Archive for March, 2007


March 25, 2007

My brother sent me a strange MP3 about a year ago of some cat named Yayahoni singing the old Ronettes song “Be My Baby” with just a plucked ukulele as accompaniment. The spare, awkward recording instantly irritated me. But then grew on me. And then continued to grow. I sought out more, and found Yayahoni is one of the guys from Herman Dune, an only-slightly-less-awkward Swedish band I’d heard a few times, and that the Ronettes cover was one of an EP’s worth of recordings called “Yayahoni Sings His Favorite Tunes in the Morning.” It’s available for free download on the Herman Dune website (click on “media”), and is really wonderful. Highly recommended for those who love anti-folk, ukuleles, or singers who waver out of tune but somehow never quite lose the melody.


“Oh and… kill the background.”

March 24, 2007

On set, I never make a peep when the cameras are rolling. But I just about killed a crucial dramatic scene last night.

The sounds before the actors start acting usually go something like this:

“Picture’s up.” (the picture from the camera is being transmitted to the monitors all over set)
“Sound speed.” (sound is recording)
“Rolling.” (recording picture)
“A marker.” (clapboard numbering the scene for editing purposes)
“B marker.” (used if there’s a second camera; C if there’s a third, and so on)
“Background.” (extras, commonly known as background, start to move)
“Action.” (and the principal actors start to act)

There are numerous variations, but that’s the basic structure. Last night, as I was sitting on the sidelines with three other extras who weren’t being used, the A.D. threw in a little something, almost off-hand, at the last moment.

“Picture’s up.”
“Rolling rolling.”
“A marker.”
“Oh, and… kill the background.”

Instantly, the four of us who weren’t being used in the scene looked around in wide-eyed mock fear, then stood to run away like a gaggle of panicky cartoon elk. It’s a visual gag, so I’m not sure how funny this comes off, but it’s gotta be impressive that four people thought of the exact same joke at the exact same time, no? Not a second’s hesitation from anyone. After sitting back down — the scene well under way — we were all stifling laughter. Which of course made it worse.

Quick, I thought, think of something not funny. Baseball. Baseball’s not funny. Baseball. Pitchers. Right field. Kirby Puckett. Hehe. Kirby Puckett.

Is there a funnier baseball name than Kirby Puckett? Maybe Rollie Fingers, which always reminds me of genitals floating in a jar of famaldahyde. But Kirby Puckett is funny too. At this point I wasn’t outright cackling, but my breathy attempts to cool off were certainly becoming audible. I was just far enough away from mics so that none of the crew noticed, but all four of us came dangerously close to exploding into belly laughs before silently seperating ourselves and staring at the floor.

Meanwhile, I think one of the characters was dying.

On the plus side, I guess I should be flattered that the A.D. used the human “kill,” rather than the inanimate “strike,” which I’ve heard before. “Strike the background,” like we’re props. (We are, but the reminder isn’t always appreciated).


March 20, 2007

On the set of House today, I heard one end of a phone conversation that just plain didn’t make any sense.

“You mean the ragin’ Cajun, James Carville.”
“Oh, you must mean Tucker Carlson?”
“I know who you’re thinking of: Gene Shalit.”
“Maybe Joel Siegel from Good Morning America?”

I tried my best to fill in the other end of the conversation.

-“Hey dude, help me out, I’m thinking of a guy on TV. You know, he’s on TV, sorta unusual looking. Talks about politics.”
-“You mean the ragin’ Cajun, James Carville.”
-“No, no, not him. Not so ugly. And not bald. And with a bowtie.”
-“Oh, you must mean Tucker Carlson?”
-“No, older than that. And with a fro. And maybe instead of being a political commentator like I said before, he reviews movies.”
-“I know who you’re thinking of: Gene Shalit.”
-“No. Forget the bowtie. I guess I made that up too. Sorta like Geraldo, but not Geraldo.”
-“Maybe Joel Siegel from Good Morning America?”
-“No, no, not him. You’re not very good at this are you?”

New Beverly’s Grindhouse series

March 12, 2007

The New Beverly Cinema (Beverly and La Brea) is giving Quentin Tarantino a chance to show off his influences for the next two months. He’s showcasing dozens of old grindhouse flicks from his personal collection: silly kung-fu, titty-flapping sex comedies, badasssss blaxploitation, and 70s revengers (sorry, no Joe Don Baker).

Went to my first tonight, a double bill of Rolling Thunder and The Town that Dreaded Sundown. The first is a fairly simple, slow-building revenge flick in which a POW (William Devane) returns home after 7 years in a Vietnamese prison and can’t quite get back into the swing of things, that is, until someone close to him is killed. Not the type of thing that usually excites me, but it was more interesting than Death Wish, and Tommy Lee Jones brought down the house.

The second film is a semi-competent crime thriller in which a tall guy with a sack over his head kills a bunch of teenagers while cops fail to catch him. It has similarities with Zodiac and Halloween, but isn’t nearly as good as either. A few moments of unintentional laughter, along with the party atmosphere in the theater, made it an enjoyable experience nonetheless.

Included with the show were dozens of old trailers, from Chinese Hercules to Straw Dogs. The cheesy, old style voiceovers and bizarre clip choices made them worth the price of admission alone.

It is a little awkward to have some of the filmmakers there at the screenings. Do they know that for each person who came with sincere enthusiasm, another came for the camp value? Do those in attendance even make a distinction? Where does homage end and mockery begin? I’m going to attend a few more of these things and see if I can figure it out.

Michael Rapaport

March 10, 2007

On the set of The War at Home yesterday, Michael Rapaport hit me with a door.  And didn’t apologize.  But I will say this for the man: he makes a mean Dagwood.

Theater etiquette

March 6, 2007

A tip for those of you still considerate enough at theaters to remember there are other people in the room: never wear a button-up, short-sleeve shirt to a packed house.  The starchy sleeves will flare out and tickle the arms of the people sitting next to you.  It will almost certainly lead to discomfort and awkward glances, and it probably isn’t as good of a way to meet a potential sexual partner as it might sound.

House Guests Vol. 2: Flatulence

March 5, 2007

New theory: the reason friends and acquaintances end up at each other’s necks when shrumped into small quarters for long periods of time (like when I host house guests for 8 days) is because they’re uncomfortable farting in front of one another. The methane builds up, and with no where else to go, heads upward. Once it reaches the brain (after about, say, 3 or 4 days depending on bean consumption rates), it begins to poison the mind, and formerly rational people begin to act irrationally. So fart freely, readers. The offensive smell isn’t nearly as damning to friendship as a gassy head.

House Guests

March 4, 2007

Two bits of advice gentle readers:

1) if you’re going to invite friends with non-refundable airline tickets from across the country to visit you, make sure they don’t stay for more than 5 days.

2) …especially if back home they live with their parents. They’re still in Collegiate Candyland, and will not understand why taking off work for a week is a big deal or why you don’t want to eat sushi three times a day.

I won’t go too in-depth into this debacle, because it isn’t that entertaining of a story. But a quick question of summary: how can a guest simultaneously be so upset with you as to not treat you with the slightest modicum of respect or decency (so damned upset that they can’t even be bothered to tell you why they’re upset, they’re that upset), but still be okay enough to expect to continue to sleep in your bed, eat your food, and be chauffeured around to sites of interest?