Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Sometimes that one thing is all you need.

Dimmer systems for stage lighting have always contained an element of voodoo.

On paper, they’re pretty basic – a computerized control console and rack-mounted dimmers, hooked together by a type of control cable called DMX.

The number of things that can inexplicably fuck up in this seemingly simple system are mind-boggling. Lamps come on and turn off for no reason, lights that worked yesterday refuse to turn on today, parts of the system shut off randomly, the console decides it doesn’t like the producer’s shirt (or something) and refuses to boot up. Older types of DMX cable will malfunction if run too near power cable, or will just decide not to work (or something) on any given day. Add moving lights into the mix and things get even more unpredictable (I have – more than once – seen grown men brought to tears by Vari-Lites).

On more than one show, we’ve replaced random parts to no avail, and someone on the lighting crew has somehow ended up in the dimmer hut*, wearing nothing but a grass skirt and the skin of the slowest-moving PA while scattering chicken feathers over the dimmer racks in an attempt to get something – anything- to work before the DP blows a gasket.

At Saturday’s seminar – which was attended by reps from the two companies who make dimmer racks, we learned that one company’s racks have the cool air intake on the bottom of the rack and the hot air exhaust on the top of the rack, and the other company’s dimmer racks have the exhaust on the bottom of the rack and the cool air intake on the top of the rack.

This means that the two company’s dimmer racks, when placed next to one another, are sucking in each other’s exhaust and overheating despite the air conditioning in the dimmer hut.

Oh. My. Gods. I did not know this, and apparently neither did either company’s reps (or anyone else) until fairly recently.

Lining up dimmer racks from both manufacturers next to one another is common practice – depending on how many racks one needs and how busy the town is, it sometimes isn’t possible to get only racks from one manufacturer.

Wait. Did I mention that the dimmer racks overheating is bad? I didn’t? Well, it is. It’s very bad (when they overheat they shut off and so do the lights they control, even if it’s in the middle of, say, a difficult stunt or the only good take of two actors who loathe one another pretending to make sweet love) and it happens more often than we’d like – and now a whole seminar full of people know exactly why.

Even if I hadn’t learned anything else from the day, that one thing was totally worth it.

*Dimmer racks contain fans, and fans make noise. Sound guys hate noise, so we can’t put the racks on the stage. We can’t put the racks outside with no protection from the elements because they really shouldn’t get wet or sit in the hot sun, so we put them in a little hut (usually a cargo container) right next to the stage.

Filed under: Work

Something to ponder…

Since I’m spending the day in a tech seminar getting my brain tied in knots and having to do math on a Saturday, here’s something to contemplate:

How is it that a 7 lb. cat can manage to hog an entire queen-sized bed? How?

I bet there’s math involved, isn’t there?

Filed under: Non-Work

Dry run for the big one

As mentioned in an earlier post, my landlady got hauled off to the crazy house (okay, a very nice group home in Pasadena, albeit one with bars on the windows and three cups of medication a day) a while back.

Before she went away, though, she decided that the electrical wiring in her house was really a government surveillance device and started punching holes in the walls with a claw hammer in an attempt to find the ‘bug’. In her zeal, she ruptured the gas line.

Although there was no danger of the entire city block exploding, the gas company decided to fix the leak yesterday, and turned off the gas to the entire four-plex. This makes sense to me. What didn’t make sense to me is that the repair team didn’t turn the gas on when they were done. Apparently, it’s not their job, and I had to call the gas company to schedule a technician to come out and restore service to my pad. The next available “appointment” is Friday – and I have to be home from 7 am to 8 pm.
I heart public utilities.

So, since I have no gas – which means no hot water, no stove and no heat, I decided it was a good time to practice for the inevitable earthquake that will destroy civilization as we know it here in Los Angeles (or at least knock out the gas, power and cell phone service for a few days).

I went out and bought a two burner camp stove (I wanted the pimped out fold-able one that, at almost $80, was just a bit more than I wanted to spend given I don’t know how much work I’m going to get in January), and one of those Sun Shower things since not being able to bathe is really working my nerves more than not being able to cook (hey, beer has enough calories to sustain me. Who needs food?). There’s a shower at my gym, but I think it recently got classified as a bio-hazard.

Since I’m the proud new owner of a downmarket camp stove, I decided to break it in by making pasta sauce.


Since pasta sauce is essentially a one dish thing (okay two. One for the sauce and one for the pasta), I figured it would be perfect for de-virginizing the propane stove. In case you’ve never made pasta sauce from scratch, it’s stupid easy, and impresses the hell out of people who don’t know any better (not real cooks, though. Don’t even bother trying to impress them).

So, the following recipe is for Dave, who’s vegetarian and probably tired of reading about my evil meat-eating ways (“today I ate a cute fuzzy animal smothered in sauce made from the bones of an entirely different cute fuzzy animal. Yum!”).

It’s not that difficult to make, and since Dave has a thing for a certain model turned actress, it’s called:

Guaranteed to Make Liz Hurley Fall in Love With You Camp-Stove Pasta Sauce.

Total time from start to Liz proposing: maybe 45 minutes, probably closer to 30.


3 tablespoons good quality olive oil (I’m serious about this – don’t EVER skimp and buy shitty olive oil. You’ll be able to taste the difference and so will Liz).

3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed (lay the whole cloves on a cutting board, place the side of a chef’s knife – NOT the cutting surface – on top of the clove, put your hand on the top side of the knife and push down until the clove breaks. Don’t cut the cloves. You’ll be either pureeing or removing them later)

1/2 cup minced onion

1/2 cup minced carrot

1/2 cup minced celery

1/2 cup dry Italian white wine

1 28 ounce can whole plum tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Red pepper flakes to taste (optional – but use actual red pepper flakes and not that horrible powdered spicy blend crap on the shelf in the supermarket)

Using 2 tablespoons of the oil, cook the carrots, celery, onion and garlic in a deep skillet (note: NOT a pot. Use a skillet with high sides. You’ll do a lot less work and it looks much more suave, trust me) over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring frequently (remember your camp-stove only heats the very center of the skillet so if you don’t stir, you’ll have burned stuff in the center and raw stuff on the edges), until the carrots and celery are tender.

Add the wine, and allow about half of it to bubble away before proceeding.

Pour the can of tomatoes into a bowl. Crush the whole tomatoes with your hands or a fork (I use my hands, but remember when you’re breaking up whole canned tomatoes that there can be spurts of liquid, so be careful or Liz will think you’re a slob) and add them to the skillet, along with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes break down and the mixture takes on the consistency of sauce (IMPORTANT: tomato sauces go through stages when they’re cooking: tastes like ass, tastes like ass, oh shit what did I do wrong, wow that’s amazing. Do not taste the sauce at all until you suspect it may be done – if you do, it will taste like ass and you’ll start adding stuff you don’t need and you’ll ruin it and Liz won’t fall in love with you).

After 10 minutes, stir in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, adding more salt and the red pepper flakes if needed (this is the time to taste the sauce, and if you want less of the garlic taste, fish out the garlic cloves now). Turn off the heat, let the sauce cool, and then blend it (I use an immersion blender, but a regular blender will work just as well – just blend the sauce in small batches and not all at once or it won’t blend completely and you’ll have bits of carrot stuck to your teeth when Liz falls in love with you, and then you’d look like a dork. If you use an immersion blender, pour the sauce out of the skillet and into a deep bowl. If you try to use the immersion blender in the skillet, your yummy sauce will end up all over the walls).

Re-heat, serve over any long pasta, and invite me to the wedding.

Like Britney gossip, homemade pasta sauces are almost always better the next day, so make more than you think you need. It will keep in the fridge for about a week.

With not much more work, this sauce can be used for Guaranteed To Make Liz Hurley Fall in Love With You Three Cheese and Spinach Lasagna, but that’s another post since this one’s already really long.

Note to carnivores: Don’t even think about getting all smart and just dumping ground meat into this sauce – it doesn’t work that way. Meat sauces need to simmer for much longer – usually two or three hours.

Filed under: life in LA, Non-Work

Happy New Year! Here’s a bunch of photos!

I’m always glad that The Supermodel is another early riser, but never more so than today. A group of us had planned to go to the viewing of the Rose Parade floats today (they display them the day after the parade every year), and when I called around at 8 am most folks wanted to go later in the day, after they’d had some coffee and read the paper.

“They’re nuts”, snapped The Supermodel, who does this every year. “By noon, that place is going to be packed tighter than a Tijuana donkey show. We go early or we don’t go at all.”

Evil morning person that I am, that was fine with me. Our plans went a little awry when we got stuck in traffic and didn’t get there until 10 am – a full hour after we’d wanted to show up, but the crowd level was still manageable.

Please enjoy some photos:





Cat and Dog lovefest

Rose Fish

The whole series (60 photos chosen from about 250 taken- I could have uploaded more, but I’m hungry and want to go eat), is here.

 The really cool thing about this was that each float had it’s own docent – members of the build and operation teams – who were happy to answer questions about what the materials were, how the floats are constructed (steel frame, wire mesh, bedsheets and a shitload of glue), and what it’s like to drive the floats:

Show and Tell

If you find yourself around Pasadena this time next year, I highly recommend this.

I also recommend taking The Supermodel’s excellent advice. Get there early or don’t bother:
This was taken about 11:00. I’m told that if you don’t get there before noon, you run the risk of not getting a ticket, and as we were leaving I was having problems getting good photos because of the crowding – although everyone there was incredibly nice and trying to clear sight lines if they saw someone aiming a camera.

Fun stuff.

I even got video of the city of Burbank’s float. All of the other floats were turned off, but someone on Team Burbank decided to power up their float so the spectators could see it move and hear the music.

I laughed until I cried at this:

There’s also a 30 second long version here:

 Well worth the sore feet (and sore sides from laughing at that damn Burbank float. That dog rocking back and forth just killed me).

Filed under: life in LA, Non-Work

January 2007
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"If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better." -Anne Lamott

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