Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

What’s a life got to do with it, anyway?

I suppose it’s not a huge secret that film sets aren’t exactly  the safest working environment. We routinely enter condemned buildings, work in extreme heat and/or cold (sometimes on the same day), navigate treacherous  footing, run cable through human waste, inhale asbestos and snack on lead paint chips (oh, wait. That’s just the ‘healthy’ baked potato chips. My bad).

In the past decade or so, there has been a concerted effort to make sets safer for everyone, and it’s been very successful.

But accidents sometimes still happen. Mostly those accidents are just that. Accidental. No fault, no blame just…Oops.

But sometimes, it is someone’s fault. In this particular case, a criminally negligent someone’s fault.

About a week ago, a film crew in Georgia were trying to get a shot for a Gregg Allman biopic – a dream sequence with a bed on railroad tracks.

At first it was just a terse announcement on some of the film-worker centric Facebook circles.

Camera assistant killed while shooting. No details.

Then, an ID. Sarah Elizabeth Jones, age 27.

Then, more details started to  emerge, and I began to suspect that this was going to get really bad.

Sadly, I was right. I hate being right.

The production company had requested a permit to shoot on the train tracks, and had been denied.

Someone decided to order the crew to set up the shot on the tracks anyhow.

Just stop and think about that for a second. Someone – we don’t know exactly who as the production company has suddenly gotten very, very tight-lipped and lawyered up – knew that they were not allowed to be on a live fucking rail line and decided to do it anyways.

A train came. About 15 minutes later, another train came. The crew began setting up, and in about 20 minutes, another train came. There was approximately one minute of warning. The crew tried desperately to clear the track in time, but one young woman was unable to do so and was struck while one of her co-workers tried to save her.

And died.

Died. For a stupid fucking movie. Produced by a fucking waste of carbon about a fucking has-been waste of carbon whose claim to fame is fucking Cher.

I jest, of course. The subject of the movie is completely irrelevant. It wouldn’t matter if it was a movie about a paralysed nun who saved a busload of adorable orphans from Nazis.

It’s not worth a life. Any life – even the life of someone who has chosen to wear a toolbelt and not get any glory or residuals.

The “Slates for Sarah” thing is very sweet, but the person who is responsible for this needs to suffer, and greatly.

Sadly, I don’t see that happening.

What I do see is (hopefully) more people saying ‘no’.

As in: “I’m sorry, Mr Producer. This isn’t safe. Oh, you want to fire me? Fine. I’ll live to work another day, and you can burn in Hell.”

Oh, wait. My bad. Burning in hell is too good for some people.

Filed under: mishaps, movies, rants, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Streets of Beverly Hills

For the past few months, I’ve been taking part in a visual survey documenting road hazards for cyclists in Los Angeles.

That translates into riding my bike around and taking pictures of the shitty roads crisscrossing our fair city.

I don’t understand when and why Los Angeles county decided that having usable roads was near the bottom of the priority list, but cycling here can be an adventure.

There’s a choice if one is going to commute by bike – road tires or fat knobby mountain tires? There are advantages to both. The road tires, which is what I ride on, roll easier so you can go further, faster with less effort, but the fat tires can roll over the city’s plentiful potholes with less of the breaking and crashing.

I like the lower rolling resistance of the road tires – I made my choice, and I’m happy with it, but I do have to worry more about pavement than do the mountain bikers.

Today, as I was riding home from the garden, I spotted this:

P1040305

And this:

P1040307

And this:

P1040309

Oh, and this:

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And last but not least, this beauty:

P1040318

These are not so much potholes as they are small canyons. All of them on the same 2 mile stretch of road in the glamorous metropolis of Beverly Hills.

I’m not even sure a mountain bike could roll over those top two, and while I can roll over the last one I’m not sure I’d be able to keep all of my fillings in my head.

So what I have to do – since this stretch of road has no sidewalks – is veer out around the potholes into the path of the luxury SUV driven by the guy talking on the cellphone and simmering road rage.

There’s a residential street just north which has better pavement, but since there’s a stop sign every block it’s slow and frustrating.

Happily, though, the roadway is due for a reconstruction project which will mean a complete repaving (not just shitty asphalt patches), and there seems to be support for bike lane striping.

This is especially wonderful news since Beverly Hills has historically been, um, resistant to bike lane striping (and bike racks, and people on bicycles), even though the city’s streets are wide enough to accommodate bike lanes without giving up traffic lanes or parking (both are legitimate concerns for motorists).

But of course, the consultants hired recommended some weird mixed use travel lane which will just put cyclists and other undesirables in a center lane and right in the path of angry drivers.

But until whatever happens happens, I’ll still marvel at the crappiness of the street right in the middle of Beverly Hills.

Filed under: life in LA, Los Angeles, Non-Work, Off-Topic, Photos, rants, , , , , , , , , ,

A Man Explains Things to Me

As much as I’d like to panic about the lack of work, it’s pretty normal for January (ish), so I’ve been doing some physical therapy on my shoulder while I have the down time (I’m determined to be positive about the work prospects for this year).

Said physical therapy has me doing some strange-looking (and painful) exercises with one of those resistance bands.

I usually opt to do my exercises at the gym, mainly because I’m more likely to do them if I make myself get up and go somewhere that’s not my apartment. Also, while I’m there I can swim (sort of – mostly kick sets for now) and sit in the steam room.

My gym used to have resistance bands available for use, but they were removed a couple of years ago, presumably due to concerns about members using them to strangle the sweaty bastard who refuses to wipe down the equipment after use.

So I bring the bands that the physical therapist gave me, and work through my exercises, usually with no issues other than failure to keep the obscenities to a discreet volume.

Except today, when I got mansplained.

The phenomenon is recounted in this article* by the utterly brilliant Rebecca Solnit  (to whom I humbly offer hommage with the title of this post).

As I was doing the exercise that I like to call the Sieg Heil (exactly what you’d imagine, only with a resistance band), a man swathed in overpriced brand-name tech fabric offered some unsolicited advice after staring at me for a full five minutes.

“You really shouldn’t do that,” he began (whatever happened to ‘hello’) in that tone. “You could hurt yourself. If you like, I can show you how to work out.”

“It’s a physical therapy exercise. I’m pretty sure she told me to do it this way for a reason.”

“You see,” he continued “your shoulder is a very complicated joint and you have to be very  careful, especially with those dangerous bands. You know the gym got rid of them.”

“The physical therapist told me to do this. I think she might have gone to college.”

“Maybe you could start with the easy pushups. You know, the ones on your knees.”

It became clear he wasn’t going to listen to me. As I tried to decide if I wanted to fart loudly, belch, or resume swearing (if you can’t reason with them, scare them off), I was saved by the swim coach, who ran up and jokingly yelled “Five more! Your butterfly sucks!” while holding her hand at a height that I wasn’t going to be able to reach without dropping the band (or maybe even if I did).

At the sight of my exercise being legitimized by  an actual staff member, he slunk off… somewhere. I was laughing too hard to really pay much attention.

*I highly recommend River of Shadows, the book referenced in the article.

Filed under: humor, life in LA, Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants, , , , , , ,

Imagination is a bastard

Apologies for the lack of posts. I’ve been alternately anxious and busy  or anxious and idle, neither of which really lends itself to any sort of creative thought process.

Work’s been busy – mostly TV, but a few low-budget features (never thought I’d see any of those again), but since the low-budget producers have been out-of-town where costs, in general, are lower, they’re sweating us more and more to cut costs. Since we can only talk the rental houses down so far, this means that the additional manpower we need to do the job efficiently and safely gets cut.

So, a day which would normally need five guys gets three, and only then after the best boy fights with production about it. When things don’t get done right away because we don’t have enough people, we get yelled at. (“You had eight hours to wrap that set! What the fuck is wrong with you?” “Well, that eight-hour estimate was with 4 guys and you cut us down to two. What do you expect?”)

The threat of taking the production out-of-town hangs over our head like some dangling sharp thing in some disputation which I forget these days.

No matter how busy it gets, we’re all worried about how long it’ll last. It used to be so predictable. Busy until the holidays, then a couple of weeks off, and then picking up in mid-January, going through May, a month or two off, and then picking up again.

No longer. We all know this isn’t going to last, and it’s stressful. I’ve heard  far too many stories about lost insurance, lost houses, and kids having to go live with ex-spouses for stability and consistent meals.

Also, I’m fighting with California’s unemployment department. They’re threatening to revoke my eligibility to get benefits for three years due to a clerical error on my part which amounts to pocket change. Awesome.

So I sit down in front of the computer and try to write something and all I can do is worry. About my bills. About my future. About my co-workers, who are all in the same boat.

And I can’t write anything because I can’t stop worrying.

So I turn off the computer and I sit in front of the TV, watching stupid movies because I just want some sort of distraction so I can spend an hour or so not being so fucking worked up.

On the bright side, I’m very glad that I don’t eat when I get stressed, or I’d weigh 780 lbs right now. I have no idea how much that is in Kilos, other than a fuckload.

Filed under: Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants, Work, , , , , , , ,

The beginning of the end, maybe?

This past weekend was a real eye-opener for me. I knew the industry was slow here in Los Angeles, but when I sat in a continuing education classroom at Contract Services with a bunch of guys who are usually always busy (and I mean always), all anyone could talk about was  how thin work has gotten around here.

Yikes. If the heavy hitters aren’t making ends meet, what hope do the rest of us have? I’m currently getting enough work to keep the wolves at bay, but that, of course, can change at any time.

For those of you not familiar, over the past few years several other states (and countries) have been handing producers suitcases full of cash in order to lure film production away from California. I think the technical term is incentives, but really it’s a bribe.

And it’s worked very successfully.  There is currently almost no production in California, but Louisiana and Georgia (the newcomer to the world of corporate kickbacks) are hopping.

I love my job and I’d like to keep doing it, but I’d rather drink poison than move to Georgia or Louisiana (nothing personal, you understand), so the question is how long I can hang on. An added complication is my being  well past the age of being able to snag a rich husband.

Note to parents of girls: Look at my life. This is what happens when you teach your daughters self-reliance. They end up alone, without  Botox, veneers, or overpriced sports cars and worrying about how to pay the bills.

I just have myself and the cat, so as long as I can get enough hours to keep my health insurance, I’ll tighten my belt and soldier on.

But what about the people with families?

One state ends their sop and another starts up. Since most of these subsidies actually cost the states money (currently for every dollar of film revenue that Louisiana brings in, it spends $7.30*), it’s baffling that they keep doing it, but I’m certainly not one to underestimate the capability of humans to not in any way, shape or form learn from our mistakes.

Most of us who have spent our entire working lives in the film industry have skills that don’t easily translate to the real world, and even if we do decide to branch out, we have resumes that are confusing and frightening to anyone not familiar with the transient nature of film production (“No, it’s the same job, for the same people.. just with a different name on the letter head”).

So Wednesday, I have a career counseling appointment at The Actors’ Fund to see if I have any chance of any sort of work at all once production in California dries up for good.

Or, even better,  if I can manage to start some sort of business that legally appropriates taxpayer money just like the studios are doing.

I suspect not, but we’ll see.

*http://www.labudget.org/lbp/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/LBP-Report.Louisiana-Film-Tax-Credits.pdf

Filed under: cranky, life in LA, rants, , , , ,

Gaaah!

All this internet synchronicity stuff is supposed to make everyone’s lives easier.  Applications talk to each other, share bookmarks, recipes, plans for world domination, etc..

Everything’s automatic, so humanity can waste away our lives playing video games. Or something.

Until it stops working.

Now, all of a sudden, Twitter and Facebook aren’t speaking to one another and despite my telling them to work it out and get over it, there’s still an internet stony silence.

After upgrading my cell plan,  I now have a smart phone (which is turning out not to be all that smart). I’m told that I can do all sorts of things with it, except when it posts something to a blog (this one or the couch blog), Twitter, Facebook and the RSS reader don’t see it.  Also the formatting’s seriously fucked up.

Which sucks, because one of the reasons I got the smart phone was to make updating the blog easier. And to play time-wasting games.

Of course, there’s no way on any of the mobile apps to change this sort of setting, and no matter how hard I press the buttons on the ‘real’ computer, nothing changes.

The ‘smart’ phone also has a battery life of approximately 15 seconds, so instead of uploading clever shit to the internet, I now spend most of my day frantically searching for someplace – anyplace – to charge the damn phone before it dies and I can’t call ’911′ when some axe murderer appears out of nowhere and attempts to say hello.

Stupid phone. Stupid internet. Stupid technology.

I’d also like to take this time to mention that any ads you see on the blog are placed there by WordPress. I have nothing to do with them, I get nothing from them and I can’t turn them off no matter how hard I try.

Filed under: cranky, Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants

Open Letter to America*

*With all due apologies to R. Lee Ermey

It has come to my attention that some of you among this great nation are paying inflated prices for canned pumpkin due to some commie shortage or something.

I’m disappointed in you worthless pukes. Are you not the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the people who flipped the finger to the Great Depression and continued to live and thrive?

I think not. Seems to me the hardy stock of America has been replaced by crybabies from planet Piss-ant.

Pay attention, maggots:

First off, harden the fuck up.

Then, go buy a damned pumpkin. Most chi-chi ‘gourmet’ grocery stores will carry small pumpkins called ‘sugar pie’. You’ll need two of them.

If you can’t find those, go out to one of those insipid pretend pumpkin patches that I know you have in your city.

Go the day after Halloween, get an ugly one and haggle the dude down. Don’t tell me you can’t. My deaf crippled mother can haggle. Yes, the pumpkin will last three weeks if the rind is intact.

Take your ugly fucking pumpkin and go home.

Get a knife. Cut the pumpkin into bits.

Scrape out the seeds. Put your back into it, weakling.

Cut off the rind. Cook the chunks until they’re tender.

Put the cut-up pumpkin chunks into a blender.

I know you have a blender. My blind grandmother who’s been dead for twenty years has a goddamn blender.

Blend until smooth.

Follow the same recipe you’d use for your shitty canned pumpkin.

Enjoy.

That’s not good enough for you?

Go to this site.

Or use this recipe, which is the one yours truly makes.

Absolutely can’t find any sort of pumpkin at all?  Make a sweet potato pie and tell your family they should be grateful they get anything at all because when you were a kid, you were so poor that all you got for Thanksgiving was a tin plate full of sand and you felt lucky to have that.

What? You weren’t poor as a kid? Who cares if it’s true. A generation of great Americans were raised listening to the exaggerations of how hard life was when our parents were young. Most of those stories weren’t true, either.

If they still complain, make them do push ups outside while you eat their piece of pie.  That’ll teach ‘em.

You’re welcome, maggots.

Filed under: humor, Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants

Corporate vandalism in a broke city

DISCLAIMER: I did a long-ish bike ride in the heat today and am tired and cranky. Lector Caveo.

As you may or may not know, the city of Los Angeles is broke. Even more broke than the proverbial joke. They’re cutting back on services to the needy, laying off police,  firefighters and teachers in an attempt to make ends meet.

One of the financial responsibilities of the city is graffiti removal. On vertical surfaces, this involves juvenile delinquents (the ones who got caught) slapping a coat of paint that doesn’t quite match the building over the graffiti, and it’s done.

But stuff that’s been sprayed on sidewalks requires a skilled crew to come out with a sandblaster, at what I can’t imagine is a small expense.

Did I mention the city’s broke? Yes, yes I did.  So you can imagine how upset I was when I saw this:

Assholes.

Yup. That’s a misguided attempt at ‘viral marketing’ spray painted on a city sidewalk.

It’s going to have to be sandblasted off, costing the city money that it doesn’t have.  

Of course, the city won’t go after these idiots for the removal costs, but they should.  Also of course, someone’s being robbed right now and there’s no police around because they’ve had their hours cut.

Assholes. Straining a broke city’s resources because some ad agency asshat wanted to try out that newfangled stuff that the kids like.


So fuck you, overpriced flip-flops and the worthless shit-stain of an agency you rode in on.


If I find the person who cooked up this ‘idea’, I’m going to beat them to death with their own copy of Adweek. Or an overpriced flip-flop. Whichever’s closer.

Filed under: cranky, life in LA, Los Angeles, Non-Work, Off-Topic, Photos, rants

Tiptoeing into the realm of the overachievers

Since I’ve not been able to stay in the sun for any length of time, but I miss riding the bike, I decided to take my first ever spinning class at the gym.

Spinning classes are not normally something that’s very interesting to me – a room full of sweaty people, pedaling to nowhere accompanied by the dulcet tones of something insipid riding the crest of the top 40 playlist.

But I’ve been hearing for years about what a great workout it is.

So I took a deep breath, ventured into a small, dark, smelly room which was surprisingly devoid of any air conditioning vents or fans and had to ask the super nice instructor for help adjusting my fake bike (which, of course, isn’t set the way a real bike would be).  When the class finally started and people began to sweat, the layers came off and that’s when I looked around and knew that I was in over my head.

Although I’m not going to be featured on a magazine cover any time soon, I’m not an unfit person. I can’t squeeze into the clothes I wore in high school (hey, I was about the size of a string bean), but I still don’t sag or bag much. However, I was by far the flabbiest person in the class. I’m talking unbelievably ripped people here. People that I didn’t even know existed outside of action movies.

The difference between spinning classes and riding a bike on the street is that when I’m actually out riding the bike, I get occasional breaks. I have to stop at lights, pull over to let cars pass on narrow roads, etc..

I’m not used to cranking as hard as I can for an hour without stopping. I start gasping for air when my heart rate gets up into the high 160′s. When it gets much faster than that I start really wishing I’d drop dead just to spare me the effort of trying to stay conscious – but while I struggled to breathe most of the people in the class were not only barely sweating, they were multitasking while they rode. They were pedaling like hell while texting, gossiping, reading Proust, and I think one woman in the back was knitting an insanely complicated sweater while she pumped it up.

I would have left early, but the instructor, despite pedaling so fast her legs were a blur, still had enough lung capacity to relentlessly mock anyone who dared to leave early.

Also, by the end of the class none of the women sweated off any of their fake tans or top-drawer makeup, while I looked like I’d just stepped out of the shower and could barely walk. The instructor actually came over to ask if I was okay.

As I dragged myself  out the door with my arms, wondering how the hell I was going to get home, the instructor raised her perfectly sculpted arm, waved at me and warbled “Good job! See you next week!”

Maybe.  Just maybe.

Filed under: life in LA, mishaps, Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants

Stop me before I kill again.

Although I really wanted to grab the camera, hop in the car and go somewhere scenic and cooler than LA (like up to the redwoods), since unnecessary driving is no longer on the agenda around here I decided to use my holiday weekend to catch up on some of the around-the-house type stuff I’ve been putting off.

My project this weekend was installing some shelving in what I generously refer to as the ‘office’. Really, it’s what is called in Los Angeles apartment nomenclature as a “junior bedroom”, which really means a large closet used to justify a ’2 bedroom’ rating and thus more rent. Of course, I don’t use it as an office so much as a repository for the flotsam that doesn’t have anywhere else to go – most of which is books, so shelves would give the appearance that I’m organized. Or at least that I care.

So, I drove up into the valley, fought the crowds at the local Swedish furniture warehouse, bought some of the unfinished wood shelving, wrestled it into the truck and somehow got it home.

I decided against trying to finish the shelves – the humidity is still at tropical levels around here, so I’m guessing it would take the varnish about 30 years to dry completely, and it’s still way too hot to even think about sanding anything.

If you’ve never purchased furniture from said Swedish furniture warehouse, it’s all flat-packed and has to be assembled with some of the most fucked-up instructions I’ve ever seen. In an attempt to only print one set of instructions for the entire world, they’ve decided that hieroglyphs are the best choice of instruction for assemble-at-home furniture. There are little line drawings of bits of what I can only assume are the shelves being attached to each other with a hexagonal bolts (wrench not included, of course. Thankfully I happen to have a socket set and a power drill).

The main problem is that the recommended method of assembly and installation is simply not physically possible.

I don’t mean ‘difficult for one person’ or ‘impossible after a few drinks’. I mean it’s not physically possible to put the fucking shelves together the way the stick figures are doing it in the little paper.

Although the idea that the furniture should be assembled while flat on the floor and then ‘Iwo Jima-ed‘ into place looks great on paper, I knew from the get-go that it wasn’t going to go well as I purchased a configuration that has corner pieces, since I needed shelving on perpendicular walls.

If the hieroglyphs were to be believed,  the shelving units also had to be connected to one another for structural integrity which made my original plan of just building them individually and bolting them to the wall unworkable.

I decide to try the recommended method of building them flat on the floor first, and it went well until I got to the corner piece, where it became completely impossible to build as the floor was no longer supporting anything, and to lift and a corner shelving unit with one half-assembled end sticking straight up into the air is surprisingly heavy and unbelievably awkward. Several attempts to lift the thing resulted in a nasty bump on the head, a cut on the shin and several deep gouges in the wood floor.

I then threatened to kill the person who had drawn the instructions.

Next, I tried to just assemble the back side, lift that into place and then bolt the front uprights onto the units while they were, well, upright. That failed as well and resulted in my threatening to find and kill whoever designed the damn things in the first place.

By this time the cat and my neighbor had both wisely hidden (guess the screamed obscenities rattled them. The neighbor, at least. I would imagine the cat’s used to them by now) somewhere while I had a temper tantrum, threw some things, threatened to kill a few more Swedes just for practice and then decided that if I’ve ever really, truly needed a drink, that was the time – medication be damned.

After I’d calmed down, I made the trek back up to the store, bought extra uprights and made each section a stand alone bookcase, lined them up and bolted everything to the wall, despite the warnings from the store’s personnel that this would create a dark, unstable-shelving magic which would lead to a politician selecting a completely unqualified redneck as a running mate in the presidential race…

Whoops.

Sorry about that. But I did get the shelves in and they’re loaded up with books (and camera gear, and painting stuff) and they’re still holding.

So far, I’ve only got one day of work this week, but it’s a short week so I didn’t have my hopes up to begin with.

How was your weekend?

Filed under: cranky, humor, mishaps, Non-Work, Off-Topic, rants, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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