Door May Voo.

"Have you heard of the artist Sister Louisa?" Rawksta'hr asked me.

"Is she like Grandma Moses?" I replied "Or Mother Teresa? Or perhaps like Brother John, who might be sleeping; we shall inquire?"

My humor would be lost on most people but she laughed.

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So Everyone Knows

You will not make your space colder, faster, if you set the air conditioning below the desired temperature. AC units are not sentient and will not work harder upon seeing how much further they have to go.

All you're going to do is end up wasting energy when you forget to adjust the thermostat come your desired temperature. The air conditioning will then continue to needlessly crank out cold air.

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Collectors' Editions

Needlessly expensive and offering little added value, these soulless artifacts of claptrap salesmanship clutter store shelves, complicate retail inventories and foul the shopping experience.

Whist swindling legitimate enthusiasts, producers of these products cheat casual consumers by omitting otherwise standard features from the original package in order to falsely ascribe value to the pricier counterpart.

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Yule Blessings

I sat at the Junction last night, as I often do on idle weekend evenings. Weatherman was in rare form, testing new material and keeping his audience cheering in a way that only really happens at Irish pubs.

Most of the way through "Rare ol' Mountain Dew" he stopped short.

"Throw away your pills
It'll cure all ills
Be you Pagan, a Christian, a Jew -- "

He took his hands off the guitar and rubbed his brow, "Y'know, I don't know how many times I've done this song but this is the first time that I've sung that line and looked out," he gestured to my table, full up with friends and regulars and indicated me, Old Scot and New York Friend, each in succession "and seen a Pagan, a Christian and a Jew."

Everyone smiled and the song went on.

May your fire burn bright through the longest night of the year;
May you weather all the storms of winter;
and May fortune smile upon you with the lengthening of days.
Brightest Blessings

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Great Faith in Fools

Trust, as we like to think of it, is a fundamentally flawed notion. Much like love, we take a family of similar but still different emotions and tendencies and label them as a single thing.

"I trust you with my life," is a nearly meaningless statement. The fact is that most people, rightly so, have faith in the basic goodness of individuals.

Let's say that I was to suspend myself from a block and tackle above a forest of razor sharp spikes. Let's also say that I did this in the middle or Times' Square on a busy Saturday. Let's also say that you are the one holding the other end of the rope and that it is only your grip that keeps me from falling to my impalement. I'm confident that you could grab virtually any passer-by in the metropolis of New York City and then, after showing them my predicament, force the rope into their hand and they would not drop me. Insomuch as this, I am willing to trust any stranger on the street with my life.

This example is melodramatic in the extreme but the fact remains, virtually any sane person, when put into a clear cut situation of 'do X right now or Y person will die before your eyes' will act, at huge inconvenience and even danger to themself, to preserve the life of stranger Y.

Put more succinctly, there are many more people that I will trust with my life than I will trust with my wallet.

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Silence and Winter

As a child I could hear my own heartbeat and the rush of blood in my ears if the room was quiet enough. I didn't realize what it was until I was quite a bit older. At the time it sounded like someone walking in deep snow.


On Film Making - The "C" Stand

I've heard it said by a number of super-indie shooters that the only thing that you need to shoot a movie is a camera. This is true but the idea of shooting without a truck full of C-Stands seems really daunting.

Arguably the most versatile piece of film support equipment, the Century Grip Stand goes back to some of the earliest days of film making. It's been in use for over one hundred years and some even go so far as to say that Edison, himself invented them, though I doubt that's true.

Expressly, they're for one of two purposes, holding very small lights and for holding the things that then manipulate that light. In my experience, light heads small enough to be safely mounted on a C-stand like Inkys and Jokers aren't used that often so the Electrics only have a handful of these. The Grip department, however, will likely have dozens, if not hundreds, of these devices.

Generally, C-stands hold flags, nets, frames, kookalorises, mole trees and all the other grip equipment used in painting with light. More prosaically, I've seen them used to build courtesy tents, hold up portable sound studios, prop up false walls, hold monitors, create cyc screens, mock up false windows, grip boom poles and place hold for actors' eyelines.

No other device rivals the C-stand for versatility. In fact, I've heard it said that it came to be called the "Century" stand because it can be configured in over 100 distinct ways.*

In terms of construction, it's a simple set of telescoping cylinders on top of a tripod. The legs of the tripod are each a different height to facilitate putting a number of stands in close quarters. At the top is a standard grip pin. Generally a gobo head and arm are attached to the pin.** When all three risers are extended and the arm vertical they approach thirteen feet in height. The whole thing then collapses flat for easy transport and storage. Additionally, there are a handful of variations on the C-stand for particular applications. A "Gary Coleman" is a miniature C-stand, only two feet or so high, for instance.

I cannot overstate the importance of this piece of equipment. If you're in film school, familiarize yourself with this bit of gear. If you're thinking about starting a production company, get some of these. They're one of the few pieces of equipment that can be picked up relatively cheaply. If you're in a production office talking to the rental house and you can't get in touch with your Key Grip to find out if the order is exactly what he specified, always default to a half dozen extra. C-stands, when in abundance, can substitute for at least a dozen other pieces of equipment but absolutely nothing is an adequate substitute for the C-stand. One day, when I no longer have to share an office, I will build my shelves and floor lamps from C-stands and my desk from Apple Boxes just to impress on others how vital this kind of equipment is. Am I making sense here?

The very practices of Gripping and Gaffing are predicated on the assumption that there are plenty of C-stands go go around. Excepting Apple Boxes, they are the most ubiquitous item on a professional film shoot. All other pieces of film gear are designed to interface with them. They are such a staple of the industry that trying to light a movie without them would be a bit like trying to make a cake without mixers or spatulas.

Speaking of which, Apple Boxes, but that's a screed for another time.

*The name actually comes from the original C-stands extending to 100 inches in height.

**Technically, the gobo arm and the stand are separate bits of gear but they are so often sold, used and stored in this configuration that they are assumed to go together, even though the arm has many other uses independent of the stand, itself.

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Bloated, wasteful, hubristic, nearly useless bits of culturally sanctioned normalcy. They are everything that was wrong with the 50's station wagon but larger, louder and less efficient. They are the most obvious sign of a large fraction of the American populace that has become separated physically and psychically from the rest of human kind, icons of anesthetised suburbia.

After more than fifteen years of automotive domination, I take little comfort in the fact that they have become an economically and socially untenable industrial dinosaur.

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While Canada's on Fire...

The rain comes down in sheets and the coffee shop is completely full but no one says a word. You've spent much of the morning walking the razor's edge between introspective joy and economic terror. You find yourself chuckling to yourself, tapping your foot and making a hand written list of the things you hate.

Just one of those days.


Spare Me Your Indifference

I've been difficult to be around lately, it's true.

Outside of my blog I'm writing something of some length. The main character in which is a pure misanthrope. He is openly venomous towards all the machinations of humankind and generally despises everyone and everything.

Hilarity ensues.

Anyway, for the people who have noticed a change in my demeanor, please understand that I currently spend several hours each day sitting by myself and concentrating on hating absolutely everything around me. Understandably, this has an effect on the rest of my life. I hope to be done with the first draft before Giftmas and should be back to my regular, only mildly vitriolic self.

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Wikipedia Will Kill You

Before I get into this screed, I should disclaim that I love the Wikimedia foundation. They are on their way to fundamentally changing the way we learn. Their flagship project, Wikipedia is an important staple of the internet that has empowered individuals, expanded public discourse and generally done the noble work of making people smarter.

That having been said, beware what you find on Wiki's.

On WikiHow today I found THIS ARTICLE* on what to do if one's parachute fails to open.

The information contained herein is incorrect. Not just mistaken, no, it is absolutely and completely, from top to bottom, outright, bass-ackwards wrong and attempting the, supposedly lifesaving, technique explained here would likely kill not only you but whoever was dumb enough to try it with you.

This piece was clearly not written by a skydiver. Any of us who've been through a day one jump course knows better than this. Whoever wrote this has spent more time watching poorly researched movies about skydiving than they ever have spent researching the sport, itself.

The technique explained, essentially bear-hugging another jumper through their harness and having them deploy their canopy for both people, is unnecessary, impractical and dangerous, probably more dangerous than the chute malfunction that might prompt someone to attempt it in the first place.

First, skydivers break off our formation well above their deployment altitude. We track away from each other, ideally until there is more than one hundred feet between any two jumpers, before pitching our pilot chutes. If, at that time, one of us realized that we were having a catastrophic malfunction, we would likely not have time to track back to and dock with another jumper before both became meat waffles.

Second, even if one could accomplish the dock and the other jumper was able to deploy one shoot for both, the reduced drag profile and increased weight of two people falling together would mean that the pair were falling much faster than normal. Deploying a canopy at high speeds, while carrying double the usual weight is likely to snap the suspension lines or tear the nylon, collapsing the canopy and landing both people in a more precarious situation than.

Third, supposing, just for the sake of argument that one could pull all of this off, whoever managed to do it would have to be a highly experienced skydiver. No novice could manage it. More advanced jumpers tend to use canopies that are smaller in relation to their weight, often much smaller, than those used by their less experienced compatriots. We call this comparison between weight and size of canopy "wingloading" and I'm not going to go into any detail but, suffice to say, the smaller the parachute and the more weight suspended beneath it, the faster it travels, faster down and faster forward. Additionally, though a rig laden with two jumpers would go faster, it won't break any harder so the jumper piloting the canopy would have less steerability. Even if a pair of jumpers could deploy and get to the ground safely, they would have to land going twice as fast than if either of them was alone and with less control over the canopy.

Fourth, by FAA mandate, all civilian skydiving rigs are equipped with a second, reserve canopy. It is spring-loaded and packed in a manner intended to reduce or eliminate malfunctions. This canopy is, by law, inspected, maintained and repacked by an FAA certified parachute rigger no less than every 160 days. Reserve parachutes are some of the most well designed, extensively tested and reliable pieces of safety equipment on the planet and they make stunts like this absolutely unnecessary.

Finally, and this is the reason that I'm writing a diatribe on my blog rather than a hotly worded letter sent in triplicate to the FAA, FIA and USPA. Anybody who's had a first day's jump course, anyone who's had the tiniest bit of training, knows better than to try something so ridiculous. Sure, there are hugely experienced demo and stunt divers with thousands of jumps who have done exactly this maneuver but they do it as a stunt, not as a life saving enterprise. In either case, these are extremely advanced jumpers that aren't going to be getting survival advice from WikiHow.

The real point being, Wiki's can be edited by anyone. Generally, this means that they are self-regulating, with the best and most correct ideas gaining the most traction. At other times, though, they can be outright wrong, perhaps dangerously so.

Reader beware.

* I actually added to the article in both the Tips and in the Warnings sections to try and impress upon readers how unrealistic this article is.

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Species of Falsehood.

When one asserts something that is false but that they honestly believe to be true, we don't accuse them of lying. Mistaken, uninformed, incorrect, undereducated and a number of other less charitable things that may insult their upbringing and intelligence, yes, but we don't impune their integrity by calling them a liar.

What about situations in which a person asserts something that is clearly and demonstrably false but genuinely believes it to be true even though they really should know better? Do we have a word for someone who deliberately ignores or avoids information that would cause them to concede their incorrectness?

This is the problem with young Earth creationists, abstinence only proponents, laissez-faire market advocates, many card players and all scriptural literalists. They're not liars; their intent is not to deceive but rather to spread ideas that they cannot comprehend as being false.

What is the word for that?

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Is Ten Dollars Still Money?

When I go to see a movie on which I've worked or when I buy the DVD of that movie, should I feel good about supporting the endeavor on which I and my compatriots worked so hard or should I feel cheated because ours is one of the minority of industries that doesn't offer a discount to its employees when purchasing one of their own products?

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Morning on Bald Mountain

From the summit of Stone Mountain one can clearly see the miasma of pollution that enshrouds Atlanta. A vomit colored ribbon hovers some fifteen hundred feet above the city, beginning, quite distinctly, above five points and continuing nearly fifteen miles into Sandy Springs.

I live only a mile from downtown Atlanta and the air is, by comparison to other metropolises, quite breathable, lacking the industrial city-stench so obvious in Manhattan, Chicago and London. Though, if I ever thought the air in the Phoenix city was clean, yesterday's hike divested me of that illusion.


A Breath in a High Wind.

If you want to be alone, the best time is between four and five a.m. on a Tuesday. All the night owls have gone to roost and all the morning folks (venomous creatures) are yet to stir. One can walk the long lengths of yellow lines on urban thoroughfares unmolested an unquestioned.

If you want to go unnoticed, the best time is between nine and ten a.m. on a Wednesday. Everyone you might wake has gone to their worthless sales of labor. Anyone you do wake can't care to care. The world that might give you credence has gone to ground and you're left with nothing but hard, hateful morning.


The Good, the Bad and the Fugly

I've been re-reading a number of the materials that I had first been through during film school, books, articles, reviews and academic analyses.

While much of it, probably a third, remains illuminating, most of it seems irrelevant when re-framed in the context of my professional rather than academic life. Moreover, the handful of books that have been most influential to me I discovered long after I had finished my time in university.

Mostly, I'm troubled by the critics', both academic and popular, hangups on the ephemeral ideals of 'good' versus 'bad' film making. This is a concept that I categorically reject. Film is simply too expansive, too complex, too collaborative and too polyglot a discipline for a work to simply be labeled 'good' or 'bad' or with any such attendant superlative of those words.

Evocative, boring, engaging, character driven, wordy, amateurish, frenetic, tightly composed, saccharine, anachronistic, confusing, artistically daring, intellectual, lyrical, depressing, low-brow, uneven, hackneyed, relevant, gut wrenching, colorful, languid, unique, senseless, entertaining, gory, ill-concieved and unwatchable: such words I will accept but 'good' and 'bad,' no.

Granted, in casual conversation, I'm fine with these words as a shorthand for 'I liked it / didn't like it (for any one of a myriad of reasons)' but critics and scholars, don't dare be so lazy.


The Only Show I Ever Really Watched.

I love The West Wing, love it, love it, love it.

Why do I love it?

Is it because it was nearly prescient in it's prediction of a minority president? Is it because it has some of the best acting in television history? Is it because, ideologically speaking, it's tantamount to liberal porn?

No, none of these things.

I love The West Wing because it is the only show I have ever watched to which I must pay active attention in order to keep up. It is the only program that engages my intellect at an aggressive pace. It is the only televisual hour that rises substantially above the fray of the vast wasteland.

Sadly, it's no longer on the air. I'll have to make due with DVD and Bravo.

Well, there is Jeopardy.