April 30, 2004

FattyFat Traffic Report: 4/30/04

OK, I'm not kidding this time - I really DID have to slam on brakes to save the life of not one but TWO bikers making a run for it across an intersection today. And not just across - they were turning left as well. I guess the real question is, why wasn't I watching more carefully? I was the one in the gas-guzzling Tercel, after all.

Posted by Chris on 04/30/04

An yeah, I mean, I really DID see a wolf today, I DID! Making with the big fangs and the slobber and the howling and... Wait! Wait! Come back, come back, don't run away! :(

Posted by: The Little Boy Who Cried... at May 4, 2004 9:32 AM

Ha ha ha! That's funny! Now tell us all about Critical Mass! You went, right?

Posted by: Chris at May 4, 2004 11:22 AM

Closet Powerpoint Drama

How many times have I been at a business presentation where they are using Powerpoint, and they go to a slide heavy with bulletpoints and diagrams, and then they say, "I'm not going to read this slide to you." And then they summarize briefly what's on the screen, but quickly move on, so as not to waste time.

And then the slide is never seen again. Sometimes they make the powerpoint file available for everyone later, but who reads those? When do these skipped slides ever get read? Who wrote them? For whom? And why?

Posted by Chris on 04/30/04

April 29, 2004

iPhoto Limitations

There are so many features I love in iPhoto, like the built-in red eye correction, the cropping tools, the ability to zoom in and out, the fancy screensaver function, and above all the ability to export to a web page, that I finally moved my picture-storin' enterprise over to the Mac side of my desk from XP.

But - and let me first don my full body Haz-Mat suit because I am about to be pelted with rotten lettuce heads and tomatoes from the militants - Apple could take a page out of XP's book on the way iPhoto organizes all the photos.

1. My biggest gripe is that iPhoto stands between you and the way your Mac actually stores the picture files on your hard drive. Why do the actual folders that hold your picture files not follow the same "album" structure you create in iPhoto? This is the way iTunes stores its music files, and the way XP deals with them as well.

XP doesn't have nearly as many functions as iPhoto, but it gets one thing right: if a folder "senses" that it is being used just for pictures, additional functions surface (simple picture rotation, thumbnail representation, slideshows). But it is still just a folder on your hard drive, where the pictures can be sorted by size, title, date, etc.

(iPod stores songs in its hidden folders in a similar fashion to iPhoto, so maybe it has to do with distributing files in a Unix-optimized way for quick access?)

Why does it matter how iPhoto actually stores images it imports? Because its built-in organizational abilities aren't so hot:

2. When you import photos, they are all thrown in one gigantic Library. You can pull shortcuts to them into a separate album, which is the point of the whole program, but if you ever want to actually delete the file, such as after you've discovered that it looks like crap, you'll have to go back and find it in the big Library, where everything is all thrown together. After you pass the 1000 mark, there get to be quite a bunch of pictures in there to go through. And there's no way to sort them, unless you want to drag them all by hand.

3. Sometimes I have little 10-second movies on my camera. It would be nice if iPhoto would help me deal with them, too.

4. Since there's no sorting ability, I'd like the chance to give image files a certain prefix upon importing - something XP offers - but there's no option for that in iPhoto.

5. I love the ability to export the pictures to a web page, but some additional features would be nice. I find myself puzzling over the "maximum width" and "maximum height" thing, wondering how it's going to deal with the difference between landscape and portrait images, every single time. And not everyone wants to follow the iPhoto model of thumbnail page linking to full-sized pictures. I invariably end up opening an HTML editor to fine-tune the pages.

Posted by Chris on 04/29/04

For the love of Jesus

Here are some opinions I've wanted to hear for some time, from the people I've wanted to hear them from:

From an article in Metromix:

Since the debut of "The Passion" on Feb. 27, churches of many denominations have virtually made viewing it an act of religious faith.

No kidding. But:

"We just thought that was manipulative and the wrong approach to sharing the love of Christ," he said. "To pull on people in a moment of weakness like that is just wrong."

Thank you. Amen. I've said that before, too, but it means more coming from you.

Posted by Chris on 04/29/04

Movies That Are Good For You

Just got my film schedule for Facets Multimedia, and into the trash it goes. God bless them for their video store that has everything and their clerks that do their best not to lord their immense knowledge of film over you, but MAN O MAN do these guys love cinema about Afghanistan and the African Diaspora.

We should all be thankful that someone is programming these socially-conscious films, but at this point if I wanted to do a parody of a theatre devoted to "unfun" cinema - I couldn't, because it's all right there at Facets.

I wish I had just a fifth of the money being spent on horned-rimmed glasses and turtlenecks by the people at these screenings.

Maybe the guy from the theatre there would have called me back if I'd said Movie was an allegory for the plight of women in Afghanistan?

For a look at how to balance a schedule of great foreign films, socially conscious films, new films, and movies that are just great fun, see... the Music Box.

Posted by Chris on 04/29/04

April 27, 2004

All This Useless Clarity

As usual while Movie was playing last night I kept a notepad close by to take notes on what's wrong and right. And now that it is too late, the flaws and problems and how they could have been avoided or fixed come to me with blinding, forehead-slapping clarity. I filled three pages with these hard-won realizations. Whether or not they'll mean anything a month from now, though... I'll see.

An exasperating and amusing by-product of this eleventh hour and fifty-eight minute clarity: after literally years of living with this story, reading the script 3,287 times, and watching the movie 51,924 times, it hit me last night FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER that one of the lines in the movie makes no sense.

Jesus Christ! It's like I'm enveloped in a fog during the whole production!

Posted by Chris on 04/27/04

The Three Glitches

I picked up the DVD and 15 VHS's of Movie yesterday on my third visit to the dubbing place. And by now even though I'm paying them (a lot) I get the feeling I'm wearing out my welcome there. I sense a certain amount of sighing and eye-rolling going on behind my back, as in won't this guy EVER take his project and leave?

In fact I sense that everyone, even you as you read this, YES YOU, are sighing and rolling your eyes behind my back. (Don't deny it.) But, to be fair - I also sense that Martin Sheen is coming up the river to kill me and take my movie, that the government is monitoring my internet usage, and that someone has deliberately disabled the "receive calls" feature on my phone; so some of this can be discounted as paranoia.

In the final analysis, after watching the whole thing again last night (not realizing that I was holding my breath for long stretches, because if it was terribly wrong, then it was back to the dubbing place with their secret eye-rolling and inaudible sighing!) there are three glitches in the final DVD of Movie: two small skips and one two-second bit where the everything gets garbled.

But, I think at this point: it is done. Even with the glitches that will show in the performance, it is done. Hopefully those glitches will not be in the VHS copies for cast and crew (I don't think they will - but I'll check tonight), but even if they are: it is done. Those three glitches will just have to be the marks on the baby's head from the doctor's forceps.

Note: And when I say "done," I mean "just this stage," since I plan to go back and make DVDs for cast / crew / myself with deleted scenes (there are a lot) and outtakes.
Posted by Chris on 04/27/04

Chris, how can some of us down-staters & out-of-the-loopers get a copy of little baby Movie? Would it help if we, say, threw money at you?

Posted by: Pete at April 28, 2004 9:52 AM

I am thrilled with the request! I will make sure the International Gentleman's Society gets a copy once the smoke has cleared from the premiere...

Thanks for asking!

Posted by: Chris at April 28, 2004 11:07 PM

April 26, 2004

Voodoo protocols

I got the "print" of Movie on Saturday afternoon, or in other words, I got fourteen VHS copies of it, which I needed to review for errors and omissions* before they make the DVD.

The nice man at the dubbing facility had let me know that they noticed some sound had gone out of sync during the transfer in one spot - which meant that if they happened to catch it in one scene, then there had to be more.

I've come to realize that the protocols and technology I've used to edit the movie are based partially on voodoo. It's not a science, people. Whenever ritual is involved, a certain amount of unpredictability is to be expected. This is why I'd planned to do all this printing the week before, because some mistakes were bound to happen.

I waited until Sunday night to watch it, since the dubbing house was closed until Monday anyway, and since I could not bear to watch all of Movie again on Saturday. I'd rented the theatre for a "tech" check, wherein I was bringing in a projector borrowed from work to make sure of it, so I planned to just watch the whole thing there.

I also spent around $100 (American) on enough AV cables to reach from the projector on the stage, snaking around the audience, and then up into the booth. A few times over, as it turned out.

At the theatre Sunday night I had the entire place to myself, so I felt like some eccentric director in his private screening room. At least for the first minute, and then the projector I brought failed to work. I was - and am - beyond cursing the luck. The theatre has a built-in projector, which I call Jaundice-Vision because everything looks extremely yellow, so I crank it up. So much for the hours of color correction, so much for knowing if the movie will fit the screen beforehand.

But at least I confirm that I have enough AV cable to reach from the stage to the booth - any booth at any theatre in Chicago.

I watch the whole thing carefully, looking for out-of-sync issues, and cannot even muster good will towards it at this point. It's like my retarded kid. I'll smile at it when it glances up from drooling over some puzzle in the corner, but there's no feeling. Although I have been an attentive caring mother to Movie, I failed to provide some basic level of care for it while it was in the formative stages. Perhaps I smoked while it was in the womb or dropped it on its head. I can try all I might for it but it will always be, if not retarded, then noticably slow.

At this point I am not looking forward to the showing of it at all, but the next day - when it will be completely, utterly done and finished, and I can impose a policy of never speaking of it again.

I watch the whole thing; one little clip of three seconds out of the whole 96 minutes was bad. But it's pretty noticeable, so it's back to nice dubbing man. Time to verify all the render files and bring out the Hand of Glory gris-gris to make with the voodoo dance around the computer.

I take a cab to his office with precious Firewire drive in tow for output #2. If something happens to it (and me) in transit, so be it. I will accept the sign from God that it was not meant to be. I'll take a cab over again in a few to get the DVD, and watch it again tonight.

*Not in the legal sense.
Posted by Chris on 04/26/04

April 23, 2004

FattyFat Traffic Report: 4/22/04

Two bikes at red lights, no stopping.

Since bikes are traffic and I am traffic, I decided to sort of just roll out into the intersection at the next light too, and make my way across the street in the gaps between cars.

Oddly, there was much honking and cursing, and also I got a ticket. What's up with THAT?!?

I read somewhere that it was axiomatic that any topic on any message board will inevitably degenerate into someone being compared to Hitler.

Similarly, any conflict with FattyFat will inevitably result in him playing his trump card for debates, the Levying of the Rush Limbaugh Insult.

STOP PRESS: Just went to lunch and was nearly hit in the intersection by a bike running the red light. I'm not making this stuff up, folks. But it was OK, because he was... TRAFFIC.

Posted by Chris on 04/23/04

Hey, if you're gonna get all high and mighty, get the date right.

Posted by: father time at April 23, 2004 2:41 PM

Got them prosumer blues

Woke up this mornin / made me a movie with software off the shelf
Woke up this mornin / made me a movie with hardware off the shelf
This thing just barely hangin' together by a thread /
If it don't kill me I may end up killin myself

(harmonica solo)

Some things I love about doing prosumer movies:

1. For the premiere of my last movie, in a bit of technological duality that ironically mirrored the very first motion picture cameras ever, I played the movie from the same camera I shot it with.

2. At some point in the current movie, the characters all react to an OS sound that I can't quite hear on the soundtrack. I'd learned to live with it, but the other night, almost as an afterthought, I took the camera off my desk, put it on the floor, and shot some video of my feet walking up and down the stairs. Two minutes later I captured just the audio portion, and then placed the new sound effect in the finished movie. The whole thing took 10 minutes.

3. Similarly, when one character talks on the phone, I felt we should probably hear at least a bit of what he was, something I didn't plan for during shooting. So I called my cell phone and left a 10-minute message on my voice mail of myself doing the other end of the conversation. Later, we held up the mic to the phone as I played the message back, and there was another insta-sound effect. Praise Jebus.

4. Because of computers I do nearly every job in post production myself.

Some things I don't love about doing prosumer movies:

1. When something in the chain of technology fails, something that makes it seem like I'm about to lose a lot of work, I really do feel like I was a fool to try something so complicated on such relatively cheap machines and software in the first place. Suddenly I'm not even Ed Wood - I'm Ed Wood's little brother who got a fancy video camera last Christmas.

2. With bigger, fancier, more expensive and heavy stuff, plus the stern specialists you'll need to hire to make the stuff work because they know the lingo, comes not so much a guarantee of quality but the luster of legitimacy. If your movie has a crew but is still bad, it is still a Legitimate Project. If your movie has no crew and you're making it on your Mac at home, but it's still really good, then look at you - aren't you cute, making your little movie.

3. Because of computers I do nearly every job in post production myself.

Posted by Chris on 04/23/04

In The Lap of The Gods

Yesterday was the day to gather up all the bits and pieces that will make up the program of the premiere in a week from the other filmmakers - some trailers of their upcoming movies and a short. Finally it was all in one place; I then made the mistake of saying how awesome it felt to have it done.

Jebus heard me say that, and to spank me for the hubris, chose to make the Firewire drive seem to undergo a sort of death when I got it home. Mac couldn't see it, and in fact Final Cut was calling in sick for a few minutes. Suddenly everything about the "firewire" protocol seemed dark and arcane, like some mysterious and extremely fragile magic spell that had just failed.

Jebus brought it back to life thirty minutes later in a resurrection not unlike that of the fabled Lazarus, but it was a sweaty, prayerful thirty minutes - it was a period of much soul-searching and some consideration of alternate careers as I saw nothing but OS X's spinning beach ball for a long period. How could I have crossed the whole of this desert and right here at the end the wheels are flying off my camel? Again?

Let the digital filmmaker using off-the-shelf equipment beware: at any time Jebus can and will knock the wheels off your camel.

Anyway - the movie is now in the Lap of The Gods, meaning, the precious firewire drive has been dropped off at the dubbing house, where it will be made into a shiny disk.

Posted by Chris on 04/23/04

April 22, 2004

FattyFat Traffic Report: 4/22

Five bikes spotted; of those I only saw three at traffic lights / stop signs, and two of those breezed right through. The other stopped and got off her bike to walk it across. It was actually a poignant moment to see. Didn't she realize that she was a part of Fattyfat's transcendant grouping of "Traffic," which is to say that she is above all laws of traffic?

And shame on FattyFat for revealing a story I gave to him on deep background about how Wife Ami went against my claims that every drive is a biker's life saved. Shame! Shame!

Posted by Chris on 04/22/04

This morning at the UBS Headquarters (Underground Bicycle Syndicate-what you thought it was a finacial services business?) we decided through our anarchist collective, that we would all smash into handeye's car collectively like drunk mosquitoes, in order to sully his reputation as a automotive protector of the weak, stupid and restless. Long live the glorious Martyrs, baptised in blood and chain lube! On our way towards his west side estate however, we were distracted by a large brick of heroin on the side of Chicago avenue so we stopped to eat. We'll try again on Monday.

Posted by: Okay I give... at April 23, 2004 9:46 AM

Do cyclists suffer from road rage the way some crazy drivers do?

The cyclist that struck me seemed in a rage but I attributed it to Republican-style hostility folk express to negate the guilt and shame they feel when they encounter others who do actually follow rules and tread the moral highground of crosswalks and traffic signals.

I think I've just surpassed my posting limit for this week.

Posted by: Isaac at April 23, 2004 12:53 PM

I don't know if it's similar to road rage, but there is definately a combatative mental state you can drop in when you're trying to hold your own with cars. Bicycle Messengers and Cab Drivers are natural enemies in the wild. I've often wished that I rode with my Krypto lock in my hand so I could give someone's hood a good thumping. Fortunately, I've never done that.

Posted by: FattyFat at April 23, 2004 1:05 PM

By the way Issac, could you relate the story of your pedestrian/bike collision....
By the way, there is a "Pedestrian Critical Mass" this weekend where people will take to the street in the Loop and "become traffic." It's listed in this week's reader, but isn't online anywhere that I can see.

Posted by: fattfat at April 23, 2004 1:08 PM

Sounds to me like it's going to be one big Ass Critical Mass for the next few weekends.

Posted by: Chris at April 23, 2004 2:22 PM

April 21, 2004

Note to all pedestrians

Maybe this will work:

Imagine the sidewalk as a little road! And you're a little car! Vroomm, vroom! Now imagine invisible lanes of traffic on the little road. Say - look at all those other little cars going past you in their "lane" on the sidewalk! And look at the ones passing you from behind in your "lane!"

Now notice how you're standing in one spot talking on your phone, and people - I mean "little cars" - are moving around you. Beep! Beep! Why are all these little cars beeping?!?

Hey! You're standing still right in the middle of your lane! You're standing right in front of the door to that building! You just walked right outside and planted yourself in one spot without looking to the left or right!

Would you come to a stop in the middle of a two-lane highway? Would you park your car at the entrance to an off-ramp? Say, THAT'S no way to drive your little car, is it? Get out of the fucking way, asshole! Beep! Beep!

Posted by Chris on 04/21/04

Oh ... You had to go ahead get me started, didn't you?

As an avowed pedestrian, I can't help but agree. But it's not about pedestrians per say. It's about rudeness. The people you describe are they who try to run me over with their bikes -- for the love of God, please, please stop yelling, "on your left!" I'm as far right as humanly possible (I even voted for bush for christ sake!); cars --why is it that most people who make right turns only look left?; and rollerblades -- it is a scientifically proven fact that rollerbladers need more lanes than any other vehicle.

And while all of you are at it, get off the goddam cell phone! You know who you are!

Posted by: pedestrians@unite.com at April 21, 2004 3:51 PM

Little Friend

The book starts with a strong chapter and never returns to that strength. Tartt sets up the mystery in the first pages - the Cleve family's youngest son Robin is found dead, hanging by the neck from a tree in the front yard. Who did it? How could it have happened when his family was so close by? How could no one have heard anything?

We never find out, though, because the murder mystery isn't really what Tartt is interested in. Instead we follow Robin's sister Harriet several years later, when she decides to devote her life to solving the mystery; but not really because she's a nine-year old girl with not much of an attention span or ability to focus on a goal. So we follow her as she sometimes focuses on her brother's murder, but mostly goes snake-catching with her friend, hangs around the house being bored, gets sent to a horrible Christian camp, and mourns the dismissal of the family's housekeeper.

I suppose you could say the plot is purposefully meandering because we are seeing everything through the eyes of a little girl; but no matter what stylistic goals Tartt achieved for herself, it was a bit of a disappointing slog to work through more than 500 pages without a resolution to the murder.

If they ever make a movie* it will be just like "Mystic River" - the main thing for people won't be so much the murder mystery as, did they get the details of the setting right? Were the accents proper?

(Note: In thinking about this book I came across a good site that indexes book reviews: http://www.reviewsofbooks.com/.)

*And why haven't they made a movie of her first, more exciting novel, The Secret History?
Posted by Chris on 04/21/04

I think Jessica read this book. I might have even purchased it for her. But I forget stuff like that. What was my name again?

Posted by: The Fat Guy at April 21, 2004 12:37 PM

It's a shame that I had to have Donna Tartt killed after reading this book.

I will wet my pants a little bit if the Secret History is ever made into a film. Maybe I need to read that again. I loved it so much.

Posted by: friend jessica at April 22, 2004 12:10 PM

Fattyfat Traffic Report: 4/21/04

Passed just a few bicycles on the way to work, all in the bike lane. Only saw one bicycle at an intersection, though, and he didn't stop for the red light- just sort of breezed on through. He made it through OK, though! The people in cars were watching out for him!

Posted by Chris on 04/21/04

Cmon', full disclosure...What did your wife say about how you "contend that the majority of times I drive my car I end up saving a biker's life." What did the woman who rides in your car of anger the most say about that?

Posted by: fattyfat at April 22, 2004 10:21 AM

Metasquares

How could I have forgotten this game? I used to play for hours back in the AOL days. Whole days whiled away on the Metasquares battlefield! Tilting my head back and forth, holding up a ruler to the monitor to try to figure out the angles! It was better even than Reversi on Yahoo.

I can't get the network portion to work, but at least there's a vs. computer mode, slow though it is.

Posted by Chris on 04/21/04

April 20, 2004

Critical Ass

FattyFat once more contends that bicyclists have the moral right-of-way on our city's streets, and if you aren't tolerant of basically anything they want to do, you are an SUV-driving Cheetos-eating yuppie.

I contend that the majority of times I drive my car I end up saving a biker's life.

In the spirit of honest inquiry, I ask both car and bike drivers everywhere: on your next commute, note how many bicyclists you see stopping at the signs and lights.

Note how many you see driving in a lane and not down the shoulder or the center line of the road.

And while you're at it, note how many are actually following the rules the same way you have to up in that big gas-guzzling SUV that you must be driving, you big terrorist crum-bum soccer mom yuppie jerk.

Posted by Chris on 04/20/04

Bully Bully Meany

Posted by: Bike Rider at April 20, 2004 2:32 PM

There you go again, with your witty retorts and sound logical arguments. I might have opted for "Liar, Liar, Pants on fire" or "Baby Baby, Stick your head in gravy, wipe it up with bubblegum and send it to the Navy!" if I was REALLY in a mode to drive home my point, but that's just me. I clearly can't argue with such a solid, well articulated point. Perhaps I should simply go out and drive my big, shiny SUV and try not to get hit by that bike rider who just decided to make a left turn across 4 lanes from the right hand lane sans hand (or other) signal.

Posted by: James Lileks Jr. at April 20, 2004 2:40 PM

Sob. What's happened to you? Have you started with the bourbon again? He used to be so nice. Weep!

Posted by: Weepy BikeRider at April 20, 2004 2:53 PM

We shouldn't let the evil stupid rule-breaking cyclists give the honest, decent, non-traffic-weaving cyclists a bad name.

Even worse than ignoring traffic signals and common sense is when the evil stupid rule-breaking cyclists, red-faced and stinking sweaty, regale you with vapid stories
of how they shaved thirty-six seconds off their morning ride in, got a good headwind or only spent four hundred dollars on a high-tech jellied bike seat.

And those bike shorts? Gay. Gayer than shaven testicles.

On the other hand, SUV drivers are all bad. They can choke on their tongues. If they drive over the evil stupid rule-breaking cyclists that's alright.

Posted by: Isaac at April 21, 2004 4:21 PM

Ok, enough already. I've had a bad couple of allergy days and didn't have the energy for the yearly handeye "Bikes Suck" festival at this weblog. I'm feeling better today.

1. A little perspective please...I can dredge up piles of data on why SUV's are a bad idea and how they negatively impact so many areas of society.
But bikes? Cmon Isaac, are you saying we have a global spandex problem?

2. ďI contend that the majority of times I drive my car I end up saving a biker's life.Ē Ė Handeye. I mentioned this to a mutual friend at lunch yesterday who is also a biker :ďHas Handeye started listening to Rush Limbaugh?Ē

3. As far as Critical Mass is concerned, Iíll borrow from my friend Tom: Bikes are traffic and have a right to the roads, whether as singles, pairs, teams of ten or five hundred leaving Daley Plaza. Lots of things cause traffic in Chicago including Cubs games, fireworks displays and concerts in Grant Park. And those things are wildly out of control lasting for hours at some points, whereas a Critical Mass ride moves through streets in a timely manner, filling up any given intersection for 3-5 minutes at the most.

4. Finally, Car Driverís talk on the cell phones, guzzle coffee, mess with their children, surf the web, read and watch DVDís. Iíve seen all these things. Bikes roll through lights. Yikes! Itís called defensive driving. Iíd rather get a jump ahead of traffic my checking an intersection and rolling through, then waiting for a light next to soccer mom who crushes me because sheís on the phone with her babysitter.

5. Handeye has never been on a Critical Mass bike ride and I think he MIGHT have seen one move through an intersection once. Somebody is entering middle age a wee bit early. I wonder if he writes his blog from his Archie Bunker armchair now.

Posted by: FattyFattyfatfat at April 22, 2004 10:15 AM

George W Bush is a case for alcoholics not recovering.

But back to the point, I'll dip back in here because I'm bored at work. I actually agree with Fattyfattyfatfat on bicycles and SUVs and drivers. Bicycles are generally safer, more economically sound, better for health and better for the environment.

Drivers do many bad things, as Fattyfat mentioned. Talking on mobile phones while driving is illegal in more progressive countries but here we have the ignorant tradition of "the American lifestyle is not up for negotiation," (~Bush Sr) and industry lobbies which don't want things like public safety and saving lives getting in the way of making a buck. But we are a "Christian nation", go figure.

Some of these more progressive nations also allow a cyclist at a red light to dismount, become a pedestrian and push his bike across the intersection before resuming his cycling lifestyle. Yes, it takes thirty two seconds off your precious time.

I agree with point that bikes are traffic. As such they should obey traffic rules. You stop at a red light. You stop at a stop sign. You don't weave in and out of traffic and you don't ride on the sidewalk. The cyclist that hit me (git) blew through a red light and was so busy dodging a car that had the right of way he hit me. Come on, is a two minute wait so bad? Imagine if the rest of the traffic also felt that the red light was just for other folk.

Finally, I stand beside my bike shorts comment. No, there's no spandex crisis but criminal dress sense is unpardonable. Keep America beautiful and all that. Is spandex environmentally friendly? Does it breathe like cotton? Alright, some women might look downright hot in them, but men in spandex? Richard Simmons. Show some dignity.

Posted by: Isaac at April 22, 2004 12:58 PM

April 19, 2004

Why I love radio

Leave it to a radio d.j. to make a "Sunday morning with the Beatles" show feel like some sort of fringe novelty act featuring hits from the musical careers of artists like Soupy Sales and Leonard Nimoy.

How hard could it be to host a "Beatles" show? Play the songs, maybe note some anniversaries and little-known facts about the group, and if you want to get fancy then maybe concentrate on "early" Beatles one Sunday and then "LSD" Beatles the next. But above all - JUST PLAY THE SONGS.

Instead, XRT manages to fumble what must be the easiest thing to do in radio. Their Sunday show is a collection of Beatles covers from everyone from George Burns to William Shatner to the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra, inserted between anything there is left to scour off of the "Anthology" CDS. We get Beatles songs, but more than that we get bizarre and ill-advised covers, outtakes, guide vocals, click-tracks, and that one time they recorded Ringo clearing his throat for twenty minutes. They approach the Beatles not like fans but like obsessive-compulsives.

Too bad they couldn't be more like 97.1... THE DRIVE. According to 97.1 "All Elton John, All the Time" WDRV's television ads, we should listen to them because they "understand" the Beatles. And by "understand" they of course mean they will pick the four songs that appear at the top of the demographics chart and play those ad infinitum.

Posted by Chris on 04/19/04

April 16, 2004

Infrequently Asked Questions

Q: How did the rendering go yesterday?

A: Fine! After much observation, it seems the Mac can go for a max of three hours at a time before it needs reassurances. So I took a quick cab-ride home yesterday at 1PM to give it a restart, and also set my alarm for 4AM last night to wake up and do the same. When I left for work today, it was more or less at the halfway point. I'm about to grab a cab to go home even now for a restart.

Q: Why don't you just bring the firewire drive with you to work and keep rendering all day long on a Mac there, Mr. Martyr?

A: Because I have already raided every Mac here for memory to make this work.

Q: Excellent - so is this the last step before you make the DVD that will be shown at the premiere?

A: No - when I relinked the 300 or so separate video files, it looks like around 25 of them just got screwed up; so those shots have to be reinserted exactly as they were before.

Q: So since you're having to wait around so much, you're getting a lot of writing done?

A: Bitch, please.

Q: Who's in on iPod? And who's out?

A: Out: "Living Color." No offense, I was just skipping over them a lot. In: "Stop Making Sense."

Q: How did you like "The Girl Next Door" last night?

A: Lotsa laffs. I had a hard time following the plot, though, because I was busy with my Obscenity Abacus verifying Movieguide's findings. Secret lover Elisha Cuthbert is miscast as a porn star, but she is the very model of a modern "girl next door" that you fall hopelessly in love with. Timothy Olyphant could make a whole career out of striking an amazing balance between convincing menace and enormous likability.

Q: What do you do at night when the demons come?

A: I'm usually up anyway restarting the rendering on the Mac. So we usually play a few hands of rummy.

Posted by Chris on 04/16/04

April 15, 2004

You were Great to Work With

I've seen two or three "behind the scenes of a movie" productions recently, and hundreds over my lifetime, and with rare exception, they have all essentially been the same interview, just given by different actors for different movies.

No matter what the movie, no matter what the script, no matter who the director was, who the cast was, where they were, no matter what the question, their answer is invariably:

He Was Great to Work With.

Sometimes they are talking about a fellow actor, but usually it is the director. Specifically, there are 2-3 ways any given director is Great to Work With:

1. He knows what he wants / has a strong vision.

2. He listens to my ideas / takes my suggestions.

Additionally, if it is Tim Burton or Steven Spielberg:

3. He still has that child-like sense of wonder.

I'm not looking for gossip and dirt, just some nuts-and-bolts information once in a while.

Posted by Chris on 04/15/04

Poorly-constructed straw man #526

Today Lileks erects another of his hastily-constructed straw men and then rushes at it, screeching, with his pitchfork.

Program Note: Today's Lilekian Straw Man stands for... hmmm, let's see here... Hollywood Execs. They won't make a 9/11 movie because they're too touchy-feely about Arabs. Oh! And wait - Richard Clarke. Enjoy the - OH! Wait, there's more! Um... Palestinians. And... well, it's a big list, so let's just go with "all liberals" as usual.

Posted by Chris on 04/15/04

An Explosion of Lesbian Kissing

Just read the review of the "abhorrent" film "The Girl Next Door" over at Movieguide.org, where they cite

...plenty of sexual situations, foul language, and nudity; some strong homosexual content; at least 83 mostly strong obscenities, nine strong profanities, 15 light profanities, and two obscene gestures.

Now, I'm fine taking a pre-teen to a movie that has, say, 80 or so mostly strong obscenities. But 83? Forget it.

I'm all for guides that lay it out for parents like this, because the MPAA rating system is hopeless, but I always wonder how someone goes about getting such an accurate count of a film's transgressions this way. It's no small task for the reviewer! They've got to be able to make an instantaneous call of whether something is strong vs. light profanity, whether that was an obscene gesture or just lewdness, be able to scribble it in the dark in what must be a very detailed shorthand - and scribble QUICKLY because those obscenities are coming fast and furious! - all the while retaining some memory of the plot and whether it conforms with the teachings of Christianity.

Maybe there's no shorthand at all. Perhaps Michael Medved has marketed some sort of Obscenity Abacus, and when a character discusses "safe sex" without condemnation in the film, you just clack another red bead over a notch.

Probably less difficult than making split-second calls on the severity of a profanity is determining just how the long arm of Bill Clinton's corruption has manifested itself in the film. Since the answer is basically, everywhere:

Regrettably, because it is such an entertaining movie, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR may attract many young people at the local multiplex, resulting in a further loss of innocence and purity among our youth. In recent years, because of a popular Presidentís personal peccadilloes, Americans have seen an increase of oral sex among young people.

The review goes on to describe two other celebs that have contributed to corruption in Our Youth, but since they are not Clinton, they obviously only rank as ordinal threats:

Also, in the last year alone, high school campuses in America have seen an explosion of lesbian kissing after Madonna kissed Britney Spears on national TV. Donít be surprised, therefore, if you find your sons and daughters making secret porn movies at their schools in the wake of this new movie.

(That's another one for my Plural Project - an "explosion" of lesbian kissing.)

Predictably, the review ends with the complete contact information of the studio head, to make it easier when sending the reflexive letter of protest.

Posted by Chris on 04/15/04

you'd love mandarin. every noun requires a "noun collective" aka "meausre word." even singular nouns.

Posted by: kjk at April 16, 2004 12:42 PM

Shouldn't the puritans be applauding and encouraging the explosion of oral sex and "bi-curiosity"? After all, neither lead to those wicked, naughty abortions.

It's entirely likely in viewing contemporary cinema you will encounter modern values and customs. Instead of revealing his age through an inability to square today's mores with his quaint old-fashioned notions perhaps it's time for such reviewers to hang up the pen, and retreat from the the soapbox.

Posted by: Isaac at April 16, 2004 1:57 PM

I have chosen to respond to this comment in Mandarin, which I will translate back into English using Babelfish:

"You are the one making with the happy wisdom which shall make others with less of a brain very sad."

Posted by: Chris at April 16, 2004 2:06 PM

Zeno's Rendering Paradox


(THE SETTING: My desk, last night. I sit down to the Mac to adjust the color in a few scenes. I'm smiling - this thing is almost done! I open the project file, humming to myself. Then: inexplicably, about a quarter of the precious render files cannot be found.)

ME: What the hell?

FINAL CUT PRO: Yeah... I'm going to need you to go ahead and re-render basically, yeah, the middle of the movie. Yeah... if you could sort of... get that done that would be great. Mmmkay?

ME: What the hell happened to them? That took HOURS! A whole day and night to get that done!

FINAL CUT PRO: Yeah... tell you what, it's always hard to say with those things. I can't find them.

ME: They're right there on the drive! Taking up gigs and gigs of space!

FINAL CUT PRO: Yeah... hmm. You remember when you created a copy of the project file and tried to work off just one firewire drive? To see how hard it would be to relink the media? Yeah... I'm thinking it had something to do with that. Can't be sure, though.

ME: Dammit - I can't keep re-rendering this thing! The show is in two weeks! I'm not even sure I got the colors right!

FINAL CUT PRO: Yeah. Oh, by the way? When you relink files? The old render files don't work anymore. Yeah.

ME: Holy shit you're kidding. If I'd known that four days ago...

FINAL CUT PRO: Yeah... tell you what. I'm going to need you to go ahead and let the project re-render overnight. Mmmkay? Great! Thanks for taking care of that.

THE MAC: Ooooo. You know what, guys? There's no way I have enough memory for that.

ME: (Head in hands) Of course not.

THE MAC: Yeah, I don't see me being able to do it all in one pass. I'm going to need someone to quit the program and restart it somewhere in the middle, if not give me a solid reboot. Maybe more than once, in fact.

FINAL CUT PRO: Yeah... good point. Tell you what, Chris. I'm going to need you to go ahead and come back in about four hours to sort of... get that done.

ME: Four hours from now is two AM.

FINAL CUT PRO: Yeah... probably best to set your alarm, then.

THE MAC: Or you could just let it go until tomorrow morning. I don't mind waiting!

FINAL CUT PRO: Yeah... but who's to say if I'm going to be able to spot the rest of the rendered files tomorrow?

GIGS AND GIGS WORTH OF RENDER FILES, NOW USELESS: Hey! Guys! We're right here! We haven't moved! Can't you see us?

ME: (To F.C.P.) WELL?!? Can't you see them?

FINAL CUT PRO: Hmmm? Oh, sorry, I don't see a thing. Nope.

(Numbly, I hit the "render" button. I stare at the screen for a long time. A progress bar appears, and in the next ten minutes, will show 1% of progress.)

PROGRESS BAR: Nice to see you again. (A long, long pause) Guess we better make ourselves comfortable, hunh? (Another long pause) Do you have any chips?

Posted by Chris on 04/15/04

April 14, 2004

She Who Cries Wolf

If this were an Alfred Hitchcock movie...

http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/Midwest/04/14/seiler.charged.ap/index.html

...someone would now kidnap this girl for REAL, and demand a million dollars from her parents.

And no one would believe them, because their cuckoo daughter already faked this not once but TWICE, but they'd still have to come up with the cash, the poor schmucks. The boyfriend, played by a Rod Taylor doing his best to appear collegiate though he would clearly be in his late thirties, might be presented as a possible suspect in the first reel, but quickly discarded. The name of the movie would be something like "She Who Cries Wolf."

I see a Barbara Stanwyck or an Eve Arden in the role of the imperious yet plucky sorority house mother that breaks the case.

Posted by Chris on 04/14/04

"Fabricated Kidnappings of the Heart"

Posted by: Pete at April 15, 2004 11:10 AM

A Preposterous Future

Just got a piece of spam from Stealth V. Complexity - the offer was to GET MY UNIVERSITY DIPLOMA! with no required tests, classes, books, or interviews! I could receive the benefits and admiration that comes with a diploma, and no one is turned down!

But the funny part was the error in the subject line, which asked: Do You Want to Have Preposterous Future?

I feel a conviction deep in my soul that I will.

Posted by Chris on 04/14/04

Render Irony

A bit of bitter irony last night as I rendered literally the last second of the movie:

Just as I was beginning to celebrate, I played back that last second of footage, the production company logo and copyright date. Whoops - the date said 2003. Change it, re-render. Yep, this has been an unexpectedly long process.


Then of course came the Watching of the Whole Thing again to check for colorization errors. I've done this so many times that the plot, words and actions have ceased to have any coherent meaning to my brain. I imagine this to be how dogs experience television - just a screen with random flickers of light and color. It takes an effort to watch it.

Apparently in the delirium of exhaustion I was occasionally going for a 60s-style psychedelic look, as some shots are REALLY REALLY YELLOW and others are REALLY REALLY PURPLE. I get through 30% of the movie, and decide to call it a night. Made some changes - let it re-render over night.

Posted by Chris on 04/14/04

Reality's Apprentice

Here is a good article from the Morning News that I enjoyed because of three separate topics it touched on that I've recently been thinking about:

  • Film crews are obnoxious to be around or a part of. Note to self: Determine some way to make professional films without involving a crew.

  • When in history were people flying out windows at such a pace that the word defenestrate needed to be coined? If I enter my apartment through the window, am I fenestrating?

  • It is comforting somehow to hear other peoples' tales of landlord woe. Somehow being informed ahead of time that I have no rights, but not to worry, NO ONE does, puts it in a perspective I can live with.

    I enjoyed the article, despite its occasional lapse into the "only in New York could this happen!" sentiment. As if only on the island of Manhattan would neighbors begin to bond during a blackout.

    Posted by Chris on 04/14/04
  • April 13, 2004

    Some observations and regrets

  • A few weeks ago we were getting taxes ready. We went through every single receipt from the past year, with me calling out the amount, item, and category to Wife Ami, who would record it in a spreadsheet.

    Unfortunately, in the process of doing this I inadverdantly revealed the One True Price of Precious iPod to her, which I had made a point of not revealing before then.

  • When the whole thing was compiled I noted that while there were some $40,000 worth of movie tickets, there was only about $112 on clothing. This explains why I go to the movies, a lot, alone.


  • I regret now asking FattyFat and others to play four-person chess with me, because I see now how geeky it sounded. I've always wanted to try it - it's a version where instead of two people facing off across the board, there are four people, one on each side. I assume all the pieces move the way they normally would, but instead of getting Kings in checkmate, you actually capture them. After which I think you get to use all their pieces as your own, I'm not sure.

    After the first exasperated response to the idea, I assumed I was dealing with people for whom the game was sacred, and no variants would be tolerated. But that wasn't it. I can see now that when I say "let's try 4-person chess," other people hear it as "let's play 4-D chess like they do on Star Trek, and we can all dress up like our favorite characters."

    Not what I meant, but I can see where someone would make that mistake.

    If ever a game begged to be played over the anonymity of the Internet, this one does; but alas - no such forums exist.

    Apparently the only winning move in four-person chess is not to play. Getting past that Invitational Gambit - the one where you have to actually find people willing to play - is just too difficult.

    And all the websites devoted to "chess variants" bear this out: they all include a detailed set of rules for how it would theoretically happen, and even diagrams, but on NO SITE do you see actual pictures of people playing it.

    Posted by Chris on 04/13/04
  • Hot bumpercar-on-bumpercar action

    Maybe you'd like to see some hot Whirlyball action pics? These thumbnails are free, but the real hardcore stuff is by pay membership only.

    NOTE FROM THE FUTURE: I took these pictures down, but they all kind of looked like this:

    Posted by Chris on 04/13/04

    April 12, 2004

    Renderfest '04

    The movie was done weeks and weeks ago - until my friends showed me the kinds of color correction they were doing on their own film. Like a crack dealer giving away the first try for free, they color-corrected a few shots of my movie. The difference was startling - it was like someone had wiped away a layer of yellow grime away from the monitor.

    Now I am adjusting the color for every shot in the film. Something that's done as a matter of course on professional shoots, but whoever said this was professional? Every shot has to be done more or less individually - but worse than that, every single shot has to then be rendered by the computer. Depending on how complicated the correction, it can take hours for just a few minutes of footage.

    I have finished adjusting and rendering the color correction for around 75% of the film, and that has taken five complete days. And not five unattended days, either. If I tell the Mac to do the whole thing, it balks. NOT ENOUGH MEMORY, it says, even though I have stuffed a GB worth of chips into it. Rather, and in this way it is much like me, I have to pick much much smaller chunks of the movie and tell it to just do those. It can do about five minutes at a time, and then I have to select the next batch.

    Am I complaining? No. I'm making a movie on a G4 that's around three years old, and I'm using software that is three versions old. No matter what problems I've encountered, I am always amazed that I can even begin* to edit a project over 90 minutes long, with titles and transitions and music and now massive color correction on the system.

    But here's the problem with all this rendering: the render files. These are mysterious video files that maintain some ethereal yet very fragile link to your Final Cut project, and if you happen to be rendering about an hour and a half of video, they will very quickly begin to take up all your disk space.

    Final Cut Pro 1.25 is bad enough with helping you manage the straight video files. The program is designed by people for whom disk space is clearly not an issue. But my puny firewire drive is full now. Of the hundreds of video files I captured for the movie, I'm using maybe a quarter. The rest can be deleted, but there is no built-in way to identify and consolidate those files. You'd have to manually record the file name of every single video clip and sound file you used, then manually take out the others.

    (Are later versions of FCP any better at this? Or, like v. 1.25, does their version of Media Management mean actually making additional copies of all the media, in a proprietary format?)

    It's worse than that for render files. There's no way to move them. Move a straight video file, and Final Cut will ask you where it is. But move a render file, or delete them, or change a folder name, and they are then useless. They are the Palestinians of computer files - their native land is Holy and if you try to move them they will cause you much grief.

    And now that there are so many of them, they have taken up a second firewire drive - the backup drive. Which means that wherever the movie goes to be finished*, the two firewire drives have to go - which means no backup drive. If I hit the big Magnet Truck on the drive, the movie is screwed. Gone, totally erased.

    *Of course, the problem is not beginning, it's ending. As I've written before, although I can finish the project on this machine, it does not quite have the processing power to export the movie. For that I rely on the kindness and G5s of others.
    Posted by Chris on 04/12/04

    Jesus vs. Hellboy, REDUX

    No surprises here:

    (AP) Many Christians made "The Passion of the Christ" a part of their Easter weekend, lifting the crucifixion saga back to the top box-office spot with $17.1 million.

    My only question (and this is lifted from Fattyfat) is whether you take the kids before or after the Easter Egg hunt.

    And read this comment carefully:

    "That's unprecedented. I've never seen that before. 'The Passion' is just rewriting box-office history," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "This is a holy day, and this movie is tailor-made for a weekend like this. It's not just a movie. It's a religious experience for many people."

    Enboldenment mine. To say that the movie is "tailor-made" for the holiday is a little myopic. After all, it's not just good luck that this movie about the crucifixion was released around Easter, is it? Just like it's not exactly great filmmaking that's allowing it to "rewrite box office history."

    I'm not bitter! I'm just saying, too bad there's not a Hellboy-related religion and holiday.

    Posted by Chris on 04/12/04

    J. and I saw Hellboy on Easter. It seems wrong, but that was the only day we had free!

    Posted by: Jennifer at April 14, 2004 9:39 AM

    Actionable Items

    No excuses after this. Today's editorial in the Times is nothing less than a plan - or, if you will, a set of actionable items - for the President to win back some of the support he's lost recently. It is completely sound, well-reasoned, balanced and unsarcastic, and if he follows it he'll probably win the election.

    Well, that and the "surprise" capture of Bin Laden in around September will win him the election.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/12/opinion/12MON1.html

    On the other hand, if he and his people ignore it and continue to act with complete arrogance about these inquiries, they deserve to lose.

    Posted by Chris on 04/12/04

    April 9, 2004

    God's Literal Truth

    Some random thoughts on people who are lucky enough to know God's literal truth:

  • The enormous business that "The Passion" has done scares the hell out of me, and not in the way that they want it to. Good for Mel, good for people seeing movies instead of banning them, up with freedom of expression and voting at the box office, yes, yes, yes, but it's not exactly the Good News about Jesus to me. But I have to remind myself: nothing has really changed. Peasants have always responded best to a really bloody passion play.

  • These "Left Behind" books - I can remember when the same people that now buy these books up in big, righteous stacks used to complain when their kids played role-playing games that had demons and devils in them.

    Speaking of that, I think the only way this Revelation-revellery will ever die down is when the role-playing people or video game world gets ahold of it. When the third-party shooter Smite II: In the Lair of the Antichrist comes out, or Fist of God: Deathmatch becomes a hit game, or when Moloch or Belial or Lucifer or whoever gets to be the cool role to play in the church pageant because the costume is MUCH cooler than the Jesus costume, then maybe this obnoxious trend will run out of steam for a while.

    What we REALLY need to send it off the rails: "Left Behind" Erotic Fan Fiction.

  • NOTE TO THE ARCHEOLOGISTS WHO DIG UP OUR CULTURE IN THOUSANDS OF YEARS: If you're wondering what to call this historical period you've found, I suggest "The Jack Chick Era." By the way - you can keep digging. I'm sure there's more interesting stuff a few layers down.

  • Interesting that we've seen a few examples of Biblical-style wrath and punishment meted out in real life recently. A man actually plucked out his own eye, a woman actually stoned her children to death. Both claimed God told them to do it.

  • Speaking of taking things literally in the Bible: Did you know that people who handle snakes as a sign of their faith do it based on just two particular verses?

    Mark 16:18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

    Luke 10:19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.

    Wow! You have to hand it to them, I guess! Just two verses, two little mentions out of that whole big book, and they're passing snakes around over it! I'm just saying - it seems a little scant! I'm just saying, of all the things to take literally in the whole big thing, and I'm not a religious person, but this seems like an unfortunate choice! I mean, if I were going to pick up a rattlesnake, I'd have to have a WHOLE lot more to go on! Maybe a whole book of the Bible devoted to it, at least a major character that did it in the Old Testament! What about those two guys that were thrown in the oven, and God protected them? Is there a Church of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego where they don't handle snakes but stick their heads in ovens? I'm just saying! I'd need a LOT of convincing that I wasn't about to be the next Darwin Award winner, a lot more than two rather brief mentions! Hell, I had to get a spider out of the tub this morning and I practically had to call the Fire Department! Not a fan of the creepy-crawlies, me!

    Posted by Chris on 04/ 9/04
  • Silence!

    HOOboy: http://www.silencethemusical.com

    Listen to these excerpts somewhere where others can't hear. Hilarious! Especially Buffalo Bill's numbers.

    Posted by Chris on 04/ 9/04

    April 8, 2004

    Rocket Had an Acorn

    From Profanation Q. Lissajous, whose actual email address was "categorically@wewonthewar.com:"

    Haven't we met somewhere before? :))) Chris, all human life is here, but the Holy Ghost seems to be somewhere else.

    If you believe in an unseen Christ, you will believe in the unseen Christlike potential of others. One can pay back the loan of gold, but one lies forever in debt to those who are kind. Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount.

    Profanation then helpfully went on to describe some great deals on off-brand medication.

    Now, this bit of Suspensory Cyclopentane Porn Poetry from author Baloney R. Forsworn:

    Rocket Had an Acorn by Baloney R. Forsworn

    Of signs, steal the lonely powder, proving
    The spill yells, as if the meaning is a port.
    And hams throw out, penetrating by killing shortly yet quietly,
    Destroyed by hands, solves the creep to queen.
    When aardvarks beckon in happy contents, the hole makes,
    Until girls wipe pitifully, the content walks as guest,
    And knives mark, to the futon, undetectably?
    In clocks, the pie will call, haunt not
    Where llama hits through explaining, slyly,
    The porpoise penetrated quickly, pleasant undid the nude shame.
    Rocket had an acorn, which was not at all a ham.

    Wally wanted: Calm turtle as a hand puts down about the weak chariot,
    And drivers say, to the port, lovingly?
    Thrown out by rockets, lifts the pie to vessel.

    This is the most violent piece of Suspensory Cyclopentane Porn Poetry we've yet seen, all the more so for its linkage of that violence to eroticism. Though Forsworn initially is dealing with the fairly stock images of "knives" and of being "destroyed by hands," the piece then makes the shocking violence / sex connection by showing us not one but TWO acts of penetration: the first by some hams, when the act is apparently fatal, and finally, by a porpoise, which seems to end more happily for both parties.

    (Interestingly, Forsworn borrows imagery from Quest M. Vortice's work here, appropriating the llama from "Enlarge The Cup" for the porpoise-tryst.)

    But what are we to make of the sudden last-minute appearance of the "Wally" character, or the clear reference to the narcotizing "lonely powder" in the first line, which appears once but then is never mentioned again? Forsworn's poem suffers somewhat from a lack of focus - it is as if he could not decide if he wanted to explore the nuances of the porpoise / llama relationship, to illustrate some sort of journey through space (or time! Note the glaring, Dali-esque intrusion of a clock) in a pie, or deal more explicitly with the violent and erotic elements. One almost gets the impression at times that the poem is a random assortment of words and ideas.

    Cleary Forsworn is no Vortice.

    But for all his flaws, he is an undeniable master of repetition. Forsworn depicts not just two acts of penetration, but treats us to an appearance by two rockets, two pies, and, bringing us full circle near the end, we return to the idea of death and violence with a second, lethal ham.

    More Squarsonry here.

    Posted by Chris on 04/ 8/04

    April 7, 2004

    Well said!

    From the New York Times Op / Ed page, Nicholas D. Kristof lowers his helm and gets a good running start at the windmill:

    There's a growing sense that while abortion may be wrong, criminalization is worse.

    Good article - nicely put.

    Posted by Chris on 04/ 7/04

    I had the thought, reading depressing details about how fiscally unconservative the current administration really is, that perhaps they oppose abortion because it thins the ranks of those inheritors of our expanding national debt.

    GOP "buy now, pay later" policy works only with growing inflation and population, i.e. if you're in a hole, keep digging and pass laws to prevent others from filling the hole in.

    Posted by: Isaac at April 7, 2004 1:56 PM

    Nice Job to Have #5

    The latest on the great Theatre Rental Adventure: I sent a terse, professional fax to Mr. Three Penny that he could take his theatre and shove it, in toto, up his butt. Am I happy that he also has a previous signed fax from me that I want to give him money for a certain date? No. But it's out there and maybe he's not a litigious person. Last night I went to the Chicago Actor's Studio and put down a deposit for that space. It seats one hundred and has its own projector, which I'll test this Easter in lieu of thinking about how He has Risen.

    It is an old place and has long given up the right to even be called "dingy." I think we're well into "seedy" territory at this point. But, it is there, money has changed hands for a certain date and time, and I have a piece of paper stating same.

    Am I now magically relaxed because I have a piece of paper with my signature as well as the theatre manager's? No. Not until I press a button on May 2nd and light hits a movie screen, followed by sound coming from speakers, will I relax.

    So in theory this stage of the theatre Rental Adventure is over, but you will not be surprised to learn that to my list of Nice Jobs to Have, which previously included only: 1. Insurance Agent, 2. Landlord, 3. C.T.A. Attendant, and 4. Offsite Data Storage Specialist, I have added 5. Theatre Owner.

    Posted by Chris on 04/ 7/04

    Untapped Skills

    I found a "Barrel of Monkeys" game upstairs, and as it turns out: I am very good at this game. I can hook every single monkey except for two.

    Pick-Up Stix, though - I suck at that.

    Posted by Chris on 04/ 7/04

    Knowledge Gap #4729

    Confession: When I hear news about how the dollar is strong, or maybe weak, against the pound right now, or against the peso or the yen or the ruble or the shekel, or how a certain government has pegged their currency to ours... I have no idea what that means.

    I understand how exchange rates work, but only in a superficial way. I'm dimly aware that sometimes I get "more for my dollar" when I am in a foreign country, and sometimes less, but I never know when I am "up" or "down" - I don't travel enough to have a comparison. And I maintain that if you're not actually in the arena of International Finance, it doesn't matter anyway.

    A family member came over from Birmingham, England this week, and I had to fake my way through a long conversation about how inexpensive it was for him now over here. Or was he saying it was more expensive? I couldn't tell - I just nodded knowingly.

    I also don't understand inflation, except that it's a Bad Thing.

    Posted by Chris on 04/ 7/04

    April 6, 2004

    Stop reading this

    ... and go to Cartoon Network's site to watch all of Genndy Tartokovsky's "Clone Wars" episodes, if you're not already TiVoing them like me.

    Tartokovsky is the one behind Dexter's Laboratory, the Powerpuff Girl Movie, and the amazingly cinematic and incredible Samurai Jack. The Clone Wars mini-series of stories takes place in a period > Episode II and < Episode III, and are even better than Samurai Jack - they're perfect little five-minute interludes.

    Posted by Chris on 04/ 6/04

    April 5, 2004

    Why does Guillermo hate God?

    O, what Dark Times these are! The End-Times are surely upon us! Only three short weeks ago, "The Passion of the Christ" was number one at the box office! And now it has been replaced by a movie with a demon as its hero!

    A DEMON! As it's HERO! O, weep, wail, and gnash your teeth, righteous ones! Rend your garments, for surely this is one of the Signs!

    Why, O WHY, is Christianity forced to endure assault after assault? What must the God-fearing always be in the minority in this heathen country? Why does Guillermo del Toro (Cronos, a movie about Satanic vampires, Blade II, ALSO a movie about Satanic vampires, Mimic, a movie about giant bugs that are probably sent from Hell, El Espinazo Del Diablo, or in English, [He's a foreigner] The Devil's Backbone) continue to assault Family Values with his Satanic movies?

    What about the kids? What about THE KIDS?!? WON'T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK ABOUT THE KIDS?!?!

    Posted by Chris on 04/ 5/04

    How about a nice film for Christian vampires?

    Posted by: Isaac at April 5, 2004 2:01 PM

    I thought of this the other day, musing over possible headlines. "Hellboy defeats Christ"

    I had another huge important thought and then I realized I typed out one of the biggest spoilers I could ever muster.

    Sorry.

    Posted by: friend jessica at April 6, 2004 2:49 PM

    Theatre Update

    On Sunday I made my third call to the owner of the Three Penny to find out how egregiously I misinterpreted what we talked about.

    Again, he wasn't there. The trick - which apparently I can't quite get the hang of - is calling close enough to the showtimes that he is there but not yet threading up the projectors or selling popcorn. And, as always, it's more convenient to them if you just drop by.

    He wasn't there but his wife, who seems always on the edge of nervous exhaustion when I have left messages with her, was.

    ME: Hello, can I speak to Jim?

    LONG-SUFFERING WIFE OF JIM: No.

    ME: Okay, then can I leave another message?

    LONG-SUFFERING WIFE OF JIM: I... is this important? I'm very sick.

    ME: I... um. Can you just tell me a better time to call back?

    LONG-SUFFERING WIFE OF JIM: I've given him your message. He's just running a lot around today.

    Is it me? It's me, isn't it? It's OK to tell me if it is.

    By the way, thanks to commenters KJK and Jennifer for the help and suggestions...

    Posted by Chris on 04/ 5/04

    April 2, 2004

    Note to RAM chip manufacturers

    In the process of putting the thirty or so numbers that make up the serial number and model of the chip on the product, maybe you could also devote three or so on there to how much RAM it actually is. 128MB? 256MB? 512MB?

    Posted by Chris on 04/ 2/04

    No.

    Posted by: RAM Chip Manufacturer at April 2, 2004 4:20 PM

    Well played, sir. Well... played.

    Posted by: Chris at April 2, 2004 4:30 PM

    Try Next Week

    My greatest fear right now is that everyone will show up for the premiere of my movie "The Intervention" and the theatre owner will have forgotten to show up to let us in. I fear it so much I've prepared a little speech to everyone for when it happens.

    In this nightmare, I've arranged for everyone I know in Chicago to be at this theatre on this certain night at this certain time, to see this movie that has taken about one year too long to make, and the people involved have brought along some friends, too, so it's quite a gaggle of folks standing outside a darkened theatre some Sunday evening. Everyone knows it's not my fault, but... it's pretty obvious we're not watching a movie tonight. Loser.

    It's not just paranoia: it's happened before. I rented a theatre once for a script reading, and the owner simply forgot about it. So there I was with 15 people on a Sunday morning standing outside a theatre, having spent around $110 at Kinkos for copies, looking like a schmuck.

    Worse: My friends rented the Vic / Brew & View to shoot some scenes of their movie, and the owner simply... forgot to show up. Plans had been made, money exchanged hands, equipment bought and rented, schedules carefully worked around this owner's professed availability - and once again, people are standing outside a theatre waiting for someone who's forgotten about them, and who won't think enough of it to even apologize to them when he deigns to return their call.

    And now that I have finally sent out a notice to everyone of the date, there are more problems. Yay! Here's what getting the theatre for the showing has been like so far:

  • The Vic is perfect because they have built-in digital projection, it's bigger and actually cheaper than any other venue, and they have a bar. But it's a fool's paradise. Because Vic Manager doesn't call me back for weeks. Finally when I do reach him, he takes down all the information, and says he has to run it by the owners.

    This cycle will repeat for several more weeks - he will not call me back, then I will finally reach him and he will have to take down all the information again because he's lost it, and run it by the owners.

    Cheaper and better or not, clearly you get what you pay for. Sadly, I move on.

  • After two weeks of phone tag the lady from the Siskel Center calls me back. She is very nice, and the prices are reasonable! IF - I'm willing to do the screening from 9 - 5 on a weekday.

  • At Excalibur they have a monthly independent movie fest with a giant screen and great sound and a bar. When I call to ask about this, however, it's like I'm asking for state secrets or perhaps this was some sort of "Brigadoon"-like film festival that I only dreamed I went to. Such is their lack of recognition when I describe what I am looking for.

    Finally on the third call someone takes the initiative to instantly appoint a nearby bartender the Director of Space Rental. This person says he will email me the information, and is is strangely reticent to speak of it aloud. Fine - so he doesn't have it in front of him and he doesn't remember the details. No big deal, I'll wait for the email. I give him my email address and wait.

    Two days later when nothing has arrived, I call back. This newly-appointed Director is finally found somewhere and brought to the phone. I ask about the rental rates and he says that he must not have written down my email address. Undaunted, I give it again, and a few hours later some Word files arrive. What an efficient way to exchange information!

    Excalibur does everything by the sort of liquor package you want to do, and they don't have their own built-in projection. Even for the cheapest swill I'd be out of pocket thousands of dollars. Next venue.

  • The Harold Washington Library has a space, the lady is nice and professional, but it is exorbitantly-priced and seats only 61. Plus, it looks like a very small auditorium with a big-screen television placed in the middle of a stage. And, not available on weekends.

  • Other venues that do not return phone calls: Facets. The Music Box. The Sofitel hotel.

  • The guy at Three Penny is an independent owner, and is fairly receptive to the idea of me renting his theatre. Which is to say, I have gone to see him in person and have bought a beer from him, so he can't very well ask me to call him back. His price is much more than the Vic, his theatres are smaller, and I will have to separately rent a digital projector. It will easily cost twice what an earlier premiere did at the Vic. But he is nice, so it seems like the place.

    His preferred digital guy does not return phone calls, but I find another one - more expensive, but he returns calls. I'm learning that the basic cost you pay for most services is just to get people to talk to you in the first place.

    So things seem firm for all parties! I give out the date, time and place to cast and crew. Then I fax over a summary of the dates and times to Mr. Three Penny for him to sign. A week later he leaves a message that "this is not what we talked about. You're going to have to get back to me. But I'm not available this weekend, so try next week."

    If I had to write a short guidebook on renting venues for independent filmmakers, it would be called Try Next Week.

    Posted by Chris on 04/ 2/04

    1) Anything I can do?
    2) Can Susan tap into a screening room through Columbia College? It would need to be a Monday-Thursday night or Saturday afternoon, there are some ok bars nearby to go to afterward??
    3) Ginger's Ale House at Grace & Ashland has a special party room, might have a screen available...

    I'm racking my brains for you. Good luck, and let me know if I can help you with anything.

    Posted by: Jennifer at April 3, 2004 2:55 PM

    It's a little off the beaten track, but did you try the Pickwick in Park Ridge?

    Posted by: kjk at April 4, 2004 10:28 AM
  • April 1, 2004

    The Scarlet "P"

    If Bush & Co. are going to truly court the fetus vote in the coming election, they're going to have to make a really convincing case that they're serious about giving them separate rights, and not just pandering to these embryos.

    Here are some other ideas the Republicans might want to consider - and in fact will HAVE to consider - to protect fetuses against not just random attackers, but the greater threat: their mothers.

    1. Drinking and smoking by pregnant women must be made illegal.

    Everybody knows that it's dangerous for mothers to drink alcohol or smoke while pregnant. It says so right on the cigarette pack - it can lead to birth defects. Isn't a woman who would allow their child to have birth defects so she could have another cigarette just as bad as some random attacker? If it's a separate crime for a third party to attack a fetus, why wouldn't it be a crime for the mother to knowingly harm it?

    How can the Bush White House just stand by as careless mothers force these unborn kids to inhale smoke and down highball after highball?

    The unborn are powerless to "just say no" - they can't even talk yet, for Christ's sake. For the government's "rights for fetuses" bill to be truly worthwhile, drinking and smoking by pregnant women must be made illegal! Women who break the law must be put in fined or imprisoned!

    But what about women who can't help themselves? What about alcoholics or addicts?

    2. Known alcoholics or drug addicts who become pregnant must be institutionalized, so that the fetuses' health needs can be looked after in a hospital setting.

    It sounds bad, but come on - they're alcoholics. They're drug addicts. They've proven again and again that they can't control themselves. How can they be trusted to protect their unborn babies?

    The government HAS to step in and take control in the case of an addict's pregnancy. A fetus is powerless against an alcoholic or drug addict mother!

    Having recognized them as separate human beings with their own rights, the government would be criminally neglect if they didn't incarcerate the careless mother and place her in an environment where she could be restrained if necessary.

    And while we're at it: There are obviously MANY health risks that a careless mother could expose herself and by extension the legally-recognized person in her womb to - too many to list here. Obesity, for example, is becoming rapidly recognized as a major cause of poor health. While she's tied up in the hospital bed, why not start her on a diet of some green vegetables for a change, even if it means force-feeding?

    (And this is only scratching the surface! What about mentally ill women? Ladies who participate in life-threatening X-treme Sportz? The government will obviously need to take control of MANY women's diets and day-to-day habits and hobbies.)

    Of course, the obvious flaw with this is that alcoholics or drug addicts, or even just chronically unhealthy people, might try to hide their problems to avoid incarceration. Not so fast, losers:

    3. A publicly-available record of women who enter rehab for addiction must be made available.

    Any lawyer will tell you that the mother's right to privacy is surely outweighed by these new rights to life accorded to fetuses that Bush is going to sign into law. A national database of women - just women - who attend rehab will need to be established, and made available to anyone under the Freedom of Information Act.

    (And by the way, wouldn't having access to records of who's seen the inside of the local methadone clinic and who hasn't, make, say, a loan officer's job much easier? Nobody wants to lend money to someone that had the monkey on their back! They'll just blow it on needles or smack!)

    OK, fine. That takes care of the women who are obviously unfit to know what's best for the future Republicans in their bellies. But what about the careless mothers who might try to hide their pregnancy so that they can drink and smoke all they'd like? Very clever. IF NOT FOR THIS:

    4. Women that are pregant must be legally required to wear an outwardly-visible symbol identifying them as With Child.

    It needs to be large and plain enough so that the average harried bartender in a dark bar could spot it, lest they mistakenly sell the woman a drink and become implicated in a case of Fetal Assault.

    A brightly colored armband? That glows under blacklight?

    A tattoo?

    A large scarlet "P" on their clothing?

    Hey - I'm not the fashion guy. I leave that to others. The Bush people are snappy dressers, I'm sure someone up there has rendered a sketch of a "Baby on Board - Do Not Serve Me Alcohol" patch that can be ironed onto most clothing.

    Whatever it is, all pregnant women will need to be compelled by law to wear it all times. Because you can't trust women to make the right choices by their fetuses!

    By extension, all doctors who perform pregnancy tests must be compelled to report the results to the government. And it's probably best to discontinue the sale of home pregancy tests, as those can be used in secret, out of view of the government.

    Let's also think about this: is it the fetuses' fault if its mother was raped? Either by a stranger or a relative? Of course it isn't. Did the fetus tell Mom to wear that slinky thing and go slutting around in front of the guys down at the bar, or Uncle Tommy, just asking for it? No! That slimy little thing is sloshing around in the womb trying to mind it's own business!

    I think you know where I'm going with this:

    5. The "rape and incest" exception for abortions must be dropped.

    Come on, guys! Let's not lose our nerve so close to the end! I mean, let's be honest - this is where it's been going all along. This is where it HAS to go if we're giving legal rights to the unborn! Rape and incest are terrible things, yes, we all agree on that, but...

    If we agree that fetuses have a separate legal right to life, AND! We agree that a poor, defenseless fetus cannot control if it was the product of rape or incest, then it is clearly wrong to make little Amber-if-it's-a-girl-and-Cody-if-it's-a-boy pay the ultimate penalty for how they were conceived. Therefore, ALL abortions must be made illegal.

    And anyone breaking any of these laws should be tried in the same way as, say, a mother who tried to kill her own beloved child would be - as a vicious murderer!

    Right?

    Posted by Chris on 04/ 1/04

    It's important for zygotes to enjoy nine months -less if they opt for prematurity - of civil rights in the womb so we have something to take away and roll back once they pop out. Then we might fingerprint and slap ID numbers on their soft skulls.

    It's somehow reassuring the little Bush is taking Osama bin Laden's view on abortion and the sanctity of kissing the religious right's arse.

    Posted by: Isaac at April 2, 2004 4:37 PM

    The Coveted Fetus Vote

    Kudos to Bush for courting the oft-overlooked fetus vote for the upcoming election:

    http://archive.salon.com/news/feature/2003/11/12/abortion/index.html

    You have to hand it to the Republicans: is there any demographic that consistently displays more election-year apathy than embryos? The politician that has the guts to engage this historically marginalized group will win the White House.

    If this strategy of campaigning to the Unborn wins them another term in the White House, the Democrats will have no one to blame but themselves.

    (Unless! The Dems begin to court the vast untapped voting potential of the Uncloned!)

    Posted by Chris on 04/ 1/04