Friday, December 29, 2006

Don't take my Kodachrome Away

I’m hitting the refresh button on my yahoo browser with a ghoulish interest. The ongoing saga of Saddam Hussein looks like it’s within mere hours of entering the next phase. I hesitate to call it anything like the ‘final act’ or ‘end of show’. He ceased to be a person long ago, and is now merely an event. I don’t even know that calling him a ‘piece’ in some global game is a good analogy. Well, looks like there’s gonna be a hangin’ soon and the world is watching. Of course, photos and video of it will abound on the internet, and of course we will be shocked by it as we repeatedly view it. Right?

To much lighter and happier New Year’s notes; I am about to wade into the crowds of shoppers to buy supplies for a New Years Eve fest at my place. It’ll be a smaller affair than last years, but it still requires the careful forethought of mounting a small war. A good party requires the proper amounts of people, food, drink and music. One wrong move and disaster is merely steps away. Of course not, but it is easy to obsess about getting it right. I think that I still have feelings of inadequacy about social events dating back to when I was a teenager.

And on that note…

A friend of mine from many years ago sent me a picture of myself during New Years Eve of 1986/7. Looking at it brought up countless thoughts and questions starting with -- Who is that kid?

I remember that moment, but I don’t remember being so young. I remember being absolutely heart broken from a recent break-up, but I also remember being full of hope for the future. 1987 was ahead and full of promise. I was in my first year of college and I was officially a “film major”. I was on my way to becoming the thing I’d dreamed of being. I also remember this was the last time that ‘band’, as it were, would play together -- a remnant from high school, gathering for the last time. So, at least for myself, there was something a little bittersweet. Even in that moment, I knew this was an ending, a last hurrah. However, off camera, a guy was jamming with us whom I’d just met that would go on to become a close friend in the film and music world. So how’s life going for that kid in that crazy red-tiger shirt? Is it going how he planned? Has he been surprised by the alternate routes, detours, springboards and people? Does he feel much older than he did then?

Yeah, all those thoughts and so many more. I’m sure Eric, the friend who sent me this, had no idea I’d be able to assign these thoughts to that photo. Pretty dramatic, huh Eric?

Mostly though, my reaction to that photo is: Holy Mackerel, look at the hair!

I’m so glad that someone pressed a button on a camera at that moment, twenty years ago.

New Year's Eve 1986
Probably playing "That's What I Like About You" by the Romantics.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Things to do before the end of the year

Hopefully your holidays have been enjoyable thus far. Mine have been quiet, spent in relative solitude in Los Angeles; which actually suits me just fine. Having spent years going back to the east coast to spend time with family, the lack of reciprocation finally reached its limit. Now, they know where I am. If they expect to see me, they can come here.

So we’re in those days between Christmas and the New Years. To me they always feel like a car that’s idling, ready to go into overdrive. There is a certain ‘it’s okay, be a bum’ feeling during this week. It’s too late to do something revolutionary, and besides, a new start is just around the corner. Then there is the flip side to that mindset; the desperate sense of needing to accomplish something more before the year is through, some last great realization for the year. Currently, I’m looking back on the year and thinking that oh-so-common thought – “Wow, where did the time go?” To avoid the inevitable depression that arises from pondering this question too long, I’m making a list. Not the ‘woo woo’ new-age’y, “This is what I did, Hey I’m okay and I’m a good person” list – no I’m making a list of thing that I can still accomplish in the roughly 120 hours of this year. How about five things?

I have to come up with five things to complete before the year is out.

Number one will be to dump the loser stocks I currently own and replace them with a nice mutual fund. I realize, with humility, that I stink at picking stocks, so I’m leaving it to someone who does it professionally.

Four more things to do. Rather than cheat and make one of things ‘to do’ a creation of a list of things ‘to do’ next year, I’ll make that a separate project.

Anyway, when not making recursive lists, I’ve been continuing my chair research. There’s only so long one can research it online before having to get off your butt and, well, sit your butt down on future contenders. That list is narrowing and down to a few option now. Psychosomatically, my back has been aching more than usual. Interesting, but not surprising.

So – do you have a list of hopes, dreams, and things to do, before the year is out? If so, good luck with it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The pain of the modern man ("man" meant to include women)

There are many filmmaking websites. Within these sights are countless articles on all the aspects of making a movie - writing, shooting, editing, etc.

Through all of these, there is one thing that is very rarely, if ever, discussed; yet we all deal with it. This thing also abounds in your life if you are reading this. It’s certainly not just something that exists only in the life of the writer.

If you are a person that sits in front of the computer for any amount of the day - and the fact that you’re reading this means you are one of those people - then you too very likely share the pain and difficulty which I am about to reveal.

What is this thing of which I write? What is this thing that can cause so much anguish and suffering to the writer, the editor, to you, fair reader?

The chair upon which we sit.

The office chair that I presently use is junk. It masqueraded as something else, but it was junk from the very beginning and has only gotten worse with time. Through the years, my back and neck have made progressively more cracks and pops and I realized not too long ago, that it is because of the amount of time I spend in front of the computer, sitting on this thing that could better be used for Geneva Convention (un)-approved ‘interrogation’. Cushions helped slightly, but only in the basest of ways. Thus, for this holiday, the gift to myself from Marianne (and myself) will be a new office chair.

The obsession has begun.

We began the hunt, going to the local office stores and sitting in the $150.00 and under chairs. Any one of them is better than the cushioned plywood, shaped into a mockery, upon which I currently sit. However, the chair for 2007 and beyond must save my back and rear. The throne upon which I spend the majority of my day and evening must be perfect.

From the $150.00 chairs, we moved our posteriors to the $300.00 and above chairs. Expensive yes, but the improvement is substantial. Above $500.00, one moves into significantly important territory. Once seated in these chairs, there’s no turning back. I realize with some dismay that I will have to spend the money. However, I dare say, this is a more important investment than a computer. It will last a lot longer too.

My research has taken me deep into the jungles of office chairs. Awed whispers of the legendary Hermann Miller waft in from the darkness. I’m traversing territories unknown to me. Adjustable Lumbar support, waterfall edges and cloth mesh are the stuff of the natives. I must learn their ways.

So, don’t think of this as a wasted blog entry. This is important reading. I bet you too are now squirming and readjusting yourself in your chair, stretching your back this way and that, wondering, or perhaps knowing that your body too is slowly being destroyed.

Stay tuned. I’ll report my findings.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

How it works in Hollywood

I presented the last ten pages of D.R.06.2, also known as The Untitled Stefan Avalos Project, also known as A Kinda Version of That old Script, Diamond Road to my writing group…

… Where, after the obligatory “well dones”, it was sent back to the kitchen, so to speak. “Make the end bigger”, was the overall consensus.

“Yeah, you’re right”, I grumbled.
“Don’t get too smart”. More valuable words were never spoken in this town.

It’s strange how this job of imagining things has gotten more difficult since I was a kid. It seemed so easy back then.

An anecdotal story of a famous director explaining what he wanted in the action screenplay being developed was brought up by one of the writers in my esteemed group: “I want something big in the beginning, something bigger in the middle and something really big at the end.”
Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

User customization for increased productivity

If there is on and off wackiness of this journal in the upcoming days or weeks, it is because I’m attempting to migrate it to a different place. Why? So I can customize the look and feel of it better. Also, some of the limitations are beginning to annoy me.

So far, I’ve wasted two days.

Playing with the look and feel of desktops, fonts, screensavers and websites costs the U.S. an estimated four billion dollars in lost company time per year! Actually, I don’t know. I just picked that number out of the air. However, a lot of precious time is spent during the workday doing just that. “Increased productivity”, I see those words on more things that require hours of installation and fiddling than anything else.

In terms of a blog or website, yes, it’s nice for things to look good, be ergonomic, represent the self, etc., but really, how much does that matter? Most of the time, I go to a website purely for information. Presentation is ancillary unless it’s so bad as to be a distraction.

When the web started out, and everyone was making their first websites, a lot of content-impaired people would basically take their bookmarks and turn them into a web page. Websites consisted of a lot of links going to other websites with lot of links going to…

A website or blog has to be pretty damn good for me to look at the links. Now that RSS feeds (essentially links that update themselves) have become the rage, people are building a lot of pages that use them instead old-fashioned links.

It’s sort of a different shade of the same color. Most people really can’t create content of any worth, so they just point to other content and try to change the color a little.

Profiting with the new Paradigm of Entertainment Media
or how I convinced myself that ringtones were somehow important

Let me preface this all by saying that I have not turned into Andy Rooney.

I went to a holiday film festival party last night. Everyone was very nice, the drinks were free, but the junk being espoused… Eesh. Good thing I was wearing my boots.

There is a desperate attempt to figure out what the popularity of new Internet sites and new methods of disseminating media mean. Everyone wants to be part of it, and I see a lot of business cards being waved around by “media consultants” – almost as many as panels and conventions for ‘media developers’. When “myspace” is talked about as revolutionary, I know I’m listening to people who are only parrots and trying to get in on the ‘new thing’.

Let me be the bearer of news to those who haven’t figured out that, the Emperor, while not naked, is wearing only a string thong.

Ipod = walkman
Podcasts = radio show
RSS = ticker tape.
Website = magazine, newspaper or catalog
Youtube = public cable
Mobile content = walkman with a crappy picture and sound = “My first web template” web templates for people too ignorant to do one themselves.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying these things aren’t cool. I’m just saying that they are not revolutionary in the way that most people are desperately trying to make them.

You know what was revolutionary? – Radio, TV, the Telephone, Answering machines, Internet for the masses, Email, The VCR.

Ringtones are not important. Neither is most ‘mobile content’ ‘alternative distribution channels’, ‘information dispersal’ or ‘new media ventures’ Sorry, it’s not.

Revolution doesn’t just mean ‘something new’. Revolution means change, and most of these new gimmicks will not inherently change a thing. Note that I didn’t say ‘all’.

It feels like 1996 again. Everybody is trying to figure out how to profit from the “upcoming paradigm shift”. Heck, when Google spends 1.65 billion dollars on Youtube, who can blame people? There’s an inherent lottery ticket mentality continually at work here.

So what do you get? A bunch of people with not a whole lot to say or do or show, covering that fact - by pointing to other people with either a link, an RSS feed or a podcast interview - the latest update on the old trick of seeming cutting edge by association.

It may all be moot though...

Just this morning, I read that the thong-wearing Emperor has died…

Time Magazine made “You” the Person of the year.

Without fail, when Time Magazine decrees something is hot, its time has past. When it comes to trends to report upon, they have the uncanny knack of being the last to know what’s important.

By the way, if you’re an advertiser or Television Network trying to figure out how to make all this eyeball-competing free-media work for you, let me know. I figured out how we can all make a ton of money by giving it all away.


Now go do your Holiday Shopping.
On the Internet, of course. That’s revolutionary!

And don't forget you can add the RSS FEED to this blog to your awesome website.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Peter Boyle

1935 - 2006
Yes, shame on me for linking to copyrighted material. Hopefully, Mel Brooks and company won't mind too much.
This is what I'll remember him for.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006



(Or the esthetically chosen derivation – CUT TO BLACK. )

Generally not followed in modern days by THE END, but meaning it.

Amateurs might add – END CREDITS, or CREDIT ROLL.

All of these words represent the most exciting moment for a writer. It’s a brief moment, but definitely the most exciting moment of the writing process -- End of the screenplay.

It’s the opposite of the two most daunting words: FADE IN

I’ve been footsy’ing around those words for the past two days. The final scene is formed enough that I can step back, make another cup of coffee and ponder the script as a whole.

Which of course means re-writing. At least, now it is easier. This is the version of the story, which will actually (hopefully) be the next movie. The rewrites thus far have been the equivalents of movies in a franchise – reoccurring characters, and worlds, but different stories. The poor ‘bad guys’ have met their fate in so many ways that I sometimes fantasize that at night they try to escape my computer, so as not to have to suffer yet again.

No, that’s not a good idea for a feature -- maybe a short story, but not a movie.

So, there you have it. D.R.06.2 is done. Next step – D.R.06.3
By the way, those are working titles.

It’s getting close to the Holidays!

Need to get someone a cool gift? Hey, how about a:


Thanks a lot!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans

December 8, 2006
It's that day. Nuff said. Moving on.

I’m sitting outside writing. Recently, the time of year, the place and the duration of my workday are all in alignment.

Here’s how it goes. I work in the office until it is nice and warm, do a few things like eat lunch, zip around on the internet a bit…
Then, head outside with the laptop and continue working, on battery power.
It still amazes me to no end, that with this 1 inch thick, 4 pound device, and a wireless phone on the marble table next to me, that I have an entire office – more powerful and capable than any office of even fifteen years ago.

The sun creeps over the hill around this time – 4:00‘ish and I’m at about 37% battery power. So, the sun, temperature and my laptop battery charge will all drop to uncomfortable levels around the same time.

Then, back inside. Whether I continue working or not is entirely dependent on my inspiration level – which lately has been pretty good.
However, the fact that I’m blogging when I should be screen-re-re-writing is not a good sign.

This entry will not instantly be, ahem, published (I already told you – it’s their work, not mine) because I want to scan the cover of the latest book I purchased – and which just arrived in the mail. I’m very proud of it, as it is co-written by none other than my sister, Inez Avalos Heath!

Pause for battery/sweater/light….
Well, a birthday party and helping Marianne with a video edit caused that pause to go into another day. I’m back… Need to get a new scanner, so I’m temporarily using my still camera as a scanner. Crude, but it works.


The Garden of Gold –El Jardin de Oro (Qori Pawkar)
is a book my sister, Inez Avalos Heath (and Amanda Veliz Garagatti and artist Ciro Madueno Velasco) wrote about the lives of the Incas.
It’s a bilingual book plus – another language – Quechua, the language of the Incas.

She was telling me a little about the difficulties of doing a book like this. How things like proof reading for instance – not something I think about too much when I read a book (please no comments about that and errors within this blog) became Herculean, as this is a book in three languages, one of which is nearly extinct. Besides simply not wanting to have any errors with grammar or translation with English and Spanish, they had a responsibility of not screwing up any of the Quechua words. Would you know? I wouldn’t… but therein is the danger. Wouldn’t want future books about the Incas to say virgins when they meant raisins… Thats one of the huge issues with material that will eventually become a reference.

To add to the job, they wrote this book so that it would be good for children. Not that it’s a “childrens” book in my opinion, it just not your typical dry, reading. It’s good. You know, for kids.
Over the last several years, she’s been telling me bits and pieces about the research – a lot of traveling to Peru, going to places wayyyy off the beaten track (even for Peruvians). Minus the archeological thievery, she’s our family’s resident Indiana Jones.
So, I’m very proud to shamelessly plug her work.
Check it out. Buy a copy for someone.
It would mean a lot to her and to me, and you’ll love it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Writing on Game day

Got the second to last action scene knocked out yesterday. It was a good day, twenty odd pages of writing. These are the days one struggles for months to get to. In a typical day, I will write five pages of words. However, these words are generally questions to myself, thoughts about the back story, forward story side story behind story, and so on. Meta writing is what we call it. writing about writing. It’s useful and necessary, but it can also be one of the more insidious tools of procrastination. So, when I say it was a good day, twenty odd pages of writing, I should say – twenty odd pages of screen writing.


A small room, crammed with bits and pieces of electronics,
computers, video and audio editing equipment and musical
instruments. Sun streams in from the window in front of the
office desk, bathing everything in a golden light -- another
perfect California Day.

STEFAN AVALOS, a tall, dark and extremely handsome man sits
in front of his laptop computer, typing furiously. He taps
the keys with the furious speed of a man trying to beat a
clock. He mumbles to himself as he types.

AMEN! I'm writing! This Action
Scene kicks ass. This is such a
relief after the hell of circling
this stuff. Oh… that's gotta hurt…
that'll get the audience cheering.

The phone next to him RINGS. He lets the machine take it, not
stopping for an instant. The fourth ring activates the
machine's message - and BEEEEP.

Hi, Stefan, This is Norm. Say, I
have an extra ticket to The
Clippers game tonight. Let me know
if you're interested. Call me as
soon as you can.

Stefan stops typing for a moment and stares towards the
machine with the now, blinking orange light.

Clippers… That would be great, if I
can get these pages done and sent.

He looks at the cursor on the screen, caught in mid-sentence.

Then his fingers start pounding the keys of the notebook once

That kind of writing.

So, last night, as you perhaps read in a screenplay somewhere, I went to a Clippers/Heat (basketball for those of you not aware) game at the Staples center. Excellent seats and an excellent game – a nail biter to the final buzzer. Basketball at the Staples Center - one of the ultimate L.A. experiences, it sure was a great way to reward a fine day of writing. Additionally, basketball is fun to watch, especially live. Not like Baseball. I’ve been to three Baseball games in my life. The second time was because I’d forgotten how bored I was the first time. The third time because it was at Dodgers Stadium, and I thought mayyybe it was a Philly thing. Ha.

Basketball – Any time. Let me know.

Final Score for the December 05:

Writing 22, procrastination 0
Clippers 101 Heat 97
Tequila 2 corona 1

I hope the above post looks right... formatting this bugger was a major pain.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Double OH – The King is Dead, Long Live the King

We went to see the new James Bond movie last night. Gotta say – it’s money well spent. Damn, what an amazing foot chase in the beginning – matches the energy and excitement of a great William Friedkin car chase.

Afterwards, Marianne, who is not a Bond fan, and I, who am, had the inevitable, “Who’s the best Bond?” conversation.

A quick google search, or an IMDB search reveals countless amounts of bandwidth wasted upon the same question.

'Bond favorite' is initially a matter of imprinting. Like ducklings, we tend to like the one we saw first, best. I am amazed by how many (youngsters obviously) people on like Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan; almost as many as loath Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan. Once one comes to know their Bond pictures, Sean Connery always goes to the top spot. With reason too -- he was Bond. Plain and Simple. He was the best. He could not be beaten, walking into a room wearing a tuxedo, saying those words.

That was then.

I’m glad those movies were made. Bond, the fun adolescent-lecher-spy-killer-skier-etc. Nailing everything in sight with gun, spear, or whatever other object was nearby to, um, nail with.

In today’s world though, it was time for the update.

So, in the year 2006, I am going to boldly say, though he’s only one movie in…

I think we have a new “best Bond ever” even better than Sean Connery. Yikes.

While all those teenage Bonds were great, In Casino Royale (2006), Bond has grown up. Today, James Bond, you are a man. And your name is Daniel Craig.

Which Bond is your favorite?

Barry Nelson

Sean Connery

Roger Moore

David Niven

Woody Allen

George Lazenby

Roger Moore

Timothy Dalton

Pierce Brosnan

Daniel Craig

And a last bit of trivia – Ian Fleming got the name “James Bond” from the name of an ornithologist who wrote a book called Birds of the West Indies.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Keep an eye out for you, Stingray! Yeah!

It’s cold. Damn cold.

Thermometer says it’s 60 degrees, but I know it’s lying. That can’t be right. Of course, there is no heat to my office. Don’t need it. Yes I do. Right now. Cause it’s cold.

My Internet connection is also cold – the information is dripping through like some of the 1’s and 0’s got slushy in the pipes last night. Hope it thaws soon.

Remember me complaining about an action scene I was writing? How I wasn’t feeling inspired? I’m pouring my blood, and sweat over each word, trying to make it unique somehow. Interesting, believable even though the action adventure world requires a fair amount of suspension of disbelief…

Evidently, some people don’t have the same issues I do. I wish I could take credit for having found this, but I can't. For the true heroes of discovery, check out Cracked.



Uhh, wow. The hits are going up on this blog, which only adds to the pressure of having to keep my little writing ditties updated; so here’s a few quick random thoughts. Nothing deep or insightful. My apologies. Good news is that I’ll probably remember something good the moment I put this up.

To start with, today’s entry has me a bit annoyed because the recent upgrade of has messed up the MS Word plugin I use. Now, I have to jump through a couple extra hoops when I ‘publish’ my entry. Their word, not mine. Though this upgrade added some cool stuff, I hope they work this problem out soon. I’ve come to really rely on auto-correct.

Woe is me, huh?


Luck only makes sense if you’re a superstitious person. I’m not - so I cannot, by definition, believe in luck. There is of course, randomness, and it can often seem absolutely improbable. But it’s not luck. Mathematically, the ‘lucky’ person is gonna run out of it at some point. That’s math.

The definition I did hear of luck that I like is - Luck is when opportunity meets preparation. Ah. Yes. Enough scientific reasoning. Enough sense. No need to buy a rabbit’s foot for that. And of course it’s not luck really.

So, presently, I’m hoping that preparation is about to meet opportunity. Can’t detail it more than that, but it has something to do with Diamonds… bloody diamonds.

Honestly, that’s not hard too hard to figure out, so no need to email me.

I’m listening to a pod-cast called Keith and the Girl. Damn funny Daily show from a couple out of New York. Reminds me of what I liked when I used to listen to Howard Stern - the news with Robin and their personal life stuff. Keith and the Girl are doing that very well. It’s also really nice to be able to listen on my schedule - pause when I need, repeat something if absolutely necessary... not listen at six in the morning. Hey, maybe this internet thing isn’t a fad after all. They initially got my attention with several funny riffs on the Michael Richards thing, but their absolute lambasting of Dane Cook is what really turned me into a fan. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks he doesn't have a funny bone in his obnoxious body. Besides that, their show alerted me to the fact, evidently well known among comedians, that Dane Cook has stolen some of his material. Now, if HBO would just stop wasting their precious time on him.

Okay, that’s about it for this lame-o entry. If you’re annoyed, and you want something better, check out some of the wonderful links I’ve collected. If that’s not enough, come back soon for something more. On the flip side, short entries are probably easier to get through, right? It's never my intention to write a tome when I compose a blog entry, they just tend to end up that way.

As Mark Twain wrote:
"I apologize for the length of this letter. If I had more time, it would have been shorter".

It's something that most writers can relate to, I think.

FYI - If coming back to this only to find the same entry, day after day is annoying, subscribe to the RSS feed - that way you’ll know exactly when the latest, greatest entry is up. (hint – if you have a Yahoo page – just click on the yahoo button at the top right of this page. It will take care of the rest)

Perhaps a final update on the car: We just got it back from the body shop. They did what they had to do. It's about 98 percent as good as it was before it was stolen. I think. Of course, I won't know for sure till I drive it for a while. Since the tinting had to be replaced, we now do have some nice new tinting. However, now we need two keys - the new one for the ignition, the old one for the doors and trunk, and that's a bit annoying. I also swear the front end seems noisier than it was... But hey, the car lives to see another day.

I guess we were lucky.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Just like Disneyworld

Last night, Marianne and I went into a Sharper Image store in our local mall. We were seduced by a massage seat cushion thing that I can best describe as ghostly but firm hands, trained in the basics of Shiatsu, pushing at your back from any chair you put it on. Pretty awesome. If you've never tried it, I dare you.

While perusing the store, I realized with great delight, that we are in the glory days of small remote controlled vehicles. Friends of mine have been helping me amass an empire of low cost, cars, UFO’s, an airplane and a Spider - all controlled by three or less buttons. But there are still helicopters, dinosaurs and more, still to be added. Glory days indeed.

As we were leaving the store, the soulful brown eyes of about seven “Alive” Chimpanzees, all in boxes, stopped me. The eyes were soulful, because the box told me they were.

Reading the box, I was boggled by the promises. An animatronic chimp! It could be in my office, on my desk! It could baffle strangers!
Too cool. The things I could do with an animatronic Chimp head… Of course, wondering about that is what stopped me from instantly plunking down my hard earned credit card and purchasing it.

Today, still thinking about the chimp, I went to Sharper Image online and found the page with the chimp. Complete with photos, selling points and cool box photo, it also includes a video.

Check it out and tell me – do you think the video is a good selling point?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Hand that Grabbed So Much...

Helmer Robert Altman dies

Robert Altman, the caustic and irreverent satirist behind "M-A-S-H," "Nashville" and "The Player" who made a career out of bucking Hollywood management and story conventions, died at a Los Angeles Hospital, his Sandcastle 5 Productions Company said Tuesday. He was 81.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Drive my Car

I’m done writing for the day, which means I’ll try to add another blog entry. Damn, this is a responsibility.

I’ll get the Barney Fife story out of the way, so that future blog entries can be about the current things on my mind:

  1. How utterly bored I am with an action sequence I have to write.
  2. Margaret Livingston - Paul Whiteman’s wife.
  3. Halloween
  4. Unintentionally pitching an old story to a producer recently, which he loved and now causes me to either shift my thoughts, or work twice as much.
  5. Pondering whether I should start podcasting this crap – After all I have several great microphones. Isn’t that reason enough?

The Car saga

For the past (Geez, is it that long already?) month, we’ve been renting a PT Cruiser, while going through the machinations one goes through when dealing with a stolen car. Insurance, claims, trying to remember what-all was in the car, the stages of grief, etc.

Finally, with resignation, trying to figure out where to come up with the extra money it will take to buy a new car, we started thinking.

In case you think that a stolen car is not such a big deal – it sucks. It really is a pain in the ass. Somehow, it takes something out of you. You don’t want to do anything, you wanna stay home, sleep, not go out. In short – it puts you into a state of depression. Obviously, I’m not going to compare it to life-serious things, but it does its insidious work.

So, when, on November 9th, the insurance agent call you up and says, “did you know they recovered your car on October 27th?” – it really messes with your head!

Turns out the car was “recovered” three days after it was stolen!

The agent asked us if we knew. I guess she had to ask that rather obvious question – NO, we didn’t know, otherwise why would we be going through all this paperwork?

When we asked her how she found out, she said that a DMV check showed the car had been pulled off the Stolen Vehicle list, meaning it had been found.

When we asked where it was, she gave us all the info. The long and the short – and there are several days of long and short – the police department that recovered the car forgot to tell us they had recovered it. I guess it would have continued to rack up impound fees until the day they decided to mash it or sell it at auction. Since we found out, there were only (haha) 560 dollars worth. Which, of course, we have to pay.

The car was not unscathed, though it was not horrible either. I’m guessing the IQ level of the thieves to be about 85 or so. They tried, but broke the right signal light, I suppose learned their mistakes, and successfully took the left one, busted the ignition – of course, stole the Alpine CD player – but left their portable one, along with a cd, in the car (whoops).

There must have been at least three of them, cause the guy in the back was a hyperactive little bastard. It could be due to the 32 oz Big Gulp that was left on the back armrest, but since that was still full, I’m not sure. His hyperactivity came out in nervous keying of window tinting. His attempt at putting his ‘gang’ letters into the tinting was a sign of either, poor penmanship, not being able to ‘mirror write’ well, or it might have been the soda. Not sure what gang he was in, and I’m guessing they wouldn’t want to take the credit on this job. Police couldn’t figure out either. After Roach#3 got bored with the side window, he started a bit on the rear window. It couldn’t have interested him for more than a minute though because those are very minute scratches. In fact, it looks like he was trying to remove the tinting, not deface it. I admit, the tinting was old and needed replacing, but still – you stole the car, dude!

Beyond anything stolen, I am most amazed by the sheer filth. I don’t know how they did it. It’s as if they rolled around, head to toe, in road dirt and grease before sitting in the car. Head rests, seat belts, armrests, you name it – covered in grime. Smokers too. Strange in this day, in California, I don’t think of car thieves as cigarette smokes. Ashes all over the place. One cigarette burn.

They lived large, driving it till it was absolutely empty. Then, they abandoned ship. Very quickly too, I imagine, considering the personal items (their personal items) they forgot to take.

And, so the car was found in a no Parking Zone. It was towed two blocks away, and recorded as stolen.

A car is made of metal, glass and plastic. All of these things are wonderful items from which to get a fingerprint. The entire outside of the car was covered in Graphite dust, as per my original request to prosecute, if possible. Not one signal print was useable. Not one.

And there were many, many, many. The thing that made some unusable were the brush marks. The brush marks from the fingerprinter’s brush. Whoops. I guess this isn’t CSI, is it?

Additionally, there was a plastic wiffle ball bat in the back seat. Not mine. The afore mentioned portable CD player, a bucket of Chicken, and the already mentioned Big Gulp. All not mine. All of those things should have wonderful prints on them. I drove the car back to the police station to alert them to the fact that they had not printed any of these items. The detective humored me and came out with a cardboard box and, wearing rubber gloves, took them, promising to get them printed.

I’m guessing he threw them away once he got inside the police station.

Next came fears of an ordeal with the insurance company. I was worried that they’d ‘total’ the car, give us a check for a couple thousand bucks and send us on our way. Happily, Honda Accords retain their value, and are worth quite a bit more than a couple thousand. The appraiser told us quickly that he wouldn’t be ‘totaling’ the car, and gave us I think a fair, albeit aggressive, appraisal of the damage. Supposedly, if the repair costs go over, they’ll cover it. This, by the way, is AMICA. If all continues to go well, I will laud them plenty, and recommend them to all. If all does not go well, well you know you'll hear about it.

So, where are we at?

Still driving the PT Cruiser, waiting for the car to come back from the various shops. It seems our Honda Accord has lived to see another day. We’re getting over the emotional turmoil, which strangely was more intense once the car actually came back.

We made a formal complaint with the city whose police department dropped the ball. More on that as it progresses.

Oh, and I will have to buy new prescription sunglasses. The cockroaches emptied the glove compartment of all its contents, of which nothing would have been useful to them.

And the insurance doesn’t cover personal items, which figures. The one time I get really nice frames, lens, polarized tinting, etc. they’re stolen within three months.

A birthday present from Marianne.

Damn it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Just Press Play

Why does a guy in California care?
Because even though it's a big country, it's still ONE country.

Here's the spot that I helped make.
Brian Felsen is the creator and Director.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

One of those days

One of those days

The cat was not acting her usual self last night and we then saw some blood on the floor and on the towel she sleeps on. When I attempted to look closely at an area on her stomach that she was licking continuously, she meowed-squawked, and took off for the laundry room. This morning, Marianne got a closer look and saw a nasty gash. A visit to the vet determined it was even deeper than we thought, and would require stitches.
     So now, we are being treated to the pitiful sight of our cat staggering around with a cone-head. She’s freaked, her balance is off, and in pain. Disconcerting, but what can you do?

This evening, I went to bucolic Sierra Madre to help a friend with a political spot. An attempt to do some good, I think it went well. However, I left his house, went out to the quiet, tree lined street to find – no car!
My car was stolen! It’s an odd thing. I actually looked up and down an EMPTY street, to see if I had put it somewhere else, as if I had misplaced the TV remote or something.
This really sucks. We only have one car. It’s not a new car, but it’s our car, our reliable Honda Accord. Or at least it was. For the moment, we’re kinda at a loss.
For those that don’t know, Sierra Madre is like Mayberry. Not a high crime area, to put it mildly.

Singing the song of everybody who has had a car stolen – I hope carma (no I didn’t misspell that) really nails whoever stole my car. And I hope they aren’t chopping it up as I write this.

After filling out the police report, the officer gave me a little card and said they’d call if anything turned up. She gave me her condolences, which was nice, and then – that was it. It’s disheartening to walk out of the police station with just a little card that has a report number and a few other things. Is this all I have now?

The great prescription sunglasses Marianne had just gotten me for my birthday were in the glove compartment too. Damn it.

Anyway, if you live in Connecticut, please vote for Ned Lamont. And if you do, leave a message on this blog. At least it’ll make the stolen car not seem entirely in vain.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Horror Doing Well In October

So, fellow Bucks County writer, Stephen Susco had a great opening with his latest movie, The Grudge 2. Cool! He’s on a real roll; seems like there’s no stopping him. Nice guy – he deserves it. He’s also a writing machine. Pretty humbling, actually.

Also, Texas Chainsaw, the beginning, is still in the top ten also. It was D.P’ed (director of Photography) by Lukas Ettlin, the same guy who D.P’d my movie, The Ghosts of Edendale. I’m guessing he’s enjoying working on movies with more money.

My friend, John Gulugers’ movie, Feast hits DVD this week so – buy a copy, or at least rent it.

And in playing, “how small is the horror film world?” -- John’s mother, Miriam was in Texas Chainsaw III . The Ghosts of Edendale is dedicated to Miriam, who passed away in 2003.

Writing away here as usual. We recently started a writer’s group that’s been pretty helpful. We’ve kept it small, and the people in it are really good; most already have produced credits. It’s been helpful to bounce ideas with them, and is a good reminder that ‘you’re not by yourself’.

Finally, please do us a huge favor: if your local video store doesn’t have The Last Broadcast – the collectors edition, please request it. Or even better – buy it. It’s chock-full of extras, so I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

East for a bit

I’m sitting in an air terminal in Minneapolis. A direct flight from Philly to L.A., I didn’t see the part where we stop in Minnesota. No wonder it’s a seven and a half hour flight.
I’m on my way back from Pennsylvania, where I spent a long weekend. Back in town for my father’s 80th birthday, I also was able to do a few of the things that used to be routine there. I spent a couple hours shooting guns at my friend Joe’s farm, where I also stayed. An AR-15, an M-1 Carbine – the grouping on the target looked pretty darn good, till I started at it with a Glock.

Later, I drove the roads of Bucks County, marveling at the destruction the last strong rains have wrought.
One of the pilgrimages I make every time I go back to Pennsylvania is to the airport that was the inspiration for Diamond Road so many years ago; Van Sant Airport.

A beautiful day, I watched two bi-planes practice their take off and landings. To my ears, the sound of a biplane flying past as it takes off is one of the most glorious sounds there is. No matter how many times I’ve heard it, the thrill remains the same. There simply is nothing to match the roar of a radial engine as it blasts past you.

Yesterday, my last day in Pa, found me going back to Van Sant – an addiction that can’t be shaken. A friend of mine who still lives in Bucks had never been there, and that was enough reason to go and show one of my favorite places in the world. Staring at the parked classic airplanes parked on the grass found me succumbing… And with my friend urging me on, there was no escape.
Within minutes I was putting on a soft leather helmet and goggles and climbing into the front open cockpit of a 1943 Stearman Biplane.

With a “Clear”, the pilot, Azhar, fired up the engine and soon, we roared down the runway and into the sky. As we flew into the sky, I have to admit, I had to fight hard not to tear up with (ugh) joy. I’m currently tearing up from that previous corny sentence, yet it is absolutely true.

Announcement, seat calls, general boarding -
I’m now forty thousand odd feet above the Rockies, where the snow caps are reflecting brilliantly. Quite a view! A 757 is not nearly as exciting an airplane to fly in as a Biplane, but the views are unbeatable.

We, Azhar and I, flew around the Bucks County area for about twenty minutes. Being a Stearman, a trainer biplane, I had all the controls and gauges in front of me. Obviously, I didn’t touch anything, but it was interesting to watch what was going on – when I wasn’t looking over the edge at the scenery a couple thousand feet below me. Azhar was in the open cockpit behind me. Towards the end of the twenty minutes, he tapped my shoulder and made a straight-up motion with a flat open hand. When I nodded gleefully, up we went, into a somersault.
Just like the movies – Sky sky sky, then the horizon ground coming from above, then ground gound ground, and then the horizon skyline coming from above.

A short moment later, we did a Barrel roll, and then touched down – the gentlest landing I’ve experienced in any aircraft.

It’s an experience I recommend everyone try at least once in his or her life. If you live in the Bucks County Area, do it at Van Sant; the nicest bunch of people in one of the most scenic airports there is.

Today’s the day
In a few hours, once I’m back in L.A., I will be doing a DVD signing. Today is the re-release of The Last Broadcast. Did you get your copy yet?

As I have already done before, I will remind you again-- Go to and check out all the info.

So, back to work tomorrow, back to the real world (if Los Angeles can be considered the real world). May the feelings of soaring in biplanes remain – and may you too experience the same if you have not already.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dylan is a Whore

To make sure I wasn’t reading anything out of context, I read the entire Bob Dylan interview in Rolling Stone magazine. Good interview, it goes all over the place talking about his new album, bootlegs, etc.

One paragraph has stuck in the craw of those who love their 1’s and 0’s.

Here it is, cut and pasted from Rolling Stone:

But getting the band of his dreams into the studio was only half the battle. "The records I used to listen to and still love, you can't make a record that sounds that way," he explains. It is as if having taken his new material down to the crossroads of the recording studio Dylan isn't wholly sure the deal struck with the devil there was worth it. "Brian Wilson, he made all his records with four tracks, but you couldn't make his records if you had a hundred tracks today. We all like records that are played on record players, but let's face it, those days are gon-n-n-e. You do the best you can, you fight that technology in all kinds of ways, but I don't know anybody who's made a record that sounds decent in the past twenty years, really. You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them. There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like -- static. Even these songs probably sounded ten times better in the studio when we recorded 'em. CDs are small. There's no stature to it. I remember when that Napster guy came up across, it was like, 'Everybody's gettin' music for free.' I was like, 'Well, why not? It ain't worth nothing anyway.' ". . .

Okay. So Dylan thinks that Analog is better than Digital… I guess. He’s all over the place in terms of the process, jumping from the recording to the mastering to playback. Frankly, I’m guessing his hearing might be shot. It makes sense – he’s a sixty five year old rocker.

Whatever, I’ll give him his opinion. But this is Bob Dylan! If he wants, why doesn’t he record the way he wants? He could. He’s pining for something as if it no longer exists – which is a crock. It does. In fact, there’s plenty of analog machines gathering dust just waiting for you to use them, Bob.

Additionally, he’s wrong. Now, before any vinyl/analog nuts get annoyed, let me explain myself. There’s theoretically no end to how high you make a digital rate. So, the sound is only going to get better. Eventually, there’s no comparison. Whatever data rate 44.1k, 96k, 192k. 16, 20, 24 or more bit depth… you can keep throwing 1’s and 0’s at your problem fairly easily. You’ll blow that 4 track Brian Wilson used right out of the water sonically, if that’s what you want to do. (Genius not included)

Okay, Bob is right in some respects. Digital recordings can absolutely sound like crap. Just like analog tape that is slowed down to get the most recording time, when you listen to highly compressed digital recordings, MP3’s for instance, the sound quality can be atrocious. Low data rates, like the popular 128k MP3 rate, are where his griping rings very true. It can be a very mushy, flange-y listening experience.

So in that case, Bob, you’re right. To quote you, “It ain’t worth nothing anyway” – if it’s a low grade MP3.

But then…

Why did I see you pimping yourself in an Apple ITUNES commercial last night?

Are you expecting me to pay for that?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Feast on This

Feast on This

Just watched a trailer for Feast. You know, the Project Greenlight movie. The folks over at Fango got an exclusive, and it’s definitely worth checking out.
The movie has gone through quite some turmoil to get to the public. I’m glad everyone is going to finally get a chance to see it. John Guluger, the film’s director has really worked hard, and it shows. Congrats John, Clu, Diane and everyone else. It’s been a long road.

Also, in keeping with the mentioning and re-mentioning of friends (and myself of course) and our DVD releases and re-releases (enough with the re’s right?)

Down in the Valley – Directed by David Jacobson (Edward Norton, Bruce Dern, Evan Rachel Wood, Rory Culkin)
Head Trauma – Directed by Lance Weiler (Vince Mola, Jamil Mangan, Strange Hooded Figure)
And of course ---
The Last Broadcast

Went to the Hollywood Bowl last night. Good concert. One of the things I was really impressed by, which I don’t think gets a lot of credit, was the quality of the camera work and video switching on the big reinforcement monitors. You know – the large screen television you end up watching when you’re too far from the stage. Last nights work was as good as something you’d see on PBS. Fantastic close-ups of various musicians, cut and dissolves right on cue… Yeah, this was someone who cared, not just a jobber.
I’m going to try to see if I can find out who it was and give him a ‘well-done’. I know I’d be happy if someone out of the blue did that.

Okay, my day begins. I am now jamming through the writing. Like a rocket that’s been through countless delays, and technical issues- the engines finally got lit and are operating at full blast. Hallelujah!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fast Cheap and Under Control

I recently received a copy of a great new book titled Fast, Cheap and under Control: Lessons from the Greatest Low-Budget Movies of All Time written by John Gaspard.

First, it’s a great book. I highly recommend it for people interested in filmmaking and/or aspiring to making movies. Second, in a chapter devoted to four mock-docs, The Last Broadcast is written about in a very accurate, and informative way.

For myself, the coolest thing is that David Holzman’s Diary, a movie I studied in school and that was very influential to Lance and myself, is the movie that immediately precedes TLB. It’s kind of awing when you are being written about right next to your heroes.
I really wish my film Professor were still alive to see this. He’d have gotten a real kick out of it.

Along with our humble selves, there are many other interviews from sixty nine ‘indie’ movies, spanning a wide range of time and genres. It really is a great list of movies. Check it out.

Also, as September 26th approaches, it’s time for me to start plugging – the re-release of The Last Broadcast. As we near the ten year (GULP) anniversary of the movie’s inception, Heretic films is putting out a brand new, remastered movie, along with all the original extras of the first DVD, plus a slew of new ones. I’ve reconstructed the original website, and over the next few days will amp it up with new information. For now, check it out at:
Also, check out

Finally, check out Lance Weiler’s newest project at
He begins his fifteen city theatrical run tomorrow, so if you’re near one of the screens, go see it. Best of luck, Lance.

That’s all for the moment.
Have a good one.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Where have the children gone?

A quick, annoyed entry about a survey that’s been generating a lot of talk in town.
Here’s a link to a story about it.

The crux is that young people today seem to like watching movies in ways besides  the theatrical experience. PC’s or ipods, etc.  The fear is that these other methods are supplanting the theatrical experience.
This survey asks all kinds of questions about how and why they like to watch movies.
It’s all very scientific with a +- error of a mere 3 percentage points.
After reading this carefully, I have formulated my own opinion. By no means the first time someone has said this, I think now is a great time to repeat it. It bears reiteration.

You want to know why ticket sales are down? It’s not brain surgery. (By the way, the brain is a thing people besides you have inside their skull)

It’s simple. You charge too much.  
Done. You greedy bastards killed the cow, and you’re wondering why the teat isn’t working so well?
“Hmm, maybe those wacky kids today like juice”. Blame it on the Internet.
NO, you idiots. They can’t afford the price of that stinky, sour milk.

Lower the prices and most of your problem will go away. Make better movies and even more will vanish. I like to watch a movie as much (well probably more) than the next person, but even I find myself not paying to go to the theaters.

Okay, this rant won’t change anything, but at least I put it out there.

It’s a classic problem with show business. We get so close to the problem, we can’t see it.

A classic forest for the trees.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

It's the weekend...

...and I am writing.
Damn it's good to be writing.
Saturday night, yeah!

Actually, there's no sarcastic tone meant with the above.
Across the street, people are having a blow-out party. It's 2:40 am and going strong, which is unheard of in L.A. It's a town that shuts down early. 12:30 - 1:00 AM. 1:30 at the latest. It was one of the strangest culture shocks for me. Very strange indeed.
There were times in New York that I wouldn't even begin the night till near midnight. Heck, even in Pennsylvania, one could be expected to go to an after hours breakfast somewhere on a Saturday night after partying till 2:00.

I have a good mind to go over there -
-and ask them for their playlist. Damn, the music is great.
A bunch of stuff that I've never heard, but seems like I should have.

I am catching up on my "Stooges" collection; not "The Three" rather just, "The".
If you don't get it, don't worry about it.

Maybe the tone of this blog has something to do with having listened to Iggy, Siouxie, the Horrorpops (my newest discovery) et al.

Quickie, over and out.

ps- I was wrong. The party ended at 2:48 Am, didn't slow down or fade out, just - ended.

pps - Brothers of the Head opened this weekend. Have you seen it yet?

Good night.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Waves: heat, sound, and other

Frequency of my blogging is inversely proportional to the productivity in my life.
Ah, if only that were one hundred percent true.

It’s been a hot summer. That has slowed me down, somewhat. I’m guessing that a lot of people in the country have been operating at speeds rated less than normal.

It’s a hot one.

Before the heat hit, we went ‘environment cooling’ shopping. Having seen An Inconvenient Truth, and being from the ‘man is screwing things up’ school of thought, we looked for an alternative to air conditioning. Swamp coolers held promise for areas that are dry. Hey, Southern California is dry!

The premise behind one is that a fan blows through (or sucks) a very fine mist of water. Much finer than the misters used outside in Las Vegas (or the Universal theme park lines), the Swamp Cooler blows slightly damp air. The water pulls the heat out of the air, and Voila!, cooler air. In dry areas, it can cool the air ten degrees.

We got it, I filled it up and turned it on.

We waited; we put our hands in front of it to feel if the air was getting cooler…

We tried this for three days before coming to the realization that, maybe these things work in Tuscan, but in Los Angeles, they aren’t happening.

First, it essentially felt no different than a fan.
Second, you’re supposed to leave the doors and windows open. It’s simply no match for that.
Third, at the end of the day – you have room that is more humid. Humidity, while perhaps decreasing the overall temp by a degree or so, increases the relative ‘feel’ of the temp. So, actually – the swamp cooler just pissed me off.
Fourth, the Swamp Cooler also released what I call, “the smell of impending death”. It’s that damp, musty, ‘plastic’y odor of old folks homes that anyone who has spent time in a senior center will be familiar with.

So, with great disappointment, we returned the Swamp Cooler, and exchanged it for a portable Air Conditioner. We’d heard less then stellar reviews of those also, but with an intent of using it sparingly, one room at a time only, and only when it was really needed, we were hopeful.

Maybe I’ll write about my day of hell in the exchange sometime.

Anyway, the heat hit, and it’s a damned good thing I had AC instead of that Swamp Cooler, cause the humidity went up also (which isn't supposed to happen in Northeastern Los Angeles. It’s the first time in L.A. that I felt like I was back east. The heavy, hot, humid air at night. UGH! Just like Pennsylvania in July. Thankfully, the portable Swamp Cooler was able to pull that out of the bedroom at night.

The 100 plus degrees during the day were also made slightly more bearable. I was able to bring the temps in the office down to a comfortable 85 degrees, and survive.
Final verdict on the Portable AC: It's does the job. It won't win awards, but is very energy efficient and portability factor is good. It's esthetically as pleasing as any prop in Brazil and with its form factor and footprint should be given a name - like R2D2. All in all though, because we don't use AC more than absolutely necessary, it will do.

You know it’s hot when the cat looks forward to being soaked with water.

Dog Days Of Summer

Weather wise, a strange summer indeed. I guess I don’t need to tell U.S. readers that.

The business of making movies has been interspersed with going to the U.S Open of Surfing, Hollywood Bowl concerts, and the occasional summer block-not-so-buster. Also, my present “summer build project” is nearing completion. I wrote earlier about how I was building high-end microphones, and was accumulating parts for a high end mic Preamplifier – well, that project is about 98 percent complete. It’s been fun, interesting and occasionally frustrating. Though quite a bit more complex than any electronic project I’ve tackled in the past, I've only, shocked myself a couple times, burned myself only once and let the smoke out of only one component. Though that part was only a buck, I spent about twenty to locate it. Turning it on, and finally hearing it was very well worthwhile. The sound from this thing is frighteningly good. Besides being a clean, quiet, highly accurate machine, I can also turn up the gain (kinda like volume) to a point that if I aim a microphone out the office window, I can hear what’s going on across the neighborhood.

I feel like Gene Hackman in “The Conversation”; a classic thriller to watch, if you haven’t already.

Monday, July 10, 2006

4th of July weekend

4th of July weekend, and there are too many parties.

Getting through the last days of the L.A. Film Fest.
I finally got to see my old partner, Lance Weiler’s movie, Head Trauma. Cool movie. Check it out when it hits video. Or if you’re lucky, check it out if it hits a screen in your town.

Had a friend in town who co-wrote the afore mentioned movie. I spent the last week showing him the town. Lots of driving on hot days. But always lots of fun.
In addition to all the tar-pits, signs, roads, and views, we went to a party at the Chateau Marmont. The Penthouse. Yeah baby. Didn’t do Speedballs or anything life threatening, just a lot of gawking, and a fair amount of drinking. The place is pretty much everything it’s cracked up to be. Up the hill, off the Sunset Strip, it’s Ground Zero for cool in Hollywood. Also, Magic Castle, Yamashiro. Just another average week in L.A.

Now, more driving as we head to San Diego for a couple days. It never ends, I tell you.

Okay, so it does end. This entry is no longer the 4th of July. It’s a week later.
I didn’t publish the above lame-ass-entry cause because – well, it was lame-ass.

So – July 10th and I just got back from the Hollywood Bowl, where Tosca was performed. Great Opera, obviously. This was more a “theater of the mind” experience, as it was a “concert” performance, not a “stage” performance. It’s interesting to see how far they will take the ‘acting’ in a situation like this.
How do you execute the guy? Okay, bring out a firing squad like the stage play, but does he fall to the ground or is that going to far?

Being Puccini, you can’t go wrong. Solid voices, great orchestra and chorus. Wonderful.
Still, it belongs in an opera house. The costumes, the sets, etc. Gotta have it.
I’ve seen this opera more than any other; know it backwards and forwards. At some points, like a lot of music, I’m affected not by the music, but by the memories it evokes. What song does that for you? You ever wonder why music (without lyrics) has any affect on you? How and why does that work?

For those of you who live in Los Angeles. Go to the Hollywood Bowl, if you haven’t already. Great orchestra playing great music. Essentially all the concerts are standards, unlike the Disney Hall concerts where you hear more ‘difficult’ stuff.
Plus, it’s cheap. Park at the zoo for free, take the bus roundtrip for $3.00, pay 8 to 12 dollars and see a great concert. Bring food and drink, have a great time.

Next concert for me: The Planets by Gustav Holst and Sibelius’s violin concerto. How’s that for a double bill?

Oh Yeah, work:
I have four different versions of four different flow charts and meta essays all over the place about the damned script. However, I also have a Final Draft File open too. There will finally be a new script in the next couple weeks. Marianne is leaving for the Adirondacks for a month, so I’ll be going into “monk” mode starting the day after tomorrow. It’ll be a great time to finish this damned play and move onto something else.
I can finally catch up on some screenplays that I’ve been promising to read too.

Okay, still a Lame-o entry, but at least it’s something. Man, this blog thing is getting to be high pressure.

I’ll close this entry with one useful, important thing.
If you haven’t already seen it, see An Inconvenient Truth.
I believe it’s one of the most important movies ever made.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Beach Crawl

It’s getting hot. Early. Too early in the summer, I say.

I wired up an exhaust fan in the attic, and have been able to bring the overall temp of the house down about ten degrees. Every degree counts when you break 100 degrees. Thankfully, no forest fires yet.

Several nights ago, three days after the full moon to be exact, we, Marianne and myself and our friends (I will call them Mathboy, Opera Girl and Spawn) went to the beach at 10:00 PM with flashlights and beach blanket. Mathboy had been telling us about a childhood experience and we went to also witness it. First, we watched a truly spectacular Moon rise over the ocean, and then we saw the purpose of our journey -- the Grunion Run. I, not being a fishing type of a guy, didn’t know much about Grunion. They are small fish that have the absolutely fascinating trait of crawling, yes crawling, up the beach after a full moon to “get it on”. Females drill a hole into the sand with their tail, and deposit eggs, whereupon, the male hops in and does his thing. Then back into the ocean they go. Or, if they are unfortunate to do this when the public is out, into a bucket more likely, as children of all ages ran around the sand grabbing the fish.
It all happened at the Cabrillo Aquarium and if you are a Socal local, I recommend it. It was a really fun, and wholesome event – for the humans, not the fish. It was also a great way to check out the aquarium, as it too was open. There was a certain vampiric quality to looking at the various fish at midnight. No lines, no crowds, no sun.

Bonfires on the beach completed a classic vision of a southern California night. I could very easily have imagined Frankie and Annette popping out from around the large lifeguard stand.
Perhaps, because the movie the aquarium showed that explained the “Grunion Run” was made around 1955, or perhaps the simple glee with which the kids were running around trying to grab small fish, overall, the entire thing had a certain 1950’s vibe to it.
In a good way.

The L.A. Film Fest starts this week. In an attempt to be an actual “A” list festival, rather than merely pretending to be, they seem to really be going all out. It faces the eternal hurdle of being in a town where people are inundated by movies and film festivals. It’s hard to get excited for every single one. However, it has developed, and I’m looking forward to it, namely because:
Several friends have movies programmed, specifically Louis Pepe and Keith Fulton’s, Brothers of the Head, and my old “The Last Broadcast” partner, Lance Weiler and his movie, Head Trauma. A heady fest, shall we say? Perhaps not. Sorry. I’ll be playing host to a couple people from the East Coast. It’s always interesting to see the town through fresh eyes.

The remastering of The Last Broadcast is finished and delivered to the distributor.  It took a good month and a half to do the job. It’s nice to be done with it. The DVD will quite something; close to four hours of material in addition to the movie. I think something that will appeal to many people, which isn’t even listed as an extra, is that I incorporated the score into the chapter selection screens. Thus, the DVD, for all intents and purposes, is also a soundtrack album.  In doing this, a lot of requests from over the years will finally be fulfilled. It was interesting to go through all the old music tracks, clean them up and remix them. It really hammers home how much the technology has advanced in the nine odd years sine we began that movie.

Writing continues, interspersed by reading scripts, playing the violin, and continuing my latest hobby/fascination of building studio grade audio gear. The microphones having been such a success, I’m undertaking a significantly more difficult project. It will be my official “summer hobby project” – a high end Two Channel Microphone Preamplifier. Lots of components with real electricity coursing through them, I hopefully I won’t let the smoke out of any expensive parts - or myself.
I’ve been ordering up lots of the parts online, but for the moment I’m going to hold on actually placing the orders. Though very convenient, generally cheaper, and less likelihood of the wrong parts, a certain visceral feel is lost by online shopping. For that, a trip to a huge electronic surplus ‘junkyard’ is in order. I’m reminding myself to have fun with the journey as well as the final product. Also, the ideas that spring from these excursions can’t be matched with electronic catalogs.

I’m sure it will be a blog in the future.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Been a little while

Been a while since my last entry. That’s a sign that I’m busy.
The microphone project has been a smashing success, so much so, that I’ve created an area on my website about it. If you’re interested in perhaps building a high quality microphone yourself and have a little bit of knowledge about electronics, I recommend this highly. Just click on DIY GUY on my website.

Diamond Road, or whatever it’ll be called, has finally been re-outlined. I went through the most serious “lack of inspiration” time period that I’ve had in a long time. Thankfully, persistence got me through it. Hopefully now that the new treatment is finished, a draft will only take a few weeks.

To my left, a large editing workstation is capturing footage from The Last Broadcast raw tapes. I can announce publicly now that a re-release of the movie is under way. It’ll be out this fall, in time for Halloween. A Brand-spanking new DVD, it’ll feature the Remastered movie, new extras in addition to the original extras, new commentary, etc.

There will also be a very special bonus feature. Fans of comic books will be very excited, I think. Stephen Bissette (Swamp thing, Taboo) will be doing a mini-comic book, which will be part of the first run of DVD’s.  It’ll be a definite collectors item.

Stay tuned for a “new” official site featuring the original 1996-97 website. It’s a real trip down memory lane, and hard to believe that it’s been nearly ten years already since Lance and I went into production on that movie.

Speaking of trips down memory lane, I had an opportunity to see Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation. Talk about the most joyous reliving of childhood! If you haven’t heard of this movie, it’s a scene-by-scene remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark, made by three boys in Mississippi after they saw Raiders. I too was making my little “Raiders” type movies when I was twelve, as were a lot of boys of that time. Mine were about five minutes a piece. These guys, however, remade the whole feature! It took them seven years, but yikes. Rolling boulders, Nazis, barroom brawls, caves, THE TRUCK CHASE. It’s all there.
There is a feature film about their lives in development. I think if it ever gets made, it could be one of the ultimate “wonder years” type looking back on childhood movies ever. My vote is for Robert Zemeckis to direct.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

We Are DIY

DIY (do it yourself).

However, someone from triple AAA is currently changing one of my car tires – in my own driveway because I ran over a screw last night. Having called someone to come to my house to change a tire is one of the more surreal experiences of the last year. I used to tear apart engines, brake systems, transmissions. I owned a British Sports Car for crying out loud; I had to learn these things. Changing tires is something I would never have imagined calling someone for. Still, it’s kind of novel not to have to raise a finger, and have it done for me. And there is one other reason: I have no jack. So, that takes care of that. Note to self, buy a jack.

As the tire is changed, my research continues on my newest DIY mission.

As any faithful readers know, I have in my spare time taken to fervently practicing the violin again. Well, soon, I will want to record myself. I do own a good Shotgun mic, from location recording work, however, recording the violin with that was awful – like a knife. It’s not meant for that. So, I started doing the late night visits to Ebay and craigslist in the search for a decent used microphone or pair of microphones. A good pair of microphones, even used, is 600 dollars. Pricey, but I’m not shocked – heck I know a sound guy with a 3000 dollar microphone – not even a pair. So, with a few microphones on my “watch” lists, I’ve been doing my thing. I have also been looking at another option…

Last night, I decided to record myself as I practiced (with the evil shotgun) and came to the depressing realization that I am not anywhere near deserving of pair of 600 dollar microphones with which to record myself. So that other option is going to become my main option.

I’m going to build a microphone. When I say I'm going to build a microphone, I don't mean jam a loudspeaker on the end of a pole, jack into a mic input and be done. No, I mean I'm going to attempt to build a high end condenser microphone, maybe even with it's own power supply. If that works, I'll match it with a second one. After doing some research on the net, I discovered that not only is it not impossible, it is quite doable. There are quite a few people doing it, including several making ribbon microphones (the most difficult and sensitive microphones of all) The price differential from “store bought” to DIY is staggering and it could also be a lot of fun. I’ll post pictures of the project. For now, if you’re interested in where I’ve found great info, start here.

So – now that the tire is fixed, I’m going to see if some of the electronic stores in Burbank have the required parts for the guts. I will make sure to not stop by Royer Labs (also in Burbank) and tell them my plan.

Went to the Silver Lake Film Festival to see a movie made by a husband/wife team from my old neck of the woods. It is amazing to see what people are doing these days with digital movie making. What’s also heartening to see is the sheer determination and perseverance that was obvious in the movie. The effects – subtle and in your face were incredible. It was a five year project, and it shows. Congratulations Keith and Faith on The Suicide Notes. May your DIY spirit lead to bigger and easier projects. And remember that thing we were talking about after the movie? –- about where you should be if you make movies… think about it.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Steve Wicen


One of my best friend’s father died. His name was Steve Wicen, and he was a very special guy. In his death, an era comes to an end. Steve and his brother Frank were cut from the same cloth; cloth that grows increasingly rare in today’s world. They were farmers in Pennsylvania. The Wicen Farm as we call it, the fields, the barns - the shooting range, will always be among my fondest memories.

I always looked forward to seeing Steve when I went to the farm. His “hello” and grin never failed. He had eyes that actually twinkled.

He and his brother were like rocks in the river of time. They were able to withstand a lot of change through sheer will and smarts. I can’t call them street smarts… I’ll call them field smarts.

Steve’s brother Frank died in a car accident – an unexpected and sudden demise. Now, four months later, Steve called it quits, succumbing to Cancer. A quick close of an era and a forced changing of the guard, obviously very sad, but in a strangely poetic way -- beautiful too. All clocks wind down and lingering is not pleasant. I think people who knew Frank and Steve are celebrating how long and with what quality their lives ticked.

Now, the farm and the legacy will go on to the next generation. My buddy Joe has large shoes to fill, but then, he is a big guy. No kidding.

I want to thank everyone who is helping with pledges to the MS walk. If you want to contribute – please, click here. It’s for a great and very necessary cause.

It’s been interesting to see who has pledged. Overall, it’s been people of fairly modest means. The wealthy people I know have by and large not donated a dime. Why is that? It’s certainly not greed or spend-thrift-ness. Are they pre-occupied?

My violin practicing is coming along at a startling rate. The majority of my technique has come back. I would have estimated that the level of playability to which I’ve returned would have taken a couple solid years of work so I am more surprised than anyone that two months into the return, I've come so far. I am still struggling with the physicality of it all. Muscles need to be reworked, joints are grumbling, my back, neck and for lack of a better place to put the pain, my lungs, are sore after I play. My left thumb still gets paralyzingly, painfully, locked up and then completely mushy, when I “open up the engine” for an extended run. Each day though seems to feel better than the last.

It has remained fun and I’m actually trying to squeeze two hours a day of study. I am not just playing “music” either. I’m actually practicing – Kreutzer etudes for anyone interested in knowing. I continue to be amazed and awed by physical memory. Exercises that I haven’t looked at for over twenty odd years have come back. My fingers remember them though I don’t. Much to my chagrin, many of the weak spots are still weak too. Areas where there were “X” marks put in by my teacher, remain --- X spots. Maybe this time around I can finally get them right.

The violin sounds better than it ever has, and I’m also able to do certain things that I couldn’t before, both tonally and technically. I credit the bow in large part. Several years ago I invested in a decent bow, and am now actually able to do things I couldn’t before. I am gaining a control over my right arm that I think I've never had. I wonder how much different certain things might have been had I a good bow all those years ago. I also bought a new, high-end case within which the violin now rests. Properly suspension’ed, metered (for humidity) and able to dispense humidity, as needed, the violin now has a better home than many people.
Sad to say.

The other amazing thing which has completely changed the playing of the violin is, (drum roll again please for the obvious recipient of the “Isn’t it amazing award”) the internet. I’ve been very impressed by how violinists have utilized the web, and a camaraderie exists that didn’t back in my day. It makes for a much less solitary existence, which is one of the banes of classical music. I’ve been able to communicate with other violinists about things ranging from wrist technique for certain up-bow staccato playing to string choice. In addition to being able to use my computer as a metronome, recording device etc., I now have the world’s music library at my fingertips. It’s been incredible to download any music I want for trivial prices. I wonder what it means for the music-publishing world? Certainly things have changed when you can own a CD containing pretty much all the major violin concertos, plus much of the favorite short repertoire for 19.00 dollars. When a Fritz Kreisler piece or the Carmen Fantasy costs $2.99 to buy, it certainly allows for experimentation. So I’m experimenting.

I also have had some nice communication with several violinists. In searching for opinions about strings, I actually did a search for my specific violin – year and make. Since all decent violins, not being factory made, have their own voice, it can be a long and expensive process to find the best strings for a violin. Even then, it’s a matter of personal choice, playing needs, etc. In doing my search, I was hoping to get a jump on this and low and behold, as close as a sibling to my violin was found. I emailed the young lady and was quite pleased to quickly get a great reply. She, Amy Fetherolf, is quite an accomplished player and it was interesting to share some history with her. It seems that many classical roads lead back to Philadelphia. I wish her all the best, and for you managers who might be reading, I understand she is looking for good representation.

Also – and once again, here is fan boy writing. Though being in the movie business lessens the awe of celebrities, certain people still do it for me.

When I was ten or so, my violin teacher gave my father and I third row tickets to see a taped concert of the Philadelphia Orchestra and a violinist whom he thought was absolutely spectacular. He wanted me to see her play. I was quite struck, when she came out on stage – a beautiful, confident violinist who knocked the Sibelius violin concerto out of the park. Her name, Dylana Jenson and she was and remains, one of the great contemporary violinists. Imagine my excitement when I found a message on a violin forum written by her. For the heck of it, I wrote her a “fan email”, and she was great in writing back. In the email she also mentioned that her sister was a movie director. For you fans of animation, her sister is Vicky Jensen, director of such minor animated movies as Shrek, and Shark Tale.

Had enough with the violin yet?

Well, there’s more -

Went to a screening of Music from the Inside Out last night. It’s a documentary about the Philadelphia Orchestra, and should hopefully get a bit of notice this year. Overall, it was a good movie, though it sidestepped most of the hard-core aspects of classical music. There was one moment of insight when concert master David Kim, talks about his journey into the orchestra. In watching this section of the movie, the one pervading though that ran through my head was -- My God, I dodged a bullet.
For anyone who is surprised and thinks that was an unexpected plot twist in my violin-playing essay – forget not, that while the violin is a beautiful instrument, it is also a demanding, cruel, unforgiving tool. The competition to play is staggering, and unless it is a calling that the player feels, it is not a path that travels well.

I saw very few of the old faces from when I performed with them, though I saw Michael Ludwig, a guy who trounced me in one violin competition. Though his name was listed in the end credits, I did not see my old violin teacher, Morris Shulik. The movie was made at the end of his career with the orchestra and unfortunately, his life – so I didn’t know whether to expect seeing him or not.

I do recommend the movie. It’s worthy and you can’t help but feel good walking out of the theater.

The weather goes from nice to nicer. Nights are still chilly enough for hot-tubbing, which is always pleasurable, but the days are now warm enough that I spend them writing outside in shorts and a t-shirt. Or no shirt, which I did two days ago, promptly giving myself a serious reddening of the skin.
Not that it’s really ever not the season in Southern California, but the nights now are ever better for BBQ’s.

Finally, I was absolutely amazed that not one, but two people identified the music on the violin stand correctly. I was alluding to a different piece of music and had I known that the eagle eyes of some observant people would identify the music, I would have put the proper music up.

So… for some useless fun.

Points for anyone who can tell me:

  1. What piece was I alluding two posts ago?

  2. What piece is this following tricky part from?
Here's a hint: While it may look easy, it's incredibly difficult to play.

3. Based on this photo, what violin do I play, and what bow do I use? (no cheating if you already know)

Back to the movies...

It looks like The Ghosts of Edendale is finally getting released in the U.K. Though the rights were purchased two odd years ago by Anchor Bay, they've taken their time setting a release date. Finally, if you live in England, you'll be able to see the movie.

We are in negotiations for a re-release of The Last Broadcast. Hopefully it will be out for Hallowen of 2006. I will keep you informed of this.

Now – off to work, where I must figure out how the protagonist (Eddie) is going to finally get the villain (Gunnar) and save the day for all.