Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Screen Time, Shooting Time, Scheduling.

As I mentioned a few days ago, today is the Time Carnival hosted by L.A. Mitchell. I had intended to write my entry ahead of time, but other things (like exploding refrigerator starter motors), got in the way.  So here I am, almost ten hours into the event, just now writing my entry.  Where did the time go?

For a while now, I've been meaning to do a post about scheduling movie shoots.  This won't be that post.  Not quite.

Scheduling a movie shoot is an exercise in futility.  There are a million elements that come into play and you need to keep track of them all.  How many pages will you shoot each day? Will there be enough daylight for the scenes you're scheduling.  Once you create a schedule will the actors, props, locations, equipment and myriad other elements be available on the days you've scheduled for each scene.  Will the Teamster driving the Director remember to put gas in the car so he arrives on time.

I tell you...just thinking about it is exhausting.

A while back, I was Googling the subject and I was surprised to find how little there is on the internet about the art/science of scheduling a movie shoot. And some of it is utterly useless unless you're a rocket scientist.  Don't believe me?  Look at this:

I know that some of my readers can probably make sense of that, (DORKS), but I'm not one of them.  

Let's start at the beginning.  If you have a Steven Spielberg sized budget, you get to shoot as many days as you want to, so you might schedule yourself to shoot, oh....two pages per day.  If you're like most of the movie making world, you might schedule 5 pages per day.  If you're financing your movie with a bake sale your mother is having, you'll be shooting 12 pages per day.

So, now, you know how many pages you need to cram into each shooting day.  It's time to break down your script.  The movie-making world divides scripts into eighths of pages...because the text on a script page occupies about 8 inches of vertical space.  They even do this in the metric-speaking world as far as I know.  And we always talk in 1/8ths of pages.  A scene might be 2-4/8th pages long.  It will never get translated into 2-1/2 pages.  It just isn't done.

And 1/8th of a page is the smallest unit you're allowed to divide things into.  

Ext. Courthouse - DAY:  Johnny enters the courthouse.

That's 1/8th of a page.  You might find a whole bunch of stuff like that on one page of your script.  Each one of them is 1/8th of a page.  Therefore, it's not unheard of to have 14/8ths of a page on one script page.  Live with it.

Now you'd think this would simplify things...and to an extent, it does.  Hell, how long can it take to shoot Johnny entering the courthouse? (I'm leaving out the fact that the script probably specifies that there are 30 NEWS CREWS, 50 PROTESTERS, 20 COURT SECURITY, 10 MOUNTED POLICEMEN in the background for the scene.  And that the scene takes place in 1920, so they're all in period costume.  And the News Crews are all using quaintly archaic cameras with the flash powder going off.  And you get the idea.  This might not take all that long to shoot, but it's going to take for-fucking-ever to get ready to shoot.

But anyway, let's just accept, for a moment that shooting an 1/8th of a page shouldn't really take all that long.  Really?  You're going to just accept that?  You silly, naive person, you.

How about this 1/8th page scene from Gone With The Wind?

EXT. STREET - DAY: Atlanta Burns

How long do you think that sucker is gonna take you to shoot?  A week maybe?  Hah!

And while we're on the subject, there's another thing that screenwriters love to do.  They love to saddle you with the impossible.  They'll write that scene where their two protagonists argue for two pages with really snappy dialog and then they look into each others' eyes and realize that they're only fighting because they're totally in love with each other and their gaze lingers (ten seconds of screentime / two hours of shooting time while they try to stop giggling long enough to get one good take), and then THEY KISS!  And, of course, since the scene is so romantic and it's such a pivotal moment in the movie, the writer will specify that the scene takes place at magic hour.  It'll be fucking GORGEOUS!  The audience will sob and cheer and...and...and...  The poor schmuck trying to schedule the movie will try to figure out how to shoot a scene that takes up 12 minutes of screentime and 5 hours of shooting time during magic hour...which lasts about 15 minutes in 90% of the world's latitudes!

Anyway, this should give you just a hint of what we're up against when we try to schedule a shoot.  The cards are stacked against us before we even start.  And similarly, there are so many variables that trying to explain how to schedule a movie becomes a daunting task.  And it takes a lot of time to distill all of that information.  Which is why I've been threatening to write a post about how to schedule a movie for about a year now and I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

And now, I've gotta hit the "Publish" button, or time will run out on the Time Carnival before I even get this inadequate post posted.  I swear, I'll get around to it someday.  Time flies when you're agonizing over a page that's desperately in need of more editing.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

This Just In...Watching The News Can Give You Ear Cancer!

You know how there are some bands that show up and take a certain arc on you consciousness?  They show up and you know immediately that they're never going to be anyone you actually like.  But they really don't offend you all that much.  You might even be able to make it through a song on the radio without having to change the station.

Then another one of their songs starts getting some airplay.  It's more or less indistinguishable from the first one you heard.  Everything about it sounds the same to you.  You've never even bothered to really listen to the lyrics, so all you hear is some whiny redundant crap and you reach for the dial the moment you hear its first strains.

And the next thing you know, this band is inexplicably popular.  There are apparently lots of people who like this cacophonous drek and they actually hear deep meaning in the lyrics; lyrics that you can't even hear.  And when they come on the radio and you change the station, they're on every other fucking station and the only option left to you is to KILL YOUR RADIO WITH A BRICK!

Your mileage may vary, but in my case, let's just call that band Creed.  Here, listen to about 30 seconds of this and tell me you don't feel the urge to throw your laptop across the room.

And I actually previewed a bunch of different Creed songs on YouTube, trying to settle on the epitome of Creed Crapulence and just reiterated to myself that Creed, has, in fact, only ever written and performed ONE SONG, and somehow convinced everybody that it's a bunch of different songs, but it's only ONE SONG and that song sucks.  And it's on every channel and KILL  IT, KILL IT, KILL IT WITH A BRICK!

(Pardon me while I stop hyperventilating and catch my breath.)

Now, lest you think I'm somehow all worked up over Creed this morning, let me reassure you; they don't normally register enough on my consciousness to warrant a mention.  But they came to mind while I was searching for a metaphor.

You see...Creed is Sarah Palin.  But whereas Creed is essentially benign, Sarah has turned malignant and she's metastasized. 

When Sarah first showed up, I knew she was never going to be somebody I actually liked.  But she was unintentionally amusing.  And now, she's showing up all over the place and there are a whole lot of people who adore her and find deep meaning in her litany of home-spun Common-Sensey, hopey-changey bashing.  And all I can hear is the same whiny, redundant crap and I can't even hear the lyrics 'cause I know it's just more nonsense, BUT THERE ARE A BUNCH OF RETARDS CHEERING FOR EVERY GODDAMN THING SHE SAYS!  (That's right...I called them retards and I'm not being sarcastic or whateverthehell Sarah said Rush was doing when she gave him a pass on using the word "retards".  I'm being literal -- they're brain damaged yahoos who are mentally, emotionally and socially RETARDED.)

(Pardon me while I stop hyperventilating and catch my breath.)

Here's the thing.  I was watching the news the other night and they ran the story about her speaking at McCain's rally and I tried to hear whether or not she actually had anything to say.  And she didn't.  All she's managed to do is to perfect her demagoguery and it wouldn't matter if she stopped speaking English and started delivering her tirades in Farsi or Sumerian or whatever other language I don't understand a word of.  Just the sound of her voice and her cadence and that vocal smirk that shows up in every other sentence is enough to make me want to shoot my TV. (Which is really a good argument for gun control since I'm convinced that if I did own a gun I might actually do it and that would be just senseless, because it's not like it's my TV's fault or anything.)

I'm not sure I have any unifying point here other than to say that I find it really scary that so many people take this woman seriously.  And I suppose I should just close by saying that if I've offended anyone, I humbly apologize.

Creed was never anywhere near as appalling an entity as Sarah Palin.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Have I Ever Mentioned...

...that when I was in First Grade, Lorne Greene showed up at my school to convince us to tell our parents to vote for Hubert Humphrey for President?  And then they handed out mimeographs of his autograph?

I still can't believe Humphrey lost to Nixon with that kind of machine in operation.

They Say The Neon Lights Are Bright On Broadway.

Last week, I ran across this photo on Lost City.  Even though I didn't move to NY until 1986, this particular block looked pretty much the same then as in the picture taken in 1978.

The shot shows the Northwest corner of Broadway and 46th Street, looking north up Broadway.  And there, mocking me in the left side of the frame is the Howard Johnson's Restaurant that sat there from 1959 until 2005.  Not that I have anything against Howard Johnson -- you may recall that at the age of 9, I championed Howard Johnson over their evil competitor, Holiday Inn.  

Let's just step into the WABAC machine, shall we?  It was probably 1987 and I was on some job (can't remember which one), and I was assigned to prep Times Square for a night shoot.  On the one hand, this was kind of an easy assignment.  Let's face it, Times Square is what it is.  There's not that much you can or would want to do with it.  On the other hand,  all of those neon signs were on timers and would start turning off between midnight and 1:00A.M.  If you're planning to shoot all night, you don't want your location going dark in the middle of the shoot.

If you want to keep all of the lights lit up in Times Square now, you have to contact 20-30 individual building owners and advertisers -- they all control their own signs (called Spectaculars).  In those days, there were two billboard companies who built and maintained all of the signs,  Artkraft Strauss, and Van Wagner.   And I figured, how hard can this be?  I'll call two companies and find out how much it costs to have all of the timers reset and Bob's your uncle! And, at first, it pretty much worked out that way. During one of these conversations, I was informed that the Howard Johnson controlled the signs on their building and another building that they owned on the opposite side of Times Square.  Since we'd be shooting right near 46th Street, these two building would be fairly prominent, so, I set out to secure Howard Johnson's cooperation.

That green dot on the left is where the restaurant was and the one on the right was the other building they owned.  I'll digress for a moment to mention that I was warned  the owner, was somewhat eccentric.  I think the words "piece of work" were used.  It seems that different companies had been trying to buy up his properties for a while and that he had rebuffed some pretty spectacular offers. And it wasn't just that he was turning down offers at multiples of the actual property values -- he had a reputation for deciding, at first sight, what he thought of any company's representative and then dealing with them accordingly.  I was led to understand that it wasn't unheard of for him to get no further than hearing some guy introduce himself before saying, "This meeting is over!"  If he didn't like you, he just wasn't going to do business with you.

By way of illustration, look at these next two shots.  The building with the Mama Mia sign on it is the one he didn't want to sell on the east side of Times Square.  When Bertelsmann was planning to build their NY Headquarters, they attempted to buy the entire block.  Howard Johnson held out.  Eventually, Bertelsmann adjusted their design to leave the little building on the corner.  It's still there.

Bertelsmann is the tower you see taking up the rest of the block.

Anyway, I looked up the phone number and tried calling a few times.  Each time I called, trying to find that time of day when there would A.) be a responsible adult in residence, and B.) a time when they weren't being slammed with customers, I'd get, "Call back later.  Very busy." CLICK.  After two days of this, trying early morning, middle of the afternoon between lunch and dinner, late at night, I decided I'd better show up in person.

I walked into the restaurant, which I've got to say was wonderful in its own right.  The decor looked like it hadn't changed since the day they opened with a really cool cocktail bar in the back, orange vinyl booths and chandeliers.  The staff also looked like they'd been there since opening day.  I managed to get one guy's attention long enough for him to point outside and say, "Around back.  Upstairs!"  I took this to mean there was an office upstairs and that I should go bother them.

By this time, I was a nervous wreck.  I was a total newbie.  So far, my contact with Howard Johnson had consisted of a few really brusk brush offs.  Now, I was being sent upstairs, presumably to talk to the guy who I'd been warned made all of his decisions based on first impressions.  And standing there on the street, I was fully realizing how badly I'd be fucking up the scene if I couldn't get these two buildings to stay lit up.

I went upstairs.  I can't remember if they were on the second or third floor, but I remember going up a dusty narrow stairway and emerging into a big room with maybe 10  or 12 desks sort of randomly strewn about.  There was no receptionist.  I stood in the doorway for a couple of seconds while nobody acknowledged my presence.  Suddenly, from the opposite corner of the room, somebody hollered, "Waddayouwant?"

Nobody else in the room looked up and the Hollerer didn't make any sort of gesture indicating that I should approach him, so I hollered back from the doorway over everyone else's heads.  After telling him as briefly as possible what I wanted, he picked up his phone, dialed a number and then hollered into the phone (as if he was still talking to me across the room), "Keep all the lights on next Thursday"!

He never looked at me again and didn't say anything else, so eventually, I just slunk back down the stairs, not really sure if I'd succeeded or not.

Happily, the lights all stayed on for our shoot.  I guess the guy liked me.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


By way of Todd Wheeler's blog, I've discovered* that L.A. Mitchell** is having a BLOG CARNIVAL this coming Wednesday, March 31st. (The info about the carnival shows up in the fourth paragraph of the linked post).  Anyway, the basics are that she's inviting bloggers to do a post on Wednesday about TIME.  As L.A. says,

"...your post can be any format, any medium, any take, any ramble or a mad cluster of links, as long as it has something to do with TIME."

If you want to play, you can comment on the linked post on L.A.'s blog or email her. (address is in her post also).  I'm assuming she'll publish a list of participating blogs so we can run around annoying visiting all the other Carni-valers(?)

*I realize it's a little presumptuous to say that I've discovered something when all I've really done was the difficult task of comprehending that Todd told me something.

**L.A. Mitchell is a regular commenter over there on Todd's site and, for the longest time, I misread her name as L.A. Michelle, thinking that was her way of distinguishing herself from Random Michelle.  I'm an idiot!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

As Long As We're On The Subject of The Damn Cats...

It would appear that I'm not that bad of a cartoonist.

Lost In Translation?

Go to this linked article.  Read as little or as much of it as you like, but scroll down to ITEM C.  Do you think Brazilian parents named their kid after the wrong band or maybe someone at The Sun stopped typing into the Google Search window as soon as it suggested anything that came close to making sense?

Apparently, At Least One of the Cats Does Not Approve of Having the Food Dishes Moved Into The Bathroom...Even Just Long Enough To Get Them Out Of My Way In The Kitchen.

And it's not easy to tell from this picture but that is not my shadow between my feet and Widget's head.  It's where the water dish was tipped over just like the food dishes.

This Morning's Extremely Important News From Pittsburgh.

"Police said a man will be charged with public drunkenness after witnesses saw him attempting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a road-killed opossum."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Odds of Your Hair Developing a SuperPower are Vanishingly Remote. But I'll Bet Even Money on It Embarrassing the Crap Out of You a Few Years Down the Road.

I'm not going to try to pass myself off as any type of fashion guru.  I have no fashion sense whatsoever.  I do, however, know dorky when I see it.  By way of a disclaimer, I suppose I should admit that my idea of a hairstyle when I was young was that I didn't sit in a chair near anyone with scissors from 1971 until, oh...1983.  When I eventually had it cut, I just said, "Shorter".  Nowadays, I get my haircut religiously...once every 4 or 5 months, whether I need it or not.

That said, I've been seeing a surfeit of dorky hair choices these days. I'm not talking about the hairstyles that can be blamed on one particular celebrity or another.  I'm not talking Dorothy Hamill or Farah Fawcett, or Jennifer Aniston do's.  Those were excusable no matter how bad they may have looked on you.  Hell, even the Mullet was (briefly) cool before it became the domain of Cletuses everywhere.

And on occasion, most people found the will to resist the unpardonably absurd.  Hell, some people thought this was THE SHIT!

Anyway, there are a couple of styles showing up wherever I look and, you should understand that I'm being really kind when I tell you, "Just stop it."  Really,  do something else with your head and you'll thank me when you're looking a pictures in 15 or 20 years (unless, God forbid, you're one of those people who plans to keep cutting your hair that way for the rest of your life).

Stupid Haircut #1:  The FauxHawk.

Dude!  You look like a toilet brush...the kind that's worn out and needs to be replaced.  You look like you slept funny and didn't take a shower this morning.  You look like someone's squeezing your head.  Really!  You have no reason to be smiling.

Stupid Haircut #2: I have no idea what this is called.

In fact, I'm not even sure how you make your hair look like that.  Maybe you get out of the shower and wrap a towel around your head really tightly and leave it on until it dries?  Or there might be a turbine or cyclone involved.  And LOTS of product.  Here's the thing about this haircut.  It seems to say, "Look at me.  I'm all windblown and natural and you should adore me."  But whenever I see someone with this haircut, I notice one of two other things.  Either you never move your head for fear of displacing your do, or no matter how violently you move your head, your hair doesn't move a millimeter.  Neither is attractive.  You look like a dork.

Feel free to forward your other fashion questions. I love being helpful this way.

Edited to add... I just ran across a link to Lesbians who look like Justin Bieber and it totally fits the theme of this post. (Thanks to Deus Ex Malcontent). Also, I've decided to call that haircut a swirly.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

T.V. In India Has To Be The Awesomest T.V. IN THE WORLD!

Here in 'Murika, there are a bunch of reality shows  The consequences of losing aren't all that dire.  If you get kicked off of American Idol, you don't get to be a pop star, but odds are you wouldn't have been one anyway.  If you get voted off of Survivor, you move out of the wilderness and into a luxury hotel and then, every couple of days you show up to watch the other guys snipe at each other.  If you're on Wife Swap, you might become a pariah. (O.K., maybe that's a bad example.)

But what happens when you lose a dare on Indian T.V.?  THEY FUCKING KILL YOU!!111!!ll!

I may botch the details on this since I'm completely stealing the story from Times Online, and I tried watching the video, but couldn't understand any of what they were saying, but let me give it a shot. 

Some show has a tantric guru and the head of the Indian Rationalist Association on as guests.  Guru guy says, "I can KILL you using only my mystical powers" and Rationalist guy responds, “Go on then — kill me.”  So then Guru guy massages Rationalist guy's head and flings water at him and tries to shave his jacket with a pocketknife and, OMG, Rationalist guy TOTALLY DOESN'T DIE.

Guru guy makes excuses...and here's where Indian T.V. gets its awesome from; Whoever is in charge decides to stay live with this and CANCELS the rest of the day's programming.

Eventually, Guru guy says he needs it to be night and they need to be outside and...and...and...Rationalist guy says, "Hey, I can come back".  AND HE DOES.  And the channel carried that live too!

Indian T.V. is the Awesomest T.V. in the world and I want to take it home and hug it and kiss it and squeeze it and call it George!

In Case You MIssed It...

Everything about the man freaks them out!

Monday, March 22, 2010

I May Be Branching Out.

As far as movie-making goes, it's kinda dead in town right now.  My phone has not been ringing off the hook. (How old do you have to be to know what this "hook" is that the phone might be ringing off of?)

Anyway, I've always got my eyes peeled for other sources of income. I'm inspired by two stories I read yesterday.  First, we have this woman who can heal you by...oh, I haven't got a clue how she says she can heal you.  It's apparently got something to do with solving past psychological problems with who you used to be?  She says she is aware of 15-20 of her past lives, one of which was as a High Priestess in Egypt during the time of the Pyramids.

Hey, I could get all over that shit.  I'm aware of no less than 786 of my own past lives.  Infant mortality being what is was back there in history (and pre-history), 512 of my past lives didn't make it to the age of 7 months.  Another 57 died of diseases before reaching 5 years old.  6 were raised by wild animals and never achieved language skills and an unlucky 44 were used as virgin sacrifice by the age of ten.  None of those lives have much to offer my present-day me in the way of life coaching.

102 of my past lives were farmers; 17 were tradesmen of various types; 18 were horrible failures who begged on the streets; 7 were criminals executed for their crimes (twice for spitting in the street and accidentally hitting a nobleman's shoe).  Some of these might have been useful to present-day me, but would you believe not a single one of them spoke English?  I haven't got a clue what any of them are saying to me when I run across them.

This leaves 23 more past-life Nathans.  Six of these were lost at sea (a profession I haven't repeated since 1718...even I catch on sooner or later); Three dropped out of society and became hermits; 7 were military figures (not one achieving rank above "Cannon-Fodder, 1st Class").  One past-Nathan was on the wrong side in the American Revolution and disappeared under questionable circumstances.  Eight lacked basic intelligence and spent their lives in and out of Institutions. (Those eight are able to impart some really interesting observations on life, but they have to be taken with a grain of salt.) Of the remaining five, one was jailed in a mistaken identity case and never heard from again, two were trampled by horses and one was actually the first man to achieve the feat of heavier-than-air flight way back in 1802.  (Unfortunately, he was extremely secretive and carried out all attempts in private.  During his fourth flight, an errant gust of wind sent him plummeting into the ocean.  His achievements and secrets all died with him.)

In fact, only ONE of my past lives lived longer than 36 years.  One guy, born in the early 17th century went on to live 104 years.  He, however, was a miserable son of a bitch with the bathing habits of a ferret and the temperament of a constipated rhinoceros.

So, basically, if anyone came to me, I'd say, "You're 40 years old?  Holy shit, 785 of me envy you!"  This strikes me as affirmation worth $100's per hour.

Another idea was sparked by this article, about a guy who makes movies for plants. And I love the next project he's got planned.

...he's turning to another overlooked population - bacteria.

He hopes to create educational textbooks teaching general relativity and quantum mechanics to the micro organisms in "easy-to-digest doses of amino acid and glucose."

"I figure these books should be beneficial to both microbes and humans: by providing bacteria with a good education, we'll be able to improve their quality of life, and to discourage them from becoming pathogens."

Before he moves on from CineFlora (as I'm intending to call it), I intend to become the world's first film critic for plants.  All reviews will only be available in electronic form.  I'm pretty sure that making plants read stuff on paper crosses some line into cannibalism.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Update.

I'm off in search of snacks.  If I'm not back soon, notify the authorities!

Still Not A Cartoonist

The cats this morning.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Reasons I Am Not A Cartoonist!

I know you've all been wondering, "Nathan, why don't you ever draw any really cool and funny cartoons and include them on your blog"?  I know you have.

Exhibits A through Z
I drew this with my computer (not my feet)!  There were colors when I drew it, but the program wouldn't let me save them.  That picture of a dog was meant to be a scary/evil devil when I started that part.  I meant to draw the easel, but I forgot. I swear I drew the dog's tail and all four legs -- I don't know where they went.  All might be forgiven if I'd had something clever/funny/or witty to have the character say in the speech bubble -- I didn't.

Now you know all you need to know about the reasons I'm not a cartoonist.

Thanks for asking.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Free Parking! (But Not For You)

Last year, I wrote a thing about how confusing parking can be on NYC streets in general and on my block, in particular. I mentioned how there were some contradictory signs on the block that seemed to indicate that only about 1/3rd of the block was reserved for teachers and school administration, but that if you looked a little further down the block, you'd realize that all but about 5 spaces were reserved for them.

When I wrote that, I had completely forgotten that Mayor Bloomberg's War on Parking Placards had been such a rousing success. (Opinions varied depending on whether or not you were one of the people who lost your parking privileges -- Us movie-scout-types had lost our Scouting Permits a few years earlier, so we were mostly just Schadenfreude-ing about the whole thing.)

Anyway, back in 2008, the Department of Education had their allotment of Parking Placards cut from about 144,000 to about 63,000.  This, obviously means less teachers parking on the street.  And that should mean more spaces available to the rest of NYC's driving public right?


See, the thing is, they may have made it so that fewer teachers are allowed to park in reserved spaces in front of their school, but the spaces themselves are still reserved.  Nobody can park there now.

Here are a couple of shots of the school on my block.  The two cars parked nearest the camera in the first shot are there illegally and have tickets on their windshields.

This one car, further up the block had someone sitting in it waiting for someone.

The school uses about 10 spaces on my block every day.  Put another way, out of 620' of parking reserved for the school, they use about 200' and the rest of the block is empty every day because the signs are still there telling you you can't park here!

Last October, I sent an email to my City Councilwoman, Letitia James asking if she could look into having the signs changed. I got a response, literally two minutes later saying,
"I will contact DOT and get signs changed.  Thanks"

I was impressed.  It's now March.  The signs still haven't been changed.  I sent her a reminder last week and she said she'd follow up.  I'll report back to you as events warrant.  (Or, if you prefer, I can emulate CNN and tell you "Nothing's happened yet" once every twenty minutes until I get tired of talking about it.)


Update II:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Opposite of Epiphany, Take 2.

A while back, I dashed off a short little post called In Which I Have The Opposite of an Epiphany. If you read that post, you'll see that it was just a brief moment of frustration and pique, and I still don't know what I was talking about when I referred to Opposite of Epiphany, which frankly, makes no friggin' sense at all.

Anyway, it turns out that I must have struck some kind of weird chord because the search words "Opposite of Epiphany" are actually responsible for a hell of a lot of my drive-by traffic.  And I realize that all of those poor people seeking a word for the Opposite of Epiphany must be sorely disappointed when they get here and I have nothing to offer them.  So, as a public service, let's seek to remedy that situation.

Epiphany (n) a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience. 

The etymology seems to be from the Greek; from epi- "on, to" + phainein "to show".

Therefore, we apparently need some Greek that combines to mean "off, from" + "hide".  Or, I'll accept other origins, but the meaning should be "a sluggish, induced misconception of an idea, fact or theory, usually inspired by some rigorously repeated misdirection".

I'm open to suggestions with the following caveats:
1.) This will be an utterly useless word which will have very limited utility, excepting, as a
2.) descriptor for students using texts following the guidlines set by the Texas Education Board's Advisory Committee.

I will champion the living shit out of whatever word you guys help me coin.  Have at it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chutzpah, Thy Name Is Hiram.

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Hiram Monserrate.  Until recently, he was in the NYS Senate representing a portion of Queens, NY. (with update-y goodness).

Let me just hit some of his high points -- (the "Il Duce look is just a bonus).

He was elected to the Senate in 2008.  Last June, he joined follow Democrat, Pedro Espada in a coalition with Senate Republicans in a power grab that temporarily forced a legal battle because the NY Senate had one Democrat named Majority Leader and one Majority Leader.  (The fact that our Lt. Governor was busy trying to be Governor meant he wasn't available to break the deadlock.)  Monserrate switched back to the Democrats the next month.

While all of this was going on, he was facing a second-degree assault charge in which his girlfriend, had gotten her face slashed.  She had originally reported that he had slashed her with a broken glass and then recanted and stopped cooperating with police and the D.A.

In October of last year, he was acquitted of the second-degree assault felony count, but convicted on a third-degree assault misdemeanor count.  He has since, been sentenced to three years probation, 250 hours community service and a $1,000 fine. (Part of the evidence against him was the security video from his building showing him dragging his girlfriend through the lobby while she tried to get away.)

The misdemeanor conviction didn't automatically remove him from office, but the Senate voted by an overwhelming majority to expel him.

He immediately announced that he would run for the same seat again in the Special Election to fill his seat.  During the course of the election, he appropriated both Obama's Slogan, "Yes we can", and an absurdly similar logo.

He denies any similarity, saying (with a straight face), "No...mine is a 'Q', his was an 'O'.  They're nothing alike."

The special election is taking place today.  There are reports of him campaigning at polling places, saying that the vans with his signs on the side and the loudspeakers on the roofs have nothing to do with him.  When he was confronted by a poll worker, he said,  “Buzz off, man. Buzz off. Go shave, get a haircut and get lost. Who are you to tell me who I can and can’t talk to?”

Don't think this is a no-brainer of an election, though.  His supporters are furious that he was expelled because, "that beating didn't have nothin' to do with what kinda Senator he is"!  I forget who it was, but someone prominent with the State Democratic Party said that if he's elected, they won't seek to oust him again; "if they want him that bad, they can have him".

The same Democratic Party is supporting Jose Peralta for the seat.  He currently represents the same District in the State Assembly.  Peralta landed more than $500,000 in taxpayer money for a nonprofit that has never filed federal tax records, has no employees and has been inactive for more than two years. Until recently, they had offices in the same building as Peralta's District Office.  The building is owned by a dentist...where Peralta's mother works as the office manager.

I'm glad I live in Brooklyn.

Update:  So, with an unusually heavy turnout, Peralta took 67% of the vote to Monserrate's 26%.  I neglected to mention there was a Republican in the race.  I don't know his name, but he scored 7%.

At one point yesterday, there was a report saying that workers for Peralta were handing out leaflets that said, "Jose Peralta -- Not a wife beater!"  And in the same vein, there's a NY Times report this morning that reads, "Outside a polling station at Public School 127 in East Elmhurst, a supporter of Mr. Peralta taunted a Monserrate supporter, calling Mr. Monserrate a “wife beater.” The supporter fired back, “It wasn’t his wife.”  

I can believe he lost with support like that!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Not So Fast, Al Gore. Mark Twain Foretold The Internet In 1890.

I mentioned that I was re-reading A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court.  One of the main themes of the book is Hank Morgan's wish to bring Democracy and a Republic to Sixth Century England.  At one point, when success seems possible, he discusses it with his protege, Clarence.

Clarence was with me as concerned the revolution, but in a modified way.  His idea was a republic, without the privileged orders but with a hereditary royal family at the head of it instead of an elective chief magistrate.  He believed that no nation that had ever known the joy of worshiping a royal family could ever be robbed of it and not fade away and die of melancholy.  I urged that kings are dangerous.  He said, "then have cats". 

He was sure that a royal family of cats would answer every purpose.  They would be as useful as any other royal family, they would know as much, they would have the same virtues and the same treacheries, the same disposition to get up shindies with other royal cats, they would be laughably vain and absurd and never know it, they would be wholly inexpensive; finally, they would have as sound a divine right as any other royal house, and "Tom VII or Tom XI or Tom XIV, by the grace of God King" would sound as well as it would when applied to the ordinary royal tomcat with tights on. "And as a rule", said he, ..."the character of these cats would be considerably above the character of the average king, and this would be an immense moral advantage to the nation, for the reason that a nation always models its morals after its monarch's.  The worship of royalty being founded in unreason, these graceful and harmless cats would easily become as sacred as any otherroyalties and indeed more so, because it would presently be noticed that they hanged nobody, beheaded nobody, imprisoned nobody, inflicted no cruelties or injustices of any sort, and so must be worthy of deeper love and reverence than the customary human king, and would certainly get it.

The eyes of the whole harried world would soon be fixed upon this humane and gentle system and royal butchers would presently begin to disappear; their subjects would fill the vacancies with catlings from our own royal house; we should become a factory; we should supply the thrones of the world; within forty years all Europe would be governed by cats and we should furnish the cats.  The reign of universal peace would begin then, to end no more forever  Me-e-e-yow-ow-ow-ow---fzt I---wow!"

Sunday, March 14, 2010

LuLu Attempts A Teufel-ectomy...Er, An Exorcism.

Or it might be something dental.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Free Willy.

I'm not sure why I think this is so funny, but...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dis, Dat, Unt De Udder Ting.

Just a few short things for the moment.

Do you hate people who yell at the screen in a movie?  Do you want to do evil things to people who talk on their cell phones during a movie?  Well, you don't want to go see Last Call.  

A German company has produced what they're calling the first interactive horror film. As you go into the movie, you get a flier instructing you to call a number from your cell phone and then, during the movie, the computer picks one of the phones in the audience to call.  This is all going on while one of the characters in the movie is calling someone for help.

Next thing you know, if you're the lucky one to get the call, you're telling the character in the movie what she should do next.  It only gives you multiple choice options like "go left" or "go up the stairs", so if you're tempted to holler "Show us yer boobs", it's not going to get you anywhere.  Anyway, as you instruct the character where to go, the movie changes depending on your choices.  Personally, I think this sounds like a hell of a lot of fun.  I'm not sure I'd want to see it on a regular basis, but in this application, it sounds perfect.

Watch the trailer all the way to the end for a neat little surprise.

What else?  I left the house for about an hour and a half today to go get some basics.  In 5 stops, I managed to spend just under $200.  This did not please me.

And one other thing...remember that whole Rahm Emannuel, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbagh thing about retards?   And now people want you to pledge not to say retards anymore?  And I think the whole thing is a little retarded?  I have an idea that should make everyone happy (or nobody).

We should all emulate Elmer Fudd and start pronouncing it we-tards. It'll be all P.C. and shit and it'll signal that you're being sarcastic (to all of the sarcistically-challenged retards).  Also, with the "we" part, it's all inclusive and stuff too!


That's all I've got right now.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Review And A Half.

One of the things I'm still getting used to about having my nook™ is how I shop for books. I'll only search for stuff with the nook if I know what I'm looking for and just want to see if it's available as an ebook.  Otherwise, I search on my computer which, at least gives me color pictures and let's me go through options a lot quicker.

As a result, I've just finished one book and started another that I'm not sure I would have picked up in a bookstore.  I can't say this is upsetting to me.

First, an accidental discovery.

I honestly don't know what made me decide to read this one, but I'm glad I did.  First off, I'll admit I'd never heard of Frank Cottrell Boyce, which says more about me than it does about him.  He's not exactly an unknown, just previously unknown to me.

Cosmic is a story about Liam, a 12-year-old kid ("I'm nearly Thirteen!"), who goes through a sudden growth spurt one summer.  It's not just the 7 inches he's shot up in three months, there's also the matter of some new "stubbly bits" on his chin.  Suddenly he finds himself mistaken for an adult on a regular basis.  He's assumed to be the new teacher when he reports to his new school.  He has to carry his passport to qualify for child's fare on the bus.  Even the adults who know he's only 12 expect adult behavior from him because of his appearance.  It's all terribly unfair and confusing.

It also presents him with some opportunities, so it's not all bad...but secretly, he's relieved when his father shows up before he gets to actually test drive that Porsche.

Everything leads up to a Chinese entrepeneur's secret launch of an orbital rocket with a crew of children...chaperoned by one adult...Liam.  And things don't exactly go right.

Technically, this is a children's (or YA?) book.  Personally, I think they need to come up with another classification for stories like this.  It's a wonderful book and there's nothing particularly childish about it, other than Boyce's ear for the 'tween voice.  The only thing that makes it a children's book is that it doesn't have anything in it that any parent would object to having their child read.  I think there's a difference.

Any way, I'd recommend it to:
-any child.
-anyone who has a child.
-anyone who has ever been a child.
-any father.
-anyone who has ever had a father.

Yeah, I like it...a lot.

Another thing I learned about the nook is that you can treat it like your personal library.  If I went searching through my piles of books, I could locate my complete works of Mark Twain.  Instead, I just had nook find me a free copy of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.  I haven't read this one since I was about 15...and I couldn't be more surprised by how different it is on a second reading.  If Twain wasn't 100 years dead, I'd swear he'd taken another whack at the thing since I first read it.

I'm about 1/3 of the way through the book and I'm finding it surprisingly wonderful, frustrating, and incomprehensible by turns.

I'll start with the frustrating and incomprehensible.  Some of this is inevitable.  My Twenty-First century ear has occasional difficulty with his Nineteenth-Century vernacular and when he has characters speaking in Sixth-Century English....Arghhhhh!  Not all the time; sometimes I get the joke and it's really quite good, other times I find myself rushing through a passage because I haven't got a clue what the hell anyone's saying. (In fairness, I've seen Kenneth Brannaugh's Henry V three or four times, and I still haven't got a clue what anyone is saying during the first half-hour or so; my ear needs time to adjust.)

Twain also seems to have used the story as a not-even-thinly-veiled attack on Monarchy and Established Churches.  His attack on the Church, which he repeatedly explains is a complaint about a church established as a state religion still comes off  more than a bit screechy.  Also, I can't help thinking that contemporary attitudes made it much more acceptable for him to be so blatant in his Catholic bashing.  In truth, I have no problem with the substance of his accusations against Church and Monarchy, but, holy crap, he does go on and on about it. (There is an excellent passage where he points out that The Reign of Terror, really was approximately a year of horrific excess, but begs the reader to compare it fairly to the centuries of horror that precipitated it.  Twain makes a wonderful case against hereditary privilege and of its mindless acceptance.)

And the wonderful?  Monty Python could have performed parts of this book without changing a word.  When Twain is on, he's on and I find myself laughing out loud on a regular basis.  Twain's work really does age well.

Anyway, I doubt I'd have picked either of these books up if it hadn't been for the fact that I'm adjusting to a new way of looking for what to read next on my nook.  Hopefully, I'll continue to have unexpected gems dropping into my lap.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Governing From Hellholes.

There's a little mini brouhaha going on in NY right now.  Last weeks' SNL Weekend Update included an "interview" with Fred Armisen playing Gov. David Paterson.  When asked about his plans now that he's not going to run in the next election, he said, "Well I'm gonna do a farewell tour of upstate New York -- Hellholes like Plattsburgh and Peekskill."  He went on to say, "I'm going to give those rock eaters something to cheer about. Those freaks love me up there." 

The Mayor of Plattsburgh seems to have taken the whole thing with a sense of humor and even costars in a video inviting the SNL cast to come visit and see such sights as their sewage treatment plant.  There's also a welcome package that includes some of their tastiest rocks.

The Mayor of Peekskill isn't taking it as well.  Here's Channel Seven's report about it. (I apologize for the commercial at the start.)

If I've got any problem with the joke, it's that they called Peekskill "Upstate".  Peekskill is less than 50 miles from NYC while Plattsburgh sits huddling up there in the northeast corner of the state...poised to defect to Vermont or Canada at a moment's notice. That's Upstate!

Anyway, this got me thinking about a burning question:  Why the hell do most states have their Capitals in such crappy places?

For the sake of fairness, let's start with New York. Our capital is up there in Albany.  When Albany first became the capital, travel being what it was, it would have taken you about two years to get there from New York City.  And we liked it that way.  Our forebears had no interest in speedy government taking place in New York State.  Also, Albany was something of a backwater and they figured it might keep our politicians out of trouble.  With the onset of air travel and on-line hookers, our politicians have figured out how to get into trouble no matter where we keep them.  Thankfully, in addition to situating our capital as far away as possible, they also had the foresight to come up with one of the most convoluted forms of State Government in the Union so speedy government continues to be stymied here. (I think they're still arguing over the state budget for 2004.)

Some states somehow ended up with their capitals in sensible places.  Massachusetts put theirs in Boston. Colorado's capital is Denver, strategically placed on the high ground to keep an eye on the rest of the state.  Georgia put their capital in Atlanta.  It's fairly central and it's not Macon.

In some other states, it really didn't matter where the capital ended up.  Hawaii, for example has its capital in Honolulu.  Big Whoop!  No matter where you are in Hawaii, YOU'RE IN HAWAII. There's a tradition there of waking up every morning, facing east toward the Continental U.S. and giggling while chanting, "I'm in Hawaii and you're not!"  Louisiana basically flipped a coin to choose between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.  They didn't especially care which place won, but when Baton Rouge got the nod, the prevailing attitude was, "Hey, maybe they'll show up sober a few days every week."  North Dakota went with Bismark.  It's North Friggin Dakota; could it possibly make any difference?

Tallahassee has to be one of the crapiest places in Florida...yet it's the capital.  There were two thoughts that went into this choice.  1.) They weren't really sure that the rest of the state wasn't going to fall off at some point, and 2.) Tallahassee is perfectly situated to keep an eye on Georgia and case they try to steal any pine trees or sand.

Some state capitals are like popular girls forced to go to a nerdy school dance by their parents.  Juneau, Alaska, for one, hides in the furthest corner of the state possible, lest she risk being seen with anybody else in the state.

I don't understand California's choice of Sacramento at all!  They could have chosen Los Angeles or San Francisco if they'd wanted a truly cosmopolitan home base.  If they were trying to go the other way, why not Fresno or Bakersfield.  Or even Needles ferchrissakes!

And Michigan has me really scratching my head.  Let's face it...Michigan doesn't have a lot going for it right now.  Times are tough in Michigan.  But THEY'VE GOT A TOWN CALLED BAD AXE!  Now tell me, if you ever had to get into a bout of state one-upsmanship, wouldn't you want your capital to be in Bad Axe?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Couldn't Possibly Be More Proud!

I've discovered an entirely new search phrase finding my blog.  Look who's #3!

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

Blogs all over the internet are experiencing Grand Mal Seizures over some proposed legislation in Florida relating to their Film Tax Incentives Program.  The short story is that Florida currently offers a 2% tax incentive to filmmakers to shoot in their state and they're considering adding an additional 3% incentive for films that are "family friendly".  The internet has latched onto this story and focused on the viewpoint that it's nothing but discrimination against Gays.  I'm going to let The Wonk Room on Think Progress give you that angle.  Personally, I think they're getting all "Help, Help, I'm being repressed", over nothing.

I'm not about to try to say that the legislation isn't anti-Gay in motivation, but it's a lot more far reaching than that.  So, far reaching, in fact, that they've shinnied out to the end of the limb so they can pick an apple from a tree that's 20 feet away. 

The relevant portion of the legislation reads:

A certified production determined by the Commissioner of Film and Entertainment, with the advice of the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council, to be family-friendly…Family-friendly productions are those that have cross-generational appeal; would be considered suitable for viewing by children age 5 or older…and do not exhibit or imply any act of smoking, sex, nudity, nontraditional family values, gratuitous violence, or vulgar or profane language. Under the current incentive program, review of the final release version is not required and nontraditional family values, gratuitous violence, and implied acts do not exclude a film from receiving this additional credit.

As you'll see from this 2008 map of states with tax incentives, they take a huge variety of shapes, sizes and actual impact, but they're ubiquitious.

Because these tax incentives take so many forms, I'm not going to go into a whole lot of detail on them other than to say:
1.) They work.  New York, for example commissioned a study before renewing its program and found that, in addition to jobs created,  every dollar refunded, resulted in $1.90 of tax revenue.  This is what's called a No-Brainer.
2.) I'm not aware of any other state that includes script approval as part of the criteria for qualifying for their incentives. It's a straight money deal that says, "If you spend money here, and hire people here, we'll make it worth your while".  No other state is trying to position itself as a producing partner.

And that's where the rub comes in and why railing against Florida's proposed legislation is a ridiculous waste of time.  With very few exceptions, nobody is going to apply for the damned thing.  Look at this part of the language again -- "and do not exhibit or imply any act of smoking, sex, nudity, nontraditional family values, gratuitous violence, or vulgar or profane language."  C'mon, how many movies are going to fall all over themselves trying to shoot in Florida with that kind of restriction.  And speaking of "nontraditional family values", does that include blended families with two previously divorced parents and children from the previous marriages?  How about single mothers or fathers?  Can it be a set of in-laws raising children because the kids' parents are always away having mysterious adventures in international espionage?

This language is gong to attract essentially nobody.  Furthermore, say you're producing a movie that calls for a beach town as its setting, something Florida has in abundance.  Well, the movie only needs one beach town in which to base the production and there are incentives lining the entire Gulf Coast and ranging up the Eastern Seaboard.  If I'm producing that movie, I'm sending my scouts anywhere but Florida.

See, this isn't about discrimination (of any sort), or censorship or oppressing anybody.  It's about the economy of making movies and the guys counting money who couldn't give a rats ass about artistic integrity or social activism are going to be the ones driving the bus. 

Or maybe you do want to talk about artistic integrity.  Fine!  Not to be cynical, but even at the directorial level, that barely enters into the discussion.  Why?  Because directors set the bar a whole lot lower when it comes to having anyone tell them what can and can't be in their movies.  Directors fixate on every little detail.  I've seen directors dig in their heels about something as petty as what color a room should be painted or what food should be on the table at a dinner party scene.  Do you think there's a chance in hell a director is going to volunteer to have some state bureaucrat helping with dialog...with character motivation...with storyline?  Get real.

I'll repeat, I'm not trying to say that there's no Anti-Gay motivation behind this legislation.  Knowing Florida, I'm pretty sure that is a motivating factor.  But what I am saying is, why go to the effort to get all hot and bothered about such a self-defeating, half-baked bit of lunacy?

If they pass this legislation it isn't going to prevent one single movie from being'll only prevent Florida from reaping any of the associated riches. Or, to put it another way,  come shoot all your pervy, smoke filled, gore spattered, motherfucking foul-languaged movies here in New York.

If Florida thinks its such a great idea to shoot its own horse in the starting gate, who am I to advise them any different.

Monday, March 8, 2010

"Who Are You Wearing?"

I always find it a little jarring when I hear that question on the Red Carpet. (Well, I'm not on the Red Carpet, but I've got a TV.)  I'm thinking there's got to be some less pretentious way of finding out who designed a gown.
(with apologies to the poor anonymous people who put their pictures on the internet for me to glom.)

A few observations about last night's Oscars.

I loved Elinor Burkett running up on stage to steal the spotlight from director Roger Ross Williams accepting the award for Documentary Short, Music by Prudence.  I couldn't understand a word she said, but she should teach cross-checking to in the NHL.

I couldn't help but notice that every time a black nominee won, the director spent the entire speech searching out other black faces in the audience whether the people had anything to do with the winning picture or not.  This may have been a mistake at the end of Mo'Nique's somewhat confrontational speech when the camera cut to Samuel L. Jackson rolling his eyes.

There was a pre-recorded segment about 4 lifetime achievement awards.  The best line of the night may belong to Ron Howard quoting Roger Corman telling him if  " do a really, really good job on this picture, you'll never have to work for me again".

 George Clooney is totally morphing into Cary Grant.  That's why you never see them in the same room together.
 Or it could be that whole dead-since-1986 thing.

Speaking of dead, there was the annual Parade-Of-The-No-Longer-With-Us.  Like most people, I can't figure out why they always start with a really wide shot of the stage so you can't figure out who the first few people are.  And, like always, I find myself asking "When did he die", three or four times.  And I always feel sorry for the photos that don't get any applause because the audience has no idea who they were.  On the other hand, to steal a line from Ken Levine, maybe the audience applauds because they're glad the guy is dead.

They hauled out Barbara Steisand to present the "Best Director" award.  She blathered on about what an historic moment it was...that they might be presenting the award to a woman for the first time, or maybe a black man would win for the first time.  Apparently, the other three names were just on the list to get the nominees up to the requisite list of five.  Or maybe she was still channeling the 2008 Democratic Primaries.  Two further thoughts:  1.) Bigelow was a favorite, but the only way they could have telegraphed her win any better would have been to have Barbara make her entrance in a Bomb Disposal Suit, and 2.) Hurt Locker actually had a nomination for Best Original Score and they played Bigelow off the stage with Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman"?  Really?

My only direct connection to this year's Oscars is Co-Producer Adam Shankman.  He was the choreographer on two movies I worked on and I'm thrilled to see all the success he's had over the years. Hey, Adam!  You've got 16 friggin' movies in development.  Call me!

Anyway, let me finish off by getting back to fashion, a subject I'm totally unqualified to opine about, as can be attested by certain women who have recently dragged me into shoe stores.  The Red Carpet Commentators are all talking about how "classic" Sarah Jessica Parker looked.  Sorry, but I just don't see it.  I thought she looked like she was about to enter a sack race.  And all that hopping around must be why her massive tiara slipped off her head and landed on her boobs.

Charlize Theron didn't get the Princess Leia memo...The coffee rolls go on the side of your head.

Or maybe this is what she was going for. 

What did the rest of you think of the evening. (First one who brags that they didn't watch it gets such a clout!)