i’m such a hero

crashThe other day, I received an urgent call from a friend in a bind: His wife has just had an accident on the 101, near me, with her very pregnant friend as a passenger. As my friend was stuck at home with two wee children, could I please check up on them and offer whatever assistance was needed?

Of course! How often do we get a chance to help in such dramatic fashion? I leapt in to action � donned my best emergency/rain gear (it was pouring) and hit the road. Found them in no time, thanks to the emergency vehicles and traffic… Damn, so we’re talking about a real accident! So… Wife okay? Check. Pregnant friend okay? Check � but shaken, needing to meet her husband and doc at the hospital, just to be sure. I followed the wife while she limped the car (still semi-drivable) off the freeway, then took preggers to my friend so he could whisk her to the hospital � while I watch the kids (ages ~1 & ~4), who were both asleep upstairs. Gulp. “What do I do, if they, um…?” I whimpered. “Improvise!” My friend chuckled confidently, then vanished. I settled in. Silence, upstairs. Okay. Good. I watched TV. Time passed. Then, the scariest sound I could have imagined: (more…)

undocumented

separate realityLong ago I read Carlos Castaneda’s books about his adventures with Don Juan (the shaman, not the lover). One of the many ideas that stuck with me was that of keeping one’s “personal history” to a minimum, avoiding the accumulation of evidence that you were/are/will be this way or that. As a way, I suppose, of keeping your life fluid, unpredictable, uncharted.

petsMaybe this is why it never occurs to me to take a picture, why I stubbornly insist on “remembering things my way” instead of recording it. Either that, or the fact that I find myself laughably unphotogenic. There are people — I’ve met and known many — who translate well into 2D; I do not. Whatever. My life, largely uncharted, certainly has been unpredictable. Now, for Christmas, I have given my wife an awesome little digital camera (one of those clever “us” gifts that I get to play with). I think it’s safe, at this point, to go ahead and document things… Like this breakthrough moment between our cat Bu and our pug Bacci, certainly worthy of documentation.

fitter, happier

Being a musician cost me something I wasn’t aware of until I wound up getting it back: The ability to be a fan. After bailing on music as a career, I joined some friends as co-publisher and art director of a music magazine called Strobe. It was a blast, and lasted about 3 years. The editors were far hipper than I, and turned me on to some great bands (some biggish, some not so much), but most importantly, I regained the ability to be thrilled about a band. The small venue shows I caught with some of these groups were the most fun I’ve ever had.

For a few years now I’ve been studying and practicing screenwriting. It ain’t as easy as it might look (I’ve gained a whole new appreciation of why so many movies suck). I used to worry that the same thing might occur as did with playing music � I’d lose the ability to get “lost” in the magic of a film. But that hasn’t happened. If anything, the reverse is true: the experience is deeper, more satisfying (when it works). To paraphrase Radiohead � another wonder I discovered, post-band � I most definitely still cry at a good film.

hyper-real

boltGEEK POST: There’s another word for “hyper-real.” It’s “Fake.” I came across an is it real or is it CG test the other day, and managed 9 out of 10. Disappointing, actually… You’d think, with all the amazing stuff achieved in movies and commercials today, they’d be able to fool me. It’s not like I’m some CG expert, or the technology hasn’t quite gotten there.

final fantasyNo, this was probably a result of the images being chosen by people who do CG for a living. There’s a certain level of selective occular denial that can creep into things, once you’ve driven yourself nuts trying to accurately recreate something simple, and run up against how difficult it can be. Especially if it’s holding still, and can be scrutinized. The truth is, we’re all experts at detecting certain kinds of visual BS, especially in things that matter. That’s why we’re still waiting for a truly believable CG human face � we’re trained from birth to detect the slightest nuance, there. Dinosaurs and giant apes — hardly simple — still are comparatively easy; how many of those have you actually seen?

frankenbu

stitchesNo, it’s not a gutted and sewn chicken… It’s my kitty Bu’s leg, post-op (a detail of the picture below left). As you can see, he’s already being his old, cuddly self. Even though he’s got 8 gnarly stitches and a naked leg (and wrist, I guess for IV).

bu postopAmazingly, the surgery requires no real convalescence, so he’s limping about, using his box, stretching, soaking up extra scritches, making cozy feet. There’re pills, antibiotics and painkillers, 3x/day & 2x/day, respectively. It’s a drag, having to manhandle such a sweet fella (cats don’t “take” pills), but I’m sweetening the deal by following with his “special food,” a gravy-rich, softer version of his regular grub. Bu also had his teeth cleaned, while he was under; I assume he’s also got sore gums. So, for a while, it’s all about Bu. More than usual, that is.

six million dollar kitty

bu xrayI’m already worried about my cat (Bu) feeling marginalized by the arrival of Bacci, our new (and excruciatingly adorable) pug. This past Saturday, Bu was suddenly staggering, wobbly, clearly having trouble walking. I freaked out.

Bu is very interactive, for a cat — loads of personality. My special little guy. And he was clearly in trouble. Two visits to the emergency room proved futile; larger, more pressing emergencies trumped Bu’s mere limp. Finally, this morning, the Vet confirmed Bu’s left rear knee as the trouble spot. X-rays (made available, incredibly, online � that’s actually one of them, above) revealed nothing odd, but later, the orthopedic surgeon gave Bu a closer look. His verdict: A torn ligament. Requiring surgery. For almost exactly the price of that digital projector/screen setup I was planning on getting us for Xmas. Oh well. He’s worth it. And not nearly as chubby as the xray makes him look. Plus, afterward, it is my understanding that Bu will have super powers. I’ll keep you posted.

if it ain’t broke…

brokebackA year ago, I threw my back out. Not fun, and not the first time. After a long, slow recovery I vowed: never again. I read that back muscles can — if exercised — increase strength by up to ten times, (as they are ordinarily so under-exercised). Apparently, spending most of my waking hours seated at a computer doesn’t help. I promptly added back stretches and strengthening moves to my workout. Seemed to help, but I couldn’t really tell. A year passed. (more…)

the real queen

queenThere are few things more unpleasant than “reunion tours” that lack key members. I recently got a last-minute offer for tix to the “Queen” concert here in LA. I passed. Paul Rodgers might be a very nice guy, and a hell of a singer, but please.

Queen (with Freddie Mercury) was one of the Greatest Bands Ever. Certainly the most audacious: A six-minute top-forty hit? Kick-ass prog-metal (at least the first few albums) for teenage boys, from a bunch of poofters? Who called themselves Queen?? Subtle as Southpark, that one (Token, anyone?). But it never, ever occured to me… Honest. Listening to the albums, wearing out the grooves, learning the guitar riffs, staring at the sexy/cool photos of the band… Eventually, Freddie tossed aside all pretense and started dressing like a Village Person. No matter. When he died, it was the first “celebrity death” that actually made me cry.

i saw her first

naomi wattsI can’t help but feel a little possessive about Naomi Watts, as if I found her before everyone else did. Which is ridiculous, since everyone acknowledged her amazing, breakthrough performance in Mulholland Drive. Since then, all the smart money has been betting on her, and winning big.

Now she’s been called on to carry Kong, potentially the biggest blockbuster of all time. And of course, carry it she does… I saw it today, and I can’t think of another actress who could deliver what she did. Especially when you remember that she’s (mostly) performing opposite nothing (CG behemoth added in post). Okay: America’s Best Living Actress. There, I said it.

3 movies

star69I am currently editing my latest short film, Star69. Simple story, tiny cast, modest production. Still, editing is a scary process, as it is here that we discover if all the effort that has gone before was actually worth it. ‘Cause you end up making it 3 times:

  1. writing A finished (and compelling) script is the first, most ephemeral, and most difficult hurdle. Concept, story, outlines, screenplay draft 1, 2, 3… Rinse and repeat ’til satisfied. Be honest, ’cause this is where you can start down a long path leading nowhere (i.e., undertaking the production of cr*p).
  2. production (+pre) begs the question: does anybody want to play? Especially in the no-budget arena, this is where you find out if anyone else (and you, for that matter) really thinks your idea has merit. Cast it, crew it, break it down, storyboard. Then, shoot. Less rinsing and repeating, more plain old sweat and effort. The fun part: You get to say “action,” and see talented folks bring your material to life.
  3. post is where you get to see if all those bits and pieces pull together into a cohesive and meaningful whole. Or see your brilliant idea turn out to be an unclear mess. The proof is in the pudding, and this is the oven. Okay, that metaphor’s broken, but you get my point. Succeed/fail here; there’s no more “later” to fix it in.

Wish me luck. I just finished a rough assembly (culling best takes into a linear cut, exactly as written). It’s actually looking pretty good, so far, but what do I know? By now, I’m so soaked in it that it’s easy to second-guess myself. There’ll be a screening at some point, soon, so we’ll all get to see.