Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Five Most Obscure Things I Quote Regularly

"Well, it certainly sounds like something I'd do..."

Lord Julius in High Society (Cerebus the Aardvark volume 2), written by Dave Sim.

Lackey: Lord Julius! Lord Julius! The Theocrats have the grounds surrounded by heavy pike!
Lord Julius: We'll just have to send in our heavy pike, then...
Lackey: We can't Lord Julius
Lord Julius: And why not?
Lackey: You told me to sell them on the black market to finance your campaign.
Lord Julius: Oh! So now it's my fault, is it? ... Well, what about those two tall guys with the big spears who were walking in front of me when we got here?
Lackey: You told me to trade them for the silver and gold bathtub in the shape of a giant squid...
Lord Julius: Well, it certainly sounds like something I'd do...

"Take two, they're small."

The Butcher Boy (1997)

In this powerful, funny and disturbing film, our hero, Francie, is a portly and deeply troubled boy in 1950s Ireland.

After destroying his nemesis' home by spreading fecal matter on the walls and acting like a pig, he is sent to a Catholic-run "industrial school" for rehabilitation, but a perverted priest bribes him with candy, dresses him up as a schoolgirl, and is about to sexually abuse him when the two are discovered.

Hoping to keep the incident under wraps, the headmaster of the school calls Francie to his office to offer Francie's freedom for his silence. Just before the headmaster makes his offer, Francie asks for a candy from the headmaster's desk. "Take two," the man says. "They're small."

Francie takes the candy and joyfully repeats "Take two! They're small!"

Other Uses
I always end up saying this when I hand out hot bricks to other PAs on set.


State Sen. Clayton 'Clay' Davis (Isaih Whitlock) in The Wire

Clay Davis, the love-to-hate political con artist and unapologetic grafter, draws this word out to several several times its normal length in order to express disbelief.

"What am I looking for... pudding..."

Adam Sandler's character in Punch-Drunk Love.

In the only Adam Sandler movie where Sandler does not play the guy he plays in every other Adam Sandler movie, Sandler is pushing a grocery cart through a store with no apparent purpose when he says this. The quote is striking because of all the things Sandler's character may or should be looking for based on what we know of him so far, pudding is the most unlikely.

Other Uses
You know when you walk in to the living room and you can't remember why you went in there? Say this quietly to yourself, think about the simple ramifications, and whatever you've forgotten will come to you.

cc of the cheungle and I are bitterly divided on Punch-Drunk Love. I think it's both Sandler's and Paul Thomas Anderson's best movie. Cindy thinks, and I may be summarizing here, "Meh."

"Nothing to be done."

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett.

Opening line.

May only be used when you have something in your shoe, stop, take off your shoe, turn it over, shake it, and nothing comes out. NO OTHER USES ARE ACCEPTABLE.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Joy of Facebook

Copied and pasted directly from my newsfeed (minus the last names):

Adrian joined the group If I were an enzyme i would be DNA helicase so i could unzip your genes. 7:21pm

Will joined the group Slap A Ho Foundation. 6:11pm

Sunday, December 24, 2006


I believe we are entering a new age of prodigiousness in art.

As usual, my argument for this bold and sweeping claim begins with They Might Be Giants.

Many have tried to describe TMBG, and no description is complete without explaining that they've created a tremendous number of songs about a lot of different subjects (name another band that has over 150 "common themes" in their music.)

How do they do it? For one thing, TMBG, aside from their "Band of Dans," is only two people. They are low-rent. They spent years with just the two of them in their apartment, writing music. You can't do this with a band of six recent college grads.

They are also modest of ambition. TMBG have never gotten bigger than they can manage. Part of their appeal is that they are just two family guys from Brooklyn. They also don't mind doing good work that makes them a lot of money.

TMBG are talented, and they're also portable, modest and sustainable. As a result, they've thrived, and they've created over 1,200 songs (counting alternate versions).

My point is that it is getting easier for everyone to be more portable, modest and sustainable.

I've talked about this before at embarassing length, but take, for example, the comics industry.

First chair of comics Scott McCloud says in his afterward to Flight Volume 1 that the seminal volume represents a new generation of comics artists, one that does the work first, then worries about how it will be distributed.

A lot of these artists made a start on the internet, where it is very easy to publish, slightly more difficult to find an audience, and very difficult to make money, or at least enough money to cartoon full time.

This shows two things: first, these artists are not doing it for the money (modesty of ambition.)

Second, if more artists have greater access to an audience without the pressure of a traditional commercial market, they will produce a lot of work.

It's the same with writing. Chris Anderson, author of the Long Tail meme, estimates that he has written over 200,000 words on his blog versus 70,000 in his published work. There are no publishers to deal with, no editors between what we've written and our audience, and (ahem) a lower standard for blog posts than published work.

Film is another medium that is quickly losing its barriers to entry. This month, I produced a six-minute short film for three figures - and I spent more than I needed to because I was scared of screwing up.

The surprising thing about that movie was how many people were willing to loan their time, equipment or labor to make my little nothing movie. People like to produce art. Decrease the barriers, and (link via Boing-Boing)

Last point: I read that the market for particular (non-comic) artists does not correspond to the usual rules of supply and demand. If an artist produces more work, she can participate in more exhibits and generate more buzz. Supply increases, so demand increases faster.

Greater access to markets will not only encourage more people to produce art, it will also encourage a larger audience.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Stuff I've Looked Up On Wikipedia This Week

How I've been educating my brain this week. In reverse chronological order, then grouped by related searches. Context available upon request.

Chris Ware

Long Tail

George Plimpton
Dave Eggers

Godzilla (film)
Godzilla (in general)

San Antonio
King William
Santa Fe

Fifty Greatest Cartoons of All Time (via Boing-Boing)


The Second Episode of Rome
The First Episode of Rome
Rome: HBO TV Series
The 11th Episode of Rome
List of the Harveytoons Show Episodes

The Andy Griffith Show
Andy Griffith

Prestige Class
Limousine Liberal
Mallard Fillmore (via Shortpacked!)

Where I've Been Sun. Dec. 17- Sat., Dec. 23

The first, median and latest site I visited each day of the past week.

Sunday, December 17 (129)

Monday, December 18 (115)

Tuesday, December 19 (39)

Wednesday, December 20 (129)

Thursday, December 21 (63)

Friday, December 22 (246)

Saturday, December 23 (221)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Five Things I dislike about Santa Fe, N.M.

ONE: Altitude of 7,000 ft.
While visiting my mom at her house in Santa Fe, N.M. this week I experienced shortness of breath, weakness, stomach pains and disorientation. My mother, who is not a doctor, diagnosed me with altitude sickness.

TWO: Static Electricity
Thin, dry air means plenty of static electricity, which means you get shocked every time you touch a car door or doorknob.

THREE: Race Divisions
White people and Latinos eat, shop and live in different places and different parts of town. This is really creepy.

FOUR: Tourists
I developed a dislike for tourists while growing up in a neighborhood that tourists like to look at. I lived in the front bedroom, the one most visible to tourists, so I had my shades shut for basically my entire childhood.

Let's just say living in New York has not improved my attitude towards tourists.

FIVE: No Subways
Get on it, America!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Uniqueness of Individuals

Maybe it's because I've been religiously watching Battlestar, but I've been thinking a lot lately about the uniqueness of individuals.

This is something that always gets me when I travel. Why is it important that this particular set of brain, body, memories, personality and perceptions be transported to this particular place? Is there any real difference between two people doing the same action?

This sort of thing drives me crazy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

ribble's Coffee

Coffee is my favorite beverage. It is the only widely available potable liquid with magical properties.

I first started drinking coffee with my mom, who drinks half-decaf, half-caffeinated coffee with sugar and lots of skim milk heated in a small pot on the stove, so that's how I took my coffee.

Then I went away to school in Wales, where the nearest grocery store was 20 minutes walk in the rain each way. Sugar and especially milk were often not available, so I got used to having my coffee black. Also, we had no coffee maker, so it was plunger coffee all the way.

When I went to college, I drank coffee at the local joint. I went through all the different brews and all the different drinks.

My favorite drink (to stay) was the cafe au lait, which at the Dirty Boy a little metal pot of strong, black coffee, and a little metal pot of warm milk. My favorite drink (to go) was the Jamaican Blue Mountain with a double shot of espresso - basically the strongest type of coffee that could be legally sold.

When I left school and got my own place, I bought a bed and then I bought a coffee pot. I got whole beans from one of the many spots around Park Slope and ground them myself. I had no consistent philosophy on milk and sugar, preferring them when faced with mediocre coffee but letting good coffee speak for itself.

Then I started working in media and drinking coffee with Speedrail. We drank either the really cheap coffee from the deli down the street or the really cheap coffee from the gas station at the corner. In either case, it was always large, light and sweet.

I lost that job and started working on film sets. Film means weird hours, stress and very little sleep. If it weren't for coffee, the film business would not exist. Because PAs never really got breaks and always had the least time for meals, I had time to pour in milk but no time to stir in sugar. (Although, on the one Bollywood film I worked, the craft service guys made a really strong instant with condensed milk and only served it at tea time. It was to die for.)

Now I'm a little bit between careers, and I haven't hit a new coffee philosophy. Will I be a writer, keeping the pot going all day and all night? A producer, forcing lackeys to buy me some very specific type of Starbucks? A film star, demanding only coffee made with organic beans and bottled water? Or maybe a film guerrilla, drinking deli coffee when I can get it?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I Made a Movie

By the time I read this, we will be done shooting Ballots Over Broadway, the first film I've produced in over a year.

This feels pretty good.

I've learned a lot about making movies since my last project, and I'm a better producer now than I was then. It's both surprisingly easy and surprisingly difficult to make a movie. Difficult because there's always so much that can go wrong; easy because there are so many people who will make a movie just to do it - for no money, just for the dream of it.

Some people dream of making a movie for their whole lives and never get a chance. I know that this skill, the ability to produce these small projects, it's not something just anyone can do. At the same time, I'm not sure what qualifies me to do it. Really all I did since I left college (with no practical skills) was to work on sets and pay attention. It's the same "high skill/no skill" feeling that I had as a PA.

So, once again, the job is done, and, once again, I'm feeling lost. I know what I can do, but I don't know what to do with what I can do.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Finally, a Post About Scrubs

Here's what I've been doing since Friday: producing a movie and watching Scrubs.

The movie's going fine, so let's talk about Scrubs.

I just discovered Scrubs a few weeks ago. Having giving it a lot of thought (probably 30 :22 minute hours - Scrubs is on a lot) I think the reasons it appeals are threefold.

ONE (1) Scubs is a classic American workplace comedy
I loooove the workplace comedy. Wings, Sports Night, West Wing (just to continue that theme there), NewsRadio, you could make a case for Firefly, The Office (okay it's British, but then we stole it back!), the, list, goes, on. My favorite Arthur Miller play is A Memory of Two Mondays. You don't hear anybody else saying that. Ever.

Workplace comedies work so well because they give a plausible reason to throw a lot of diverse personalities together, there's inherent conflict in working with other people, and they're relatable - most everyone spends the majority of their waking hours at work with other people doing the same thing - while still being a little escapist, which brings me to point #2.

TWO (2) Scrubs is that little bit absurd that makes all the difference
Comedy better be fast, but sitcoms better be crazy. Third Rock From the Sun, Arrested Development, The Simpsons - all of these great sitcoms are also pretty goddamn surreal. Try looking at the episode synopsis I've linked to. Here's an excerpt:

"Mr. Black announces to the campers that Krusty has finally come, but it's just local drunk Barney Gumble dressed as Krusty. This indignity leads Bart to finally snap; he leads the campers in rebellion, driving out Mr. Black and the bullies, and establishing Camp Bart. The newscaster Kent Brockman arrives at the camp to report on the revolt; when Homer watches the live broadcast and finds Bart is the leader, he instantly loses his newly-grown hair and gains back his weight."

Tell me that wouldn't fit fine into a surrealist play.

Still don't buy it? Here's a controlled experiment. Watch any episode of "Ellen". I know, I know, but it's for science. Is it 22 minutes later?* Now watch the famous "Puppy Episode," where Ellen comes out as a lesbian. Wait - what happened? It ... it's funny! What turned it around?

The difference is that in the puppy episode, Ellen is in a much more absurd world than she was in any other episode. Oprah is her psychologist, there's got a dream sequence with melons, it's all very weird. The puppy episode was the first time, after five mediocre seasons, that "Ellen" finally grew some balls. So to speak.

THREE (3) Zach Braff is like the over-moused, sitcom-star version of me. Or maybe Snoopy.
Dr. John "J.D." Dorian is one of the most sympathetic characters I've ever seen on T.V. He's a lot like Snoopy from Peanuts - innocent, prone to escapist fantasies, and somehow existing in a more joyful world than the rest of the characters. I think what I like the most about J.D. is that he has his own way of being and he can't change it no matter how hard he might try.

* What do you mean it's a half hour later? Dude, buy a TiVo.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Get it Done School

I am of the Get it Done school of filmmaking. I see movies (the ones I work on, anyway) as a series of logistical problems to be overcome. That's why the first thing I did when I decided to produce next month's film for First Sundays - even before I decided to produce it, truth be told - was to get two other people to take over the aesthetic aspects of the film, the writing and directing.

These two guys are stars, and they're doing a great job, but, in a way, I don't care. As long as they're getting their jobs done, I'm happy. It lets me focus on getting the logistical challenges out of the way.

Every film needs a get it done guy or it just doesn't happen. I'm watching American Movie now, and it's a bit terrifying. I just need to keep reminding myself that I'm more organized than Mark Borchardt.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A PA Habit

Early on in my PA days I had a habit of thinking about the latest problem to come up (often other people's) and thinking about what I could have done before to prevent them. As it happens, there have been less and less problems that I feel like I could have prevented.

For one thing, I'm a better PA now than I was before, but that's just part of the explanation.

When I looked back, most of the ways I found to hypothetically prevent problems was to tell the people above me about potential problems before they developed.

Now, alerting people above me to potential problems is a tricky thing. Under the wrong circumstances or handled in the wrong way, it could be interpreted as telling someone above me (and when I'm a PA, everyone is above me) how to do their job.

Part of being a good PA is knowing what falls in someone else's area of responsibility from the beginning. The tricky part, for me anyway, is to tell someone once that there's a potential problem and then leave it to them to deal with it in their own way. After all, they may know something I don't know, like that there are other, more important things for both of us to be dealing with.

Taking ownership of problems is tricky, and I'm still mastering it.

The other reason I'm finding less problems I could have prevented is that I now understand that even if I had done everything right before, often a lot of other stuff would have had to happen in order for things to go right in the end.

Now I know why the people on set who are the most experienced seem the most relaxed. Mastering a job means putting challenges in perspective.

ribble's T.V. Experiment

Really it's a "no t.v. experiment," but whatever.

Here's what going on with not watching t.v. during the days for the past week or so:

I'm reading more. Which has made me realize that the prescription of my glasses is probably too strong. It's also made me realize how my friend Emily made it through Infinite Jest in two weeks (no t.v. at all, if you can believe such a thing.)

I'm also spending more time seeing other people more. Partly because I'm bored. Then I'm writing more.

I'm also realizing ... again ... that I don't have enough space in my New York apartment for a lot of the things I'd like to do here.

- Filing, which sounds trivial but really, really isn't; especially if you're trying to be a film producer of some kind. Filing takes space. I mean, I don't even have a desk.

- Playing with legos.

- Playing on the floor.

- Reading Nemo Sundays.

- Putting away all my clothes, which is good news for New York Coat Drive.

- Cleaning my tree (don't ask).

- Producing a movie.

- Any sort of artistic pursuit unless you count blogging.

- Eating a home-cooked meal with another person.

- Cooking, for that matter.

- Getting away from it all.

- Taking things out of their storage places so I can sort them and store them more efficiently.

- Painting the walls.

- Reading in bed.

- Oh, and the lighting's bad.

- Having a pet (although this one I'm on the fence about. The problem is that any name I give a cat could never have as cool a name as my friend Liz's former cat, Dr. Pickles.)

Upshot: because I'm watching less t.v. I'm thinking more. WHO'D OF THOUGHT.

Assumed Fluency

I'm really enjoyed reading Scott McCloud's Making Comics despite the fact that I don't make comics. Partly this is because the guy's an excellent writer - you don't have to act to read Stanislavsky.

There's another, more interesting reason I like Making Comics. McCloud, who has also written a definitive book on comic theory and one on comics in an online, post-superhero world, references a lot of comics to make his points.

I was very pleased that he references a lot of the comics I read regularly, but I was even more excited that he refers to a lot of comics I've never read. I love the idea of following up on the references in the book to find more stuff to read.

I decide which comics to read, or what movies or t.v. shows to watch, by being very sensitive to assumed fluency in popular culture. When someone makes a joke that refers a movie, or two people on a set talk about a t.v. show, or I see an article about an actor and I'm not familiar with the reference, I make a point of following up.

Once I've watched something, I decide if I like it or not just like anyone else. For new stuff, though, it's all about assumed fluency. It's a strategy based on social acceptance, and I realized awhile back that not everyone does it. Still, it allows me write stuff like the best '80s movie blog post ever, so I'm going to stick with it.


Unemployment is boring. It's a recipe for desperation.

In what has been my chosen profession, unemployment comes with the territory. Film people work from gig to gig, and unemployment is what happens inbetween.

The problem is I never know how long between gigs is going to last. One of the problems.

The other problem, the fat man sitting on the seesaw of unhappiness to which unemployment is the fulcrum, is that I hate looking for work. Hate it.

I work to escape the problems I have in the rest of my life, which means when I don't work, I have to face those problems again.

I've come up with a few ways to be semi employed, like writing and tutoring, but they're ultimately unsatisfying. It's hard to feel like these are real work after doing production, where the work is so real it effectively kills off the rest of my life.

That leaves me with ways to kill time, i.e. Mr. Ribbles on the couch with the remote, which, of course, just makes it worse.

There are only a few jobs I feel capable and qualified to do. At the same time, I know most of these jobs are or would be killing me. The crashes after the high of work are too much. Until I can learn how to be happy when I'm not working, I have to give up production.

This happens to a lot of people, and I hate that it's happening to me (by the way, ever see this? Nothing will make you feel dirtier.)

I'm not really quitting production, anyway, since that would just make me more unemployed. I'm just not going after jobs, especially long jobs like features - I'm just doing the ones I'm being asked to do. Here's what you might call the plan:

1) I've stopped watching t.v. during the day. I've been doing this for about a week.

2) I'm producing a very small, very managable short film that will show at First Sundays on January 7.

3) Today, I took my resume to a film equipment rental house in my neighborhood.

4) I've got that writing project I mentioned before.

5) Oh and then I'm blogging a lot. Maybe you could call this series "ribble's Quest For Non-Cinema-Related Happiness."

6) I'll keep working for my regular clients as a PA. They're aren't that many, and they tend to have short gigs.

7) If a big, interesting project comes along, or a friend is doing something and I want to be involved, I'll probably do it anyway, but I'll be choosy.

Not much of a mandate - in particular, I need to carefully consider the merits of a real day job. But, it's a start.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Here's What I Did Yesterday

Here's what I did yesterday: haul equipment and coffee back and forth across a building a quarter of a mile long.

Here's what I'm doing tonight: sleeping.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Playing the Role of Producer: Ribbles

Excellent night.

Tonight my film premiered at First Sundays. My hand-picked audience members liked it. After the film, I successfully mingled with all parties of said hand-picked audience members (not as easy as it sounds).

Did I mention I'm producing next month's audience film?

That's kind of a big deal.

I have my team together, my writer has a solid concept, I'm getting a jump on location, equipment, schedule, so, of course, I'm nervous as hell. This anxiety has manifested itself psychosomatically as issues with my stomach.

Which sucks.

Of course, there are some perfectly sensible, non-psychosomatic explanations for these stomach issues: There is no food in my apartment, I ate some bad enchiladas at an engagement party in San Antonio a little while back, I don't really understand how to cook the pork dumplings I had for dinner.

However, an invisible, annoying and slightly embarrassing ailment which I can't ignore but which may only exist in my mind and is fighting me from the inside functions admirably as an analogy for my current state of mind. (Spike Lee used it in Clockers, and I can't think of better company for any analogy than that.)

Aside from stomach pains, I also get the feelings that I am somehow only acting like the producer of this film. I mean, I'm hiring people, calling in favors, talking with authority, having meetings, making arrangements, working the room - essentially, doing all the things a producer does - but I still feel like I'm faking it.

There's the possibility of failure, of course. The last project I produced was, in many ways, a failure. On the other hand, if I do all the things a producer does, then I am the producer, like it or not. It's like a relationship - if I can be the same person when I fail as when I succeed, I'll know it's for real.

Until then, I'm investing in Gatorade and TUMS.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Beginning of the End?

Early on in my career as a PA, somewhere between my first feature and my first commercial, I realized that I could last as long as I needed to for each job, but after each one I would always collapse in to a physical and emotional heap in the same way.

Let say I had an exhausting three days. On a three-day job, those three days could lay me up on the couch for a week. But on a six-day-a-week, seven-week job I could keep going all month (as long as I hadn't given up my day off).

As long as there's something to do tomorrow, production doesn't leave you enough time to feel pain. Once the end is in sight, it all catches up with me. If I lined up the people with the least confidence in my abilities as a PA, they are inevitably the same ones I drive home after the last day of the job. By that time, no matter the shoot, I'm basically a jelly.

During my last shoot, I got that familiar sense of rising dysfunction and exhaustion, but not for the shoot - for my whole PA career. I knew enough to know what to dread - wrapping out trash and equipment that night, driving while tired, being dysfunctional at home, not getting enough sleep, being anxious about getting to the truck on time, driving tired again. That stuff doesn't bother me if I have to do it, but somehow I know the end is near.

It felt like the moment in a shoot where where I've been on firewatch long enough for the caffeine and adreneline to wear off and exhaustion to set in.

Film Jobs I Could Do

AD (something small)
Office P.A.
Producer (under the right circumstances)
Grip / Electric
Key P.A.
Camera P.A.
Art Department P.A.
Associate Producer

Me on T.V.

So I just got back from seeing a very rough cut of the movie I'm in that premieres this Sunday. In general, I feel taken down a peg, but, and I feel this is important to note, not taken down two pegs.

As long as I hadn't seen any footage of myself, I was just as good an actor as I imagined. Now I see myself as a little worse than I actually am.

So much for taking Hollywood by storm, but, then, maybe my natural talent was never enough.

I was talking with the professional actor who worked on our film, and I became persuaded that acting is a craft, just like learning to light a scene.

It also takes work - not just the running-up-and-down-stairs-in-heels-eighteen-times-in-a-row type work, but finding-actual-paying-jobs type work. This is the much more difficult than the heels work as there are a lot of people who want to act - not just the arrogant snoots like me who think there's nothing to it, but also the real actors, the talented actors, the ones who studied a craft.

With my dreams of instant stardom dashed, what remains? We talked about that, too, and we decided that the only sensible course is to do the job or the art you feel compelled to do.

Just putting that out there.

That said, everyone else involved thinks I did a pretty good job. I definitely camped up this film. And the fact that I thought my co-star did great and she thought I did great means that maybe actor ego has made me think I didn't do as well as I actually did.

Still, I'm limiting my most insistent invitations to the people who are going to be thrilled just to see me being ridiculous on screen - basically, the people who are going to like this film even more than I am.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

TMBG + Walter Sobchak OMG WTF?!

My God. How is it I didn't know about this before?

Here, this is my impression of myself seeing Fritalian for the first time not ten minutes ago:

FIRST VIEWING: Hmm ... catchy, but vaguely xenophobic.
SECOND VIEWING: Wait, is that ... Big Dan Teague?!?!
THIRD GOOGLING: Why does that domain look so familiar?
EIGHT TIMES :30 LATER: [Dies of intersecting-personal/cult-favorite capitalist bliss.]

Hold on. I've got to call Speedrail and find out why he didn't tell me about this earlier.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I'm Going to Make a Million Dollars

I'm going to make a gazillion dollars. I spent a lot of time this past week playing with my baby brother (note: no pictures).

I noticed, after hearing the thing approximately 80 hundred time, that his singing piano has the same voice as his cloth-paged singing book. Here's my first million: children's toys with the voice of Dennis Hopper.

Heh? Who's with me?

Earth for President

Electing a president is about electing a vision of the world.

The world I want:

Rising quality of life for all people, especially the poorest and those with the least resources.

An ecologically balanced world that is not systemically hostile to life.

An end to the most unconciousable injustices.

A world ruled by just people. Governments that control the legitimate use of force, that are powerful and wise enough to quash the inevitable groups of self-interested men with guns.

Freedoms rising for all in the Amartya Sen sense.

A world where people understand those in other nations.

The president I want:

A person with the intelligence and charisma to unite a nation.

A person smart enough to know what can't be acheived, but idealistic enough to know what must be acheived.

Someone who feels accountable to everyone. Someone who will make the right decision even when many people disagree (at least publically). Someone who admits his or her mistakes, and does his best to address them.

Someone who wants a better world for everyone.

A person who can communicate his vision to everybody.

Someone free of scandals and distractions.

Someone who does his job sustainably, so that after eight years he could still do eight more.

A person who can run big things.

A person who exemplifies the best aspects of our nation.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Long, Introverted Post No One Will Read

About a week back I PAd for a short my friend Jay is producing. We were walking back from parking the van, talking about how it had been a hard day, and Jay asked, politely, "Are you having any fun at all on this production?"

This is a question I get at least once on every production. My answer is usually "I don't think 'fun' is the right word," but that tends to end the conversation a little quicker than I intend. Jay's a friend, so I decided to give him a fuller explanation.

"I don't do productions to have fun," I said. "I know some PAs do jobs to have fun, if it's early in their careers or if it's their first job, but I don't do that. I'm a professional.

"Production overall might be fun, but there are so many parts of this job that are inherently un-fun, like moving around trash, so you sort of have to take the good with the bad."

Then I told him about Surreal Moments of the Day and how that day I'd gotten in to a sort of tug-of-war with a clown, and I'd enjoyed that. But the natural next question is, if I don't PA for fun, why do I do it?

Some Excellent Reasons Not to Be a PA
PAing isn't the most thankless job on set, but just because there are so many other contenders. PAing takes skill, but it's an entry-level job, which means I'm often treated as a beginner until I prove I'm not (and often even then) and I often have a nagging feeling that anyone can do what I do.

I've thought a lot lately that I'm too good a PA to keep doing it. It's pride fucking with me, of course. I believe that good PAs find their niche and then move up to better jobs, or they work on commercials for the money, but I don't really like doing commercials.

It also bothers me to see other people doing a job on set when I suspect, right or wrong, that I could do better at the same job.

Last week I watched as the key told a very green grip (too green to know he needed to bring gloves to set) to take a double out of an HMI. The kid struggled for awhile before finally suceeding in unclipping the gel and diffusion from the light (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, just know that this is bad.) I winced.

Of course, I'd be second-guessing people at their jobs even if I weren't at the bottom of the filmmaking hierarchy. It's just that at the higher levels, it's actually someone's job to second-guess other people. At my level, it just pisses people off.

Oh, and because it's an entry-level job, the pay is shit.

Why I Do It
First, in a very real way, I don't see an alternative to being a PA. 9-5 has never appealed to me (I have worked 10-7, but that was something else entirely). I can't move up to something without risking incompetence, and I have a complex about that I'd prefer not to get in to at the moment.

I've consistently been bad at job hunts because I get overwhelmed and I have trouble starting things where I don't know a clear path to the next step.

PAing is also a low-responsibility job. It's not my fault if production was delayed four hours on a job because the camera wasn't ready. It's hard (but not impossible) to screw things up too badly as even a semi-competent PA. Of course, I balance this out by owning problems too much.

Then there's the fact that production is addictive. There's a new environment almost every day, new people every job, new problems to deal with every moment. It's always intellectually stimulating.

Like any addiction, however, production is unhealthy. I don't sleep enough. I put my body through the oddest things. The stress has broken lesser men.

But Here's Why I Really Do It
The best and worst part of production is that it does not leave space for any other part of my life. That's the big reason I do production - it leaves no time or energy to face the other problems in my life. I have no choice but to ignore them. It's a tremendously unhealthy place for me to be.

After each job, once the high of finishing and having my life back wears off, once I feel I've used all the time I could excuse doing nothing, I inevitably have the same problems I had before the job and I crash very, very hard.

So I'm now in a position where I have to give up production to survive - or at least limit the amount I work so I don't allow it to take over my life. I have to work on my problems so I can be happy when I'm not working. I have to figure out how to move my life on to something else.

Which is not to say I'm announcing my retirement from PAing, film or anything else. I don't know what else to do or how to do it. I'm stuck, and I have to figure a way out.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

More Surreal Moments, oh yeah p.s. I Am In a Movie

More of my most memorably surreal moments from the film industry and the scoop on "Smooth Milkshake" starring me and premiering Sunday.

I'm called in to the room where our principal actor is doing his last scene before returning to Russia. I am charged with holding up the cue cards that have all his (English) lines written out phonetically in Cyrilic letters. I have to keep ducking behind the cue cards to keep from laughing at his delivery.

We are shooting a very complicated scene outside in the middle of the night. Everyone was excited because we get to work with these giant rain poles, but they turned out to be underwhelming, like sprinklers on 30' poles. We had to be off the street at 1:00 a.m. and it is now 1:30 a.m.

I am positioned at the end of the street to block oncoming traffic once the camera rolls. This is an easy job because there is not much traffic in the middle of the night and it gives me a great view of this gigantic scene we've set up.

The AD's running around. There's lights set up on roofs and fire escapes and the site rep's annoyed and FINALLY everything's set.

"Roll camera!" says the AD as he dashes across the street. "Roll sound! Rain! I need rain!"

Right on cue, the rain begins.

PAs are often taken for granted, which is fine and natural and happens because a PA's time is, by definition, the least valuable time on set. That's why PAs get jobs like sitting in a truck - someone has to do it, and everyone else has real work to do.

Then, one day, I was called on to act. My job was to carry a box of doughnuts through a door. I got in costume and held the doughnuts. Suddenly I was the center of attention. The grips, electrics and DP all stared at my face trying to get the light right, the camera department rehearsed my walk to the door and took measurements to get the focus right. The director even asked me if I wanted to talk about motivation, which I thought was high-LARIOUS, although no one else seemed to get it.

I've acted before. Given half an opportunity, I will always (always!) try to steal the scene. First take. Cut.

Director: Richard, that was great. Great! One thing. Just don't do all that stuff with your face. Just act normal.

I do. After several more takes, it's a wrap on Richard for the shoot. Everyone applauds.

Monday I got to act again. The inestimable Jay Stern runs the First Sundays Comedy Film Festival and every month he chooses an audience member's name out of a hat to star in a short comedy film for the next month. November 3, they chose my name out of a hat.

Upshot: I am starring in the film "Smooth Milkshake," which will premier 7:00 p.m. December 3 at the Pioneer Theater, 3rd St. at Ave. A, Manhattan (it goes without saying, but you are all invited). (Also, there is free beer.)

I'm in two scenes, and the first we shot very early Monday morning in Brooklyn Heights, overlooking the East River. The main character is going to jump off a bridge and my roll called for me to run around a corner yelling "Maya! Maya!" and then try to talk the girl out of jumping.

I did my part with great volume and enthusiasm. It was only after about half an hour of yelling and overacting that I noticed about a half-dozen downtown Brooklyn types in suits sitting on a bench, eating their breakfast and watching me make a fool of myself in the cold.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

And 'Writing about Writing' Was Going to Be 'Blogging about Blogging'

Blogger has just released in to the wild a slew of new beta features, including the ability to "label" posts. This has effectively allowed me to breakdown my 147 published posts by topic for the first time. Here they are, from most popular to least popular.

Method notes: if you add up all these numbers you will get a number bigger than 147 because some posts fit in to more than one label and also I've labelled some posts I haven't posted yet. DEAL WITH IT.

Media = Culture (43)
I thought calling this topic "culture" was too snooty (it's a little weird to say "culture" about, say, T.V.), but I didn't want to say "media" because media means something else at this point. "Media = Culture" says it all. It could be this blog's thesis statement.

'Media = Culture' covers everything from reviews to that big-long essay about long-form media only Speedrail actually read. I consider the top ranking of this label to be pseudo-scientific proof that whatever 'Media = Culture' means, it's the thing I think about the most.

That and Katrina Kerns.

But case in point, you know?

Film Industry (37)
I'm probably going to change the name of this topic to "The Business" even though it's a little less straight forward. I started writing about my career in film as a diary sort of thing. What kept happening was that I'd write after the first day, and the next time I wasn't too exhausted to write would be when the production was over. Now I write more by topic.

My Cousin the Revolutionary (19)
Not so much a topic as a subject. One of my few recurring characters. I have to wonder what people think of MCTR when they have only my blog by which to judge him.

Writing about Writing (17)
I tried to keep these to a minimum, but, then, on the other hand, why bother? Mostly I'm happy Writing about Writing is 9% of my posts instead of 50%.

Where I've Been (16)
The continuing series that has stuck around mostly because it's really easy to do. I'm rather bored of it now.

Me (14)
I'm not super surprised that I am not my own favorite topic. These posts also tend to be shorter, on average, than those in other topics.

I am either too modest or too chicken to write about myself except when I really feel compelled to, like when I am trying to figure out my career.

Big Long Essays That Take Forever to Write (11)
Honestly, why do I bother? I like explaining big ideas that I took a lot of time to think through, but I don't know if anyone can actually make it through the damn things. I also feel that working without an editor has allowed these essay to run long, but then I hardly ever reread them myself, so I honestly don't know.

Of course, by the time I've thought one of these topics through enough to write about them, I effectively lose the option of not writing them because I feel compelled to get it all out.

NY F'in C (10)
I spent most of this week in Texas, and it's weird NOT spending all my time talking about New York City. Talking about New York is the only way to survive living there.

Labelled Unlabelled (8)
I feel like most of these are the odd and specific memories I like to catologue, but then if they did have a common topic, I'd be able to say what it was.

ribble's Quest (5)
Probably holds together better than any other topic. Not a bad place to start reading this blog, come to think of it.

Wales (4)
Some day I'll tell you more about Wales.

Boris (3)
Boris is easy and fun to write. When I tell people about him offline, they consider me crazy.

I should write more Boris.

Best PA Moment in Recent Memory

Working on a Russian film late last month. I am in a room right next to set with a (non-union) crew that respects me. I call rolls and cuts, locking up a door and the crew for sound. I act friendly and a little goofy as a way to more effectively do my job. I act on special requests (I even manage to get a deck of cards for the grips). I stand in for the AD when he's 10-1.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Seven Film Industry Uses of the Word "Hot"

1. Lighting: Much light falls on a particular area or object.
"Dial down the variac, that 1k is too hot on the side of his face."

2. Batteries: Fully charged.
"Hot brick to set."

3. Stunts: Fast.
"You were coming a little hot around that corner."

4. Post-production color correction: Yellow (versus blue).
"See how hot this is? If we cool it down, it brings out the blue in his eyes."

5. Angry.
"He says I get hot, and I know I blew up on the first day, but he gets hot, too."

6. High in temperature.
"Don't touch that scrim! It's still hot!"

7. Very good.
"The lockup's in place? That's hot."

[update 7/17/09
8. Loud
"The mixing - the levels? The guests were a little hot."
via this Planet Money Podcast (iTunes link). I voted for David Kestenbaum]

Some Surreal Moments from Production

Filmmaking is an inherently surreal process - for example, I just worked four days on a short film about a woman who falls in love with a clown (the clown was very polite. Offscreen, I mean.)

Each day I work on a production, I try to identify a Surreal Moment of the Day. Here's a few of my most memorably surreal moments of production work.

We are on location at college in the woods in New Jersey. I'm walking to the 15 passenger van to pull it around to the front of set when I see a small woodland creature (possibly a gopher run under the wheels of the van. I don't want to run it over, so I run at the van waving my arms and yelling "Fuck off! Fuck off! Fuck off!"

After that, I thought I had my surreal moment of the day for sure, but later I got a call to come to set and replace the art director, who had to leave set. Here's what he told me:

"Ribbles, come sit in this stairwell and make sure you duck behind that door because it's in shot. Now, for every take you're going to have to put a quarter cup of pudding on the shelf just outside the door to set, then you'll have to put a jelly sandwich on the plate next to the kid on set. Inbetween takes, you're going to have to make a stack of jelly sandwiches and a bunch of these quarter-full pudding cups - we're about to run out of pudding, but Jason's coming back with more in a few minutes. Make sure the jelly sandwiches are really full and messy, because they have to drip out of the sandwich and on to a keyboard during each take. Oh, and between takes you're also going to have to clean the jelly out of the keyboards with this bottle of water, these paper towels, these Q-tips and this knife. The knife is to pop out the keys of the keyboards so you can clean inside. I know it's a lot to do but you'll have to work quickly. They're going to yell at you because you have to do it alone and they're doing a lot of takes and the takes are really short and I'm really sorry but I have to leave right now because I have to catch the train back to the city and I really appreciate this and good luck."

Get all that? You can re-read it if you need to.

So for the rest of the afternoon I was sitting in a stairwell making stacks of jelly sandwiches, putting 3/4 of each of these cups of chocolate pudding in styrofoam cups, and cleaning the jelly out of keyboards with bottles of water, paper towels and Q-tips. Which is pretty goddamn surreal.

But if I had to narrow it down to a single moment? After a few hours of this I was exhausted. Another PA, a good kid named Toby, had come over to help. I was covered in chocolate pudding and jelly. We were working in silence because any sound would ruin the take.

I was about to make another stack of jelly sandwiches and I turned the jar sideways and I found that jelly makes a funny noise when you're really tired and it's rolling down the inside of the jar.

Really funny.

Like, irresistibly funny.

Kind of a "squishy-squishy-squishy" sort of noise.

So now, in addition to having to worry about the jelly sandwiches, the pudding and the keyboards, I need to worry about cracking up in the middle of a take. I tried the old improv trick of biting the bottom of my thumb, which succeeded in suppressing the noise but not in making that squishy-squishy-squishy noise any less funny or me any more functional.

Finally Theo (who was getting a little annoyed) suggested I just take a break, which I did. I went outside and laughed my ass off for a minute, and then I came back and asked Theo to take jelly sandwich duty until we wrapped.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ways to Look like a Professional PA

Call rolls and cuts no matter where you are or what you're doing. Loud. If you're doing this right (especially if you're the only one), the crew will know and respect you. Or, if they are from India, they'll yell "Quiet please" at you whenever you walk by.

Keep track of what everyone wants.

Get there first.

Leave last.

Get things done quickly.

Do it yourself.

Ask clarifying questions instead of just running off like a schmuck.

Take it to two.

Help people move heavy things.

Answer to nicknames.

Buy maps (and etc.

Learn, first, how to stay out of the way, and, second, hot to help while staying out of the way.

On the Advantages of Wearing a Hat on Set

First, and of primary importance, it absorbs the sweat I work up when I, say, run to the roof of a five-story walkup carrying, say, four 25' 100-amp whips.

It gives me a cool place to clip the clothespins I find lying around (essential for lighting work).

It keeps me warm when I'm ourside and it about 50 degrees (although 40, not so much).

Then I suppose it also keeps the sun out of my eyes.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

ribble's Dream Girl

I don't post news, but I do post Michelle Kwan.

I ran in to this little chesnut on the train today (and check out that photo - business wear Asians are go vis hotness).

That article appeared in that part of the main section where you've made it through the day's serious news and you're just starting to think if it's going to be worth it to take a shot at the editorials or if you should try leafing through Dining In, so I gave myself a moment for a little Michelle Kwan fantasy.

See, I had always believed before that my dreams of settling down and making a life with Michelle Kwan could never be. It may be that we're made for each other, but nowhere among the many circles in which I travel is the tight-knit world of professional and Olympic amateur skating.

I was sure that, sadly, I would never be able to comfort Michelle about the late-season injury preventing her from the shot at the 2006 Turin gold that was rightfully hers. It seemed then that the only thing we had in common was out ages, nationalities, and our destinies to be the voices of our generation.

But now, Michelle is moving that much closer to my area of expertise (seeing as I was an International Relations major). If the current rate keeps up, by the time we're 30, we'll be working in the same cluster of cubicles and sharing a T1 line.

Or at least a boy can dream ...

ribble's status

Around Sunday, I started to understand which way was up again and put together a list of things to do. I have now done all the serious things on my todo list, like the 38 pounds of laundry I didn't have time to do during production. What's left is the sort of bullshit stuff, like watching Brisco County, Jr. DVDs.

So a few days ago I was looking over my bullshit todo list and I thought "maybe I should having something about finding my next job on here."

So far, that's as far as I've gotten.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

ribble's Dream

Last night, I passed out on the couch while trying to watch election returns. All the lights were on, and my roommate came in to turn them off and generally try to figure out what the hell was going on.

"Richard," she said, "all the lights are on."

I apparently responded by muttering a string of obscenities, more directed at myself than anyone else.

She started turning the lights off.

"They're working," I said.

"Well, I'm turning them off," she said.

"No," I said. "I mean I think they're working in this scene."

At this point my roommate decided that I was spouting gibberish, turned off the lights, and decided, quite sensibly, to leave the room.

Here's what I thought was happening: last night, I dreamed that someone was making a movie in my apartment.

I don't remember much, but I do remember either red and blue boxes or very boxy red and blue clothes. Also, one of the setups was on the roof.

I didn't quite know what my job was on this film, so I remember spending most of the dream sitting on the couch, feeling distressed, and trying to figure out just what my responsibility was.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

State of the Person

I'm at that spot where the production recovery daze wears off and I try to figure out where I stand.

I am working, semi-guaranteed, three of the next four weekends. I need more work, but this is fine for right now, and I feel like I'll be able to get work no problem. I'm more qualified and more confident than I was four months ago.

I need to catch up with everybody. Production, by definition, shuts down this part of my life.

Now that I know I can grip and can make an educated guess I'll be decent at it within a few months, I'm starting to feel like I am capable of doing many other jobs in the film business. This is significant because the last job I was in charge of was not 100% satisfactory for the client and it scared me off being anything more important for a PA for a long time.

Now I am thinking about other projects I can do.

-I want to adapt this porn I wrote (long story) so it is a comedy starring puppets.

-I am starring in next month's First Sundays Film Festival "Wanna Be a Star" contest film.

-This post could be a short film (the '80s part).

-I want to get in on an indie feature film as an actor, electric, associate producer, key PA, anything. I want to be part of a project like that from start to finish again.

Also, I'm reading a textbook on how to be a production manager or coordinator, which will lay out the basics the production-side stuff I could do.

I asked Full Stealth (originally from Vermont) how long it takes to be a New Yorker. He said "six years, but you can subtract a year for every mugging."

Well, I've been here two years, but I am a New Yorker.

-I'm planning to stay here forever.

-When I was from Texas, everyone thought I was from New York anyway.

-I have been to many places in this city, and I haven't generally travelled there just to be there - I've had legitimate (like work and friends) reasons to be there.

-I have many memories in this city.

-I live in Brooklyn, not Manhattan. 'Cuz Manhattan is for tools.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

ribble's in a daze

When I finish a long stretch of work like the one I just did, I always feel dazed and disoriented. For about a week, I can't really think or function. It's like a combination of being jet lagged and getting out of prison.

I never know what time it is. I will look at a clock and be able to read the hands, but I never seem to believe it. I will miss appointments by exactly one hour.

I can't do anything. It's not depression - I feel fine - but I get super lethargic. I have to walk really slowly. If I leave one room to get something to another, I will make it to the next room at a complete loss as to what I am doing there.

I also feel strangely alone - not lonely, but alone. On a film set, there are always 30 people around working on different stuff and trying to figure stuff out. At home, there's me and my roommate. I am suddenly the only one I am responsible for or to, and I don't know quite what to do about it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Gripping Part II

Today I did G+E on a more serious job, a music video shooting in and around a five-story, no elevator building in the Bronx. I'll keep this brief, but here's my lessons for today:

Firstly, and most obviously, G+E is a very physical job. It may have something to do with the fact that I am just starting out, it may have something to do with the fact that in ten minutes, I will literally be asleep, and it definitely had something to do with the five flights of stairs I had to haul all that equipment up and back down, but the fact that this job is so physical seems to blot out everything else about it.

So the sheer exhaustion my body is experiencing right now is the big surprise of this particular job. Tomorrow is going to be even more of a surprise as the sourness really takes hold.

I also find myself worrying about making sure my body will work in another 30 years, and that reason enough for me to admit I don't want to be a G+E all my life.

Other things I knew before or should have:

G+E is a very insular group. Working as a PA, I got to know people in lots of different departments, I usually got to know the neighborhood where we were shooting that day, I had lots of different bosses.

As a grip + electric, there is one guy, and I have to do my best to keep him happy. It's more like having a normal boss, but for I film set I find it disorienting.

Last revelation because I need to get some Zz's: I really do not know what I am doing. I've got the rhythm of the work cycle wrong, it takes me too long to do things because I am doing them for the first time and I don't know where to find the right thing on the truck or where I'm supposed to be.

It'll go away eventually, but not anytime before I go to bed, so I'm going to get on that now.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Yesterday I finished my first job as a grip + electric. By "grip + electric" I mean the person who sets up the lights and flags that light a scene, and by "job" I mean two days unpaid on a tiny music video some guys threw together. Nevertheless, it was a job, and for me, jobbin' means learnin'. Here's what I've learned:

First, being a grip is easier than being a production assistant. The thing about being a PA (or anything on the production side, for that matter) is that you have to deal with all the problems that no one wants to deal with.

I was reminded of this when we got to the end of the first day and the picture car couldn't leave the set because it wouldn't start. No one wants to deal with a stalled car in the middle of the night and, for the first time, I didn't have to. That's a real privilege.

Second, I have a long way to go before I'll feel I deserve that privilege. I have so much to learn; what the different lights are called, how to weight a C-stand with a kino at the end of a long arm, all the way up to how to light a scene as simply and quickly as possible. It's a good part of why I decided to be an electric - I learned plenty by being a PA, but it gets a lot harder to learn when it's week 3 and I'm getting five hours of sleep a night. Grips get to go home and absorb what they've learned, possibly while drinking a beer, before collapsing in exhaustion.

That said, I also learned that G+E work is something I can do. Electric work is pretty intuitive, at least at the level I'm working on. The great Harry Box says that no particular process you need as a lighting technician takes more than five or ten minutes to learn - the trick, of course, is putting these techniques together to light a scene well and efficiently.

The other difference between production work and grip and electric work is that their work runs so completely parallel that it is almost like they are working on two different movies.

Production work is, by definition, support work: production is responsible for logistics, keeping the crew happy, transportation. The goal of the production crew is to make everything happen so the crew can work, so the director can say "action." When the crew is ready to set up a shot, production has done its job. When the camera rolls, PAs are busy again, making sure outside elements (namely, noise and members of the public) do not interfere with the roll.

G+E work rhythm is almost exactly opposite that of production: grips work to set up a shot and then stop working when the camera rolls (although they have to hover nearby in case something needs a quick fix between takes.) At first, this was really, really disorienting, because my brain kept getting ramped up to work during shots and wound down during set ups. I had to turn everything around, like trying to write with my left hand.

PAs listen to the Key PA, who listens to the Assistant Director, who listens to the director, department heads, and the Production Manager. They work with the other supporting departments, the one who work between takes and off-set: locations, the production office, catering and craft service, wardrobe, hair and makeup.

Grips, electric and camera people have to communicate with a parallel hierarchy. I was wrangling video cable on this Russian film I worked as a PA for last week. The DP was talking to the camera crew, and I asked the 2nd Assistant Camera if I could position myself a certain way without interfering with a shot. He answered, very quietly, "Yeah, but, Shh!"

In production, when the DP is talking and he isn't asking for a bottle of water or for you to get out of the shot, it means, your job is basically done. In the camera department or G+E, when the DP talks, you better listen.

The other thing is that I was privy to a whole different set of decisions. Figuring out how to light a scene is a much different problem than figuring out how to get enough water on set. For one thing, there's a lot more possible answers. Four people trying to solve the same lighting problem can easily come up with twenty different solutions. At some point, the DP just has to say he likes what you've got and it's time to move on (ADs are also good for this).

Lighting a scene is also a finite problem - you do your thing, and then you live with it while they shoot. Production problems are never ending - if you're done with the problem of right now, you've got to start thinking about the problems you'll have later today, or tonight when you have to get the trucks back, and of course you have to know at least tomorrow and the next three days and you're advanced schedule and what's going to happen when you run out of water or if it rains.

Maybe that's why G+E work feels so much less exhausting than PA work (so far, anyway). I guess I'll find out this week - I just got a call for some electric work starting tomorrow. See you at 6:30 a.m., America.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Almost Impossibly Tired

Today, I worked, and, as a result, I am exhausted. The shoot I am working on now, a Russian film, surprised me with a unique combination of exhausting things;

1) I was on firewatch all day, which was boring and therefore tiring.
2) The shoot was extended two weeks past when it was originally supposed to wrap, meaning everyone else is tired and wants to go home.
3) The main set is on the fifth floor of a walkup, and we are talking some tall ceilings here.

I haven't worked in about three weeks (one week of sleep, one week of happily screwing around with small and inconsequential projects, one week of being too disorganized to get a job), so I wasn't limbered up for this triple-threat of exhaustion. It also didn't help that I tried to make it through firewatch using coffee. Coffee makes me so happy and then it makes me nervous and then it puts me in need of a nap I can never achieve.

Another tremendously interesting thing about this shoot: the most competent of the PAs are all very, very tall. This briefly leads me to consider crewing only super-tall PAs. Too many questions arise (Do I know that many tall PAs? What will short people think?) I quickly dismiss the idea as slighly too silly.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Where I've Been: Sun., Oct. 8-Sat., Oct. 14

<-- Back to the previous post in this series

The first, median and last sites I visited each day of the past week.

Sunday, October 8 (40)

Monday, October 9 (127)

Tuesday, October 10 (151)

Wednesday, October 11 (87)

Thursday, October 12 (16)

Friday, October 13 (17)

Saturday, October 14 (133)

<--Back to the previous post in this series

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Fall is not a time for love

Last week, my grandfather and I took the bus all the way up to Riverbank Park on 145th St., a big, beautiful place that seems to hang almost on top of the Hudson, barely clinging on to the island (and built on top of a sewage treatment plant to boot).

There, all the way up near the north of the island of Manhattan, was the first tree I'd seen changing from green to yellow. Since then, they're everywhere. It's old news to New England and months off for Texas, but Fall is here in New York City, and it's making me terribly lonely.

I'm just wrapping up a slow spell for work, and I'd gotten in the habit of spending my downtime wandering around Manhattan, particularly Central Park. The colder weather has cleared the park out a bit, and the main source of visitors now seems to be schoolkids walking in large groups and young, attractive couples.

Spring is when people fall in love. Summer is when they go to movies and concerts and on interesting trips and meet each other's parents.

But Fall, when the nation comes home from vacation, when your job gets more serious, when the tourists finally clear out back to middle America and leave the city to the rest of us, fall is when you and your loved one settle in to a routine, maybe move in together if it's time for that, and take long walks together on your days off, bundled up in stylish coats and scarves, not with any particular purpose or destination, but just to talk, just to be together.

I consider myself a person who's been around the relationship. Fall is a time for what Nick Hornby calls side-to-side or back-to-back (as opposed to face-to-face) couples, and that's the part of a relationship I like the most. The early I'm-in-love high has worn off, the early hurdles have passed, you're still together, and you're starting to get an impression of what's next in your life with this person.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Perfectly Legitimate

The other month, My Cousin The Revolutionary and I, after many months of walking up and down Smith St., decided to walk up Court St., which runs parallel to Smith but is one block further away from our apartment. We had never done this before.

They call it New York because you can be a block away and effectively be in a different neighborhood, and so our Court St. experiment ended up showing MCTR and I how we choose to approach a new neighborhood in New York.

Maybe because we come from the same genetic stock, and maybe just because our moms are more alike than different (we say they are "the same kind of crazy"), MCTR and I have very similar approaches to new neighborhoods. Also, because our approaches are so similair, we got to see ourselves take in a new neighborhood by watching each other. Two points of interest:

ONE: A major indicator of the success or failure of the neighborhood was the ratio of white people we saw to non-white people we saw.

This is simple enough to explain. I'm from San Antonio (58% Hispanic of any race, 32% non-Hispanic White) and MCTR is from Atlanta (61% Black, 33% White), and I'd say we're most comfortable being in the racial minority but not so much that we feel like we've stepped on the set of Catch a Fire.

Also, and speaking only for myself, let me say right now that there is nothing creepier than an all-white neighborhood. What sort of factors coincide to bring a neighborhood to all-whiteness? Nothing I want to be a part of.

For its part, Court St. did very well on White / non-White balance.

TWO: As we were already idlying along Court St. anyway, MCTR and I decided we might as well pretend we were looking for something to eat. We examined several different places in turn, discussed each of them, and dismissed them half-heartedly. Then we were talking about something else entirely when we got to a small (small enough I can't find it on google) family-owned-type Mexican place with a couple of tables outside.

We were already halfway through the door when I realized that this was where we were eating, and we hadn't even needed to discuss it. We hadn't even really thought about it. This was so much our kind of place that even though we'd never seen it or the surrounding neighborhood ever before, we had acted like this is where we had been walking this whole time. It was, in retrospect, a little creepy.

Okay, so we liked Court St. Why? Why were we so comfortable there? What do these two things, the constant checking for racial balance, the second-nature restaurant, have in common? And what was it about MCTR and me that made us behave so strangely, so non-chalantly, at exactly the same time in exactly the same way?

I've been thinking about it, and I think I have at least half an answer. Could be our generation, could be our families or just our being Americans, but whatever it is, MCTR and I both place a great importance on legitimacy.

Nothing gets to us more than something pretending to be something else, like an expensive restaurant with crap food, or a crazy friend who doesn't admit to herself that she's not crazy.

We are the kind of guys who would wear a jacket and tie to a restaurant, but only if we know we could go back to the same place next week wearing a T-shirt and jeans and feel just as comfortable.

We come as we are, we work hard, and that's all we want from anyone or anything else. That's why MCTR was the best roommate I ever had, and I was prolly his. We were open and up-front with each other, and smart enough to understand the whole even when the other of us could only explain the parts.

To me, an all-white or totally non-white neighborhood feels artificial, manufactured. A family Mexican restaurant with a couple of tables out front is not trying to be anything it isn't.

We were right about the restaurant, of course - it was good food, there was plenty of it and it wasn't very expensive. It was honest, straight-forward, family- or community-recipe food.

It was what we were looking for.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Art Brain

A couple months back I was standing in my back yard in San Antonio thinking about the ants in Once and Future King when I realized how much art has added to my life. I spend an unaccountable amount of time thinking about film, T.V., books, music. It's those stories, those moments that inform how I look at my world.

Since I finished college I hadn't been able to bring myself to watch or read almost anything new. This started at a time when a lot of who I am was up in the air - I was living in a new city, working for the first time after 18 years of school, hanging out with some crazy bastards. I didn't have any furniture, I didn't know how to do anything, and it was the first time in six, seven years that I'd had all my stuff in the same place at the same time. I had chaos aplenty.

I needed stability, and, as a result, the only stuff I read or watched was things I'd seen before. I read books I knew I could rely on - Fear and Loathing, The Crime Studio, Paul Auster's New York Trilogy, My Family and Other Animals.

I watched a lot of animated kid's movies - Miyazaki, Pixar. I still have Lilo & Stitch saved on my TiVo. I'd TiVo new movies but I couldn't bring myself to watch them. I must have read Narbonic five times. And my taste in music is definitely defined by its limits.

I love this stuff, but, come on, there's a lot I'd been missing out on. I didn't really understand how important Wes Anderson was until a roommate made me watch Life Aquatic and I finally went ahead and took a look at Royal Tenenbaums, probably the most important divorce movie of our age (with apologies to Dustin Hoffman). Shit, I barely made it to Brick, and that earned a good 1,400 words, like, twice.

So I haven't abandoned my nostalgia quest, but I've started taking a look at some new stuff. Well, new-to-me. I'm taking it pretty easy - kids' books, pilots, short fiction. But one idea, a single idea, can change my life. It's worth taking a look.