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.