Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Monday, December 26, 2005

My new(?) digital camera

Yesterday was Christmas. There was a cute little present under the tree for me, a digital camera. If you've read this or my other blog Full Tilt Sailing Team regularly, you might recall what happened to my previous digital camera. For those of you who don't know, it was dropped from my wife's backpack into roughly 30 feet of water on Block Island as she clambered from the dinghy onto our sailboat back in August.

Hey, I'm not saying it was HER fault or anything...heck, ANYONE could have forgotten they had a camera in their backpack after using it just a few minutes before. It WAS kind of sad though, because I'd had the camera for about seven years. I miss it.

Since then, I've purchased a Panasonic mini-DV camera, which also works as a 2.3 megapixel digital camera (with the optional memory card). It's OK, but it's a little bulky for casual photos, and I worry about possibly damaging it...like, by dropping it into the OCEAN or something. I wanted an inexpensive (just in case) digital camera to replace it so I asked Joyce to buy me a Fuji A345 to replace it, for about $150.

I like the A345 because it's got a 3X optical zoom, which mostly makes up for the minimal 4.1 megapixal resolution; anyway, my old Casio digital was a sub megapixal model and I got a lot of good use out of it...you can see lots of photos I shot with in on my blogs prior to August '05. Plus, the store offered a free 64MB memory card, to upgrade the standard 16MB card that comes with the camera.

So, Xmas morning I opened up the gift and took out the camera. Hmmm, this is interesting...the batteries are already loaded in the camera. And the plastic sheet that usually covers the LCD window is missing. That's weird. I click the camera on. As I start thinking about it, I switch the camera to PLAY mode.

Bing! There's a picture of somebody's house. I start scrolling through the pictures (half-hoping to find some juicy nudie pics, but no such luck) and see a bunch of photos of the house; like what a real estate agent would shoot. I checked the date stamps, and see they were taken about 3 weeks before Joyce bought the camera.

Those bastards sold me a USED camera! I packed it up, and took it back to the store. Of course, they were out of that model, so I got a full refund. But they didn't notice the free memory chip on the receipt, so I got to keep it. Ha-ha-ha! I burned them for a chip that costs 20 bucks!

Now I've got to find a new camera somewhere else. Normally I enjoy shopping for electronic gadgets, but I'm so burned out from Xmas shopping that I think I'll wait a few days before hitting the local stores to find a replacement. But we had a great time anyway this year, and spent some quality time with the family(s).

We hope you all had a fun holiday.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

So far, so good

The Newport mini-doc is coming along. I've edited together about 7 minutes worth, and I expect it to run somewhere around 12-14 minutes. I've also downloaded some great public domain classical music from archive.org for the soundtrack. It's going pretty good.

This is the library in one of the mansions. Nice room. Except there's no available wall space for a 60" flat-screen television. Jeez, I thought these guys were rich.

Every room seems to have a 20 foot high ceiling, and the doors average about 12 feet high. I always wondered why they needed such high doors, because the beds they slept in were way shorter than an average queen-sized bed these days, so they must have been short. I guess if your ceiling is 20 feet high, a little 6-1/2 foot door would look a little silly.

I'm thinking about getting a second monitor for my computer, so I can have the editing timeline on one, and the video window on another. It would make editing quite a bit easier.

I'd like to get back to Newport for some more shooting; I could use a bit more daytime scenic shots of the town, but I guess I've got enough to put it together.

Here's another review..."Broken Flowers" (2005)

I wouldn't be surprised if everyone, having sat through this movie expecting any kind of a pay-off at the end, wants to shoot director Jim Jarmusch. In his head. With a bazooka.

Yeah yeah, it's a character study, like "Lost In Translation", or "Porky's". I liked Lost In Translation, and I'm a big Bill Murray fan (although I'm resigned to the fact that he'll never ever be Carl from "Caddyshack" again in a movie), but I really was hoping for something a little less...nothing, I guess, at the end.

One of the things I loved about Lost In Translation was the fact that Bob Harris and Charlotte never got it on with each other; the Hollywood norm would have had them shag like rabbits during a brief encounter, and then part in a friendly, sweet way. However, I like the way the movie actually ended...they consummated on an emotional level, and left each other more fulfilled than possible any other way.

But "Broken Flowers", well...as Eugene Levy said so well in "Club Paradise" (1986), it was "all preparation and no H".

Truer words were never spoken.

Friday, December 16, 2005

"Murderball" (2005)

Mark Zupan from Team USA

Not many movies are outstanding this year, in my opinion. It's more or less a "blah" kind of cinema year. I don't think I'm going to see "Brokeback Mountain"; it's not really my "cup o' cowboy coffee", if you catch my drift; although I die laughing whenever I hear the phrase "I wish I knew how to quit you," spoken in that backwoods cowboy drawl...it frickin' slays me every time; not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. Replace the two guys with a couple of gals, and I'll get right in line and buy two tickets...one for me, and one for my fully erect...ah, never mind.

When I first heard about "Murderball", I thought big deal, wheelchair rugby. Probably a real bore fest. So, I decided to check it out only after hearing about how great it was from several trusted sources.

Holy shit, these guys are completely insane! I should have suspected it wouldn't be a "normal" movie about people with disabilities...I'm aware that able-bodied rugby players tend to behave well outside of accepted social paradigms, and they have very liberal views when it comes to suffering or causing pain, bleeding, and grievious bodily harm. These guys are no different.

This documentary follows the national "Quad Rugby" teams from the USA and Canada, and features individual studies of members of both teams. The level of competition and intensity displayed is no less than in any other team sport; maybe moreso, seeing as how much they've all had to overcome to get on the teams. The photography and narrative captures this perfectly.

"Murderball" should be an easy consideration for an Academy Award, provided it can be nominated in the Documentary category (I'm being cautious here, because sometimes the rules for nomination are a little sketchy and obscure). But if "March of the Penguins" is also nominated in the Documentary category, it'll probably win, 'cause everybody loves "cute".

There's nothing "cute" about "Murderball".

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

And so it begins...again

Now that I've transferred all the video footage of Newport to my PC, it's time to officially start editing. As I may have mentioned before, this is where the real work begins.

I'm noticing that the footage looks really nice; the Panasonic has wonderful color characteristics, and even the outdoor shots made on a bleak winter's day (even though it's not Winter yet) look awesome.

Again, the lack of a tripod and adequate setup time (basically "point and shoot" guerilla filmmaking) caused some shakiness. And I should remember to remove the .45X wide angle lens when I shoot telephoto...it kind of defeats the purpose, ya know?

This is a view of the back of "The Elms". Probably the only thing comparable to being born a Vanderbilt back in those days is being Bill Gates today. These people had so much money I hear they heated their mansions with hollowed-out logs filled with hundred dollar bills!

OK, that was a slight exaggeration...I know for a fact they used fifties and twenties; they saved the hundreds to light their cigars.

I guess I can't stall any more; it's time to log off the 'net and get to work.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

How to have fun in a mansion


1) Buy a ticket to tour the Newport mansions.

2) Disregard the dire warnings forbidding any photography.

3) Sneak video of the various rooms, and manage to get away with it (for a while).

4) Click off a still digital picture while forgetting that the camera is set for auto-flash, thereby illuminating the entire wing with a 30-millisecond burst of brilliant white brightness.

5) Nearly drop the camera from the balcony when the PA system clicks on and a very loud (and extremely pissed-off voice) booms, "There is NO photography allowed anywhere in the mansion!" For good effect, it's repeated three more times. Loudly.

6) Flee like frightened schoolgirls while the voice is still echoing throughout the mansion.

7) Repeat at next mansion.

Trust me...it's fun.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My DVD has gone International!

Technically speaking, because I mailed a copy of it to Gazza, who happens to live in England, specifically the Liverpool area, so I expect he sounds just like the Beatles when he talks. Gazza wrote me tonight and said he saw the DVD and liked it.

He emailed me a screen cap of the DVD, and asked if it was "the bridge that those people drove off of in Beetlejuice". I don't think it is; they used a stunt bridge. You know how clever those Hollywood people are.

Oh, and I'm going to spend a few days in Newport, so maybe I'll get some video footage of the mansions or something.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"Table For Two" now on Cablevision

I'm very pleased to announce that Michael and Kristen's weekly hour long gossip-fest will be broadcast on Cablevision Channel 77 on Wednesday nights at 8:30. Ant and me are sponsoring "Table For Two", which is currently seen in central Connecticut on several public access networks.

"Table For Two" will now be available in the towns of Milford, Orange, Bridgeport, Fairfield, Woodbridge, and Stratford (Wow, that's a tony sounding group of towns...well, except for Bridgeport) We've opened up another 100,000-home market to this edgy, funny show.

Watch "Table For Two", and practice saying "Uhn-uhh girlfrien', don't GO there!" in the privacy of your own home!

UPDATE: The first episode will air at 9:30 on December 7th, then 8:30 on the 14th, then it's pre-empted on the 21st for a live broadcast, then 8:30 every Wednesday afterwards. Make a note and stick it on your Tivo.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Burning a few DVDs

Now that my short documentary is done, I'm creating some DVDs on my trusty little external DVD burner. Using Pinnacle to burn DVDs on an external USB-connected DVD burner ain't the fastest thing on wheels, but it's workable. I'm up to my 7th DVD of the day, and I think that'll be enough for now.

The DVDs that I made don't look as nice as this one. I don't have CD-labeling stuff, so I just wrote on them with a Sharpie. Low rent all the way!

I've got to give a DVD to the following people:

Joyce - she wants to show my mom-in-law her big (little) screen debut
Anthony - he's anxious to see if I'll challenge his brilliance at next year's awards
Lori - she's totally into producing great shows, and she wants to see this
Sound View - gotta drop off a couple copies to the programming folks there, see what they think

And I'll keep a couple DVDs for me.

Oh, and "Put It There (Shag Nasty)" (click link to hear it) by McKinney's Cotton Pickers (1929), one of my soundtrack songs, has become my most recent favorite song. I'm putting it on my MP3 player.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

It's finally done!

Finished my movie this morning. Once I decided to let the editing process flow naturally, rather than try to stretch the available footage to 25 minutes, it all started going together.

The movie runs just under 14 minutes, so it's going to be a mini-documentary. It'll be the kind of thing the public access station can run when it has 15 minutes to fill.

One month ago Joyce and I filmed the thing, so I'm pleased with how quickly I got it finished. It's not perfect, but as a learning exercise and quicky short subject for TV it's acceptable.

What I learned from this project:

1. Write the script BEFORE shooting. Simply pointing the camera at interesting stuff doesn't lend itself to a coherent narrative.

2. Shoot to edit. Use your abilities to set up transitions and special effects, and make the editing easier.

3. Clean the lens! Yeah, there was a little dust on the lens by the end of the day, and the wide-angle lens coupled with a low sun angle really showed the lens dust in a couple shots. You can't see that crap in the LCD display when you're shooting outdoors. A monitor would help, but is somewhat impracticle on a bicycle.

4. Try to select your music ahead of time. Again, shooting to edit also applies to background music.

5. Have fun; remember, this is a hobby.

So, out of the five, I think I did more "5" than anything else. It really WAS fun, in spite of my dramatics in recent posts. (maybe it was fun BECAUSE of all that booze! - JUST KIDDING)

The final tally of the finished edit:

Runing time - 13:45
54 video segments
27 still images
40 video transitions
6 audio clips/songs
2 mpeg archive movie clips
7 voice over segments
36 title pages
16 title transitions

Now all I have to do is burn a few DVDs and I'm done.

Again, I know it's not perfect (this is me preparing myself for the inevitable criticism I'm sure it'll garner), but it's good. I like it, and that's what counts. Joyce likes it too. That counts even more.

I've finally got a handle on the Pinnacle software. Which is cool. I'm ready to get started on my next project!

And now as I'm typing this there are some delicious smells making their way up from the kitchen. The bird's almost done, and those yams are mighty sweet-smellin'! Yummy!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Driven to drink! (only a bit, anyway)

OK, today I completed another three minutes of post-production on my documentary. It looks like it'll max out at well under twenty minutes, but I simply don't have enough footage to work with. Remember that Joyce and I took our bikes and our only camera and rode 14 miles over the trail. I shot somewhat less than 50 minutes of tape, and there's only so much I can pad in the usuable footage. I'm knocking myself out trying to finish this damned thing...so, now it's time for a breather.

This is for Gazza, who made fun of my Bud Light beer the other day. Look at THIS, mate! I'm drinking a MAN'S drink! Single malt Scotch!

Christ, it's really GOOD, too! No ice, no soda...just a glass and a soon-to-be-empty bottle of Glenmorangie (from my friend Lori who just visited the UK and brought me this wonderful little gift!) Here's a foolproof rule of thumb when it comes to Scotch: Any single malt Scotch with 'GLEN' in it's name has GOT to be good!

Anyway, enough of the boozing. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in America, and I have a lot to be thankful for. It's been a great year, and I'm looking forward to surviving Xmas (I've given up on enjoying it; these days, I'm just happy if I get through it without fucking KILLING somebody!).

Have a great holiday!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

This just in - Sam died

"SANTA BARBARA, California (AP) -- Sam, the dog whose ugliness earned him TV appearances, limousine rides and even a meeting with millionaire Donald Trump, has died, the Santa Barbara News-Press reported Tuesday."

"The pooch with the hairless body, crooked teeth and sparse tuft of hair atop his knobby head died Friday, just short of his 15th birthday, said his owner, Susie Lockheed."
(from CNN.com - 11/21/05)

Sam was featured in this blog not very long ago, after he'd won the "World's Ugliest Dog" contest. Sam was euthanized after his heart started failing. No word on whether the ugly animal left any horrific offspring...but I think I can take a guess:

Oh, that's just MEAN.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

"The Fog of Editing"

Open project, insert clip, right click, edit, split clip, delete, click Play, right click, click edit, delete, click toolbox, click record voice-over, click Record, read text into microphone, click stop, click timeline, click Play, listen to voice-over, click Pause, click Toolbox, click Add CD Music, click track 2, click Add to movie, click Play, listen to music and voice-over, click pause, move cursor to beginning of clip, click Transitions, click on fade-in transition, click Album, click Insert Photo, click arrow to page through pictures, click and drag image into Timeline, double click photo, move cursor to right side and drag to right, click Transitions, drag transition onto Timeline, click Play, double click clip, move cursor onto timer, click down arrow 3 times to shorten clip by one tenth of a second, click Play to see how music syncs up with video, repeat with next clip, ad infinatum.

That took care of about ten seconds of finished video. I've been working on this thing for five hours today, and I've only got eight minutes done. I know that I'm still learning, but Jesus!

Fuck this shit, it's time for a beer!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

"It's an honor just being nominated..."

Bullshit! I wanted to win, I wanted a statue of my very own, to hold, to display, to lord over everyone else who LOST! But NOOO-OOOO!

...ahem...what I meant to say is, Congratulations to Anthony, winner of the 2005 "Tommy" award for Public Access Excellence, in the Best Student PSA Category (Public Service Announcement).

The "Tommys" were awarded by Soundview TV at a gala event Tuesday, starting with a wine and appetizers reception at the City Lights Gallery, followed by the Awards Extravaganza at the Playhouse On The Green in beautiful downtown Bridgeport. Tommys were given to the best producers of shows ranging from Entertainment, Community Affairs, Inspirational, Student PSA, and Technical, plus the Christopher M. Bowley Achiever of the Year Award, given to the one who achieves excellence in community access.

Now, I'd known for weeks now that Anthony was nominated for Best PSA, and we decided to attend with awards with our families. Anthony brought his wife Mary and son Brian, and Joyce accompanied me. Ant was a bit nervous but looked dapper in his double-breasted suit straight out of GQ. Even Brian was looking sharp, in his little tie. Joyce and Mary both obviously love purple, because they were color coordinated. The reception was fun, but I could see Anthony was a little nervous.

We walked the half-block to the theatre, and as we reached our seats I opened my program that listed the nominees. Holy shit! My PSA was nominated also, with two others! I had absolutely NO idea I was in the running! If I'd known, I could have started hating Ant WEEKS ago, instead of now!

I leaned over and pointed it out to him. He smiled and said "Good luck, dude!" Damn, why does he have to be nice when I'm trying to work up a good competitive hatred?

But then I calmed down and realized that I knew Ant's PSA was far better than mine. You see, the PSA is a sort of practical final exam for the field producer's course at Soundview; you have to produce one to graduate. So I threw together some nonsense about voting, it being weeks before the '04 election. It didn't help; Bush won anyway.

Anthony literally took WEEKS putting together what was essentially a 40-second work of art on the subject of drunk driving. He agonized for days about finding one exact sound effect; that's the level of effort he put into the production. I knew in my heart that his was way better than mine, so I was hoping he'd win it. Anyway, it's an honor just to be nominated, right?

Then it got to the point where the PSA award would be announced. As they read the names of us nominees, I panicked for a nanosecond because I didn't have any idea what to say if I won. Then I came back to reality and waited for Ant's name to be called. I gave Ant the ol' thumbs-up as we held our breath.

"And the winner is....(drum roll)....Anthony Rodriguez, for "Drunk Driving"!" The place exploded in applause, and as Ant stood and made his way toward the stage his PSA was played on the giant screen on the stage.

The seriousness of the PSA soon quieted the room, and you could hear Ant's voice narrating the video. Near the end of the PSA, you see a close-up of my hand reaching for a drink on a table, and Ant's hand grabs my wrist. He holds out his other hand, and I give him my car keys. Just before the fade-out, I yelled, "That was my arm!" I got a huge laugh as Ant reached the stage (I'm such an attention whore, I simply couldn't keep my mouth shut during his moment in the spotlight.)

Anthony gave a very nice acceptance speech, and he thanked me as a "good production partner and talented hand actor" or something like that; good line, dude.

The rest of the ceremony Ant held the statue like it was a winning lotto ticket. After, when we shuffled out to the lobby for dessert and coffee, I asked if I could look at the statue. I pretended to read the inscription, then acted surprised as I said, "Did you know they spelled Rodriguez with a Q?" (Trivia: that happened in "Boogie Nights", when Luis Guzman and his brothers unveiled the huge neon sign for their niteclub). Ant yelled "No way!", but he grabbed the statue back for a close look, while I gaffawed in my usual tactless way.

It was quite a night, and I'm truly thrilled that Ant won the award. I've even learned that it can be more fun to see a friend win than to win something yourself.

(Note: I'll have pictures of the actual event here in a week or two)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Archive.org rocks!

I've been having the time of my life surfing through the digitally constructed halls of the Internet Archive web site!

The IA was founded to provide a cultural "Internet library"; a sort of Library of Alexandria for the modern age (hopefully without the barbarous hordes burning and pillaging it).

The ancient Libary at Alexandria

The Archive has an enormous list of audio, video, graphic, and text files on nearly every subject. Looking for an MP3 of a 1927 blues singer? You'll probably find it.

There are loads of files that have either Creative Commons licensing, or are Public Domain. Which means that you can use the files as long as they're for non-commercial use and are properly attributed.

So, I'm downloading archive video and background music for my public access documentary. Check out the site; you'll probably be amazed at the amount of interesting stuff there.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Major props to "firedoglake"

I've made a concerted effort to leave my personal politics out of this blog, since this is more or less a filmmaking journal, but in light of the indictments against Lewis "Scooter" Libby, I want to mention one of my favorite people on the internet, Jane Hamsher.

I've brought her up on this blog before, but she bears mentioning again; Jane wrote a book called "Killer Instinct", about her experiences in Hollywood and her adventures with Oliver Stone as the producer of "Natural Born Killers". It's absolutely the best and most revealing book about Hollywood that I've ever read. GO BUY IT! Or steal it. Just read it. It's that good.

Jane is currently retired from Hollywood, but she puts her razor sharp intellect and keen analytical skills to good use to dissect and explain the political complexities of the Bush administration and the CIA leak scandal on her blog, firedoglake.

firedoglake is one of thousands of blogs that comment daily on politics, but it stands out as one of the most carefully researched and intelligent sites on the net. Not to mention the dozens of regulars who post there daily...these people are amazing. I used to think I was sort of smart until I started reading their comments. Oh, man! Compared to them, I feel like an audience member at a taping of "Jeopardy"; I can follow what's going on, but I'd never be able to keep up with the guys standing on the stage! :-)

Jane also has something most political commentators lack; a wicked sense of humor. Along with ReddHedd, who lately shares the article posting duties, they are both very funny. It makes it more palatable when reading about the reprehensible actions performed by the highest officials in our government. Jane kicks serious ass!

And what's with a grown man with an important White House job going by the nickname "Scooter", anyway? Gee, are Wally and the Beaver also on the staff? Where's Eddie Haskell?

Anyway, I just needed to say that; now, back to my regularly scheduled blog!

(Image borrowed from 2 Political Junkies and Mark Kleiman)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

My first documentary

Yesterday, Joyce and I took a day off and went bicycling upstate at the Air Line Rail Trail in East Hampton and Colchester. We took the video camera so I could shoot some tape for a 30-minute documentary on the trail.

I'm going to take the footage and insert still photos, along with graphics and narration, to tell the story of the long-abandoned rail line that was converted to a state park hiking trail.

I'm going to see if I can get it done in a couple weeks; there's nothing like setting an impossible deadline for yourself!

Autumn in Connecticut...does it get any better than this?

Monday, October 17, 2005

So THIS is live TV!

Tonight, Ant, Chad and me drove up to Wallingford to be in the studio during this week's live episode of "Table For Two", the show-biz talk show hosted by "Death Knocks" alum Michael Buckley and Kristin Baltramaitis.

Michael and Kristin's show is a fast-paced Hollywood gossip fest, peppered with loads of one-liners and bawdy references. Along with humorous quizzes, top-5 lists, and pictures of the celebrities they're talking about.

Michael and Kristin have wonderful chemistry. The studio "audience" of maybe a dozen friends and acquaintances were kept laughing and clapping by the host's wickedly funny antics. They do this LIVE every week, and it's an HOUR-LONG show! I don't know how they manage to catch their breath!

Ant and I are going to try to sponsor the show for broadcast on Cablevision Bridgeport at Sound View TV. Normally, they require 4 week's worth of shows in advance to get into the lineup, but because the show is topical (it refers to the previous weekend's top movies and TV shows) we have to try to get it rebroadcast by later that same week. I'll try to talk them into accepting the DVDs of the show, produced on Mondays, for broadcast on Thursday or Friday. That should be adequate for the DVDs to be gotten to the studio.

They might allow this.

If they want to be nice and helpful, that is.

Yeah, I'm not holding my breath or anything. We'll see.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

I'm getting the hang of this

This week Lori and I did some additional taping at the studio. She wanted to get several more intros for her show taped. We did more green screen work, and I think I'm learning how to do this at long last.

We reserved the studio for three hours, giving me ample time to set everything up. Here's what I need to do to prepare for production:

Move the TV cameras and monitor/light board
Take the stage platform and chair out of the prop room
Set up camera on tripod and hook up to video monitor
Aim stage lights for 3-point lighting scheme
Adjust green screen floods for even lighting
Connect lavalier mic to camera
Zoom in for focus and set manual white balance
Shoot a minute of test footage then review it on monitor

If everything looks and sounds good, then we begin. As you can see, it takes the better part of an hour to setup and breakdown the set; it's best to have 3 hours reserved, so you get at least an hour of production time.

Here's a self-portrait of me (Duh! of COURSE it's a picture of me...that's what a "self-portrait" is...ASS!) in the studio taken with my DV camera. I like that I can snap off photos anytime the camera is turned on. And when I take a photo while it's playing a tape, it captures a frame from the video. Cool!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Digital Camera Update

This week I'm back in digital camera mode. I picked up a 512K SD-memory card for my Panasonic DV camera. CompUSA had them on sale for a miserly 30 bucks.

Now I can take digital photos in addition to shooting video. The half-gigabyte memory card has a capacity of something like 127,000 million-billion-shabba-dabba-ding-dong photos...I'm not too sure of that last number because I kind of scanned over the specs.

But I know it's a lot.

So now I can take loads of 2.3 mega-pixal digital pictures. It's not the greatest, but it's a hell of a lot better than the sub-mega-pixal camera that I used for the last seven years. Of course, I still want to buy a regular digital camera, but I'll wait until the holidays so Joyce can buy me one for Xmas.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Episode 2 GK and TV baseball coverage

Today the second episode of Grandma's Kitchen was broadcast on Cablevision. It was the episode about the homemade jam, with a Swing 39 song at the end. Fine entertainment for the whole family!

By the way, the original image on the TV screen in the picture above was from "Kukla, Fran & Ollie", a show I remember from my early childhood. God, I'm old.

...and I used to watch "Beanie & Cecil", too!

Hey, it's baseball time! I've been watching the playoffs on FOX, and I noticed something that is annoying the hell outta me. When they show the pitcher dealing to the batter, and the view is over the pitcher's shoulder showing home plate and the stands, usually you can see one of those changing billboards on the fence by the stands. Normally, they roll the adverts by every few moments, so that there's often a new ad in view when the next batter is up.

Well, they've started putting up a plain green screen there so the production people can use chromakey to insert different ads in the space. It's probably much less expensive than actually physically creating the signs, just as it's cheaper to build a Death Star at the Industrial Light & Magic special effects department rather than constructing a real one in space.

That being said, while watching the game I noticed that every time they showed the fake ads, they were jittering slightly around within the boarders of the green screen. Because the camera viewing the action is using a high powered zoom lens to show the pitcher and batter, and at that range the camera jiggles. But the chromakeyed image is steady, so it tends to look as if it's shaking around it's little area.

Which is SO distracting I find myself watching the fake ads more than the pitcher and batter. I think it annoys me mostly because it's like the network is trying to fool us with their crappy special effects. It's almost like they think we're too stupid to notice what's going on and they're putting one over on us.

Please, all sports networks, listen to me: stop with the bullshit effects. I've learned to accept the stupid yellow 1st down line on NFL broadcasts, but can we just call a truce at that point? Because, it's getting a bit silly.

I just wanna watch a game without all your bullshit dimestore bells & whistles. Is that asking too much?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

More studio time and "Earl"

Lori wants me to reserve some studio time this week so she can tape some additional introductions to her DVD versions of the show. As I mentioned before, we taped her speaking in front of the green screen in the studio, and I later added appropriate pictures in the background using the chromakey function on my video editing program.

We'll work out the audio issues we had last week, and I'll have more time to download appropriate images for the overlays. Maybe I'll be able to use some archive video in the background in addition to the still photos. That'll be fun.

My absolute by far favorite TV show of the new season (besides "Grandma's Kitchen", of course!) is the NBC comedy "My Name Is Earl".

I'm a long-time Jason Lee fan, due to my fanboy worship of Kevin Smith films like "Mallrats" and "Chasing Amy", and in this new show his talents are being used to perfection. The writing is bizarrely funny, and they include hysterical little things that you might miss if you're not paying attention; like when Earl and his brother realize a childhood acquaintance is gay, and the song "99 Luft Balloons" by Nena starts playing...Christ, I almost broke a rib laughing! And it doesn't even make much sense comedically, except that it was so unexpected.

Another thing I like is that the camera work is strikingly similar to the cinematography in "Raising Arizona"; really hectic. Earl's brother is played by Kevin Smith alumni Ethan Suplee, and Earl's ex-wife is the sexy and white-trashy Jaime Pressly ("Not Another Teen Movie").

So tonight (Saturday) NBC decided to do us all a favor and repeat the first three episodes back to back. I figured it would be a great opportunity to tape them. The TV listings said the show started at 8:30PM. That would be nice.

It didn't though...it started at 8-fucking-29! And if you've seen the debut episode, 90% of the back story is told in the first minute. Once you miss that, it's not really worth saving.

Now, you're probably thinking my clock is set wrong. NO! I'm normally a bit of a slacker about a lot of things, but when it comes to the concept of time, I like to be EXACT. Like, within a second or two...I know, I'm a maniac.

Here's proof: I just this week set my VCR timer and computer clock to the Naval Observatory Atomic Clock Online, available by clicking here Online Precise Fucking Time! And I set the VCR clock about 20 seconds ahead, just to build in a little leeway. I figured, hey these are network TV guys, they can probably hit a button within 20 seconds or so.

But NBC for whatever reason seems to be run by retards who can't hit a fucking button even CLOSE to the proper time! And even worse, they were EARLY rather than LATE. Bastards!

So I'm kind of pissed at NBC because of their moronic broadcast engineers, but I'm glad they managed to come up with a great program like "My Name Is Earl", and I'll probably be able to forgive them.

At least, this time...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Big Premiere!

Tonight was the World Premiere of "Grandma's Kitchen", and Joyce and I threw a gala party at "Chez Adamz" to celebrate this momentous event.

All the stars showed up, greeted by the world's shortest red carpet (true, it was Lori's bath mat, but it looked fabulous). Lori was attired in a stunning black gown and garnashed with a sparkly silver lamae shawl. She was accompanied by the always-dapper Tim, looking casual yet swarthy in his button-down cream colored shirt and walnut sport coat.

Lori's parents made a memorable entrance, along with sister Teri and production crew Anthony and me (Bob). Chad ("green", from the "Death Knocks" production crew) showed up later.

We all watched the medium-screen TV (25", which is mighty average these days) as the zero-hour approached. As the "Grandma's Kitchen" logo and title screen appeared, we all cheered. The 25-minute show was met with laughs, yells and funny comments. Aunt Nina, who is no longer with us, stole the show. I was featured during the taste-testing segment; it was my TV debut!. The episode finished with a song by the swing band Swing39, who'd appeared in "Grandma's Living Room" earlier this year and taped about 12 songs for use in the show.

Afterwards, we shared snacks and appetizers, along with a goodly portion of beverages. Anthony taped me interviewing the guests after the show. I had the most fun asking Chad his memories of Aunt Nina, whom he'd never met. We ad-libbed a funny segment, and someday I expect we'll see this on the "Grandma's Kitchen" DVD box set, special features section!

It was a fun night, and look for "Grandma's Kitchen" Mondays at 7PM on Cablevision channel 77 in the Bridgeport, CT area.

ABOUT THE TV IN THE PICTURE: This was Bang & Olufsen's first-ever television, introduced in Denmark in 1950. A real classic!

Monday, October 03, 2005

David and Me

So I did go and see David Lynch speak at the Battell Chapel on the Yale Campus last Friday. It was an interesting experience. And free, which is cool. The lecture was supposed to have Lynch speak and answer questions about his movies, then John Hagelin, Ph.D spoke about the benefits of TM, and after a demonstration using a Yale student hooked up to an EEG to show his brain functions during and after meditating Lynch returned to take more questions. Obviously, this was a bribe to keep people there for the researcher's presentations.

After a long introduction by a Yale spokesman, Lynch strode to the lecturn. I sat about 20 feet to his left, in one of the side pews, so I got an unblocked view of the man. The first thing you notice about him is his manner; black suit and tie against a crisp white shirt, his hair in it's trademark coiff, and his deliberate movements.

Then he spoke. He's a fairly reclusive and shy man, and his nasally mid-western twang is very distinctive. When asked questions about his movies he often lapsed into a TM pitch, and even lost his train of thought on occasion while meandering around with his answers. I understand that he's very interested in spreading the word about transcendental meditation, but I think he should have given more than basic lip service to his answers.

Later, when he returned for the second round of questions, he seemed to take more interest in his answers. He spoke of the creative process, and related instances of how he develops his ideas. Quite a few audience members seemed to have questions related to meditation and to these he obviously paid close attention. I was sorely tempted to ask a question, but it would have been something stupid, like "David, do you plan on putting any dancing midgets in your new movie?", which probably would have gotten me dragged into the streets and flogged by the snooty Yale crowd.

EDIT: One interesting thing Lynch discussed was how he shoots only on digital video these days; no more film for him. He stated that it allows you tremendous control over how the finished movie will look, and you can shoot as much of it as you want, because of it's low cost. Cool!

Overall it was an interesting evening. I may look into TM sometime, so I guess the talk was effective. I'd sure like to be as creative as David Lynch; maybe TM could help. The added benefit of achieving world peace and unity is probably a good thing, too.

The David Lynch Foundation has info on TM and its benefits.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

A "Death Knocks" alumnus makes a splash!

Tonight I was snooping around the internet for vintage porn and old friends, and found out that one of our favorite actors (and amateur stuntman) Michael Buckley has a talk show on Wallingford (CT) public access cable.

Michael shares the spotlight with Kristin Baltramaitis. They appear live Mondays at 7PM on whatever the cable system is up there in Wallingford. I don't know what it is, 'cause I have Cablevision, and they don't...whatever.

Check out their blog at Table For Two. It looks great! Maybe I'll have to drop in and watch the show live.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

World Premiere of "Grandma's Kitchen", and stuff

Last night Ant and me helped out Lori ("Grandma's Kitchen") tape an intro to her DVD. We taped Lori in front of the studio's green screen. Lori is pitching the DVD on Monday, so we had to throw this together in a big hurry.

This was the first time I used the studio light board; it was fun aiming the lights and adjusting the intensity of each for best effect. Plus, we tried using my new wireless mic set, but a 60-cycle buzz messed up all our takes, so finally in desperation we used the on-camera mic. I think we need to use better shielded cables, rather than the cheap Radio Shack crap I have. Especially since there's loads of lighting and sound cables running all over the studio. I'll look into it.

After I got home I loaded the footage into Pinnacle. Then I color-corrected, overlayed a bunch of cool pictures behind Lori, and transferred it back to tape. Lori stopped by today and picked up the tape, then she's going to include it as an intro to the sample DVD she's pitching to an association that may buy hundreds (maybe thousands) of copies. Which is cool, but she's got to get it put together real soon. Like, by Monday. Busy frickin' week!

And Monday is also the WORLD PREMIERE of "Grandma's Kitchen"! Watch it on Cablevision channel 77, Monday 7:00PM, starting October 3rd. We're going to have a premiere party at my house, since Lori and many of her guest chefs don't live in the local Cablevision broadcast area (you need to live in Milford, Orange, Woodbridge, Bridgeport, Stratford, or Fairfield to see it).

We're really rolling out the red carpet for the debut. I'll tape the arrival of the stars, and Joyce will work the red carpet and comment on our guests' evening wear. And maybe, just maybe...we'll serve those cute lil' cocktail weenies! Wow, what a soiree!!! (did I spell that right?)

Tune in, and bring your appetite!

Monday, September 26, 2005

David Lynch speaking at Yale

This Friday I'm going to see another one of my personal heroes speak in person. David Lynch, director of "The Elephant Man", "Blue Velvet", "Wild at Heart", "Mulholland Dr.", "Lost Highway", and more will speak about his films and about The David Lynch Foundation, which is a new organization dedicated to spreading consciousness-based education and world peace.

After he completes those tasks, he's going to shoot a movie about a dancing midget and people talking backwards during a hallucinatory dream sequence.

Weekend this talk the on thoughts my post I'll.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Audio News; and we hit 2,000!

Wow, 2,000 hits! Now there might actually be THREE people reading this blog! As I mentioned in the post about the 1,000-hit milestone (9 May 2005), most of the hits are me checking the blog and posting new entries. But hey, at least SOMEBODY is reading this shite!

(that was for Gazza27, who has a funny/odd blog over in England called Seftontaxis; check it out!)

Yesterday I finally received my wireless microphone kit. It's cool. It's cheap, too, but for my purposes it'll have to do, because I can't afford a pro-quality system yet. It'll be fine, I'm sure.

For some reason my blog has decided to refrain from showing a picture of Bill Cullen, legendary announcer from the 50's through the 80's. I don't know why it's doing this, but I've deleted the code for the image and text relating to Bill Cullen. Sorry if you're wondering why I was talking about Bill Cullen, but it's not important right now. Or ever, for that matter.

The new mic kit works amazingly well. I had the camera with the input from the receiver upstairs in the den, and walked all over the house wearing the lav body pack, with the mic clipped on my shirt. There was no interference or audio drop-outs, and I'd be surprised if it didn't continue to work well anywhere within the specified 250-foot operating radius.

There are some drawbacks. The frequency range is a bit narrow. And the mics tend to pick up background noise a bit. But I can experiement with the sensativity settings to reduce that. Overall, it's pretty good, considering it cost under $160, shipping included.

And it arrived less than 24 hours after I ordered it online. That's the second item I've ordered in the last month that was shipped via ground DHL, and it got here in record time.


Monday, September 12, 2005

My Favorite Uncle

Whenever I run into a writer's block, all I need to do is expose myself to my family for a while, and suddenly the material seems to write itself. I gotta learn to carry a notepad with me every time I go to a family gathering. In the short time we were there, I witnessed a half-dozen funny little scenes that I recorded as soon as I got home.

This is a picture of me and my cousin Matt. We look like the muscle for a small-time bookie, right? People say we look alike. In fact, Matt's dad (my uncle), who was celebrating his 75th birthday this day, yelled at me. Well, it wasn't really me he was yelling at...it was Matt. Or someone whom he thought resembled the wayward lad (me).

Joyce and I are at the party, a nice outdoor affair on a perfect late-Summer day. I'm casually standing there talking to my cousin Dave, and my uncle walks up and says to me, "Matt, bring that cooler over here please." Of course, it doesn't register in my mind. I ignore him.

Okay, I have to let you in on something here. You do not ignore anyone in my family. It's simply not done; at least, not without major consequences. He pauses for a moment in shock, and then yells, "Matthew Richard!" (Oh Christ, when a parent uses your first AND middle name, it's serious!) I looked around for Matt, anticipating what I guessed would be a serious ass-whuppin' from his dad.

All I saw was my uncle staring daggers at me. Suddenly it hit me! "Uh, I'm not Matt, Uncle Rich...I'm Robert!" I say. (My family INSISTS on calling me "Robert" rather than "Bob", which gives me acid reflux, but I've accepted the fact that I have to indulge them)

He performs a perfect double-take, then starts laughing like Joe Pesci in "Goodfellas" just before he's about to whack someone.

Yup, that's my favorite uncle.

Monday, August 29, 2005

I'm back from vacation!

Had a great week on the boat at Block I. I'm back now. Things are busy with work and stuff, but Ant and me are getting ready to crank things up soon. Stay tuned.

Oh, and I dropped my antique (seven years old!) digital camera overboard and it's lost forever; and until I buy a memory card for my new Panny camcorder, I won't have many unique pictures to post here.

Rest in peace, my beloved Casio QV-770...we'll all miss you!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

"American Splendor" (2003)

Interesting biopic about Harvey Pekar, author and star of the comic with the same name as the movie.

Paul Giamatti's intense portrayal of "everyman" Pekar is both fascinating and disturbing. I'm a huge fan of Giamatti's; he brings a brooding desperation to the role. You can actually feel the frustration and hopelessness of Pekar's life.

Pekar found salvation by writing a comic about his everyday life. The movie is narrated by Pekar himself, with overlays of animation and cutaways to real interviews with Pekar. I felt these interludes were a bit distracting, but overall the effect was helpful in the telling of his story.

Snippets of the comic were acted out, then shown in the drawn form. Classic bits like Pekar catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror and thinking to himself, "Now there's a reliable disappointment" captured the man's outlook perfectly.

What I took from this story is the realization that there is real poetry and humor in even the most mundane human interactions, if you look at it with the right attitude. That's the true wisdom in this portrayal.

"Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff."