Thursday, April 22, 2021

Yearly Check-In: relocation blues

This is not going to be another "2020 was a train wreck" essay. I'm sure many other bloggers have covered that. Suffice it to say that I've had no film work in over a year, other than virtual pats on the back and editorial contributions to artwork for the last two films I worked on before everything went haywire. See sidebar (R) for Burn it All and The Stairs (currently doing well on the festival circuit).

I'm actually ok with not working right now, because until the mask mandates are lifted I just can't do it. I'm not going to breathe my own exhaust for 14 hours a day because people are afraid of a virus with a 99% survival rate. Everybody I know who's had it was sick as a dog for a few days then got on with their life. The only people I know personally who've been hospitalized have been damaged by the vaccine, not the virus itself. Take your vitamins. Get fresh air and exercise. Turn off the "news". Live your life. End of speech.

In other news, the spouse and I are finally, really really, getting in gear to sell our current domicile and re-locate farther west to the Olympic Peninsula. The market is nuts right now. We'll never get a better price for our place. The downside is that because it's such a ridiculously disproportionate seller's market, it's a TERRIBLE buyer's market. Everything is overpriced and the pickin's are super slim. The other issue is that anything that goes up for sale is gone NOW, so you have to have cash in hand if you're serious. This means pre-qualifying for the loan to bridge the gap between buying and selling. Luckily, that gap won't be long, since we have a very desirable horse property to sell.

The most daunting part of it all, besides all the grown-up paperwork and bank stuff, is just thinning out our junk and packing it all up. Luckily, my health is better than it has been in years, so I think I'm up to the task. Up until about two years ago I was lucky to have enough energy to accomplish one or two things in a day, and then took a 1-4 hour nap in the afternoon to recover. Breaking my arm last October galvanized me into getting healthy and fit, because I was barely able to take care of myself for the first few weeks. Thank goodness I had some good friends who would show up once a week and re-braid my hair (or even wash it!) and help with stuff around the house. Everything is harder with one arm. I can't imagine how awful it would have been had I been super overweight or unfit to boot. I immediately got on boron, extra C, calcium, and a bunch of other supplements I had been slacking on. 

My ortho surgeon recommended a bone scan, and I came out of it with an osteopaenia diagnosis. Whoops. I immediately started walking and doing weights. I don't drink sodas, smoke, drink, or do other things that contribute to bone loss, so I'm hoping for good results by my next scan. I still have 30 lbs I'd like to lose, but I'm building muscle in the meanwhile. 

Anyway... the hunt is on for "that perfect place" over on the peninsula. Private, not right on a busy road, a few acres to mess around on. Scarcer than hen's teeth at the moment, but the Lord works in mysterious ways. I'm actually kind of glad there's nothing at the moment so we can get our ducks in a row and not be in a panic about it.

Stay tuned!

Friday, July 03, 2020

I Heart Jane (Austen)

On a bit of a Jane Austen kick, reading/listening to the novels then watching various filmed versions. I still think the '95 Pride and Prejudice mini-series with Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle is the #1 version of P&P, and I don't think I'm alone. For Mansfield Park, the Francis O'Connor/Jonny Lee Miller ('99) version is my favorite, even if some of the women's costuming is a bit weird. For Emma...so much to choose from. I like Jeremy Northam's Mr. Knightley in the '96 (Gwyneth Paltrow) version, but I like Kate Beckinsale's Emma in the other '96 version (BBC TV) better than Paltrow's. Both fine actresses, just different interpretations, plus, again, some odd costuming, and hair, in the Paltrow film. I watched the newest Emma ('20) a few days ago, and while Bill Nighy is his usual delightful self as Emma's father, the whole production, despite some lovely costuming, just felt like it was trying too hard to be quirky and spunky and clever. Overall it feels like a bunch of scenes jammed together with a big budget: glorious visuals but not so much heart.

Today I finished a mini-series version of Emma that I'd missed somehow. The 2006 version with Jonny Lee Miller is a gem. Normally a parade of janky costuming is a big turnoff for me, but everything else about this version is so good that some strange gowns with 20th century detailing and sloppy sashes, and unfortunate female hair (side parts? On women in the early 1800s?! Ugh.) are forgivable. Being a long-form version, the writers have time to cherry pick more of Austen's dialog and craft it into some skillful character development and backstory that is usually missing in film versions of this novel. The women's makeup, unlike the hair, is perfect and natural looking. The women look real, not like painted dolls. It also helps that they tried to light every scene with at least the appearance of natural or period lighting sources. This means that night scenes seem even more atmospheric and intimate, unlike previous versions which are usually over-lit. I know that shooting digital makes this easier, which makes me wonder that costume dramas don't try to do more of this. If you want to see a classic film that excels at this, on actual film, check out Barry Lyndon some time. Gorgeous.

Monday, June 29, 2020

4th Turning or Just the Rise of the Angry Toddler?

Rant time!

I recently finished a book called "Outlaw Ocean", which dealt with the crazy crap that goes on at sea outside of the 200 mile limit of any sovereign nation. It's not pretty. In one chapter, the government of a SE Asian country finally cracks down on a business that supplies what amounts to slaves to a fishing fleet, while styling itself a "staffing agency". The secretary, who works the front desk of the office in the city where the work force is press-ganged, is arrested and goes to jail, while the actual owners and operators of the company sit comfy in Hong Kong or elsewhere. It solves nothing and puts that woman in a prison camp indefinitely.

The point of the above illustration is that I think it applies to the riots, raids, and vandalism going on in the western world right now. The people on the front lines of this fomentation, the ones currently in the news and on a variety of "wanted" posters, are being used by agitators who are happy to stand back and let the unwashed suffer the consequences of their long-form divisive agendas. We have whole segments of society ripe to be manipulated like this. People with dubious education, stunted maturity, and demostrable lack of impulse control. These are not the kinds of people who should be driving cultural change like angry toddlers who throw all their toys out the window because mummy and daddy expected them to eat their dinner before having dessert.

Complacency of the voting population, plus Marxist dogma fed to functionally illiterate students at all levels of education, has contributed to this mess, I believe. If you don’t believe the current output of any college-level humanities department are rife with ignorant drones, just look at the idiocy aimed by them at, say, rural (agricultural) communities and non-city dwelling people in general. “People in rural areas are evil and make bad life choices!” they scream. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, but where do you think your food comes from, hot shot? Where is your electricity coming from? Your water? Is there a magical, high-volume spring at the center of every urban area? Does the city have a giant rain catchment system that feeds your millions of little apartments? How will Los Angeles, say, fare if those “stupid rural areas” decide they’re tired of sending most of their water to the filthy city instead watering their crops?

I’m rambling. Done for now.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Weed Whackin'

As my health has gradually improved through better diet (basically eliminating things that don't like me), better sleep, and better pain management (avoid NSAIDs, switch to CBD products and mineral supplementation), I've found I actually have the energy to, you know, get things done. "Things" includes massive amounts of catch-up yard work. The biggest project is attacking the blackberries that have rolled over us like a kudzu-esque tsunami.
Halfway there...for this chunk, anyway.

One of the few bonuses to this whole "stop the world" response to the COVID-19 outbreak is that my spouse is working only a few days a week outside the home. This means he's here to help with the jungle reclamation project: yay! One day we excavated the deck house, covered in roses and clematis which were getting right through the shingles. Ugh. Then it was time to go after ye blackberries. It's been a few weeks, but we're making headway. Soon a big chunk of the pasture will be reclaimed and the raspberries freed from persecution. Onward!

It's going to be a bumpy ride...

Just like the sourdough starter in my fridge, it's time to revive this blog. A lot has happened in my life in the past year, reflecting the "lot of things" going on in the world right now. Just as in the greater world, my life consists of overt activity with deep, crazy stuff going on above our view and below the surface.

Buckle in.*

* Yes, I know she said "night", not "ride". I reserve the right to mangle quotes as fits the situation.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

My First Production Trailer, Ep. 3: Cut to Montage

This old truck used to haul draft horses,
a toy hauler will be a piece of cake.
 Another week-and-a-half gap, and it's time for a progress report. It's a week until load-in/wheels-up on the next feature film project. Let's just say I'm taking a lot of niacin to keep from panicking. So much left to do, including getting the truck, a '98 Ford F350 diesel dually crew-cab, back up and running. Due to a snafu with the insurance company, precipitated by my forgetting that I needed to add the truck back to the insurance until day before yesterday, arranging to have it towed to the shop turned out to be a giant cluster beyond SNAFU and heading for TARFU. I get that the dispatchers for the big insurance companies are all in outer Mongolia or Florida or wherever, but would it kill them to look at a map (they have them online!) before they set up a tow job? Lynwood isn't far from me as the crow flies, but there's a wee bit of water between me, in Kitsap County, and the west side of Puget Sound (Seattle side). When I hear "Your tow will cost $250+", I know they've looked at mileage and not geography. I wonder if people in upper Michigan have the same problem with remote call centers? Anyway, yesterday's tale of woe is ultimately boring, suffice it to say that after starting the process around 0903, I finally got the truck on the way to the shop at 1730. Whee.

Thanks, again, to friend Rick, the skin and trim is back on the front of the trailer. Today I'll get it all caulked up and the lights back on. Oh, and replace the missing tank vent cap up there, too. I wish I could just cut to an "A-Team"-style montage at this point, but at least I have recorded books to listen to while I slam my way through the remaining to-do list. Still need to install new toilet, fix the fueling station, clean and paint the rusty areas on the front of the frame and propane tank pans, find the new plates (Oh, wait, they're in the file box in a folder marked "toy hauler", duh.) and put them on, and coerce somebody into cutting off one side of the mounting bracket for the new stairs and welding it back on because the stairs I bought are 2" wider than the old ones. Oops.

De-gunking front trim before re-attaching.
Then there's all the nickel and dime stuff I need to do inside: hanging peg boards, installing tie-downs for gorilla shelves...easy stuff I can do in my sleep. I've already picked away at some of it, including removing the sofa and settee(s) and finding them new homes, storing one of the drop-down queen beds in the garage (more head room in the "workshop"!), and painting the bed deck, which was raw particle board, in the forward berth.
Forward berth with new, sweep-able finish
I'm constantly amazed at how cheap a lot of the construction is on this rig. I knew travel trailers were ticky-tacky, unless you're springing for one of those NASA-grade Airstreams, but I had hoped that toy haulers would be more robust. They certainly have better frames, as in the actual bed of the trailer, since they're designed to receive a variety of sport vehicles, but the superstructure appears just as cheesy as most other trailers. Not only was the forward berth deck just raw OSB, but the little ports into the cubby hole storage "bins" was just rough-sawn edges with a coat of flat paint on them. A quick sanding, some primer, another sanding, and some satin paint I found in the garage in a matching color, and the forward berth is pretty much good to go.

Yesterday was Friday, and I decided it was time to take a break from movie prep and, um, watch a movie. I hung a white sheet off the trailer and treated the neighbor kids to their first viewing of My Neighbor Totoro, which they'd never heard of let alone seen. I sense a Miyazaki series in their future. It went over really well. The kids, from about 7 years to early teens, were mesmerized. Level unlocked. As an atmosphere booster, a giant, almost full moon crept up over the treeline at the back of the pasture during the last act. I've wanted to show movies outdoors since I was a kid, so even though it may seem banal to some folks, it was kind of a lifetime achievement for me and a great bridge into working on the biggest feature I've crewed on in years. Onward!