Monday, September 27, 2010

I'm Just Dropping In To Say Hi!

I don't have anything particularly earth shattering to impart today. (The first person who points out that I never do, gets evicted!)

We picked our main location for the movie today, so that's 2 solid weeks worth of our shooting schedule.  Happiness abounds!

I don't know why, but I found myself checking out the IMDB listing for a movie called Commandments that I worked on in the late 90's.  It's one of those movies that could have been pretty terrific, but only if it had hit every note just right. It didn't.

I found a review that Roger Ebert wrote about the movie when it came out and the last line is the most important one:  "This is one strange movie", he wrote.  "It's as if ``When Harry Met Sally'' was directed by Ingmar Bergman."  Now that sounds like a movie I'd want to see!

The story involves a tornado wiping out the lead character's house without touching any other buildings, so we got to knock down a house for the movie.  That was fun.  I mean, how often do you get a chance to play Art Director with a massive backhoe? 

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I was just briefly interrupted by the fire alarms going off in the hotel. It turned out to be nothing, so I'm back in my room, but the alarms are still going off. The front desk folks said it's a malfunction.  If it turns out they're wrong, I'm totally smoking in my room!

And if I had anything else to write about tonight, I've completely forgotten what it was.  Have a lovely rest of the evening!

And comment.  I'll be up for a while.

What Does Vanilla Ice Cream Taste Like?


I'm not sure what that picture has to do with anything either, but if you search Google for images of "What does vanilla ice cream taste like?", that's one of the ones that shows up.  I thought it was cute, so, it's what you get.

On to today's post...

Whenever you start work on a movie, you get a "Deal Memo" to sign.  It has a lot of standard clauses specifying that you'll be working exclusively for such-and-such Producer, that everything you buy with Production's money belongs to the Production and you don't get to take it home after the movie; that you consent to showing up in "Behind the scenes" footage and that you won't drink or do drugs at work. (I'm pretty sure they frown on you doing drugs after work too, but I don't remember the specific language in the one I just signed.)  It's also become customary to find a clause specifying that you won't take pictures on set unless your job calls for it and that you won't divulge things about the movie like plot lines or Production nightmares or...oh...where you'll be shooting tomorrow and "C'mon down and get {big actor's name}'s autograph".  The deal memo I just signed doesn't specifically mention blogging, but that's one of the things they have in mind.  As usual, I won't be saying which movie I'm working on and I'll endeavor to keep things fairly generic, but I might talk about some stuff that's going on.

One of the questions I get asked more often than any other in this business, is, "What does it cost to shoot at someone's house"?  And I always say that it would be just as easy to answer the question, "What does vanilla ice cream taste like?"  It's not an easy question to answer and the most accurate response is, "It depends".

It depends on what kind of house you're talking about -- Is it a palatial estate or a run-down shack?  Is it located in the middle of a city?  in a wealthy suburb?  in a rural setting two hours from the nearest signs of civilization?  I'll pay different rates for different types of homes.

It also depends on what kind of movie I'm working on.  This may seem a little unfair -- Sears doesn't adjust their prices to accommodate the income of the various customers who walk in the door.  The tag on that refrigerator doesn't ask how much you have available to spend.  But when it comes to movies, it does matter what the film's budget is.  I may need the exact same home for a One-million dollar movie that I'd need for a 25-million dollar movie.  I may need it for the exact same amount of time.  But I won't spend the same amount on one movie that I'd willingly spend on the other.  That's just the way it is. (The only balancing factor for the homeowner is that the lower budget film will have a crew size that's a fraction of the crew size on the bigger show.  But, ultimately, it's pretty much the same experience for the homeowner.)

Anyway, what gets me started on this subject is that this show has a fairly moderate budget.  I don't have tons of cash to throw around.  On the other hand,  we're not shooting in a major cosmopolitan area, we'll have a small crew, and we don't have any need to shoot at The Taj Mahal or any five-star restaurants.  It should all work out, right?

One of the first things I was told when I came on this show was that our Director was acquainted with a big-name star who owns a large piece of property in the area and that big-name star would be happy to have us shoot there.  It sounded ideal.  And we're not talking about their house -- we're talking about acres of woods! 

We spent a day wandering around those many acres of property to see what it had to offer.  There's a private lake, some babbling brooks, some idyllic meadows...all things we need for the movie.  It would also offer the luxury of having plenty of space to park all of our trucks and get them close to the shots.  And we'd be free to make trails from the roadways to the shooting locations so the crew could get to them easily.

Now, you'll note that I said the Director was acquainted with this big-name star, so I had no expectation that we were being invited to shoot there out of altruism and friendship.  I assumed there'd be a fee involved.  I also expected that the fee would reflect big-name star's familiarity with how things work;  That we'd be asked to pay a fee commensurate with the fact that this is a low budget picture and that the location is...woods. 

Over the weekend, big-name star's spouse got back to our producer with their asking price.  They want roughly three times what I'd consider paying for that location for a movie this size (and probably six times what the producers were hoping to pay).  Their interpretation of the taste of vanilla ice cream obviously differs from mine.  I'll be looking for an alternate location.  Did I mention that we need to shoot in woods?  And I'm fairly certain there are some other bodies of water around here.  Losing this location is not the end of the world.

On the other hand, when I was hired, I was told they had a line on a healthy number of the major locations for the film -- this being one of them.  So far, each of the other locations they "had a line on" has worked out precisely as well as this one.  The fact that I expected this to be the case from the beginning doesn't make it any easier to be happy about. And nobody's offered me any ice cream at all.  Vanilla or any other damn flavor!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means. (With Update-y Goodness!)

I swear I'll come up with something to tell you about other than how much this hotel is entertaining me by failing to entertain me.  But I walked by this sign in the lobby today and I just couldn't resist!





I'm pretty sure Prison Commissaries are open more often.
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Update (partly in response to comment #3 from Adrian)

The sign isn't the only thing that's really sad.  There's a mezzanine-level restaurant called "The View", which, presumably, is named for a lovely view of the valley and some mountains in the distance.  Like everything else here, it's never open.  Except, last night, it was open.  In a fit of utter laziness, I decided I'd try the place instead of getting in the car and going anywhere else.

They opened at 6:00pm.  I showed up a little after 7:30pm.  The hostess and another employee(?) were sitting on a couch at the entrance.  Otherwise, the place was empty.  I was told I could sit anywhere and chose a table that was visible from the entrance "so the place would look crowded".  (I try to be helpful.)

The hostess went downstairs to find the waiter and let him know they had a customer.  He was nice and very attentive. Possibly a little too attentive.  He wanted to chat, but I was reading a book, so he took the hint and left me to it.  I ordered a Rib-Eye.  It was actually a great steak, which was, unfortunately ruined by the chef cooking it in a vat of salt.  It was like chewing really tender ocean.  Ah well.

Shortly before I was done, two other diners (!!!!) showed up.  They had a reservation!  They didn't want to seem silly, so they explained to the hostess that they'd been worried the place would close early if no-one was there, so they figured the reservation would keep the staff waiting for them.

At any rate, I can totally understand why nothing is open here.  The hotel would just be paying staff to stand around looking at empty tables and shelves full of stuff that nobody even looks at.

It is sad.  The restaurant had a total of three customers last night.  If you count the waiter, the hostess, the chef, and I'd guess a dishwasher, there were at least 4 employees working to serve three people over the course of the three hours they were open.  I tipped over 20%, but that only amounted to four dollars and change.  Maybe the other two customers' tip doubled that.  So the staff split, maybe $15 in tips.

I weep for them.

On the good side of life upstate, I dropped off some laundry at a wash-and-fold place yesterday.  I had stuff to do in the morning, so I didn't get around to it until after 1:00pm.  The woman explained that it was too late for same-day service and they didn't do wash-and-fold service on Sunday, so I wouldn't be able to pick it up until Monday afternoon.  I said that'd be fine; I have enough clean stuff to see me through.

The woman from the place called me at 10:45 this morning to let me know my stuff is ready and I can pick it up today if I get there before Noon. Yay for people and places who do better than promised.

Things are looking up!

OK...One more update:  The "Wash-N-Fold" sign is a little bit of a misnomer.  My clothes are nicely clean. Nothing is folded.  I have T-Shirts and shorts on hangers.  :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Honoring Those Smart Enough To Pour Piss Out Of A Boot!

OK, that's not really what this is about.  That just seemed like a catchier headline than any of the others I was coming up with.  Today, you don't get any ranting or pontificating...just some pictures taken while running around the Hudson Valley.  Let's start with this statue that stands in the middle of Ellenville.  It's a boy pouring water out of his boot.  There's no piss involved whatsoever.  For some reason, this statue is apparently a dearly beloved symbol of Ellenville.
 Cute, ain't it?  If you want the real story behind it, you can find the info here. (It's a pdf file). You should also know that there are apparently boys pouring water out of boots in town squares all over the country!  Who knew?

Without comment, here are some other things that inspired me to point the camera and press the shutter release.  Hell, I was carrying the camera anyway, so why not?





This last thing caught my eye because it seems to be some stabilizing cables that grew into a tree.  The part you're looking at is about 25' up in the air.  The tree, alas, is no more.  And even though the cables go off toward some poles in the distance, they don't seem to be really stabilizing anything.  I guess it just isn't worth the trouble to haul them down or cut down the rest of the tree.

Have any of you seen anything interesting in the last few days?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More Crap About My Hotel.

None of the problems I mentioned yesterday have been resolved yet.  I still have to hire Sherpa guides for the trek to a place I can smoke.  I still expect to encounter ghosts and/or Jack Nicholson in the deserted hallways here.  Adam seems to always be at the front desk giving me the evil eye with his exquisitely mascaraed orbs.

And I'm not ready to whine about work yet.  Hell, I just got here, for cripes sakes!

But here's one little thing I noticed this evening.  Unlike most hotels, there's no book in the desk or end table drawer extolling all of the amenities a guest might partake of.  No list of restaurants and shops.  No friendly note telling you to call the front desk if you'd like an ironing board or a crib for your room.  No list of area attractions.

What I did find in the drawer was the most passive-aggressive warning I've ever seen to dissuade me from going home with all of their towels and pillows.  Essentially, it tells you that everything in the room is available for sale and then gives a list of prices for every single item in the room that isn't actually nailed down.  The coffee maker can be had for $35 and the non-existent "Guest Directory" goes for $15.  In smaller print, at the bottom of this lovely note, it says that housekeeping is "responsible" for counting everything every day and if anything is missing, it must be because, you, the guest didn't feel like calling the front desk so that you could buy a new one of whichever item you took.  That being the case, the Hotel will be forced to charge you full-price for the used one.  Ah well. (It also seems to imply that the housekeeping staff gets docked for the value of what you steal, but that's another story.)

Anyway, I know they're trying to be all polite and "positive" about the whole thing, but I'd really rather see a note that just plainly says, "If you steal our shit, we're charging your ass".  Here, let me show you an example of how it's properly done.

This is a Fisher Dolly.
If you look at the base of the boom, you'll note that there's some writing there.  You probably can't make it out in that shot.  Here's a close-up.

Now that's the way to tell people not to fuck up your shit!

Monday, September 20, 2010

REDRUM

I have arrived!  I'm in Kerhonkson, NY (say that three times fast).  First, allow me to answer yesterday's weighty issues.

-Is there a refrigerator in my room? NO. a coffee machine? YES. microwave? NO.
-I know I'll be coming back to Brooklyn some weekends, but what season do I pack for right now? I PACKED A LITTLE OF EVERYTHING.  IT SEEMS THAT LAYERS WILL START AND END THE DAYS
-Should I bring my golf clubs? YES, OF COURSE.
-The nearest big book store is 30 miles away.  Should I stop and stock up on the way? IT TOOK ME OVER AN HOUR JUST TO GET OUT OF NYC.  I'LL LET AMAZON DELIVER.
-Are crepuscular animals just too damned lazy to do stuff for an entire half of a day? I STILL DON'T KNOW.  I'M OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS.

So, I've now met a bunch of the people working on this show and everyone seems completely sane and nice and filled with clues (you know...the opposite of clueless).  But that's not the important part of the day.

Late this afternoon, I decided to run over to our hotel and get checked in.  I had a little bit of time before a meeting and it's always nice to find these things in daylight and get your piles of crap moved in.  The hotel where we're all staying is one of those semi-massive Catskills Resorts.  I walked into the lobby (picture 6 football fields laid out in a 3 X 2 pattern).  There's a front desk running down one side with space for...oh, 15 people to be serving guests as they check in.  This vast expanse of potential customer service is manned...by one man.  He is, of course, at the furthest possible station from the front door.  Apart from myself and this one hotel employee, the lobby is utterly devoid of humanity.  It is empty.  There are lots of intimate little seating areas composed of comfortable looking couches and easy chairs.  They await the hordes of guests who are notable by their absence.

As I make my way (GPS assisted) to the furthest reaches of the lobby, the man at the desk is careful to avoid looking up and noticing me before I actually arrive.  It might be uncomfortable for him if he has to watch me make the entire trek.  I arrive and find myself confronted by this man.

OK, it's not really him, but he's trying his damndest.  As I'm checking in, I am told that there isn't such a thing as a smoking room, and "No, you can't have one of the rooms with a balcony!" 

I'll make this part short.  If I were staying somewhere for a few days, I'd make do.  Life's a bitch.  But, I'm supposed to be living here for the next 8 weeks or so!  There will be some Saturday (when I'm supposed to be off), during which the entire world will be going down the crapper and I'll need to spend the day in my room on the phone and on my computer to try to fix everything so we'll be able to shoot on Monday, and I damned well better be able to chain-smoke while I'm doing it!

Adam Wanna-be Lambert MoFo has an extremely limited vocabulary consisting of "No".  No, I can't have any room other than the one he's trying to give me -- a room which is an elevator ride and a 10 furlong walk from the nearest exit where I can go to smoke. No, he has no other ideas.  No, I can't speak with a Manager because she's only going to tell me the same thing.  I very kindly inform him that I'd prefer to hear "No", from someone who has the authority to say "Yes".  Asshole!

Ultimately, the manager found me a room that's actually only a city block or so from an exterior door.  She was nice about the whole thing.  But, the rooms here really aren't all that great.  I'll be looking into finding a nearby dump that doesn't try to masquerade as something other than a dump.  I'd rather be comfortable.  And smoke. In my room.  In my underwear even!

In the meantime, I explored the place a little tonight.  There's still nobody here but me and Adam Lambert. Maybe he's pulling a double?   I swear, from the outside, you don't see any room lights turned on.  There are a bunch of shops and restaurant-type things off of the lobby and they're all locked up tight with the lights off.

I think I'll go take that walk now to my own private smoking patio (comfortably chilled to 42º).  I fully expect to see these girls on my way there.  And then, I'll introduce them to Adam!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mundane? Yeah, We Do That.

On Friday, I found out about a movie looking for a Location Manager.  On Friday afternoon, I spoke to them.  Later Friday afternoon, I read the script.

On Saturday, we made a deal, and tomorrow (Monday), I'm heading a couple of hours north to start work. I'll be there for the next 8 weeks or so. This rates as sudden even by my standards.  And since I'm showing up to the party late, there's a bunch of stuff to get done in a really big hurry.

 You'd think I'd be worrying about stuff like...*

-How am I supposed to find an entire movie's worth of locations in just 2-3 weeks? (2 weeks til tech scouts / 3 weeks to the first day of principle photography.)
-Will I get along with a bunch of people I've never met before? (The D.P. is the only person there I've ever worked with.)
-Can I get all of the minutiae of dealing with permits in an unfamiliar town/county/etc. figured out in time?
-Hell, can I even figure out my way around the area fast enough without getting constantly lost and embarrassing myself?

Oh, sure. I'm thinking about that stuff, too.  But the stuff I'm obsessing  about right now is pretty damned mundane.
-Is there a refrigerator in my room? a coffee machine? microwave?
-I know I'll be coming back to Brooklyn some weekends, but what season do I pack for right now?
-Should I bring my golf clubs?
-The nearest big book store is 30 miles away.  Should I stop and stock up on the way?
-Are crepuscular animals just too damned lazy to do stuff for an entire half of a day?

Feel free to remind me of stuff I may have forgotten to worry about.

Update: I have nothing but respect for the U.S. Coast Guard, but The Guardian is one seriously shitty movie.
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*I'm actually not all that worried about any of these items.  I'll deal with it.

I Miss All The Good Stuff!

I'm headed upstate tomorrow* where I'll be working for the next few months and I decided to do a little bit of Googling to find out what I shouldn't miss while I'm there.  Well, it looks like I'll be missing out regardless.  I can go see Gnome Chomsky, "The World's Largest Garden Gnome".

Unfortunately, he's no longer the largest.  Some bastards in Iowa built one that's about 4' taller...and I'm not going there unless someone pays me.  I will, however, make sure to go see this:

I don't think anybody's making any special claims about this car.  Whatever was true about it on April 30th, when this picture was taken, is probably still true.

I'm not sure what other sights there will be to behold...but I'm gonna behold the crap out of 'em!
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*Before anybody gets any nefarious ideas about pillaging here in Brooklyn, GF will be staying here.  And the three cats will be here.  And GF's not afraid to use them! YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!

With Friends Like These...

It's kinda stupid, but I like it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

SPOILER ALERT!


Women's foundation garments have been moved to the Fifth Floor!

Friday, September 17, 2010

I Soooooo Wish I Had Something Clever To Say About This.

So, maybe you know that Yom Kippur started at sundown.  I did.  Maybe you know that I'm not really supposed to be writing this on Yom Kippur (or Shabbat).  I knew that too.  And maybe you knew that a bunch of people use caffeine suppositories to help them survive fasting on Yom Kippur.

I. Did. Not. Know. This.

Christine O'Donnell's First Tea Party!

I believe this explains a lot!

 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

And Now, Polybloggimous Continues It's In-depth Coverage Of Trees Falling In Brooklyn.

This seems to be something of a theme here lately.  Well, we had another bad-ass storm blow through this afternoon.  Once again, they were issuing tornado warnings for Brooklyn.  If I had the least little bit of interest in living in Kansas, believe me...I know where it is and I know how to get there.  I'd be just as happy to leave the tornado warnings to them.

Anyway, at about 5:30pm, the skies turned black as ink.  First, the wind dropped to nothing and then got downright exciting.  Next thing you know, it was pissing rain like a herd of horses!  A few branches fell right outside of our house.  And most of a tree fell around the corner from me.

Here's some crappy camera-phone pictures. (I'm going to have to figure out how to dumb-down my camera phone.  These pictures may be soft on focus, but they're HUGE in pixels!) The interesting thing is that this tree seems to have managed to not damage any of the cars.  It fell between them perfectly! (The cops threatened to arrest it anyway.)




A Barren Wasteland Of Wordlessness.


I am bereft of ideas for a post today.  All ideas have, apparently, absconded to the wilderness where verbosity goes off to die (or, possibly just wither away as is their wont).

Therefore, today is Reader Request Day!

You're invited to ask me stuff!  Or suggest stuff.  Or demand stuff.

Whatever.

It's not like I"m brimming with ideas of my own today.  Do your worst!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dog Poop!

I fear that CanuckAmuck, the creator of this little movie, may have a few anger issues.  But it's funny as hell.



Other videos by CanuckAmuck can be found on this page.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's Easier To Keep Track When Everyone's A Commoner.

I'm reading David Weber's A Mighty Fortress right now, the fourth book in his Safehold Series.  I won't go into the usual complaints about Weber -- that there's too much exposition and back room meetings; not enough swashbuckling and warfare.  I can live with that. 

I won't complain (too much), over Weber's habit of making so many of his characters members of the Gentry.  It's not enough that each character has a first and last name -- and there are a buttload of characters.  Each one also has to be Baron Brown Abyss, or Earl Rotten Gorse, or some such.  And you're expected to keep track of all of the characters and their titles, which Weber uses interchangeably. (I'm having enough trouble keeping the good guys and the bad guys sorted out, thank you very much.)

But, this too...I can live with.

What I can't deal with is the fact that one of these Earls or Barons or whatever, is the Whatever of Halbrook Hollow.  So, of course, I keep wondering what this guy is doing in Weber's book!

I find this somewhat distracting.

Monday, September 13, 2010

RoboCalls*

Tomorrow is the Primary here in NY and I'm ashamed to admit that I know next to nothing about the majority of the candidates.  I know that one of the contenders for Attorney General trying to get the Democrats' nod has a TV commercial with practically every Democrat who's been big in NY Politics for as long as I can remember.  Another one has...John Leguizamo

I also know that I've gotten about 20 robocalls today.  I've ignored them to the best of my ability.

There's one other guy...I can't remember his name and I don't remember what he's running for, but about a week ago, his father knocked on my front door campaigning for him.  And, once today, I actually picked up the phone because there seemed to be a live person talking to my machine.  It turned out to be this candidate's next door neighbor...or some such.

If I get one more contact from a live person on behalf of this guy, I'm actually going to pay enough attention to remember his name.  And then I might even vote for him. 

(I don't really recommend this method for choosing candidates.  For all I know, he's running in order to outlaw filming in NYC.)
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*This post has been my blog-equivalent of a robocall.  I just mashed a couple of buttons and here it is!  I promise to try harder if you vote for me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Market.

Earlier this afternoon, I volunteered to go do our grocery shopping.  Yes, yes.  I am, possibly, the best, most magnanimous, (insert superlatives, ad infinitum), man who ever existed.  It's difficult to bear the constant approbation, but it's my cross to bear.  And, as with all other things, I bear it with excellent grace.  But the following observation of mine does not center on my stellar qualities, myriad as they may be.  Let me start at the beginning.

I hopped into the car (which we currently have due to GF's job -- she, too, is stellar), and took off, meaning to fill it to overflowing with the finest of comestibles.  Having driven two blocks, I arrived at Myrtle Avenue, only to be reminded that we are in the midst of "Move on Myrtle*", a period of 2 months or so, when part of Myrtle is closed to traffic every Sunday so that an impromptu-ish street fair can pop up, (more on that later).  Well, I realized that even if I could drive to the grocery store, which I couldn't, due to it being on Myrtle, I wouldn't be able to park anywhere nearby.  With that in mind, I returned home where I traded in the car for the Old Lady Cart.
Many of you, no doubt, living in lands only traversed in a car, do not own an Old Lady Cart.  Here, in Brooklyn, it's an indispensable piece of equipment.

While contemplating what items to cut from the shopping list, I set out once more.  Of course, I decided to walk down Myrtle the whole way and see what might be happening at "Move on Myrtle".  In short, not so much.  First of all, the weather today, while not quite nasty, was overcast and threatening rain.  It would have been a perfect day for observing the neighborhood through my front windows.  Also, this is the first year of "Move on Myrtle", and I think they're going for more of a free-form type of experience.  I know they have no interest in attracting the usual assortment of bouncy castles, tube socks salesmen and sausage vendors that make every street fair in the city look pretty much like every other street fair in the city.  I have no problem with this.  Some of the restaurants along the way set out tables (on nicer days), and I expect the event(?) to gain popularity and participants as time goes by.

So, anyway, there weren't an awful lot of people participating in "Move on Myrtle" today -- neither vendors or visitors.  When I had stopped at the roadblock in the car, there had been a marching band playing -- I don't remember what they were playing, but it was something by an 80's hair band!  They were gone when I got back.  In their place, I found a steel-drum band.  Here! I made a short movie of them with my phone!
video

(Well, I suppose it could have been shorter, since it has no logical beginning or end, and the camera is shaky as hell.  But I never claimed to be an editor or a cinematographer or a screenwriter.  I find excellent locations in which to shoot movies and then step aside to let the other professionals work.  You'll agree, I think, that if I'd received a script asking for a Fish Market between a Nail Salon and a Restaurant for a scene with a Steel Drum Band playing, I would have succeeded beyond the call of duty!)

You'll note that there aren't all that many people out and about.  

A couple of blocks later, I came across a block that seems to be set aside for small children.  Here's a bunch of kids trying to Hula-Hoop.  They're cute and I exercised a great deal more self control with regard to how long I kept my finger on the button!
video

This block wasn't exactly teeming with humanity either. But here's where I suddenly realized something I had been seeing since arriving at "Move on Myrtle" -- or rather something I hadn't been seeing.  Cops!  From the time I arrived at the first roadblock closing down Myrtle Avenue to the time I exited the closed area, five blocks later, I didn't see a single NYPD officer or traffic agent.

I realize that this may not seem like anything particularly momentous, but 5 blocks closed and not one cop?  I'm not complaining, far from it -- it's almost like the city figured we could act like grownups without adult supervision.  Usually, at this type of thing, there are a bunch of cops.  A couple (or more), at each intersection; some others wandering around hither and yon.  There's usually lots of cops! 

I realize this may have been a cost-cutting move after the bazillion overtime man-hours the Police must have put in between the 9/11 Ceremonies and the six, (count 'em -- SIX), Pro- and Anti- Burlington Coat Factory Mosque protests yesterday.  And I suppose that even when it gets more popular, "Move on Myrtle" will remain a smaller affair than the majority of Street Events in New York, but, I can't tell you how cool I think it was to walk down that length of Street Fair and find nobody projecting authority.  

I have nothing against cops.  I don't get nervous when I see one walking down the street behind me (unless he's got his gun drawn).  I don't break out in a nervous sweat when I walk into a Pizza-by-the-slice place and find a cop waiting at the counter for his order.  I don't feel the need to make sure I'm driving perfectly when I encounter a cop car on the road. 

But I find it ineffably cool to walk through a 5-block-long street fair in NYC and see no sign of The Man!  In fact, I found it to be as liberating an experience as when I was in Kindergarten and Mrs. Plotkin** left us alone in the classroom for five minutes -- only this time, I didn't experience any uncontrollable urges to eat paste!
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*Personally, I think they could have come up with a better name than "Move on Myrtle".  How about "Mosey down Myrtle"?  or, "The Myrtle Mosh"? or, "Mostly Meandering Myrtle"?  They could call it "The Movable Myrtle Mosque" but that would be neither honest nor, probably, the atmosphere they mean to project.  But it would sure as hell draw a crowd!

**For any family reading, yes, I realize that Mrs. Plotkin was my Third Grade teacher.  I can't, for the life of me remember who the teacher was when I was in Kindergarten. But now, if there's any kind of retroactive lawsuit over leaving Kindergarteners to fend for themselves for five minutes (in 1965?), I won't have helped point the finger at the actual culprit.  See?  Names changed to protect the guilty and honor the innocent! (Besides, wasn't there some unfortunate incident when Dad was walking Pepper?)

Will Somebody Please Get Father Duffy A Laxative?

I love this!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

This fills me with questions.


I ran across this picture while repeatedly hitting the Stumble! button.  It's from the National Archives.  The description says, "Four young members of the Madison Square Boy's Club rowing a boat in a rooftop pool, Manhattan skyscrapers in the background, Feb. 1950."

First question:  How warm was it that February?  They don't look very bundled up.

Next question:  "Madison Square" has referred to a number of different places in Manhattan. The Chrysler Building is clearly identifiable to the right of center, but I'm not sure of the other buildings, so I can't quite nail down the geography.

Next question:  Rooftop pool?  It looks like the roof is just flooded.  And who hauled a rowboat all the way to the roof?

Your questions, captions or comments are welcome.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Adorable, But Deadly!

I don't want to throw any accusations around, but somebody, (GF, cough, cough), brought home some deadly strain of head cold that has perniciously spread to all of the other humans in the house (uh...me).  As a result, our heads have each swelled up with evil humours fighting to find their way out, but only so that there will be room for more.

This is a rough illustration of how I feel, only a lot less smiley.
Note: I would have added hair, glasses and a moustache, but GF had enough difficulty figuring out what that thing on my chin is supposed to be.  It's supposed to be a chin!

Now, let's be clear about this;  if my head and GF's head were ever to actually swell up to comprise 90% of our body size and weight, I guarantee we'd both be absolutely freakin' adorable. Like these exemplars of cuteness:
  You may all feel free to now indulge your Inner-Awwwwwwwwwww!

The thing is, we don't feel all adorable. We feel like Crrrrrrrrap! ::said with the exaggerated Scottish rrrrolling "rrrrrrr" of Groundskeeper Willie::  It's difficult to stay awake and impossible to stay asleep. (The cats contribute to the latter non-option).  And even though we've got the finest assortment of over-the-counter nostrums, we're not sure what else we should be doing to relieve our symptoms.  Aside, of course from filling copious amounts of Kleenex with things better not described.

I've tried to have us follow the wisdom about that Old Saw about fevers and colds, but it's a crappy old saw.  I don't know about you, but I can never remember precisely how it actually goes.  Feed a cold; Starve a fever sounds exactly as sensible as Starve a cold: Feed a fever.  At least, Lefty loosey; Righty tighty rhymes.  If you mess that one up, it's 'cause you're an imbecile!  If it was Feed a Starve; Cold a Fever, at least it would make some sense.  As it is, we've decided to go with feeding our colds, but that's mostly because we were hungry.  We may be doing irreparable harm.  (And truth, be told, I'm pretty sure I've got a little fever too, but since I don't have the first idea about how to produce targeted feeding and starving, I refuse to use a thermometer and confirm that symptom.)

So...for the moment, we're stuck in the house.  Even if I felt well enough to go jaunting off into the world, I'm sure my big head wouldn't fit through the doorway.

In the meantime, I'm trying to see the upside of things.  Yes, our confinement produces one sure benefit...Home Security!  Neither of us is going anywhere for the moment, so Burglars Beware!  We may not have the strength to get up and chase you around or defeat you in hand-to-hand combat, but we have the aforementioned EVIL HUMOURS and we're not afraid to use them.

While I may be seeing us as adorable big-headed kittens and puppies, you should imagine those seemingly inoffensive creatures that got Dennis Nedry in the end.

These don't look that scary.  Just ask Dennis

"Want the stick huh huh, go fetch the stick. No wonder you got extinct when I get back in my car I’m gonna run right over you."

"Arrrrgggghhhhhh, arrrrrrggggghhhhhhh, ARRRRGGGGHHHHHHH!"

Yeah, burglars!  Don't mis-underestimate these two big-headed disease-ridden people unless you want yerself a taste of PROJECTILE EVIL HUMOURS!

NOTE:  I've discovered that it's somewhat difficult being entertaining while suffering from an assortment of viscous fluids attacking your head from the inside.  I have no idea whether or not I've succeeded.  I am, however, perfectly willing to follow through on my threats of coughing, sneezing and spitting on any intruder silly enough to make an attempt at our worldly goods.  I had considered that a head-butt from my currently massive cranium would make for a daunting threat, but I've never been a big fan of Mutually Assured Destruction as a defense policy.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Long Time Ago On An Island Far, Far Away....*


Last night, I finished reading Terry Pratchett's Nation, and, as expected, it doesn't disappoint.  It's one of Pratchett's novels aimed at Young Adults (recommended on BN.com for ages 12 and up), but I'd challenge you to find anything before the "Author's Note" at the end that feels directed toward any particular age group. (I suppose I should acknowledge that I've read most of Pratchett's other "Young Adult" novels and enjoyed them thoroughly as well. I prefer to think he speaks "up" to youngsters.)

The story starts, (seemingly in the early 19th Century Pacific-- it's never explicitly stated), with Mau venturing off alone to a small nearby island to undergo part of the rites that will transform him from a boy into a man.  After completing his assigned tasks, he begins rowing his canoe back to his own people's island, the Nation.  Before he reaches home, a Tsunami strikes, and he's the only survivor from his people.  The only other person on the island is a young English girl whose ship was washed ashore by the wave.

Mau and Daphne's first meeting is almost their last, but surviving that, they're now faced with dealing with other survivors who begin slowly arriving from other neighboring islands.  But Mau has other problems.  He's shed his childhood, but not yet completed the rituals that make him a man.  This leaves him in danger in the beliefs of his people, like a hermit crab having left one shell, but not yet found a new, larger one.  Worse than that, he now doubts the existence of all of the Gods he was raised to believe in (while having face to face arguments with some of them).  Nevertheless, this strange mystical not-a-boy-but-not-yet-a-man is looked to as a leader by all who find their way to the island.

Daphne, who has grown up in the smothering society of Victorian England, finds herself horrified by the things she's called upon to do at the same time as she glories in her new freedom and sense of purpose.

Mau, Daphne and their collection of refugees will be called upon to rebuild their society while dealing with hunger, children being born, Angry Deities, Cannibals and murderous Mutineers.  Not to mention the challenges of coping with a distant Empire and learning how to milk a pig!

It's a wonderful, sweet and surprising story, told with Pratchett's signature twists of language.  If you've enjoyed any of Pratchett's other work, you'll enjoy this one.  If you haven't read his stuff before...Holy Crap, what's wrong with you?  This would be as fine a place to start as any!"

Personal Note: If you're familiar with Pratchett, you'll know that he was diagnosed with a form of early onset Alzheimer's  a few years ago.  At the time, he wrote that he and his doctors thought he had time for "at least a few more books yet".  For purely selfish reasons, I hope he does.  His writing is always inventive, unexpected and fun, with more than a hint of the subversive. He's an author that I never regret buying (which I've now done 30-something times), and I'll continue to do so as long as he keeps publishing.  More Terry Pratchett in the world is, unquestionably, a good thing.
------------------------------------
*For any of you Grammar Nazis who may take exception with that one extra dot in the ellipses, I was (duh), alluding to the Star Wars opening titles...which used four dots.  Yell at George Lucas if you've got a problem!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Don't You Just Love The Smell of Magenta? (with an update)

Hmmmmm!  Get a whiff of that color!  What?  You can't smell it?  Oh well; you'll just have to trust me.  As one of the world's leading experts in the field of Chromatic Aromatology, I assure you that Magenta is one of the most pleasingly fragrant of all the colors.  Not at all like the nasty, cloying scent of taupe.

You may be wondering why I'm nattering on about sensations that you are incapable of sensing, and, of course, I'm going to tell you.  But first, allow me to briefly digress.  I've told you before that:

-GF and I like watching cooking shows.
-GF and I have resisted getting cable or Dish TV.
-This limits the number of cooking shows available to us.
-Ergo, whenever we stay in a hotel, we tune the TV to the Food Network and just leave it there.  Whether we pay any attention to it or not.

We thrill at the novelty of non-stop TV Chefs chopping, grating, sauteing, braising, baking, poaching, mincing, zesting, stewing, blanching, caramelizing, marinading, deglazing, emulsifying, garnishing and plating.  We like the shows where they demonstrate how to do things.  We like the shows that are competitions.  They're all good.

But mostly, we like seeing the finished product and thinking, "Ooooooh, that looks good.  We should try that sometime"...which we promptly forget all about and never follow up on.

See?  Don't those dishes all look terrific?  My mouth is watering just looking at them! Which leads me to the one horrible and inevitable moment of frustration in every single episode of every single cooking show EVAR...when the chef takes a forkful of that day's creation and makes yummy-yummy noises and then, orgasmicly tells you how wonderful it tastes.  Sorta like me telling you how wonderful magenta smells.

Which makes me feel really stupid for having watched in the first place.  Not that it makes me change the channel before the next one begins.  I mean, think about it -- there are countless hours of Television devoted to the culinary arts, and they all have one thing in common.  They're all completely incapable of demonstrating the two most crucial senses involved in food preparation and consumption  --  smell and taste.

Imagine, if you will, a new show on MTV called -- oh -- let's call it Listen to This Band! O.K., first you'd have to imagine that MTV still did shows about music, but stick with me here.  The format of the show would be that some Music Aficionado goes around finding the best unknown bands in America.  The show would feature footage of the band performing their awesomest bestest stuff and the Host would tell you all about them.  There might be some interview stuff, but it's mostly about the music.  But here's the twist.  The show would never actually use the sound of the band playing...lots of footage of them playing, but instead of hearing the music, the Host would be describing it to you.  "Oh, oh, oh....this is my favorite part.  After the twin drumkits trade riff after riff, the two lead guitars chase each other up 7 octaves in a screaming duet...all building up to the climactic moment when the Sousaphone takes over and brings it all home!  Whooooooaaaaaaaa, is that amazing?!  You wouldn't think it'd work, but it's absolute GENIUS!  Trust me...it's amazing!"

I don't think I'm giving away any secrets if I tell you that commercials for food products and restaurants use Professional Food Stylists to prepare what you see on-camera.  They have all sorts of tricks they've learned over the years to make food look scrumptious.  The food has to give off just the right amount of steam (which gets pumped through tiny little capillary tubes on cue).  There have to be beautiful grill marks (made with overheated wires).  The soda has to fizz just right (maybe with a dash of salt thrown in at the last moment)?  And the ice cream (mashed potatoes?) can't melt under the lights.  Most of the food you see on TV commercials is completely inedible.

I'm not trying to say that I suspect the cooking shows of cheating to that degree, but why should I trust them that the dish really is that good?  If Emeril goes to all the trouble to tape himself preparing some dish, is there really any chance of him tasting it at the end and saying, "Holy Mother of Gawd, that didn't come out how I thought it would!"?  Would Rachel Ray visit Bobby Flay, only to say, "This tastes of ash tray!"?  I'm pretty sure I'll never see Jamie Oliver finish a show by telling his audience that the stereotypes were right all along -- English food tastes all like ass.

Ultimately, even knowing the futility of these shows, I suppose I'll keep on watching anyway.  But I'll also always bear in mind the old adage, "Sometimes you've got to stop and smell the Magenta".

Update 9/9/10:  If you read the comments to this post, you'll see that it didn't take long for them to go completely off the rails.  Gaaaaaaaaaah!   Well, it seems that people are having difficulty figuring out what the point of this whole post was.  Fine.  While I rarely claim to have some grand unifying theme to tidy up my blathering, the point of this one was actually fairly simple:

Food is meant to be smelt and and tasted...two sensations that TV is incapable of communicating.  All of the preparation and aesthetic artistry is merely a lead-up to the act of smelling and tasting.  TV cooking shows, therefore, are a little like books with the final chapter torn out.

Happy now?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem...

Anon GF and I spent part of the weekend in Bethlehem, PA.  It was, more or less, just a quick getaway from NY to be lazy, eat, be lazy, look at stuff, and be lazy.  It's actually a really attractive town.  Enjoy some pictures!

This is what it looks like along Watts Street waiting to get into the Holland Tunnel. (This was really the last traffic we saw until we got back to the city and had to wait forever on the other side of the tunnel.)

A cool old advertisement on the wall of a building along Main Street in Bethlehem.

More Main Street
Looking toward the mountains outside of town. (I know these don't count as mountains for some of you.  Hey...they're the Poconos and they've had a long hard life!)

An old place outside of downtown.  I'd hate to see what Floyd's Worst Store looks like.

Here are a bunch of pretty houses right in the middle of town.  I'm thinking some of them belonged to Steel Mill owners and some were just for reasonably prosperous citizens.
This is a little guest house for the big-assed one that precedes it.

And then, outside of town, there's this farm house that's for sale.  It needs a little work.
Some great details, though!

I didn't bother hauling the camera with us everywhere we went.  We were being lazy!

Stay tuned for my next post because (cue dramatic music)...I had an EPIPHANY yesterday!  You wouldn't want to miss that, would you?