Wednesday, March 30, 2011

World's Largest Discount Store!

I suppose it's possible they have a different definition of one (or more?) of those words, but that's not even the largest discount store on the block!

Brooklyn:  Where the facts never get in the way of creative naming!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pym: I'm Not Entirely Sure How To Describe It, But I'm Enjoying The Hell Out Of It!

I'm in the middle of reading Pym, by Mat Johnson.

The book starts with Chris Jaynes being denied tenure by the college where he's supposed to be teaching American Literature with an emphasis on African-American Literature.  He teaches Edgar Alan Poe instead.  He's supposed to serve on the school's Diversity Committee, but as the only non-white on the faculty, he refuses to sit and discuss diversity with himself.

He discovers an antique manuscript that seems to indicate that Poe's only novel, "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket" is, in fact, based in reality.  He assembles an all black crew of 6 to head to the Antarctic in search of both evidence and commerce.  What he discovers a land of ice with an incredible "snow honky" problem.

I've never read the Poe book (and I'm not especially tempted), but Johnson's extended dissection of it is worth the price of the book itself.  The book reads like a professorial Chris Rock performance.  The wit and the satire are all there...just with nicer language; most of the fucking time!

You know how Mel Brooks is allowed to mercilessly mock both Jews and anybody who has it in for Jews?  And you're allowed to laugh about all of it?  Johnson is as relentless in skewering black stereotypes; one minute describing how ridiculous they are -- the next demonstrating how real they are.

Like I said...I've got a little difficulty describing this book, but I'm loving it.  Go buy it.  Buy it now.

Update: So, I finished the book a couple of days ago and I don't think I'm as thrilled with it as I was when I first wrote this.  I'm not sure what the cause is, but the book took a distinct turn in a direction that just didn't work for me. It could be that the author was sticking to the structure of the Poe book, which is described as having either nor real finish, or, at least, an unsatisfying finish.  It could also be that the author put the book down for some period of time, (this is alluded to in the acknowledgments), and then had a very different mindset when he picked it up again.

Either way, I honestly didn't like where it went.  More importantly, I didn't like how it got there.  I won't go into detail, but the book went from really witty satire to, what I thought was an unnecessarily ugly denouement.  The word "unnecessarily", may not be fair here.  Clearly the author thought it was the appropriate way to go; but I felt as if I had been mislead about what kind of book I was reading.

None of this speaks to whether or not it qualifies as a good book; just whether or not I liked reading it.  YMMV.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I Don't Know. You Decide.

2 Columbus Circle stands on an odd little wedge of land where Eighth Avenue comes into and 7th Avenue goes out of Columbus Circle. For those of you not in the know, Columbus Circle anchors the southwest corner of Central Park.

Anyway, in 1964, this building went up and stayed there looking like that for a long time, generating lots of arguments about whether or not it was a work of art or a hideous mistake.

One architecture critic mocked the shapes at the ground level and the building was stuck with the moniker, The Lollipop Building.

I never had any strong feelings about the building one way or the other.  I think the first time I ever saw the inside was some time in the early 90's when it was basically a vacant building that was "maintained" by the city.  It was a real wreck inside, and frankly, the shape and layout of the place made it pretty useless. (Maintain = some guards sat in there every day and kept the vandals from trashing the joint any worse.)  Since there were no windows on most of the building, the only view was from the penthouse.  And it was (and is) great view.  But the room that housed that view was long and narrow and, as far as I was concerned, you couldn't do a whole lot more with it other than stand and look at the view. (I think there's a restaurant in there now but I imagine the seating is a little odd.)

Anyway, after many court battles (read the Wiki link; I don't feel like going into it), here's what stands there now.

The renovated building houses The Museum of Art & Design.  The interior dimensions can't have changed, so I'm guessing it's still filled with long narrow rooms.  And it looks like it has more windows than it used to.  I'm assuming there are galleries where there aren't windows, so they're not needed.

Beyond that, I can't decide if I like this better or or if I prefer the old building.  As far as I'm concerned, they're both decidedly odd, but I can't really settle on a preference.

I will say, if I had had any say, I'd have torn down the old building and started from scratch.  There wouldn't have been a whole lot you could do about changing the footprint of the building -- it stands on an odd lot -- but I think it would have been an opportunity to put up something with a two-three story atrium at the bottom. I'd have made it feel like a little extension of the park; only glassed in.  The more you'd have been able to see all the way through the ground floors from any angle, the better it would have been.

That's my humble opinion.  Care to share yours?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Tragedy of Ankle-Cat Infestation.

Or would that be Cats in the Feetal Position?

First, the little bastards pounce all over the human male and when they get his attention, they make it clear that they want breakfast.  Now!  So, the male of the species dutifully rises from his comfortable slumbers and obediently provides sustenance.

Whereupon, said parasites look at the offered provender...and yawn.  The look they give says, "Catfood?  Again?  Pheh!", as clearly as if they could articulate the thought.  After a brief moment spent listlessly spurning their daily bounty, they return to the bed to cuddle with the human female -- the one who is still radiating comfort and warmth.

Why did we get these things?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spotted In The Wild Today.

I'm not so sure it's as uncommon as I may think it is, but the fact is, I can't recall the last time I saw one of these in use.

Those of you not in the film biz (which is most of you who visit here), are free to tell me in the comments what you think it is.  You get points for the generic name.  More points for the product brand name.

Oh, BTW, there was an entire film shoot going on with lots of trucks and everything, but I just shot a closeup of this poor guy sitting in the street all by itself.  I suppose it ought to be happy it got a trip out of the rental house.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Instant Gratification. Momentarily Delayed. Dammit!

So I'm a big fan of Elizabeth Moon's books.  Among them, I really enjoyed The Deed of Paksenarrion Trilogy.  And a few days ago, I discovered that after a 21 year break, she had gotten back to the series...expanding it  to a fourth book.  So I rushed right out (figuratively speaking) and bought Oath of Fealty for my NookBook. You can't really "click to LOOK INSIDE"; it's just part of the picture I snarfed off of Amazon.

Anyway, I pretty much devoured the book. Enjoyed it immensely.  And then I scampered right back over to BN (cause I've got a Nook...duh), and bought the NEXT book...Kings of the North.

Excitement and Huzzahs descended upon Brooklyn.  Until I noticed I had actually pre-ordered the book.  D'oh!

It could be worse.  It's publication date is March 22nd.  Which means, assuming they're working in the Eastern Time Zone, I'll be downloading at 12:01 and reading at 12:03.  If they're in the Pacific Time Zone, heads will roll.

Update:  It took BN until almost 12:30 A.M. to make my book available.  I'm pretty sure I've got a multi-million dollar lawsuit opportunity here.  Oh, the pain!  Oh, the suffering!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Knock, knock. Who's There? It's The Vile, Base, Despicable Film Industry!

I've got a bone to pick.  I've got an itsy-bitsy bug up my ass.  I am experiencing mild vexation and a modicum of miff. *

Some of you piss me right the fuck off!

OK, probably none of you guys.  And, truth be told, if this actually were directed at you, it's highly doubtful you'd be reading this.  And if you were, you'd be too fucking obtuse to recognize yourself.  So, you, my angelic readers are all, officially, off the hook.

Here's the thing.  As you well know, I make my living by finding places to shoot the various scenes needed for a movie.  There are relatively few specific locations dictated by most scripts.  For every "Int. Grand Central Terminal", there are ten "Ext. beautiful garden"s, and "Int. Suburban Home"s.  Most locations are open to interpretation and, after trying to get into your Director and Production Designer's heads, you go out and look for this stuff.  I tend to knock on a lot of doors and ring a lot of doorbells.

For the most part, I'm greeted quite cordially, although frequently with a smidgen of perplexity. I mean, face it, unless you live in one of a few really iconic neighborhoods, you probably don't have somebody knocking on your door very often to ask if you'd like to have your house featured in a movie.  And when one of us does come knocking,  it's not the least bit surprising that you might want some evidence that we're really who (and what) we say we are.  It's not like we wear uniforms or have badges or some kind of Official Location Scout License to show you.

A little bit of doubt on your part is to be expected.

On the other hand, some of you react to a visit from a location scout as if we had walked in and taken a dump on your floor.  Some of you seem positively offended that we dare to think your home or business might work great in a movie.

Look -- when I show up wanting to film at your place, I'm making a perfectly legitimate business proposition.  In essence, I'm asking if you'd care to rent your property to the company I represent.  If we make a deal, we're going to sign a contract specifying exactly what my company can and can't do on your property.  We're going to name you Additional Insured on a highly comprehensive insurance policy.  And we're going to pay you...quite generously in most cases.

Whatever you may think of the film industry, I have not just asked if you'd like to sell me your sister. I have not just suggested you could make a lot of money if you'd be willing to meet my friend in Bogota and then carry a few little packages secreted away in some body cavity back to New York.  You did not just walk out your front door and find me pissing in your bushes. (Well, actually, I know a guy who did exactly that once, but there are exceptions to every rule.)

I assure you, I don't look down on doormen or waiters or receptionists.  So you'll excuse me if I get a little bit exercised when one of you looks at me with an expression that clearly states, "Oh well, the carpets were due for a cleaning soon anyway".  It's perfectly reasonable ask me to leave a card because there's no one available to speak with me now; making me cool my heels in your lobby for 45 minutes first is just plain obnoxious.  It's also perfectly reasonable to ask me to put my proposal in writing and fax or email it to you. But once you ask for a written proposal, and once I've sent it to you, you owe me a fucking response.  Note that I said nothing about a positive response...just a response of some sort.  I've been polite and owe me the same in return.

And you're completely within your rights to decide you want nothing to do with having a movie in your place.  Your reasons might be understandable; your neighbors already hate you and having a film crew there for a week might just kick things into the legal arena.  Your reasons might be delusional; everybody knows that film crews consort with The Illuminati and The Black Helicopters and aliens from Beta-Zordnoff-12.  Hell, you don't need any reason at's your fucking place.  You don't even need to give me any reason for declining to host a movie shoot.  It's your place; you're free to do with it as you please.

But is it really such a strain to say, "Sorry, we're not interested"?  Must you act like the very proposition is insulting?

I'll leave you with one thing you might bear in mind:  No matter how much of a palace you think you may have, I've been thrown out of much nicer places than your shit hole.

* This little rant is not brought on by any specific  recent occurrence. It's a cumulative thing I somehow started brooding about yesterday for no reason I can recall.  This is, therefore, the venting of a spleen with more than 20 years of built up bile.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Morning Mind Dump.

An elegantly written blog post might start in one place, circle around to another, bypass a place you thought it would be going and then make an acute turn to neatly wrap things up right next to the place  where it began.

This isn't one of those.

First off...I was looking for a particular piece of video to illustrate something (which will be the next part of this post, but will sadly be UNillustrated by the piece of video I couldn't find).  Instead, I ran across this thing which I've never seen before.  I've talked about shooting a snow movie in Minnesota when it didn't snow there, but here's some behind the scenes footage! Only the first minute and a half is applicable. (You can watch the rest if you've got a thing about sled dogs, though!)

What I was looking for was a shot of the scene where Will races his sled across the Oliver Bridge while the train goes by on the upper level.  It's a really cool double-deck bridge connecting Minnesota to Wisconsin.  You'll have to make do with these screenshots from GoogleStreet.

Like any other day on location, we always look for nearby "facilities".  Sure, we've got the honeywagon, but people really like to have an indoor heated space to revive themselves in.  It's always nice (even if it wasn't dictated by the unions), to have somewhere comfortable to sit down for lunch.  In this case, the nearest space to rent was a place called The Outback Bar.  It was a typical dive roadhouse and it was kind of a hike from the set, but it had a roof and heat and running water.  It was Heaven.

But that's not what this is about. (This would be the circling around to somewhere else part if there was going to be any elegance to this post.) turns out Anonymous GF had had previous experience of The Outback Bar. This should be her story, but I'm the one with a blog, so I'll be the one telling it.  And I'm purposely not asking her for a refresher on the story, because I like the way I remember it and I've already proved to myself that I've got some elements wrong. My perusal of GoogleStreet shows a one-story building and the story, as I remember it involves a 2nd floor.  It's entirely possible that the old place burned down and got replaced by the one-story bar I found pictures of, but I deem facts to be irrelevant (and possibly inconvenient).

The bar that stands there now is no longer called The Outback.  When Anon GF first experienced the wasn't called The Outback Bar. A few years before I made the acquaintance of The Outback Bar, Anon GF stopped in one day to scout the place for another project.  She walked into the place in the middle of the day...entering from bright sunlight into the perpetual gloom cultivated by bars of this ilk.

As her eyes adjusted, she realized that the place was entirely deserted. No customers, no waitress, no bartender.  Just her standing alone in the joint.  She called out, assuming that maybe the owner (or whoever), might be in the back.

Left Turn Alert:  At the end of shooting this movie in Maine, Anon GF and I stopped off to fill our gas tank at an Irving Gas Station one night. (I find the name Irving for a gas station absolutely hysterical, but that's neither here nor there.)  After filling the tank at the self-serve pump, I went inside to pay.  There was nobody in the place.  No customers, nobody at the register.  I called out, assuming that maybe the cashier (or whoever), might be in the back.  After standing around and calling out a few times, I got a total case of the heebie-jeebies thinking that maybe I had walked in on the tail end of a robbery and picturing people tied-up (or worse) in the back room, I decided to leave my money on the counter and beat feet! Maybe the robber was still there keeping everyone quiet in the back room.  As we drove away, I dialed 911 on my cell phone (which had a Duluth, MN area code), and discovered that in the early days of cell phones, 911 didn't shunt you to the authorities at the nearest cell towers.  It sent you to 911 in the area code the phone was registered to.  It took a ridiculous amount of time and misunderstanding before I was able to convince the operator that I was calling from Maine and it might be more effective if she could connect me to a cop in the same time zone.  We never did find out what, if anything, had actually happened at the Irving.

But, anyway...back to Anon GF's story.  She's standing in a really dark bar and she's calling out "Anybody here?", and she's all alone and it's creepy as hell.  Just as she's about to surrender to instinct and get the hell out of there, she hears creaking on the floorboards from the second floor (the one the internet is trying to tell me doesn't exist), and in short order, the bartender comes down the (nonexistent?) stairs wiping his hands on a stained apron.

She delivers her spiel about whatever she was scouting for and ends up shooting just enough pictures of the place to be polite and gets out.  A few days later, there's a front page article in the local paper detailing how the owner of the bar had killed his wife and then buried her OUT BACK!  She wasn't ever able to figure out for sure whether she'd been there when all of this was going on, but it was on the same day.

And that's the story of how a dive bar in Wisconsin ended up being named The Outback by the next owners.  And I have no idea, whatsoever, what the current owners did with the 2nd floor.  I bet there's something nefarious behind that too!

And here's the acute turn to neatly wrap things up...nowhere near where it began.

Remember when I talked about my hate-hate relationship with Key West?  I know this is an old commercial, but they keep using the damned thing, and I can't, for the life of me figure out why this commercial is supposed to make a visit to Key West look like a good idea.  I'm speaking of  none other than the catastrophically creepy commercial featuring the:

Yes, I know there are supposed to be thousands of six toed cats there...descended from Ernest Hemingway's polydactyl felines.  But I fail to be attracted by the prospect of viewing the feral inheritors of that particular deformity...even if they did once nuzzle the ankles of the famously uber-macho (not to mention suicidal) author of some of the most painful reads I was ever forced to slog through in High School.  And strapping a camera to Quasimodo-Cat's head really doesn't up the ante for me any.

The whole commercial has this little monster running around town surreptitiously documenting all the fun you can expect.  First, he frightens some dogs...apparently Key West dogs are total wusses. Or maybe they're tourist dogs and they didn't know what they were getting into thinking they could survive the wrath of Key West Mutant Catdom.

Then, the commercial moves on into what appears to be its main theme...peeking up skirts!

 If they're going after Beatles fans, they might do better than invoking The man in the crowd with the multi-colored mirrors on his hobnailed boots.  Just saying.

And just so you know...the girls must love it.

I don't know about you, but she scares the shit out of me!

And for good measure, let's finish off the spot with...

The Creepy Pervy Pirate!

On second thought, I consider that commercial to be a Public Service.  There's a naive honesty to the spot that sort of warns off normal people.  Hey, would you want to hang out with anyone that commercial attracted?

So, assuming you're all safely ensconced anywhere other than The Outback, or an Irving, or Key West...have a happy Sunday. 

BTW,  I've reset my clock and I know the title of this is obsolete since, technically, it's after noon, but I'm always ruthlessly selective about time during the day we change the clocks.  I'll be thinking, "but it's really only  ___O'clock", for the another week.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

That's Some Parking Job There, Lou!

I was amused, anyway.

A Couple of Sunsets. No Sun.

Yesterday's view from Brooklyn.

Two days ago, watching the moon rise over Canal Street.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It Wasn't All That Bad After All. (Followup On Yesterday's Thought)

As it turns out, I can now report that I could count the number of nasty looks we got yesterday on two hands (and maybe part of one foot)!  And I only heard one muttered, "Those fucking people..."

Quite the pleasant day, as it turns out!

Monday, March 7, 2011

It's Gonna Be One Of Those Days.

Some of this may be cryptic...some of it won't.

I have to be on location by by 1/2-hour early.  Today's crew and equipment consist of one still photographer with his gear, one P.A./I-do-anything kinda guy, me, and a ladder.  We'll be setting up on public property...with a permit...and shooting the same shot every hour or so as the sun moves across the sky and the shadows move.  We'll be shooting the shot at sunset, and dusk and after it's fully dark.

We won't be in anyone's way and we won't be causing anybody any problems.  Except that people will think we are.  They don't like having their block photographed...unless you happen to be a starving artist with no prospects of anybody ever buying your pictures until you're long dead.  Then, it'll be fine, because it'll be ART and you'll be dead, and you won't be sullied by having made a living.  And, they'll be able to say, "I was there when he took that shot!"

And they will be.  I don't expect any kind of actual protest or anything...although more surprising things have happened...but I do expect a steady stream of individuals who are really nice on any given day to come up to me and be really nasty.  Because I'll be standing in proximity to a camera.

I'm not looking forward to today.

And I don't even have to stay there with them all day.  I just have to get them started and be reachable by phone.  And then I'm going to have to kill a bunch of hours so I can show up at another building around 5:45 and take some scouting photos of it as the sun sets so everyone can see what the surrounding city lights look like at night.

Today's not going to be exactly the epicenter of SUCK, but it will suck nonetheless.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Yes, My Friends...I Am Full Of Crap!

This morning, as is my wont, I found myself thinking, "Hmmmm, what shall I pontificate about today?"  And each idea that popped into my head, bred a train of thought, both rambling and ranting, which led me to the same unsurprising conclusion..."Nathan; you're full of shit!"

And so, I invite you, who I daresay may be living in states of exquisite denial regarding your own craptaculent repleteness, to pile it were.  I beg thee...tell me all the ways, both real and imagined, in which I am...full of shit.  Please recount specific instances.  Making them up out of whole cloth is not only permissible; it is to be encouraged.

Have at it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Puzzle For Your Wednesday (maybe a little late). Now with Answery Goodness!

So...what do you think this is? And no fair hovering your mouse "right-clicking on it to see it in another tab" looking for the title of the picture! That means you, Eric! (On second thought, go ahead and right-click to your heart's content.)

I'll answer the question after I get a few answers/guesses.

Update 3/3/11: You all seemed to have either 1.)cheated well, 2.) recognized it quickly, or 3.) played dense.  Congratulations to all of you.  Here are the details:

The installation is in the sidewalk in front of the SoHo Building at 110 Greene Street, between Prince and Spring.  It's titled "Subway Map Floating on a New York Sidewalk," and it was created in 1986 by Francoise Schein, a Belgian artist and architect. The schematic runs the length of the building -- 87 feet -- and is 12 feet wide.

The IRT, BMT and IND are represented by half-inch-wide stainless-steel bars embedded in concrete, with lights indicating SoHo-area subway stops. The project cost an estimated $30,000 to produce and won the City Art Commission award for the best art project that year. It only represents the Manhattan part of the system and it's modeled after the 70's version of the subway map which was stylized instead of strictly "geographically correct".

I Feel Just Fine, Thank You Very Much.

I know a bunch of you were worried about me -- (oh, c'mon. Admit it -- of course you were) -- because of my month without Palin (and/or Bachmann), but I appear to have survived it without any permanent damage.  There was a bit of hyperventilating at first, but I doggedly held out from mentioning either of them.

I'll admit that the revelation that Palin has a few sock puppets on her Facebook page proved difficult to resist.  I briefly wavered but I looked up a bunch of 12 step programs and I proved myself stronger than the addiction.  And, to be honest, Bachmann was somewhat helpful by remaining more or less silent during the month.  Thanks for that Michelle.

Anyway, I not only managed to go an entire month without mentioning either of them, I even went an extra day into March!

Congratulatory gifts will be graciously accepted.