Friday, July 31, 2009

Thursday, July 30, 2009

As If We Really Needed Any Proof.

I have become an old fart.

This article caught my eye this morning and I was shocked...shocked, I say, to discover that I was firmly on the 80-year-old lady's side.


I wish there were a mug shot, but this is the best I could find.

Anyway, the gist of the story is that 80-year-old Adlyn "Paddy" Cook got pissed off that kids using her neighborhood as a short cut to school were leaving trash all over the place and in spite of repeated complaints to the school, they wouldn't do anything about it. The place looked like the aftermath of the Woodstock music festival.




OK, I totally made up the part about how bad the trash problem was and I have no idea how many times she complained, but dammit the kids were messing up her lawn! So she gathered up the garbage and dumped it in the lobby of the school -- twice! She even left a note with her name on the garbage bags. And the only response she got was a charge for illegal dumping. Asshats!

Anyway, all's sorta well that ends sorta well. She didn't have to go to jail and they're making her monitor students in the cafeteria at lunch -- cruel and unusual punishment if I ever heard of any.

The reason this strikes a chord with me is that we constantly have flyers and store circulars dumped on our front stoop for restaurants and stores in the area. The ones that really get me are the ones for restaurants that are so far away that I'm outside their delivery area. I'm sorely tempted to collect all of them from around the neighborhood and dump them back on the stores' doorsteps for them to find in the morning with a note saying, "Did you misplace this stuff?" I'd probably get sentenced to sorting produce at Pathmark. Or taking calls from people pissed off at Dominos for not delivering their pizza.

Can't get no justice from the man!

Oh C'mon! They're Cats! And They're Adorable!

I've been a little remiss lately when it comes to new posts here. In lieu of actual content...here, have a picture of two of my cats in the window.

Someone has promised to help me fix the blog, but he may be hesitant out of the fear that if things are working properly here, the cats might be able to slip through the intertoobs and eat his iguana.

I swear, they don't even know my password.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An Open Letter To The Conch Republic

I happened to be watching The Today Show this morning which, let's face it, was more or less an hour-and-a-half commercial for Key West tourism. Congratulations on the publicity. Here's a short clip of a couple of official type people making Al and Matt Honorary Conchs.



I only included a little because, frankly, I still need convincing. A lot of convincing! See, I've got kind of a hate/hate relationship with Key West. "Whence, this animosity?" you may ask. Fair enough.

Let's set the WABAC machine to December 1979. I was in my Sophomore year at Emerson College in Boston. I had no particular plans for the upcoming Christmas Break and, if memory serves, my friend David lived in a dorm which he'd have to vacate since all dorms would be closed over the holiday. David and I decided it would be a great idea to drive to my parents' house in Jacksonville, stay a couple of days and then go have an adventure in Key West!

It was a brilliant idea! What could go wrong.

[Before I go any further, I'm not identifying David any more closely since he's not the one who chose to have my massive internet presence. I can find him online, but not much more than practically anyone else who hasn't made a whole lot of effort in that direction. For those of you who were at Emerson at the same time, we're talking tall guy, really long hair (at the time), and (gasp), Canadian! So anyway, I haven't talked to David in more than 20 years and it wouldn't be fair for me to identify him any further here. I will be friending him on FaceBook so he'll know where to find this. He's welcome to chime in and fill in any details I've forgotten...and I'm sure there are quite a few.)

Anyway, we hopped into my 1975 Plymouth Valiant and launched ourselves toward Florida!

Mine was blue, but otherwise, looked just like this (without the WalMart).
I have absolutely no memory of the drive to Florida and very little memory of out brief sojourn in Jacksonville. In fact, the only real detail I recall at the moment is that, I had cash and David had a pile of Traveler's Checks for the trip. For some reason, we decided that we'd go through my cash first and then start spending his Traveler's Checks. (If that last sentence doesn't give you a vague sense of foreboding, it's only because I can't figure out how to overlay an eerie soundtrack.)

So, fine! We stayed a couple of days in Jacksonville and then headed south. OK, I'll admit this first part isn't Key West's fault, but it is one long ass drive from Jacksonville to Key West. This was during the age of 55mph speed limits and the drive to Miami was 6-1/2 hours if you didn't stop at all and never hit traffic. I'm sure it took us more like 9 hours. And, of course, we were young and decided we should just keep driving until we got to Key West...the end of the road!

Uh...it's another 160 miles from Miami to Key West. And this was in 1979 before most of the new bridges were open. There's something like 27 bridges (including the Seven Mile Bridge) between Miami and Key West. At the time, they all looked like this:

You could drive 55mph on the damned things, but I didn't. We'd been on the road for hours and it was really, really dark. And one other thing. Those lanes are just wide enough for a car. Tractor trailers had to keep their right wheels hugging the curb just to have their left-side wheels on the center line. That caused this high pitched screaming noise to come from every truck. The ones passing in the opposite direction were terrifying. The ones that passed me because I was apparently driving to slow were...whatever is more terrifying than merely terrifying.

Fine. Still not really Key West's fault. There are new bridges now that are much wider and allow travelers to arrive somewhat in possession of all their faculties (and dry pants).

Our arrival in Key West seemed to be promising. We got as far as you can drive without going into the Gulf of Mexico just in time to watch the sunrise. We'd been up for almost 24 hours, but we didn't want to waste a minute of the day. We decided to go get breakfast, make our plans for the day and then, check into a motel sometime late in the day.

At breakfast, we picked up a local newspaper and some tourist brochures. Looking through the newspaper first, we discovered that the biggest current civic problem was an overabundance of dirtbaggers. We never did figure out exactly what dirtbaggers were (vagrants? hippies? people who came down with the intention of camping out? Us?), but the Letters to the Editor made it clear that dirtbaggers weren't welcome! We decided that since we planned to get a motel room, we were probably safe from being swept up in some nebulous Dirtbagger Eradication Program. Probably.

Breakfast had us feeling utterly renewed and we decided to go out on one of the boats that take people out snorkeling. Once again, I only remember part of this little outing. Maybe snorkeling and sleeping don't mix well. When us tourists had all had our fill of looking at fishies and coral and stuff, the Captain announced that he was going to get his own dinner before we went back and we should all just hang out for a few minutes. He donned his fins and mask and spear gun and was just getting ready to hop in the water when David asked if he could tag along to watch. The Captain said yes, but that David should stay immediately behind him so he'd know where he was at all times.

So Captain Spear Gun and David swim off and maybe ten minutes later, David is flopping around in the water and screaming. He looked an awful lot like this:



I was sure he'd been speared, and when they got back to the boat, I found out what had really happened, which wasn't a whole lot better. His entire body had been raked by the tentacles of a Portuguese Man-o-War. He had marks all over from where the barbs had stuck in and he was in a lot of pain. Forty-Five minutes or so later, we were back at shore and David had progressed from merely being in a massive amount of pain to being completely in shock. If memory serves, Captain Spear Gun gave me directions to the hospital. Thanks a lot, Dude.

Once I found the hospital, I think he was seen fairly quickly. The treatment consisted of some kind of topical cream smeared all over his body and a lot of drugs. I'm pretty sure that there was some pain relief drug administered, but mostly they just gave him shit to knock him out.

I tried to buy something for us to eat at a convenience store before finding a motel, but they wouldn't take David's traveler's checks with him all loopy and shit in the car. He struggled his way into the store, (sort of a Weekend at Bernie's moment), but I guess in his drugged up state, they decided we must be dirtbaggers and told us to get the fuck out of their store. David wished them a Merry Fucking Christmas quite loudly. (Did I mention that it was Christmas Eve?)

Then, still foodless, we went off in search of a motel to stay in. Our reception wasn't much better at the first 3-4 of these we visited. I don't recall any more screaming involved, but they all made it abundantly clear that our kind weren't welcome in their establishments. Finally, we found a family owned motel that not only checked us in, they also went out and got us some food so I wouldn't have to leave David in the room alone. We stayed there for about 20 hours until David felt well enough to travel and we got the hell out of Key West.

So, Key West, I harbor ill feelings about your little slice of America. I'm fairly certain David harbors a similar, if not more violent attitude toward your little island. Now, to be perfectly honest, I had put this entire horrid experience out of my memory until I saw your representatives boasting about the wonders of Key West on TV this morning. And then the whole regretable thing came back to me...like that thing in the refrigerator that really stinks every time you open the door, but you can't quite find out what it is so you can get rid of it.

So, I'm offering you...Key West, the opportunity to rectify this. I'd be willing to come visit Key West again (on your dime, of course) to give it another chance. I'm sure my GF wouldn't mind visiting...she's never been there. And if you decide to fly GF and I down (uh...don't forget the really nice hotel, BTW), it seems only fair that you'd offer David the same opportunity along with any significant other he happens to be spending his time with these days.

I'll be happy to give the place another chance. I may (or may not) like it, but I promise to blog about it. Seems imminently fair to me. I'll wait to hear from you.

KTHXBAI.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sightly Riled on a Sunday Morning.

Update 11:00pm 7/26/09: Within the last half hour I received a call from Trollopalooza II and I'm pleased to say that they are now living up to expectations. I'd relate to you the content of the conversation, but it was mostly just loud and unintelligible. I'm so proud.
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As many of you undoubtedly know, Trollopalooza II is currently under way in Denver. This is how they would have you believe things are progressing.

Meeting at the airport with "Drunken Trollops" signs.

Warming up to the festivities by texting everyone in the world to build a sense of jealousy.
(The texts to me were limited to a description of the dearth of Colorado bunnies.)


Well. The truth will out. This is apparently the level of excitement and debauchery being generated in the Rockies. WTF? Are they drinking tea and trading carrot cake recipes while watching a Golden Girls marathon? Hell, we only had two UCFers in Minnesota and we still managed to consume mass quantities and burn up a bunch of shit.


You think I'm exaggerating? You want evidence? Fine! Here's last night's status report on FaceBook from the putative leader of this session's festivities.



Ten O'Clock? Please tell me I missed something. Girls, you're doing it rwong! I expect much better of you today. I understand that some of you may have to get on airplanes later today, but I expect to see you being poured into the TSA screening line. Get with it!

There's another thing that's been bugging me a little.



This particular commercial has been playing an awful lot lately. I don't begrudge Geiko choosing this particular music for the spot; Its choice actually makes fun of the song by its inclusion. And that's fine. But the song, itself is just starting to annoy the living shit out of me. How many teenaged boys are secretly crying in their bedrooms late at night because someone won't just let them be themselves? C'mon, man up you wusses!

In fairness, I'll admit that my teenage years had songs more than happy to support my own sense of self imporance and angst. Here's one that always bugged me: America's song Lonely People.
I was a teen. Nobody understood me. Of course I had more than my share of self pity and feeling unfairly excluded. I was a fucking teenager.

"This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by
Dont give up until you drink from the silver cup
And ride that highway in the sky"

Being your average teenager, I heard the first couple of lines and figured, "Oh, I'd better listen. Here come some answers". And then they throw that fucking silver cup at me. Huh? What silver cup? What fucking highway in the sky? I was bitterly disappointed by this clear use of bait and switch, so much so that I refused to listen to anything else America ever recorded. Douches!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Playing For Change

I saw a story about this on ABC News last night and wondered if I've been living under a rock or something since I'd never heard about this before. I'll link the organization at the end and let them tell you more about what moved them to do this. In the meantime, here's the briefest of explanations.

Mark Johnson, a documentary filmmaker and a man on a mission set out to record musicians from around the world. They range from street musicians to international headliners and everyone in between. Basically, he recorded one artist performing a song and then invited other musicians to listen to what had been recorded before and add their own track. Some musicians, he purposely sought out...others, he was introduced to as things progressed.

It's really incredibly wonderful.

Here's the Playing For Change website. In addition to bios on all of the musicians (and additional performances), you'll find Mark Johnson telling you what it's all about. You'll also find out how to get involved...if you feel moved to do so.

If you don't have good speakers, at least do yourself the favor of playing this through headphones.





Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nightmares of The Location Manager's Kind & Pepperoni Sysiphus.

Dreams are weird. I'm sure I dream on a regular basis, but I usually don't remember them when I wake up. And sometimes, it's obvious what's causing you to dream about certain things.

I remember when we first got Tomb Raider and there was this one room I couldn't get into without dying, I dreamed all night about the controller sequence required to leap three times from the top of one plinth to another, then continue without stopping (to avoid the giant axe on a pendulum that was coming), leap out into space, grab the swinging rope, release at the top of the arc to get into the cave on the cliff wall and roll to the left before the bad guys could shoot me. I know it took me hours to survive getting into that damned room...so it's not a surprise it intruded into my sleep.

This morning, I woke up from a nightmare of The Location Manager's Kind at 5:45 a.m. My heart was racing. I was bathed in sweat. I was panting. What could inspire such nocturnal terrors?

Directions!

Let's take a step back for a moment. A Location Manager can do everything right; he can pull of absolute miracles, but if anyone on the crew is confused by the directions to set, the Location Manager will be eating shit for days. It doesn't matter whether the directions were wrong or whether the lost person is a complete moron...The Location Manager will be held responsible.

So we're kind of meticulous about our directions. And it's not uncommon at all to have to create directions from multiple places for multiple types of vehicles. Take a look at these directions to a set in Norwalk, CT. We had to get people there from Stamford and from Bridgeport. There are a lot of low railroad overpasses in Norwalk, so some trucks could get under them and others couldn't. I think you can embiggen this to give you an idea of how nuts it can be.


We also have to hang big fluorescent arrows at every turn anyone might have to make on the way to set...from each direction they might be coming. Then we have to have signs splitting them off to Crew Parking, Truck Parking, Camper Parking, etc. etc. etc.

We also tend to create set maps so everybody will know where they should land once they get there. This is a completely futile act that only makes us and the Asst. Directors feel good. As soon as anyone in a vehicle spots someone with a walkie-talkie, they ask where they should park. If someone gets there early, he'll park wherever he wants. For example, if a PA driving a Unit Van shows up early, he'll just pull into the space in front of the doors to location. He'll proudly tell you about what a great spot he got. I'll proudly tell him he's parked in the first shot and to kindly move the van two blocks away to the spot he should have seen on the set map.


So, back to last night's dream. I dreamed I was working on a one day re-shoot for a movie we had finished years ago. (I don't know what movie, only that it should have been in theaters and forgotten by then.) Our location was supposed to be some field in Greenwich, CT.

Weirdness #1: Reshoots tend to go back to places they shot in originally. I've never shot a day in Greenwich, but I could perfectly picture the location and remember being there.

The problem was that I hadn't done any directions! And even worse, I didn't know how to get where I was going. In the dream, I could picture the map. I could remember the hotel I'd stayed in (which , if memory serves, is completely a figment of my imagination). I could picture the turnoff to the location. But I had no idea how to get there.

Call time for the crew was supposed to be 7:00 am and it was already 7:30 (in my dream). I was fucked.

So I decided to stop and ask for directions. I pulled into an enclave that was a cross between...

The town in Waterworld and...


...the town in the Popeye movie.

Now, Greenwich is a coastal town, but there's nowhere in Greenwich that resembles either of those images. It's a pretty wealthy, hoity-toity little place. And in my dream, the town was built on terraces but there wasn't any actual water there. The important thing was that I could drive my car into the enclave, but I had to keep running up or down stairs to find people to ask directions.

Somewhere around this point is when I woke up in a complete and utter panic. It didn't take me long to remember that I wasn't actually working today, much less in Greenwich, CT on a reshoot for some movie that's never been shot in the first place. And I was completely off the hook for not doing maps and directions since nobody was trying to get there.

Phew.

Oh, and if you're wondering about the pizza reference, that's from one of the first work-related nightmares I can remember having. During the summer after my freshman year in college, I went home to Florida and got a summer job at a Pizza Hut. For the first week, I had dreams every night of putting pepperoni onto a pizza in a spiral pattern starting at the outside and working my way in. As I got close to the middle (and completion), the pepperoni slices on the outer perimeter would start to disappear as fast as I put them on. Then I'd have to start over again and this went on endlessly and made for some piss-poor sleeping.

I was a Pepperoni Sysiphus!

Now I just eat the stuff and I'm much happier.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

...But that's no excuse.

The blog is till broken. I've looked at the possibility of moving it to WordPress, but unless I'm missing something, things aren't as easy to customize over there (without getting into actual coding, I mean). I like how easy it is to do what I want with the thing over here. (Except, of course getting it back to being findable.)

Look at the sad state of affairs when it comes to visits here. I've nosedived from almost 100 visits per day to 20 or so.

That sucks!

Having said that, it's still no excuse for not adding scintillating content. (The first smartass who asks what my excuse was before things got broke is going to get such a pop to the side of the head.) So, I'm ashamed at the lack of new stuff here and I'm going to begin remedying that situation tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'll just update you on one thing.

You may recall my post about Henry Allingham, the oldest man in the world. Well Henry died on Sunday (or it may have been Saturday depending on what time zone you're in). Now Walter Breuning (112) (linked post has a video of Walter that starts as soon as the page loads), of Great Falls, MT is the oldest man in the world. Now I certainly don't mean any slam on Walter, but he seems to have lived quite the wholesome lifestyle. What the hell kind of example is that for me to look up to. I say, as a celebrity, he has a responsibility to age in a way that excuses anything I choose to do. Get with it Walter.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Give Us A Year And We'll Give You The World!

I've probably mentioned this before, but let me just remind you...I love maps. This is a good thing, since doing my job often calls for finding my way around strange places...that is to say, finding my way around somewhere like Cleveland without ever having been there, not finding my way around someplace actually alien. (On second thought, Cleveland's pretty alien so the contrast doesn't really hold water.)

I take a perverse pleasure in finding my way around new places with a paper map in hand. I've tried using GPS, but I've found that after a week of following its directions, I won't have learned how to get around without it. With a map, I get used to the place and stop needing it quite so much; with GPS, I never stop needing that lady to tell me when to turn left.

Anyway, that's my usual long-winded way of telling you about an Atlas I've got that I kind of treasure. It's The Encyclopaedia Britannica World Atlas, published in 1946. First of all, this sucker is big. It measures 12.5" by 18" and it's about 300 pages long. (It's hard to tell since there are a bunch of sections where they start counting all over again.)


It's filled with all sorts of anachronisms. For example: Pluto was still a planet. (I still think it is anyway and when people say it isn't, I'm happy to whip out this atlas, show them this page and say, "I win"; then quickly put the book away before anyone gets a chance to see I'm showing them a 60-year-old reference.)

One of the main things that interests me is how they treated the defeated Axis Powers.

Here's what Italy seemed to have been left with.




Here's what Japan still controlled...sort of. (I'll get back to that.)



Germany is shown with its pre-WWII borders and, interestingly enough, there's no division of East and West Germany. Berlin is shown as a united city. So, on the one hand, Germany has already been stripped of all of it's territories, colonies and war gains, but on the other hand, the Soviets aren't given their toe-hold either. In fact, the USSR is shown with its pre-WWII borders. No presence in the Baltics, or anywhere else in Eastern Europe. A bit of British and American wishful thinking?

But no worries. Loosely attached to the flyleaf when you open the Atlas, you'll find this note.



Here, look closer. After the United Nations finishes hashing out all of the new borders and Spheres of Influence, you'll be able to mail $1 to them and get updated inserts for your atlas.

I can't tell you how tempted I was to send them a dollar when I got this atlas about 12 years ago. Then I noticed This certificate good until one year after the signing of boundary treaties. That pissed me off. (For those of you who weren't paying attention...does the title make sense now?)



I could, of course, publish nifty pictures and data charts from this for a long, long time without running out of material. Comparisons of Americans working in Agriculture vs. Industry are interesting. Some of the photos from around the world are terrific. There's a section of superlatives; tallest mountains, largest lakes, most active volcanoes, etc. (most of that stuff hasn't changed).

Just thought I'd share.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sometimes It's Hard To Assign Blame.

There's a lot of shit floating around right now proclaiming that Michael Jackson's hair catching fire during the shoot for his 1984 Pepsi commercial is what led to his addiction to pain killers and, ultimately to his death. That may (or may not) be so. I have no idea and unless my little blog here is attracting a whole lot more exclusive readership than usual, neither do you. And that won't be the point of this post anyway.

There are also a bunch of people spouting off that they'll never drink Pepsi again because Pepsi killed Michael. That's incredibly moronic and more close to the point of this post. But first, a few disclaimers.

Disclaimer #1: I'm a Coke drinker. I just don't like Pepsi. I never have. If I order a Coke with a meal and the waitress asks, "Is Pepsi OK, honey?", I'll say, "How about an Iced Tea?" If they bring me a Pepsi without asking, I'll say, "This Coke tastes funny. Could I have an Iced Tea instead?" This disclaimer is basically to say, I have no allegiance to Pepsi and no motive to defend them.

Disclaimer #2: THIS POST IS ALMOST ENTIRELY PURE SPECULATION! It's speculation that is informed by more than 20 years involved in film production which has included Feature Films, TV Shows, TV Commercials, Music Videos, etc., but it's still speculation. If anybody reading this feels the need to point out that I'm speculating, kindly restrain yourself. I know that already.

Disclaimer #3: I don't think I've ever worked for Bob Giraldi (who directed the commercial), or any of his companies. I've certainly known who he was for ages, but I don't have any allegiance or bones to pick there. I don't think I know a single person who worked on the commercial or who was there. It's a small world, so it's entirely possible I do know somebody, but I'm not aware of it. No bones there either.

Let's start with what I do know. This was meant to be one of the first mega-commercials...one that was meant to have the audience going, "Holy shit, Michael is selling Pepsi". He was at the top of his popularity and this wasn't just going to be a celebrity endorsement...it was going to be an event. They shot it at the Shrine Auditorium in L.A. and had an audience of about 3000 extras to simulate a concert.

Most people don't know a whole lot more than that. Pepsi settled out of court, so there's no testimony to look back at. (I'll come back to this, but Pepsi was at the top of the food chain of association and had the deepest pockets, so it's not surprising that they took the hit.) It being the nature of film shoots, I doubt that more than a few people who were there know more than the little portion of things they witnessed. They've all heard a lot more than I did, but on a set, there's a lot of people who don't actually watch what's being shot up close. Kathy Griffith is quoted as saying that she was an extra in the crowd and didn't know what had occurred until she got home and saw it on the news.

On any commercial, you've got a whole lot of people involved. First there's the Client -- That's Pepsi. They get to throw a lot of weight around since it's ultimately all their money paying for everything so they're the ones being catered to. Then there's the Agency. I don't know who the Ad Agency was for Pepsi at the time and I'm too lazy to go looking for the information. Doesn't really matter. The commercial was their idea and they've got a lot riding on it. Pepsi is no second-rate Client and the Agency would be doing everything in their power to please them. Then there's a Production Company. Again, I'm not sure if this was a company that Bob Giraldi was a partner in or if he was a hired gun, (he had directed some of Jackson's videos, so he would have been an obvious choice), but once again, doesn't matter. Even if the situation gives the Production Company more power than they might normally enjoy, they'll have wanted to please the Agency -- the guys who hired them. And in this particular case, let's add Michael Jackson. He would have been the 800-lb. gorilla in the room -- or more likely, the 800-ton gorilla.

So, we start off with a whole lot of Chiefs. There may have been a bazillion Indians there, but still, more per-capita Chiefs than usual.

Then, let's look at what they were doing and where they were doing it. In short, they were shooting a pyrotechnic extravaganza. And whenever you insert a person into the shot with the pyrotechnics, be it the star or a stunt-player -- make no mistake, what you're shooting constitutes a stunt. Michael Taylor ran an excellent post about how dangerous and unpredictable stunts can be -- you should read it. The long and the short of it is that stunts require people who know what the hell they're doing, both in front of and behind the camera. And even when everyone knows what they're doing -- shit happens.

Since this was a stunt, I'll presume there was a stunt coordinator on set. I don't know that, but I can't imagine having any actor I know of walk through a pyrotechnic explosion without a stunt-coordinator on hand. I'm absolutely certain there was an Effects Coordinator on hand -- one with all the proper licensing since this was not only being shot in L.A., but in an arena in L.A. They have lots of regulations about that sort of thing in L.A. And here's where it may get complicated. Who was the Effects Coordinator? It may have been someone chosen by Giraldi and the Production Company -- that would be the situation on any run-of-the-mill commercial. It may have been someone approved by the Shrine Auditorium -- a union house which would have a different union than the one representing the film crew and anyone Giraldi might have hired. In this case, it could be further complicated by Michael Jackson. He may have said, "We do this stuff in concert all over the world. I want my guy."

And guess what? If the Effects guy was Michael's guy, the Shrine would have said, "Fine, but we've got Union Contracts and we can't be in breach of those contracts. You can have Michael's guy work here, but you'll have to hire a matching crew (same number of bodies) for the Effects crew you bring in. And the Production Company would have said, "We've got Union Contracts too. We'll be bringing in a matching crew from the film union." It's impossible to speculate on how these (potentially) three full Effects crews worked (or didn't work) together. I've seen situations where it's all very cooperative and copacetic and they all acknowledge one Head-Guy and everybody works together just fine. I've seen situations where the "matching crews" show up and drink coffee and never lift a finger for their paychecks. It also could have been anything in between those two extremes. And whatever the situation was, it may or may have not contributed to the accident.

Since we're in L.A. (with some of the most stringent regulations for pyrotechnics you'll run into anywhere), there's also a Fire Captain on the set. He would have decided what, if any, additional Fire Department personnel or equipment would have been present. Here's an article claiming that the Fire Captain overheard Giraldi telling Jackson to wait a little longer before making his entrance. Giraldi denies this. And once again, it makes little difference to my premise.

Here. Take a brief look at this article from Rolling Stone. It includes the video that's got everyone up in arms. (Note: The article and I, are both crediting Us Magazine for the video. I'm not sure credit is really the appropriate word since it's about as exploitative as you can get, but...) In the second paragraph of the story, there's this:

"Jackson, unaware that he’s on fire, continues to perform until he is rushed by dozens of stagehands who quickly help douse the flames. After the fire extinguishers are emptied and the chaos has died down..."


Maybe I missed something, but what I see is maybe a half dozen people rush Jackson (after about 10 seconds) and pat out the flames. I don't see any fire extinguishers in use at all. They may be referring to this shot, but that seemed to show Jackson spinning and producing a cloud of smoke...not anyone using a fire extinguisher.

So, where the hell were all of the fire extinguishers? Here's another picture. This is a screenshot from the opening of the video. It's a fairly wide angle (not a telephoto lens), so there shouldn't have been a great distance between Jackson and the camera at this point. Lots of room for someone to be standing nearby with a fire extinguisher without being in the frame.

And if you think, "Oh, there must have been a bunch of cameras. Maybe there was no place that was close but out of all the cameras' frames." Guess what? There's a camera with at least three people (probably more), directly behind Jackson getting this angle. Adding one more guy next to the camera wouldn't have been an issue. Or maybe there wasn't any place for a safety guy to be out of all the shots. Doesn't matter. Think of it this way -- If one angle is going to be blown for part of the shot because someone cuing an effect has to be in that camera's frame, they'll know that part of the one camera's footage won't be usable -- and the guy will scramble out of frame when his part in the action is done. There's no reason not to have a safety guy considered as indispensable as the guy setting off the effect.

Here's my point. This, like most accidents on a set, this was a perfect storm of things coming together -- not one person's fault.

The Fire Captain says he heard Giraldi tell Jackson to wait longer before clearing the effect. He could have stepped in.

Maybe the effects guy didn't hear about Giraldi telling Jackson to wait a couple more beats. Doesn't matter. He should have had a line of sight to both Jackson and the effect and could have held back from triggering it with Jackson still in the line of fire.

Maybe there were too many Chiefs and sets of Indians in the Effects Crew. I honestly have no answer for why Jackson wasn't hit by two or more fire extinguishers before he made it halfway down the stairs to the stage.

Pepsi took the hit because, ultimately, everyone was working for them and they had the deepest pockets. If there had been civil suits, there would have been a lot of defendants, and after all of the insurance companies finished suing each other, Pepsi still would have been left holding the bag.

Jackson took the money and donated it to what is now a prestigious burn center in L.A. If I'm not mistaken, this incident didn't cause Jackson to sever his relationship with Pepsi. I'm pretty sure there were more commercials after this.

When I execute a Location Agreement with someone, there's a lot of language about liability involved. They always include some verbiage that says each party is liable to the extent that their negligence or misconduct contributes to whatever bad stuff everyone's trying to protect themselves from.

You'll never see a brilliant shot in a movie that is the sole product of some one person's work and genius. A lot of people contributed to that shot. Accidents are the same -- lot's of people contribute.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Reliable Service and The Car Wash Guy!

I'm not going to put up any major posts until I get the blog back to firing on all cylinders, but here's a couple of brief things.

First of all, I'm saved from having to write a long tirade about air travel since Jim has that pretty well covered lately. A two-parter, no less! But I did think I should pass on this tidbit. I bought a new bag before my recent travels. If you count connections, this bag has now flown on four flights. It arrived at LaGuardia with a fairly substantial hole torn in the side.

I decided to go to baggage services before leaving the airport so I could have my complaint on record. I knew I wasn't in for a good time as soon as I walked into their little office. The one guy behind the counter is trying to help some guy who lives in Detroit, but barely speaks English; he was Japanese. That's OK. The guy behind the counter didn't speak such great English himself (although I'm certain he's at least a third- or fourth-generation American). He keeps asking the woman (who I assumed was his supervisor) how to enter stuff into the computer. I figured I could just bump my complaint up the food chain until, she grabbed her purse and left, with a cheery, "G'night. See you tomorrow".

I'll boil this down to one salient point. In attempting to remind me that there are signs saying Delta isn't responsible for "incidental" damage (i.e. dents, scrapes, etc.), he repeatedly told me that "Delta isn't reliable for your problem!" I had a very difficult time sticking to my script; that a hole isn't exactly a dent or a scrape, while I tried to point out that he was either choosing his words badly or he was making my own point for me.

And then there's The Car Wash Guy! A guy I know; another Location Manager working in NY, posted on Facebook that he was moving to my neighborhood. He posted the address and I thought, "Damn, that's right down the block". Later, I walked up to the store and decided to pay attention and see which building he was moving into. Well it turns out, he's moving into the building where the Car Wash Guy lives. I don't know what he does during the winter, but every spring, a badly lettered sign shows up on the corner reading "Adorable Hand Wash Car Expert". I can't do the sign justice since he always has at least a couple of letters reversed -- like a Toys-R-Us sign -- but I can't get Blogger to let me type backwards letters. He spends all day out in front of his house with a couple of traffic cones blocking off space for his customers and a big tub of water that he fills out of a fire hydrant down the block. I see cars there sometimes, so I know he has some customers.

The thing is -- one evening, my doorbell rang at around dinner time. It was The Car Wash Guy. He seemed agitated and said he had to get up to The Bronx right away -- could he borrow eight dollars for the bus? I only had a twenty and I loaned it to him without thinking twice. I've asked him for the money a few times and he hasn't ever gotten around to actually paying me back. That was about four years ago.

I'm thinking that if you add in interest, he owes me about six thousand dollars now. I hope he washes a lot of cars this year.

P.S. I make no warrantees regarding the accuracy of my math skills.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Call For Judges...or, Just Going Through The Damn Motions.

As of yesterday, the deadline passed for entering my Pitch me a Spinoff Contest. And let me just state, for the record, you people are pathetic! The judging isn't really going to be all that difficult.

Anyway, in keeping with the rules I established, I'm going to assemble a panel of judge from the lamest entries. Yes, that's right, I said judge -- singular. That's because even though Michelle can't follow rules -- witness her five entries into a contest with a two-entry limit, she's still the only choice to be a judge. And that's in spite of making me laugh with this entry:

Baywatch: David Hasselhoff and the Girdle of Doom

So Michelle, let's have a discussion here in the comments and see if we can judge whether Eric should win with his entry...or possibly Eric should win with his entry. Then again, there's always Eric...with his entry. it's just so hard to choose.

Prepare to be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

The blog is still borked. Uber-borked. Blogger is being uniquely unhelpful with unborking it. I believe I will have it fixed in the next day or so and then there will be much celebrating throughout the land!

You may have noticed that my blogroll disappeared from the sidebar. I'll put that back after my url issues are fixed. I'd hate to go to the trouble of putting it all back again and then having the fix just make me do it all over again again.

In the meantime, I've been looking at a scaffolding across the street for something like two years while they replaced all the windows in the school there. The scaffolding is coming down. And the process apparently requires frequent repetition of the sentence, "Jaimie, move your fuckin' ass!"

P.S. I have no idea how the title of this post relates to the content either. Maybe it's a free-associating thing.

P.P.S. I actually have actual blog posts in mind, but I'm waiting til the blog has been de-secrefied before posting them. I know the anticipation is just killing you all.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Judge SotoMichael?

I've just gone more than a week without seeing a TV or newspaper (and it didn't hurt a bit). But yesterday, the guy across from me in the airport was reading a newspaper and since the part below the fold that was facing me was upside down, I wasn't sure who's picture I was looking at.

I'm not sure I can ever look at her the same way again.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

...On A Plane.

So, 6:00am this morning found me standing in line to check my bag at the Duluth International Airport. And I see a guy walking across the airport with that distinctive cap on backwards.



The first thing that went through my mind was, "What the hell would Samuel L. Jackson be doing at the airport in Duluth at 6:00am on a Sunday morning?" The next thing that went through my mind was, "No, that's just some Samuel L. Jackson wannabe...not the real deal."

And the next thing that went through my mind was , "I like Samuel L. Jackson, but if that had been him, I would have seriously reconsidered getting on that plane." I'm betting his flights are pretty un-crowded these days!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Death of a Binky.

Not all Binkies are created equal.

Once upon a time, I was working on a job in Cincinnati and a rather large fellow by the name of Nathaniel interviewed to work for me. I was suitably impressed by him (and I loathed the only other guy I interviewed) so I hired him. I decreed -- as is my wont to do -- that there could only be one Nathan in the department, so Nathaniel would henceforth be known to one and all as...Binky. He was introduced to practically everyone else on the movie as Binky; I'm not sure many people knew his real name.

You may think this was a cruel nickname to hang on some poor young guy who was otherwise as un-Binky-like as one can imagine -- and it was. It got even worse when Nathaniel moved to NY -- and was once again introduced to people...as Binky. I believe he was stuck with the name for 5 or 6 years.

So, did Binky die? No! Heaven forfend! He's alive and well and working far enough from my circle of hell to have outgrown that hated nickname. I saw him only a couple of months ago and he's positively flourishing.

So what the fuck is this post about? It's about my binky! I believe it was around 1994, that Anonymous GF bought a sweatshirt. It was a really comfortable sweatshirt. It was without stupid logos or printing that one might outgrow or come to despise. It was soft and warm. It was everything one could hope for in a sweatshirt.

I decided it was mine.

I wore it constantly. I wore it so much that GF compared it to Linus' security blanket. She decreed that it should henceforth be referred to as my Binky! After about 5 years of constant wear, it started to develop some imperfections. I didn't care. It was my Binky!

GF is not in the habit of dictating to me what I may and may not wear, but she decreed that the Binky was no longer to be worn in public. I heard and obeyed (mostly). A couple of weeks ago, I pulled on my trusty, loyal Binky to do some stuff in the backyard, and even I had to acknowledge that the thing had grown a bit ratty. Need some documentation?








Yup! Poor Binky needed to be put out of its misery. I decided I'd bring it on our trip to Minnesota and say goodbye to it with proper ceremony. You don't just toss such a beloved item in the trash after so many years of faithful service. Things of this nature must be cremated and properly mourned.

So, the other night, after grilled pizza (which I accidentally burned, but that's another story), Vince, his Ex, Anon GF and I all gathered to honor my old, old friend.














Yes, tears were shed -- mine were honest mourning; theirs were from laughing at me -- the bastards! I am now without a Binky. I'm am bereft of Bink. I am Binkless.

I'm on the lookout for a replacement.

This place has been broken for a couple of days. Now it's still a little broken.

I have no idea whether or not anybody else will find their way here today. It seems that if you don't type in the original .blogspot address or the polybloggimous address WITH a www. prefix, you won't get here.

My blogroll got eaten---it's gone. Most links to older posts won't work because their linked without the www. prefix.

Maybe I can fix it all when I get home and have a phone that doesn't drop my calls every 12 seconds.

Say "Hi" if you got here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Let This Be A Lesson To You!

If you sit in a boat long enough with your legs tucked up under the seat, you get really red from the end of your shorts down to your knee-tops. And from your knees on down, you maintain that fishy, cadaverous hue.

I'm not sure this is terribly attractive. YMMV.

It's An Enigma!

I'm about to get in the boat and go to the far side of the lake because "local knowledge" tells me that's where the fish are.

People from the far side of the lake seem to come over and fish about 40 yards off the end of our dock...because "local knowledge" tells them that's where the fish are.

Should I just fish off the end of the dock or is getting in the boat a prerequisite to catching fish.

(I know part of the answer. Last night we were fishing off the dock -- cause we didn't feel like getting in the boat as full dark approached. While I had the rod behind me--in position to cast, my bait dipped in the water and I caught a small bass before I could bring it forward.)

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Rogaine of The Internet Grows Another Follicle on The UCF Hairball---and I'm Not Calling Anybody Pitiful, But...

First of all, I made my radio debut on Vince's show here in lovely Ely, MN last night. I know for a fact my fan was listening. I've got the text messages to prove it. When I get around to it, I'll post a more thorough description of my experiences on End of the Road Radio -- and there's pics! (Anon GF was recruited as our staff photographer.)

I'll get to that in a day or so. I promise.

In the meantime, what the hell is wrong with you people. There's a CONTEST going on here. Now I know there's been a little holiday, and I know I didn't exactly give you guys a killer deadline -- there's still a week to submit entries -- but the response, so far, is...really pathetic. Without making any value judgments on the entries that have shown up to date, I just want to point out that the current standings are unavoidably easy to recount:

Currently in First Place: Eric!
Currently in Last Place: Eric!
Currently the only Judge named to the panel to help me decide: Eric!

None of that was hard to figure out since Eric has submitted the only friggin' entry!

Now get with it people!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth Of July!


Today, on this 1612th anniversary of our independence, please take a moment from your beer and bratwurst and attempts at removing body parts with explosives you have no business messing with in the first place and consider the debt we all owe to:

-those brave colonial manure vendors who bravely vanquished the Vikings, Visigoths and Cylons -- courageously ousting them from our shores for all time.

-George Washington and Robert Oppenheimer for turning the tide at the Battle of Pensacola by means of the the ingenious diversion the Ohio River into Costa Rica.

-Ronald Reagan for ordering the boy with his finger in the dyke to just give it up and "...tear down this wall."

-To Teddy Roosevelt who inhabited the body of King George, III and famously declared, "John, I can see your house from here".

To these and countless others, pay a moment of homage and acknowledge the debt we owe them all. And if you have a moment more, dine on some boiled bacon...in honor of the heroic swine who prevented Old Faithful and the rest of Yosemite from falling into the hands of our enemies during the two-decade long siege which tried to wrest it from our stewardship.

Happy Independence Day!

Hey Kids...How 'Bout Some Crappy Pictures From An Airplane?

First two nights will be spent at GF's mother's place on Park Point. Until a couple of years ago, this spit of land was overrun with rabbits. Gajillions of rabbits. They don't have rabbits anymore. That little island you see is a bird sanctuary and also the home to a bunch of foxes who feasted on the rabbits. I happen to know they didn't get all of them. But they're gone. I'm not asking any questions.

Here's an ore ship about to go under the Richard I. Bong  John A. Blatnik Bridge, linking Duluth, MN to Superior, WI. (You should still read the Bong article even if I got Duluth's bridges mixed up. Amazing guy).


Another shot of the ore ship. Why? There wasn't a whole lot else to take pictures of.


That's the Superior Entry to St. Louis Bay.

Hey! Look at that. Is that a great lake or what? Some might even say it's Superior. (Groan).