things i should be doing right now

- not blogging
- re-editing the Mongoloid's wrestling video
- finishing recut of TA91
- writing this totally wonderful new screenplay; the Hollywood Reporter informs me that screenplays about original superheros not from actual comic books are hot right now (the Hollywood Reporter is one of those magazines from which you can actually absorb the full content of a single issue in about 26 seconds by just scanning for key words).
- re-writing some old plays so they will be totally wonderful
- planning/packing for move out of apartment

Instead, I am writing this, and thinking fondly of the two Top Dogs I ate while visiting the hometown over this last Xmas weekend. I had a couple Pink's dogs from the casino today to try to recapture the satisfaction, but it just wasn't the same. Top Dogs are grilled and juicy and alive. Pink's dogs are steamed and soft, and while there's something great about that chili goop that they smear onto it, the lingering feeling afterwards is one of intestinal pain rather than inner peace.

Ocean's 12 (a hip sequel by me)


Twelve movie stars sit around, acting.

ANDY GARCIA: I want my money back, so I can have more money for you to steal in the third movie.

CASEY AFFLECK: So we each have to pay you back 17 million dollars? Dude, I only have like 5 million dollars.

ELIOT GOULD: I have millions of millions of dollars. How many millions do you need to finance the job?

BRAD PITT: We only need 3 million dollars worth of clothes, hotel suites, computers, and massive underground construction arrays to steal the thing that's worth 2.5 million dollars.

MATT DAMON: Man, these are totally problems I could deeply relate to back when I had like, no millions of dollars.

GEORGE CLOONEY: I remember when I had no millions of dollars. But I was still dead sexy!

BERNIE MAC: What, exactly is my role in the stealing of these white-ass objects of Eurocentric antiquity from all these white-ass institutions so as to save everybody's white asses?

DON CHEADLE: In Europe, culture supercedes race. So instead of the Black guy with no plot function, I can be the British guy with no plot function.

THE CHINESE GUY: Wo men "people of color" zou ba.

The Chinese Guy stuffs his head into his own crotch. All the male leads help correct his technique. Bernie Mac chills in jail.

STEVEN SODERBERGH: I took a shot of a plane flying sideways! Yippee!

BRUCE WILLIS: (to dommah) If you bloggers are so smart, how come we already got your $10.50? How come the dead people movie did $600 million worldwide? I guess we're a little bit smarter than you non-millionaires after all, aren't we?

JULIA ROBERTS: Hey! I have a demand for how to end the movie. Let's play some poker!

CATHERINE ZETA-JONES: Yeah! I hear it's all the rage with the kids. I mean, the idiots.

Pause. The Chinese Guy swallows his own pelvis.



Under Pressure the name of the Queen cover band that played the casino yesterday, opening up for Led Zepagain. They ROCKED. The best thing that has happened at the casino, ever. Also one of the only times I've been at the casino where I was in an Asian minority. I'm not sure who the hell those people in the audience were, actually. There were a good hundred of them at least, young, old, white, black, brown, wheelchaired, definitely not the casino's core clientele. Maybe poker players, which would explain their dull smiling emotionless reactions. From a band POV it was probably a terrible gig, but that just enhanced rock n roll majesty for me. It was one of those moments when I realized that all I really need out of LA is to find a friend who understands why seeing a band of what were probably undemployed actors in scruffy black wigs harmonizing on "Fat Bottom Girls" in front of a stonefaced multiethnic crowd in a casino ballroom is really what living the good life is all about.

list item #17

17. A set of those cool CD turntables so I can start my third half-assed career as a DJ.
....You know how all over LA people get paid to do things you wouldn't think people got paid to do? Well, paying someone to play records that everybody knows without breaks in between them is one thing (because that is hard to do when you're drunk) but paying someone to play records that they like but don't particularly contribute to the mood of the party, basically, just, like, sucks. There should be some sort of licensing test for DJs. Also visual artists. Also Colombian assassins. (I'm drunk.)

what i want for xmas

World peace, aid for the needy, solace for the sick, a different president, blah blah blah, but the really gratifying material items to have would be:
1. A fuzzy hat because it is so freaking cold in LA right now.
2. A 12" Mac Ibook.
3. One of those things that crushes the little extra bits of soap in your shower into one condensed, usable soap ball.
4. New glasses. (If only that wasn't something I actually have to get my lazy ass to get for myself.)
5. Someone to help me or force me to do the last freaking cut of TA91 because I know everything that needs to be done but cannot get myself to do it (see disclaimer to item 5).
6. A single excuse to switch to Working Assets' cell phone service and free myself from the Cingularseholes. There are already plenty of good ones. One person confirming that they've actually made a cell phone call on the Working Assets network would do it.
7. Quality time with friends. This is not one of those general-fruity-happiness list items. It's something I want for my Own Personal Satistfaction, Damn It.
8. A big plasma TV. Also an electric car, while I'm winning-the-lottery-in-my-mind. Smiley face.
9. Socks.
10. A Vietnamese Sandwich place to open somewhere near my apartment.
11. The Star Wars DVDs.
12. An investor for my next movie.
13. Sleep aid drugs.
14. Some interesting new flavor of chewing gum.
15. Back issues of the original "Micronauts" Marvel comic book.

...having made this list, I feel like a pretty lucky devil to be found wanting of only such frivolous and cosmetic things. But hey, I still want them.

to paraphrase my old Greek friend Tasho...

Got in the car. Stuck in traffic on the 101 for an hour. Felt like shit.
Got to work. Ate a salad. Felt much better.
Everything sucks.
Amount of debt is growing, amount of friends is shrinking.
The player on my left stank, the player on my right screamed.
Too listless to make brilliant changes to movie.
Cingular and AT&T merged to make the AllOver Network. Damn right it's all over.
Neck hurts.
Plus it's cold.

"So, you're Asian."

Successfully started two conversations in a bar with this line. And we didn't quickly run out of things to say, either.
...Not a recommended starting line if you are not personally Asian. Why? Just because.

I took a breath and let it out, woohoo.

We live in a time of unchecked narcissism, where reportage and refinement of individual minutiae is the reigning principle, and interaction between individuals is discouraged. See: this blog, all blogs, vanity websites, the movie "Tarnation," Eminem, reality shows (which are often about a group dynamic to be sure, but ultimately devolve into people microanalyzing their own behavior vis a vis How I Am Going To Win), personalized features, customized orders, home entertainment systems, the poker craze, every gambler, every actor, everyone who is "freelance," self-help, self-liberation, self-assessment, Alanis Morrisette, and the prevailing problem of misunderstanding and hatred between the races.
...All the new technology that makes communicating easier has somehow made us push deeper inward. Instead of exploring the possibilities of unfettered access to everyone else, we work on immediately gratifying adjustments to ourselves. What font shall I use for my email? Should I take this person's call or adjust my screensaver? I can't talk to you right now because I have to work on my career. Hi, how are you, here's my life story.
...I don't know what to do about it. I think we're going to fall into a black hole.

About that Pacers-Piston brawl being the fans' fault.

Yeah, it was their fault, because after getting hit with that beer, Ron Artest had more than just cause to think he was in danger of physical harm, and that some fan up there in the stands was hiding a weapon of mass NBA-player destruction, and these little beer volleys were just hints of his violent potential. So it's totally understandable that he went up into the stands and started hitting random people, because he was in real danger, because after all, he had just been hit with a beer. Who KNOWS what the mad fan might have thrown next? A grenade full of enriched uranium, maybe! Ron Artest is my hero. He fights for the rest of us. I bet HE could find Osama bin Laden.

homeland security and me

So I finally went to small claims court about the police-breaking-into-our-grip-truck thing., and I did not win. Apparently the police have immunity to cause certain kinds of damage when they're doing their thing, even if the only crime being committed is suspicious parking. The officers who came to represent the LAPD did advise me that I should be suing the Department of Homeland Security, since it was apparently their man, Danny Roth, who initiated the whole action. He called in the LAPD only because he didn't have his own bomb squad handy. Actually the entity that truly owes me the 800 bucks is his dog (also named "Dani") who sat on the truck, causing everyone to go into alert mode.
....It's not that I can't see it from their persepctive. "Thank God at least you weren't really a terrorist!" "What were you thinking parking a white truck in front of a federal building after the Oklahoma City bombings?" But what itches me is the idea that from a legal perspective, this story seems to shake out as: Homeland Security investigated a possible terrorist action, and some stuff got damaged in the process, thank goodness no one was hurt. When what really happened was: I parked a truck, half the city arrived to smash in the window and the door, and then they left, and I got to pay for it.
...Am also considering asking John Kerry for my donation back.

The Man.

Since a couple not-too-bright guys in the casino yesterday felt it necessary to bond over the Republican victory by calling Bush "The Man" and Kerry "A Wimp," I'd like to reiterate something that seemed to get lost in the battle of Republican lies and Democratic blather.
Kerry was in a war, he used a weapon in service of our country. Bush has no comparable military service, he authorizes the killing of people at long distance, he has NO IDEA WHAT HE'S TALKING ABOUT. IF HE HAD TO, KERRY WOULD KICK BUSH'S ASS IN THE TIME IT WOULD TAKE ME TO OPEN A BAG OF POTATO CHIPS.
Small comfort, this. Sometimes I wish people would just wear a sign that says "I Repeat Things I've Heard On CNN Until It Seems That I Have An Opinion" so I would know not to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Please, for the love of Pete, vote for Kerry.

Reason 1: Kerry seems like a pretty good guy.
Reason 2: Bush only helps rich people.
Reason 3: Bush makes the world safer...for rich people. Everyone else is potential cannon fodder.
Reason 4: We are at war and we should have someone who's been in a war in charge.
Reason 5: Bush seems like the more down-to-earth personality, it's true, but everything he says is either a) a lie b) wrong or c) a slogan which does not mean anything. Kerry is often guilty of c), but as far as track records go, Bush is far ahead of him on a) and b).

Pleeeeeze vote for Kerry.

How absurd can the world get? Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger praising President George Bush for defending America with all his heart and soul is like Kid Rock complimenting Val Kilmer for inventing hip hop. No, it's like Madonna thanking Paris Hilton for protecting a women's right to choose. No actually it's just like a totally unqualified faker praising a guy who knows nothing for imitating something the knownothing saw in a movie.

It's not just that they lie; it's that they say stuff which doesn't MEAN ANYTHING!!!!

Also, Yahoo's front page newsblip at this moment says, "Bin Laden: Security key to peace for U.S." In what universe are peace tips from Osama Bin Laden even worth printing?

Please vote for Kerry.

I will give my parking space in West Hollywood on Halloween night to anyone who can explain to me what the heck happened in the movie "Primer."
....That is a valuable-ass parking space on that night, as Los Angeles residents should know.
....It was a great movie. I just didn't really follow what went on.

Please vote for Kerry.

This it totally fascinating.
I've always liked the Packers, but this Sunday I will be rooting for them like never before.

It's very nervewracking this election thing. Honestly don't know what's going to happen. Since California is not a swing state and the Democratic win here is almost assured, it feels like discussing politics with the locals is not really to effect any poltical difference, but merely to articulate that we do, in fact, have different viewpoints. The closeness of the polls is amazing to a leftie, of course, I'm inclined to think that the incumbent party is doing a really good job of getting a huge portion of the country to vote against its own self-interests, since, as we lefties like to stress, BUSH ONLY HELPS RICH PEOPLE, who are a tiny minority of our population. But as a leftie I also have to concede that it's more complicated than that, and that no matter who wins, after the election a lot of people will be wondering what the hell happened, and our vastly different paradoxical viewpoints will remain intact, probably strengthened by the whole experience of these campaigns. The fact that we co-exist nonetheless is heartening; the fact that we have our political discussions by repeating the talking points and soundbites of campaign managers, with all their cheap insults and idiotic simplifications, is not.

poker is not sexy pt.1

I like poker as much as the next 18-49 male demographic, but there's way too much poker posing going on these days. I get the appeal of doing little work with the potential for big money, but there's also the WPT-induced illusion that quitting your real job to become a pro poker player is glamorous or will somehow impress women. I suppose you could argue that it's Cool, but here are my arguments for why poker is not Sexy:
- It's time-consuming. On TV, they don't show the hours and hours of folding crap hands. There's no clocking in and clocking out. You just have to stay there till you make money or you've had enough, which could take days. The only way you can make money during that time is if you think about nothing at all but playing poker. You can't tune out, or surf the Internet, or make pleasant conversation in your downtime, as with other jobs. After enough time at the table you will forget what pleasant conversation is.
- It's boring to non-poker-addicts. As with real estate law, there are many fascinating intricacies. As with real estate law, you don't actually want to hear about the intricacies unless you are in the same field. After you are done boring people with stories about how you hit a set on the river and won blah blah amount of money, you will start boring people with your rationalization about why it's okay to gamble and why you are not an addict.
- It's smelly. People in casinos have terrible hygiene. Even if you are not personally dirty, there's an excellent chance that you're sitting next to someone who has been there for 4 straight days without eating sleeping or showering. Those pretty shiny chips you gamble with have been in the hands of someone with Lyme disease. Even if you are not a loser, in order to win you have to constantly surround yourself with losers who are swimming in their own filth.
- It's not really Shana Hiatt's favorite sport. (Even when watching the show I can kind of tell in her delivery that the back of her brain is going, "What is the Big Deal...?") I often see big gamblers bring their girlfriends into the casino, and the girlfriends inevitably get bored, while the boyfriends ignore them completely to fixate on the game. I'm guilty of this myself, and it's not "focusing on the game," it's more like temporary insanity. The only women who actually get interested in the table action to the obsessive degree that the pro poker player does, are, of course, female poker players, but they are using their feminine wiles to disrupt your game and get your money, not your phone number. At the risk of a sexist generalization, I'd bet that 50% of the women in the casino on a Friday night are waiting patiently to leave, and the other 50% are gamblers. On the table, you're better off being on your own least, better off in the poker department.
- It's expensive. Without belaboring the obvious, it's not expensive in the sexy way that new cars or other shiny things are expensive. Besides money, it costs valuable years of your life, and brain cells.
....Maybe this is part of the new trend to emasculate the Asian male. Except in this case we're demasculating ourselves by giving into our historically horrendous gambling inclination, and thereby sacrificing not only money, but a huge amount of game.

addendum to previous

...provided it is not a barbecue chicken salad at Norm's.
...this now is a test of how many people read this blog. Go
here and begin to explore...apparently they will welcome your feedback.

the secret

Have finally learned after over 29 years of life that all one has to do to cure momentary phases of depression is eat a salad.

it's raining in LA

I'm not voting against Bush on a bunch of wacky liberal principles. It's a very self-interested thing. The current administration helps rich people, and I am not rich. The rich people I see at the casino, pretty much the only help they need is counseling for their gambling addictions. They are not usefully pumping their money back into our sad economy. They just kind of waste it, because they're idiots. Was reminded of this, when, leaving work today, I saw this shoeshiner/hotshot gambler standing in the rain just outside the back entrance. Gazing out at the shining wet parking lot, smoking a cigarette, a classic casino "I just lost all" pose. I almost mustered up some pity for the guy in that picturesque moment, and then I was like, naaaaaah. Sit n' spin.

well that was strangely satisfying

Since finishing up the rough cut of the movie I've been in that Stuck place with writing, having all these different half-finished scripts. So today I took up the oldest project on the list, which was to revise the first play I ever wrote. Strangely it only took one night and I'm pleased with it now. I think I could show it to people now without fear that they'll immediately say, "hey you wrote that 12 years ago when the earth was still cooling and you thought playwriting was this new exciting thing, didn't you?" It's funny because in that first play I think I did some basic playwriting things well that over the past decade I've totally failed at on a regular basis. Fundamental stuff like characters having clear objectives, jokes that people understand, things like that. Having those elements in place definitely made it easy to revisit the story, and hopefully I haven't obscurified it too much with this version. Although in a way it feels like backtracking, it's kind of freeing, returning to where you started. It makes me feel like it really is possible to go back and correct your mistakes. Now if only I could've put a sign in that grip truck.
....On the bummer side, my websites are all in transition and my vanity email dom@ta91 is temporarily non-functioning. Ophelia where art thou? I am still totally incompetent at all web stuff.
...Now that the passive-aggressive personal message is out of the way, here's the link to the latest article about us in Asianweek.
On newstands now! I think.

economic neccessity

Unfortunately, to pay for repairs to my car, I had to sell this domain name to some frickin' corporate marketing firm that wanted it. For a couple days this site will be out of wack and then it'll probably come back as a porn site or something. The blogging will continue at the orignal url, It's the first time I ever had to sell off a domain name. I'll probably come back later too see what they turn it into.

If there is a later....

"Passionate" and "emotional"

Sorry...two more words that go on the Hollywood hitlist today.
....Words that, like "edgy" and "gritty," are batted around a lot, but rarely mean anything.
....Sort of in the way that the Bushmachine misuses the word "leadership" to indicate heroic qualities when in his case it can only mean "that thing which Bush does because he is, for better or for worse, our leader."
...."Emotional" would like to be a word to describe Good Acting, but instead it is corrupted to mean "dramatic, with a lot of crying and throwing things." "Passionate" also should be a good thing, but it usually just means "given to speaking in long incoherent sentences about things you really liked when you were 3."
....And don't get me started on "arty."

Staying on the Offensive

The public perception of Kerry isn't his fault. It's this real simple guy thing. Kerry has been in a war, so he doesn't feel the need to act like an ass-kicker. So he doesn't come off as one.

Bush hasn't been in a war, so he has something to prove. He feels he has to act manlier to compensate for the fact that he never knows what the hell he's talking about. He doesn't really know what staying on the offense means in human and global cost, so he can say it and sound like he has conviction. He isn't burdened with the thought in the back of his head that "some poor guy is gonna die because of my lies" because he clearly kind of enjoys that part, just as he clearly has no experience beyond being a whiny rich boy. He's the short upper-middle-class kid who plots to blow up the school.

He looks like he kinda wants to take a swing at Kerry, too, which I hope he does in the next debate, because Kerry would hand him his free-world-leading ass in about two seconds.

Robotech geeks will understand.

Driving to work during rush hour is special private time for me and the cheezy music I like to listen to. Today I have on this CD that's a mix of soundtrack classics from "Transformers: The Movie" and "St. Elmo's Fire," ad nauseum. During a particularly slow stretch of the 710 south I'm grooving along to "Look Up! The Sky Is Falling," a concert staple of that freedom-fighting transvestite pop star known to the initiated as Yellow Dancer. (There's no shame. I'm in my CAR.) A break in the traffic occurs and I get to surge along to my next stopping point. The car I pull up behind is a Dodge Lancer.
.... Special, synchronicitous, totally geeky serendipities like this are what fill me with the unjustified confidence that all my infantile preoccupation with comic books, alien invaders, and robots that transform into other things, these will somehow pay off and bring me as-yet-unexperienced artistic satisfaction and sense of well-being in my lifetime.

10 things you know Cheney is going, "I probably should have said that instead."

1. "No comment."
2. "I don't remember whether that was true or not."
3. "I couldn't tell you."
4. "Bleah."
5. "I'm sorry, Gwen."
6. "I like gay people."
7. "I have nothing to say about that."
8. "That's a little harsh, don't you think?"
9. "Uncle!"
10. "Look, I'm EVIL, OK? DEAL WITH IT!!!"

10 things you know Kerry is going, "I kinda wish I'd said that instead."

1) "Did I mention that I actually was in a war? You know, that thing that you declared for no good reason, so that other people could go and get killed? It's not like you invented that, you know."
2) "I couldn't agree more with the President that we are indeed fighting the White War...I mean, sorry, the Right the White Time. Oops, I did it again."
3) "Could you please not use the phrase 'hard work' so much, considering we're both like, rich as Croesus?"
4) "I'm sorry I mumbled that last sentence, I was worried about appearing as insincere as the President when he does that 'talking down to your level' thing."
5) "Don't even LOOK at my daughters, you scummy old perv."
6) "I'll just take this time to again mention that I actually was in the armed services during Vietnam, which is an excellent way to learn about what happens in a war."
7) "I had prepared a nuanced retort to your lies, but rather than saying it out loud and confusing people, I'll just mention that it's all up at my website,"
8) "What do you know about offense? Have you ever been shot at? That's when you have to play some D."
9) "I know you've said that you will never stop defending America. But do you foresee starting anytime in the near future?"
10) "If you even mention the word 'leadership' again I'm going to take command of the nearest swiftboat and run it aground upside your head."

working, ad nauseum

Today Mary said probably the nicest thing anyone could say to me at this point in my life, which was that TA91 is good enough that something will happen with it and I would probably be able to quit my other job soon. OH WOULD THAT BE A GREAT DAY. I'm going to work more now that the Sundance deadline's passed, in the hopes of getting the personal finances back in order. It's a nice reality check, except for the reality of the continuing problem that the customers keep finding ways to get to the casino without getting hit by speeding cars. Actually, the people who have been coming recently are better than usual, but that's not saying a whole lot.
....There are small thrills involved in the job, such as that every now and then some hotshot will come in who thinks he's royalty because he has a lot of money, demanding things and showing off at the table, treating the casino workers and everyone else like trash. This is only a thrill because when hotshot actually starts playing you can systematically goad him into betting ridiculously, and then take all his money and hopefully his livelihood, leaving him only with that pathetic stupid feeling that comes when you know that you are pathetic and stupid. This hasn't happened in a while, but it's very satisfying when it happens to the right person. If only it was so easy to deal with the incumbent administration of hotshots. I guess it's harder when they have an army.

Our leadership.

Since this is such an important election coming up, and the movie situation is a little more under control now, I'm going to devote most of my blogging over the next two months to political ranting. Not that I know Anything, but lack of knowledge doesn't stop anyone on the Fox News Channel from talking, I've noticed, and if the left is to win I think we should take on a similar enthusiasm for trumpeting our cause without worrying about the burden of backing it up. Fox News has been kind of an inspiration to me that way. I usually fear launching into debate because of worry that I won't be able to rattle off some relevant factoid at a key moment, but they really don't care about that stuff. They just rant, and occasionally quote from websites. When you think about it, it's truly freeing.
....So the problem seems to be, George Bush has a guy who is good at exploiting a political opponent's greatest strength until it becomes a liability. (I learned this from the alternative newspaper.) So now we can't even think about John Kerry's war record without associating it with fabrications. And the democrats don't have a strong counter, possibly because George Bush doesn't really have a strength to attack, he just has a lot of horrible crimes against humanity which are so well-established it's kind of boring hearing about them now. But let's not forget that all George Bush does is Help His Rich Buddies and Kill People, and just because he's consistent in that, doesn't mean he's a leader.
....OK let's just say for a second that Bush actually had leadership skills, how would we then attack this ostensible strength to make it a weakness, since I'm pretty sure it's the only thing he's riding on? We could point out that like many of the leading figures in our country he's basically a whiny rich boy, and, duh, not really too in touch with normal people. We could somehow seed into the public consciousness the awareness that the president doesn't actually do anything without first consulting eighty people, just like those scenes in the West Wing, and Bush has in fact been led around by corporate interests (who actually do know something about leadership for better of for worse). Or we could just toss the rational and come to the sudden revelation that George Bush is responsible for hurricanes. His Leadership, while a conceded factor in his presidency, is in fact SO awesome it has challenged God. God looks at this guy like, "Here's a bloke whose natural charisma could unseat me as Primordial Ruler of the Universe." So what does He do? Hurricanes. Plagues. Bad cell phone reception. Divine punishments that will assail us until George Bush's Leadership/Hubris is removed from the White House. Because God blesses America, and also fears it.
....Okay that probably would not go over well, but you know what I'm saying?

oh thank god

In the past 72 hours, I've been asleep for about 5. Today I turned in the current version of TA91 to Sundance, after the usual last-minute chaos of reading submission FAQs and conforming to those specifications. I boggled briefly over how to label the project status, since, although not finished, I didn't want to call it a "rough cut" since that sounds so tentative, but is it then a "temp print?" An "Avid cut?" (As if!) A "Final Cut Cut?" I don't think of it as rough cos the story is now at least 97% in the shape that the final product will take, minus some color correction and sound mixing. But anyway, so of course today the DVD-authoring software comes up with a whole new way to break down, as if to say, "I know I could've given you this problem much earlier in the week so you could've anticipated it, but I wanted to wait till this critical day to see if you were really serious about this whole submitting-to-Sundance thing." Computers are AWESOME that way. Due to having to re-export this and re-encode that, the whole thing was finished at about 4:50 pm, with the Sundance office closing at 5:30 pm.
All that said, the drive to the Sundance office was maybe the best ten-minute drive of my life so far. I was so high from lack of sleep, and I felt this falling sensation like I was at the end of the marathon approaching the finish line. The feeling of a sort-of completion, combined with the fact that I really like the movie now, made me sort of giddy and thankful for life. I don't really expect to get into the festival, but I am completely proud of the thing I submitted to them today, and proud of the last-minute changes I made to get the sucky parts to suck less. I think if I (and when I say "I" I mean We being Deb Jin James and everyone else who busted ass to get the stuff done) had done less and turned in a half-assed sort of thing that would be totally re-edited within six months, it wouldn't have been very satisfying. But it doesn't feel like that at all. It feels like the movie has a core now, and even if that core is "this weirdly oscillates between several genres," I think it does that with authority.
OK, going to hell of sleep now.

Hi, Sundance...

So...just submitted the first part of application to the Sundance Festival.

Don't have to turn in actual film until the 24th, however. This is exactly two weeks away.

There is now, officially, a REALLY cool website here. You are looking at it right now.


On this page, instead of this entry, is an amazing, tantalizing, graphically enticing yet functional web presence for a forthcoming feature film! It is right HERE. You just cannot see it because you are not cool enough.

U.S. Launches Ground Assault on Puerto Rico response to recent loss in Olympic men's basketball.

In expanded coverage: China Makes Claim for World's Best at Everything.

Monitor Burn.

I'm a little depressed. Not so much emotionally but there are some physical signs. I don't eat much, and I forget to eat, and lately I just don't know what I want to eat. I miss Bay Area food a lot. I ate McDonald's twice yesterday and felt like that guy in "Super Size Me," like, hello lumpy grease spots all over my body. I probably live in the one area of Los Angeles where it's really difficult to find any good reasonable food (with the possible exception of Ethiopian cuisine) because there's no real strong ethnic enclave here except, well, really health-conscious gay people, and Beverly Hills right next door. I should cook for myself, but it just feels like a drag for one person. I'm starting to experience the familiar feeling of Los Angelene isolation again, and it's just like it's always been, except now I have DSL, so it's a bit different then it was in college. Now instead of "should I really get in the car and drive to meet someone when I'm gonna spend more time in the car, hot and lost on some freeway, than I am with that person" it's "should I really get in the car and go face someone in person when I can sit here and ecommunicate with them and possibly others simultaneously under the comforting cloak of our epersonalities?"
....Identity. Man. It's such an issue.
...Anyway, I should be working on the movie now, but that's always the case, so why not blog? If I was in Berkeley right now, I would be at Top Dog so fast it'd make your head spin. Here, I can go to Pink's, where the dogs are pretty good, but not really good enough to stand in that line, which I'm sure is papered with extras and non-hot-dog-eating scenesters (some places have Flash Mobs; in LA we have Flash Lines). Also in the Bay Area I could have real Indian food, real Chinese food, a kickass monster burrito, even a frickin sandwich at EZ Stop is like three times better than the sandwiches I can get in my neighborhood for $8.95. And I could get a Vietnamese sandwich without having to get on three different freeways.
...OK. Probably leaving the house now.

What is "Manchurian" anyway?

Saw the remake of "The Manchurian Candidate" the other day. It was a bit creepy how in the movie the brainwashed soldiers parrot the military exploits of the Candidate in a similar way to how John Kerry's military record is constantly being trumpeted by the Democrats, to the point of sounding like a prefab slogan. Then I thought about it, and realized that even if the Democrats did put some sort of zombie assassin up for election, I would still vote for him over mass-murdering rich boy Bush.
...But other than that not a very good movie. Cannot stand Jonathan Demme's obsession with close-ups. I did see a very weird good movie today called "Code 46." It's a sci-fi story, very hard to tell what's going on, but beautifully made. It uses cities in Shanghai, India, and I guess Dubai? to look like cities in the future and it really, really works. I guess it helps not having been anywhere, those places look really alien and strange to me.

Re: Secret Messages

Dear Everyone,

Ooh! That Dooley girl's really in trouble now...

Do you all know what I'm saying? Let's face it, gentle readers.

Why Wes Anderson Is Good

Could we be clear on this? It's the writing. It's not like he is some whiz-bang camera nerd with super-fancy tracking shots. If it weren't for the amazingly well thought-out scenes and totally heartbreaking dialogue in "Rushmore," it would be kind of average, cinematically speaking. Even "The Royal Tennenbaums," which is not my favorite movie, is two thousand times better-written than 99% of the movies you can see in theaters these days.

And OK, he supports this writing with good filmmaking craft, of course, but the point of my rant here is that our appreciation of craft and visual style is fast supplanting our interest in story (probably 'cause reality is so much more crazy than fiction these days anyway) to the point where we praise Wes Anderson for the mystique of his technical filmmaking skill, when it's actually his writing skill that sets him apart from all the other filmmakers who take cool shots that become stupid movies.

Or maybe it just seems that way because I live in Los Angeles.


There's this subclass of gamblers within the casino called shoeshiners. Typically, they hang out behind the seated players and look for a handout. They appoint themselves the mascot of whomever seems to have money and hope that that person will give them a hundred dollars to go away. Shoeshining takes many different forms, from sexual flirtation to mindless cheerleading, but the most dedicated and aggressive of the shoeshiners are the Asians. The amazing thing about them is how, given that they already start from a position of panhandling, they manage to make themselves even more worthless by the things they do to play"host" to their victim/player, who is already being hosted quite nicely by the casino staff. A few common forms of shoeshining assistance:

- They handle the player's money and arrange their bet nicely for them. There's one guy who is always doing this, even when the bet is already placed correctly, sometimes stacking it wrong so the bet goes over the table limit. Trying to be helpful.
- Counting action on the table, advising the player to buy action (theoretically so he can win more and have more to give away). This is ALWAYS wrong. As bad as most of the players are at counting, somehow the shoeshiners are worse, yet they offer their misinformation repeatedly, again in the hopes of appearing helpful.
- Calling service people and attending to the player's food and drink. This is, you guessed it, useless, since the casino already has a full staff that is also eager to receive tips. The shoeshiner tries to intercept the tips before they get to the casino staff which is actually performing a service.
- Shouting out incorrect information about everything: the table limit, people's names, the collection amounts, everything.
- "Rooting" for their player. This is probably the most hilarious thing they do, because it amounts to a play-by-play commentary on the very very obvious. "If they hadn't pulled that six you wounda won." "You hot now you won three in a row." "You made the right decision." It's as if they can read their own minds.
- Where it gets personal is when they start trying to liason between me, the corporation player, and their player, by shouting out the price of prop bets and how much change I'm supposed to give them. "One thousand -- 25 dollars," they tell the player, who already knows this because he's been paying the same price for the past four hours. "Fifty dollars change," they'll tell me, because it is possible that in the half-minute elapsed since our last identical transaction, I have forgotten how to make change.

I'm not against panhandling altogether, but the shoeshiners lack even the dignity of a guy on the street with a cup, because they posture like they're playing in the big time.

Positive Reinforcement.

It's a trap.  For a kid, probably good.  For an artist, like death.  For one thing, in LA, everyone tells you you're a genius, just in case you accidentally end up being the next big thing and want to hire a lot of yes-men to be around you.  You're always "brilliant," everyone "loves" everything you do.  Just in case showing that love will help them financially later.  So we have this big community of mutual admirers with no critical point of reference, and thus, all the junk that is made.
...My old friend said to me recently, "You have to shoot for perfection, because you probably won't make it, but maybe you'll at least be good."  This is very wise I think.  Just shooting for "good," or worse, "better than this specific awful movie," leads to mediocrity.  I'm not talking about spending more money.  Most people do their really great work in a private, low-tech way, then everyone tells them they're great, they start to believe their own hype, and thus, all the junk that is made (with lots of money).
...It's hard because you'd like to trust people who are saying nice things about your art.  But in a way you can't give it too much weight, because they might be wrong, or just being nice.  The important thing is not to take a compliment to mean "This is great; don't change it," because then you don't want to improve or learn anything.  After all, you can't believe everyone who tells you your art sucks, right?  They are often wrong.  So it's only logical that the people who praise you are mistaken in about the same proportion. 
...I mean, I'm not sure about the shooting for perfection thing, because that drives you insane as well.   But I suppose it's all right to shoot for better than you think you can be.

Strong Movie Opinions

Because everyone in Los Angeles should have them.

Great action scenes.  Totally generic everything else.  Spider-Man way funnier in the comic book.  Other characters should talk less and be in peril more.

Going to see this movie doesn't mean dookie if you don't vote against Bush and all his cronies.  That's my not-having-seen-it opinion.  If I did see it, I'm sure I would be compelled to not change my already-definite vote for Kerry.

Kind of deep in that where-did-my-youth-go sort of way.   Ethan Hawke leers in like, eighteen different ways, and Julie Delpy utterly convincing as woman who keeps the conversation going be discussing herself.

Excellent if you don't mind excessive violence and digital blood.  The last dance sequence is comprable to the Ewok singalong party at the end of "Return of the Jedi," but more moving.

Still great, but the first version was more emotionally involving.  Either version is the best American movie so far this century. 

Many people in this movie should have been slain earlier, before given the chance to launch into their five page monologues about gearing up to say something.

Yay, a DVX100 movie!  So cool, so indie.  Very original, in that has-the-same-plot-as-Douglas Turner-Ward's-"Day-of-Absence" sort of way.

Sort of cool, except for the parts involving Harry Potter and spoken dialogue.

Dang, watching this movie now I'm reminded of the time when movies with ribcage-mounted monsters and military fetishization really meant something.  Oh, to be 9.

Still the best narrative piece of art ever in the history of everything.  The live-action movie version of this is going to be monolithically terrible.

Thanks, brother...

...for reminding me that dammit, people should give me money.
...I may have gotten a little carried away with that last blog entry.  Let's be clear on the fact that I would like to quit my job and make movies/plays/rock musicals what-have-you full time, too.  It's not that I enjoy getting spit on, cursed at, and having my correct math corrected incorrectly by idiots.  However, I feel it is good to be in touch with something in the "real" world, because once you leave the world of regular jobs I think is when you start feeling that movies about struggling actors, artists, or screenwriters are a good idea.  Which they are not. if you take all the music and the filmmaking craft and style out of "Mulholland Drive," it becomes just a story about some cracked-out actresses in Hollywood who are afraid of homeless people and the elderly.  I'm just saying.

Job Satisfaction

I gotta say it's nice to have a regular gig that lets me be around people who work for a living. OK, our job is not exactly backbreaking, in fact it's by most standards cushy. But it does involve work. Customer service, constant attention, responsibility for large amounts of money....and you get screamed at constantly for no good reason and have to take it with a smile.
...If I'd stayed with my old dotcom jobs, assuming I hadn't been downsized by now, I'd be sitting in front of a PC workstation all day, doing something totally mindless that involves parsing user queries or somesuch BS, checking my email every 20 seconds and watching the cool new Quicktime movie that's going around the office. Also I'd probably be getting paid a lot more than I am now, and would occasionally receive bonuses or stock incentives or free beers that would have litle to do with my productivity but more to do with "corporate culture" and the fluctuating perceived value of whatever useless service my company claims to provide. I'd be around people who, like me, are nerds, generally middle-class slackers with ironic collegiate senses of humor, chasing that really nice apartment in San Francisco with the pretty rock garden and the really cool home entertainment center.
...The folks I work with now come from a lot of different backgrounds. They're first-generation immigrants, they're artists and ex-accountants, they've served in the military and worked at Disneyland. Ours isn't quite a working-class job, but my point is I don't think a single one of us is a graphic designer. And more than the other jobs I've had we work as a team to look out for each other, because we somehow have to stay sane in the face of the clientele. The gamblers are either thoughtless leisure-class princesses who can't count to ten because no one has ever corrected them when they get it wrong, or people with real jobs who have an unfortunate addiction to throwing away their hard-earned paychecks in a way that makes them crazy and mean. Again, not a lot of Final Cut Pro editors in the bunch.
...This is not to sound prejudiced, I mean a job is a job, but it must be said that a lot of people in LA, myself included, are in pursuit of that ultimate dream job, which is to be paid ridiculously for doing very little, or doing something very badly, or doing something that you love artistically anyway so how can it really be work? So a lot of us are actors and editors and screenwriters and forced to maintain a constant smiley-face as well as a discreet competitiveness and self-obsession, all in order to maintain the image of ourselves as a professional part of the dream factory. That in itself, just pursuing it, is a job, but it's not a very good one.
...So even though I get to see a lot of people at their worst, I guess sometimes it's better than seeing people at their most numb. And even though my job doesn't benefit the world in any way, it offers better stories and life experience than working for that godforsaken search engine.

And then everything broke. (by Eminiem/D12)

These chicks don't even know the name of my blog
It is offline now because I am in a fog
But when it's up you know I'll be the Big Dog
'Cos I'll have fixed the template of my blog

My blog, my blog! My blog, my blog! My blogggggggggg.

Me Me Me.

Adding a link to a few of my poems on a site by my pal Damon Nomad. Also, should anyone who is NOT in Godspeed You Black Emperor be interested, my sort-of half-done director's reel.
...Wise and sad words from my friend the dealer/gambling addict: "No game is fun."
In a possible sign of the world becoming a better place, there is now a Pink's Hot Dog stand in the casino. I take this to be a sign that Bush will be defeated.
...However, either from eating that chili dog, or getting coughed on at the table, or maybe it was the bad bowl of clam chowder, I now feel a head cold coming on. So I'm pretty sure that I'm cancelling plans to spend tomorrow in drunken revelry so that I'll be better rested to spend Sunday in drunken revelry. Ah, the leisure class's all in the planning.
...Definitely cleaning house tomorrow, too. This place is a sty.
...Oh wait. It is tomorrow.

The Last Piece of Sushi (a film by Bernardo Bertolucci with Tom Cruise)


Three pieces of sushi sit beneath the falling cherry blossoms.

KAPPAMAKI: The old ways are dying.

FUTOMAKI: The old rolls are dying.


KAPPAMAKI: I have dreamed of a modern Japan. With a powerful sex industry, and DVD players that are better than anyone else's DVD players. Now we have Dragon Rolls, Chicago Rolls, Bacon-Wrapped Low-Carb Alfalfa Rolls. But we must never forget....who we are.

FUTOMAKI: Who are we?
(impales self in stomach)

TOM CRUISE ROLL: You are a beautiful people. SAKE! SAKE! SAKE!


TOM CRUISE ROLL: I am...sorry for colonizing your beautiful country.

TAMAGO: Bite me.

TOM CRUISE ROLL: I'm not that sorry.

FUTOMAKI: The tempura! It is...perfect.
(starts to croak)

KAPPAMAKI: Let us die!
(impales self on sword, dies)

TAMAGO: For a dream that was Japan!
(impales self on sword, dies)

(impales self on swollen male member)

FUTOMAKI: And a child shall lead us.

TOM CRUISE ROLL: Haha I was just kidding. I'm still alive.


I call every show on FX "FX."

....heard while deplaning in Burbank. It's always the same. Arriving back in LA after being anywhere else quiet like Berkeley or West Texas, makes life instantly seem more hectic, even though fewer important things are actually happening. People are so much more on-edge, rude, and dramatically insincere here. And all the things they're worrying about, the rings they're trying to kiss, the events they're driving 90 mph to get and utter cowpie.
...I will say however that there were some great hits of the 80's playing over the PA at the Burbank airport. "She Bop" and Bobby Brown's "Theme from Ghostbusters II," for example.
...Also went to the LA Filmfest tonight to see a good indie movie.

I really need to get rid of this virus.

Fascinating. Hyperlinks in my last entry on hot button words like "casino" and "computer," but I didn't put them in there, they just appeared. What happens if I used the word gerbil?

A few things I've learned to be true.

1. Ramen does not taste as good when you make two packs at in one pot.
2. Rich people are as likely to be idiots as poor people. Actually, more likely, because the wealth dulls their instincts.
3. Leaving the casino is ALWAYS a good idea. There is never a bad time to be leaving a casino. Once you get there, you should leave.
4. There is not quite enough ramen in one pack to satisfy me. They should make them 1.5 times as large.
5. I am never going to be employed as a website designer.
6. Models are better than computer animation.
7. There are many words in the English language that are just taking up space. Among those words are "edgy", "gritty", and "just."
8. This Happy Mie Mi Goreng Spesial ramen is the finest ramen on the planet. If only they made the 6/5 size serving packs.
9. Blogs and cell phones make it more difficult to communicate anything to anybody. Email, however, works.
10. I'm not really sure what the Lord of the Rings is subtextually about, but it has something to do with white people winning.
Just finished a cut of the trailer. I think it looks pretty cool, although it's difficult of course to know it conveys enough to someone who doesn't know what the movie's about, namely every person on the planet except me. I really need to learn how to do color correction.
Just got back from Marfa, Texas, where my old friend Jake got himself married. Lovely place. And that Texas BBQ is no joke.
SO frickin tired. I played in a private game last night with the two Korean twins...really two of the nicer people you'll meet at the casino, but boy do they not know how to leave. At one point I they're winning about 60 thousand from me... and they kept playing. Lose lose lose, and then they're "only" up 12 thousand. Then a ridiculous winning streak happens, and they're up 28 thousand again. It's enough to make you wanna scream, "Really, Isn't $60,000 ENOUGH? What point are you trying to make?" But I say no such thing, and they stay, and for all I know, when I go back to work today, they'll still be there.
Saw Kitano's new movie "Zatoichi" at the closing night of the VC fest. It had without a doubt the most moving tap dance sequence I ever done saw. It was a lot like the Ewoks "Yub yub" party at the end of Return of the Jedi, but it had me more choked up.
....Attended the fest events very sporadically, as a break from work and logging footage. It was very inspiring and of course fun to be treated like you're really doing something worthwhile. If only they had more of such things for theater people. Of course the fest environment is weird as a participating artist because it can seem like a convention of the very self-obsessed. I honestly think some people don't even remember why they're shmoozing and self-promoting all the time, it's just become a sort of habit from living in LA. It would be nicer if you could just go up to people and say "here's what I want from you," so that they could say yes or no and get it out of the way. But enough player hating, let's get back to blogging about me. Let's see, today I
The two screenings went well. I goofed up the sound a little, but the picture looks pretty good. Two of the other shorts in the program were pretty scary, at least to a wimp like me. I caught the end of a very good, very guerilla Japanese movie called "815" which was impressive in its total fatalistic-ness....its basic thesis was that the Japanese people have lost all sense of pride and hope since losing in WWII. (The making of nice video cameras notwithstanding.)
The VC Filmfest starts today. A little anxious about how my little DV short will look in a big room. It was processed with a program called Magic Bullet which is supposed to make it look more "like film." The white highlights get brighter and more mysterious and the blacks are crushed. Apparently the blacks are usually crushed in film.
OK. Just got a letter saying my claim to the city has been denied. Apparently the police are not accountable if they break into your vehicle to establish that no crime is being committed. Actually no reason was given for the denial, but now I'm starting to get ticked off.
....By the way, apparently the police do not "break and enter," they "enter without keys" (the technical term) since, after all, breaking and entering is against the law.
Just turned in the more-or-less final copy of "Sitter," a DV short I did last year with Jen and Mary and Carrie, to those blessed happy people at the VC Filmfest. I'm very pleased with how it turned out, it'll be interesting to see what the audience reaction is. It's not really horrifying enough to be a horror movie, but I think it's fairly creepy.
....Also, lost my cell phone a couple days ago. Life is so much more peaceful, or at least less aggravating, without a cell phone. It's too bad they're so insanely useful.
...There was a wonderful moment today at work where someone finally spoke up to one of the regular players, let's just call her K, who ordinarily rules the table with a mix of nepotistic authority and constant screaming whiny bitchiness. Another player, let's call him F, decided enough was enough and says, calmly but forcefully, "Why do you complain when you win? I have no problem when people complain when they lose, but when you complain when you win, I got a problem." (It is true that K's only means of communication at the table is by complaining about everything, and for aforementioned reasons and other complicated ones we have to tolerate infantile behavior that in any other environment would have earned her a regular series of smacks in the head.) The complaint in question arose when K won a $1000 bet and then started whining because the dealer paid her in a stack of $100s instead of a single $1K chip, and K started her customary screeching along the lines of "Why you pay me in white chip I say I want grey chip! This dealer always blah blah blah." F's was a brilliant counter-complaint, superbly timed, because, having just won the hand, K's choice was to either fire back at him louder and prove, indeed, that her whole life is about complaining about minutia, or to keep some semblance of dignity and shut the heck up. She chose shutting up, which was perfectly satisfactory for all involved. Anyway, I started to feel a little sympathetic afterwards, because after the hubbaloo of F's hubris wore off, she resumed her standard complaints about the dealer and her luck and her money ad nauseum, but they didn't have their usual conviction. It was like she'd been sliced through a little bit by the comment, and maybe she had a moment outside her usual pathetic gambler's self-interest to see that her entire way of being is totally annoying to normal people. Or maybe not. For better or for worse, we never get to really see people who recover and redeem themselves for their behavior within the casino (assuming there are any), because if they do have that life-changing introspective moment, it must, to be of any worth, cause them to never come to the club ever again.
So I just got a letter from the City Clerk of Los Angeles telling me that a claim number has been assigned to my claim. Not that they're anywhere close to paying me for the damages, but I do have a claim number now.
...I didn't get to explain this story in full earlier, but now I will: flashing back to Friday, March 12, we loaded an Unmarked White rental truck with grip gear to begin a 5 day shoot at the State Building in Van Nuys (which you can sometimes get for free if you're an indie filmmaker and you go through certain hoops, yadda yadda). We parked the truck next to the building because I figured, hey, it's next to a police station, it'll be safe overnight. And then went home to stress about the shotlist.
...At 6:30 AM the next morning (Saturday the 13th) I'm woken up by my cell phone. I figure it's Carrie or someone with a last minute production crisis. In fact, it's someone wanting to know about the truck parked in front of the State Building. (In my sleepiness I don't pick up the guy introducing himself the first time) He wants to know if I'm the Dominic Mah who rented it. Yesssss, I say, sensing trouble. "It's causing quite a stir," he says. "What kind of stir?" I ask, and then I remember to ask who again it is that I'm speaking to. Officer Somebody from the LAPD.
...So it turns out that during the night, a patrol car in the Van Nuys area has called in about a suspicious unmarked van parked in front of a State facility. Keeping in mind that this is just a few days after the bombings in Madrid and all of our agencies are understandably at a high state of alert. So they call the bomb squad on this unmarked van, they send a bombsniffing dog to it, and the dog sits. Probably it smells some piece of camera gear that is like something used in bombs, I dunno. At this point, the LAPD goes into action mode. They seal off several blocks' radius around the building, and start busting into the truck, breaking the window and the side door locks. They've already got people rousting the rental company owner out of bed so he can go to his office to use the computer to find my name as the renter.
... Meanwhile the officer on the phone is telling me first to drive to Van Nuys right away, then he changes his mind once he figures out I won't be able to get through the blockade. So they send a local police car to get me instead. Within two minutes, a siren is approaching my apt, just about the same time I'm getting out of my pajamas. I throw on clothes and run outside, where the car is pulling up to the front of my building. The officer says, "Are you Dominic Mah?" Yeah, I say. "Ever wanted to ride in a police car real fast?" he says.
... Actually, no. But I get in anyway and off we go with sirens blaring towards Van Nuys. When we get there about ninety seconds later, we have to go through several checkpoints before getting to the place where I parked, in search of something called the CP (I guess this is "Command Post."). When we reach the truck, I have to stay inside the car for a while until they're ready to talk to me. There are dozens of cops, firemen, and federal officers (identifiable by their jackets that say "Federal Officer" on them) around. I hear someone say, "So how much is this costing the city?" By this time they seem to have figure out that there is no imminent terrorist threat and they're all acting a bit embarassed to be there. A man from the bomb squad approaches me, very friendly, and says "Mr. Mah, I'm going to show you some of the things we had to do to enter your vehicle."
... The things they had to do included breaking through the passenger side window and also the lock on the side door, all so they could get inside and rummage around our rented lighting equipment. I was a little too shocked still to be know what to say, and the police, now that I had arrived, were in a hurry to disperse. The bomb squad guy gave me his card and told me how to file a claim with the city. The explained to me several times how the bombings in Madrid had put them on alert, and how we were living in a new world. Then they left before I had the presence of mind to ask them to clean up the shattered glass around the truck. I'm standing there dumbfounded for about ten minutes, and then the crew starts showing up to begin our shooting day.
... Anyway, that was how our little indie movie encountered the War on Terror. It's funny because there are probably hundreds of white grip trucks parked around Los Angeles on any given night. It's just not a good idea to park them next to state facilities without marking them with some sort of contact info. A lesson learned.
... Oh, and I almost forgot the (in hindsight) funniest part. While I was initially on the phone with the police, in my PJs, and told them that the truck was full of lighting equipment, he started running down the airline security questions on me. "Were you present when the truck was loaded?" " friend did it." "What's your friend's name?" "Uh...Wolf." (Instantly regretted saying this.) "What's his first name?" (Wolf is actually his first name.) "Uh....Aasulv....he's from Norway." (Instantly regretted saying Norway.) This was the point at which I was sure that the movie was all over. Instead though, the movie is happily finished shooting and I'm just waiting for a reimbursement from the city for the truck damage.
A couple of photos from the shoot are on the web at here in Gallery 7. They were taken by our production still photographer Karen, who is also a very accomplished actor and filmmaker and all-around swell person. Film, dangit, we shot on film!
So I ordered this super new dual-processor Mac G5 on which to edit the movie, and it's supposed to be the top of the line computer that an ordinary joe like myself can buy. I bought it refurbished off the Apple site, which may prove out to be my fatal error. It arrives, I'm all happy, I set the thing up, turn it on, and some Extremely Loud Fans come on. You can feel the breeze coming out the back of the machine from several feet away. This is not what is supposed to happen, all my Mac friends assure me. Shortly after, the the thing crashes while trying to play a DVD. OK, granted, it was a bootleg DVD from Malaysia that confounds most every other DVD player it's put into, but this is supposed to be like the greatest computer on earth. Anyway, it's back at the Apple store now, so we haven't started editing the movie yet.
...There are a million things to worry about as we start the post process. Basically a lot of cost-benefit issues, such as whether or not to invest in the hardware to edit uncompressed footage, which will (in theory) make the final movie look better but greatly complicate the editing process in several different ways. It seems clearer to me now that there's no standard way to proceed, especially using this camera. There are hardly any finished movies right now using this camera, but a whole lot of them are in coming out soon. One of the "problems" is that 'cause the images are generally prettier and filmier than regular DV, one is sort of tempted to invest in all this software and hardware hooha that will make it even prettier and "more like film." But there's no reference for what a movie made on this camera is supposed to look like. There are hardly any references for standard DV movies, even, so it's a little hard to know how high you can shoot for. There are all these different tricks that you can employ to get to that "more like film" place, even though, as the purists repeatedly observe, DV will never be film. But there are certainly many many different ways to spend lots and lots of money trying to get it there, and the choice of which way is the one that I'm pondering until I get the new computer back. So I'm now very interested in meeting any people who have not just talked or thought about but actually made a feature length movie on a Powermac using DV footage, especially a movie that involved a) the Panasonic DVX100 in 24p Advanced mode or b) going to a film print that was actually seen in a movie theater.
We wrapped principal photography on Sunday at about 9 pm. At the end of the last shot Wolf very kindly reminded us to say the magic words, "That's a wrap!" Wolf's good with things like that. It was a completely exhausing but utterly fulfilling weekend where we basically shot the whole end sequence of the movie. Somehow my best friend from high school stumbled onto the location looking to use a restroom and ended up being in our big slumber party scene. There were a lot of things like that on set, where something bizarre happened but you didn't have time to think about how weird or funny it was because something always has to be done very urgently. It's kind of a good antidote to the usually over-contemplated lifestyle.
...It's exciting to be able to re-enter life a little after a period of intense artistic self-obsession. I mean, I don't even know who's still running for President. I'm still riding a little exhausted euphoria from the knowledge that somewhere in these 37-odd DVCAM tapes is a way cool 2-hour movie, and doubly high from the fact that I managed to get the raw footage without dying, (seriously) injuring anyone else, or going into monstrous credit card debt that would require me to eat rice gruel for the next year.
...Of course we still have a bit more to shoot, pickups and exteriors and whatnot, and a whole mess of post-production to do. So keep those checks and contributions of free telecine stations flowing in. The really really painfully trying part, however, is done, and it feels great.
There's that old saying that Talent recognizes Genius, but Mediocrity sees nothing higher than itself. I see this borne out repeatedly in the casino, the paraphrase would go something like "Working people take note of situations and contexts, Rich people just flap their lips and feel important." Basically, the large percentage of customers in the Big Room are feeble morons with wads of cash who need to feel that they are on top and in control at all times. If they don't get pampered, they get uneasy, and if you don't respond to their requests/rants/orders, it is cause for vehement disapproval and retribution, despite the fact that these requests are made in completely incoherent gibberish because the people are, by virtue of their class status, not used to talking with people but rather at them, and, as mentioned above, they are also impossibly stupid. But the point is, it's always your fault, their uneasiness, which just leads to more hassle for you, the smiling casino worker. The only thing you can do, sensibly, since it is impossible to reason with them (for they are Mediocre and are incapable of seeing beyond themselves) is to avoid conflict by imaginatively making up scenarios in which they are correct, so that you can get along through the rest of the night. This takes quite a bit of re-ordering reality, which is where the Talent part, I think, comes in. The dealers, floormen, and to some degree we bankers have to work together to maintain this fictional Lala-land where not only are the idiots tolerated, they are also somehow Geniuses and always right. It is maddening work, but apparently someone has to do it.
So we just finished 5 days at the State Building in Van Nuys. It was probably the hardest thing I've ever done. By the end we were running out of PAs, running out of food, running out of social graces, but everyone who was there was working like mad up to the very last shot. Wolf and his tireless crew, despite us making up 90% of the shots at the last moment, made every shot stunningly beautiful. The actors, despite us making up many of their lines slightly after the shot was decided, made every moment work. The filming is almost done and I'm desperately excited to start editing. Right now however I'm going to go to sleep for approximately two days.

...So it's 6:30 AM today and my phone's ringing, I imagine it's someone from cast or crew with some last minute crisis that will require solving before 8 AM calltime.
....Soooooo wrong. It's the LAPD. An officer asks me if I'm renting a truck parked outside the Van Nuys state building (where we're shooting this weekend). Yes, I am. We parked it there last night with all the grip gear because we thought it'd be safe. "It's causing quite a stir," the officer says.
...More on this later.
I woke up Sunday totally sick, head nose and throat all bad, and thought, this will be the day it all falls apart. Jen is off as a second-unit-of-one, grabbing footage of "Winona" running the LA Marathon, I am supposed to get today started, people are arriving in a half hour, but I'm pretty sure the effort of forming an intelligent thought will cause me to throw up. We're actually shooting at my apartment today, but I don't even know if I can handle replacing the toilet paper roll, much less making a creative decision. All I want to do is hide in a corner and phlegm myself.
....Nine hours later, we'd made our day. We got great shots and had time for beer and hanging out afterwards. Everyone was great, really nice and professional and accomodating. Carrie even made me lemon ginger tea. Jen arrived just in time to steer the ship, and despite the hostility of our carport location (cars moving back and forth, power supply problems, ad nauseum) the whole crew worked marvelously in sync -- AD, camera, art dept, makeup, sound, everyone was on the ball and helping each other. I know that's the way it's "supposed" to be but it's always keen that it can happen in such a low-budget situation. It was also sunny like a summer day and everyone was a bit giddy. Which was funny because we were mainly shooting a scene involving a suicide attempt, so there was a nice light atmosphere against what could have been a dark moody day. This scene will come out particularly nice I think, Mary is great in it, and will be a strong kickoff point to our movie.
...Our next big task is going into the next location for five days straight and trying to shoot out a good 40% of the movie, almost everything we need to finish it. All our big action movie and special effects shots in this section. Buddha grant me luck and a little free labor, even though I know Buddha doesn't really do that.
Those gamblers are sucking the life force out of me. Being near them you realize what a waste of space a human being can really be. All that screaming and superstitious gesturing towards nothing. On the funny side, however, there was a guy at my table today who had a penny lodged in his ear. "For luck." Of course! What else could it possibly be for?
We were able to shoot at a state facility in Van Nuys this weekend because a commercial for a PT Cruiser was shooting there and already paying for the monitors that the state requires, so another indie film shooting on the premises didn't make any diference to them. Of course, they wrapped before we had finished the first half of our day, but luckily the monitor was a cool guy and hung around so we could shoot some more. I was worried he'd be in a rush home to see the Oscars or somesuch, but all he really wanted was some pizza which luckily we had in abundance. So hopefully we may be allowed to shoot there again, because it is a really great, strange, space-age building with many open-air walkways and empty offices and stacks and stacks of boxes full of junk files that the state apparently can't pay anyone to destroy.
Yay! Our first actual press. And may I add the first article I've been mentioned in where I wasn't horribly misquoted.
The only funny part about personally loading and unloading the grip truck for your shoot is getting to say the words "beefy baby stand" a lot. To wit:
..."How many of the beefy babies do we need?"
..."Here are your beefy babies."
..."Stack the beefy babies against the wall there."
..."Are we missing a beefy baby?"
Just wanted to record that a package of instant rice and beans soup from Mom & Dad is the best possible thing to have waiting at home after two long days of shooting.
I swear there were three Asians following me at Ralph's today!
....They're here....then they're there....always in a trio, pretending to look for something, kinda happy looking...
....It's only paranoia if they AREN'T taking over the world!
Creative projects that I'm putting off while being obsessed with TA91 (just so I don't completely forget about them):

1) Finishing that Cali Casino action/gambling Kill-Bill-meets-Rounders epic with a heart of gold that I wanted to sell out with. (Get on this one, self! The current gambling craze can't last forever!)

2) Writing the sensitive nerdy late-blooming gay losers script that is so not going to sell out, or even be rented, by anybody.

3) Rewriting my first play "Look For Water" which I promised a friend I would do like six months ago so she could consider putting it on.

4) Rewriting the ERP neoclassic rock popera "Earth Verses," ostensibly to enter it into this concert, but also so that it is more intelligible to the rest of the human race and I can hear the songs again.

5) I had a good idea for a sci-fi novel based on a scary dream that I wrote about five pages of and then stopped, but plan to revisit when I remember how to use Microsoft Word (haha, aspiring screenwriter's almost-joke....never mind).

6) Finish my short "Sitter" with all the scary music and stuff! About time already! Carrie and Mary, who are both working on TA91, are in it, really good stuff (potentially).

7) A provocative satiric deconstruction of "The Last Samurai" and "The Last Emperor" entitled "The Last Piece of Sushi."

8) That play I was gonna write about Lazer Tag and lost youth and stuff with the really cool set. Yeah, that one.

9) My big Asian-American romantic movie so I can have one after Asian American movies are like, so early-mid-00's. On a side note, I saw a posting that some producer was specifically looking for an adaptation of the Chinese movie "Rouge," which is so ridiculous 'cos I wrote a script that stole shamelessly from huge parts of that movie! To think that I could've just stolen the whole thing! Now I have to see it again to remember what I DIDN'T lift.

10) A music video for my good friend MC Frontalot, and/or a reality show based on my other good friend Gaby's search for fulfillment. Something without a script.

OK, that's 10. I'm going to stop now....

I've got it! Sock puppets! Sock puppets never have Pilot Season! They don't even have jobs! Or a union! I'll finish the movie with Sock Puppets...
....No I'm kidding. I don't think any of the actors read this, but if they do, I'm kidding.
....The funny thing about working with this camera is that the images will look like 16mm film in some shots, and more like video in others. It's a weird liminal state between the two mediums that we're (so far) most used to watching in pop culture. What it most highly resembles on a consistent basis is the HD stuff that makes up a LOT of TV commercials right now, which is actually kind of cool in that it fits with the in-faux-merical theme of the movie. It'll be interesting to see if this look becomes a defining look for movies and TV of this period, whether the popular audience's eyes will adjust, or whether they'll just come out with some newer and cooler version of DV next year. I suppose that once they find out how to beam the movies and corresponding advertisements directly into our brains (as they sort-of do in our movie) it'll be all over for visual narrative entertainment anyway.
....I guess this is one of those blogs that makes a lot of pretentious sweeping statements. I'd be more anecdotal but since my friend's blog got suppressed by the establishment (see a couple of entries ago) I'm kind of wary of being too specific.
Just finished a wild weekend of shooting in Santa Monica. We shot out about 3/4 of the conference room scenes, which is one of the movie's major locations. The first day was especially nuts because we couldn't get into the space til 2 pm and had to start packing up by 10 pm, which is not a long day in movie-shoot terms. So we only got about half our shots and we started to panic. But somehow today we just whizzed along and got caught up, mainly because we discovered the joy, or rather gave into the necessity of, shooting all in one direction and covering only half of many many scenes at a time. Next weekend, ideally, we go back and do the other half of all those scenes, shooting in the opposite direction. It'll be heck making the scenes consistent, but hopefully our script supervisor will help make it happen. We also had some really outstandingly funny improvs today, which is always a minor miracle, but really encouraged me because I was worried that the story was becoming overly dour and serious. I also became slightly worried when the auto sprinkler system started showering over all our expensive lighting equipment. And I worry that at some point we'll run out of money and we'll have to end the movie with the world exploding. That is, cheaply. Hopefully out little budget will maintain us at least until the musical number. Right now I'm feeling that this is going to be a really good movie.
AAAARRRGGGH! 4-foot or 8-foot dolly track? Mattebox functionality? Where can I rent a frickin follow focus on Friday afternoon when every other indie movie in town has snarfed them all up? Why me? Why why why?
Someone said that the script incorporates ideas from Foucault's theory of the "panopticon." I don't know what the heck that is, but I'm sure it's post-something.
Taking a little break from the indie film self-absorption. My friend lost her substitute teaching job today because someone affiliated with the private school found her blog and decided that it talked about the kids too much. Apparently they used words like "libel" and "legal action." Now, she never ever used names, specific places, or even said anything negative about the kids, school, or anyone. She was just writing about interesting anecdotes from her day at work. But apparently the parents of these privileged kids thought their children were somehow threatened by the existence of these anecdotes, because some of them are celebrity's kids or kid actors in their own right, and someone could read the blog and deduce how to kidnap them blah blah blah.
...DID I MENTION THIS IS UTTER BULLSHIT? This is a direct hello to whoever it is that trolls the internet reading blogs, looking for someone to sue and put out of a job. HI. This Is Freedom of Speech Being Exercised. I am not naming names, giving out your phone number, or talking about your dog. I can and will write a book about whatever real person I want and change their names because that's what writing is. Or maybe I'll give them the same name and you won't know the difference because you have no idea who they are. The point is there is nothing you can do about it, mainly because you don't even exist, because who the hell even reads this blog, or my friend's blog, except maybe 10 of our personal acquaintences who don't give a farthing who you are, and wouldn't be able to figure it out even if they tried real hard because we don't mention full names and personal information, partially out of courtesy and partially because our blogs are not really about you or your sad-ass rich person paranoias?
...But oh look! Now my friend's lost a job. I suppose you won't mind if we blog about that, do you? Good, because even if you did I don't care.
...All this injustice in the name of protecting children. What can be done?
Another pretty smooth day of shooting yesterday. We finished 2 more commercials, an excellent end-of-the-world death scene with Keisuke, and some background footage of Nate and Cher. Went out afterwards to Versailles for some quality time with cast and crew, which was nice.
....Now we have 2 weeks to edit together the preshot stuff and prep for principal photography, or videography, as it were. We are still welcoming donations of money, crew, food, or locations. Or puppies. It would be nice to have a production puppy.
Shooting more commercials tomorrow. This should do it for the preshoots. I have so much nervous energy -- it's like Xmas eve every day. I didn't even notice it was freezing cold at last weekend's shoot until we wrapped the last shot. Then the body said, oh, by the way, it is hell of cold.
....Wondering who this Natalie person is who wants to PA in our props dept. 415 area code...probably another recent Bay Area expatriate? This would warm my heart.
....Can I also say that shooting in LA is both a blessing and a curse because you have to contend with things like "Pilot Season?" Where else in the world would your artistic project be held up by something called Pilot Season? All these great no-budget movies coming out of Texas and Nebraska are, I'm sure, are facilitated by the fact that the people who do filmmaking there know no one but each other, have only each other to rely on, and have no other important auditions or high-paying commercial gigs to distract them. It's just a little surreal. Perhaps soon they will institute a "Reality Season."
...Note to self: "Blue Harvest."
The shoot was hard, 'cos of the wilderness factor, but the footage turned out great. The crew, except for that one guy who went to the bathroom and then disappeared for the rest of the day, was completely awesome, totally dedicated. And the actors, especially the ones in the last ad, worked really absurdly hard doing a completely ridiculous thing repeatedly in the dark and cold of Topanga Canyon. But it's the coolest shot ever, so in theory it was worth it.
...I'm kind of inarticulate right now 'cos of still being high off the shoot and also exhausted, but I want to thank in writing Ben whom we met in the parking lot of Chapman Leonard and who out of the blue offered to drive our rented dolly track over to where it needed to be. (This after determining by eyeball that the 10-foot tracks were going to fit into Jen's Honda hatchback very badly if at all) We didn't even do the usual LA exchange of cards or emails, so it was really just a spontaneous kindness between strangers with no personal-gain payback involved. Those are nice. Thanks, man!
First day of shooting tomorrow! We're pre-shooting 3 fake commercials that the aliens show to the focus group members. My first "spec" commercials. Very exciting. As long as it doesn't rain.
10 Things I Dislike About Gamblers, continued:
1) They never ever shut up. Things they never ever shut up about include: how much they are losing, how much they were winning before they were losing, how they would have won if "this" had happened, how much it is the dealer's fault.
2) They take no responsibility for anything. Everything they lose is due to the fault of the dealer, someone else misplaying a hand, someone standing behind them, touching a card wrong, or otherwise violating the superstitious sanctity of their stupid little world.
3) They take credit for winning. As if some force other than dumb luck had anything to do with their occasional wins, they gloat and preen and scream about the totality of their skillfull victory. They talk about being "hot" or "shaking good" or "having feeling" as if it relates to something. They try to present themselves as good people. This is especially noxious when relating to the game of pan 9, an infant's game that would quickly bore monkeys with its dull repetition and complete lack of a learning curve. There is nothing to learn.
4) When they lose, they become your best friend. The shoeshiners, as they're known, hang around behind whoever happens to have money and ingratitate themselves by cheerleading that player, commenting on extremely obvious things that happen to go in that player's favor, and basically maintaining a constant stream of blather (see #1 above) in the hopes that the player will give them $25 in return for going away.
5) They complain until they get their way, then complain some more.
6) They are amazingly stupid. Again, this may be specific of the California casino environs in which I work, in which all the players lack basic skills like counting numbers past 10, listening comprehension, and reasoning skills.
7) After a 72-hour stretch spent hunched over a card table, they tend to smell like butt.
8) They are emotionally undeveloped. Little things upset them, like accidental physical contact, a word they don't understand, someone pointing out when they're wrong, too much sugar in their coffee. Then they will try to exact quick, loud revenge, begging for attention from the floorpeople and fighting against the perceived violation of their rights "on principle." There is nothing funnier than hearing a gambler say, "it's the principle."
9) They sometimes win, which maintains the illusion in their minds that they are good people, God favors them, and they should continue in their ways, because, they reason, they must be doing something right.
10) They are constantly all around me.
Did a full cast read-through today. It's really a wonderful bunch of people. If only I could pay them enough to do nothing but this movie for a month, I would have no problems. But alack. I need one of those rich Vietnamese gamblers to fall dead into my lap in the parking lot, their horded bankroll dropping innocently down my pants.
...Oh I guess then I would still have to concede that the ending has a problem. And locations are a problem, and, apparently 24p without an uncompressed editing system that can do advanced pulldown is a problem. But after tonight, I really, really, really, love the cast.

The whole thing about gamblers is, they're the least thoughtful people in the world. All that stuff that you take for granted about co-existing with other people, such as not making others wait for you, not gloating when you win, not spitting in others' faces, not stealing others' food or money, and not complaining when something happens that is clearly nobody's fault....these are all things that gamblers cannot not do, that is, they love to do them. They can't imagine what it is to do something on behalf of someone else, because they don't really understand the concept of "other people;" other people are just potential conduits of money, and whether they win it, steal it, beg it, or con it from you, it is the only reason they will ever have any interaction with you.
...Meanwhile, the movie's going really well, on paper. We looked at a lot of good locations and now have a rough idea how long it will take to shoot this puppy. Of course there's till the matter of securing dates at those locations that somehow coincide with the frantastic schedules of actors and crew....but the whole project seems a lot more finite now, whereas last month it felt overwhelming. Whatever hangups we face, it's only, as They say, a matter of time.
A few words on peoples' names in the casino. First of all, it's a mainly Asian clientele, so everyone has some cutesy Anglicized name, and there are about a million each of Kims and Lees. At any given table, the majority of the women will be named Cindy, Kelly, Kim, Candy or Connie. It's important not to confuse Kimmy and Sexy Kim (sadly, there is no Lil' Kim), or to mix up the Korean male Kims and the Vietnamese female Kims. Most males are Tony or Tom. Everyone, depending on age and sex, can be generically addressed as Mama or Papa or Sister or Brother. Latinos are "amigo" or "mijo." There are two similarly abrasive screaming Vietnamese Mamas with dyed-orange hair named Mrs. Robinson. I haven't figured out if they're related or what they have to do with Simon & Garfunkel. Likewise, there are a couple of continually drunk Korean woman of "sister" age who are addressed as Koko, even though I'm pretty sure neither of them are actually named Koko. My name on the table is "Corporation." Meanwhile, the PA system pages a recurring cast of characters with even more cheerfully improbably names, such as Eddy Eddy, Juanita Juanita, Bill Gates, and Bobby Diboote. Most likely, these paged names are all code for something, just as most of the names in the casino are a generic corruption, assumed so as to hide the creepy fact that you're a compulsive gambler from yourself and your true name.
....Also, if someone is calling you "Honey," it's probably because you're making an ass of yourself.
We got our first rave review on the new script!

OK, it's from one of the main actors, but still, heartwarming.

Still need a location, though. Anyone have an office building, or, alternatively, runs focus groups for a living?
Happy Current Year! Now's the time to get serious on the life ambitions now that all that holiday angst is out of the way. Here are my resolutions for 2004 (Previously have never been big on resolutions, but since leaving college I notice that if I don't go into my year with some sort of rough plan, there's a strong chance of accomplishing exactly nothing):
-- Film, and complete, Target Audience 9.1.
-- Finish the script to above. This should have been the resolution for last year, and actually has to be done within the next, say, 48 hours.
-- Produce a play or musical in LA. I'm thinking something involving video games, anime, and/or casinos, that bashes the right.
-- Find a new job. My friend Jo who got me this job feels we have both been doing this too long. She is right.
-- Decide whom to vote for for President and support them in ousting Bush.
-- Move to new living quarters.
-- Get an all-region DVD player and increase library of small-budget indie American movies. (A shallow goal perhaps, but it's important to have a few easily-realized goals on the list so that something can be crossed off while the longer-term projects are being worked on)
-- Make and spend time with some new friends in LA, and reconnect with old ones.
-- Go see some doctors while I have health insurance.
-- Develop a plan for paying back all the people who are nicely supporting TA91, which will hopefully involve finding a distributor and theatrical release.

10 list items looks sufficient. Here's *hoping* the internet doesn't suffer a massive catastrophic collapse over the next year, because I ain't writing this down anywhere else.