Wednesday, June 28, 2006

It's Good to be Remembered

I grew up competing against, if for only a few years, a top level athlete. I don't want to mention his name so as not to end up trapping someone in a Google search because for some reason that would make me feel silly. Most the people who actually read this and aren't just passing through looking for an actual sandwich machine (I'm stunned at how often that's searched for, not to mention how many of those people actually click here ever so briefly...) already know who I'm talking about.

By complete randomness, I ended up working a Food Network show where I met him again as an adult. Now I remember him because of who he is, but there was no reason for him to remember me. And he didn't. What did surprise me was that his dad remembered me. I mean really remembered me. He described my dad, my grandpa (I couldn't even do that...), my number, a lot. Apparently I'm in a video they have of that time as well. He even said I was good, which I think was polite but gave me a warm fuzzy anyway.

All in all it was pretty cool. Meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but cool anyway. He was a pretty nice guy, too. Though in the situation that was to be expected, people always say that as if they expect 'celebrities' to be kicking puppies...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

My Tenuous Connection to a Disney Film

As should surprise no one, I saw the movie Cars. If you're a fan of the automobile (even if you know it's ultimately a destructive relationship) than there is a well of references, as well as a faithful extension of the "Little Cabbie" cartoons that I like so much. All in all it's better than any movie with, no kidding, ten writing credits should be. The opening short, One Man Band is worth the price of admission.

But even cooler, I have a degrees of separation connection that I will stretch to make.

On of the back drops of for the film is a place called "Cadillac Ridge," which is a reference to Cadillac Ranch in Texas where an artists group called Ant Farm buried a series of Cadillacs nose first in the ground in a row. A key member of Ant Farm is Chip Lord, head of the UCSC Film and Digital Media department. (I had to change the link because I realized the one I used was for his personal info for UCSC students...on this one be sure to check out his movie map project using Bullitt. Badass...)

It's almost like seeing someone you know in a movie. Almost...

Because Maybe I Secretly Wish My Name Started with a B...

...but probably not. Anyway, following Incertus' lead I installed a sitemeter on this site so I could obsessively look at who glances at this page for less than a second in their search for something else or to see if for some reason we actually made an entry.

For those readers who were looking for sous rature, but not the Sous Rature who so rarely posts, and anyone else who is maybe strolling through the "next blog" button tour, I invite you to check out their adventures. The only thing I can add is how creepy it is to know so much about those people who where looking for an actual sandwich machine...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Fight Back and the Era of Infomercials.

I miss Fight Back. You all remember that show, it was like a proto-type Mythbusters that challenged the claims made in advertising. The show ran for 18 seasons and was amazingly popular. Somethings I didn't know, but found out at Fight For instance, the number of claims that where true was pretty amazing, according to the history page:
One of its most popular features was the commercial challenges, which were entertaining as well as informative. The challenges included products being dropped from a helicopter, or being smashed with wrecking balls, to test claims of strength ... the popular "Timex Watch" challenges (which were all successful, by the way) ... durability tests featuring "Geeta the Elephant," a series regular from the Los Angeles Zoo, who tested the strength of products ranging from roof tiles to water beds. David recalls that 95% of all challenges proved the companies' claims, but the 5% failure rate sent worried manufacturers into a panic.

Originally I was going to lament the passing of such a show, but .86 seconds on the internet and it turns out that David Horowitz is going strong and giving consumer news on the internet. But as with most things it's not done to fulfill my lazy direct needs. Also, to parallel the eventual disappearance of that show and the change in advertising regulation that created the beast we know as the infomercial.

I don't have a remote for my TV and sometimes I just let the thing drift into infomercial because I get involved with something else or I'm just outside the door having a cigar and don't want to come in just to click through all the channels to see if there is anything on. There are a lot of vague, result and testimonial oriented programming on that promises that I'll be rich and beautiful as long as I call before the infomercial is over.

Thing is, I'm a naturally curious cat. I want to know how these systems are supposed to work. Now, I am the son of a real estate developer-you can't convince me that it's a good way to make money in your spare time. I don't buy the 'get rich quick' idea, I just want to know how they think it works and why it doesn't, explained simply by people who tried it and then buttressed by an expert.

Now I think that there is some sort of copyright deal that disallows such a thorough review of the product, after all if someone explained to me how it was supposed to work and the kinks in its system I wouldn't need to buy the systems. But I don't want to buy the systems, I want someone else to do it and satisfy my curiosity.

I want my own personal Horowitz that I can send off to tell me why I can't really get a house for $455 or earn $15,000 in my underwear, or is it a tape worm that causes people to lose 45 pounds in one month?

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Altman Effect

I had to make a decision today that kind of amused me, between seeing the new Pixar movie Cars, which actually is something I had intrigued me, a take on the anthropomorphic taxi and airplane cartoons (Like where the bomber gives birth to a jet, and you're thinkin' "She got a little on the side. She's got a little 'Space Fever,' if you know what I mean...goin' for those hot new NASA boys...I digress...), or An Inconvenient Truth, about how, among other things, cars are going to kill us all. So to speak.

I ultimately decided that a lone man in his 30s, smelling of cigar, who drove up in a van...with tinted windows on a Sunday afternoon to a kids movie was inviting trouble. So I saw An Inconvinient Truth.

But Incertus said all that needed to be said about that.

So I'm going to talk about why I'm never sure if I've seen a good movie or not when I watch an Altman film. I'm going to work this out with all of you, well by the time you read this I'll have already done it, you would have just followed how I did it. But anyway...

I saw A Prairie Home Companion. I should say that I am a long time fan of Garrison Keillor, from back when entirely by accident I came across a broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion. I was delighted the day he asked me to get out of the way during a book signing.

But this A Prairie Home Companion is much more of an Altman movie than it is anything else. It made me think a bit about Altman's style of story telling. In theory he is a 'proof of concept' for me and Sous Rature in that we tend to write character based ensemble pieces. But Altman, as is easily imagined, has a style all his own that I honestly don't know how I feel about.

There isn't a real sense of ending, or completion to an Altman film. He is perhaps the only filmmaker of the 70s auteur crowd that has retained that aspect of his filmmaking. Jarmusch does a bit of that, too. Though the movie has a kind of definitive ending it undermines that both in how it is set up and in the denouement.

I think that the thing that is the hardest to get around, and probably a barrier for other audience members is that his characters have very little internal life. This might seem like a natural thing for film, but it really isn't. When a character is alone, or doing something that they don't think at least others are seeing that is films way of providing an internal life for the character. While Altman doesn't abandon that all together it is far more spartan. You are an observer with no particular special privilege. You are flipping channels through the evening in these peoples lives and are left to piece it together yourself. Peoples reactions and emotions, their outbursts, can seem unmotivated and a little confusing. But it is because we are accustom to the special privilege that audiences have. Altman robs you of that.

While it would seem that this would separate the audience from his films, and no doubt it does for some, I think it has the opposite effect in that your reactions to the characters, their unmotivated outbursts or behaviors holds the same curiosity as would if it happened literally right in front of you. You are reacting as the undressed member of the crowd, the guy no one remembers inviting going from room to room nursing that one beer. The quality, the elusive reason that you think you've seen a good movie but aren't sure with Altman, is in this needle he threads with things that aren't supposed to work.

He has too many characters, no internal life, and conventional wisdom is that you can't make a film of someone's party interesting unless you are there. By giving us only the privilege that we would have as audience at that party, that's exactly what Altman films-a party that you are at. It's a different kind of filmmaking and takes a bit of getting used to.

There are weaknesses, and they don't neccisarily come from Linzie Lohan. Some of the actors, particularly and most noticably Virginia Madson, have a hard time. I don't know if it was being starstruck with author and director or what, but there are lines that you can almost tell the actor feels is corny or doesn't work but trudges through them anyway. Madson in particular gives the movie the feel of a community theater rendition of Our Town. But the interplay between Streep and Tomlin. For that matter, most of the pairings. And while it's frustrating when that style of storytelling steamrolls over a favorite bit (messing with the sound effect guy, for instance) it's about the only way this story could have been told.

One last note is the way Kiellor depicts himself, through the various stories about how he got into radio and his reactions (or lack there of) to what goes on around him. He is always at the tail end of a story that he gives you no reason to believe but want to hear anyway. He has the narrative of an observer with the characteristic of someone that does not notice those around him accept as audience. He doesn't care that the show will end because for him the show never ends. It's an interesting way for an artist to portray himself. And again, fits well into the style.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Pet Image Principle

I do a lot of Google image searches-not that kind (well...), just for various reasons I've had to look up images for a lot of things. One of the things that I noticed in doing this is that there a threshold: If a search has enough pages there is an almost certainty that one or more of those images will be a picture of someone's pet.

This image of someone's pet birds came up for 'motherfucker.'


So far today, on 666-

The first The Sipmsons of today, Homer predicts the apocalypse. The first thing that came up on my iTunes when I hit random? The Damnation of Faust by Phillip Johnston, from the album Merry Frolics of Satan album. Which I recommend. I was going to watch The Omen but by the time logistics where worked out, the urge passed.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Full Year, Full Circle

It hasn't been a year yet, and it's going to be a dodgy couple of months, but when I do hit the 1 year mark as a freelance crew worker, it will be the same way I began this experiment, as truck PA for the Monterey Historics at Laguna Seca. I have to say that I had sent the e-mail to the producer in the hopes that he would put me on the motorcycle races, but being hired back is just as good. Anyway, I think the motorcycle events already passed.

The "M" job went to the intern that was doing it as I suspected it would. As a consultation they say they've been passing on my number to LA productions looking for crew in the area, though I haven't gotten any calls from that. It doesn't matter, I'm still a fan of the show. And who knows what will happen. I also did not get the permanent gig at PBS, though again they say they'll call when they need some freelance help. I had the sense that was the direction they where headed in the interview. That's what I get for avoiding light hang in my theater time.

I love the Historics. After all I've done it's still my favorite job, and not just because they pay the best. It's a weekend hanging out with my brother (who works for them as a spotter) and watching gorgeous vintage racing cars, more than a few driven by the drivers that made the cars famous. This year's theme is the Trans Am racing series (for those who don't know, the car Trans Am gets it's name from the series, it's not a race of only Trans Ams). After those two defeats, the difficulty I've had in trying to move closer to the work and the frustration of taking a job that makes it harder for me to find work that pays enough to support me vs. not taking the job and risking not working at all, finding out that I get to go back to where I started is great.

It's still a little early for me to do any sort of 'retrospective' of this year of the experiment, like I said, June and July are going to be pretty dodgy and I may have screwed myself out of a good movie job by taking a underpaying one, but I'm going to be that touch happier going towards it.

Added P.S.- And I'm not going to let it bother me at all that I just found out they apparently had already contacted my brother last week about coming back but only contacted me after I e-mailed them.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Ecto 1 is For Sale!

If I where some sort of loaded collector type it's probably no surprise that one of the things I'd collect would be movie and TV cars. Which makes fantasy me excited by finding out that Ecto 1 is for sale! For a 'mere' $149,998.00. Who needs a Lamborghini when you got a car that busts ghosts?