Sunday, June 29, 2008

Why I Love Hollywood

It's a town of legend.

If you do good work and make the right connections, one day you can see your dream up on the big screen.

The big problem will be getting everyone to buy into what you are trying to accomplish.

Get a few people who want to throw a wrench in the works and you'll have a train wreck.

The evolving SAG/AFTRA/AMPTP contract situation is better than any reality TV show.

If you're reading any of the Hollywood blogs, you can get a whiff of the action that's taking place in Tinseltown. Like watching a bad movie or, if you're involved in that mess, living a nightmare.

It's eaten up a lot of my spare time, so I haven't posted here in a few days.

Will be doing an update later today.

I'll be commenting on the above mentioned contract situation.

Please Hollywood, get it together and go back to making movies.

Right now, it's back to the farm work.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hollywood Family Feud, SAG vs AFTRA

I'm on the sidelines when it comes to this mess.

SAG and AFTRA are cutting each other's throat, trying to leverage power with AMPTP.

After the WGA strike, this could be the worst thing that happens this year. If it comes to another strike, then expect things to get very nasty.

Like we need more problems in this country.

Take away the 'bread and circuses' and what will be the results?

I don't even want to speculate.

Time to buy some more books.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

You Wanna Be In Movies, Part Seven

It was still dark when I headed for the movie set. First workday of the week and people on the road, going to their daily toil. Old factories and some new scattered amongst them in the industrial section of Chattanooga. When I cruised up the hill past the gravel pit, you would have thought that there had been an accident.

Security had gone from minimal to maximum overnight. Police cars in the street, stopping everyone. I was checked in, told to park the car in a gravel lot about 300 yards from the set, pulled into the lot and directed to a specific spot by another security guard. Who then told me how to walk down to the set. With an implied, "Don't make any sudden moves, boy, we're watching you." You guys ever work at the airport?

It was frantic ant city on the set. A catering truck parked at the big tent, white-aproned workers unloading hot food and cold drinks. All this activity to make something that never happened appear to be real. Let's not get existential here.

I squeezed into the main tent, dodging crew and caterers to sign in, given another list of instructions, rules and regulations of the movie set. Speed read the laws of the land, while eyeing the food goodies laid out on the nearby tables. The crew was going at it, piling up plates of food and getting hot coffee, tea or chilled caffeine for the morning buzz. My stomach reminded me of my granola in a bag and lukewarm, non-iced tea breakfast at the motel.

I looked back at the fine print of the 'background extras' regulations. There it was, in all it's font and glory, sub-paragraph v, section 9: "The background extras shall starve and watch the cast and crew gorge themselves at the feast tables. There shall be no whining, sniveling or pandering for food. Groveling or other obtuse acts will be treated with disdain. Violators will be flogged and hounded from the set." Thus spake the rulebook.

I noticed that the politician had already worked the crowd and was standing next to one of the tables, trying to balance enough food to feed a third world country on one plate, while filling up a gallon coffee mug with the other. He spotted me watching him, so he YELLED; "Hey dude, come on over and get some of this, it's great!"

Looking around, I noticed that I was the only person in the area, he wasn't talking to the sea of chairs around me. You ever try to duck under one of those folding tables? Those damn extension arms that hold the legs up will hit you in the face every time. Nice welt though, with the imprint, "Made Somewhere Else" emblazoned on my face.

David, the generator man, train expert and Model T driver strode into the tent. He noticed me and came over to the table, "Hey, get something to eat. That's what it's there for. You're gonna have a long day and who knows when we'll stop for lunch."

My protests about the fine print were met with a shake of his head, "Forget it, this cast is so small, it doesn't make any difference. If we had about 400 people here, like we will next week, then they would enforce it. Come on."

He pivoted and headed towards the tables. I looked around at the rest of the background extras, none of whom had budged, more fine-print readers. They watched me closely, waiting to see if lightening would strike or I would be just dragged from the tent. I hadn't seen this much food in one place since coming over on the cruise ship from the old country.

As I loaded up my plate with food that is only available to movie stars, royalty and CEOs, I almost felt guilty. Almost doesn't count for shit. After all this little excursion was costing me money. It wasn't going to put anything into my bank account. In that respect, I figured that I could eat like a pig. The only problem was that I was too nervous and backed off, just eating stuff that wouldn't turn over in the old stomach. Heavy on the fruits, rolls and donuts, tea, a breakfast burrito, no hot sauce.

I had never had a burrito for breakfast, due to my long-standing strike against fast food restaurants and their contrived menus. Halfway through the burrito, I decided that it was a plot to upset the delicate balance of my stomach. Which is renown for it's cast iron ability to withstand rotgut tequila at 8AM, without the benefit of food. A real good reason to never start drinking, much less make it a lifelong habit.

When you wake up with a hangover, you want to do something to make it go away. Aspirin is so boring, just have another drink. After a few years, you'll wake up one day and go, "Damn, am I already 30? or am I 40?" Your entire youth will have passed you by in a blur. If you live that long.

The volume level in the tent flattened as the tension rose suddenly, people nodding towards one corner, some craning their necks to see.The Star had arrived and was doing the greeting the troops thing.

OK, we're fine with that. I respect the man. Got a screenplay parked in my briefcase, sitting right next to me. Come on over here....yes, he's moving this way. NO! Wait...damn, he goes back out the door? flap? opening? of the tent and into the cool, foggy morning.

This gets my hopes up, maybe the female lead will show up in the next few minutes. I ask around the table if anyone has seen her. I didn't come down to see The Star. I just want him to buy my screenplay or the rights to my book. Hire me to do rewrites.

Now, the leading lady, that's a different story. You can never appreciate the true beauty of a woman until you see her face to face. Even if she's about to slap you for that last comment.
So, where was she?

"She's not here." David informed me, between bites into his breakfast.
"What! What the hell are you talking about?" My feelings of betrayal were obvious.
"She's not here, he's the only one, besides a couple of others that came down from the other location."
"I didn't come down here to see a bunch of guys!" I grumbled.
"Yeah, well, that's how it is," he deadpanned, taking a sip of coffee to wash down his sausage biscuit.

Great, how are you supposed to charm a woman when you can't even meet her?

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Can Write, I Have Written, I Will Write On

Writer's Block.

That infamous malady which afflicts the introspective. Most of the world doesn't have a clue about it, unless they run into a problem with their grocery list.

Those of us who write sometimes have problems with the next sentence, paragraph or thought. There are many remedies relied upon by different authors for this malady.

While reading a copy of "Lew Hunter's Screenwriting 434" book, I thought about the phrase he uses to close emails and with which he embellished the cover of this book; "Write on".

All of which led to an impromptu, off the wall mantra:

I Can Write

I Have Written

I Will Write On

Can be chanted, as needed. Use as directed. Not guaranteed to work in all cases. Some people will have side-effects, such as excess verbiage, non-linear thinking and potty mouth.

See a doctor, if blockage continues.

Remember, only you can put words on the page.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

We Are Having FUN, yet...

Sure, I'm late, you're always on time, right?

The past few days leading up to this full moon tonight have been anything but dull.

Got to bed early Sunday, going to get up real early on Monday and get a good start to the week.

Which worked out OK, except that I overdid it out in the sun. I have a couple of projects that I want to paint this week, since the rains have stopped and the humidity is lower. I dehydrated myself and wound up going back to the house and working on a request for a writing project.

At about supper time, I decided that going to the store would be a good idea. Get all the necessary things, be able to stay at the farm for the rest of the week and just work. Did the mad dash into town, got most of the things that I needed to sustain life on this planet and came home. Pretty exciting, huh?

Read a few pages of "Guns, Germs and Steel" by Jared Diamond. Award winning book, but I've had problems with reading it through. I'll get to that in a later post. Decided to hit the hay earlier than usual and get a really good start on Tuesday.

A couple of ticks found their way into my bed and latched onto me. Let's say that they chose a very intimate part of my anatomy to drill into. The pain woke me up abruptly, just after midnight. Being half asleep, I immediately itched the area and made things worse.

I've had to deal with more ticks, chiggers, fleas, spiders and snakes down here in the past few years than I've seen in all my life, prior to moving here. It almost makes me want to move back to the city. Then I talk with friends of mine who live on farms in other locales and they don't have half the problem that we have around here. I'm convinced it's living in the swampy bottoms of this area.

Since these two ticks had attached themselves on the inside of my thigh, right next to those private parts every man considers to be his jewels, I immediately dug out the first aid stuff. Then spent the next two hours cleaning, disinfecting and taking all the preventive measures that can be taken at home. Most of you out there would go to the doctor or run to the hospital. That's your option, it's not for me. I won't go into how to take care of a tick bite, you can find plenty of info about that on the web. It's the way it heals that's important.

I stayed up until almost 5AM, put hydrogen peroxide on the bites and working on writing, doing research on the Internet. Until I wasn't able to keep going and finally had to head for bed and a nap. No more dogs in the house after this incident.

Tuesday? Tuesday was such a fiasco that it's not even going to be written about. Let's just say that every woman I talked to, it didn't go well. I even managed to make some people mad using email. I stayed at the house and worked on my writing, including the now later than usual next installment for the "You Wanna Be In Movies" series.

Even when I write, I still want more time to write more.

No matter what, I'm going to walking funny for the next couple of days.

I wonder if anyone buys ticks on eBay?

I could make a fortune.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

It's NOT On The List

You ever make a list of things to do?

Recommended by people who 'get things done', for those of us who are constantly getting interrupted by other events.

Had a list made out, sure I was going to mark off each and every one of those items before the end of the weekend rolled around.

Wrote a post for the blog, didn't post it, needs work. Saturday, worked up at the tractor shed, trying to get a project ready to paint. My father shows up with a truckload of appliances. Nice day, sunny day, few clouds, 20% chance of rain.

Except those clouds weren't told about it. After getting the washer and dryer unloaded, I find myself in the middle of a thunderstorm. Rain hammering down on me as we try to wrestle a large refrigerator from the back of one truck onto another, without an appliance dolly. Don't ask.

Drove the truck and the now soaking wet refrigerator into the tractor shed. Parked it to let it dry. The fridge has got to be moved again anyway, so why unload it? Stood in the door and watched the 100% downpour soak everything in sight, including my painting project. Oh well, there's always next week, when it dries out. Which will be about the same time that I dry out.

Mom would never let me play in the rain, but I seem to spend a lot of time working in it.

Then I got a phone call about another project...

Which put everything planned for Sunday on the back burner.

The first thing that I'm going to do on Monday is burn last week's list.

If I can find it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

You Wanna Be In Movies, Part Six

Tell me that you don't wanna be a star. Tell me all about how you're ready for a life of obscurity. Tell me that deep inside you don't nurture the faintest hope of one day seeing your own smiling face looking down on you from a billboard as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard.

OK, maybe you'd rather be a politician instead and follow in the hallowed footsteps of our great leaders. We are currently a bit short of great leaders. Most of whom have passed from this plane of existence. You can do either act, all you need is drive, ego and maybe a bit of luck.

The one thing that you'll have to do in either case is sell yourself. This might require a bit of soul-searching, if you' re the reflective type or just the willingness to sell your soul, if you're the me-first type.

No problem in either case, just bring plenty of ego. Lots will be used up, if not crushed in some cases, but fans will resupply you with heaping helpings of adoration. Always an ego booster. Did I mention all that free nookie? Ask Bill.

After arriving on the set Sunday afternoon, I began to meet my fellow actors. We eyeballed each other as we sat under the off-white canvas of the large tent, scattered amongst the tables, filling in our paperwork for the casting company. Everyone a bit nervous, an undercurrent of tension vibrated in the tent.

It was a small cast, only 18 of us. Which raised the hopes of everyone. With that limited number, the possibility of being in a scene with one of the stars went up, astronomically. We ranged in age from young college studs and lovely coeds to retired teachers and your dissipated scribe. In general, a cross-section of middle America, Southern style. Which was a good thing that none of us had speaking roles. Since we were in a movie that was supposed to represent a time and place a bit further north, like around Chicago.

Although there were many from the south, a good portion of us had moved back or relocated here from other parts of America. I didn't get to know everyone, so there will be some who won't be covered. My apologies to all concerned.

The retiree from California, the retired teacher from right up the road, but who has travelled the world, the young mother who left her babies at home, but still had that star-struck gleam in her eyes. A young couple, married for just over a year, excited that they were going to be in a film.

A middle-thirties actor, back home after a stint as a struggling actor, but reticent about himself, acting totally bored by the entire ordeal. An ex-military man, who could have made a career of the service, but got out, now working in a hospital. Just the edge of doubt about him, as if he questioned whether he had done the right thing. He always talked about how exciting the military life had been, when it wasn't full of crushing boredom, sitting around the base.

A smattering of college/post-college boys, all unbounded energy and studly attitude. A business yuppie, briefcase, cellphone, trying to be Wall St. while located about 500 miles too far south of the real deal.

The politician, as I dubbed him, who really is a waiter in life at a local restaurant. When he isn't strumming his guitar, crooning for the ladies. Never leave your props behind. Somehow he managed to drag his guitar onto the set. He played it while we got our haircuts. He played it while we ate. He played it standing in the middle of the parking lot. The ladies loved it, the men just wanted to kill him.

So, we have our basic cast of characters. The 'background extras'.
Tomorrow, the stars.

All the world's a stage, as the great bard, William Shakespeare tells us.
Just don't trip up when you walk out upon it.
A pratfall could ruin your makeup.
Not to mention what it'll do to your ego.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sex, Love, Intercourse? Hexed or Not

Let's not confuse the issue by discussing it.

I'm going to teach myself how to get the links thing working on this blog, so that I can direct you to the specific news item. I know that it's fairly easy, just hasn't been a priority until now.

While checking the New York Times today, I see that there are two new books out about how married couples decided to have sex every day for a specific number of days.

In reading the article, it's mentioned that married people sometimes don't have sex for weeks and even months! What? You mean they don't do it a couple of times a day?

Now I understand why I'm still single. Too bad that there's no way to explain this to the people who I know around here. They can't understand why I'm not married/divorced/remarried. Which is the status of about 85% of the people in this county. Hey, it's the Bible Belt. If you ain't married, then any sex is sin. If you're married, then it's either OK or just adultery.

Men get married to have sex without the time consuming mating dance, posing and preening that's necessary to snag the available female. Who's going to do all the deciding anyway.

I think women get married for the security. Don't quote me on it, I'm just hazarding an opinion here.

In rereading the article, I noticed that one word was missing. Different sex therapists were interviewed and mentioned important relationships aspects; financial, career, etc. No one mentioned that really scary word; love.

One of the most powerful words in the world and one that's guaranteed to kick start either a tirade of scorn or a paean to the ideal relationship. Ideal relationships don't exist, you have to work at any relationship, no matter what it's based on. The idea being to improve your understanding of each other.

That's what intercourse is about, isn't it? Communication between people.

My own situation has been slightly different than most. An ex-girlfriend got angry at me over a misunderstanding. Which I tried to explain, but she wasn't interested in hearing it.

So, she had her mother put a 'hex' on me. Her mom being a practicing witch and all. She told me that I wouldn't have sex for seven years. Hey, that's what she told me.

I didn't believe it at the time and still don't.

One thing I do know.

Don't ever let a woman cut off a lock of your hair.

You don't even want to know how long it's been for me.

Monday, June 9, 2008

You Can Sleep When You're Dead

Oh yeah, but to blog, you have to be awake enough to hit the right keys.

I was going to post every day this month. Which doesn't seem to be happening. My fault.

After the great deluge of 2008, when we got about 7 inches of rain in 4 hours, everything has rocketed out of the ground. I've cut the grass more times this year than usual, while letting it grow taller between trimmings. Which I hate, because it gives the snakes a good place to hide.

Snakes love tall grass. When it rains and drives them out of the bottoms and away from the creeks and rivers, they tend to visit those warm, dry places. Like your backyard or mine.

Other than the increased reptile activity, the more I work, the less I seem to sleep. Must have something to do with the the heat and off the charts humidity. Is anyone out there wondering about global warming?

The results? I got into a sleep less, nap more, get less done cycle. Take on jobs that I shouldn't have, get even less done. Don't write as much. Read other peoples' stuff to see how they do their blogs.

I could just claim that it's all research. A large part of it is. Now it's time to apply it.

When is someone going to come up with a human battery pack?

Just plug me in and keep on going. 24 hours a day.

After all, who needs sleep?

Don't lose any sleep over the "You Wanna Be In Movies" series. I'm doing that for you. The next episode will cover some of my fellow actors. Some background on their aspirations.

I know that they had high hopes for the film.

At least it didn't wind up going straight to DVD.

I'll go into what it didn't do later.

The director/writer/leading man is losing sleep over that.

Happens to all of us.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Just Keep to the Schedule

One of those days.

Plan everything out, doesn't turn out that way.

Most people barely make it on time, when you schedule to meet. Doesn't matter whether you're buying or selling. Went up to the shop early, had a dude driving over to see a rototiller. Gardens are a big thing this year. Go figure. You looked at the price of food lately?

Instead of being on time or late, he drives up an hour early! Didn't bother me a bit. Had an interesting conversation, found out we had more than a few things in common, besides putting in bigger gardens this year. Good start to the day.

Then the parade started. Neighbor wanted her hoe sharpened, brought me three. Then the Wisconsin Wildman showed up, with the latest political comedy. Who writes all that stuff that they do in Washington? After he left, I gave up. Too hot to work, it was over 90 outside and about 95F in the shop. No aircon here and a fan can't follow you around, so it's just a waste of electricity.

Went on into to town for my semi-monthly shopping excursion. Which I hate. Shopping bores me. That was the high point of the day.

I would love to have time to expound on various other things, get back to the "You Wanna Be In Movies" series and comment on the Universal Studios film vault fire.

It will all have to wait.

I need to do something basic.

Catch some sleep.

So I can be a functional, semi-literate.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Soggy Bottom Sightseers

Slow start to the month.

Was going to post every day, of course, starting with the first....

Sunday morning. Worked up at the shop for a while, predictions of rain.

When the rumbles of thunder got too close, I packed up and headed to the old homestead. Can't paint in the rain.

I figured that I would get the next instalment done on the "You Wanna Be In Movies" series, but then it started to rain. Which led to a downpour. A couple of hours later, after dealing with the leak in the kitchen roof again and a couple of power surges and a hour long power outage, the rain really started to come down.

By the middle of the afternoon the front yard was under water by an inch. Which is more impressive when you consider that it slopes downhill from the house to the road. After a couple of more hours, there was three inches of water running down the road. The fields next to the house were under water, as the creek was now about 200 yards wide, instead of 15 feet. My neighbor's house across the road had water within 20 feet of the front door, then a 'creek' about 60 feet wide that spanned both ditches and came up my driveway about 3 feet. It made a nice video.

People were trying to get down the road, attempting to drive through rushing water over two feet deep, it was probably deeper up by the bridge. Even if you have a big, old SUV or some 4X4 truck, it doesn't make you indestructible. I watched as fools, morons and idiots attempted to play Noah with their auto-arks. They all backed up, turned around and went back to the main road.

Some of the locals started to come around. All the old timers said they had never seen it this bad. Everyone had heard how deep the water was getting and they just had to see for themselves. My driveway was busy all afternoon and evening. Which kept me from getting any work done. I came out here to get away from crowds and they show up at my door!

When the Fire Department Chief showed up to block off the road, he brought some 'Fire Line' tape. You know that yellow ribbon stuff that they use to keep people from getting to close. Which made for the evening entertainment.

Sitting on the front porch in the dark, as the power was off, again, some hotfoot would come roaring up the road, only to slam on their brakes to keep from hitting the yellow tape. Then they would turn around either in my driveway or my neighbor's. Sometimes, Scoundrel would be there to greet them.

He's your un-average, weird looking, muscular multi-breed. Has a good eye and one that's, well, spooky looking. It's kinda albino, but it works. At night, being a white dog, he looks more like a ghost. Scoundrel likes to race around, hyper-kinetic and all, so even in broad daylight, he freaks people out. You can imagine what it's like to have him come charging at your car in the dark.

The Fire Department tape didn't make it, about midnight some local with a noisy pickup truck blasted through it, headed up the hill. Probably too wasted to even see what he drove through.
I heard him motor through the deeper water up by the bridge, then he was gone.

By this time, we had a couple of more surges and another power outage. Every time it would kick out my surge protector and throw me off the computer. I gave up around 1AM and went to bed.

Never a dull moment.