Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I am in a Pet

I always wondered what being in a pet was or at least how the word came to mean: to be in a snit. Wow, I just looked pet up in Roger's Thesaurus.
Here it all is.
The positive and negative of the word pet. From pet name to pet person or pet animal and onward to pet peeve and pet anger.
Have a look. http://thesaurus.reference.com/browse/pet
I'm going to do that right now and savor all the thoughts and feelings surrounding the action verb Pet - to stroke, gently in a comforting, camaraderie sort of way.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I posted my blog about despair and went on to my email site to see if I had any mail. What you read below was sent while I was writing which is serendipity for sure. But it brightened my spirits and makes me sure there is always an angel about to help you get up. Here is what the letter said.

Bad day at work??? This is even funnier when you realize it's real! Next time you have a bad day at work, think of this guy.

Rob is a commercial saturation diver for Global Divers in Louisiana. He performs underwater repairs on offshore drilling rigs. Below is an E-mail he sent to his sister. She then sent it to a radio station in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, who was sponsoring a worst job experience contest. Needless to say, she won.


Hi Sue,

Just another note from your bottom-dwelling brother. Last week I had a bad day at the office. I know you've been feeling down lately at work, so I thought I would share my dilemma with you to make you realize it's not so bad after all. Before I can tell you what happened to me, I first must bore you with a few technicalities of my job. As you know, my office lies at the bottom of the sea. I wear a suit to the office. It's a wetsuit. This time of year the water is quite cool. So what we do to keep warm is this: We have a diesel-powered industrial water heater. This $20,000 piece of equipment sucks the water out of the sea, heats it to a delightful temperature, then pumps it down to the diver through a garden hose which is taped to the air hose. Now this sounds like a darn good plan, and I've used it several times with no complaints. What I do, when I get to the bottom and start working, is take the hose and stuff it down the back of my wetsuit. This floods my whole suit with warm water. It's like working in a Jacuzzi. Everything was going well until all of a sudden, my bum started to itch. So, of course, I scratched it. This only made things worse. Within a few seconds my bum started to burn! I pulled the hose out from my back, but the damage was done. In agony I realized what had happened. The hot water machine had sucked up a jellyfish and pumped it into my suit. Now, since I don't have any hair on my back, the jellyfish couldn't stick to it. However, the crack of my bum was not as fortunate. When I scratched what I thought was an itch, I was actually grinding the jellyfish into the crack of my bum. I informed the dive supervisor of my dilemma over the communicator. His instructions were unclear due to the fact that he, along with five other divers, were all laughing hysterically. Needless to say I aborted the dive. I was instructed to make three agonizing in-water decompression stops totalling thirty-five minutes before I could reach the surface to begin my chamber dry decompression. When I arrived at the surface, I was wearing nothing but my brass helmet. As I climbed out of the water, the medic, with tears of laughter running down his face, handed me a tube of cream and told me to rub it on my bum as soon as I got in the chamber. The cream put the fire out, but I couldn't poo for two days because my bum was swollen shut. So, next time you're having a bad day at work, think about how much worse it would be if you had a jellyfish shoved up your ar*e. Now repeat to yourself, I love my job, I love my job, I love my job. Remember whenever you have a bad day, ask yourself, is this a jellyfish bad day? May you NEVER have a jellyfish bad day!!!!!


An awesome word. I suffer from it and I suspect most people do from time to time. I had been flown into Atlantic City to take over the job as 1st Assistant Director for Louis Malle. They were three days into the shoot and the person doing the job was not working out. I arrived about noon and after a quick stop to drop my luggage at the motel was driven to the set. It was a restaurant and I hardly sat down to read the script when Vincent Malle came to me and said I would have to read later as he was too busy to run the set. I met Andy who was the focus puller earlier this week when I went to a set to sell some Pocket Packs. He is an operator now and loves it. Well I met Louis Malle and Bert Lancaster, Susan Sarandon and Wally Shaun who was playing the waiter. He told me he was going to do a film with Louis. Fat chance I thought looking at this small round funny little man going bald. Little did I know that he was talking about "My Dinner With André."
The third day there we were to do shots in a parking garage where the cars were driven onto a platform which was on a revolving chain so the cars moved up until there was a circle of 8 cars. Robert Joy was to be killed as he tried to escape on the revolving platforms. The sun was not bright enough and so we had to go to cover as they say in films. Cover in this case was Burt Lancaster walking along the boardwalk and meeting someone in front of the shop. I had two policemen and 4 Production Assistants who knew very little about film making. Louis and I walked the half block to the boardwalk and I asked him what he wanted to see. He said the whole boardwalk in both directions. Impossible I said for I did not have the people to expedite the pedestrian control. Louis went away and I looked at it all to see what I could do. I realized I could give him enough boardwalk on either side of the store front so he could bring Burt in and out of the scene with the feeling of seeing lots of the wooden walkway but still be under my control. When I turned to suggest this I could see Louis sitting on the street curb with his head in his hands in despair. I could feel his energy all gone. It is a horrible feeling to sense your leader is in a hopeless state for it is like looking at a dead person: no evergy is coming off. I went over and in the a gentle but positive way asked him to come with me for I thought maybe we could do something that would satisfy him. Reluctantly he got up and went up onto the boardwalk again. I showed him my plan and he said that is what we would do. Despair comes to us all at times and along with it comes angels who want to help move you away from the feeling of hopelessness that surrounds despair.
The cold has come with the beginning of winter and Christmas is looming and I must now use all my energy to sell my Pocket Pack which is a perfect Christmas gift. I have used incredible energy up getting it to the market in the 8 weeks that it took me to design and create all the written material and make all the deals with the suppliers and measure my paltry bank account so everyone got some little bit of money for what they did to make it all possible. But this morning I despair of my task and so in writing this blog I gain some energy to realize that even great artists can despair and I can be a good angel not only to him but to myself as I coax myself back to action.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Getting older and wiser!!!

Yesterday it got cold and I in the late afternoon I went to a set to visit with some of my friends. It was out at the Brick Works in the Don Valley that cuts through the center of Toronto. Once a real open pit with kilns, it is now mostly abandoned although it is turning into a mid-city art installation. Now, before all the factory space is altered film crews go there to get seedy wrecked buildings to film in. Well, it was cold and my hands quickly felt the chill. The rewards of years of smoking have taken the toll of my circulation system and the chill sets in fast and deep. Undaunted I chatted with friends and sold my little Pocket Pack to those who know my Hollywood Survival Kit and could recognize the value of the good things in the Pocket Pack. Nothing against cold alas but lots against the sprained ankles that the slippery muddy half frozen ground would bring in the darkness.
I think often about age for I belie my years and can still hotfoot it around a set with the best of them. I look at those younger who do not move as well as I do and feel sad for them. I also look at those my age and older for role models as the years mount. Eli Wallach has to rate as an all time role model. I worked with him only once. In Halifax on a film called The Book Fair Murders. It was about a man who had stolen millions in paintings from a Jewish family in the second world war and at last was being caught for his crimes although they seemed somewhat justified. Eli Wallach was to play the old man. He was born in 1915 and we were going to film with him in 2000. He was 85. It was hard to arrange for him to come to us from New York as he was rehearsing a new play and his day off was Monday so we could fly him up on Sunday, film with him on Monday and he would fly home on Tuesday early in the morning so he could be at rehearsals that day. He did not miss work for any reason it would seem. He had two scenes to play supposedly by the sea where he had a sumptuous house. Robert Joy who I first worked with on Atlantic City was to play opposite him in both scenes. They were pivotal to the plot for Roberts character was the man who discovered the theft and one scene was an interview and the other reminiscences of his life as a young man in the employment of the rich and kind Jewish mogul. Both scenes were long and had very long speeches in them. I mean more that one page of Eli just talking about his past. He was arriving at 9 on Sunday evening and he asked that the final script be left at his hotel so he could check it against the script he was given to make sure he had the changes if there were any. He also asked to have a limo take him to set the next morning for he would polish his lines during the drive.
So this 85 year old man was going to fly to us on Sunday evening, although in the midst of play rehearsals which are not easy for there is script to learn and changes to be made in words and feelings and new people to deal with: a full time job and difficult time for any actor.
We were lucky for Monday was a sunny day although the temperature was around freezing. We had decided to go to Peggy's Cove, the famous tourist attraction that is on a rocky point that juts into the Atlantic ocean. With clever placement of the camera we could see just the roof and chimneys of the large pavilion there and it played as the rich man's house. We laid a dolly track in front of the bench where the two men were going to be seated. Wolfgang Panzer who was our director and a wonderful man as well as a great director could shoot the whole scene just moving up and down the track. A dolly back and forth while the scene played and then close ups. Wolfgang started with the close up of Ely's whole speech. We are talking about three minutes of straight monologue with the odd question thrown in. We had everything set up and lots of blankets and hot shots to keep Ely as warm as possible. He strode out and only his carefulness about where he was walking told us of his age. He was chipper, happy, friendly and met everyone with a handshake. He sat down with Robert and first discussed a couple of the changes that had been made in the script with Wolfgang. This only took a few minutes and all was ready. He rehearsed once with the camera so we could get our moves. He never missed a line or word in any of the speech. It was awesome as we went through shot after shot in one or two takes and always with excellent results. After we finished with Robert Joy's close up which was our last shot of the scene Eli called me over. He leaned forward and whispered to me. "Do you think we could do another take of my close up. I think I can do it better." I was awestruck that after three hours of sitting in the cold repeating this speech over and over he knew the nuances so well and remembered how he had delivered his first attempts in such detail that he could know this and that he wasn't tired or bored with it all. I went to Wolfgang who immediately said yes and we did one more take of the close up.
It was worth the effort. We did the next scene in the afternoon and finished the day with flying colours.
That evening Eli Wallach took the director, the actors the producder and me too out to dinner at a fine restaurant; about a dozen people. He regaled us with stories and talked quite a bit to Samantha Bond one of the more memorable Miss Moneypennys from the James Bond films. Eli I think had worked with her father who was a well known British actor. He could recall events clearly. He was a wonderful host and it was an honour to be at his table and to meet and be with such a gracious young old man. To this day no one of his age has matched him in my eyes. A very special person to me and a role model in every way.
By the way he made two films this year that are now in post production. Lets see now, he is 92 and I am sure still all here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Poncho's coming was a surprise.

The house already had me and three others renting rooms. We live quite happily. Tony came and asked about the small back room with its glassed in porch. 1910 style half windows about 10 x 12. Pancho had to move. Tony worked with him serving tables at the Keg and they were friends. I said for a month or two until he could find a good place and Poncho came, A thick healthy body and he came to clean the room which had not been lived in for a couple of years or more. He came up to my third floor office where I allow smoking. We talked a bit getting to know each other and his eyes were watering a and his nose running. He kept rubbing them. He was allergic it seemed. He said he was and his mother was worried that the dust in the mostly unused back room would set off an asthma attack. I said I had a pill that might help him with his allergy if he wanted it. He was trusting and said sure if you think it will help. Alium Cepa is what I gave him. He was in awe a few hours later having waded through all the dust and got the room together and not a sneeze. Homeopathy does its trick. The next day Tony and Andre decorated Poncho's room and made it really nice. Poncho asked me to explain what it was I gave him. I did and a few days ago I noticed when he got up which was late as he starts work at noon, I would hear him coughing clearing his lungs for a long time. I asked if he wanted to try my Mystic Air a herbal mixture of Rose Root, Coleus and Ginko Root. I do not have a bad throat but sufferers seem to love Mystic Air . I think he has a puffer but didn't seem to use it. Well it is now a week or so and he still is finding it useful on occasion. He is actually the first user of The Pocket Pack my new little purse full of great remedies. He has all the remedies and the pamphlet. He is a new user of Homeopathy and so this is his story. I am overjoyed by it for he takes the Pocket Pack to work. I think it is now in its second week of use. He carries it around in a zip lock bag. I am too tired to write more now for it is 3 am and I have an exciting day tomorrow when the kit contents arrive from Montreal and Peterborough arrive and the printing gets finished and delivered in the afternoon and if all goes well by tomorrow night we will have our first 250 kits filled. Exciting!!!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It is Sunday and the day is bright and friendly where I am just north of Orangeville. I am enclosing a picture of the view to the Bruce trail. This morning a flock of turkeys crossed the field, all in a neat row eating their way back to the forest they call home. We always look at them for they are beautiful.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Driving North the outside temperature is minus one
Wisps of snow against innocent trees herald whiter days
Soon it will be spring but in between it all
I hear bells jingling in crisp cold air.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Perseverence- Burning the barn

In life one has experiences that define you. Here is one that defines me. I was lucky enough to be able to Produce Henry and Verlin. It is a wonderful movie about acceptance and takes place in the countryside in 1935. It is about an autistic child, Verlin, and the relationship he has with his mentally retarded uncle, Henry. We shot the film north of Toronto on properties owned by the Government of Ontario and what was to be the Pickering Airport. There were farm house and churches and fields that were sub-rented to people while they waited final site plans and then all would be demolished. The main location where Henry lived was where the director actually lived year round. We rented a nearby 1960s bungalow for our offices and a large house for a cast house which we supplied with a great cook and wonderful wise man. We used a school house to store things and as our screening room so that each evening we could watch rushes. It was perfect. We found one house that was made of bricks and older that would be perfect for the grandparents to live in. There was an old falling down barn behind the house and the script called for a barn burning down and it was perfect. Just perfect.

I went to the Property Manager, two months before we were to go there to open offices and she accommodated all my requests. She made the leases easy and the rates as fair as I could ask for we were not rich. When she came to the "Burn the barn" request she looked up at me and said, "There is no way you will burn a barn down on our properties. No way!" I was shocked by the stridency of her reply. I thought for a couple of seconds and said that I understood she could not give me permission and would she give me her supervisor's number as I wanted to pursue my request. She laughed a bit and said sure and gave it to me.
I called this man the next day and sent him all the information about the film and made the same request, to burn the barn down.

He was more relaxed and not strident at all but said he could not really give me permission. I said I understood and asked if her would give me his supervisor's name. He said he would get back to me.

Two days later a P.R person for the Government called me back and I knew I was going to be dealt with. He said that it was impossible to burn down the barn as it was designated as was the house as historical. He gave me the name of a lawyer who had been assigned to me who would in future deal with me.

I called her and after hearing my story. She said it was impossible as there may be artifacts in the barn that should be saved before anything could even be thought about. She told me there were two Heritage organizations that would have to agree to all this and gave me contacts to each. She said the insurance would have to be dealt with as the Government would want deep coverage. Most importantly the county Fire Department had to respond to the request and be there when we did our barn burning. She was neutral to my plight but open and helpful in leading me toward resolution.

I went through the process with each of the Heritage organizations and they wrote letters to the lawyer regarding my request.
Both letters chastised the Government for not caring for the barn properly since they took over the properties and their inspections could find nothing of value to keep and in fact supported the burning of the building so at least it would not be a hazard to kids who might explore it and get caught in the collapse. The county Fire Department also agreed to attend and protect the main house and those involved.

I put the burning toward the end of the shooting period and now dealt with the difficulty of the insurance. Who would be in charge was a main question as special effects pyro is not for amateurs. By great luck the woman handling the legals was quick to pass things on and we sorted through each detail. We got our final permission the day before we did the burn.

The burn went off without a hitch and the first lady who said never was there representing the Property Management department. She sidled over in the middle of the blaze and shook my hand and said congratulations. It was a fine reward for my perseverance. The lady lawyer became a professor of law and uses my case to demonstrate the road blocks of Government red tape and that if you stick to the work you may get to the resolution you want. Henry and Verlin is a beautiful film to watch and feel and the viewer ends up having two new friends; one autistic and the other mentally retarded. It is a film about acceptance and I am proud to have been a major part of its making.

The next day

Friday, November 9, 2007

So much for proper drug testing!!!

Merck Agrees to Settle Vioxx Suits for $4.85 Billion

Published: November 9, 2007

Three years after withdrawing its pain medication Vioxx from the market, Merck has agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle 27,000 lawsuits by people who claim they or their family members suffered injury or died after taking the drug, according to two lawyers with direct knowledge of the matter.

I read the New York Times on line and this headline struck me for two reasons. The first is that Merck can be sued for so much money. I am sure it will not come to that much but it is amazing the profits that pharmaceutical companies make. They all cry that the research costs so much that they have to get their investment back through high prices. When I read headlines like this I question their research and think the money is spent on advertising and keeping the American public terrified about what the next big problem for mankind will be. It is a shame that the AMA does not take a more responsible position in examining what is being offered to the public and why. The FDA is not doing its job. So we the public are being led by profit makers and not by the folks who should be leading us. So emperical random testing is not a good answer for each person tested is different than the next and each mouse or rat is totally different than the human. Homeopathy on the other hand works on the basis of Like treats Like so a minute dose of Alium Cepa (red onion) will deal with a runny nose and smarting eyes and coffea cruda, a minute dose of raw coffee will stop the overactive mind. We all know that coffee causes over activity which is why we don't often drink coffee before bed time. So Like treats Like - what will cause something in a large dose when given in a small dose will trigger the body to deal with that symptom. That is how it works and the way they find out about remedies and create remedy profiles is by taking measured doses of the testing remedy and see what it will cause and once they know they use that substance in a small dose as a remedy for the symptom. Most remedies commonly used have been used successfully for at least 100 years. So when I put Arnica on my sore back I am following millions of others who for over 100 years have done the same thing and found relief. Not only that Homeopathic remedies have no known side effects. A lot different than the drugs that are being rushed into the market today supposedly tested and proved to be effective and safe. What a lot of hogwash we are being led to believe. I do not debunk medicine as a whole for there is lots good in the practice of it but I do feel they and we are being led astray by the idea that empirical testing is how to find positive proof of effectiveness and safety.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I lifted this article from todays New York Times. It is about the defeat of a tax on tobacco meant to help pay for health care for uninsured children. It is worth reading for it makes one recognize the depth of the corporate strength to continue to overpower the People. Corporations are run by people like you and I by and large. They have children and parents and friends like you but they also have Company policy which is to increase the bottom line of profits no matter who suffers. The corporation is a cruel anti-being with no moral code that it adheres to. We no longer live in countries with the power to lead people into better ways if it is not in the corporation's best interest. Our world is being stripped of its overall humanity in this way. It is a shame and the answer to it I do not know except that poverty and sickness will slowly erode profit and the corporation will perhaps lose its grip on mankind for there will not be enough money to support it. The stock market as a gambling den supports the corporation and the game played is like going to the race track and reading the cheat sheet to see who will win today. What a sorry state we find ourselves in when we are slaves to legal gambling that can alter our lives in a heart beat. When I was 21 I worked in a Toronto brokerage house as a cage clerk. I had a great time and there were "penny stocks" that some dealt in. These were stocks that were driven solely by rumor and speculation. There were mostly companies and corporations who were stable mature and caring "corporate citizens". They did not rise and fall on news so much and felt they had real obligations to their workers and the public. This is no longer the case as each company now scrambles for any news that will garner higher stock prices. Read the article below and imagine how the money spent to defeat this sensible tobacco tax could have been spent for the betterment of our condition as citizens.

Big Tobacco Defeats Sick Kids

One of the biggest disappointments in Tuesday’s election was the defeat of an Oregon ballot initiative that would have raised the state’s cigarette tax by 85 cents a pack to help pay for health care for uninsured children.

The outcome is a testament, more than anything else, to the shamelessness of the nation’s big tobacco companies. They spent an obscene amount of money on deceptive television ads designed to protect their profits, even at the expense of poor children. The results should not be allowed to diminish national concern about insuring those youngsters.

Tobacco firms led by Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds poured $12 million into defeating the initiative — about $3.33 for every Oregon resident, or $24 a vote. That’s about a dollar more per capita than the $60 million tobacco companies invested to defeat a similar California measure last year, according to The Associated Press. The health and civic groups fighting for health care for children were able to spend only a quarter of that.

The purveyors of Marlboro and Camel cigarettes did not win by disputing the urgent health care needs the initiative was meant to address, or the benefits higher cigarette taxes would bring by deterring smoking. They sought to hide behind a benign-sounding front group called Oregonians Against the Blank Check and proceeded to barrage voters with unscrupulous TV ads and mailings. Among other things, they stoked doubts that the funds raised would actually be used for children’s health care, and they manufactured an overblown controversy over amending Oregon’s Constitution.

The referendum said a lot about the power of money in any election, and not much about what the public thinks about the issue if given accurate and balanced information. The vote should neither deter Congressional Democrats from continuing to confront President Bush on expanding children’s health care under the S-chip program nor discourage other states from trying to do more to take care of the health of their children.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Is busy an excuse or a reason?

Here I have missed a day. I am so busy getting all the details of the manufacturing of my Pocket Pack finalized. The printing, the French pamphlet, the tube labels done, and the selling and the elation of people really loving the pack. I am also working hard on the promo for my on line book. It is going to be great fun to put together. So many things and last but not least is all the paperwork to satisfy the Health Departments on both sides of the border. So that is the reason or the excuse. I am not sure which for I did do some crosswords this morning. Two only. My mind does not give up habits easily. I know this from my past experiences. I have given up smoking twice. Once in Israel when I was in Tiberius on Yon Kipper. A beautiful silent day when from the 11th floor of the CPR (Canadian) hotel I could look across the water and see how close the Golan Heights are. You could hear children playing in the streets far below as no engines run on that special day. I was with my eldest son Jason who was on the Special Effects team. The first time he ever was in that department and now he has just finished Hulk 2 as the Effects rigging master. Wow. I had just bought a new can of Drum Tobacco and found it a bit stale and I could not find my rolling papers and so had resorted to a newspaper wrapper which when smoked tastes all chemical and horrid. I turned to my son and said, "What better day than this to give up smoking." I did from that moment for over 5 years and started again when someone gave me a Beedie(SP) from India. It is a piece of tobacco leaf with a little pink thread wound round the top to hold it together. Hah, I didn't think it was tobacco. But I got hooked. So it was a snap to stop and a snap to start again. The last time I quit was several years ago when I went to my brother Stefan's farm. Now Stefan and his wife Ann have a wonderful honey farm. Here is their web site: http://boardshoneyfarm.com/
Stefan was also a Ski area manager in his early days and is an awesome trainer. The Picture is stefan with my two sons, Simon and Jason who was in Israel with me. Simon worked with me too when he was younger and is now in Morocco filming on The Traitor. He is a first assistant director like me.
I was terribly out of shape and could not run up a flight of stairs without panting and I asked him to treat me like a patient recovering from a terrible sickness. He did and in one month starting by just having me go back and forth from the barn with light loads and me cutting back on food intake until I was just eating a bit of salad every day I went from ill to running a mile a day and loading concrete blocks and losing 25 pounds. On August 1st I was emotionally strong enough to say I will now quit smoking and I did for several years. It was a long month in a way, certainly much harder than quitting in Israel but I did. So there are at least two ways to quit smoking. I am again in the throes of getting strong enough emotionally to quit again for I started up on day about 4 years ago for a reason or an excuse I cannot remember now. It is an addiction no doubt about that and I will throw it off again for it does not give me a decent sum of self respect that I encourage others to have. I never think of myself as a role model but in this case maybe that will help me get the smoke monkey off my back. It is not impossible at all. I know it. It is just getting rid of the reasons and the excuses.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Going back to Standard time has a nice feeling about it for I wake up to the sun rising once again. Seems to make the daylight longer which is what it is supposed to do. The flip side is that the day ends earlier which is not so bad as it tends to make me work harder to get done my work before nightfall. Ah how we trick the mind. Gurus say the mind is devious and will do anything to trick us into inertia and too much thinking and that meditation is a way to train the mind to better serve us and not be the master of our actions. I guess what I am saying is that it is hard to get going every day and not do my crossword puzzles and play some solitaire to wile away the time in play and not get down to work. I think I am not alone in this but boy I sure have to kick my butt to get into gear. This blog is one of the ways I am doing this for it is an obligation I have undertaken and now I am getting into the habit of just sitting down and starting the day with writing. Mind you, not quite to be honest, for I did do the Times and Washington Post puzzles first today. But I am getting closer to having this be the beginning of my day. Even obligations do not guarantee action. They guarantee attitude and by that I mean fretting if I do not live up to my obligations and then getting into a bad mood. Mind will go through all sorts of excuses and promises of being better tomorrow and much time is wasted just finding excuses and many hours are spent in mind which are really just a waste of time and then other things are more pressing and so we can move on and forget the obligation for another time. And to add icing to the cake of procrastination there is the fact that under all the mind shenanigans we have that real center of our being, whatever that is, that is always saying, just do it now and get on with it. I am not complex really, just human and it always baffles me how I may want to do something positive and yet my mind will put up road blocks of its own that oppose my better energy. Actors can be like that and some really wonderful actors have to be pushed and shoved and threatened and even yelled at to come out of their trailers and do their work. It is legendary the difficulty poor assistants by the star Winnabagos have sometimes. After years of knocking on doors to get actors to set I now usually will try once and if I have no success I will call for a Producer who after all is losing the money and has a vested interest to get the actor moving. It is often fear that keeps the actor locked away from what they do best which is perform. For once I say "roll camera" the actor is now laid bare to the world and captured for eternity. I can sympathize with them a whole lot and my little experience making the rap video for my web site caused me lots of moments of anxiety before I just got on with it. Fears of can I do it, and will I look not silly, all the ego stuff we all have when we go out and expose ourselves, came rushing forward whether I wanted it to or not. I was lucky to have the Assistant Director inside me too saying they need you now and pushing me past my mind hiccups and so it went well but believe me just getting to let the camera roll and the director to say action was difficult. Not that each shot was not difficult to execute for I have a totally stupid mind when it comes to repeating lines. I was lucky to have a director and cinematographer who were patient and supportive. I cannot tell you how often I had to do each line as I would mix up the words of a simple sentence or just totally forget them until one would have thought I was totally brainless. Luckily we were shooting on a digital camera and so the camera just kept rolling until I would finally get it right. If we had been using film stock the cost of the stock alone would have been in the hundreds of dollars. In fact the whole shoot only cost about 250 dollars. The camera was lent to us and everyone worked for free and the only cost was the two memory chips we needed to store all the good and bad takes. the rest of the money went for the turkey I made the day before with all the trimmings. We had it for lunch and it was one of the best turkeys I ever made. I am still using the soup stock to make soups which now that the weather is getting colder sure taste good and are warming as well. So I feel for the actor who must be perfect in his chore whenever the set is ready for him to be captured on film forever. The set has no heart in that way for it says, " Now I am ready and when you hear 'Action' do what the director wants you to do". The set does not care about your personal feelings or you at all other than, its your turn to do your thing. Pretty heartless demanding. Acting is hard for when the camera rolls you have to be someone else entirely and on top of that do it where you rehearsed it to be done, exactly as you did it in rehearsal and make it seem as though you had never done it before. Not easy. I respect actors and their gifts and if I could remember lines I would act more for it is such a pleasure for me to discover someone else inside of me to come out and such a pleasure too in entertaining others. I enjoy it but it is hard to do.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

When I go to sleep at night

I got to sleep an extra hour last night as we have moved back to Standard time. This morning,well rested and relaxed in my 3rd floor attic/office, I heard the church bells ringing the Sunday morning call to service. It is an old ritual and there is something peaceful and embracing when I hear it.
Last night in the kitchen the guys were making food and we all relished in the fact that we would have the extra hour of sleep. It seemed like such a gift especially to the others as they are young men who go out on a Saturday night. My roomers are all in their 30s and work at restaurants or bars for wages and spend their free time pursuing their more difficult goals. One is acting and one is a bass jazz guitarist who has just returned from a contract in Germany and who is recording an album. It is exciting for me as we trade stories and ways of being and doing things. I have lots of experience because I am a freelance worker in a on and off profession and so have always had other irons in the fire. Even now I make smaller films while I write and work to introduce my wares to the public. I guess I would be classed as a multi-tasker. I have a kit called the Hollywood Survival Kit and one of the remedies in it is coffea 30 c. It is great for multi-taskers who just get jangled with too much information ending up with an overactive mind. Its also great when to stop the overactive mind at bedtime when thoughts seem to impede sleep in a palpable way. I was working on "A Hole in One" in Halifax that starred Michelle Williams and Meatloaf and some very fine actors. Meatloaf is a wonderful man, full of life and energy. He has great charisma and a work ethic not to be believed. While he was on the film he was writing and had his band up and was recording and even flew to gigs on weekends. He is a good actor and has such a good memory that he can remember what he physically and emotionally did on every take. It was uncanny when we came to do close-ups and he would ask which of the wide shots was best so he could repeat the action precisely. One night we made rain outside a door for a climactic scene where he stabs someone. We had to stop after two takes as we had run out of time and the next night when we came back to do the close ups he showed us his actions for both the takes of the night before so Richard Leeds our director could choose which set of movements were best. Not too many actors can do that. One day he came into my office that was on the main floor of a deserted hospital in Dartmouth across the bridge from Halifax. He said he heard I had some stuff for sleeping. I did not have to ask much to know he could not turn his mind off and he needed his sleep. I gave him a baggie of the little pellets that look like white BBs with the instructions to take one a half hour before going to bed. The next day he came to me all happy. "That stuff really worked. I took about 5 of them and slept well."
I feigned anger and said he disrespected me by taking more than one pill as I had prescribed. I told him that it did not change anything by taking two and the whole bunch only represented one dose if he took them at once. Well, he apologized and said he would follow my directions and only take one. Two days later we spoke again and of course being me I asked what happened and he grinned and said it worked.
Homeopathy works, it seems to be a kind of vibration that goes where it is needed to get the body moving in the right direction and one pill is the same value as two. Easy to understand the idea but very hard for many to accept it.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Saturdays are not always fun

When I was a child Saturday was a day of fun. Market, rollerskating madly about the roller rink with a hundred other kids , the Saturday matinee at the Savoy with cartoons and serials and popcorn and as much noise from screaming as the winning moment of the World Series and just not having to get up for school provided the anchor to bliss. A day of escape; no school, no violin practice and homework relegated to Sunday. Could I have asked for anything more? Now I check my email and get to read the New York Times on line and become immersed in crossword puzzles that stump me with unfaltering regularity. It has become a habit, Saturday and has lost some of its charm for I am not a weekly worker with days off to relish. Nonetheless I mark it with memories and find myself still looking forward to it as a somehow special day. I had sad news today that a five day old baby I did not know, the granddaughter of a friend, has not survived and succumbed to a heart problem and this has left me empty. I grieve and well could grieve for all those passing onward without the joy of participating in life to the fullest. Each of us is so lucky to be here on earth to visit for our time. It is a gift somehow that is bestowed in some miraculous way. To think and act and be a part of it all is the gift. I am fortunate. I try to contribute now to others, through my work on film sets sharing my knowledge and energy with all who come in contact with me. It is great fun for I am old and yet belie the fact both in my look and my deportment. My energy is high and my body as active as it always has been. So I can well be joyful and thankful too. So many are not up to snuff by the time they are 70. I am blessed. Some ask me how it is that I am this way and I have no answer that can satisfy, other than it must be just how I came together in the beginning. I have no secret. No special diet or regimen that I can spout as to how I am this way. So it is incumbent on me to use myself as best I can to love each day as though it was always Saturday when I was 10.
Impending strike the New York times headline says looms over the Writer's Guild in America and so thousands of people wait for Monday to hear if it is on or off. Long months ago the studios began to stockpile movies and the series rushed through episodes to ensure product for their many fans. It is like preparing for a long hard winter and putting down preserves to last. And all those who will be affected, the actors and the crews and the catering services and the hotels where visiting stars stay, wait to find out what will happen. It is too bad that we have not learned how to share appropriately with each other and now we are beholden to profit margins in board rooms that have no windows. I wish it were otherwise but it is not. The ultimate casino, the stock market now rules. Alas. And the Pharmaceutical industry is front and centre when it comes to profit at all costs. I read today too that now they are being called to task over cold remedies that are being used on children and that they are not as safe as once thought. They should be tested on children before they are deemed good, is the cry. I do not think I would want any child to be a guinea pig for a medicine of any kind. Sounds dangerous. But then drugs today are becoming more and more dangerous and companies try to fight against disease in more and more exotic chemical ways. The damage done to the wonderful animal, man, in order to get him better is amazing. I seem to be a chemical, electrical machine of some sort, beautifully crafted and balanced to work perfectly. To change the inner balances by killing parts of it which are deemed bad is to deny ourselves the chance to let our bodies rebalance themselves. To mask areas of discomfort with drugs is to deny us our birth rights to my mind. To use antibiotics on the body we seem hell bent on changing the natural dynamic of the body. I endorse and use Homeopathic remedies when I am ill. The remedies encourage the vital force of the body to wake up and do the work necessary to rebalance things. I cannot speak of chronic ailments with any studied background but I have experience in acute illnesses and how they were alleviated through the use of Homeoapthica and Flower remedies. I can tell you that the arthritis that plagued my left hand in 1987 does not bother me today. I can tell you some with experiences I gained on sets where I work, that for pain I use Arnica Montana in a homeopathic dose. It does not mask the pain like a pain killer does but the pain goes away. It has no side effects and I have watched many a sufferer feel better before my eyes. Working on cement floors of studios, standing for hours my lower back begins to ache. I cannot count the times I have taken a pill of Arnica to relieve the pain and succeed every time. On sets people often call me Dr. John which makes me laugh for I am not a doctor but do carry many remedies and diagnosing books and if people come to me for help I show them the page for the problem they have and they pick the remedy, and if I have it and they want it, I will give it to them. I then watch what happens and I have shared some huge laughs with people who never in their wildest dreams thought the pill taken would bring any relief. In truth, I am often amazed too. But my hundreds of experiences personally and with others has lead me to embrace the remedies wholeheartedly.
The first shot we took on "You Stupid Man" was in New York city on the West Side Running Track. A long dolly had been set up and our three main actors were going to walk and talk as they cooled down from jogging. William Baldwin and David Krumholtz were two of the players in the scene. Just as we were about to do our last rehearsal my constant companion Dana Ishiura came running over to me. "Your dolly grip is over there on the bench. He sneezed and his nose started to bleed. He says it has happened before and if it does not stop in a minute he will have to go to the hospital and have it cauterized. He shoved kleenex up his nostril and says the blood is running down his throat. Do you have that remedy that was used on the horse?" "Yes, it's in my bag in a milk white plastic bottle. Its Ferrum something or Phosphorous something." She went running and I went back to work wondering what I was going to do without this man who was in charge of the dolly that was key to the shot.
I began to get everyone ready and the same grip ambled over. There was no kleenex up his nostril. "I never thought that pill would do anything. I've taken tons of pills. I just took it to make your girl friend happy. What's in that stuff." The moment was devine for me. The horse story goes like this. I was in Budapest at the hotel in the coffee lounge trading stories bout homeopathic cures I had seen and our sound man's wife said she had a horse that was in her stable and someone had broken a pop bottle and not cleaned up the pieces and the horse bit into the glass and lacerated its palate and was bleeding profusely. She called the Vet and he came at once but said there was nothing he could do to help for even if he knocked the horse out he could not repair the damage done to the roof of its mouth. The horse would either stop bleeding on its own or would die. The lady remembered she was taking a Homeopathic remedy for excessive bleeding during her menstrel cycle and in desperation ran and got the pills and put some in the horses mouth. She said the horse stopped bleeding within two minutes much to the Vet and her surprise. I was lucky Dana was there and remembered the story for the remedy worked as well on that grip as it did on the horse. That man treated me with the utmost respect for the 5 days we shot in New York and whenever he had a spare moment he would tell me about medical problems he or his family members were suffering from and I would get out my books and find the page for him to read and he would read and make notes. It was most gratifying for me and I am sure if he followed up on his notes that he too would be admired for the cures he helped exact. Below is a picture of Denise Richards who was painted to look clothed for a shot in You Stupid man. It was a two hour paint job and she was patient and relaxed through the whole boring proceedure.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Grossmuter said it!!!

"Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are." I was maybe 12 and living in Hamilton, Ontario. when she said those words. That was 1946.
I was hanging out with a great group of friends and a couple of the boys had been in reform school. We got into little troubles like cutting through back yards and stealing apples off trees. But my grandmother after some incident said this too me as dire warning as to where I was headed. One of those boys saved me from a terrible beating by a bully who I challenged because he was picking on a smaller boy. I was on the ground being booted when he came around the corner just by chance. I was screaming in pain. I watched him grab my assailant by the pants and shirt collar and throw him right up in the air and into the middle of the road. And then he picked me up in his arms and carried me three blocks home. It remains one of the kindest acts anyone ever did for me.
Lately, for the last about 15 years, I have thought more and more about the idea of Friend and extended my grandmothers statement beyond the idea of human Friend. For me the idea, "Friend", has evolved to mean anything that I embrace, whether it is the food I eat or the music I listen to, the books I read or the politics I tout. And that is just a start of the idea and the importance of personal Friends for these Friends are in my brain and body define me. If I hate some person or group it defines me. If I follow the lurid details of a murder trial or watch only movies of violence or a SWAT team lock-downing down a street and having a shoot out, it pervades my thinking until I can become fearful and wary of people around me and become defensive in my thoughts and actions. I think this isolates me and so I steer clear of those kinds of programs as continual inputs. CNN from my point of view gets everyone crazy with fears and like the first news papers and those today as well, thrives on the disaster and news that has negative connotations. So Friend is what we put into our minds and dwell on, and export to others as to who we are. We all have choices about these things if we are aware and take a few moments to review our thinking. Examine if you will who we are. Just like changing your food intake from a high starch diet to something else to lose weight. so we can change what we are thinking about in the front of our consciousness if we choose all our Friends. I can get obsessed sometimes by input that I really don't think helps me be the person I want to be and maybe this happens to you too. Look at yourself and see what is dominating your own thoughts and ask is this how I want to define myself. How I want myself and others to think about me.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween a time for fun

Halloween is gone and the goons and goblins put away in cardboard cartons to await another airing. I love the idea of dressing up and having a different face. It has always been my fun to do so and often on set I dress to my own dress code. I suppose that the strangest incident that brought out this idiosyncrasy was in China when I was there filming MButterfly. It was totally an awesome trip with Jeremy Irons and Jon Lon and of course David Cronenberg and many of our Canadian crew. We even filmed on the great wall. I remember my first visit to the wall when we climbed the steps to the tower we were going to film from. Every step was a different hight and a different depth so you had to look down or you would trip. I could not believe what seemed to me to be very bad workmanship until I realized if I was an enemy I would have to look down on every step to see where I was going and at night it would be impossible to go up without tripping. I guess the Chinese defenders were trained to go up and down blindfolded both forwards and backwards giving them a tremendous advantage in defending the wall. On the day that we filmed we saw about a mile away at the next tower a bright reflecting light. We investigated as it was spoiling the picture. It was a film crew just like ourselves filming a fashion show. Can you imagine the laughter that in the thousands of miles of wall two film crews would be so close to one another. Luckily they were gone in an hour and out scene was as it should be. In Beijing we shot streets and comings and goings which would be used in the film. We did most of our interiors for China in Toronto. That was odd to in that the studio we filmed in used to be Toronto Iron Works and in 1960 one of my last jobs before I went into show biz was as an xray technician at Toronto Iron Works and I worked in the same huge building back then xraying large boilers to make sure their welds were perfect. Shooting MButterfly was the next time I ever went there so it had a certain special meaning for me.
In Beijing we did the play in a local play house. It was down an alley and on first look hard to imagine that a 400 or so seat theatre could be anywhere nearby but then that is the surprises found in the city. So Jon Lon was going to sing with the Opera group and we loaded in and prepared for our first day. We had about 300 extras and the scene was the first time Jeremy sees Jon and is infatuated by him. One major problem we had was that it took Jon about 3 hours to do his makeup. He was trained in classical opera and rehearsed himself tirelessly to bring back the skills he had learned as a teenager and young man so that in the end he could once again perform his own singing. He did not take kindly to the heat and because alll the make up was pancake make up we had to worry about him sweating. After much fuss we were able to get two air conditioners put in the room he was to use as a dressing room. I planned the day to use 4 hours of insert shooting of the other singers and the players to give Jon time to do his makeup without rushing. Everything was going along swimmingly until one of my assistants came to me and said that a spot of white had flaked off Jons cheek and he said he would have to begin again as there was no way to repair it.
I thought for a moment and told my assistant to tell Jon that I would only do wide shots and a small blemish would not be noticed. It was disaster to the day if I could not film him for it would have meant turning all the lights in the other direction to do the audience and Jeremy's side of the scene. My assistant came rushing back and said it was too late and Jon had already begun to strip off his white face. I was distraught to say the least. Not my fault but now my problem to reorganize the shooting to satisfy the bad situation. We all discussed what to do and the orders were given and in a moment of I frustration I ran behind the stage to the large room that the other singers and performers were using as a dressing room. I said I had two minutes to spare and I wanted them to make up my face. It would make me feel better. And they did. Two of the singers came over and after a quick exchange decided on what character they would make me up as. It did only take a couple of minutes to do and for the rest of the day I ran the set looking an odd mixture of things. The Chinese audience laughed when they first saw me but took my orders to watch and clap and enjoy so we accomplished Jeremy's entrance and all his close ups and the day was saved. When I was doing The Bay of Love and Sorrows in New Brunswick it was Halloween and there were some lovely make ups done and the make up lady there did my Chinese face once again for me to enjoy.