The Best You Can Hope for is do Die in Your Sleep

I came into the tournament with the fifth-smallest stack. Out of a field of thirty-two, all of whom had spent the last four months accumulating points in the twice-weekly regular games, only four had fewer chips than I. The initial chip leader had me stacked better than eight to one. I was doomed.

Or so I thought.

I doubled up less than twenty minutes in but played too conservatively for a while and, by the time we were down to twelve, I was dangerously short stacked. I got aggressive, almost reckless for a bit but stayed in, keeping my stack at almost precisely the tournament median.

The four hand and the three hand rarely made it to the flop. It was all-in's and folds for fifteen solid minutes. I called once and put someone out. The other guy did likewise and it came down to just the two of us. Again, we took turns going all in on our hole cards and letting the other fold. I was weak-willed, I suppose, as I let a fairly substantial lead get nickle & dimed away.

Then I remembered something I once heard Doyle Brunson say in an interview, "When it's heads-up, any two cards will do."

He went all in before the flop and, our stacks almost identical, I called with King-Seven. He had pocket Queens but I caught a Seven on the flop and a King on the turn. When we counted out, I found that I had him covered by less than two percent. I had won.

Sure, it was tavern poker, a free gimick to keep patrons in the bar on slow nights. Sure, the grand prize bounty was only a hundred dollar gift card. Sure, no one but I will remember these events in six months time. The stakes don't really matter. What matters is that, on that one night, on that one occasion, I was a champion.

The truth is that, in any form of competition, there are many more losers than winners. Only a tiny fraction ever get to stand at the top of the podium in any capacity. Many people go their whole adult lives without ever having that, without ever being able to say, "Today I defeated all comers."

For what little it counts, I got to say that.

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Candle & Bell

The  Ex-Wife gave me a book for my birthday. It's a fine, leather bound book, with thick, rough-hewn pages that were milled and pressed by hand. It's a beautiful thing, really, a joy of craftsmanship. And, it is blank. It's meant to be a journal, perhaps a scrap book or a codex for pencil sketches. I'm glad to have it.

But, I've no idea what to put in it, none whatsoever. 

I've kept a steady journal my entire adult life. It's grown to dozens of hand written volumes all neatly stashed on a shelf in my bedroom. It's been a good exercise, both for writing as a craft and living as an art form. Keeping my thoughts on paper has been good for me. I pen my missives in cheap, board-bound little diaries that I buy at Barnes & Noble for three dollars apiece. I'm much too prolific to do otherwise. 

This book, though, is special. I can't simply fill it with the mullings and chaff that overflow my other journals when they get sick of loitering between my ears. I've no skill in the visual arts; I can't draw. I could compose something especially for it, but I tend to go through so many drafts that I'll end up wanting to rewrite whatever I put in there a dozen more times.

It's such a lovely thing, such an artifact that I feel I need to do it justice with what I put into it, that I must counter the thought of its giving with the thoughts behind its use. Do I make a scrap book of it? No, she'd hate that. Perhaps I could take a stab at a more traditional diary? A store for pictures, a memoir of particular occasions, a collection of rubbings? I'm quite at the loss.



The Rockets' Red Glare

It was early morning, not yet seven, and sixty thousand of us had roused ourselves before dawn on a bank holiday and trudged through chill and drizzle to run one of the world's largest foot races.

It was a pretty good event. The rain petered out after the first fifteen minutes. The pace groups were well distributed. The minor changes to the route were insignificant. The shirts were a better design than in years past. The volunteer staff was awesome. Sure, Piedmont park was a muddy mess, but that goes with having sixty thousand exhausted people muddle across the grass following a night of heavy precipitation.

One thing vexed me, though, and vexed me badly. And so, I have this to say to the five or so percent of participants that I hereby declare guilty:

Take your hat off, stand still and be respectful during the national anthem.

I don't care that is was raining. I certainly don't care about the state of your hair. I could give a shit that you were phyching up for a major physical challenge. It doesn't matter if you're a citizen, an alien, or a visitor. It doesn't matter how important your phone call is. I'm not saying you need to salute, put your hand on your heart, sing along, or even face the flag. I am saying that you need to be respectful: lose the hat, quit the chitchat and quit moving.

This isn't about jingoism or about misplaced nationalism. It doesn't matter whether you voted for the guy in the Oval Office. It doesn't matter if you agree with the most recent act of Congress or with a current Supreme Court decision. It is of no consequence if you object to particular statutes regarding taxation, firearms, foreign policy, capital punishment, or the legal status of the unborn. This is not about politics or creed; it's about country.

I fully understand that refusing to stand for, to uncover for or to otherwise acknowledge the National Anthem is a valid form of political protest. But, let's be honest, you're not Tommie Smith or John Carlos, you don't have the world's eye; you haven't organized with like minded individuals to accomplish targeted social and political goals. You're just a prick who thinks you're too important to take sixty seconds to pay homage to the nation that provides for you economically, enfranchises you politically, and defends you martially. You probably under tip in restaurants and talk in the theater.

I'm not proposing a law, nor any other mode of coercion to force individuals' compliance on this. This is the U.S.ofA., after all, and we hold that it's your privilege to do pretty much whatever you want, even if what you want is to be a ass. You're not any less of an ass for being allowed to be.

And, just so I've said it, if you're an American and you find yourself in another country, or in the presence of others from another country, you should pay as much homage to their national anthem as you do our own. It's just the respectful and civilized thing to do.

Play it, Jimi.

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Haste Makes Movies

For as much as I love my job, and as much as I like to talk about it, I've gotten to the point that I don't like to talk about my work with anyone that might want to sell me something. The world at large seems to think that Hollywood is an infinite well of dollars, overflowing with cash. While we're known for some extravagances, a movie is not simply a money spigot. I can't have a conversation in a bar anymore without someone accosting me about either how to get a job, which I've covered before, or how they can they hock their particular product or service to the productions in town.

They're not wrong to do this; doing business with a film production can be very lucrative. I know a number of businesses that truly took off once they began to work with film and television productions. Be warned though, we're a hard nut to crack. Most local companies just don't have a head for how we conduct ourselves. Certain vendors just know how to play the game our way and, most of the time, those are the vendors we go with, whether or not they're the cheapest or the nicest .

All of that said, I have only two pieces of advice if you want to do business with the movie industry: be fast and be available.

Some industries have ingrained turn-around times: by close of business, twenty-four hours, three to five business days. Not with us. Call me back in the next five minutes. You need to have fast call backs. You need to have same-day service. You need to be able to deliver quotes, invoices and other documentation as soon as they are asked for. You need to be able to fix problems as quickly as they arise. We're on a mission, not a campaign and everything needs to be done right now. If I have to wait for something, more likely than not, that means that the whole show is waiting for something. Much like how we're up shit creek if certain people oversleep, we're just as bothered if I can't know in ten minutes if a certain piece of equipment, a certain location, a certain bit of documentation is available.

More often than not, it's the vendor that meets our time scales that gets our business. And, our time scale is almost always right fucking now.

Additionally, we work all hours and we need our vendors to be available at those hours. All of the professional class rental houses, all of the entertainment-centric travel agencies, all of my clearing houses, facilities managers, processing labs and freight companies have after-hours numbers where I can reach an actual person, usually, someone I know by name.

It happens on every show that I get a phone call in the middle of the night saying that the weather has turned south, that an actor has gotten ill or, sickeningly, some other vendor dropped the ball, and we can't do tomorrow's work as planned. Everything needs to be rearranged by six am; can I get the right kind of camera mount, the right kind of vehicle, the right kind of expertise in place in the next few hours?

That's pretty much it. Whether you're trying to get my show to rent your dumpsters, buy your expendables or use your underwater welding services,*  be fast, five minutes fast, have all the information at your fingertips, and be available 'round the clock. Do these things you've already got a big leg up on just about everybody else that isn't already a movie specific company.

To people like me, the most hateful words in the world are "Three to five business days."

*Yes, I've had to hire an underwater welder. That was a fun show that presented some unique challenges.


Hold me Closer, Tony Danza

I was never one of those music obsessed teenagers that poured over liner notes*, but there are some song lyrics that have always bugged me a little.

When Marc Cohn took his walk in Memphis, was it raining the whole time, or just when he got off the plane?

If, as told to me by Alannah Myles, Black Velvet is a new religion that will bring me to my knees, is there either a portrait of Elvis Presley or a cadre of dogs playing poker involved?

Mr. Cohen, Mr. Wainright, and Mr. Bono, has it not occurred to you that if this woman tied you to a kitchen chair, broke your throne and then cut your hair, I assume without your permission, that you might not be in the most healthy relationship?

Does Tommy think it matters if he and Gina make it or not? He seems to be kind of ambivalent about it. On the one hand, he says it doesn't make a difference but two lines later he swears that they will, in fact, make it.

Why does Billy Joel feel so much pressure from watching Sesame Street on channel 13?

Everclear wants to buy me "a new car" that is "perfect, shiny and new." Did they just run out of adjectives half way through the chorus?

What is it that Marvin Lee Aday won't do for love?

Finally, Paul Simon, please explain the entire Graceland album to me. I just don't understand what you're talking about.

Just some things I've been wondering about.

*For those of you born after 1990, we used to get music on physical media, like records, tapes and CD's. These would usually include a booklet containing information about the band, the particulars of the recording and the lyrics to the songs. It was like having your own little piece of Google.


Winter is Coming

It's been a mild summer in Georgia and I'm thankful for it.

The mercury has not topped one hundred degrees (38C). Normally, there's a fortnight in Georgia's high summer when the heat hits you like a blast as you exit buildings, like the whole world was made of the exhalations of diesel exhaust and the puffing from your dryer's rear vents. You sweat openly on the stroll from the door to the car. Streets are nearly deserted during the day's hottest hours.

Those who know no better will point out that most western cities, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Vegas, often top us by fifteen and twenty degrees on the hottest August days, but that old adage about wet and dry heat is not a lie (As I type this, the humidity is 91%, and it's not expected to rain today). For a third of the year, the southeast feels like a pile of wilted vegetables. From Louisiana to North Carolina, people stoop and slouch like fifty-six million deteriorating popsicles. It's hateful, oppressive.

 It's nearly done, though. The forecast indicates that the temperature will begin to fall in the next week, signaling the end of summer weather. Like an aging pole vaulter, the midday high will cease to top itself, its best showing creeping lower and lower with each pass until, some for or five months hence, it bottoms out in the forties (4-5C). Overnight lows will be below freezing. I can't wait.

I grew up in England and in the upper midwest and, despite nearly a quarter century here, I have never gotten used to the slick, sweaty, subtropical heat of the American southeast. Snow is so much more appealing than kudzu.

I'm taking my heavy coat to the cleaners. I'm going to give my long sleeve shirts a good wash to exorcise six month's of closet whiff. I'm just itching for the leaves to drop. Winter can't get here fast enough.

It's been a much colder and wetter year that usual. Maybe it will snow.

I can hope.


A Day of Ghosts

A dear friend of mine departed to move cross country today. We were once daily parts of each other's lives but we're not nearly that close anymore, having seen one another on only a half dozen occasions in the last year or so. Despite this I can't help but feel that there isn't a certain finality to today.

It is likely that we will never see one another again.

And so, I spend most of today thinking that, out of the corner of my eye, I see all my haven't-seen-since friends. Hey, that looks like Izzy, but she went off to be a third-world missionary a decade ago, married a UNICEF auditor and never came home. That's the same kind of car that my ex-girlfriend drove, but she totaled that car years ago. The voice chatting over my shoulder could be my favorite boss from my days in fine dining, but he got divorced, lost his citizenship, and had to move back to Switzerland when the president still had a middle initial. Passing in the street, a man has the same build, same gait, same combination of sunglasses and beaten baseball cap that were so distinctive on my college room mate, but that guy is much too young. That guy over there might be Kitten, but he turns around and I remember that Kitten has been buried and that's just someone with a similar taste in hairstyle.

There's all sorts of discourse, all manner of cultural artifacts about meeting people, about making friends and currying new relationships. There are self-help books, networking mixers, social media, gamified relationship apps for my smarter-than-I-need phone. The whole world seems crushing down with geologic force meant to press us into one another's company until all the billions are friends, though I don't know what that word would mean in such a situation.

We don't think or talk much about the people who walk out of our lives. I don't mean the people we've wronged, or been wronged by; I don't mean the people we've willfully discarded. I mean the people we've idly left behind: the coworker we never see once they've been transferred, the study buddy who falls from memory once we've graduated, the cousin we lose touch with once the family elders have passed, the moved away neighbor, the coffee shop chum, and the magnanimous lover that we just never talk to anymore.

There is no ritual, no customary set of gestures, no incantation to recognize the passing of a person out of our life, and perhaps there should be. Goodbyes are as important as hello's.


Press Close, Magnetic, Nourishing Night!

Two weeks since my last show ended, another week until the new one begins, and I've found myself where I so often do, given this situation.

I've gone full-on vampire.

I went to bed at ten o'clock this morning and got up at seven in the evening. I slept through the entire meaningful part of the day and I don't even feel bad about it.

I stopped being a morning person some time around my sixth birthday. I've never liked getting up early and I've never been any good at it. When I get up before noontime, I'm groggy all through the day. I'm sluggish. Everything seems oppressive and disengaging. Even my memory suffers in the bright light of day. I don't do my best work; I'm not at my most effective or alert until dusk. I'm perfectly comfortable seeing the sun come up just before I go to bed.

Sure, it takes some getting used to and it takes a certain panache at scheduling each day. I have to be sure to be up past nine in the morning so that I can accomplish those things that can only be done in the daytime: in-person banking, doctors' appointments, most shopping, auto repairs and often eating anywhere that doesn't offer "breakfast anytime." That does present its challenges, true, but so does wrestling with an alarm clock every dawn.

And so, until the next show forces me back to the diurnal,  pay no worship to the garish sun.


You Can't Win if You Don't Play

"Wow, something happened here, didn't it?" She asked, more of a statement, really an acknowledgement that I looked like hell. And, I did.

Only a few minutes before, I'd been in a good place. The show had finally hit a stride. The days, though still long and demanding, had become predictable. Until this week it had been ten blue bolts, two biblical plagues and at least one unfolding movie-maker nightmare each day. Nothing was going right. Balls, once confidently juggled, had fallen to the floor so that I could see which ones most resembled eggs and which fine china. I'd been exhausted, at wit's end, and for the first time in my career, I spent more than a fleeting minute wondering if I was really cut out for the job. Three weeks into photography, though, the dust devils petered out and a rhythm had finally established itself.

Finished with my work in a paltry thirteen hours, I took to the hotel gym for some long-ignored exercise. I was twenty minutes into what I had planned as a ninety minute session on the recumbent bicycle. The hills were set at maximum, my pulse had finally broken 140 and a glistening torque of perspiration encircled my neckline when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned and found my late-shift office counterpart standing behind me. I extracted my headphones and he said those three tiny that every man in my job fears to hear. "FedEx didn't come."

Shit. This is bad, very bad. This is the kind of terrible that I would express as a DefCon level if I could ever remember whether higher or lower was worse for DefCon kind of stuff. It was seven fifty-seven in the evening. The latest FedEx dropoff in this are was at eight-fifteen and it was twenty minutes away by car. Moreover, one of the packages was a first overnight for an Oscar-winning makeup artist who was attached to our lead actor, and for whom we'd already fucked up one major cross country shipment. It's Friday and I'm the only one who hasn't left town that knows the route.

Without a word, I dash out of the hotel gym and sprint the seven flights of stairs to my room to get my keys. I run back down the six flights of stairs to the lobby. On the last flight, I slip on ten years' accumulated slime and put my head into the un-finished cinder block wall, scraping my face and shoulder. Bleeding only slightly, I run to the parking deck, where I find my distressed colleague putting the last of the packages in my car (he knows I never lock my doors.) I crank up the engine, tailgate out beneath the retracting arm and veer into traffic. I probably average ninety miles an hour down the highway to the airport FedEx dispatch.

My car fishtails as I swerve into the lot and I screech to a halt just in front of the entrance. I arrive two minutes late but before they lock the doors. Panting, drenched in sweat, swaddled in dirty workout clothes, reeking of burnt rubber and bleeding from the face, I hand the stack of envelopes and packages to the fairy-tale monster of a woman behind the counter.

 "Wow, something happened here, didn't it?"  she says, not really expecting an answer.

 "Yes," I said, "Victory."


Infinity PLUS ONE!

The English language has some foibles, probably more than the majority of concurrent tongues. Our grammar is uneven, ascriptions of meaning can be arbitrary and there are oh-so-many-instances of 'that's just how you say it.' The most discerning of us, even professional linguists, have trouble with some of the minutiae of the language. I, for instance, will probably never master "Lay" and "Lie." But there's one point of English, moreover, one point of rhetoric that really apprehends my impala.

Not all words have a superlative. Their tone, their insinuation of meaning, cannot be increased through the application of adverbs or descriptive clauses and trying to do so will turn an otherwise articulate individual into a babbling yokel.

There are three such instances where I find individuals make these errors.

First are words that already connote the ends of the spectrum that cannot be surpassed. They tend to come in pairs and the generally end with the suffix "est": most/least, biggest/smallest, furthest/nearest. This is the mistake that seems to appear the least. It's almost a toddler's trope, something said by proto-lingual children who have not yet reached the conservation phase of psychological development. No less, I oh-too-often hear adults say, "That's the most dumbest thing ever." Those people are idiots.

More vexing are those people who misuse words that connote an absolute state*: unique, impossible, omnipotent, infinite**, individual, universal, etc. These ideas do not have varying degrees. These words cannot be superlatized because anything that modifies them alters their very definition. One thing cannot be more unique than another; they are each one of a kind or not.

What nettles me is hearing absolute terms coupled with superlatizing words in ways that are intellectually lazy. "She's the most unique person I know," is a non-statement. They mean "She's the most engaging, creative, memorable or the least like those around her, person that I know."

Finally, there are those places where superlatives are not strictly incorrect but where they are rhetorically clunky, the moments when the idea encapsulated in the word does not lend itself to being altered: very historical, most immense, extremely starving. Even though there's no structural error to this last set of examples, they're the ones that bother me the most.

Words are weapons. Keep them sharp and use them wisely.

* I concede that there is some metaphorical wiggle room with these terms. For instance, when referring to pre-natal development, we often say that one woman is more pregnant than another even though pregnancy is a binary state. I'm unbothered by such use, though I'd like to see someone come up with a more elegant way to express that thought.

** I understand that, when used as a strictly mathematical term, there are degrees of infinity. I'm not referring to these instances, which are very narrow in scope (which is funny given this particular word).  The folks who are going to make this mistake are not using the word in this sense. Besides, I'm not a mathematician, I'm a language harpy.


The Magic Number

They say the first million words are practice.*

Who 'they' are, I've never been so sure but 'they' have been responsible for every great flub in all of human history. "They're preparing for war." "They've been trying to cure cancer for a hundred years." "They've developed a handy appliance that can scramble an egg while it's still insides it's shell." "They never see it coming." I'm not sure how much stock I put in what they have to say about it.

That quip, having been quipped, I now wonder, how much have I written? And, I mean deliberately, conscientiously written. I'm discarding texts, notes, holiday cards and casual emails. How much have I written where I put any craft into the smithing of words, any muse or music? A handful of essays for minor niche publications, a dozen volumes of personal journals, hundreds of blog posts, easily a thousand pages of academic research and professional documentation and, most importantly, three aborted novels.

How many words is that?

Let's say my journals, the small hard-backed kind I've been scribbling in since I was a teenager, each 110 leaves, have space for 100 words per page. That's 22,000 words per volume, of which I've filled about one every nine months for at least fifteen years. That's 440,000 words right there.

According to my software, this blog has some 358 publish posts. That number surprises me, though I don't know whether I feel it's high or low. Taking a guess at my output on my handful of previous blogs, I feel safe eyeballing a career 500 posts of greatly varying length. A glance at a few puts my guess at a median 500 words. That's another 250,000.

Academic and professional correspondence, I can only begin to guess. I know that the stack of college papers and work documents I keep at home require a drawer almost a foot deep and it's nearly full. That's just the stuff I chose to keep. Everything I wrote my freshman and sophmore years is long since discarded and the greatest part of the words to paper for work I never think twice on. This is just the stuff I thought worthy of one day rereading. 250 words to a double-spaced page and easily four reams of paper in that drawer! Even if pithy memos make up a third of the lot, that's 350,000 words.

Dozens on dozens of false-start short stories and half completed novellas. Sheaves of scenes, character descriptions, vignettes and word studies written only for pleasure and private practice. How much? Much more than will fit in a stack of binders, perhaps 250,000 more words. And, then my first two novels, neither of which I wrote with the intention of publication. The first I wrote because I was inspired, eager and bored with the rest of my life. Although, it's too long, it might be readable, with a good dose of editing and a fiscal quarter's re-writing. The second, also indulgently long, might have a good twist of phrase or two, but I'll never offer it to be read. I wrote it because I was angry and heartbroken and too poor for therapy. Call them each 100,000.

Someone check my math: one million, four hundred and ninety-thousand words. My math is sketchy, I concede, but even give or take twenty-five percent, that still puts me well over a million words penned in my adult life. That's a lot, much more that I thought I actually had to say.

What about that last novel? That third one that I was pecking at over the winter. The one that was coming out so easily? It needs revision, certainly, everything I write does but, is it time? I don't feel ready but I don't know how much more practice is practical. What am I to do with words 1,490,001 - 1,580,000? If, as they insist that the first million words are practice, then I think I'm about done practicing and should be getting dressed for opening day.**

How's this going to turn out?

* By "they", I mean Stephen King, to whom the quote is most often attributed, but I had to feign ignorance or you would have been bereft of my world-weary wit.

** Did you think that was a sports or an art/theatre reference? Just curious. That assumption says a lot about a person.

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Glad I Left the Swamp

This is a repost, but it's as true now as it was when I first wrote it.

The film, more than any other, that made me want to one day work in the movie business was the original "The Muppet Movie."

I can even remember the scene, right at the very beginning, just after Kermit is done singing "The Rainbow Connection." Dom DeLuise, lost in the swamp and beset by alligators, says to Kermit as he sits on a log in the middle of nowhere, "Singing, Telling jokes, playing the banjo, who knows, if you get your tongue fixed, you could make millions of people happy."

As Arnie, the agent, paddles away in his rowboat, Kermit muses for a moment and says aloud, "Millions of people happy?" And, the scene cuts to Kermit, riding his bicycle and on his way to the dream factory.

Kermit left the swamp, traveled across the US, gathering a band of dreamers, dodging the machinations of a murderous fast food entrepreneur and having all sorts of misadventures with the express intention of "Making millions of people happy."

It's been more than twenty-five years since I first saw that movie. Since then, I've seen it at least fifty more times. I even wrote a paper about it my senior year in film school. More than any lust for fame; which I'm not likely to get, more than any greed for riches: a losing proposition in today's media market, that one statement did more to inform and inspire my younger self to this career than any other, "To make millions of people happy."

I don't much acknowledge that ideal anymore. In the interim decades and through two different movie careers, I've become much more of a mercenary. I don't pick my shows based on their message, their artistry or what awards they might win. I pick my shows based on the rate of pay, the length of the engagement, the places I might get to travel and how much I like the UPM. Owing to the fact that my work is administrative and virtually none of my contribution actually ends up in the screen, whether or not anyone who watches or likes the movie doesn't much figure into my professional calculus.

This morning, though, I remembered what that old desire was like. I got a hint of why I got into this in the first place combined with a token to my own adult vanity, a touch of mercenary pride and the chance to "Make millions of people happy."

Weekend of April 13th, 2013, we're number one at the box office.


For Each & All, A Chrome Disguise

Facebook, in theory, gives me the option to filter content.

That content filter is woefully inadequate, though. I can block individual users. I can block certain applications. I can block event invitations but that's not what I'm interested in avoiding. The people I don't want to hear from, I can just delete. The apps and invites that don't interest me are just so much spam, skimmed passed and ignored like any other junk mail.

What I need is an option to filter out the things that I would avoid in casual conversation. All the things that I wouldn't talk to you about in person, I also need not see those things in my Facebook feed. I'm not saying that you shouldn't post them, but, as when mingling at a party, there are topics that I should be able to duck, even from people I know and care for. It might be something that offends me, something I've heard too many times, something I know to be a fish story or, most commonly, something I simply don't give a shit about.

I do not care what you are cooking for dinner and I don't want to see pictures of it nor be told how hard it is to cut under-ripe avocados or somesuch.

I do not need an hourly update about the banalities of your life, where you're shopping, what movie you're about to see, why you were late to work, how loud your neighbors are, how disappointed you were with the mid-season cliffhanger, or how tiring the drive back from Albuquerque was.

Unless it is a semi-pro class or better event in which you are personally participating, I don't want to hear about sports, not ever.

I do not care about your pets.

Unless you are suggesting a legitimate solution to a national problem and have already detailed that solution in a concise and penetrating letter to your Senator, I do not want to hear your political opinions.

And, I absolutely, positively, under no circumstances want to hear banal observations about, nor see pictures of your children. Neither you, nor your kids are special enough to interest me. I'm not saying that you shouldn't be a proud and conscientious parent, but I am saying that lower primates routinely raise their offspring to adulthood without fanfare. You cannot expect me to applaud you accomplishing monkeys can do.

With all of that ranted, I want to be clear, I'm not saying that you shouldn't post such things. We live in a nation that protects our freedom of expression. We should be glad of that and express ourselves loudly and proudly. What I am saying is that, like in the real world, I should have the option not to listen. Of course, you're saying, "Tom, you aren't obligated to read any of these things. You can just ignore it!" In principle, you're correct, except that I am now at an age where such things make up a majority of the posts that make it into my Newsfeed. And, because the algorithm that FB uses to determine what is in the Newsfeed is basically voodoo, I have no real idea as to what I'm missing because a friend of a friend posted twenty consecutive puppy rescue links.

Put another way, I'm worried that things I do legitimately want to hear, serious insights, original witticisms, pictures devoid of snark, tales of old friends in crisis overcoming adversity and an honest update on the state of the lives of others, are getting crowded out by banality.

Zuckerberg, I'm looking at you.


An Army of One

An example of how movie making differs from other professions.

Our Script Supervisor overslept and missed the crew van from the hotel. This led everyone to freak out. We're calling her on her cell. The AD's are calling her on her cell. I'm on the phone with the front desk, bullying the GM of the hotel to personally go to her room. My assistant is sending a PA to the hotel, shoo'ing him out the door with no instructions other than 'go to the hotel, run, we'll call you with details, go, now.'

Our day literally ground to a halt while we searched for this one person because we simply cannot proceed without them. We can't shoot without a script supervisor to monitor the continuity, time the takes, record the relevant direction and log everything for the editors. It's a highly specific discipline that can take years to master so it's not like just any person can step in and fill her roll, even if the union were to allow such a thing, which they won't.

Moreover, she's not terribly unique in this regard. There are dozens of people without whom shooting simply stops and it's not just the Director, DP, and lead actors. This could happen for the DIT, Gaffer, Costume Designer, Stunt Coordinator or the 1st AD. If any one of a dozen or more people is off the mark, a crew of more than a hundred sits around on their elbows.

Make sure to set your alarm.


Because Good is Dumb!

"How's the weather?" I ask.

"It's wet and cold and going to get colder." She tells me.

"Just like my life." I quip.

"Your life is wet?" She inquires with eyebrow raised.

I shuffle my feet, unsure how to broach the truth, "I've been trying out a new variety of Unmitigated Evil, and it makes a helluva mess."

An exasperated sigh, "Have the minions clean it up, duh!"

"My minions quit. They went to work for some other Earthbound Incarnation of Evil. I'm told he has a stylish mask, snappy uniforms and a flying fortress. Apparently, his Evil Gig [TM] is just sexier than mine."

"Wow, whatever happened to loyalty?"

"I know!"

She put a sympathetic hand on my shoulder, "At least you still have a musty basement full of unspeakable abominations."

"And that will have to be enough, won't it?"

Such is the day to day of my life.

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Voices, Outside Love's Open Door

I'd not seen her in at least seven years. Given her lifestyle and given that she had failed to show at a close, mutual friend's funeral, I'd half presumed that she was dead. As heartless as it may seen, I took some comfort in that thought. Not that I was glad she might be gone, but that I could carry on my life, sure in the thought that we would never again cross paths, that I could put all the hurt and hatefulness behind me and carry on knowing that that chapter in my life was irrevocably closed. There was a certain relief in the thought that, just maybe, she would have found that final peace from those things that vexed and viced her for so long, that she was free of demons from which I failed to protect her.

To my unexpected relief, she is very much alive. She'd just gone so far afield from our old circle as to have walked off the the world. Now, as a product of capricious fate and of adulthoods ever expanding spheres of acquaintance, we are again in one another's company.

She's looking good, all things considered. She's acquired some color and put on some weight, which is good, since her chosen chemicals once kept her frighteningly skinny and her nocturnal habits kept her ghostly in complexion. It's good to know that those proclivities have gone by. The mutual friends that know her now, but that did not know her then, say she is as pleasant, honest, reliable and trustworthy, so she must have made a turnabout from who she once was. When I knew her she was a spriraling addict and little else.

When I was invited to the party that I knew she'd attend, I was terrified. I almost backed out. I was considering skipping it until I parked the car in front of the host's house. What would happen? Would years of unaddressed resentment come crashing back? Would there be tears? Would our very distance make the night awkward for all around? I was mortified, colorless, breathless.

What bothered me most, though, was the chance, however remote, that long-stilled feelings would avalanche across my heart and crush me under their tumult. I trembled at the idea that, confronted with her, everything that had made me cling to her, everything that made me ignore or forgive her betrayals, would again become immediate and I would find myself lost and in love with her despite all contrary wisdom.

This didn't happen. I felt no surge of eros, no wash of passion. I also felt no crush of resentment, no wave of disgust. I felt absolutely nothing at all.

I didn't speak to her the entire evening. I didn't so much feel the need to glance at her. We managed to go the entire night without ever really acknowledging one another and I don't feel I missed out for choosing not to reconnect.

It's good to know, really. It's good to know that she's still kicking around, living something that approximates a normal, healthy life. It's also good to know that there's nothing left there. That my heart of hearts has no more energy to devote to thoughts of vengeance or forgiveness, that that chapter of my past can be closed and left on the shelf for the rest of my days. I'm better off that way.

And, the sun comes up tomorrow.