Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

If I’m going to get screwed, could someone at least buy me a drink first?

Inconsistency is the nature of working freelance in any industry, so of course I have good years and bad years, but I’ve been extremely lucky in that I’ve always been able to earn enough to make ends meet.

Work like hell in the good years, save it up for the bad years.

However, this last 16 months have been terrible for just about everyone.  When it should have been busy, it was dead, and when it was normally dead, it was stone dead.  Although a lot of us had hoped it would pick up in March, unfortunately this doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

Although I’ve been able to scrounge up a day or two each week (which is a lot more than others have managed), I’ve completely run through any savings I had and am now dependent upon my state unemployment insurance to fill in the gaps.

Which is fine – by pinching my pennies and foregoing all the things that make life extra wonderful (sushi, wine, periodicals, etc…) I’ve managed to scrape by.

Until today, when I opened the mail, expecting to get an unemployment check and finding that they’ve invented a new ‘waiting period’ out of the blue – which, of course, fell on a week when I didn’t work and was due the full amount.

For those of you fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with unemployment, when one first files a claim one is forced to endure a waiting period of a week during which no benefits are payable – I don’t know why that is. I guess they hope I’ll find a job and won’t  bother to file the rest of the paperwork.

Normally, though, there’s only one withheld week per claim, and my ‘fuck you, loser’ week was in January, so this random withholding of benefits confuses and angers me, but at least I’ve got company.

Upon making a few phone calls, I discovered that just about everyone I know has had benefits withheld for that week, so I’m guessing the the state of California, in a desperate attempt to save money, has just decided to screw the unemployed people out of a week’s worth of benefits.

Normally, this would just make me roll my eyes at the stupidity of it all, but last week I made some promises to the utility company which I now can’t keep – so I may lose my internet again if calling and begging to keep the power on  doesn’t help.

Thanks, California. Thanks a lot. This is much better than a 2.5% tax increase on people who have a net income of over $250,000. Bleed me dry instead. I totally understand your logic one this one. Assholes.

Speaking of economic uncertainty, one of my aunts who lived through the Depression (the real one in the 1930’s), has agreed to take questions about how to stretch your dollar (or pound, or euro, or whatever) and what life was like back then. Although it’s for something that will go on LAist (I’ll happily crosspost here if you all would like),  if you’ve got a question for her, feel free to either email me or post it to the comments and I’ll relay it.

Filed under: Non-Work, , , , ,

A soul-destroying New Year’s Day

I started out 2009 by calling in a favor and having a good friend drive me all over town to look  at used cars.

I do not recommend this as anything other than an exercise in futility – unless, of course, you simply have too much hair and would like to thin it by tearing it out in frustration.

After perusing several car lots staffed by salesmen (one of whom I’m fairly certain was missing a few chromosomes) from hell, I had to take a break and get some lunch because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cry or kill someone.*

Part of the problem is me. There’s a huge gulf between what I want and what I can afford.

The car I want:


The car I can afford:


It’s not that I can’t afford a nice car, it’s that I can’t afford a nice car right now – no one knows if the actors are going to strike and I can’t saddle myself with a car payment that amounts to much more than spare change if I’m going to be out of work for a few months. Again.

So although the really nice little German-made sport wagon is theoretically within my reach financially (I’m talking 2000 or 2001 models), I just can’t do it now and am going to have to settle for some econobox which I guarantee I’ll hate more than a trip to the dentist.

On the bright side, at least I won’t be sad if it gets stolen.

Said genetic-material challenged salesmen (and of course, they’ve all been men) have been no help at all. One showed me cars that were all $5,000 above what I told him was my maximum price, and another showed me a few cars that were in worse shape than my truck (you know, the one that doesn’t run), but were admittedly in my price range.

Ugh. I didn’t really even want a wagon, but the gas mileage on the SUV models I’ve looked at is so shockingly bad I can’t in good conscience buy one (shame, too.  I really, really like the Chevy Trailblazer, but it’s fuel economy is disgraceful at best). Although several manufacturers do make SUV type vehicles that get good mileage, they’re either not readily available or out of my price range.

No resolutions this year. I don’t have the energy and self-improvement can suck it.  Or maybe I’m just in a bad mood.

Here’s to ’09 being a damn sight better than ’08.

* Who am I kidding? I’d much rather kill someone than cry.

Filed under: Non-Work, , , , , , , ,

Friday Photo with extra backstory

I don’t normally shop at Ralph’s (one of the local big chain supermarkets).

I think I was just out of college when I figured out that I spent much less if I shopped at the local farmer’s markets for produce and got everything else at Trader Joe’s (the local ‘specialty foods’ market which is a hell of a lot cheaper – especially for booze). Sure, I couldn’t get the brand name stuff at TJ’s but once I got used to the weird chewy pasta and panda-flavored crackers, there was no turning back. I became a happy supermarket exile.

I lived like this for years, supplementing my diet with the occasional expedition into the local funny-smelling health food store for bulk items like rice and beans which worked out to be cheaper even though trips to said store were a guarantee that I’d run into at least one hippy. It’s not that I dislike hippies per se, it’s just that the majority of them annoy the hell out of me and I want to beat them with a rolled up copy of, well, anything that’s been published this century until they regain their senses and wash off that nasty patchouli.

Even after I started making enough money to buy the overpriced crap at Whole Foods (yuppies bother me too, but they’re easier to scare and sometimes don’t smell as bad) just on the off chance it might possibly be healthy, I never went back to the regular supermarkets. I continued to buy produce from a hippy at a farm stand (remember, only most of them annoy me) and get just about everything else from Trader Joes.

Until today.

No, I haven’t finally embraced fluorescent lighting, soft Muzak(tm), and corporate cereal stocked in a non-threatening environment.

I have gift cards. $200 worth – and I’m too broke to turn down free food.

A week ago, I filled out an application for a Motion Picture and Television Fund assistance grant – I figured they’d string me along for a few weeks and then give me the sad face as they hit me with a list of restrictions on grants that excluded damn near everybody (like the WGA grants – supposedly for non-writers affected by the strike, but just try and get one).

I had my in-person interview today, and much to my surprise, the extra wonderful social worker cut me a check for next month’s rent right there on the spot. Right after I’d finished spelling my landlady’s last name for her, she asked if I wanted some grocery store gift cards.

Why, of course I did. It’s food, right? She then handed me four $50 cards and apologized because she didn’t have larger denominations available. Perhaps she mistook my stunned misty-eyed gratitude for pique.

I thanked her profusely, dried my eyes, promised I’d pay them the amount of the rent check back when I started working again (“you don’t have to- just if you can eventually. It’s a grant, not a loan”) and made a beeline for Ralph’s.

Which is where I saw this:
Is this really necessary?

Really, now. There’s overkill and then there’s overkill.

I will be enjoying my free food, though – it will also nice to be able to buy the good toothpaste and not have to agonize over it (“really, do my teeth need to be all that white? I’m kind of old anyways”).

I love you, Motion Picture and Television Fund. If I ever start working again, I’ll donate as heavily as I can.

Plus, if I ever manage to accumulate enough crap to justify my bothering with a will, you’ll be in it (don’t even start with me about it. Right now, the sum total of my assets are an old car that leaks oil like it’s going out of style, not nearly enough cash to stuff a mattress, and a soon to be obsolete television set that may or may not turn on when asked. Oh, and a 20+ year old busted up saddle that’s unsafe to use because the billets need to be replaced. Yeah, that’s worth fighting over).

Filed under: Non-Work, Photos, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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