Monday, December 31, 2012

Metal Dogs

My sister's dog Chien, put the "mental" in "ornamental metals".
This is what passes for humor around these parts.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Speed of your Nets

My dad went and got a Verizon hotspot for himself for Christmas. It's pretty need*. It connects over 4G. It works. It even works in my studio (I "borrowed" the hub from him for "scientific reasons"). Thing that it's not is fast.

The service we complain about all the time (the DSL here) is much faster:
I love how we go from a grade F up to a grade D- and consider that an improvement. What I can't figure out is how we get such crappy service when we're directly across the street from the huge Verizon switch.
The reason my dad got this thing is because he was frustrated with getting access for his iPad whenever he was travelling. Which, you know, for dad that's a pretty impressive technological jump.
The downside of these 4G hotspots are the data limits. I feel fairly confident I go through more than the normal users data usage a month.
But presuming and actually knowing are two different things. So I've downloaded a bandwidth monitor just to find out.

*"Need" is the word the kids are using these days for "neat". Don't look it up. Just trust me on that one.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Whoa. What?

How did I miss the fact that this science-fiction movie In Time was a big moneymaker? I mean, I don't even remember the movie coming out.
It's directed by the dude who wrote GATTICA, which is a pretty cool picture. In Time is a great idea and has some very cool things in it but. Er. It's... ah... there's something clunky about the movie. I can't quite put my finger on it.

Harlan Ellison sued them over the story. I think I vaguely recall that. Of course, doesn't Harlan Ellison sue every science fiction film?
Why didn't we make a mockbuster of this picture? 
So many questions...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Book Report

I just read Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone.
I really enjoyed this book. It takes place in a world where gods are real things and I really liked the way people (priests and such) had an actual, personal, relationship with their god(s).
Plus the cover feels really nice and you know how important that is to me.

Project Nine

Eric Ian Steel's new novel, Project Nine, is now for sale. Check out the trailer:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Making movies for under a gazillion dollars

Alex Epstein, who wrote one of my favorite books on screenwriting, on making a movie for less than $50,000.
This is funny to me because our cash budget for a feature is about $8,000. You'll notice that as a producer I lie and use obfuscation. I said "cash budget". The lie here goes both ways. We have more money in that we have equipment (and costumes and sets) we've amortized from other movies. We borrow props from other filmmakers. We own our own sound and camera gear. We have less money because there are things like rent and the fact that we have to buy a lot of freaking hard drives in order to make a feature. And rent. Overhead is a birch.
He suggests saving money by limiting coverage. Egads! I would totally never suggest that. The biggest advantage to limiting coverage is that it limits what you can do in post-production. Which means your post process will go faster. Maybe.
But my point is that your DP does not have to relight for every camera setup. Your DP needs to light the scene so that it works from multiple angles. If you want to hollywood some light or something for a closeup then go ahead and do that, it doesn't take more time. While you're picking up that camera just walk in the light, hold it on the actor or the gun or whatever and get the shot. It's not like I'm some kind of genius for figuring this out.
In the early 2000's I worked with a gaffer who would pre-light the reversals. The AD would announce that the camera was moving and he'd walk in and turn off a couple lights and turn another couple lights on and we were lit for the other side. That's when I realized that, holy cow, you do not need 45-minutes to do a reversal.
I would have my "Scumbag Producer" is redundant-card revoked if I didn't point out that not being a union signatory production does not alter whom you may ask to be in your movie. Indeed, it is my reading of federal law (N.B. Alex is Canadian so I'm only talking about the US here) that it would be illegal to discriminate against an actor or other employee if they were a member of a labor union. And of course here in NYC there is a plethora of great acting talent. A surfeit if I may. People want to work. Even if it's for monkey-points (and believe me, our movies don't make enough money to make you more than monkey points, but you'll get something for your reel and we'll have a fun screening.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

If Grump Then Stop

This article on the AR-15 isn't a terribly bad article. I always get confused between M4, M16, etc. They're all variants of the AR-15. The article is from Talking Points so it certainly takes the liberal attitude about guns but it seems fairly factual.
All right. Why doesn't this sound like utter BS to the people making these videos filled with idiotic and pandering Newspeak of the Internet?
"Old media has been slow to embrace what is possible." Rather than talking in platitudes, why don't you tell me what you're actually saying? Well, that's because what you're actually saying is nothing. "Empowering filmmakers"? Give it a rest already.
Wait. I'm supposed to be getting into the Christmas spirit.

Grumpyness = off.

Merry Christmas Mayans

The world will end tomorrow which is a shame because I did my Christmas shopping today. As my dad had unilaterally announced that we were donating to charity rather than giving one another gifts I had to figure out what to buy.
I sent peanut butter, a hammer, some garbage bags, and a bunch of other things to the King of Kings Community Church in Manahawkin, NJ. I used the Occupy Sandy NJ wedding registry.
I have a vague recollection that many years ago my nephew suggested a "donate to charity Christmas" which was roundly rejected by, specifically, his grandparents (read: my dad).
I'm not anti-charity from a Malthusian perspective but rather from a "shouldn't the government be doing this?" perspective.
It's not that I'm actively anti-charity or anything. I'm just a bit dithery about it.
In any case, some filters and pillows go to New Jersey.

Monday, December 17, 2012

It means "horse" in Latin or something like that

[S]he looks like a shape-shifting gazelle who speaks the language the gods used when they lived on the moon. You know, Gawker.
My parents have ceased speaking to me altogether. The last thing I said to them, when we were discussing donating animals to villages instead of gifts for one another, was a back-and-forth about whether we could get a water buffalo or something. My response was:

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas
Only a hippopotamus will do
Not a crocodile
Or rhinocerosuses
I only like hippopatamusseses
And hippopatamuses like me too

Needless to say they've broken off all communication with me since then. Which is difficult because presumably they're going away to Atlanta for Christmas and will need me to come take care of the cats.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


How had I not heard about this movie Oblivion? It's right up the Pandora Machine alley -- fake war on aliens who are actually human and the like.


I've resorted to making mother jokes on YouTube. It's a surprisingly apt forum for mother jokes.

Go ahead click on through and make some comments.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Bellware Foundation

There are two major problems which rear their heads when one's family decides that Christmas shall be a matter of charitable giving rather than traditional Christmas presents.
1. I have to buy my own socks this year.
2. It must be decided to whom or what charity one should donate.
This decision can be very complex. Many of my family are involved in something about a heifer. Honestly, I have no idea what they're talking about but I think it involves buying cows for people who live in places where they could really use a cow. But I really don't even know as much as I've just said, much less have any clue what's going on. I watched a video of goats romping on a farm. I don't think that was related. The goats were on YouTube. It amused me.
Now what was I saying? Something about Christmas and Charitable Giving or some such. Right?
The Occupy people are probably the most efficient at taking money or things and actually using them in affected areas after Sandy. Which is great and everything but ideologically I think that the government should be doing that work and people should be paid to do it.
Doctors Without Borders seems to be a good organization and so forth.
I certainly work with a number of non-for-profit groups. I vaguely recall there used to be a theater? That can't be. Why would there have been a theater and there isn't one any longer? That's just nonsense. I must still be delirious from the antibiotics.
In any case there's the RCCNY and I have family members who run 501c3's and suchwise.
Lastly there is a third difficulty put in place with the charity nonsense. My sister won't get her Christmas present from three years ago.*

*I'd had her gift on my Amazon gift list for a long time. More than two years. Comically my midsummer Reddit Secret Santa bought it for me. Which is cool, because now I have it for her. Do I give it to her even though this is the Year of Charitable Giving?
We shall see. We. Shall. See.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mac Mini Meltdown

My old (2006) Power-PC Mac Mini up and died. The hard drive took a dive and decided to never work again.
It'd cost like $80 to buy a new, stupid drive for the thing. Or a couple hundred bucks to get a used one off of eBay.
But that's silly. A brand-spankin' new one is as cheap as $600. And the new ones have a lot of advantages over the old pre-Intel Minis.
The only disadvantage is the lack of CD/DVD burner. And yes, that old Mini was the only machine in my shop which could burn CD's and DVD's.
And honestly the only purpose I had for the old Mini was to use it for recording live multitracks.
Furthermore, I could very well find myself in a situation where I need to buy an additional computer in the coming year. I see this time coming. In my mind's eye, Horatio.
This bunny prefers maximals rather than minimals.
For now I'll just try the other Mini we have. Which will irritate my office partners to no end because they're the ones who use it. But hey, it's mine. ;-)

Thursday, December 06, 2012


In our studio the preferred voiceover microphone is the Rode NT1A. We don't just like it because it's vastly cheaper than the AKG C12a (about 1/30th the cost) and it's much more durable, it also has a upper-mid "lift" that sounds better on most people with the exception of me and some female vocalists.
The NT1A plucked from its case.

It normally lives in the booth but it (and its twin) can be in the aluminum case marked "Input Transducers." Yes, it's a poor-man's Neuman U87. There's no pad switch. There's no switch for polarity. It's always cardioid.
Which way to you talk into it? This is a question which you might ask. There's a little gold button which indicates the "front" of the mic that should face your mouth.
The golden button marks the place where the singing goes.
Here is the NT1A in its little "basket" shockmount. Note that right now only one of these baskets works right. The other one has a broken elastic.
There's no reason to feel you need to mount this rightside up. Upside down is perfectly acceptable.
But do make sure you've put the pop filter in front of the mic.
Also, I frequently back the mic with one of those ubiquitous pieces of foam we have lying around. It helps deaden the booth just a bit.
There are two blue mic cables draped into the voiceover booth (what we like to call the Tardis). And look! They're conveniently labeled for your dining and dancing pleasure. Let's use the one labeled "MIC 1".
Now where does that signal go? Ah. Yes. It appears at our XLR patch bay. You'll see that "normally" the "MIC 1" is patched to "Pre/AD 1" and "MIC 2" is patched to "Pre/AD 2" using short XLR jumpers. On occasion something else is plugged into either "Pre/AD 1" or "Pre/AD 2". Feel free to unplug whatever that is (likely to be the power supply to the AKG C12a) and patch the feed from the booth instead.
Patch bay and left channel of preamp.
Okay, now you have the patching correct -- it's time to set the gain on the preamp. That's the preamp right above the patch bay. First, make sure the "48V" button is on (and there's no light on it to tell you it's on). Then you have a big knob and a little one. Normally the big knob is at about 2 o'clock and the little one is turned as far clockwise as it'll go.
Lastwise is the settings on the A/D converter.
A/D converter.
You don't want to touch the knobs on the left. But the selector that's third-from-the-left (2nd from the right) you do want to check. For most video stuff you'll want it set to 48kHz and not 44.1kHz. There are some rare instances where you might want 44.1 but those are mostly music-related. Set it to 48.

Me, et moi

So I woke up this morning feeling "well". I have a smoker's cough but really it's just a tickle in my throat. I don't imagine this feeling of wellness lasting all day but we'll see. My lungs do make a fun clicking sound as I breathe in and out. Ha!
I don't expect this feeling to last all day. In fact, I've only been up 30 minutes and I want to take a nap. Wait. That's normal for me. All right then. Carry on...

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Hostile Patient

On Sunday I had the most dreadful sore throat. And yeah, I shot all day. I really hope I didn't get anyone else sick.
So Monday morning I'm all gonna go to the doctor. And I prepare for a fight. Because I want something that will actually help. Last year I had a similar thing -- intermittent fever, sickliness, etc. And besides, my parents just got over something with the help of antibiotics.
And doctors do not want to prescribe antibiotics anymore. Last year I tried arguing with two doctors who wouldn't give me antibiotics (all for the same reasons: you haven't been sick long enough, you don't yelp when we touch your forehead [???], we don't like to prescribe antibiotics.)
So three weeks later I went to another doctor and told him he had to gimme antibiotics. I felt better within six hours.
So what did this week's doctors say about that?
1. Well, it proves you had a virus because antibiotics don't work that fast
2. It was the placebo effect of the antibiotics
3. It was a coincidence -- you would have gotten better then anyway.
Well, for one, that's just some straight-up bullmalarkey right there. Antibiotics do work that fast. I'm sure that in some textbook you have some old efficacy study which says otherwise but I know absolutely and for certain that you can feel the "grip" of a sinus infection let go within the first day. Secondwise -- bite me. Placebo effects are actually pretty good for pain relief. Post-nasal drip? Not so much. And thirdly, yeah, it was just a coincidence that after three weeks of being miserable I happened to take my first dose on the first day the virus was going to start to go away.
Here's the thing: one day many years ago I was having a root canal (I was tempted to write a "fun root canal" because what are they other than fun?) And the dentist touched a nerve and I yelped. She said "Oh, I wouldn't have expected a nerve to be there."
I said "What do you mean you didn't expect it to be there?" (I made her stop.)
She said "Different people have nerves in different parts of their jaws, where that nerve is is unusual, that's all."
Me: "You mean dentists KNOW that different people have different places they feel pain?"
Her: "Yes."
This conversation begat the era of my lecturing all dentists who touch my mouth that yes, my nerves are actually in different places and that yes, if I say I can feel something I can feel it. And furthermore, as a medical professional, you know that people feel stuff in different places. So when I say gimme some more GD Novocaine and you decide to prod around my mouth to see if I really need it or am "faking" it somehow I will straight up smack you.
Now the irony is that on my way to the doctors this Monday I thought you know, there's a 20% chance that antibiotics won't really help this. I've done that once before in my life (about 4 years ago) where I've taken antibiotics and it was pretty clear to me I didn't need them.
It turns out that this too was one of those times. So yup, the doctors I argued with fiercely enough to get antibiotics from turned out to be right. Last year they would have been wrong. Indeed, the ones from last year were wrong and I was miserable for a month because of it.
But so far I'm batting 800. If that changes, I'll start taking more medical advice.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

A post I should not make

I'm stoned out of my mind on antibiotics. I'm listening to old Heart. Specifically Rock and Roll. I just sneezed on my laptop creating a biohazard zone.
If you want the uncensored tenunaunakins of my mind as it drips into your mind that slapped upon a page black type on white and words. Symbols we learned as children. And I use them now.
Winnie the Pooh would be so proud.
Am I done arguing with commentators on YouTube. You can say anything you like about my ouvre but this: the actors and the scripts (except for Pandora Machine, that was a bit of a mess.)
J/ Thinking about Lily's bass sound. I think. I think cello. The bow draws across the strings. That is the bass
I actually forgot where I am for a minute there. Why is my screen turning blue. It's a good think I do not need to operate heavy machinery tomorrow morning,
Heart can handle Love Reighn o'er Me.But where is the bass?


Maduka, who has very good taste in watches, has this watch:
The numbers are very big. It might be something my dad would even like. Maduka says it's heavy though.
You know what's funny? Isherwood whining about critics not getting free tickets to shows