Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nothing makes me feel more like garbage than looking at casting tapes

I'm working on a project for work -- a series of comedy shorts -- that required the watching of casting tapes.

I hate casting. I hate casting because the miles of mildly okay actors thrown before a cheap video camera in a cheesy, over-bright little room without any preparation. There are 120,000,000 actors in LA, and more are coming everyday and they end up in these abattoirs, reading lines out of context to some imaginary polar bear off camera. They came to the call at 10:00 am, it's 4:00 pm, and everyone in the building is pissed off and sour, the kind of pissed off and sour that can only come from being in a shitty office building somewhere in Hollywood in the late afternoon.

That tape or digital file that makes up to San Francisco not only contains the images of the actors, but also does a too-good job of transmitting the cumulative fail stink that is permeating the audition room.

The schedule is always fucked and four agency sweat-hogs stewing in their own juices in a shabby and dark conference room just want to get through the 25,000 potential "Woman #3"s so they can get back to their desk to write and art direct all the other components of the campaign, which were due at 10:00 that morning. The casting person, eager to please, does a dragnet of Hollywood, packing the casting tape with anyone with two functioning kidneys and one functioning eye.

What happens, sadly, is we the agency scum pass on people in an instant, because they have dumb hair, or were looking to the left, or they remind us of someone we hate (or at least THINK we hate in that fetid haze of blue conference room funk). We want to be done with these hopeful, earnest people. So we cast to type, we cast in shorthand, we cast without consideration for subtle performances or wild-assed improvisation.

Now, that doesn't happen every time. Sometimes the stars align in such a way that it's easy to square the right thing with the prudent thing. We found a bushel full of excellent, excellent people this go around, for example.

But it does happen more that I'd like. And that sucks.

Actors work their asses off.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Backpack Strap Tipping Point

In the early part of my high school career, people wore their backpacks using only one strap, with a slow rolling gait. It was all about cool detachment, a Northern Californian’s idea of Southern California.
Then Dave Fraholi started duel-strapping and all hell broke loose. A renaissance of backpack expression, duel-straps, single straps and, in the case of Al, TWO BACKPACKS. (Granted, one was given over entirely to Al’s blueprints of his Dome-ed City).
So here’s to Dave Fraholi: backpack Prometheus!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My idea for a totally awesome Nazi comedy short


(A montage of found BW footage from the Triumph of the Will and other historic sources, featuring line upon line of standard bearers.)

Two standard bearers are listen to the Archfiend's (that'd be Hitler) speech and one is starting looking around furtively with an exasperated look on his face.

He leans over to the guy to his right, and says out of the corner of his mouth:

"Dude, this is fucking GAY."



Monday, May 26, 2008

Kim and I have a laugh at my stupid name

Kim, a English person, was referencing the William Blake poem "And did those feet in ancient times... (more popularly known as the hymn "Jerusalem") at work today, a poem that mentions "Dark Satanic Mills", as in industrial mills.

He mentioned "Dark Satanic Mills" as I walked into his cube.

Kim: "And here he is now!"


Because my name is Mills. And I'm Dark Satanic.

Funny, that.


Here's a chappie with a well tempered blog

Citizen of the Month. He's a good writer.

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Shopping in Twin Peaks

I just remembered this incident...

About three years ago, I was at shopping for browsing in a music store, looking at the classical CDs. I guess nothing appealed to me, because I made it all the way to "X" before I found anything I wanted to get.

I picked up an Iannis Xenakis cd, and while I'd read about him (very, very difficult music, math based, crazy, harsh) I'd never heard any of his music. The price was right, and I was on this completist kick (what I was completing is debatable. I guess I figured I'd know when it was complete.), so I took the plunge and took it to the front counter.

The guy working the counter that dad had a pretty significant limp and what looked like a slight curvature of the spine. I had chatted with him before about weird music, so I was EVEN MORE BUBBLY than usual (I think I may have even looked him in the eye).

He lit up when he saw my purchase-to-be: "Ahhh... Xenakis!"

Me, fumbling for levity: "Yeah, I'm going to have a dance party this weekend."

He: "A Xenakis dance party! Wow... it'd probably look like this!"

At this point, he comes out from behind the register and does this painful little dance, fluttering his hands, sort of pogoing in place.


Thing is, that exactly the sort of dance you'd do at a Xenakis dance party.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Children. Dog.

These are Children.

This a Dog.

They all live at my house.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Two of the strangest things I have ever produced in a professional capacity.


The Rise of Chuy: Scourge of the Undead

Chuy, the dog, HATES squirrels. Hates them with the fire of a thousand suns.

He especially hates squirrels of the UNDEAD variety.

This is what happened:

Paula, Owen, and Chuy were boulevarding one afternoon last week, taking in the air and observe the civic heart of our city in the midday bustle.

Chuy, being small and curious, regularly peels off his sidewalk skim to dive into the warrens you’d observe under bushes if you were as short as he was. For a small dog, the world is a series of small hutches filled with goblins.

On this afternoon, he growled, then barked (something he never does), then dove into a bush on a busy sidewalk. After a few minutes of the bush shaking violently, Chuy bounded out of the bush with the still-moist carcass of a disemboweled squirrel.
(He wasn’t the disemboweller and I’m sure that irked him)

He shook that squirrel corpse like a money maker, and the resultant offal spray caused Paula, Owen and two teenagers skateboarding nearby to start screaming.

Owen (a animal lover) was screeching “Chuy! Stop killing nature!”

Paula managed to still Chuy’s bloodlust long enough to convince him to drop the desiccated romper toy. He was flecked with gore however, so needed a bath at home.

Owen told Paula: “I hate Chuy. He kills nature.”

Since that day, Owen has made peace with Chuy's nature. He knows the squirrel was already demised and Chuy was merely having a lark.

And all the while Chuy dreamt on, imagine a mountain of squirrel skulls, with Chuy himself tucked into a pile of warm laundry at the top.

Chuy is not to be trifled with.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I would like to work at your firm.

Offer me a job. At your work.

I will take it, by gum. I will bring my own lunch. I'll sit quietly, and cheerfully.

I could tidy, collate, bring in the elephants.

Got a waxing need? I'll wax it. Canvas need stretching? I'll get my gloves.

Can I plan an invasion for you? Please? I won't be any trouble. I have my own maps and a pen.

Will wear a tie. Or pasties.

Let me reheat the morning soup for you. I will punish your enemies, roll your oats, call the faithful to prayer.

All I need is a honest fair, salary and four weeks off.

You have reached the limits of your effectiveness, but I can extend for you. "Milk the cats! Ring the bells! Calculate the rate of decay! I'm busy, Mills!"

And I'm on it, my name tag a glisten and my hassock freshly pressed.

I will not complain when I am cut by paper, exposed to pathogens, or put next to the boring client in the Lear Jet.

I won't alphabetize, so don't ask. And I am leery of deep-fryers, since the accident.

But I will dress your windows like the fabled window dresser I know deep down that I am.

So, what do you say? Are we jake?

Hire me.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

I am forced to go to the Ruby Mills content well once more

Lately Ruby has been bringing glass marbles into her bath for god knows what reason.

Tonight, I asked her about it.

Me: Ruby, why do you bring marbles into the bath?

Ruby: I like the way they look when they're wet.

Me: Well, don't bring them in, because they might go down the drain or you could slip on them or something.

Ruby: They get sucked up or YOU get fucked up.

That's gold right there. 24 karat.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ruby's complicated theology

(Note: we have a silly little garden buddha is our semi-wild planter)

Ruby: Dad, I was praying.

Not being a particularly religious family, I am perplexed.

Me: Who were you praying to?

Ruby: Buddha! And the fairies.

Me: Ah. Is Buddha a friend of the fairies?

Ruby: Yes. The fairies do Buddha good works in the spirit world.

Me: I had no idea.

Ruby: Remember that cat that disappeared in the bushes?

(We have a neighbor cat that likes to lurk behind a giant fern we have.)

Me: Yes.

Ruby: Buddha ordered the fairies to carry the cat to the spirit world.

Me: He's dead?

Ruby: Who?

Me: The cat.

Ruby: No, he's alive! He's living in paradise as a living cat.

Me: Like Elijah.

Ruby: I don't know. I gave Buddha money.

Me: I don't think Buddha really needs any money.

Ruby: He uses it buy treats for his fairy servants. Buddha also asked me to show him THIS flower once a year, every year.

(Shows me a strange orange flower that she found growing in some ground cover succulents we have in front)

At this point, Ruby wanders off, singing "Iko Iko" to the tune of "La Cucucaracha".

She's a prophet.


Paula has started a new blog

It's called eatshopsleepberkeley and it's a blog that deals with

1. Eating

2. Shopping

3. Sleeping

all in Berkeley.

It'll be restaurant reviews and crap. So local interest. But there you go.

I hope to contribute.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

More stoner grab-ass philosophy.

While I'm being all deep and shit, here's more crap.

I think we are wired for meaning. Or rather, we are wired for purpose, but grasp for explanation and causal relationships. Lions and penguins don't worry about this stuff, or if they do, it's in a relatively narrow way.

We don't experience the universe objectively and to large extent our self is determined by our relationship with others. The limitations of our biology keeps us shielded from total understanding, so we rely on culture to give us context. Other animals experience their own subjective form of reality that would be extremely alien to us (think sharks, or bats) because they have access to sensory data that we can only experience through the intervention of technology, which gives us an indirect abstraction of the experience. The people who do have a talent for seeing the outskirts of what may be the objective world have to concentrate very hard and use data compression (math, language, data, theory) to understand it. We also can't qualify and quantify what doesn't occur to us to do so, so you could say that Science is a history of the limits of human senses.

The nice fringe-benefit of being curious, imaginative, yet imperfect investigators is we will always have wonder and mystery. We are so good at exploiting this quirk of our natures, we have developed art and religion so we can take that wonder and mystery "indoors'' through our own aesthetic work.

It seems to work pretty good all and all, the subjective indirect experience of the world, at least at the clan level. The key, I think, is understanding our limits as a species. But that's just my subjective take.

One thing to consider is the fact we did pretty good without concerning ourselves with attempting to interface objective world for the majority of our existence as a species. The exploration of the objective, as half-assed as we can do it, has made us healthier and materially a lot more comfortable.

I guess you could say we do interface with the objective world, or else we couldn't engage with it, but I think nature is a parsimonious old cow and we have just enough brain juice to manage in our biological niche.

I haven't slept too well lately, so I feel all spacey and introspective.


Why do I think about gay marriage so much? Am I.... married?

SO now gay people can get married in California. They used to be not able to get married, then they could, and then they couldn't, now they can again. It's confusing. It's also a weird issue, because it sort of tests a lot of assumptions we have about marriage in general aside from sexual orientation.

A lot of the back and forth in the debate in the issue operates under the assumption that sexual love is the primary reality of marriage. Let me tell, it aint. I'm married, and funny thing, it's not a butt bongo fiesta romp in the sack every night. I'm sure there are some sexual athletes out there with the swings and the whatnot doing their thang on their silver wedding anniversary. And I say god bless.

There are many, many loving partnerships -- many MANY MANY -- where sex isn't even a factor.

If, as some say, marriage is merely a husbandry institution dedicated to the creation and raising of kids, then we have a lot of non-marriages in our country.

If, as some say, marriage is an institution that exists to put social control on the sexual impulses of the polyamorous human animal, it doesn't do a very job, otherwise adultry wouldn't be an issue.

The legal fact is, marriage is a contract. Marriage as a legal doctrine, with specific rights and obligations attached to it beyond being a contract, didn't exist in Anglo-American law until the 1770s. Marriage was a religious institution, though there were informal common law practices that were called "marriage."

The law in general doesn't have the mechanism to judge marriage as anything beyond a contract. The law can't comment on the quality of of the affection in a marriage, the sexual lives of the married partners, the way they raise their children or even if they decide to have children, beyond
the particulars of the contract and whatever generals laws apply to the individuals.

Social engineers on both the left and the right throw out a lot of half-assed specious pop sociology about the institution to define it as such and such a thing, something beyond a contract. But when you do that, you getting the outer limits of our legal tradition. Up until recently, social standards would have put the brakes on the conversation before it got even close to legal challenge. But now, we're touching the walls on this. Social standards change, and institutions change to reflect that. To be sure, they don't change seamlessly, and it's next to impossible to predict how institutions will change and what new ones will arise (unless you're a Marxist, of course. Then you are a DIALECTICAL WIZARD!).

I don't think marriage as a legal concept is terribly useful anymore. The spiritual institution is fine, and religious communities should be able to decide what works for them (as long as it doesn't involve coercion) within their beliefs. (As a priest, I'd be all for this, because it means I'm not put in the awkward position of acting as an agent of the state.) And I do enjoy my marriage.

But I think there could be some sort of general partnership, independent of relationship -- two sisters, husband and wife, mother and child, best friends, wife and wife, etc. -- where two people living together can name each other as domestic partners and be assigned any contractual rights that marriage has now. Like I said above, marriage as primarily a sexual union is a hugely narrow definition of what marriage is vs. marriage as it's practiced. Laws against sexually predatory practices would apply as appropriate, and the parties would have to be competent agents.

That's all the thinking I have on the subject right now. You should go have some ice cream.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Slow day at work. Here's all the bands I can remember seeing

New Order
Simple Minds
The Uptones
The Untouchables
Rolling Stones
The Who
The Clash
The Pogues
George Thoroughgood and the Delware Destroyers
Jane’s Addiction
Frank Black
Miracle Legion/Polaris
Mr. T Experience
Billy Bragg
Happy Mondays
Pearl Jam
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Neil Young
Billy Nayer Show
Los Straightjackets
Comets on Fire
American Music Club
J. Church
Monks of Doom
Camper Van Beethoven
Three O’Clock
Lounge Lizards
Red Thread
Millions of Dead Cops
John Zorn
David Bowie
Keith Jarrett
Elvis Costello
Jesus & the Mary Chain
Johnathan Richman
Big Sandy and the Fly Right Trio
Spanic Boys
Jazz Butcher
Love and Rockets
Yellow Man
Burning Spear
Luscious Jackson
Cecil Taylor
Al Green
Iggy Pop
Peter Gabriel
Violent Femmes
Alice Doughnut
Death Angel
Robyn Hitchcock
Idiot Flesh
Dead Kennedys
UB40 (yech)
Stray Cats
Chemical Brothers
Wedding Present
Nick Cave (The Bad Seeds? Don't remember.)
Monkey Rhythm

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So what do I have against blogging all of a sudden?

Don't rightly now. I'm moderately busy and there's been the usual flurry of domestic poop. Owen is a large man of five now, so we had a great birthday party -- delicious margaritas prepared by The Wife for all the adults, and a surreally awesome cake made by my sister.

It was more than a cake... it was a meta-cake, a cake about cakeness.

Paula went out of town, so I was on my lonesome with the brats. I took them to the Make Faire in San Mateo, which is this Mad Max crafts fair with exploding robots and shit. Took 'em for a brief train ride on Amtrak... the twosome had never been on a proper train, so we took a half an hour trip up the line to Martinez and came back. It was pretty okay.

And we got a dog named "Chuy" (chewie) which is the diminutive of Jesus (Hay-sus). He's half beagle and half Chihuahua. He looks sort of like a very large, fat Chihuahua. About the size of a ham. He's very laid back, doesn't bark. He's a good little dog.

So, that's it. I imagine I will blog about some sort of crap one of these days.

I am linking to this for work. Don't get all excited. There is nothing to see here, move on.