Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Blow Must Go On!

I spent the last couple days in Manhattan, a city known for – among many other things – Broadway. I then learned of the stagehands’ strike, meaning that you’re stuck with off – Broadway shows. There were some interesting titles, like Die Mommie Die or I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. I ended up seeing Frankenstein, keeping up on the mad scientist theme, and quickly realized how they handled the stagehands strike. At no point in the entire musical did anything on the stage change. Hm. OK. The off – Broadway stagehands weren’t even on strike, either, evidently they just couldn’t think of any way to change the stage. Clever lighting and projection made up for some of it, but stagehands matter. Everyone there matters. Hence the below.

The Blow Must Go On!

Inspired by the ongoing Hollywood writers’ strike, and the Broadway stagehands’ strike, beleaguered producers declared that they, too, will go on strike until they get more money, respect, and better working conditions. Demands included upgraded private jets, the right to beat caddies, free vials of virgin actress tears, and the immediate release and reinstatement of Heidi Fleiss.

Mel Brooks, producer of The Greedy Producers and the upcoming Young Frankenstein the Greedy Jew, tried to explain. “We only want what’s fair. If we pay the stagehands, and writers, and the piss-boys, I mean janitors, and those elevator fixer guys, and all these other little people, what would be left for us? It’s good to be the king. You wanna go see this off – Broadway schlock like Die Mommie Die or I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change? Feh! I have plans for two new and totally original musicals, called Go Fuck Yourself, Grampa and Ethel’s Husband Tried Cialis.”

Charlie Sheen, producer of Two and a Half Men, agreed. “People don’t understand producers, our special circumstances and needs. Like, I don’t think people appreciate how important coke really is in Hollywood production. I give more lines to celebrities than any writer ever could. Just last week, I was trying to get things moving with this actress for our show. I was going through the usual casting routine, and the little bitch kept saying she was married. Took nine lines of Columbian table wine before she finally went into V fib and I could finish the deal. But then it all worked out, I nailed, I mean, she nailed the role. Ya got no show without no blow. Sometimes we go through a few grams just to wake up in time for morning cappuccino.” When Sheen was told that this was enough cocaine to kill anyone but a severe addict, he laughed, winked, paused, then began to cry.

George Lucas added, “We don’t really need writers. In The Empire Strikes Back, I paid Lawrence Kasdan to help write the screenplay. Cost me thousands. In the first two Star Wars movies, I wrote near everything myself. Jar Jar, the dialog between Anakin and Padme, all me. Did anyone complain? What? Well, fuck you. People will still come to movies with lines that flop off the tongue like, um, like….”
“Kitty’s last hairball?” commented a nearby striking writer.
“Methuslah’s drool?” replied another.
“Fast acting poison!” said a third.
“Sloth vomit!”
“A narcoleptic diver!”
“Woody Allen’s condom!”
“The American dollar!”
“What the fuck are you doing?!” shrieked the fattest. “We’re on strike! No more writing!”
“Yeah! We should get paid for this!”
”But what about the pure fun of writing?”
“What?! No, no, no!! If there’s one thing any good writer hates, it’s amateurs! No more writing. Stop. Now.”

Sunday, November 11, 2007

San Diego burning bright

Almost a month since my last post. After the grant fracas, I visited some old American friends in Munich and then Salzburg. We hit the legendary HofBrauHaus in Munich, which was great fun, though we noted that most people there seemed to have the exact same accent we did. In the Englisch Gardens, we had a beer and crispy blob of deep fried pig fat (schweinhaxe) at an outdoor pavilion. I gotta relay an exchange that Sam and I overheard from someone ordering at the beer counter.

(jackass speaking English): Can I get a glass of water?
(answer in heavily accented English): The river is over there!

On Sunday the 21st I flew from Bremen to San Diego. My last flight was from Denver to San Diego. I was trying to sleep and kept getting interrupted with stupid annoucements about the Red Sox game or our location or other uninformative trivialities. Good evening from the captian and your Boston - based flight crew this evening. We have now leveled out at 31,000 feet. We have a clear flight to San Diego, so I'll turn off the seat belt sign, and you're welcome to move about the cabin.

(you turned it off five minutes ago, and there are three people waiting in front of the midgalley lavatory.)

Weather there is about 68 degrees this evening, no chance of rain.

(duh. Lemme sleep!)

We hope you enjoy the view of the Rocky Mountains below us. We're expecting an on - time arrival in San Diego this evening. And the Sox just scored!

(OK, I want a fucking volume control on announcements from the captain.)

And on either side of the plane, you can see a lot of things, or could if it weren't dark. And now we're starting our initial descent. The Sox just got a double! One of them scratched his nads! And now you can see some the fires on the left.

(hmmpf? snort? pah. must have misheard. back to sleep.)

It's 3-2, Sox, middle of the fifth! Off to the left you can see Mexico.

(Of course you can, shut up!)

We might have a slight delay because of the fires, but we should arrive on time. And the Sox ...

I heard none of this, since I bothered to open an eye after the first clause. That was the first I learned of the fires. I was in SD until Nov 7, when I had to give a talk for the Society for Neuroscience conference. There was never any real threat to my family or home, but it was still intense for the first week. My mom and I drove up Interstate 15 on the 28th and it was an unholy tangle of writhing black skeletons. Smoke hung in the valleys, puffy choking wraiths spawned from the gaping gash of my homeland. Each hill was respite, and then you had to plunge through mustard gas again. The air was bad enough that we had to turn around and go home, grateful we had one.

I edited out a lot of further commentary about the fires, although I enjoyed writing some of it. Poetic whining is still whining. One funny note. One of the local blogs had an entry titled "Eatin' Good at the Q." Qualcomm Stadium was used as an evacuation center. All the news channels said it was very well stocked, with a slew of volunteers and donated goodies. Somebody - I would guess an SDSU undergrad (and not an evacuee) - worked out that he could get free meals there. He described free BBQ ribs, hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, mexican food, bottled water and soda, etc. Day after day. Now of course this is total bullshit in a time of crisis, and initially made my blood boil like the sap must have on millions of ancient pines. But then I had to laugh. As dad once said, the word "sophomoric" is in the dictionary for a reason.