Monday, May 20, 2002

Mandatory Title: Go Lakers!

It's that time again, and this one's a long one, so let's get rolling!

5/11 - 5/12 - I got to work on a film set! Woo hoo! It was just a small independent film, but super-cool nonetheless. It's called The Politics of Fur, and I believe it's been invited to several of the independent film festivals around the country (apparently one can be invited based on just a rough cut), and stars Katy Selverstone. She played Lisa, Drew Carey's window-dressing girlfriend in the first season of his show, and one of George's girlfriends, the one who didn't respond when he said "I love you." I don't consider her my first "celebrity sighting" though, because we worked together, and I actually spent a lot of time just hanging out and talking with her. Supposedly, when we were doing more filming in a park the following weekend, John C. Reilly walked by. That's the sort of thing that could count as a sighting, except I didn't see him and I have no idea who he is. If it had been Charles Nelson Reilly, now we're talking. Anyway, back to the story.

The following is going to contain lots of high-falootin' Hollywood technical talk, so I'll do my best to keep you up to speed. My job on the set was as a PA (production assistant), which is basically a gofer except that it's about nine levels below a gofer. Anyone and everyone on the set can tell me what to do, and believe me they did. However, I learned quite a bit and got to do a lot of cool stuff. For instance, while I was helping the gaffer (lighting director) set up the "inkies" and "tweenies" (different sizes of spotlights), I learned what a stinger (extension cord) and a three (tripod) are. While I was expanding my vocabulary, I was shown a clothespin and asked what I thought it was called. Trying to go with the flow, I answered "clamp?" Now, this next part is completely true without any embellishment on my part whatsoever: no, she said, they're called C-47s. What the? Of course I had to know why, and when I asked, the three people currently on the set gave me three completely different answers: "They call them that on the budget list so people won't know what it is and they can charge more for them." "That was the label on the drawer where they used to be kept." and "It has to do with the size of the clip." Not wanting to feel left out, I added, "I heard it was because of rationing during WW2, and that was the stamp required to get one." And the gaffer looked at me and said, "Really?" Personally, I suspect in reality it's just another smokescreen by The Man to keep me out of the biz.

One of my duties was to rustle up The Talent (actors, which is a name I'm sure they invented), so I got to spend a lot of time with Katy. I personally had no problems with her, but there were others on the set who were not so fortunate. I witnessed many a scene where she became some sort of diva and insisted on arguing with the director. I think they were shocked to have a PA who had a college education and actually did stuff, because by the end of the first day, I had already been promoted to a Boom operator. This is the guy who holds that huge microphone just out of frame (hopefully) so that the actors can be heard clearly. I didn't ask why it was called a boom, but I imagine it has to do with the sound heard through the headphones when somebody mistakenly rams it into an actor. Not that I did that. The second day, I actually became the sound guy for a few hours. He had taught me how to work the equipment the day before, so when he couldn't make it I was put in charge. It was pretty simple, but it was kind of neat to be doing something a little more essential. Plus, it gave me a reason to be on the set at all times. This was a plus because there was a sex scene involving nudity, so that definitely made it worth it. I would go into more detail, but this is supposed to be a PG-13 newsletter, so you'll just have to use your imagination or ask me about it in person. It wasn't too intense or pornographic, but it did involve two women.

Anyway, I met a lot of really nice people and made some really good contacts. This was very much a small independant film, but that was actually better because everyone knew each other. Plus, I get my name in the credits! I'll be sure to let you know when I make it into the IMDb.

5/15 - I went and saw a really goofy band at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go. First about the Whiskey. This is a very famous club that has debuted bands like The Doors, and most big bands of that era played there. So this is a place with a lot of history as far as rock and roll goes. Unfortunately, except for the outside you would never guess it. The inside is so clean and fresh you would think it was built this year. What a drag. I was expecting graffiti on the wall, beer stained floors, random crap and autographs littering the walls, but there was none of this. Sigh. But on to the band. They were called The Neu Tickles, and they were a German band trying to make it in the US. Despite their thick accents, they sang pretty reasonable English tunes. Horst, the head of the band, played an electric ukulele while The Sexy Mimi Vinyl sang the lead (I'm not just making commentary by calling her sexy, it actually says on her business card (?) Mimi Vinyl, The Sexy). There was a bass player playing an Imac, a violinist, a guitarist, and a drummer. Needless to say they had an unusual sound. I tried very hard to decide who they sounded like. It was almost as if they were emu

lating American bands, but didn't know which ones were still popular. The best description I can come up with is a combination of Devo, The Ramones, and most especially the Bugaloos. A quick "Ein, zvei, drei" before launching into "We are the Neu Tickles" was very strange. Another popular song was Trouser Man, with the rousing chorus, "Take off your pants." All in all, a very strange show. Now, how did I find out about this band, you may ask? Well, I actually work with Mimi Vinyl, except that isn't her real name of

course. She also isn't German. None of the band is. The whole show is some sort of strange farce in which they pretend to be Germans pretending to be rock stars. Definitely entertaining.

5/16 - Star Wars: Episode II: The Attack of the Clones opens. Of course I had to see it. I wanted

to go to Mann's Chinese, but the guy I went with (my friend Ryan) told me that theatre isn't any good anymore.

So we went to the Village Theatre in Westwood. Now this was a cool theatre! It was huge, with a balcony, and ornate decorations throughout, including patterns painted into the ceiling. It was like the River Oaks must have been before they closed off the balcony to make the tiny theatres upstairs. It had an amazing sound system, with bass that almost caused an involuntary bowel movement. Was there a line? Oh yes. The friend who got me the tickets went to the 7:00 am show that day, and had been in line starting at 3:00 am. After that show, he immediately got right back in line. I arrived at about 12:30 for the 3:30 show, and there was still a line all the way around the block. Was it worth it? Well, I won't say anything about the movie itself, but the crowd was definitely worth it. There really weren't any people in costume, but the enthusiasm and cheering and laughing and applause they gave during the movie made it a great experience. Plus, best of all, there was a special feature that supposedly was happening in this theatre alone: They showed the *original* trailer for the first Star Wars from 1977! It was awesome! Talk about bad! There was no music, which of course made things far less dramatic and allowed you to hear the awkward "thunk" of fallen stormtroopers. It was terribly grainy, and they hadn't even developed the trademark lettering for Star Wars yet. Best of all though, was the voice over announcer. He was very 70s, as was the dialog: "It's a story about a boy, a girl, and a universe" and "A movie one billion years in the making." It was classic. This alone was worth the price of admission, I think, because of all the memories it brought back.

5/18 - I went to see The Kids in the Hall at the Wiltern Theatre. They are a comedy troupe that used to have a show that played after Saturday Night Live years ago. The show was pretty good, but the reason I mention it is the theatre. The name comes from the location, on the corner of WILshire and wesTERN (pretty clever, huh?) and it's beautiful. It was larger than the movie theatre I had recently been to, but smaller than the Ariel in Houston. It had all the classic Art Deco designs, and it made you feel like you had been transported back to see a show in the 1940s. There was an actual lobby with a great high ceiling and skylight, there was a nice bar, it was very cool and felt like it had a very interesting history. You know, the kind of place they tear down in Houston. The strangest thing about this tiny little theatre is that it is one of the places The Rolling Stones are playing when they come through. Yeah, good luck getting those tickets.

Whew! Busy week.

Most recent best VR mistranslations:

Thoughts did you = sausages

Rock's first teen idol = rocks burst penile

LA Survival Tips: Drivers

- Unlike Texas, where one out of three cars on the road is either an SUV or truck of some kind, in L.A. there are only about one in ten. In fact, I would put the breakdown like this: of ten cars, three are Mercedes, three are BMWs, one is an SUV, and the last two are "other." This offers less chance of having your vision blocked by a monster vehicle, but greatly increases the cost of any wreck you might be in.

- On the other hand, nine out of ten drivers are using their cell phones. Of those nine, three are usually putting on make-up or eating fast food as well. This of course is not much different from the rest of the country.

- Speeding is not as important as accelerating. It doesn't matter if there is an open lane into which a driver could easily pass another, it is more important to rush up as close as possible to the back bumper. After a few seconds of this, it is time to find another car to follow closely. This is true in other cities as well, but L.A. just seems to have a passion and dedication to this style of driving.

- I was told by some friends who grew up out of Texas that when learning to drive they called a wide turn that crossed several lanes a "Texas Turn." They thought it was just called this because it was so large, like the state, until they moved there and discovered that that is indeed how turns are made in Texas. I had a similar experience. When I was learning to drive, when you just barely came to a stop at a stop sign but really were just cruising through it, it was called a "California Stop." I too mistakenly associated the term with the perceived laid back attitude of Californians. Not so. In California, you cannot afford to come to a full stop at a stopsign, as that may prevent you from ever getting through it. Also, when so many people park on the streets, you're completely past the stop sign before you can even tell if it's clear to go or not. In essence, L.A. doesn't have any yield signs, they just put up stop signs instead.

Movie Quote Challenge:

Number 1: "If I'm here, and you're here, doesn't that make it our time? And certainly there's nothing wrong with a little feast on our time."

Number 2: "I thought we had decided not to fall in love. That we would be living a lie. That it would destroy our lives."

That's all I got for now. Have a great week, I'll talk to you soon.


Movie Quote Answers:

Dale Prasek was the first to correctly identify both quotes, and also the first repeat winner we've had. Should I disqualify him? Nah.

Number 1: Fast Times at Ridgemont High, written by Cameron Crowe

Number 2: Star Wars: Episode 2: Attack of the Clones, screenplay by George Lucas and Jonathan Hales

Monday, May 6, 2002

Hollywood Outsider

Holy cow is it update time already!? I guess working has made my life far less interesting. I'll have to change that! Anyway, short issue this time, but on we go:

4/26 - Tragedy strikes! I had one security blanket stolen from my clinging arms as swiftly as Lucy swiped Linus's's's. Marie and I went out for dinner at Chuy's, and it could not have been more different from the good ol' Texas version. "Heart Healthy?" "Lite?" What the hell are those doing on a Mexican restaurant's menu? I guess I'm too accustomed to Tex-Mex, and now I'll have to get used to Cal-Mex. I used to pride myself on my knowledge of the Chuy's menu, but obviously that will do me no good in this strange and frightening land. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First and foremost, there was no Elvis shrine. With no Elvis shrine, there's no Elvis Memorial Combo (a lovely Heart-non-Healthy combo that includes a fried egg on top). Next, the chips were good, but there was no creamy jalapeƱo hot sauce. Also, as has been the case in every Mexican restaurant we've visited, there is no such thing as queso for dipping chips. Apparently, a bowl of melted cheese is too complicated for California chefs. The margaritas were very strange. They did not come from a frozen margarita machine, which is generally a good thing, but in my opinion a frozen margarita should have the consistency of a Slurpee (TM) rather than be more like one on the rocks, except the rocks are crushed. Also, serving it in a pint glass rather than a margarita glass only serves to heighten this effect. On the rest of the menu, there were no cleverly titled dishes such as the "911," but they did have goat, as well as shrimp and fish. Now, these last two would not be so strange except for the fact that they were *not* available in tacos. Every meal also came with a salad (?). Now, I'm all for the garden rabbit food, but I thought that a salad in a Tex-Mex restaurant only came in a big bowl with chopped up chips, meat, cheese, and hot sauce. Lastly, the silverware didn't come in those groovy little bags that say "Sanitized for your protection." (Side note: A good friend of mine once mis-read that and thought it said "Sanctified for your protection," which is even better in my book). I believe that the silverware was perfectly fine, but it did eliminate the special fun of unwrapping a knife and fork. I guess in the end the lesson to be learned from all of this is the same lesson to be learned in almost all the rest of L.A.: Nothing is as it seems. Everything is shallow and surface only, designed to look good without necessarily being good.

4/27 - I was at Kinko's making some copies (duh) and using the paper cutter when out of the corner of my eye I saw a woman approaching to use the cutter. I looked up and saw an attractive young lady, dark skinned, dark hair, dressed in black. But there was something bright on her shoulder. On closer scrutiny, I saw that it was some sort of small parrot. Yes, a parrot. It was very brightly colored, with mostly brilliant yellow highlighted with greens and reds, and it was just casually perched on her shoulder as she walked around taking care of her business. I let her use the paper cutter as she had far less to cut than I, and also so I could take in this sight. Now, I pride myself on my creativity. I have always been a writer of some sort. Heck, I've upset my entire life gambling on my abilities in that regard. So, what cunning line, what amazing and interesting conversational opener did I utter? "Nice bird." Fortunately, as I moved away from the cutter I saw what I assumed was her boyfriend approaching. Either that or it was an amazing coincidence that another person was dressed in exactly the same manner. Oh yeah, he also had a huge gray McCaw on his shoulder. I suppose those are interesting pets to have, and as long as their wings are clipped, why not take them out for a night on the town. I just questioned the idea of wearing black under a bird.

4/22 - 5/3 - I've been working away at my strange job. I get to listen to interviews with people and simultaneously repeat everything they say to the computer, where it types it out and I correct all the mistakes. Every morning when I come in, I say "Good Morning" to the computer, and he always replies Good Morning. It's a better greeting than I've had at other jobs I suppose. Even when I hit him with a quick "Hey buddy!" he's always quick to respond in kind. Sometimes we get into a terribly endless loop of inane patter, but that too is much like other working environments I've experienced. I guess the interviews can be interesting, but it's still rather dull. You would not believe how often a musician can use the phrases "you know" and "know what I'm saying" in conversation. One rapper I listened to (Cee-Lo, I think, whoever that is) was able to combine the latter phrase into a two- and sometimes even one-syllable word. Very impressive, but not exactly helpful to me. To make it more interesting, I try to take notes of some of the better mis-translations. For example, "his anecdotes" became "Hispanic goats" and "Are you falling asleep?" became "refinanced lead." All in all, it's not too bad. It pays the bills. The people are very nice, and I stand out quite a bit because I'm the only one who's a wannabe-writer; everyone else is a wannabe-actor.

I think that's about it this time, sorry. For those of you who've asked, yes, I have been working on my screenplay. It's coming along pretty well, but I still have some plot details to flesh out. I'll tell you all about it when it's finished, I promise.

LA Survival Tips: Television News

- All the TV news-people are very attractive, seeing as how at one point they were aspiring actors. Well, not all. There's this one guy on one of the major channels that seems to be some hybrid of every race known to man. I have no problem with that, but it is very disturbing to look at. Disturbing and fascinating, actually.

- There is a televised car chase at least once a week. Let me say that again. There is a televised car chase *at least* once a week. There's a reason most of the scenes on Fox's America's Wildest Most Dangerous Wacky Dumbest Criminals Caught on Tape take place in California. It's a good thing there are always about 15 traffic helicopters in the air, not only for instant, on-the-spot coverage, but to make sure that the runners, even when on foot, can be seen from almost every conceivable angle. You thought watching O.J. flee was unusual? Nope. The only thing out of the ordinary is that it was broadcast nationwide rather than just on the local channels.

- The weathermen. Ughhh. You would think that in a place where the weather only varies by 10 degrees during the week/month/year, they would at least be able to get that right. There's a noticeable difference between 62 degrees and 72 degrees, especially when driving around in a Jeep with the top down. The local NBC affiliate, Channel 7, even has Doppler 7000, far superior to Houston Channel 2's measly Doppler 2000. I have the sneaking suspicion that there's only Doppler of the 1000 variety and that each city just multiplies it by whatever sounds cool to match their station. I hope there's not a Channel 15 out there. Also, a very interesting difference between here and back in Houston is that here they actually hope for rain and complain when the humidity is too low. Both of these contribute to the likelihood of grass fires, so it is definitely understandable, but still strange.

Movie Quote Challenge:

Number 1: "No. Absolutely not. When I get through that wire I'm not gonna be peeking over fences making maps for you guys. I'm gonna be so far away you couldn't hear it if they were shooting at me with howitzers."

Number 2: "Strange things are afoot at the Circle K."

Okay, that's it for me. Have a great week, I'll talk to you soon.


Movie Quote Answers:

Cecil Habermacher was extremely quick on the draw and got both of the quotes. Congratulations!

Number 1: The Great Escape, written by James Clavell and W.R. Burnett, based on the book by Paul Prickhill

Number 2: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon

Better luck next time!



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