Saturday, July 26, 2014

New Studio

So it seems we're moving our studio. We're moving about a block away, to 356 Broadway.
The odd-shaped space requires some special thinking to fit our workstations.

Luckily we don't need to rent a truck to move our stuff. But we are going to need to hire a couple people to carry things.
Yeah, the pretend furniture is flipped around. I didn't notice in the plan view. I may rethink this setup.
The floors are wood. We have 20amps of electrical service.


I've been playing with this software to pre-visualize. You think we should put wheels on the bottom of the WhisperRoom?
The following are other visualizations based on smaller offices than the one we're getting. Or rather the one we put a deposit on, we'll see if it's all good when they google my name. ;-)


Friday, July 25, 2014

Showcase Code

On the New York IT Awards blog is this post on the Actor's Equity Showcase Code.
"[The Showcase Code]  has helped to create a matryoshka doll of inequality in New York City theater."
Is my favorite sentence on the blogosphere today.
Here is a rabbit.
The Showcase Code is a non-negotiated code which, as a producer, you can sign. Doing so allows members of Actors Equity to work for you for (approximately) zero dollars (or basically whatever you want to pay) without the chance of them getting into trouble with their own union.
I'm not putting this in as an asterisk -- here's a very important point from the producer's point-of-view:

  1. Federal law prohibits discrimination against employees based on their membership in labor organizations. You do not get to decide on whom to hire based on whether they're Actors Equity or SEIU or AFM or not. They might have signed an agreement with one or more unions saying they wouldn't take non-union work, but you cannot decide for them. Whether you hire or fire anyone is dependent on factors other than their union status.
  2. You, the employer/producer, may insist your employees pay a collective bargaining agent. But this only applies to employers in states which do not have "Right To Work" laws. Talk to your favorite labor lawyer if you feel like doing this.*

There are a lot of restrictions on the contract though -- the number of shows you can do, the ticket prices, etc. It is made to keep the producer from making any money on a Showcase production. Which is ironic because, you know, "making money" in theater isn't a problem that any off-off Broadway theater producers have.

So we're not really concerned with the exploitation of surplus labor for Capital in the case of actors (and writers and designers and directors) in the way of off-off Broadway theater because there is no money in it. In fact, the producer is all but guaranteed to lose money while making off-off-Broadway theater. There is actually no way around it.

The fact is, though, that New York indy theater sucks.

Compared to the (this is my blog and so I will say) objectively better theater scenes in San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington DC, indy theater in New York is simply terrible. It's boring. It's no fun. There's only two exceptions to this:

  1. Theater made by my very close friends
  2. Theater that isn't produced under the Showcase Code

The first thing is self-evident, of course. But the other kind of theater in New York is what I'm discussing. There are three companies I'm thinking about. They're all producers of long-running shows and they're all non-Equity.

  • One is Sleep No More which has a fairly large cast, is very interesting, and actually pays their actors/dancers something in the $125/performance range (as I recall). The show is on an open run and actually makes the producers money. 
  • Two is Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. This is an ongoing 2-nights a week show by the New York version of the Chicago company The Neo-Futurists. The actors in that company make something -- I don't know how much, I think several hundred dollars a years. Just enough to cover subway basically. 
  • Three is (and yes, I gag while I type this) The Wooster Group. Nowadays the Wooster Group is part of the establishment, man. But they pay around $850 or so a week? And they do a lot of theater.

I have a gazillion complaints about The Wooster Group but the fact is that all three of those companies at least try to do things that are theatrical and interesting. And most of the downtown theater does not. They do plays about two guys in black turtlenecks talking about living in Brooklyn in their 20's.
One problem with theater, as a thing to do, is that it takes quite a while to make a given piece any good. The fact that you can't do any more than 18 shows under the Showcase Code means that necessarily you haven't done the show enough to make it not suck. And you also can't make enough money in ticket sales (because of the limitation in ticket price) to keep renting whatever space you're using anyway.

Those three companies above, and every company in DC, SF, and Chicago, don't have those problems. And (as noted above) their theater scenes are objectively better and more interesting.

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*You do not feel like doing this. But the union might negotiate a contract with you wherein you agree to make sure all your employees are paying them to collectively bargain for them. And there are other restrictions and Supreme Court precedents and nonsense.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Futurama Spoilers

So we're mixing what I believe in my heart of hearts to be the last mix of Dead Raid. I'm about halfway through. I may in fact be done tomorrow.
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Reverse-engineering the Hypnotoad sound.
Somebody do me a favor and build one of these. With nylon and padding it looks to me like it could actually be built. The trick is the balaclava -- if you get the texture of that right you're golden.

There's a really good sci-fi notion in one of the Futurama features. The character Fry ends up being able to read minds. There's a group of dudes who can also read minds who find him. And the trick is that although Fry can read other people's minds they can't read his. Which makes him the perfect secret agent against some bad characters who can read minds.
But here's the kicker -- if Fry is trying to keep his power secret then he can't tell anyone about his mind-reading powers. Why? Because the bad guys who can read minds would be able to read the minds of anyone he tells about it.
Honestly that's one of the best "you can't tell anyone" devices I've ever heard. It's an actual and real reason it has to be kept quiet. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's the best "you can't tell anyone" device.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Samosa Carcosa

I've become convinced that the secret of good vegan food is that it simply needs to be better than vegetarian or omnivoric cuisine. Thing is, you throw a piece of cheese or a hunk of bacon in your food and it's instantly much better. So much omnivore cooking is just "we'll do nothing but then we throw cheese in it and everyone's happy."
To make something work without the "tricks" that are mean and cheese, you really have to know what you're doing.
A friend of mine teases me about me referring to "vegetable samosas" because in her country all samosas are vegetarian.
But that's not quite true. There are samosas filled with other stuff. Unnecessarily. The best samosas are vegetable and they are, in fact, vegan. And delicious as they involve an exciting amount of fried bread (which is also very good for you.)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Minbox Wetsuit and Space

Minbox is the new hotness. It's like wetransfer.com but with larger file sizes. 
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Why aren't all wetsuits this sort of color?
We have a theoretical 156 square feet of space in our office but the plinths to the support columns knock that down to an effective 117 square feet. We're looking for a new place. There are a lot, I mean a lot of offices in NYC priced right at $950. There's a place very near to where we are which has a larger office for $550. I dunno. We'll figure out something.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Steps to Making a Movie

This is a thinking-out-loud post all about what steps need to be gone through in order to make a movie. This isn't how we make movies. Although it might be a way to make a movie.

Greenlight script.

Make 3 budgets.

  1. $40,000
  2. $240,000
  3. $1,000,000


Back in the olden days we'd have worried about how to deal with whether we'd shoot on film and what kind of format and what shooting ratio. Thankfully those days are long gone.
Still, for each of these numbers we're looking at a 20-day shoot.


  1. At budget level 1 we're shooting non-SAG.
  2. At budget level 2 we're making a SAG picture with some talent people have heard of working "scale".
  3. At budget level 3 we're shooting a SAG picture with a fairly famous actor in the genre working for a low rate or for a very short time.

Then, using the script as a calling card, try to get whomever you think would be a perfect talent for the lead. That's perfect artistically as well as perfect as far as distributors are concerned.
You'll be running with three plans to shoot the picture. If you can get the right talent and can get the money, you'll go with 3. If you can get some talent (or even the right talent) but can't get the money you go with 2. Otherwise you go with 1.

I think the key to making budgets like these work is that you have to realize that shooting the movie isn't "making" the movie. Shooting is like advanced (and expensive) pre-production. It should only cost 40-60% of the money you have. Because you must, must, must finish the movie. That is, edited, color-corrected, dialog, music, and effects.
And remember you have to be able to do reshoots and additional shooting.

So. After greenlight you start hunting for talent and money simultaneously. Think in terms of "dream" and "reality" at the same time.

That's my thoughts.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

DM4 vs DM3

I own a Suunto Vyper wristwatch-style dive computer. It's a fine little computer except for one thing: Suunto went and crippled the software for it -- seemingly to force divers into using their "movescount" social-network site. For me the most irritating thing is that it won't export DL7 files which I can then upload to Scuba Earth or DAN or whomever.
Here I am thrashing around in the pool trying to get used to a dry suit.

But there are places you can grab a copy of version 3 of the software. It ain't as pretty as version 4 but it'll export pretty much whatever you want.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

This and this

Minbox is like Wetransfer or any of those other big-file-sending applications. But it will do files larger than 2GB, which we frequently need. And that's for the free account. I've used it twice now. Seems to work. There's even an app for OSX but only for 10.7 and higher and I've been afraid to update my OS.
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I got wiped out in the May 11 Doge Crash. So sad. I has no Doge.
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Via.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Two Things and a Beer-Drinking Mouse

Doc's Proplugs -- for those (like me) who have equalization difficulties scuba diving. I tested mine at 5 feet and they seem to be better than no earplugs. The real trick will be going down to 33 feet. Well, probably 24 feet. We'll see.
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Via Jeremy Crowson. A Minute of Arc is 1/60th of a degree. Because we just love having measurement systems which don't divide evenly by any number system. 1/60th of 360ths. Yeah. Gotta love that.
By coincidence a minute of arc is approximately one inch for every 100 yards.
There's also a metric unit called the MilRad.
When I was in the Terran Mobile Infantry we didn't use any sort of explosive projectile weapons at all: just rail guns and lasers. And because I'm such a wuss they mostly assigned me as android liaison officer.

I like this mouse so much I'm just gonna keep blogging him.





Saturday, May 03, 2014

Grief in Morning

The obituary of my father.
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My experience is that the stages of grief, as much as they exist, aren't linear. And it's not necessarily true that you re-go through them if you'd started grieving early -- something I know I did when my mom was dying and I've certainly been doing now. At least the way I experience them.
The trick is from minute-to-minute or hour-to-hour, week-to-week, you never know what's going to hit you. I went to get his personal effects today with my sister. We drove to the physical rehab place thinking it wouldn't be such a hard job to pick up his stuff.
We were way wrong. Nurses came in to tell us how much they liked my dad and how he told them he was dying and they cried and that he was at peace now. So then of course we cried and everyone started crying and it was much harder than we thought it was going to be.
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And to make mourning more difficult -- maybe -- there's the part of it which is dragged out. If someone's been sick and then getting better you might find yourself dealing with grief or what we might call "potential grief" for a while.
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For my dad, 5 years ago was cancer. Which he beat. The chemo sucked. It was really awful. I remember him asking me if I could get some marijuana. This is my Dad we're talking about. I was stunned That's how much he hurt. Of the four of us kids I was actually the least likely to know where to score some (and I worked in theater -- what a dork I am -- I've since got much better connections).
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And although eight months before he broke not just one but two vertebrae in his back and in the meantime became legally blind he was able to function (primarily with the day-to-day care my eldest brother was able to give him). He was, for most all that time, able to go to dinner, tell us all how much he hated computers (yet still answer emails), and read (his new historical interest was the period between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 and the writing of the Constitution).
When the time came, my father died without a long and drawn-out horrible time. Just four days ago I'd picked him up and sat him in a nice chair in the "lounge" of the rehab center. He wasn't in chronic pain. He was just tired. We sat and talked about stuff. He was very animated when he was asking about my business and what I was up to. Pretty much the way I remember my dad all the time.
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I spoke to my dad about 12 hours before he passed away. I suspect I was the last of us kids to talk to him. Mostly he said the same thing to each of us. He said he was "done".
To me, though he sounded what I might actually call cheery. I asked him if he wanted me to come to visit him that night and he said "No, no, no" -- he'd see me that weekend and it would be fine. But he didn't, he passed away in his sleep instead. No long painful goodbye. That would have probably hurt him more than anything I suppose.
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The nurses told my sister and me how kind "Mr. Dan" was. They told us that he was in a better place -- like it was their medically professional and informed prognosis -- they knew he was.
He trusted his nurses so I see no reason we shouldn't either.