Sunday, December 23, 2007

"Southland Tales"

Finally, here's Richard Kelly's long-awaited "next movie"; his apocalyptic vision of the near future.

This futuristic fantasy stars Dwayne Johnson ("The Rock"), Seann William Scott ("Stiffler" from the American Pie movies), and Sarah Michelle Gellar ("Buffy") in what has been called a train wreck of a movie.

Dwayne Johnson and Seann William Scott

I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss it, though. Yes, I thought the script could have been better. "Donnie Darko", Richard Kelly's breakthrough movie, was subtle and engaging. Southland Tales is obvious and distracting. It was reminiscent of "Buckaroo Banzai", which was fun, but very "noisy" in the sense of a lot going on all at once, and you really needed to pay attention to follow it.

Which could have been good, except that most of the distraction wasn't germane to the plot. And the obvious laziness of the script was off-putting, with way too many "nods" to other films, inside references, and outright thievery in the writing, including Kiss Me Deadly, Repo Man, Mulholland Dr., Blade Runner, Buckaroo Banzai, Kelly's own Donnie Darko, and many others. I dunno, but these obvious references tend to take me out of the story and remind me that I'm watching a movie.

Sarah Michelle Gellar

The casting was a bit obscure. Dwayne Johnson has a solid career ahead of him as a B-movie action star, but his character in ST required a bit more depth than he could dredge up. Sarah Michelle Gellar seemed to warm to her role as the movie progressed. And Seann William Scott handled his unnecessarily repetitive lines with competent aplomb. A slew of former Saturday Night Live performers rounded out the cast, with a few notable exceptions. Wallace Shawn, Jon Lovitz, and Miranda Richardson were also used to some effect.

Visually, the movie is quite stunning. The world of Southland Tales is strange and awesome, but also unnecessarily confusing at times. This movie cost $17 million to make, and I wonder what it would have been if they spent around $30-40 million on it? A bit more script development and a few different actors could have made this film a huge off-beat hit. As it is, I think this film missed the mark, even though it showed the mark clearly and I get the feeling it could have hit it if it really wanted to.

Jon Lovitz and Cheri Oteri
When the DVD comes out, it'll be recut and have enough extras that it'll probably show a decent profit. Despite it's flaws, Southland Tales is destined become a sort of cult movie, and it will most likely flourish in it's second life as an intriguing DVD.

And maybe Richard Kelly will learn from it and create another movie with the same visceral impact that Donnie Darko possessed.

I certainly hope so. I know he has it in him.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

More movies

More movies I've seen recently:

Frida - Selma Hayek's riveting 2002 portait of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Great performances abound, especially Alfred Molina's lofty depiction of famed artist Diego Rivera. And Selma looks great, despite the unibrow.

300 - "SPARTAAAA!" OK, look, it's just silly. A comic book movie. There's nothing new or remotely inspiring about this green-screened movie, shot entirely on location in a Montreal studio. But if you watch it with the RiffTrax commentary by Mike Nelson of MST3K fame, it's kind of entertaining.

Stardust - Decent enough fantasy from the imagination of Neil Gaiman, who also wrote "American Gods", which I really enjoyed. Robert De Niro does a turn as a flamboyant pirate, but Johnny Depp is better at it. Plus, Michelle Pfeiffer is in it as an evil witch desperate to recapture her youth. She's a WILF.

Into the Wild - Slightly fictionalized but entertaining account of a rebellious college graduate who get back to...something. Then he starves to death in the Alaskan wilderness. What a dumbass.

Superbad - I watched it with proper expectations (read: none) and wasn't disappointed. Silly teen vehicle, blessedly rated "R" with plenty of Clerks-style vulgar language. Seth Rogan as a ridiculous cop adds to the fun. He was recently announced as the lead in "Zach & Miri Make a Porno", and I can't imagine a better choice for Kevin Smith's next movie.

This is England - The writer-director's turbulent childhood, set in Margaret Thatcher's England during the Falklands War. Raw and touching at times, definitely worth a viewing. The skinhead guy reminds me of a young British Bruno Kirby.

Mini's First Time - Amusing little comic crime-thriller, with Alec Baldwin and a very sexy Nikki Reed, along with boozy mom Carrie-Anne Moss, makes this a fun flick. Jeff Goldblum is in it, too. I can totally see these people all living in the same Beverly Hills neighborhood. And killing each other.

Death at a Funeral - English farce. With stiffs. 'nuff said.

Evening - Zzzzzzzz...what on Earth possessed me to watch this boring-assed chick flick? I could have spent the time better by punching myself in the head with a waffle iron. More entertaining, too.

Movies I'm going to watch soon and might discuss here:

Rescue Dawn
Cherry Crush

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Homebuilt Teleprompter

While recently shooting a bunch of PSA-style videos of Democratic candidates, I was faced with the problem of getting them to look natural while reading their prepared statements. Cue cards didn't look natural, so I decided to build a teleprompter so they could maintain "eye contact" with the camera.

First, I searched for a free teleprompter program. I found Prompt! 7.0, a low-cost software package with a very usable free version that allows scrolling reverse-text and white letters on a black background, which I'll explain. The download is available from

(click on any of these images for a much larger detail view)

I took an old milk crate, turned it over so the opening was facing down. Then I cut out one full side, leaving about an inch of the frame along the bottom to give it structural strength. Then I cut about a 6-inch diameter hole opposite it, for the camera. I took black construction paper and covered every square inch of the crate except for the holes.

As you can probably guess, I'm fond of that blue painter's tape for projects like this, because it doesn't leave any glue behind and it's very easy to peel off and reuse it.

I found an old picture frame in my basement and took out the glass. I put some plastic framing (it's silver here) around the glass to cover the sharp edges. Then I mounted the glass inside the box at a 45-degree angle. It's good to mount it in a way that allows you to adjust the angle slightly for fine tuning. The framing around the glass is just big enough inside the box to hold in place with friction, but I'm sure it's easy enough to come up with a reasonable mount if needed. This view is looking into the teleprompter from the actor's side, and the white square is the camera hole in the back. You can see the glass in it's frame inside the crate.

Run the Prompt! software on a computer. You can edit your text in it's built-in basic text editor. Once you're done, you can run the text reverse-image. (Update: I found out how to extend the text box to the bottom of the display, now it shows a full page of text)

We hooked up a separate flat screen and laid it on the table top. That way, we can watch and control the scrolling speed on the notebook while the flat screen is dedicated to the teleprompter.

The top of the flat screen is oriented towards your subject, so the glass that will be above it at the 45-degree angle will properly reflect and display the text. That's why you need to have the text in reverse-image in the flat screen, so it's readable when reflected in the glass.

Carefully place the box over the flat screen. You might have to change the angle of the box or the glass in order for your actor to read it. You also have to raise it up so they can read it easily. Position the camera through the hole in the back, and try to use black construction paper to matte out any places where light can get in around the lens.

Here's what the person sees. I left a little space around the camera to demonstrate where it is, but it works best when you block all the light from coming through.

Once you set the camera, you need to matte out any space around it where light might leak in, so your subject can read the reflected text easily.

This is the view through the camera hole with text projected on the screen. Because your set is lit so brightly, the text is too faint for the camera to pick up. But your actor can read the lines easily because the box is so dark.

Here I am using the cursor keys to vary the scrolling speed of the text. It's a bit of a trick to read along with the person talking when all the type is backwards. But the text is so big, you can pretty much follow along.

This was a fun little project, and it works surprisingly well. Many of our candidates aren't professional speakers, but their videos look great and we usually got it done in a couple of takes. Here's an example:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pacino, De Niro filming in Milford

I wasn't able to be there while they were filming, but only about 1/2 mile from my house they were filming a scene for "Righteous Kill (2008)" in a little bar.

The Star Cafe is something of a dive (but don't call it "seedy") where I've drank a few Buds and listened to the occasional band, such as Long Island's "Good Rats".

Early on the day of filming, I drove by and shot this photo:

At first I thought they were fumigating the bar, but it turned out they covered the front windows and door because they were filming a night scene, and they needed to block out the daylight.

Below are newspaper photos of the actors at this location: Al Pacino, Donnie Walhberg, and Robert De Niro.

And here's a clip of a local newspaper account of the day's filming:
Pamela McLaughlin, Register Staff

MILFORD — The movie crew on Spring Street needed bullhorns to be heard Thursday, but Nicole Parsell was plenty loud enough without one.

"Ahhhhhh, I touched him; Al, Al, Al," Parsell swooned with such unbridled emotion that it’s a wonder they didn’t give her a role.

Parsell’s left hand indeed had been brushed by Academy Award-winning actor and eternal hunk Al Pacino when she stretched out her arms as he entered through the side door of Star Cafe on Bridgeport Avenue.

"He has some soft hands," said Parsell.

This wasn’t about "Scent of a Woman," but rather of a man; Parsell, who lives next door to the cafe, graciously shared her fortune by letting other women around her smell the cologne Pacino had left on her palm.

Pacino and Robert De Niro, another Academy Award-winner, were in Milford to shoot two scenes at the neighborhood bar for their upcoming movie "Righteous Kill," in which De Niro plays a police investigator on the hunt for a serial killer.

Community Development Director Robert Gregory, who spent years in community theater, played an extra sitting at the bar. Gregory, who is the city’s liaison to the Devon Revitalization Committee, said the movie is a great boon to that section of the city.

"This movie will become part of the folklore of Devon and Milford," he said. "That’s something you can’t pay for."

As early as 8 a.m. a small group of curious bystanders had gathered and all else looked as usual, except for black material obscuring the front entrance to the cafe. By 11 a.m. the place was bustling with spectators, film crews, wardrobe people, set designers and Equity actors sent in to play patrons and bar personnel.

The bar’s real crew members are normally night owls, but for this they were up with the roosters.

"I put on a little extra makeup — this is exciting," bartender Chris Burnaka said, hoping to get into a shot. She said the Star Cafe is portrayed as a "cop bar" in the movie. When asked if it was a cop bar in real life, Burnaka laughed, "No, normally they’re outside waiting for our customers."

Bar owner Ray Tooley, who also has a swing shift job at Metro-North working on the high-tension lines, said he took a sick day Thursday so he could attend the filming.

"I’d rather be sleeping," Tooley said. "If it was Sharon Stone, I’d be excited."

Tooley said he’s hoping if the movie’s a success, men will want to say, "I spilled a drink on my wife where Al Pacino sat."

The bar was chosen for the film, set in New York, by location manager Dave Diamond, who lives on the waterfront nearby. He sent his crew out looking at bars throughout the area, and Star Cafe was chosen for two conversation scenes because the inside of the bar is deep and wide. Diamond said he usually works in Los Angeles where film crews are common, and so it still amazes him that folks care to come out to watch.

The bar is clean inside — Tooley and the crew objected to the word seedy used in one press account — but has a definite everyman’s feel: pickled eggs for sale, lots of neon beer signs, three pool tables and lots of dark wood paneling and brick.

Burnaka said the crew wanted to move a string of beer bottle lights closer to the area of filming and when she offered to dust them first, the answer was, "No, they’re perfect!"

By 3 p.m. Pacino was still inside and a crowd of about 70 — by now standing behind police tape — waited excitedly for De Niro’s arrival. But then word came it wouldn’t be until evening because they were going to film until 10. By 7 p.m. the two superstars were inside shooting a scene together.

Another star, Donnie Wahlberg, also was on the set Thursday.

In the afternoon, Pacino signed autographs for a group in back of the bar, where he took breaks to make calls on his cell phone.

Kathy Smith wasn’t all too subtle in her quest to be noticed; she walked her grandson to the school bus stop wearing a white shirt that said "Sopranos" in big red letters and "Tony 1" on the back. Once he was gone, she made the corner her personal catwalk.

"I’m hoping if they see the Sopranos shirt they’ll want me sitting in the back of the bar sipping a beer," said Smith, who said she’s seen "The Godfather" at least 100 times and can finish the lines. "Even if they want to borrow it they can, but I want a picture of me and Robert De Niro. If I see him I’m going to yell, ‘Hey, Max Cady,’" she said, referring to De Niro’s role as a psychopath in "Cape Fear."

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The last ten films I've seen

I haven't posted anything here in a while, so here's a list of movies I've seen recently. In chronological order of me watching them, along with my usual massively brilliant observations:

Live Free or Die Hard - Exactly what I expected. I do have to say that I'm getting a little tired of the overdone CGI in movies these days. I used to be impressed by regular stunts and pyrotechnics. These days the action is so amazingly unlikely that it takes me right out of the story. I remember being far more impressed by the stunts in Die Hard (I) and Lethal Weapon (I), before all that computer generated stuff became popular.

Wind Chill - Luke-cool horror flick with Emily Blunt...not very scary. But I got to see it for free.

London (2005) - Twenty-somethings getting overly dramatic about nothing much; an absurd amount of "nose candy" was portrayed being used...somebody should clue the writers in to the fact that the '70's have been over for a few decades now.

Trees Lounge (1996) - Steve Buscemi's examination of low-life boozers. Watch for a visual nod to "Resevoir Dogs".

Zodiac - Reasonably interesting but somewhat overlong look at the Bay Area serial killer's pursuers.

Reign Over Me - Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle in a post 9/11 drama. So so. But probably better than "Chuck and Larry", Sandler's latest "movie".

Grindhouse - QT's love letter to the exploitation genre of the '70s. Fun ride, but I wonder when he'll finally come up with an original concept for one of his movies.

Election (1999) - Alexander Payne's comedic look at high school politics. A very determined Reese Witherspoon stars, along with Matthew Broderick. It's a cute little movie.

Visitor Q (Bijitâ Q) (2001) - While quite unique and interesting, this is one of those films that I sort of wish I could un-watch. Some scenes were so horrific that I started feeling sorry for the actors. Very twisted Japanese movie.

Knocked Up - Somewhat funny and surprisingly sweet Hollywood product. Katherine Heigl reminds me a bit of Charleze Theron, only not so "Monster"-ish.

"Two-fer" Movies: These are similarly themed and/or made by the same director that benefit from being watched together. It's a nice way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Before Sunrise and Before Sunset - 9 years apart look at a young man and woman who meet each other in Europe for one night/day only. Especially effective if viewed in tandem. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke star in this character-driven story.

Henry Fool and Faye Grim - Another pair of films that are best seen back to back. Thomas Jay Ryan, James Urbaniak, and Parker Posey star in this off-beat continuing story.

Buffalo 66 and Brown Bunny - Two of Vincent Gallo's movies, they don't necessarily need to be seen together, but I found it helpful. Gallo's style can be a bit frustrating, especially in BB where many of his camera shots are excrutiatingly long. BB is controversial only in that nobody in the viewing audience apparently is adult enough to handle a simple non-simulated sex scene without all sorts of media hype and criticism. Don't bother seeing the film just for that one scene, though; watch it for the incredibly boring overlong static shots, instead.

One Last Movie:

A special mention goes out to Paris Je T'aime, a collection of 18 short love stories by different directors, starring some major name actors. The nicest thing about this movie is that if you find any one story boring, you can go get yourself a soda and some chips from the kitchen and when you come back, it'll be wrapping up!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Another sailing video

Because I feel like it.

This was from last weekend, going over to Port Jefferson and back. It was the first chance we got to cruise this season, and two of our friend's boats joined us. Fun time!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Another film being shot locally

My friend Maura posted this on My Left Nutmeg, a local political blog. This is another Hollywood movie being filmed here in Connecticut. We're becoming the Vancouver of New England! I thought it would be good to repost here. Forgive the sloppy formatting; I'm too lazy to fix it. Enjoy!

(PS: To see lots more of Kate Winslet, rent "Little Children". Yowsa!)
I mentioned in a comment thread a while ago that the new Kate Winslet/Leonardo DiCaprio film, Revolutionary Road, was going to be filming on my street last week.

Well, the shoot got cancelled last Thursday, but the crew is back today -- and they decided to prominently feature my house and my next door-neighbor's house!

The production crew arrived at 6 this morning and rang our doorbell at 6:40, asking us to move our cars out of the driveway.  They replaced them with these:

Prop trucks in my driveway

It's really exciting -- the production crew are focusing on our house and our next door neighbor's, so we've gotten our tree pruned, fake blooms put on our rhododendrons, and hanging laundry in our side yard. 

I'll put up more photos later this morning as filming commences, and I've posted a few below the jump.  (Click all to enlarge.)

Maura :: Starring my street: Hollywood meets Stamford's East Side

Production crew in my driveway

Production crew hanging out in my driveway

Prop trucks in my driveway

Vintage trucks in my driveway.  (That's my sister-in-law on our front steps.

Prop garbage pail, repainted fire hydrant

They repainted our fire hydrant from yellow to black and silver, and they sprinkled the street with vintage metal garbage cans.

Vintage cars on my street

The street is lined with vintage cars.

My nephew Sean explores the prop truck

My nephew Sean explores the truck in our driveway.

The landscaping crew discusses pruning  my tree

The landscaping crew discusses how best to prune our tree.

Vintage Cars

Vintage cars across my street.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A great sail

At least, that's how I think it went.

Tonight was our club's first of three "Woman at the Helm" races, where a female needs to steer the boat from start to finish.

We had a good time tonight, and Joyce did great helming the boat.

Here's my salute to Womanly sailing:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Indiana Jones IV casting call

Here's a photo from the casting call on Monday in New Haven. This guy is a bit silly, if you ask me. They already casted the part of "Indiana Jones", so why would he dress like Harrison Ford in the movie? Something tells me he ain't gonna get picked for anything.

From The New Haven Register:
-NEW HAVEN — They came from all over, young and old, big and little, in seersucker suits and tank tops, with tattoos, fedoras and hope.

People were so excited to be extras in the fourth "Indiana Jones" movie that when casting director Billy Dowd drove into the city Sunday evening and saw people already camping out on Crown Street, he knew he couldn't wait till 1 p.m. Monday to open his casting call. (more available from link above)
So, it turns out that Sean Connery won't be in the movie after all. But there's still Harrison Ford and Cate Blanchett, and the prospect of being cast as an extra in the movie which will shoot a motorcycle chase on the old Yale University campus.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My ending for "The Sopranos"

With all the controversy about the final episode of The Sopranos, I thought I'd chime in on how it should have ended:
Phil Leotardo goes to the gas station and instead of getting whacked and having his head flattened by his rolling SUV, he simply makes the phone call he wanted and orders a pizza to be delivered to his home. The dramatic point to this is that when he gets home, he finds the delivery guy had been waiting for ten minutes and his pizza got cold.

So Phil doesn't tip the pizza guy.

Paulie Walnuts is creeped out by the cat, so he brings it to the animal shelter. It's a humane shelter, and the cat is later adopted.

The ironic twist is that it gets adopted by Satanists, who crucify it during a black mass.

Tony visits Uncle Junior in the hospital, and later that day Junior forgets to eat his jello with dinner. Then he drools on himself while watching TV.

Meadow gets a ticket because she parallel parked with her tire on the curb.

Anthony Jr. hits his head and forgets to be such a whiny asshole. He later becomes a successful advertising executive.

Dr. Melfi decides psychiatry is a load of crap, and then she replaces Rosie O'Donnell on "The View".

Carmela gets heartburn from the onion rings, and has to buy a roll of "Tums" at the counter. The cashier gives her an extra dime with her change, but Carm doesn't notice.

Tony Soprano gets angry because he put a stupid "Journey" song on by mistake when he meant to hit the buttons for "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by the Rolling Stones. In a fit of anger he punches the jukebox and hurts his hand.

The owner of the diner walks over to see what the hubbub is about, and Tony apologizes for making such a ruckus. The entire family leaves to go to the Walk-in Medical Clinic, where Tony has to wait 45 minutes to get X-rays taken of his hand. Fade to black.
Viola! That's about five times as exciting as what the showed on HBO the other night!

In any case, hopefully we won't ever have to watch James Gandolfini eat again, or hear him noisily breathing through his deviated septum anymore.

Maybe Tony didn't get whacked, but it feels like WE all did!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

"The Fountain" (2006)

This is the third major film directed by Darren Aronofsky (previously, "Pi" (1998), and "Requiem for a Dream" (2000); both very good films).

The Fountain stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in a richly textured story of love transceding time. The plot is somewhat confusing at times, varying from the year 1500 to present day to 500 years in the future; and the ending is purposefully ambiguous, but it's a great flick to watch just for the joy of a true cinematic experience.

Anyone familiar with Aronofsky's work will recognize his use of redundant images and sounds. Whereas "Pi" was a film about the mind, and "Requiem..." was about the body, "The Fountain" explores the human heart.

Hollywood veteran Ellen Burstyn scores with a good supporting role, too. Overall, a visually stunning movie with great performances and a story that begs contemplation afterwards. Don't expect to be spoon-fed a Hollywood plot with THIS flick!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I should probably review some movies or something...

I've been watching a lot of movies lately via Netflix. Some really obscure stuff, too.

For instance, lately I've been on a little Parker Posey kick. I have NO idea why, but I've been seeing a lot of her stupid movies. Recently I rented Henry Fool, the quirky 1997 Hal Hartley flick starring Posey, Thomas Jay Ryan and James Urbaniak ("Robert Crumb" in American Splendor).

After seeing that, I found out that Hartley made a sequel focusing on Posey's character, Fay Grim. So I watched that.

Then, to absolutely convince myself that she can just barely act her way out of a paper bag (but only if the paper bag is soaking wet, and has a small rip in the side...and if she has the director hollering instructions to her from just out of camera range on how to properly act her way out of the bag), I rented The OH in Ohio, the odd 2006 sex comedy.

OK, I'm convinced. Parker Posey is cute as a button, but she doesn't have a lot of range in her skill set. Which is fine, if you want to watch her basically emote her way through a movie but never really connect with her character.

And for these movies, that's pretty much alright.

But did they HAVE to do the exact same "vibrating beeper in the panties" gag in TWO movies she was in that were released in the same year? (see "Fay Grim" and "OH in Ohio")

Next up: Who would win in a bar fight? Rachel Weisz or Kate Winslet?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Another sailing video

This is Joyce and me sailing during a race. We screwed up the start and finished last, but it was warm and sunny and a nice day, so we enjoyed ourselves anyway.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Here's a quick sailing video

This is a video that I cooked up in about 10 minutes tonight after our sailing race; I shot it using my little digital camera and imported the video into my editing program. I added some cheesy '80's music for a soundtrack. It was fun.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"Fat March" rolls through town

My dad called me yesterday and said there was a big film crew down on the pier near where he lives, and suggested I go down there and see what's up.

So I drove to the beach in my 1987 Dodge Aries K sedan and saw a bunch of production vehicles parked in the lot. I got out and walked over to the pier. There were a couple of guys standing near the entrance to the pier, so I walked up and asked what was being filmed there.

One of them (Steve) said, "It's a reality TV show."

"Really?", I asked, "Which one is it?"

"I can't say."

"Fair enough," I said, and noticed a group of large, like, REALLY large people digging in the sand flats next to the pier while being filmed. I remembered my wife telling me about a newspaper story describing a reality show where fat people were in a walking race from Boston to Washington, DC, and along the way they had a bunch of challenges/contests.

"Hey," I said, "Is this that fat person race?"

"Yeah," said Steve, "And they're digging for clams."

I looked over at them. They were some BIG people. I joked, "Hey, maybe I should see if they need another contestant!"

Steve looked at me and said, "You're not that fat!"

Hmmm, I thought, that was quite a left-handed compliment. By saying I wouldn't be accepted, he basically agreed that I was fat; but not SO fat that I would qualify for a reality TV show about fat people.

I'm still not sure how I feel about that...but I AM thinking about going on a diet!

They had a massive 16' crane on the pier, which is a nice piece of equipment. I tried walking down the beach to check out the filming, but several production assistants quickly materialized and asked me not to take pictures. I snapped a few quick ones anyway, but I didn't want to upset anyone so I didn't make a point of arguing.

The contestants slogged their way back from the sand flats, looking exhausted after digging on their hands and knees for clams. Some had mesh bags of clams in tow.

I asked Steve about the challenges. He was good and didn't reveal much, but he did say that they had to compete to see who got the most clams. And that they DID bury some live clams ahead of time on the flats. There was a scale hanging off the pier to weigh them for the cameras.

Which made sense, because those people were collecting huge amounts of clams in a short time. Probably anyone who wants to make a clam-killing can rake the sand today and get a decent haul.

Look for "Fat March" on ABC this Fall!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

An Easter Story

(reposted from ConnecticutBob.Com)

Easter Season, 1978.

I was a stockboy at the Woolco in Orange. Woolco was the low-rent version of Woolworth's, I think. Back then we were considered number 3 in the Big Three of discount stores: Caldor's, Bradlee's and Woolco.

We had a real a-hole as an assistant manager, but he was the guy in charge of us kids, and we basically got away with murder when he wasn't watching.

Working in a discount store wasn't very interesting, but we had fun. My buddy Rich was a real troublemaker, who for some reason never got fired for anything he did.

Which was a lot.

For instance, whenever he got yelled at by the boss, he got even by sneaking into the Pet Department and opening all the bird and hamster cages. You can always tell when Rich was pissed, because there'd be birds chirping up in the flourescent light fixtures, and you'd hear the occasional scream from an innocent female shopper who came face to face with a terrified gerbil.

The big shipment of Easter candy would usually arrive right after Christmas, and we'd have to store the confections until it was time to put them on display. That's where I first learned about Peeps. Those awful little marshmellow chicks. Occasionally we'd grab a case of them and bite all their heads off. I still don't know why we did it, except it would make us guffaw like lunatics.

Woolco had a locked storage room, basically a chicken wire cage, where they stored the regular stock of candy; to prevent us from eating ourselves into a diabetic coma, I think. But there was so much Easter candy that we had to store them out in the back hallway. The assistant manager, Mr. Maligudi, told us to put them there.

I noticed the hall was heated by these huge industrial gas heaters that would click on and blow superheated air down the entire length. I mentioned that to Mr. Maligudi, but of course he refused to listen to a lowly stockboy, so we stacked up case after case of chocolate bunnys in the hallway. As ordered.

Then we went and bit the heads off more Peeps.

A month or so later it was time to open the cases and put the bunnies on display. We started at the far end of the hall. They were fine. As we progessed towards the middle of the hall, I noticed some of the bunnies looking distinctly unwell in their little cardboard and cellophane boxes. The bunny ears drooped a little bit and the yellow and blue candy mint eyes hung a bit low in their faces. Rich and I looked at each other and grinned.

Continuing along the hall, we found more bunnies that were seriously hurting. Ears and heads melted down into their hollow torsos; mint eyes and carrots fallen off; a puddle of melted chocolate was forming at the bottom of the bunny's tomb. We began laughing hysterically. So much so that Mr. Maligudi heard us and stormed into the hallway, wanting to know what was so damned funny.

We showed him the deformed bunnies. His face fell. We grinned. He tore open a new case, this one only about ten feet from the heater. When he pulled out a box it contained nothing but a congealed puddle of milk chocolate about 1/2" deep, with two candy eyes looking up at him.

We died laughing. I know it's bad form to laugh hysterically at the boss, but it was too funny to contain. Everybody in the store came back there to see the dead bunnies. Mr. Maligudi was extremely pissed but couldn't fire us, because I reminded him that I mentioned the heaters back in January. He stormed out to a chorus of laughter.

Then me and Rich killed us some more Peeps.

So, to this day, I can't walk down the candy aisle of a department store in March without a grin.

That's my Easter story.

I miss Woolco.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Sopranos: 7 Seasons in 7 Minutes

The final season of the long-running HBO hit "The Sopranos" begins this Sunday.

If you haven't seen every episode, you can catch up by watching this video. It explains everything:

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America

Some people think Kevin Smith's films are nothing but a slew of vulgarities.

Apparently, they're right!

Here's a Youtube version of Smith's epic movie "Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back!" that delivers all the R-rated goodness with none of that wholesome excess dialogue that can be so boring (and, this ain't for kids, so f**k off go away if you're under 18):

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

St. Pat's parade video

Here's a little 70-second video I shot and edited from my digital camera of the parade. I edited it after drinking three or so Guiness Stouts, which will be obvious when you see the results.

I guess St. Patrick's Day is sort of a religious holiday over in Ireland. Here in America, we have parades and puke green beer (not me, I was fine).

Actually, I haven't seen anyone selling green beer in years...I think the custom has finally gone the way of the mullet.

Uploaded by CTBob

Friday, February 23, 2007

Another incomprehensible film from David Lynch

I haven't actually SEEN "Inland Empire" yet, but I know enough about Lynch to realize that there's not going to be any audience "spoon-feeding" in this latest flick.

As expected, this movie will be filled with plenty of Lynch's trademark "weirdness"; the kind of faintly uncomfortable atmosphere that pervades many of his films.

Ah yes, who doesn't love Lynch's rabbits? Between "Donnie Darko" and David Lynch, I'll never see rabbits as those cute little furrballs again. And speaking of "Donnie Darko", Darko-director Richard Kelly is also about to release his long-awaited "Southland Tales". It's going to be a wonderful year for weirdness.

Laura Dern in a predictable moment of angst. Lynch shot this movie on video (not quite typical "consumer video" as is being reported, but also not the Speilberg super high-end stuff either; he used a $3,000 Sony PD-150, and I have no idea if he used any expensive lens) and I'm sure it'll show in places. But video also can add to the weirdness, by making the image "come alive" in ways that film doesn't.

It should be interesting. For info and trailers, visit the Inland Empire website.

And after you see the movie, go online and search for an explaination.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

My "Rails to Trails" Documentary

I finally got around to uploading the full-length version of "The Airline Rail Trail" documentary onto Youtube. It runs 13:45, and previously I needed to split it into two pieces to keep to the 10-minute limit Youtube had; since then, I've attained "Director" status and the limit has been lifted.

So here it is!

The $13 Shoulder Brace

Early this week a friend of mine (Spazeboy) emailed me a link to this device, called a "Spider Brace" ( that allows you to support a mid-sized DV camera without getting tired. The heavier Canon GL-2 gets very shaky after I hold it for more than 10 minutes, compared with my ultra-lightweigh Panasonic GS-150.

The only problem is, it costs about $60.

I love home-built video gadgets, and I figured I could do better, so I went to Home Depot to look at some PVC piping and fittings.

Here's what I came up with...the fantastic $13 "Bob-o-Brace 2000"!

Here's how I built it - I purchased the following items from Home Depot:

(all PVC is 3/4")

1 3/4" x 10' pipe $ 1.82
2 PVC RUN TRAPS (@ 1.37) 2.74
2 90 deg. PVC elbow (@ .25) .50
4 PVC Caps (@ .22) .88
2 PVC Couplers (@ .23) .46
1 1/4" x 1" Steel Wingnut .88

I used eight 1.5" drywall screws, a scrap piece of pine board (4.5" x 8.5" x .75"), and a can of PVC glue that I had in the basement; those items probably cost about $6 or $7, so the cost of this entire project should be about $12 or $13.

I started with the pine board, then I cut two pieces of PVC pipe with a hacksaw to about 11" each; I made the one on the left a little shorter since the device would be on my right shoulder, I figured my left arm would have to come across my body to hold the brace.

I used masking tape to hold the two pieces of pipe along the edges of the board, then I drilled a 1/8" hole through the pipe and into the wood. I screwed in a drywall screw, then drilled and screwed in three more screws on both pipes. I ended up with about 1" of the pipe overhanging each end of the board.

Then I fitted the two couplers to the back end of the board, and the PVC run traps to that. Then I capped them. DON'T GLUE THEM YET! The PVC pieces should fit snugly enough to hold together without the glue while you build this. You might want to change some lengths of the PVC pipe to perfect it, and with ten feet of pipe you can cut a lot of different sized pieces.

The "PVC run traps" are what really makes this thing work! They fit nicely on my shoulder and give the entire brace its stability. As soon as I found them in the PVC pipe accessories section of Home Depot, I instantly knew there were perfect for the job.

I mounted the right side 90 degree elbow in a verticle downward position, and put a roughly 5" piece of pipe in it. Then I mounted the left side elbow in a roughly 45" angle and cut a longer piece for my left hand.

I capped both pieces and adjusted the two front legs so when I placed the brace on a table, the camera is level (left-to-right level; it angles up about 20 degrees, which is what I want anyway, for use as a low angle camera platform).

I drilled a 1/4" hole in the board for the wingnut bolt to hold the camera in place, and made sure I liked the alignment of the camera and brace. Then I glued the pieces together.

One thing I wish I didn't do was glue the left hand leg into the 90 degree elbow. That way I could remove the leg and store it in a smaller area. But I can always saw the pipe just below the elbow and fit another coupler in there and leave it un-glued, so if it becomes a hassle I can fix it.

The last thing I'll do is paint the whole thing with black paint to make it look cool, but that's completely optional. The main thing is that it's really lightweight (about 1.5 lbs) and super strong.

And it works great!