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 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.