfuffle you shall have.

You may recall that all of this started when The Anonymous Production Assistant was answering a question about his opinion of P.A. Bootcamp. I made a comment that I thought was entirely fair:

My first reaction was that they were showing an awful lot of paperwork to learn in two days. You might learn the rudiments and how to recognize the stuff, but not much behind the paperwork.

Then, I noticed that not only do they not tell you the name of any instructor (past or present), but the “testimonials” only include one person who gives a full name. That person doesn’t seem to have an IMDB listing.

Not saying they’re a crock, but they certainly aren’t going out of their way to instill confidence.



(I've fixed my orignal typo here...that omitted "not". Hope nobody minds.)

Last Monday, I got an email signed, -P.a. Bootcamp Staff (sic) with no other signature. It included an attachment naming 60 or so graduates of the PA Bootcamp with contact information. There were two more emails going back and forth after that one, presumably with the same person.

Allow me to respond to my first correspondent thusly:

Dear PA Bootcamp Douchebag (you don't mind if I call you that since you didn't bother to identify yourself, do you?),

Writing passive-aggressive emails in response to perceived slights isn't going to do your company any favors in the long run. It makes you look childish, ignorant and unprofessional. When you're responding to something someone has said about you, it might be a good idea to respond to what they've actually said.

When you pointed out that you looked me up on IMDB and noted that "most of (my) shows are "low budget" under 8 mill", I'm assuming you meant to call my credentials into question. Consider me properly chastised. I would like to mention, however, that the major difference between a Location Manager's job on an 8 million dollar picture and on a 50 million dollar picture is the luxury of solving problems by throwing money at them. Both shows need somewhere to shoot every day. Both need to control the streets they're working in. Both shows need permits of every variety for filming, stunts, pyrotechnics...you name it. Both shows need holding areas for the extras and accommodations for the cast that meet SAG requirements.

You went on in the same email to (finally) name some of your past "Drill Instructors" and to say,

...this list is just a few of our supporters and Drill Instructors. Again, freelance. We rotate on and off. This includes BOTH of Name Redacted's kids, and his wife. Not the ex wife. The current wife. Do you know Name Redacted personally or just through work? (Name Redacted is a director I've worked with recently and I cut his name since he didn't ask to be involved in this tiff or to be blogged about.)

Here are my questions: 1. I don't know Name Redacted's wife (current or ex), nor do I know his kids. They may very well be highly qualified to teach PA Bootcamp, but their relationship to Name Redacted is not a credential. 2. One of those 8 million dollar pics you seem to think are somehow unworthy...yup...directed by Name Redacted. 3. What fucking difference in the world could it make if my relationship with Name Redacted is merely professional?

And to finish up with you, Mr. PA Bootcamp Douchebag, may I be so bold as to suggest that you look up a definition of slander? My comment wasn't in the same continent as slander. Had I said, "If PA Bootcamp Douchebag's command of written English is any indication of the quality of the instruction at PA Bootcamp, that would give me cause for concern", that might have been considered slanderous by some. But I didn't say that.

Now, on to the other responder. His email, titled "P.A. BOOTCAMP INVITES YOU TO AUDIT OUR SESSION" came on Tuesday night. He identifies himself (I'm going to delete that part) and he's making an honest effort to diffuse a trainwreck, so I'll do him the courtesy of responding accordingly. Below is the complete text of his email and I'm inserting my responses.
-----------------
(begin email)
Wasn't sure if you received it at my account from work, so I'm using the main Bootcamp computer.

I'm assuming this is Nathan.

My name is Name Redacted. I'm not the owner of P.A. Bootcamp and I don't run it, but I do work for them. At this point I decided to read the email while assuming that I was finally hearing from an adult.

Things have quickly turned unfortunate and rereading the posts, I see it is not entirely your fault. (Uh? Thanks?) Your initial post did contain a flip comment about the "course guide", but it's the reader/commenter Name Redacted that really fanned the flames with his remarks. You questioned the need for such a camp, while he called us an outright "scam." Actually, I didn't question the need for such a camp. I questioned whether or not a program who's owners, managers, staff and endorsers are all anonymous was worthy of consumer confidence. But since you mention it...OK, I will question the need. I don't, for a minute begrudge anyone operating a for-profit instructional program. Assuming it's reputable, I'm sure there's value in it for those who have the money to invest. But I've hired people who's only training was "on the job". I've hired people I had to train from scratch. I've also hired people who went through the Made in NY P.A. Training Program. Guess what? The way they got their training hasn't been a reliable predictor of how well they worked out. A training program is "right" for some people, but it certainly isn't a deciding factor for me when I'm hiring.

From there, a couple of members we have on staff that do internet research, email replies, site updates and network traffic watching took it upon themselves to protect the company's interests. They even got a couple of former campers to respond.

For some, this business has become a primary source of income during the production slowdown brought on by the current economy and lack of a SAG agreement. (I've been lucky, working full time on "Show Name Redacted but it's a real one") This is why the replies from our side have been harshly defensive. We apologize. I'm glad you've had this source of income during this slow time. Can I ask if you're telling your students that their prospects pretty much suck right now?

You state that you are traveling, but will probably blog about all this. Before posting judgement, I would like to invite you to meet with members of our staff, perhaps even during a camp session. We are a legitimate business whose members work within the Film and Television industry in a variety of positions (mostly P.A.'s and A.D.'s).

Of course, you can post what you wish, and I know you have no control over your readers and their comments. But I would like you to see the camp for yourself, and ask your questions to us directly about the camp's content and price. Maybe we can help you to see "the point", as you put it. Once again, I never made any reference to "the point", so that wasn't my issue. I live in NY and rarely get out to L.A. so I doubt I'll be visiting. However, maybe one of my readers in your area would be interested in checking out the course. If so, I'll forward you their contact information and hopefully, you'll extend the same invitation.

When I first heard of P.A. Bootcamp, I was also completely unconvinced. I thought you could train somebody everything they need to know in an hour or two. I was invited to see the camp and was amazed by how much there is to learn, stuff that I just take for granted. (Over 270 terms...we really do speak a different language.) And yes, some of it can be learned in a "trial by fire" basis over time. But with the camp, P.A.'s arrive completely ready to handle the rough sets and the harsh A.D.'s. They don't burn their bridges on the first sets they day-play on. They can move into staff positions immediately.

The camp also weeds out people who have the wrong idea about what's required and how a set operates. While everybody learns and retains that knowledge at their individual skill level, there's a definite improvement to a Bootcamp trained P.A. over a completely green one. Think about a screenwriter. They don't need to read "Adventures in The Screen Trade" or "Story" or take Robert McKee's seminar to write Pulp Fiction. But there's a reason why these resources are so popular. They put your head in the right place so you can deliver what's expected.

After seeing the camp, I was so convinced that I asked if I could help out. That was 3 years ago, when they only had around 150 terms and the cost was $175. P.A. Bootcamp is constantly evolving, and the camp of 3 years ago is a pale shadow to the current incarnation.

Name Redacted
P.A. Bootcamp Staff
(end of email)
-----------------------------
Look, PA Bootcamp may, in fact, be the best thing since sliced bread. I made a comment and I stand by it completely. The website is your website and it's under your control. You can choose to make it an effective marketing tool or not. Name some of your past instructors on the site. The names I was emailed are perfectly respectable people. Are they not comfortable being publicly associated with PA Bootcamp? The website has changed since my first visit so that your endorsers are now named. (I'll waive my consulting fee for that one.) My point was, and still is that you should be answering questions on the website, not making your potential students chase you down for the information. They're paying you...you should do the work. And you should find out who sent those first emails to me. Further contact between him and the public is not recommended.

If anyone decides they'd like to audit the course and review it, I'll lend you my blog to post about it if you don't have your own. I freely admit that I still have my doubts about the program (doubts that were inspired by PA Bootcamp's own website), but if any industry professional wants to take a first hand look and then tell me I'm being needlessly cynical, I'll gladly post the results.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Procrastinating, Pontificating & Bitching When I Told You Not To.

I still owe a post about the kerfuffle. That one was going to take some thought and time to prepare and I wanted things to cool off a bit so that when I posted, I'd only be an asshole...not a complete asshole. I may have let things cool off too much because I'm no longer sure I want to resurrect the kerfuffle. We'll see. Note: I'm easily influenced, so if you were dying to know more about the kerfuffle, goading me might prove highly effective.

I have lots of pictures from Florida. People and places. Truthfully, I really need to go through them all and see which ones are good, which ones suck and which ones can be salvaged with a little bit of tweaking. There are quite a few shots that have beautifully exposed backgrounds and the people they're supposed to be pictures of are just dark silhouetted blobs. Heh. I suck.

Remember how not even a week ago, I told you all how silly it is to bitch about air travel? How it's still such a miracle you should just get over yourselves and deal with the inconvenient parts? Well I'm back and I'm bitching. Here goes.

I knew every flight I would be on was fully booked. Out of four legs, there were a grand total of 6 empty seats on all flights combined. I rarely try to take a large carry-on, but I always check my bag if I know the flight will be crowded. So, I paid $17.00 to check a bag and I only carried on my small backpack with my laptop and a book and a few other things I wanted to have with me.

When you get on the plane, they're announcing that the overhead bins should be for large carry-ons and anything small should go under the seat in front of you. Well, I wasn't having any of that. Hey, I'm the polite one who didn't try to bring my entire house with me; I deserve what little leg room my seat offers. So my little bag went in the overhead...yay me! Then, they start running out of room in the overheads and they start announcing that if your massive steamer trunk won't fit, the flight attendants will check it for you...and you won't be charged for checked baggage! Had I only known you get rewarded for being a dick! I want my $17.00 back.

Then I get to Charlotte where I have a lengthy layover. So, I go looking for where the hell I'm allowed to have a cigarette. Charlotte has what they call a Courtesy Smoking Area. Courtesy, my ass. It's certainly not courteous to me! I had to walk the length of the concourse where my flight came in and go all the way out to where people are being dropped off for departing flights. Not only that, the Courtesy Smoking Area is as far at the end of the drop-off area as you can get without walking out onto the highway.

Now, I know most of you have little or no sympathy for us poor smokers who can't last a couple of hours without having another cigarette, but if you only have your own self-interest in mind, consider this...every smoker who has to hike to Siberia for a cigarette has to leave the secured area of the airport. Then we have to go through security again to get to our connecting flight. Aren't the security lines long and slow enough already? Does it really make your flying experience more efficient to make a bunch of people go through security more than once?

If I had my way, every airport would be required to have smoking areas on both sides of the security kiosks. And I'm not talking about the poorly ventilated phone booth Atlanta used to stuff us all into either. (I haven't flown through Atlanta in a few years, so I don't know what's there now.) In a perfect world for all concerned, it could be some sort of outdoor deck or balcony that would still keep us smokers from running around willy-nilly on the runways. I mean, c'mon...how much of a security risk would that be? I'm hopeful that security is effective enough to garauntee that none of us smoking paraiahs managed to sneak any shoulder fired SAM's onto the first leg of our trip.

Then, returning to NY, I remembered that US Air serves diddly on their flights, so I went and bought a snack to bring on the plane. I completely forgot that if you want to bring a soda onto the plane, you have to buy it after you've cleared security. (It wouldn't have helped if I had remembered because the places to buy one on the concourse were all closed anyway.) So I go walking up to the security desk and show my boarding pass and driver's license and I see the massive tub full of illicit soda bottles and I said something like, "Oh crap. I have to toss out this little 12 oz. bottle of coke I just paid $3.00 for just two minutes ago, don't I?" And the TSA lady looked at me sympathetically and said, "If you haven't opened it yet, they'll probably let you return it", which was probably about as helpful of a suggestion as she had available, but I wasn't about to leave the line and start all over again so I just added my soda to the pile. As I was doing so, the woman behind me said, in her best annoying First-Grade-Teacher tone, "Well rules are rules and the rules are for everybody, aren't they." I punched her in the throat and left her with a crushed windpipe. (OK, not really, but a guy can dream.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Post For My Big Brother.

The other day while playing golf (badly) with my big brother, he mentioned that he'd been paying attention to the part of my sidebar that mentioned what I was reading. He was using it for suggestions.

Uh.. I ditched that feature a couple of weeks ago. So, as a public service, I'm going to recommend some of what I've liked lately and I'm inviting you guys to do the same. (Just so you know, he likes SciFi (and doesn't mind 12 pages of explanation about how the moko-loculator-trinary-fontish FTL motors work). He likes alternate history (ala Turtledove and the 1632 series). I'm not sure how he feels about vampires, zombies, elves, and swashbuckling, but I'll be suggesting some of that anyway. (If you're suggesting things in series, he'd prefer the ones that have a few volumes out in paperback to start with).

So...

I really like T.A. Pratt's Marla Mason series. (Sorcerers and such. Lots of violence, magic and smart-ass talk).

I just bought the third book in Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series. (Early in WWII an American destroyer tries to outrun their Japanese pursuer and ends up in another version of the Pacific Ocean where Evolution has apparently taken some different branches than the ones we know.)

I was recently introduced to Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series. (A smart-ass assassin with magic friends and enemies. What's not to like?) Note: The publication dates and story chronology do not match up and there's some debate over the preferred reading order. I'm reading them in publication order and following things just fine, thank you very much.

Anything by Elizabeth Moon. Vatta's War is an ongoing series and Herris Serrano is a series that's been wrapped up. (Mondo Space-Opera stuff!)

There! That should keep you busy for a while.

But everyone else should also feel free to tell my brother what to read.

Can You Tell I'm Uninspired?

Believe it or not, the thing that's got me worked up is something I heard in an ad on the radio yesterday. Maybe worked up is too strong a sentiment. Annoyed? No, still too emphatic.

Fine, I'll be honest. I noticed it when I heard it and since I have nothing interesting to tell in a short post and no time for a long post, you get something that clears the bar by a very low threshold...I sorta remembered it.

I don't remember what the ad was for since I wasn't paying any attention at all, but I did notice when they said something I've heard a zillion times and it always pushes my button. Soooo...

Dear Advertiser,

I would appreciate it, if, in the future, you refrained from telling me I can "save up to 50% or more!"

I don't believe it's possible to have both options available. It's either up to or it's more.

Please stop saying that. Thank You.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Plans For A Friday

I had planned to take some pictures of less-seen spots in Jacksonville yesterday but I left my camera at the hotel. Then when I went back to get it, the battery was completely drained. If you were paying me for this, I guess you'd have cause to let me go, but you're not so, Nyah, Nyah.

The camera is charged; it's a beautiful day and I'm going to follow through on yesterday's plan today. After that, I'm going down to St. Augustine to have lunch with some of the siblings at a spot on the Intracoastal Waterway (where I shall take more pictures).

Then I've got to be at big Sis's house by 6:30pm to see some people I haven't seen in years and then dinner and then around 9 or 10, I'm meeting up with one of the only friends from High School that I still keep in touch with.

Busy day. Odds are, you won't be getting anything else from me today, but just think of the lovely tour of North Florida you have to look forward to.

And there's still the meat of the Kerfuffle to be posted.

Damn! This blog is suddenly all about anticipation. Go do something else while you're waiting.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Here. Have Some Useless Information.

I don't think I've ever been to an Applebee's Restaurant before today. There's one in my neighborhood and I walk by it every time I go to the subway, but I've never gone in before. Today, I stopped into one because...well I did.

Prior to today, I didn't have any particular opinion about Applebees other than the fact that they have so much product placement on Friday Night Lights that they should have a co-starring credit. (I like Friday Night Lights quite a bit, so I'm more or less forgiving of this blatant bit of cashing in. Hey, I'd do it if I could.)

Here are three things I learned about Applebee's today.

1. If you read the teeny-tiny print on the menu, it appears that they're owned by Annheuser-Busch. This is probably meaningless other than the choice of beers they serve, but since two seconds of research reveals that Annheuser-Busch now owns every brand of beer you can possibly think of, this isn't really too much of a limitation.

2. They have a lunch special that goes for $5.99. You get to look at pretty pictures of soup and salad on the menu. It looks like plenty of food. The soup bowl, however, has a not-so-little hump built into the base which displaces about 1/2 of the volume you'd expect to find in the bowl. The hump isn't visible in the picture, but when you dip your spoon in, you'll find it a couple of millimeters below the surface.

3. They're really thrilled to offer their burgers with an applewood smoked bacon on them (I think that's the description but I'm too lazy to look it up.) Whatever they call this variation of bacon...it tastes like sardines. Ewwww!

This is what I learned today so you wouldn't have to. You're welcome.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Introduction To A Kerfuffle.

I mentioned yesterday that I've been taking part in a little bit of a pissing contest elsewhere on the internet. Since I doubt any of you follow me slavishly around the net making sure that you're up to date on all of my doings, I thought I'd give you some idea what it's all about. On, second thought, I think I would like to know why you're not all SLAVISHLY FOLLOWING ME AROUND THE NET MAKING SURE YOU'RE UP TO DATE ON ALL OF MY DOINGS! What's up with that anyway. I demand that you pay closer attention. Consider yourselves chastised.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, The Anonymous Production Assistant responded to someone who emailed him the question Is PA Bootcamp Worth It? (Hey, that's another thing. Why doesn't anyone email questions to me and give me easy ideas for my blog? Nooooooo! I've gotta be thinking all the time to fill this space with all of the lame shit I come up with.) Since I'm generally a loudmouth, I commented right away. The fact that I had to go back two minutes later and correct a typo is ample evidence that I fired off my response in my usual thoughtful blurting manner.

----------Postus Interruptus ------Postus Interruptus-----

I started writing this this morning and right about the spot above this line, I got a call from my brother telling me we had a tee time booked, so I had to break off things, hop in the shower and then drive down to St. Augustine. I'm now back from a beautiful day on the golf course. The walking and the wildlife on the course (a bunch of blue herons and egrets), and the beautiful day were enough for me. And that's a good thing because my golf game really, really, really, really, really, really sucked. That last sentence could actually use another few "really-s". Really! How bad was I? The highpoint of my game was when my brother informed me he'd just gotten a phone call and we'd have to leave after the 15th hole because he had to go euthanize a dog. (He's a veterinarian, so that's nowhere near as horrifying as it sounds.)

I also spoke to GF this morning to see how her day was going. She's in the middle of filming an action sequence out in NY Harbor with a veritable flotilla. She mentioned that she'd noticed there were no portable toilets on one of the barges that was serving as an equipment platform. After some investigation, she discovered that the port-o-lets had in fact been delivered, but had blown off in the meantime. (New toilets were delivered and the ones that had walked the plank were fished out at low tide.)

So anyway, it's now 6:30 p.m. and I'm back at my hotel and I'll try to finish this post before I have to get dressed and leave to go to another brother's house for the first Seder.

--------Postus Re-engagemous ----------Postus Re-engagemous---------

So back to our story.

I don't think my comment made any definitive value judgment on PA Bootcamp, but expressed a lack of confidence based on the fact that there was only one person on their entire website who used both a first and last name...and that was one of their testimonials. The rest of their testimonials were by first name only. No names at all of any of their owners, management or staff. No names of any instructors...past present or future. (They have since changed the testimonials page to include full names of people endorsing them...I'll take that as a point in my favor and I'll accept their thanks for improving their marketing effort at my suggestion.)

On Monday, I started getting emails from them...which had a return email address of "pabootcampstaff", and, once again no attributing it to any particular person. There have now been 4 back and forth emails between them and me (the last of which is signed by a staffer, thank you very much). Tomorrow, I'm going to share the contents of those emails. The first three are fairly lame and the last one, (the signed one), actually seems to be trying to moderate the tone of the "discussion". Even the last one, however, still seems to be attributing to me comments that were made by other people.

In John Scalzi's tradition of Grading Hatemail, I just feel the need to point out how much utter FAIL there was in PA Bootcamp's attempt to set me straight and I'll do so in detail tomorrow. Once again, I don't really know enough about PA Bootcamp to recommend them or warn people away from them. All I know is what they've put out there about themselves, and I'll stick by my original statement that their mere anonymity (partially rectified now) didn't instill great confidence.

In the meantime, The Anonymous Production Assistant posted a followup yesterday and today's post is entertaining and relevant in a tangential fashion. Go read all of that and then you'll be up to speed enough for me to post a more detailed post-mortem tomorrow.

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P.S. Just so you know, the radio stations here suck. There are lots of Evangelical stations, a bunch of Country stations (many of them indistinguishable from the first category), a few Classic Rock stations and the usual assortment of Rap stations. I don't think I've listened to anything recorded after 1975 since I got here. Feh!

Have a happy Passover and I'll talk to you more tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Too Lazy to Bitch and Moan?

There's a kerfuffle going on elsewhere on the intertoobs and I'm right in the middle of it. My part, however, has mostly taken place in a series of emails pitting me and the kerfuffle-ee(?) against each other.

Hey, I'm in Florida and the weather is pretty and I just can't be bothered. Maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime...the short version. I'm right and they're wrong!

That about covers it.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Now-a-days, You Watch A Movie, Take A Dump, and You're Home.

I know you've all seen this, but you should watch it again. I think it should be required viewing for all travelers.



I'm flying to Florida today to spend Passover with the family. I was going to bitch because the airline called me before I left home to tell me the flight was on time, and then, my cab disobeyed the laws of nature and got me to the airport so fast that I was checked in 10 minutes before I left home and then the airline called me again to let me know the flight would be delayed for an hour.

The fact is, I left home this morning, and I'll arrive in Florida some time tonight after sitting in a chair in the sky traveling 500 mph! I'll get there the same day. The wheel on my Conestoga wagon will not break. We won't be attacked by Sioux warriors or taken advantage of by ex-Confederate soldiers trying to make a buck off of naive settlers. It won't take 6 months to get where I'm going and it's doubtful that everybody on the plane will come down with some horrible disease and die before we get there.

So, this is me, shutting the fuck up about how horrible it is to travel by air. (I'll also sit here enjoying the texts Tania is sending me about pygmy marmosets stowing away in my luggage.)

(BTW, as mentioned in the comment thread two posts back, there's still one more chocolate sampler up for grabs. All you have to do is say you want it. But not in this thread. In that one. Two threads back.)

Update: The flight has just been pushed back another hour. I WANT MY 500MPH CHAIR!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

It Also Makes Quite Tasty Bread.

A couple of months ago, GF found a great pizza dough recipe. It divides easily for individual pizzas and since it freezes well, you can have a few of them available on relatively short notice. In fact, homemade pizza was on the menu for tonight. In fact, we were going to see how well they worked at making deep-dish pizza.

I took a couple of dough balls out of the freezer this afternoon and then about an hour before we were planning to have dinner, I put them into little oiled bowls in the oven to rise; the oven was just barely warm from earlier in the day.

At some point, I ran out to do a few errands. When I got back, I started slicing toppings. I was especially happy with the 4 cheeses I was shredding. I turned on the oven to pre-heat to 500º.

Eventually, GF walked into the kitchen and said, "The dough's not in the oven, is it?"

"No", I responded emphatically. In my mind (but not out loud, I continued), "we haven't zchmushed them into the pans yet...why would they be in the oven".

As my synapses finally fired on all gears, I said, "Oh, Shit!"

We yanked the doughs out of the oven hoping we'd caught them in time. We were doubtful, but tried slicing one of them in half in case it was still uncooked in the middle. Maybe we could make funny shaped pizzas.

Our pizza dough recipe also makes quite tasty bread.
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BTW, there's free chocolate in the next post down and it hasn't all been awarded yet.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

And How Was Your Day...An Ongoing Sequel

Hey! I've been missing for a couple of days, so you might infer that we had a difficult two-day shoot. You'd be right and you'd be wrong. The fact is that even though they really weren't excessively long by filming standards, they each had their own unique sets of obstacles to overcome.

Usually, I make a point of whining about how the world and nature and various beauracracies and everybody I come into contact with tend to conspire to make my job more difficult. Today, I'm going to try to keep my own whining to a minimum while acknowledging that the conspiracies might have hit my co-workers harder for the last couple of days.

On Friday, we had five scenes to shoot at three different locations in Foley Square. At a glance, they appear to be really close to each other, but the fact is, that Foley Square is quite a sizable hunk of real estate and each time you want to move from one spot to another, you've got a fair distance to move a whole lot of gear and that distance is covered with traffic and pedestrians who care more about getting where they're going than with letting you get where you're going.

Truthfully, though, this is more of a problem for the grips and electricians and camera crew and prop masters than it is for me. They're the ones with a ton of equipment to schlep.

Friday dawned pissing rain. There were a few times when the rain slacked off, but each time it returned, it was raining harder. This went on until about 4:00 p.m. No matter how prepared any of us were for rain, we were all still soaked and miserable very early in the day without any real hope of things improving.

One of my jobs is to keep an eye on things around our set and try to lessen our impact on the general public, and, if not actually alleviate inconvenience, at least make sure we're not actually endangering anyone. This isn't to imply that the crew is unmindful of the public at large, it's just an acknowledgment that they're always under a lot of pressure to move quickly, and get the shot set up. Once we finish one shot, it's likely that the next shot turns around 180º. This means that all of the equipment that was, a moment ago, servicing the shot we just completed is in the shot we want to get next. First they've got to move all that shit again to get it behind the camera's new position and then they have to set it up to actually work for the next shot. When this is going on, one of my jobs is to try to make sure that we've left at least some of the sidewalk clear for real people to get where they're going. You may be able to see where my job may be at cross purposes to everybody else's jobs, on occasion (no matter how conscientious they may be).

If you look at the middle of that little map, you'll see a little dotted series of arrows. The arrows represent the direction two actors would be walking while having a conversation. The camera was to be on a steadicam, leading them and showing an impressive background as the shot progressed. In the diagram, the shot moved from the subway steps up into the middle of the park. In reality, the shot got re-arranged a little bit. The length of their conversation doubled the distance of the shot and it was decided that instead of moving into that wide open spot in the middle of the park, it would just continue up the sidewalk on the west side of the park, ending in a fairly narrow portion of sidewalk. The rain was particularly energetic at this point and the daylight was particularly anemic.

The solution was to have a rather large light on a wheeled stand lighting the actors from just to the left of the lens. Since the shot began at one spot and ended about 250 yards north of the beginning spot, the light would have to be moved continuously with the shot. Lights of this size are not designed to be that portable. I watched the first rehearsal of the shot.

There are three guys pushing the light at a reasonably brisk walking pace (keeping it balanced as it crosses over NY's less-than-pristine sidewalks). There are five guys hauling cable. By this, I mean that the cable which powers the light will, a.) get run over and cause the light to fall over and, b.) get into the shot unless it is continuously pulled backwards to stay behind the light and camera. Cable of that length is heavy. And don't forget that everyone is completely soaked through their rain gear, which by now is doing more to hold sweat in than to keep rain out. When they get to the end of the shot, there is a massive pile of tangled cable (we call it spaghetti), right next to the tent keeping the monitors dry(ish). Of course, there's not an inch of sidewalk to be safely traversed. This is driven home in my mind as I watch an old woman with a cane step into traffic to fight her way by us.

Under normal circumstances, it's my uncomfortable job to go to the gaffer and ask if we can't find some way to get the shot and still leave some safe point of passage for civilians. Under these circumstances...uh...I'd do well to consider what he and his crew are dealing with before opening my mouth. I doubt anyone planned to have to light this shot...optimal circumstances would have had us shooting daylight scenes in...daylight. I doubt any of the electricians woke up that morning expecting to be involved in a 250 yard shot incorporating a choreographed light, camera and attendant cable. Add to this the fact that I counted eight people pushing the light and pulling cable and realized that some of the grips had obviously been conscripted into this dance as well. They definitely didn't show up that morning expecting this to be part of their day. I envisioned pulling the gaffer aside to have this little safety conversation and realized it would be a lot shorter (and equally fruitful) conversation if I just approached him and asked him to go ahead and hit me in the face. (BTW, on Saturday, we did a shot that had the camera on a golf-cart leading two joggers. This time it wasn't raining and the light got to be mounted on the golf cart, but we still needed those poor schmucks to haul cable...and this time they had to run.)

In the end, I decided it would be a better idea to just cone off a section of the curb lane for pedestrians to get around us and hope we'd get the shot completed as quickly as possible.

Another thing that might not be self-evident from the diagram is that Foley Square is a big, giant open vista, no matter which way you look. It's a virtual guarantee that no matter where you park the trucks, sooner or later, you'll have to move a few when they get into the shot. Here, you may be thinking, "Big deal. So you have to move some trucks. They've got wheels and motors and steering wheels...they're made to be moved." Think of those trucks as the different departments' offices. Picture if your office (or cubicle) was on wheels. Before you can let the truck move your office, you need to take everything off of your desk and safely stow it in drawers. Everything that's on a shelf has to be secured so it doesn't fall over and break while your office is being moved. Lots of delicate items actually need to be packed up to make the move. Oh, and while you're preparing to have your office moved, you have a simultaneous presentation going on in a conference room down the hall, and the presentation is the real reason they pay you to show up in the first place. And let's just ignore, for the moment that moving 60' trucks through NYC traffic isn't actually easy. Top this all off with the realization that people driving Mini-Coopers bitch about trying to park on NY streets and the truck needs to end up in the same Zip Code as where the shoot is taking place and it can't block a fire hydrant or a bus stop or park in some area reserved for the Commissioner of the Department of Buildings and can't block someone's loading docks and...moving trucks just flat-out sucks. I may get asked to get the truck out of the next shot, but a bunch of other people actually have to make it happen.

No matter how any of the above made mine or the rest of the crew's day more difficult, the truth is, it's all stuff we've dealt with a hundred times.. Late in the day, however, we had a Close Encounter of the Big City Kind. While we were going about our business, cops started gathering in Foley Square Park just a short distance from where we were shooting. Lots of cops. They were there because a group was holding a march to protest the Government Bailouts and they were planning to end their march with a rally right next to our set. This is the same protest I mentioned the other day, so it wasn't a surprise...any more than the rainy day was. There was always a chance it wouldn't actually happen, but meteorology and predicting protests are both equally reliable. (In the end, I'm not entirely sure what the central core of the protest was about. Some people wanted the money back from AIG and GM and all of those other companies. Some thought the government owes everyone a job. Some thought the government ought to just pay everyone a salary without requiring that they do a job. And since we were steps away, visibly working, we made a convenient impromptu target for some of their speakers. The one thing that kept them truly united was volume. They were loud.)

As luck would have it, though, the rain kept their numbers down and shortened the rally. I'm sure there's a silver lining in there somewhere, but my feet were still soaked, pruney and sore when I got home.

Edited to add:

Our second day of filming took place in DUMBO. This leads to two things.

First, and less important to you, I ran across those pigs from the other days' post which led to me getting linky goodness from Dumbo NYC (last link on the page). And the photo illustrating the page is one of my very own "No Parking" signs for the shoot...a bit of trivia that might lead Dumbo NYC to be less glad I visited the neighborhood when they realize my involvement in both things.

Second...and this one ought to get you all excited, is that DUMBO is home to one of Jacques Torres' Chocolate shops. I don't want to leap into fits of hyperbole, but they make some damned fine chocolate. And I got some for you. The first eight people who comment on this thread and include the sentence, "Send me some of Jacques Torres' damned fine chocolate!", will receive a 12-piece sampler that looks a whole lot like this, (only with less pieces, duh). If I don't know you, you'll have to email me an address to send it to (email address is linked on my profile).