Friday, April 29, 2011

I'm Damned If I Do. I'm Damned If I Don't.

I'm conflicted.

On the one hand, I should be a man of integrity and exercise a personal boycott of Donald Trump's; The Celebrity Apprentice.  I've seen the show a couple of times when there was nothing else on, but I can't say I was ever really a fan.  And, of course, now, I'm fairly sour on All Things Trump.  Seems like an easy futile gesture to avoid the damned show, right?


I absolutely loathe Star Jones.  I can't embed the video, but please go have a look at the promo for Sunday night's episode.  I don't really know who the hell Nene is, but I'm now her biggest fan just from what she says in the promo. (If NBC is leading me on and this ends up all warm and fuzzy, I'm gonna be pissed.)

Since I can't embed the video, here's a picture of Jones helpfully whispering something into Marlee Matlin's ear...deafness be damned.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Speak Softly And Carry A Big Stick.

Today, Donald Trump declared victory.  Actually, nothing so crass as that; he proclaimed his pride in putting a disgraceful question to rest (while leaving the door open to claiming nothing of the sort has really happened and making sure the next controversy was conveniently standing by in the wings).

Upon exiting Marine One, his own big-ass chopper, he said.

"Today, I'm very proud of myself because I've accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish.  I was just informed, while on the helicopter, that our president has finally released a birth certificate. I'd want to look at it, but I hope it's true, so that we can get on to much more important matters; so the press can stop asking me questions. He should have done it a long time ago.  Why he didn't do it when the Clintons asked for it; why he didn't do it when everybody else was asking for it, I don't know.  But I am really honored, frankly, to have played such a big role in hopefully, hopefully, getting rid of this issue.

Now, we have to look at it. We have to see, is it real.  is it proper?  What's on it?  But I hope it checks out beautifully. I am really proud, I am really honored.
 After patting himself on the back a little more, he continued:

We can get onto issues, and hopefully, when I sit down with interviews, people don't start talking about birth certificate, birth certificate like they've been doing.

So I feel I've accomplished something really, really important.  And I'm honored by it.
 The Donald has also been questioning the President's academic record.  He's recently said, "The word is; I've heard he was a terrible student. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then go to Harvard?  How does that happen?"

I truly hope Mr. Trump gets to the bottom of this conundrum.  And then I hope he gets to the bottom of whatever controversy he hears about next.  Because, frankly, I wouldn't want Mr. Trump to have to waste any more of his time than necessary answering interviewers' questions about all the stuff he's heard.

Which is why, in the interest of getting this early campaign season off and running on a classier level, I'm asking Mr. Trump to respond to something I've heard; namely, that he has a tiny little dick.  I don't say I believe this, but I think it's necessary for Mr. Trump to respond to this and put it to rest so interviewers will only ask me more important questions about Mr. Trump.

Like I said, I don't necessarily believe this ugly rumor, but it's one I think Mr. Trump should answer to the satisfaction of the American people. It's important. It may not be a Constitutional requirement, but historically, having a big one is a prerequisite for being our Commander in Chief.  Other presidents have proudly addressed the question.  What is Mr. Trump hiding?

Look, I'm not the one who brings this up -- remember, it's just something I've heard.  And before any of you go trying to make this into a racist kinda thing, I'd ask you to please get your minds out of the gutter.

No, it's just that when a guy spends all of his time erecting tall, slender, soaring edifices all over NYC...well, you've got to wonder if he might be compensating for something.  Hmmmm?

Anyway, Mr. Trump, I assure you I've got the purest of motives here, but I feel we deserve evidence. Show us the evidence. Then I'll be able to say, "Today, I'm very proud of myself because I've accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish. I want to look at it, but I hope it's true, so that we can get on to much more important matters.  I am really honored, frankly, to have played such a big role in hopefully, hopefully, getting rid of this issue.

Now, we have to look at it. We have to see, is it real.  is it proper?  What's on it?  But I hope it checks out beautifully. I am really proud, I am really honored."

Oh, and Donald...It's well documented that 1946, the very same year you were "born", was a big year for UFO sightings.  This could just be a coincidence.  Or is it?  Stop dodging the Alien Impregnation Issue!  The American people deserve the truth!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

You Can't Judge A Book...?

It would appear that I've developed the bad habit of telling you about books I'm reading before I finish them.  Well, just because it may be a bad habit doesn't mean I'm about to stop.

I've barely scratched the surface on this one, but Sandman Slim is terrific.

Let's say you're sort of a snarky, ne'er-do-well, biker magician. (It could happen.)  And let's say your fellow ne'er-do-well biker magicians decide to send you to hell without actually -- uh -- killing you first.  And then, let's say, after a few years of surviving as hell's only living gladiator, you somehow manage to get your ass back to Los Angeles.

You might, be a little miffed at the people who done you wrong. And you might set out to get a little revenge.  And you might be really good at surviving by now.  (There's more to it than that, but that's all you need to know for the moment.)

It's kind of a Steven Brust novel crammed together with a Christopher Moore novel...just...not those things at all.

Just pick it up.


You may recall (hey it was just a few days ago),  I talked about The Magicians by Lev Grossman.  For lack of a better description, I mentioned that it was being called "Harry Potter for adults".  Well, it turned really dark,  a chapter or so after what I had written.  It doesn't lose it's sense of humor nor, of course, it's quite wonderful use of language, but, boy...does it take an unexpected turn.  And while it has a satisfying ending, it's not all unicorn farts and sparkly, cuddly teddy bears at the end either.

HIghly recommended, but don't say I didn't warn you  --- "happily ever after" doesn't necessarily enter into the picture.


Stick around kids.  Soon I'm going to start reviewing books based solely on the covers!  It's gonna be awesome!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Bo.Lt From The Blue!

I found this website today, BO.LT, that basically let's you copy any web page and then let's you replace elements with your own content...including pictures, text and links.  Frankly, I have no idea whatsoever why they bothered creating this thing -- yeah, I'm sure it's all for benign purposes -- but, of course, I had to mess with it once I found it.

Here's what I've discovered. 

If I wasn't so lazy, this thing could be truly dangerous in my hands!

I could use it to libel my cat.  Take that LuLu.  That'd make her think twice before farting in my presence.

I could use it to cast a cloud over a friend's perfectly good Commie, Pinko credentials.  Didn't see that coming, did you Eric?

Mostly, I think it would come in handy whenever I needed a link to prove any of my inane positions.  But it turns out it's even more work making up evidence than it is just saying, "I'm right...I don't have to prove it."


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Current Reading

I've just finished one book and I'm in the middle of another.  First, we have Spinward Fringe - Origins by Randolph Lalonde.
This one is a space opera and it's really quick, enjoyable reading.  It begins with a group of what amounts to on-line gamers (albeit a few hundred years in the future).  They've gotten bored with the level of games available to them, so now, they're breaking into the Military's simulations and they're wiping the instructors asses every time.

The military ends up offering them a choice; come test with us.  If you win, we'll give you a ship.  Lose and you go to jail for 2-10 years.  Of course, they prevail and they get sent off to have ADVENTURES.  There are no great revelations in these stories, but the stories flow nicely and the characters are interesting enough to keep your attention.

Best part?  This is currently a free eBook both for Kindle and Nook.  Another reason I'm glad I haven't made any personal blanket prohibition against picking up self-published books.

I'm currently about 1/2-way through The Magicians by Lev Grossman.
I have to admit I hadn't heard of Grossman, but since he's part of an event John Scalzi is doing at the New York Public Library along with Cat Valente and Scott Westerfeld, i thought I'd read his stuff before attending.  I'm glad I picked this one up.

The book is described as Harry Potter for adults.  That's probably a simplistic description, but I suppose it'll do.  The writing is terrific and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. I'm especially enjoying how the language tends to allude to the attitude the school wants to project -- that of a snooty English Public School -- and then jars you out of that regularly by reminding you that our protagonist is a Brooklyn boy, through and through.

I'd recommend both -- just on different days.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Wrap gifts (and wrap parties) have become such commonalities that not only do crews feel entitled to them, they feel obliged to rate them and find some wanting.  Some complain about merely getting a t-shirt and a ball cap instead of a jacket.  Some complain that the wrap party only includes free beer and wine and, heaven-forfend, they'll have to pay for drinks if they want the hard stuff. 

I've got to admit I find this incredibly tacky.  If you work on movies, you are not, some guy who gets a year-end bonus based on your job performance.  You're not a doorman at a luxury building who can reasonably expect a healthy Christmas tip from the wealthy residents you've been catering to all year.

A wrap gift (and  wrap parties) are demonstrations of generosity intended to thank you for your good work (whether your work was particularly good or not, since everybody tends to get the same thing).  It's not as if you weren't already paid for showing up and doing your job every day.  And, frankly, in today's economy, it might be appropriate for some employees to be giving their bosses a gift to thank them for providing employment in the first place.

Anyway, wrap gifts tend to be reserved for those who were significantly involved in a project -- people who worked most of the show, any of the actors, people who contributed something unique.  When a show does a couple of days shooting in New York, I don't really expect to get any kind of wrap gift -- and I'm rarely disappointed in that expectation.

Which brings me to yesterday.  Yesterday afternoon, I went to answer the doorbell and found the UPS guy there with a package for me!  Since I hadn't ordered anything, my curiosity meter pegged at Eleven.  The return address was a wine shop in L.A.  The box itself carried no clues since it was from some kind of hosiery store; obviously repurposed.  Inside the box was a lovely bottle of wine, nicely gift wrapped.

Otherwise, there was only a bunch of packing peanuts -- no note!  I ended up calling the wine shop on the shipping label and they were quickly able to tell me who my benefactor was -- the Writer and Executive Producer for the TV Pilot I just worked on.

Now, I knew the Director and Producers were happy with the way the N.Y. shoot went, but there are all kinds of reasons I'm shocked that anyone would do anything more than saying "thank you". (Actually, saying "thank you" isn't a default action these days, so the fact that they had already done that at the end of the shoot had felt really good already.)  The fact is -- this was one day of shooting out of the 10 days total they shot.  And, frankly, for a one-day shoot, it would be normal for me to get somewhere between 5 and 10 days to find and prep the locations.  I got almost 6 straight weeks of work out of this show.

To say I'd already been generously compensated would be an understatement.

Anyway, I'm feeling especially cheery today over one Producer's generosity and thoughtfulness.

Thanks Natch!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Errant Email.

To those of you who received indecipherable emails, purportedly from me, this morning...I apologize.  They're actually from Teufel.  You'll have to ask him what the hell, they're all about.

He also undertook a really odd Google Search.  I'm not at liberty to discuss his results yet, but there's a possibility he may have discovered the definitive last digit to π.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What's That Stuff On The Ground?

Yesterday, Jeremiah's Vanishing New York had a post that brought back some memories for me. Now I could have just posted a comment over there, but 1), I thought it might be a little too long and 2),  why give up good blog fodder when someone suggests it.  Thanks Jeremiah!

You should go read the post, 'cause it's good, but it's mostly about The Triangle Building and how the Meat Packing District has changed over the last 25 years or so.

The pointy part of the Triangle Building

I've scouted in The Triangle Building a few times and I've got to say it's one of the friendliest buildings in New York.  Whenever I've gone in there, I've ended up chatting endlessly with whoever let me in in the first place and, without fail, they've ended up introducing me to one of their neighbors who's space sounded more like what I was looking for.

But that's not what this is about.

If you read Jeremiah's post you'll come across Ivy's description of what the neighborhood used to smell like.  Up until the early 90's, practically every building in the area housed a meat packer.  Their main hours of operation were from 3:00am to 3:00pm every day.  Each operation had a metal awning outside and a system of hooks on overhead rails to move sides of beef, pigs, and lambs from trucks to the inside.  Thousands of carcasses were delivered, butchered and then shipped back out every day.  And, at the end of the day, each business would leave these huge red barrels outside labeled "inedible".  That was the fat and bones and gristle that would get picked up and disposed of in various ways.

To say the neighborhood stunk would be the height of understatement.  Especially in the summer.  Sure, they'd hose down the sidewalk every day and the Dept. of Sanitation sent street sweepers through every evening, but those streets were and still are all cobblestones.  It wasn't so much that the streets were being cleaned as the stuff on them was being blended.  No matter when you walked through there, the streets were coated in a sort of slippery slime.

And, of course, the neighborhood looked gritty as hell, so lots of movies wanted to shoot scenes there.  One of my first jobs as an Assistant Location Manager was on State of Grace.  I got thrown into the deep end and assigned what would be the first day of filming.  We'd be shooting on 13th Street and it was a scene where somebody drives up, talks to someone and then shoots them and drives off. (You'll pardon me, but I honestly don't remember who it was shooting who in that scene.  If you've seen the movie, there's a hell of a lot of "driving up, talking to someone and then shooting them".)

Anyway, I was told to go to the location one evening to wait for all the "powers-that-be" to show up for the Tech Scout so I'd know what I needed to set up for the scene.  Of course, I showed up early and of course, the scout showed up late.  So, I spent about 2 hours kibbitzing with the tranny hookers while I was waiting. At first, they were pissed about the idea of a movie spoiling their business for one night, but when I told them we'd be wrapped by sunset, they were all cool with it and just wanted to know who was in the movie. (And I'll admit to having felt a little like Arlo Guthrie sitting on the "Group W Bench" after he got over being scared of all the "mother rapers and father rapers" and got around to the serious business of smoking lots of cigarettes and playing with the pencils and papers and stuff.)

There are two things I remember most about the shoot day.  First, this was back in the days when a producer could sign a "chit" and Accounting would accept pretty much any reason for you blowing through a load of cash.  On that day, I handed out something like $800 in Twenty-Dollar Bills to truck drivers who wanted to make deliveries on the block we were shooting with the request, "Why don't you go get lunch for an hour or so?"  The other thing I remember -- and this will be important later -- is that at the end of the day, all of the electricians were whining about all of the nasty stuff that was on all of their cables.  They made lots of noise about how nasty it was, but they picked it all up just the same. The electric truck smelled like spoiled rotted meat for the rest of the show.

On another show, Roger Dodger, there's a scene where Roger takes his nephew Nick to a "happy endings" massage parlor.  You'd be surprised how hard it is to find one of those places that'll actually let you shut them down for a day.  The solution was a club called Hellfire -- in the basement of the Triangle Building.  This was a place that changed it's name and clientele every night -- It was also Manhole.  One night it was a basic gay bar; another, an S&M club, etc. etc.  I distinctly recall a sign as you walked in with a list of rules -- what you could and couldn't stick in where -- stuff like that.  It was a fairly huge club and one section of it was devoted to little privacy booths on a central hallway -- exactly what we were looking for.

Remember that thing Ivy mentioned about the floors feeling like they were coated in glue?  Yup.  This was another place where they didn't clean the floor so much as just dilute it and move stuff around.  During the scout, the electricians were extremely concerned with what would happen to the cables when they touched that floor.  There were suggestions that we shoot there and then just leave all of the equipment and get new stuff from the rental house.  Ultimately, production bought all of them work gloves (and latex liners) they could throw away at the end of the day.  I also have a vague recollection of them hiring an additional guy the next day who spent the day on the truck wiping down all of the cable with Lysol or some such.

The neighborhood has changed.  Most of the meat packers have moved to the Bronx.  I think there are 4 or 5 of them still in operation there.  There are two luxury hotels in the neighborhood -- The Gansevoort and The Standard.  There's an Apple Store.  There are tons of chic little (and not so little), designers' stores.  With the exception of Hector's Diner, there aren't many places to eat that won't set you back $75 a head.  As you walk down the street, you'll hear more British and French accents than New Yorkese.  And you'll hear lots of New Joisey too.

And Hellhole is now the 675 Bar.  I hear it's really nice.

As long as we're on the's one other thing.  For years, Bill Gottlieb was buying up buildings in the area.  I assume he was getting them dirt cheap.  For the longest time, if you were looking for an interior to shoot in the neighborhood, you just sort of assumed that Bill owned it.  Invariably, they were in shit condition and he'd charge you a fortune to shoot in one of them.  I can't really blame the guy.  He knew before anyone else what would eventually happen to the neighborhood and he spent 20+ years buying up whatever he could get his hands on and then just sitting on it until the prices skyrocketed.  He died a few years ago, but his sons inherited the business. I don't know if they just sold off all of the properties and took the profit or if they still own them and they're getting super rents.  Either way, they made out quite nicely for themselves.

BTW,  I get nostalgic about places like the Meat Packing District changing but I'm not exactly going to go into mourning about it.  Sure, there are places that need to be preserved and protected, but not everything.  I'm not wild about what Times Square has become, but I can't honestly say I miss the sleazy shithole it was when I first moved here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Some Really Slow Stuff.

I always get kind of a kick out of the shapes trees can take when something gets in their way.  The trees don't seem to give a rat's ass.  They just keep on going in the direction they want to and they, more or less, deal with the impediment in their own good time.

I like the way this tree just oozed it's way through/around this chain link fence.
I'm guessing if it had been allowed another few years of growth, even these little diamond-shaped mementos in the bark would have eventually grown together and mostly disappeared.
Roots pay lip service to sidewalks at first and just flow over and around whatever is in the way, but...
...eventually, if the sidewalk is in the way, it's gonna get moved.
This old hunk of sidewalk must have been too much effort to chip out and they just decided to leave that part when they enlarged the tree well.
Speaking of "lip service", I'm curious what forced this little oddity.
This one looks a little like lava, just flowing into whatever gaps are easiest.
On another subject, I may have mentioned that there's a new coffee shop in my neighborhood called WTF Coffee Labs.  Personally, I think they're a little bit out of their minds.  You can order your coffee from a large variety of beans from a large variety of brewing processes.  One of them is a cold filtered process where the coffee takes about 24 hours to prepare.
If it's not clear from the pictures, that rig is mounted on the wall and it's about 5' tall.  The drips happen about once every two seconds.
That's one slooooooow way to make coffee.
As often as not, I'm just as happy with a 75¢ cup of mud from the corner deli.  I guess I'm a Philistine that way.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hitting The Wall. And Some Other Stuff.

I'm sure most of you know that the NY Times recently instituted an online subscription policy.  You get to look at 20 articles online for free, and then you get locked out unless you pay a subscription fee.  This went into effect on March 28th.

Well, I've been husbanding my 20 free articles.  I've made a point of reading the NY Post and the NY Daily News (as well as Gothamist), before looking at the Times.  That way, I figure there have been some articles I didn't need to read in the Times to have a clue what's been going on.  And, though I haven't put a whole lot of thought into what I'd do when I'd used up my 20 free views, the thought has occurred to me.  I'm still not sure if I'm willing to pony up the cash to read the Times online.

The question has just gone critical.  Earlier this morning, I got this warning. (Don't worry...this is a screenshot, so if you're being choosy about using up your own NY Times views, this won't count against you.)
And then, somewhat to my surprise, I found out that it's not only the Times, itself that's part of the subscription dealy; The Local, the Times sponsored blog for my neighborhood also counts! (The screenshot below showed up when I went back to the Times after having looked at a couple of articles on The Local.

I hadn't realized I was using up more precious article views on The Local, but apparently I had been.

They probably have me over a barrel.  How the hell am I supposed to get by without The Times?

Item #2: I've updated my review of Pym.  I fell out of love about 2/3rds of the way through.  Ah well.

And one more thing.  My Post Office, (Pratt Station), just reopened after being closed for a year for "necessary renovations".  Today was the first time I've been there since they've reopened.  I'm not sure what the hell they did.  The part that's open to the public looks exactly the same with a few notable exceptions I'll get to in a minute.  The walls are still chipped and there are the same peeling decals on the bulletproof glass that keeps the Postal Workers safe from their natural enemies customers. The floor still looks like it could use a mopping.  The stanchions holding up the little path we have to follow is in the exact same arrangement and, I'd swear, that rubber mat still has the same corner sticking up to trip the unwary.  What I can see behind the bulletproof glass looks the same too, as far as I can tell.  And there are still two workers back there manning 6 Customer Abuse Service windows.

What's changed?  Well, you used to be able to use a couple of stamp machines and even an automated mailing station in the lobby.  Those are gone.  You used to be able to get mailing labels and envelopes for a variety of overnight and priority mailing.  Those are gone.  Now, if you want to mail something overnight, you have to wait in line to get the supplies, go to the desk and fill in everything, and then stand in line all over again to actually send it somewhere.

You may hate your Post Office more than I hate mine, but I've got a much better excuse.  I do.