Sister Novena's PortaPulpit
freedom, liberalism, movies, and truth

Saturday, July 17, 2004
Non-Journal, Day Six

Oppressive heat is really becoming a defining characteristic of this shoot. We spent the morning and early afternoon slowly braising in our own juices out in the July sun; although I began the day (as always) uniformly slathered with sunblock, by the time we left I'd developed a bit of a sunburn. That really pissed me off. I spend every damn day carefully avoiding sun exposure, and then I go and get sunburnt. Bugger! It's not bad, in any case... it doesn't hurt, it's just kinda uncomfortably warm. I'll have to be really careful tomorrow to make sure it doesn't get any worse.

Anyway, we were shooting some more car stuff... I did another couple of shots in the back of Lee's Beetle (not so much hanging from this time as sitting in with the hatch open), and then we did some stunt shots with an actual, honest-to-god stunt driver. Our shoot attracted a hoarde of neighborhood kids and onlookers, and we even had a few cops around to help close off the street. We felt so official! I, of course, didn't do any shooting at all for the stunt shots... we did a few takes from about fifteen feet from the point at which the stunt driver spun the car, which in itself was pretty intimidating; there was no way I was riding in the thing once I saw that. We had some dummy barricades set up, and one of 'em broke the windshield on the first take. Lee spent the afternoon hustling to find an autoglass place that would fix it on a Saturday afternoon. We need it undamaged for another shoot tomorrow morning. But we got our shots today, and while I haven't see 'em all yet, what I did see was looking pretty good. It should look a lot better still once it's been edited together.
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Wait... Did We Say Iraq? We Meant Iran. Sorry.
US sets sights on toppling Iran regime

By Michael Binyon and Bronwen Maddox

Re-elected Bush would act to foment revolt, says senior official
THE US will mount a concerted attempt to overturn the regime in Iran if President Bush is elected for a second term.

It would work strenuously to foment a revolt against the ruling theocracy by Iran's "hugely dissatisfied" population, a senior official has told The Times.

The United States would not use military force, as in Iraq, but "if Bush is re-elected there will be much more intervention in the internal affairs of Iran", declared the official, who is determined that there should be no let-up in the Administration's War on Terror.

To what extent the official, known to be hawkish, was speaking for the White House was unclear, but his remarks are nevertheless likely to cause alarm in Europe. He hinted at a possible military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, saying that there was a window of opportunity for destroying Iran's main nuclear complex at Bushehr next year that would close if Russia delivered crucial fuel rods. To destroy Bushehr after the delivery would cause huge environmental damage. The rods would allow the Iranians to obtain enough plutonium for many dozens of nuclear weapons, he said.

The Times (UK)

I don't even know what to think about this yet. It's taking every fiber of strength in my being to resist the urge to denounce this as a predictable load of shit; I may yet. But I am determined to not jump to conclusions... maybe these reports are correct. (Yeah, I know, but fuck it... it could be true.)

But I can't help but wonder: what exactly do we expect to achieve? If these allegations are correct, I definitely don't trust Bush to handle the situation well. And it seems mind-bogglingly stupid to start meddling in yet another Middle Eastern country after what we pulled in Iraq. What painful irony it would be if our "War On Terra-ism" actually undermined and complicated all our future efforts to actually, y'know, deal with terrorism.

And is it just me, or does it seem as if we're intent upon nailing up every single other country we can find before we actually deal with our Saudi problem?

In any case, I'll need a fucking lot of convincing before I believe this is anything more than another misguided, dangerous, deceitful misadventure in an oil-rich country. At the very least, let's get out of one country before we start playing chicken with another, mmmm-kay?

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Friday, July 16, 2004
Non-Journal, Day Five

I almost got another day off today. We had some heavy rain sweep through the area today, which threatened the day's shooting, all of which takes place outside. Lee apparently called everyone up and told 'em not to come; I, however, didn't get the message and showed up anyway. I showed up at his apartment at 6 on the button, only to find that there was no shooting going on. To keep me from having come all that way for nothing, though, Lee offered to take me out for dinner (something he'd promised to do last week, although I couldn't make it then.) We went to the P&H and sat around talking movies; very nice. He started getting annoyed, however, when 7PM rolled around and the promised thunderstorms had failed to materialize. We walked outside and, sure enough, it was mostly clear and not the least bit threatening. (It was still good that he'd rescheduled, because he'd really packed too much into the time alotted... everything was being shot during the "golden hour," but there was no way we could fit everything we had to shoot into that time frame in one night.)

Anyway, on the spur of the moment, he said, "you wanna go shoot some background plates for the CGI shots?" This was stuff he had scheduled tonight anyway, and we didn't need any of the other crew members or actors for it; all we needed was me, Lee, Lee's car, and the camera. I ended up taking several travelling shots, hanging out of the trunk of Lee's Beetle, trying my hardest to get steady shots while holding the camera about four inches above the pavement. It was kinda fun (in a scary way), but really hard work. We got the shots, though, and I was pleased with myself for having survived the dangling-from-the-car stuff intact. We went back to his apartment and he digitized some of the shots, which were all day-for-night stuff and looked possibly still too-bright to be effective. After tweaking the brightness and contrast, though, they looked very good, so he was satisfied. We might have to re-take one or two to make 'em slower (even ten mph looks like thirty onscreen, way too fast for a running figure), but that won't be for a while.

The downside is, all this rescheduling means that my Aug. 2 day off is no longer a day off, nor is the one following that. So it's gonna be like four friggin' weeks before I have a day off again.

He's also experiencing some minor frustrations with the lead actor, Devere. He's a very good actor (and he has a great ass), but he's, y'know, one of those insecure, sensitive-artist types. He needs a bit of validation, a little admiration from his director, but Lee sometimes seems at something of a loss. Still, he says he feels lucky to have landed Devere, so he's doing the best he can with it.

As Lee asked over dinner, "why do we do this?" I dunno, but I don't know what else I would do with myself if I weren't trying to make movies. This is what I live for, so I do what I have to do.
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Meet The New Iraq, Same As The Old Iraq
 
There's a sequence in Fahrenheit 9/11 that seems to be broadly misunderstood by many people who went into the film looking for things to be angry at. In this sequence, the people of Iraq are depicted prior to the beginning to the notorious(ly pointless) "Shock and Awe" campaign: playing children, what looks like a wedding, street life. Some have interpreted this sequence to suggest that Iraq was a place of nothing but happiness before the bombs fell, and a hellhole afterwards. I think this overlooks the subtler, but far more powerful meaning: these are real people, living real lives, just like yours and mine. There were bad things, but there were good things as well; people had parties, children did what children always do, and normal folks got on with their lives. This is as true after the bombs as it was before, although those same people (those of them that are still alive after more than a year of war) now have some major hazards to work around.
 
One of the things I most wish would change about this country is our damned isolationism. Only something like 10% of Americans even own a passport, and only a fraction of those, I suspect, have ever used them in a serious way. Once you get your ass abroad and begin to live as a foreigner, one thing inevitably inserts itself into your general awareness: these people are exactly like you. It doesn't matter where you go, how wildly different the culture might be from your own, the simple truth remains: we're all the same, we're all one.
 
The failure to realize this has been a major problem in this war, I think. I can understand why soldiers occupying Iraq might come to detest Iraqis; I can even understand why their families would dislike Iraqis. But the rest of us have no excuse but ignorance. Denying the humanity of other people is the first step towards total moral corruption; the necessity of ignoring the humanity of one's enemies in battle is a major symptom of the simple immorality of war.
 
I have noticed lately that as more and more people die on each side, we're hearing about it less and less. Continual death is fatiguing for the public, but no more so than for those who have no choice but to face it on a daily basis; it seems to me to be the least we can do to recognize and acknowledge these deaths. So why are the reports now buried, where once they were the lead story? Are we simply bored with the war?
 
Just in case you missed it, more than a thousand coalition troops have been killed, and the number of Americans killed is nearly at 900. Add to that the thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis who have been maimed, and we're knee-deep in blood already. If you'd care to keep track -- and you do have to work at it these days -- you can keep up on American casualities at the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, and Iraqi casualties at Iraqi Civilian War Casualties.
 
Finally, it looks like the worries of the people of Iraq are not going to include the expenses of extended parties celebrating their new freedom anytime soon. While the country still sits under martial law, the new Prime Minister is apparently more like Saddam than anyone would like. Summary executions without benefit of a defense or trial? Tsk tsk.
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Non-Journal, Day Four
 
Now that's more like it. 
 
Lee graciously took my advice and let his crewies do their jobs; the result was a smoother shooting day that allowed him to do more rehearsing and still ended not too long after the scheduled time. And we crewmembers got something to take our minds off the suffocating heat, so all were happier. That didn't lessen our joy over finishing up our last shots in that sweat-lodge of an apartment, though; by now the set has been struck and we never, ever have to go back in there. Hooray!

We had a day off today, and starting tomorrow we've got seventeen straight shooting days before our next break on August 2. To be fair, many of those days are quite short, with only three or four hours of shooting per day... but still. I spent the day napping and re-hydrating, and still have some laundry to get through. From here on out, though, most of our shoots take place in pleasantly air-conditioned interior locations, or outside at a time of day that isn't quite so barbarically hot. (The jail scenes, which it turns out we don't shoot until next week, will be an exception... we shoot in a disused part of the jail, and it will be very, very hot once again. But it's just one day.


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Thursday, July 15, 2004
Jesus Christ, Not This

Seymour Hersh says the US government has videotapes of boys being sodomized at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"The worst is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking," the reporter told an ACLU convention last week. Hersh says there was "a massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there, and higher." ...
The Poor Man

I'm a firm believer in Brother Bill's edict to "love ALL the people." I don't buy that children are somehow more important just because they're children; you either love everybody, or nobody at all.

But kids are so defenseless... what on earth could any young boy do that would justify rape? (Even putting the words together -- "justify rape" -- makes my skin crawl.)

I would like to believe that this can't possibly be true. But alas, Seymour Hersh's allegations have all been vindicated so far, with the pictures to prove it.

Is your precious tax cut worth so much to you that you'll overlook the rape of children? Seriously? Are you willing to state for the record now that it's not?
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Wednesday, July 14, 2004
This Is What Happens When Naughty Boys Don't Listen To Daddy

I've seen this quote before, but not since I started the blog. And it's just so gratifying, it really deserves to be laid out there as often as possible.

Who said this?
Trying to eliminate Saddam...would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible...We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq...there was no viable 'exit strategy' we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern of handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.

Were these words spoken by some America-hating liberal? Some Bush-bashing anti-war type? A Saddam-loving protester, perhaps?

Nope. Those words were written by George H. W. Bush, reflecting on the first Iraq War, in his book "A World Transformed."

George W. Bush: making his father look better by comparison since 1946.

George H.W. Bush: a liberal traitor according to Fox News

The Republican Party: eating itself alive
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Non-Journal, Day Three

Lee spent most of the night bumping up against the limits of what a volunteer crew will tolerate. He's doing the best he can -- I don't think anyone doubts that -- and his shots seem to be looking pretty good. But the crew-relations department is starting to bend under the pressure.

Last night's shoot was very rough: nine hours, mostly in stifling heat, on stale-corn-chip-and-water rations, without a meaningful break of any kind for the crew. I have seen volunteer crews mutiny for less; it's testament to how much we like Lee that nobody has walked. Still, it's pointing out the weak spots in his production skills; we've still got more than five solids weeks of shooting to go, and this has to improve for the good of the film. People can't work well unfed and unrested; we didn't leave the set until 3:30 AM last night, two-and-a-half hours late (really three-and-a-half if we take into account that the end-time was pushed back even before we began.)

The problem, as it happens, is really quite simple: Lee's still doing everything himself on the set, so it's taking much longer than it needs to to set up each shot. He's been very slow to release control over simple things like camera set-ups and sound checks -- maybe it's something to do with his animation background, where he had personal control over every aspect of the work he did. In any case, he's going to have to get over that if he wants to survive this venture. We've been giving him lots of slack so far (what with it being only the first few days shooting his first feature), but now that he's getting a handle on that, I think it's safe to start encouraging him to delegate more of the work. If we can get him to trust his crew and start directing (rather than micromanaging) the film, we'll be able to get through our shotlists considerably faster, I think.

(And no, I'm not just saying that because I want to get my hands on the camera -- although that too, admittedly. An under-used crew is a bored crew; and a bored crew is a crew that can obsess over how hot it is, how hungry they are, how much fun they're not having, and how much they'd rather be at home in bed than on this film set. Idle hands are the devil's workshop and all that.)
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Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Ten Good Reasons

Reason magazine, by no means a liberal publication (they're solidly libertarian), has published a list of Ten Reasons why no freedom-loving person, liberal or conservative, should vote for George W. Bush.

There are so many reasons to vote against Bush, and so few to vote for him. Even a self-respecting conservative -- provided they are not so blinded by fear and ideology that they can't see the plain reality before them -- should be able to see by now that Dubya's a turkey.

I'm not a huge fan of Kerry, either, as it happens -- for most of the reasons this piece details, in fact, if from a different perspective -- but Jesus Christ, anything's gotta be better than Bush. Seriously, I doubt "America" can survive another four years of this. Whatever is left after a second term of Bush couldn't be much more than a shadow of the nation it once was.

Get rid of this fucker. Worst president ever.
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Production Non-Journal, Day Two

More of the same. Back in the apartment, dripping sweat, doing roughly 40-50 takes in seven hours. The evening was improved somewhat by the replacement of John as 2nd AC with Diana, and the arrival of Doug as violin coach. The crew was perhaps slightly too preoccupied with chatting, but the shooting got done and I know that I, for one, enjoyed the dynamic more.

The heat was softened a bit with a third fan supplied by the lead actor, DeVere; Diana and I also fiddled around a bit with a thermostat we found. The AC isn't supposed to work, but we tried it anyway; just before we left, we both perceived a faint cool breeze in the apartment, perhaps the product of an attic fan or something. Anything would be an improvement.

I'm getting to do pitiful little camera operating so far; Lee is running around like a little hamster on a wheel, and much of the time it's tricky even to get his attention, much less muscle the camera away from him. There's a two-part frustration in this: 1) I just want to run the camera; I'm good at it, and it is, after all, what I was brought on to do; and 2) Lee's still got six weeks of solid shooting to go, and he's going to risk burnout if he doesn't delegate a little more. Still, we're only two days in, so everybody's giving him his space; he's still so captivated by the work and in his special director place that it would be unrealistic to expect him to detach himself on any level.

My work so far has been an odd assortment of 1st A.C., gaffer, and grip; I solve problems, I make suggestions, I generally support and enable. Lee has a good eye (with roughly ten years as an animator under his belt, he should), and I sometimes feel as though I'm in the slightly-awkward position of being simultaneously less and more experienced than he is, while playing a secondary role. I feel like I'm missing something... just not sure what.

We've got two more days in the Anteroom of Hell, and then a day off (the last for a while.) Friday we shoot at the jail downtown, which will also be hot. Then, I think, we move to predominantly indoor, air-conditioned locations, so this should get easier in that respect.
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I Love To See The GOP Squirm

This is funny in a dark way, and heartwarming in a cold, ironic way.

The Republicans in the U.S. Senate apparently spent yesterday trying to delay a vote on their Marriage "Defense" Amendment (aka the Hate Amendment). That's right... they're filibustering their own damn bill. Why? Because they can't even get a simple majority for it, much less the 2/3 majority they need to send it on.

It's actually pretty reassuring to know that in a GOP-controlled Senate, there still aren't 51 Senators willing to vote for the damn thing.

This amendment is an odious bit of legislation that deserves to go the way of Jim Crow and Separate-but-Equal; its proponents will inevitably be viewed by history as the close kin of the old White Citizens' Councils of the 60s. Our new Civil Rights Movement is going to be an uphill battle, folks, but I have faith that tolerance and the concept of equal rights for everyone will ultimately win the day.
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Outfoxed

I really, really want to see this film. (You have to click through an ad to reach the review, but it's worth the extra ten seconds; the review itself will give anyone unfamiliar with the Fox News style an idea of what their pap is like.)

That is all.

(But here's one brief quote gratuitously selected to prod Smithers into action:)
But some people would say that Fox News Channel is nothing more than the private right-wing propaganda machine of a sneaky right-wing billionaire who is -- now these are just the facts, people -- not an American at all but some kind of Down Under, funny-accented, shrimp-on-the-barbie-eating, crocodile-hunting, profoundly un-American Australian, for goodness' sake.
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Monday, July 12, 2004
Not A Production Journal...

...but I still feel compelled to write a few lines about the first day of this shoot.

The overwhelmingly dominant characteristic of the night was heat. The shoot was taking place in an empty apartment in one of those '20s vintage courtyard buildings in Midtown, which of course are bereft of central air. So, in July heat, and given that shooting conditions require that all fans be turned off and all windows closed, with four or five lamps on for most of the night and seven human bodies in the space... suffice to say it got a little warm in there. I don't know exactly what the temperature was, but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to find that it was 100F / 38C. Everyone was soaked through with sweat; we had to mop the actors (and ourselves) down with paper towels every few minutes lest they drip all over the set. For eight hours. Yep, it was kinda uncomfortable.

Even so, I found myself really enjoying it... the footage was looking great, the actors were quite good, and in spite of the heat everyone was bearing up. Our boomswinger is a nice kid who's home from college, and has directorial aspirations. This is the first live-action project he's ever worked on, so he's going to be tried by suffocating heat... if he still wants to make movies after this shoot, we'll know he's legit. Most people get wrapped up in the glamor, and don't realize until they're in it that 90% of filmmaking is more about enduring long hours of uncomfortable working conditions. If you don't love the work, there are a thousand easier ways to find fame and fortune. But if you're into it -- and I am -- even with the heat it was a lot of fun. Which is just as well, 'cause we're doing it again tonight... and the night after that... and all this week. I see a lot of laundry in my future.
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Delay This, Asshole

The Bush administration wants to "delay" the elections in case of a terrorist attack.

During the Civil War, in which half a million Americans (a hell of a lot for the time) were brutally slaughtering each other on American soil, the national election was never "delayed". During World War II, when the United States was very much "at war" and which was the only other time in which the United States had been attacked by foreign body within its own borders, the national election was never "delayed". If such an attack were to occur, it would be tragic to be sure, and frightening and distressing for everyone. But I don't see any way in which the potential "delay" of the national election benefits anyone but the current administration. In my opinion, if such an attack were to occur, it would only underline the absolute necessity of an election, because somebody isn't doing their job very well.

Short of Armageddon -- in which case it probably won't matter anyway -- I am vehemently, profoundly opposed to the idea of "delaying" the election.

To paraphrase a common sentiment going around these days, it's not that I believe the conspiracy theories about the Bush administration, it's just that every fucking thing the Bush administration does seems to make me think about conspiracies.
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Frank Zappa, Fucking Psychic

Wow... this is at least as good as anything Nostradamus ever produced.

The Idiot Bastard Son (From "Mothermania", TMOI, 1969)

(THE FATHER'S A NAZI
IN CONGRESS TODAY...
THE MOTHER'S A HOOKER
SOMEWHERE IN L.A.)

The idiot bastard son:
(ABANDONED TO PERISH
IN BACK OF A CAR...
KENNY WILL STASH HIM AWAY
IN A JAR)

THE IDIOT BOY! (try and imagine the
window all covered in green...
all the time he
would spend at the church he'd attend...
warming his pew)

Kenny will feed him & Ronnie will watch
THE CHILD WILL THRIVE & GROW
And enter the world
Of liars & cheaters & people like you
Who smile & think you know
What this is about

(YOU THINK YOU KNOW
EVERYTHING...maybe so)
The song we sing: DO YOU KNOW?
We're listening...

THE IDIOT BOY! (try and imagine the
window all covered in green...
all the time he
would spend all the colors he'd blend...
where are they now?)

Just goes to show what really good drugs can accomplish.

Correction: It has been pointed out in comments that this could not possibly go to show what really good drugs can accomplish, as Frank Zappa never did drugs, really good or otherwise. The editor regrets the error, and instead postulates that this is what being a fucking genius can accomplish.
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Sunday, July 11, 2004
God, I Wish This Had Happened To Me

Seriously, if it had, I'd be telling the grandkids about it every single night before bed.
After waiting around for about 45 minutes, the motorcade passed by us again. A few police cars, followed by a van or two, drove by. Then, a Bush/Cheney bus passed, followed by a second one going slower. At the front of this second bus was The W himself, waving cheerily at his supporters on the other side of the highway. Adam, Brendan, and I rose our banner (the More Trees, Less Bush one) and he turned to wave to our side of the road. His smile faded, and he raised his left arm in our direction. And then, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States of America, extended his middle finger.

Read that last sentence again.
I got flipped off by George W. Bush.

A ponytailed man standing next to us confirmed the event, saying, "I do believe the President of the U.S. just gave you boys the finger." We laughed probably for the next half hour, and promptly told everyone we knew.

Now THAT is a great presidential story.

Read the rest here; thanks to Denny for pointing it out.
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Bert: AWOL

All right, dammit... who stole Bert? 'Fess up; I know one of you has him. I'm going to turn around, and when I turn back I expect to see my "Terror Level: Bert" button back in its correct place. If you put it back now, I won't ask any questions.

But seriously... that sucks! Where'd he go? The whole geekandproud website seems to be down. Bugger... I knew I should've uploaded a copy to my own server.

(He probably just picked up a few underage whores and went on a coke-fuelled bender... he is, after all, evil.)

I'm going to give it another day or two to re-appear, and then I guess I'll have to go find some other Terror Alert system to replace it (which is a shame, 'cause I really liked Bert.) Maybe they do a Teletubby terror alert system? We'd never have to drop below La-la...

Update: Bert has happily returned from whatever nefarious goings-on he was up to, and has resumed his place in the left-hand column. Watch the newspaper for details.
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