What makes a GoPro such great fun is it all but begs you to think of odd things to attach it to, hoping to discover something cool. Which is exactly why I strapped it to my snow shovel before going out to clear the driveway after our recent snowstorm. The results are fairly giggle inducing.
I am not the neatest person you'll ever meet. Growing up, my mother was perpetually exasperated with my slovenly ways. Looking back with the experience of being a parent, I can't really blame her. She used to say that I'd eventually meet a wonderful woman who would be appalled at my pig sty house keeping style. Well the joke was on her. I met a woman who was my equal in being a slob. Turns out that's probably more annoying for me.
I don't want to be a slob. I'd like the house to be a whole lot cleaner and more organized. For one thing, I don't want my kids thinking that this is the way to conduct your household. But on a more practical level, I want the house under control so that it doesn't exist as a continual impediment to doing things I want to do. Let me give you an example. I'm a big fan of the web show Film Riot. It's consistently funny and a wealth of information for aspiring filmmakers. Those guys use their home as their studio. I can't do that without spending a couple days cleaning first.
That was really hammered home for me after I bought the GoPro. The lens on it is so insanely wide that you can't hide anything from it. I held it over my head in the living room and it showed me three entire walls, a piece of the fourth, the ceiling, the floor and my feet. Yikes. Every bit of disaster was easily visible. Not good.
For a few weeks I've been slowly trying to change my ways, cleaning a small section of the house at a time and then giving myself rules to make sure it stayed that way. I spent a huge chunk of Sunday cleaning my desk. Embarrassingly, I filled an entire garbage bag and the recycling bin from what came off the desk. It started when I went looking for my small tripod to mount the GoPro. It wasn't in my camera bag as expected, which meant the next most likely spot was the desk. Excavation began immediately. The desk is now relatively clean if a bit cluttered. But there's not a lot I can do about that since my collection of cameras and gear are always going to be at my fingertips here. What's gone is the towering pile of crap that kept those things from being easily accessed in spite of being close by.
Now it's off to try and put down at least a couple pages more in Hive before bedtime.
I am an insomniac. That's been true for as long as I can remember. This will not be a complaint about insomnia, just a few thoughts on it.
Anyone that talks to me in person for more than a few minutes tends to figure out that I don't sleep much. It's not that I try to broadcast this information. It's just that the math becomes apparent on my activities and it just doesn't jibe with normal sleeping patterns. And that leads to a lot of questions about not sleeping. Which is always followed by advice meant to be helpful but actually succeeds only in being a bit annoying to me. So if you're reading this and thinking to yourself that you've got the cure for me, stop. I don't want to hear it.
The truth is that I understand my insomnia just fine. Having trouble getting to sleep is not a mystery to me in any way. I know why it happens and a lot of ways to control it. The reason that insomnia continues to be a major force in my life is that I let it seduce me. Over and over again I let myself be sucked into the patterns that lead to sleepless nights and foggy headed days.
I don't sleep because my brain is never quiet. I was probably well into my thirties before I realized that this wasn't normal. I'd ask my wife what she was thinking and she would shrug and say "Nothing." And then I would begin to badger her. "No, really. What are you thinking?" I would ask in conversation that would loop back on itself again and again as I tried pry that secret out of her. The notion that she really wasn't thinking of anything was incomprehensible to me. It's simply never true of my mind.
I have constant political debates rolling around in my brain. Those give way to thoughts of movies, which turn into attempts to detail the career of a particular director, which slides into how a trade the Mets made back in 1992 ended an era for the team and created disarray that would need years to settle, which reminds me of an economics course I took back in college, which turns into an internal debate on how badly politicians understand economics and suddenly I'm back into politics. It's like that all the time. The details shift constantly. It could just as easily have to do with music, gardening and photographic technique. Or cars, jobs I've held and plans for what to do should I win the lottery. Constant mental chatter. Let's see you try and get to sleep with that racket going on.
I've suspected for years that I have ADHD. But I've never bothered to talk to a doctor about it and try out medicines to combat it. Why would I? This is who I am. That noise in my brain defines who I am. Without it I'd be lost. One of the reasons that I've gravitated toward writing is that I can point my brain at something and let it tear the topic apart and put it back into something useful. Aiming is tricky but I've gotten better at it over the years. When you can harness it a bit, it becomes a powerful tool.
And this is where it relates to sleep. By nature, I start my days pretty slowly. It's like my brain is powered by vacuum tubes that have to warm up a bit before they work properly. My wife has long standing instructions not to tell me anything important in the first couple hours after I get up. The odds that I'll remember that later in the day are poor at best. As the day goes on, my brain heats up and hits full stride just about the time that most people are starting to think about bed. That's when I do my best work. Now, if I really want to sleep, I could follow a certain routine and have a reasonable chance of getting to sleep when I need. But that would require sacrificing the most fertile part of my day.
I am so full of energy and great ideas late at night that it becomes very easy to think of sleep as unnecessary. This is where you should start to question my sanity. Because, of course, sleep is required. The next morning, when I'm getting up at 6:30 to get the kids ready for school, I feel like death. It's awful. That first few minutes is filled with thoughts of straightening out my life and getting to sleep like a rational person. But as the day goes on and I start to come alive, those thoughts fade. And once again, I'm up at 3AM thinking I can go forever without sleeping.
To be clear, my problem is in falling asleep. Once I fall asleep, I can sleep just fine. If left alone, twelve hours of straight sleep is not out of the question. Insomnia is a side effect of an over active mind. Drinking chamomile tea, warm milk or chewing valerian root are not going to help because I don't want them to help. What I want is the ability to switch off my thoughts like a light switch. Any other cure just seems like a waste of good writing time.
It should be pointed out that when I write about writing or filmmaking, I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about. All this, is just me and my obsessive need to go on and on about my passions in a tone that makes it seem like I'm some sort of an expert.
Do not take any of this as expert advice. I speak only from my own experience. I am not a professional screenwriter or filmmaker so take my thoughts on those topics with a grain of salt. I am a semi-pro photographer, so use a hair less salt on that topic. And while I did earn money for a time as a film critic, I was pretty lousy at it. So, by all means, ignore my opinions on movies. I like what I like for my own reasons and I don't really care if you agree.
None of this should indicate that I think anyone is listening or following my advice. I just wanted to make it clear that I don't think you should listen to me either. I'm still trying to learn how to speak truth in my writing. It seemed that taking myself down a notch was a good place to start.
There are days when I have a laser fine focus on what I need to do and take down tasks with extreme prejudice. And then there are days like this when I seem to have the attention span of a crack addicted housefly.
I did eventually lay down three pages of my new script. The goal had been ten. Here's what happened instead.
A guy I ran into the previous day recommended I check out a band called Volbeat. I did. I liked their stuff. I bought an album.
In so doing I saw that Nancy Sinatra's album Boots was on sale for $5 at Amazon. I didn't buy it. But it did make me think of a weird TV ad for the Virginia based record stores Plan 9 Music. That ad first introduced me to the song These Boots Are Made For Walkin.' So I listened to that a bunch of times. No amount of searching turned up video of that ad though.
Not entirely happy with the way that TweetDeck worked, I went on a search for a good desktop Twitter client. I didn't find one I liked. So I'm still using the old Adobe Air version.
I saw a tweet from Ryan Johnson, the writer/director of Brick, which I adore and The Brothers Bloom, which I merely like quite a bit. The tweet reminded me of the trailer for his next movie, Looper, which looks awesome. I watched that trailer several times. The music was pretty cool, so I tried to find out who made it. Turned out to be this guy.
Then I saw this video about Adobe's Production Premium CS6 and did some serious drooling.
Finally, there was this video. Which pretty much summed up the evening.
The key part of all this is that in spite of this pitiful display, I still managed to get some actual writing done. There was a day when the procrastination would have just flat out thumped my ass and nothing productive would happen. It reminds me of a pitcher who goes and just doesn't have his best stuff. But he fights on and manages to at least not get blown out of the water so the team still has a shot at winning.
And on that note, I'll suggest that the stuff I did write tonight was awesome.
Conservatively guessing, I probably watched Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome a dozen times in the eighties. I saw it when it came out and watched it over and over again on cable later. I was aware that there were earlier films but didn't actually make any attempt to see them. I was a teenager, the nearest rental store was three miles away and I didn't have a car. My movie watching in the eighties was strictly whatever came on HBO or Showtime and whatever I could hitch a ride to see in a theater. My dad did all the VHS tape renting and his taste was awful, so I took what I could get when I could get it.
A couple years ago I finally got around to watching The Road Warrior, thanks to Netflix. Good stuff. I enjoyed it thoroughly. It lacked the polish and grandeur of Thunderdome but it was batshit crazy and dripping adrenaline. And it helped fill in the world of Mad Max for me a bit. I was pleased.
Now I've finally watched the original Mad Max, and I hate to say it but I didn't much care for it. This isn't really meant as criticism of the film. I did something director George Miller never could have expected when he made it. I came into the series backwards. As such, the plot of Mad Max is predictable. And I spent most of the movie thinking that the world looked to be in much better shape than it could have. The second two movies sell the post apocalyptic angle a lot harder, so much so that the original doesn't even feel like the world had come crashing down. So combine my confusion over the setting with being ten steps ahead of the plot at all times and then layer on an over the top score. It almost began to play as a comedy.
Keep in mind, I'm not trashing Mad Max. It was shot for next to nothing and discovered a genuine star in the making in Mel Gibson. For what it was, they did a great job. The fault is mine for watching in reverse order. So don't yell at me for putting down Mad Max. If you have to bitch at me, do it for my poor sense of chronology.
But holy shit did that movie not work for me.
We had a bit of a mystery this morning. Upon returning from church this morning, my wife and kids found this in the backyard.
Needless to say, they were perplexed. It's not as if we'd ordered a mismatched set of filthy used refrigerators. I'm not even sure where you would go for that sort of thing. My wife woke me up to share this discovery with me and after some debate we decided to call the police about it.
The police were highly amused. After a bit of chuckling the deputy sheriff did some investigating and actually solved this mystery quite quickly. These fridges were not meant for us. One of our neighbors runs a business renting dumpsters and hauling junk away. The offending units were intended for his yard. He presumably will be selling them for scrap metal, which is a surprisingly lucrative activity.
So, they're still back there, awaiting our neighbor to return from where ever he is and retrieve them. But on the bright side, this little mystery appeared to have brightened the day of the officer who came to deal with it. He got a good laugh out of it and said it was the fastest he ever solved a crime.
You thought I'd given up the blog again, didn't you? Not true, I was just heavily distracted by this latest effort.
You may have heard about Hurricane Irene as it rampaged up the East Coast last week, making life miserable or at least annoying for millions of people. I fell firmly in the annoyed category. We sustained no long term damage from the storm. That's impressive because the counties just north and west of us sustained some devastating damage. So when I describe this video as an idiot with a video camera wandering around in a hurricane, please recognize that my tongue is planted firmly in cheek. The worst we had to deal with was a yard that resembled a river for the afternoon and a cellar with a foot of water in it. And since that much water in the cellar is pretty much an annual event, that's barely worth mentioning.
All that said, I'm really pleased with this short. It gave me a chance to work on a bunch of new things, most of which will hopefully be invisible to the viewer. It was shot on my Canon T2i with a Zacuto Z-Finder and a Zoom H4n for sound. I've had the Zoom for a while but this was the first time I integrated its recording with the footage. The difference in quality between the Zoom and on camera mikes is astonishing. Hopefully I'll get a chance to shoot something with some dialogue soon to give it even more of a workout.
The short was color graded in After Effects using Colorista Free from Red Giant. I'd love to be using Colorista 2 but for the moment, free is what I can afford. But in a way, that's good because using the more simplistic software forces me to understand the process better. I'm not just picking a style and applying it, I actually have to build up the color scheme from the ground up. And if I did it right, you'll like the way it looks and never realize that I did anything.
The last major element was stabilizing a shot in After Effects. The last shot of the short was very shaky, because I was startled by what I saw and hastily brought up the camera to get the shot. The shot is still somewhat shaky but much smoother than it had been.
So enjoy the short. I want to start putting up shorts every week or to so stay to tuned to see what I come up with.
We're back home today after a few days away for a family wedding. I know, you didn't know I was gone.
It was a lovely wedding. The couple looked very happy and they form an almost annoyingly attractive couple.
That said, it can't be said that the trip was without incident. I have to inform you of the passing of a beloved member of my camera bag. Yes, my 50mm lens met its untimely end while on the job. I'd like to say that it died heroically but that would be a lie. Sadly it was a moment of wounded pride and battered shins.
We had reached the point in the wedding reception where the groom removes the bride's garter and tosses it to the single men in the crowd. The wedding was at a country club which had an outdoor area for the band and dance floor, surrounded by a short brick wall. It occurred to me that from atop that wall I could peer over the crowd for a good angle. I'm a big believer in finding the spot to take pictures from that no one else thinks of trying. Energized by the crowd I leaped to the top of the wall for the shot.
Or at least that was the plan. What I actually did was come up a few inches short of my goal. This meant my foot hit the side of the wall, causing me to lurch awkwardly forward, slamming my shin into the edge of the wall. Momentum carried me forward and being a good photographer, I of course had both hands on the camera, thus leaving none free to break my fall. It was the camera that did that job.
My lens hood popped off and shot straight up in the air. That distracted me for a moment, so that I didn't notice right away that half my lens lay on top of the wall, while the other half remained on the camera. Because of the whole garter thing, no one noticed my fall, allowing me to salvage some pride. The lens was not salvageable though.
It was my favorite lens but also my least expensive. And that was pretty evident in the way it came apart. It was built largely of plastic and so had no chance of surviving an impact. I will replace it fairly rapidly but I think I'll move up to the more expensive version. It's faster, has image stabilization and most importantly, metal construction.
And before you ask, I didn't write a damn thing this weekend. But in the past week I have started a page one rewrite of my first original script and laid down 40 pages, so I'm pretty pleased.