Friday, September 30, 2005

Still building

As the tempered glass for the DVD shelf was being made, I built a pergola.
Like the DVD shelf, I designed and built it first in a 3D world and then again in the real world.

This, not being fine furniture, was more a matter of brute force, than fine workmanship. It came together relatively painlessly, and will provide hours of enjoyment. We’re calling it the Mojito Hut though we have yet to put it to use for anything other than escaping from the merciless sun.

Though the air is pretty dead right now, we’re in the midst of Santa Ana winds. It’s brutal. I feel for my friends east of me – Pasadena and further. Here, at 5:20 PM, the temperature reads 95.9 F.
The office needs an air conditioner. Outside, the smell of smoke has grown stronger throughout the day – for the last couple days, forest fires have raged in Chatsworth, forty miles away – and now the smell of smoke as arrived. It’s creepy.

I put the tempered glass shelves into the DVD thing and can now call it complete. Sure, I’ll continue to work on improving the finish – sanding here, varnish there, but I really gotta do other things – like get back to work on movie related things, you know – my job. There are also still boxes that need unpacking and outside, the backyard and patio needs to be cleaned up – post pergola construction. Oh, and that needs to be treated for insects and weather.

As I write this entry, I am on hold, waiting for a representative to help me with my lack of DSL. The ‘on hold’ music is particularly awful; music that the word insipid describes perfectly. Who really listens to this stuff? Who is BUYING it? Someone has to be, for it continues to be produced. I wonder if I’ll ever see a collection of this stuff in one of my friends CD collections? It is also music I have never heard before. It’s like an alternate universe. Are there cocktail parties somewhere where this music is played in the background?

Or is it designed to create a certain percentage of ‘on hold’ attrition – people who just can’t take it anymore? To help tech support from being completely overwhelmed?

I’ve had a lot of response to the question of where the good music is. Thanks. Keep it coming.

As I was cutting 2x8’ boards I’ve was also thinking about the script. Good work -- multitasking is good. Just don’t lose a finger. Now, outside, the office window, I see that the hedges need cutting. It’s something I better do before I attempt to get back to real work, lest it distract me further down the line.

Oop – A representative is going to help me now, I hope.

Question of the day –

What kind of a tree is this?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Pay to be frustrated

Minwax Polyshades suck!
Minwax polyshade crap!
Terrible experience with Minwax polyshade.

There, let google find that and dutifully archive, database and store it.

I’m hoping that I can save someone else from the disappointment and frustration that has been my weekend. See, after looking at a lot of DVD shelves, and not seeing what we were looking for, I decided to build one myself. I designed it in 3d, found out that tempered glass is not too expensive, and researched all kinds of wood, to find what would be the best method of building it. We wanted it to match what we have going on in our “home theater” part of the living room, so Cherry was the color we were looking for.
I decided to go with Poplar – cheap, hard, but easy to use. The thing built quickly – and looked just like my 3d design.  Finishing time, more research – but not enough. I decided to go with Minwax Polyshade Cherry – in order to get the stain and top coat done in one job. Big mistake. The stuff is impossible to work with if you have anything but a flat surface. It takes the worst properties of both varnish and stain and combines them. Basically, if you have an area that is uneven at all, you can’t rub it out like a stain and it WILL darken – like a stain. The stuff drips like varnish, but doesn’t dry like varnish. Basically, it’s like molasses. If you go over it more than twice, it becomes a sticky, mess.
How did this stuff leave the lab?

So, I’m writing this blog as I wait for the stripper to do its job. Meanwhile, an old fashioned can of stain awaits its destination.

There, let Google database that!

So, why is Stefan Avalos, filmmaker, writing about making bookshelves? Well, because I like to. Sometimes I think that the filmmaking process is a means to an end – I need to create, to build, and making movies allows me to do that on many levels. It’s a “jack of all trades” art form.

Lousy Minwax polyshade stain not withstanding, the house continues to come together. I have actually had a chance to start thinking about writing again. I couple new ideas have been floating around, but for now they’ll stay notes, as I work on getting Diamond Road to the next level.

If you found this blog to be boring, please realize, it’s a public service – for anyone who intends to use Minwax Polyshades and does a little research first, I will hopefully have saved them incredible frustration.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A New Place

We’ve moved.
Off the hill, onto the next chapter in our life.

It is one of the reasons that I haven’t updated this blog in quite some time. I simply haven’t been in front of a computer. Me. Can you imagine?

The past several weeks have been spent in a world of boxes and questions about where to put things. As moves go, it was about as easy as one could hope for. That said, they always suck.

I also have no DSL at the moment, which is killing me. I was able to get the satellite up and running, rewire some telephone lines to the office, and get the theater set up. These things make me feel more in touch, however, with no internet, I am truly lost. I wonder what my email will be like when I finally get back on it?

The Crawl Space

This new house has a crawl space that goes under the entire house. I was pleased to find this because it meant that running cables and wires would be easier. Squatting at the entrance though, with my halogen light shining into the depths, I was reminded that I really don’t like spelunking, or caving – whichever word you like - and this was going to be pretty similar – approximately three feet of height to crawl around in, extremely powdery dirt floor, and the remains of thousands of spiders hanging above. After about ten minutes of staring at this, psyching myself up and trying to figure out the best way to find an audio cable I had dropped through the living room floor, somewhere down here - I started in. Even though the temperature was cool, it still got hot fast. As I crawled deeper into the space, the three foot height became two, and criss-crossing pipes caused me to have to figure a route out. I pulled myself along on my stomach at some points, hoping I wouldn’t have to back out. Without much problem though, I did find the wire I had run through the wood floor above me. The modern cable was easy to spot in this otherwise dusty world. Then, as I swung the light around to go back, something caught my eye. An area of the crawl space about twelve feet away seemed to be walled with old packing crate wood. I pulled myself toward it with the work-light and as I neared, saw the dirt ground drop off into what looked like an old cellar. With the bright work light casting harsh shadows, and my face being only two feet from the ground, I couldn’t see the floor of the old room, so I had no idea whether it was two feet or ten feet deep. Several old cast iron water pipes prevented me from getting any closer, but I figured that with a different route, I could get there. Having inhaled dirt for about twenty minutes, I was getting in desperate need of fresh air, so I turned toward the distant entrance. As I swung the light away, I caught a glimpse of one of the inner walls of the ancient cellar. Hanging from them were several art deco paintings - women, in ethereal settings, wearing little clothes.

I crawled back to the entrance and sunlight and was very happy to stand up and stretch my back.

Later, I told Marianne about the mysterious room I had discovered underground, and immediately she wanted to see it. Moments later, we left the sunny day, entering the crawl space entrance and the dusty underbelly of the house.

We edged toward the area and figured out a route that would not be blocked by pipes. The bottom of the cellar slowly became visible as I got closer with the light, and finally I was able to see that it was about five feet deep. I crawled over the edge and jumped down. Marianne followed. In the cellar, we were able to stand with no problem, and thus were able to examine it at leisure. It was not large, maybe ten feet across. An old wooden staircase led up to where the office now was. A light switch was mounted to a beam and the old wire led to a fixture hanging from the ceiling, complete with an old bulb. And the pictures -- It was now possible to look at them closely. When touching them, it was plain to see how old and fragile they were. The coolness of the ground had preserved them, but they were still ready to turn to dust.
Some had fallen from the wall to the floor, which we gingerly picked up. After studying the space for a while, the dusty air started to get to us. We climbed up the ledge and then began the crawl back, following the extension cable as our return path to fresh air and sunlight.

With us, came the pictures that had fallen to the floor. We left the rest below for someone in the future to discover. I think we’re going to frame them. It’ll make for fun conversation. In the meantime – here they are.

It is interesting. Even though this house is new on the surface – recently redone, it has already exhibited a more interesting past then the one in which we made a ghost story.

Sometime, I’ll tell you the story of the devil-dog statue I found when I was in high school.

Now, I must unpack some more boxes, or perhaps try to clear some more brush out of the backyard.