Friday, March 6, 2015

Queue Tips: Better Watch Saul

I liked "Breaking Bad", but I wasn't like crazy die-hard about it like other people seem to be. It started out pretty good, but I wasn't too crazy about a couple of their seasons (2 and 3, I think). Still, it was better than a lot of other shows out there. Killing off some characters helped, and I felt like the series was really strong near the end.

One thing that I was hated that constantly kept happening, is how Walter keeps surviving by bargaining with his enemies. They would have him tied up, getting ready to shoot him, and for some reason, they stop at the last second and listen to him talk them out of it. Other shows do this, too, and

I just find it real annoying and lazy. And it just kept happening in "Breaking Bad". Well, just on the second episode of its spinoff, the same scenario has happened already.

Nonetheless, "Better Call Saul" is an excellent series. It is obviously done by a seasoned cast and crew. It is well done overall, from the cinematography, to the acting and editing.

I never realized what the name Saul Goodman meant until the character actually spelled it out for everyone. It's all good, man. LOL

Anyways, check it out if you haven't yet. Better watch "Better Call Saul".

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Queue Tips: Cheers to Cheers

I don't know. Maybe it's my fault that the Patriots won the Super Bowl. You see, in order to avoid all the pregame shows, I decided to watch "Cheers" on the weekend of the big game. Maybe if I had chosen to watch "Frasier" instead, the Seahawks would have won.

I had been watching "The Office" throughout the fall. Following the story of Jim and Pam made me want to revisit Sam and Diane. So I decided to rewatch the Boston based sitcom.

Interestingly, we were watching "Cheers" while we were pregnant with Timeout Boy six years ago. Then when he was born, we were watching "The Office". When he was a little toddler crawling around the living room, he would always look up whenever the theme song played and then return to playing once the music was over.

Anyways, I gained a newfound appreciation for Shelley Long this time around. She was really amazing and funny. Her writers actually created a great role for her.

I never realized that before. When I first watched the series, Kirstie Alley was the female lead. I had already grown fond of her when I realized that there had been someone else before her.

The show used to come on after the ten o'clock news on Channel 11 in New York. I remember the news anchor (usually Kaity Tong) would always say at the end of the broadcast, "'Cheers' is next." And then "Cheers" would be next.

I was 12 years old when I first discovered the show. Or maybe 13. I was in the seventh grade. It's kind of funny how it happened, but it's sort of been how I've gotten into new things.

When I first came to America at 11 years old, I used to just watch whatever shows my mom was watching. They were shows like "Full House", "America's Funniest Home Videos" and Columbo TV movies or something. On New Year's Eve 1992, while staying up to welcome 1993, WPIX-11 had a "Honeymooners" marathon. So I watched that, and I learned that it came on at 11:30pm. So I programed the VCR to record it at nights. I would watch it in the mornings, and I would always catch the tail end of "Cheers".

I remember just seeing the credits appearing on that shot of the empty bar. That image, along with the soft saxophone (I think) always gave me a melancholy feeling. It made me feel like I just missed a fun event. And it being a bar, and me going through puberty, it was like I had missed out on on a mature grown up adult event. And it kind of made me curious of what it was.

I think I saw a story on TV Guide or something. After all, it was the number one show on television. I don't remember which I watched first, the syndicated reruns or the current primetime show. I think it was the Thursday night show though, because I would have still been up for that. But then later on, I started taping the 11pm reruns.

In the mornings, I would wake up, rewind the tape and watch the previous night's rerun. That was my morning routine while I changed for school. And I timed it just so I finished the show before having to leave the apartment.

So I moved on from Ninja Turtles and G.I. Joe to Sam and Rebecca and Norm and Cliff.

At the time, the show was on its 10th season, while the reruns were of Season 9 at the time that I began tuning in. There was the 200th episode show, and that was when I first saw Shelley Long and learned about Diane Chambers. As well as Coach Pantuso. Eventually, the reruns went back to the first episode. I never fully appreciated those two characters, I think, because in the back of my mind, I was just waiting for when Rebecca Howe and Woody Boyd would come along.

This time around, after not watching the show for a few years, I was able to just enjoy each episode. Again, I found Shelley Long simply amazing. I think it was actually great for the show that she left. The producers and writers were able to take everything away from the lead character and start over. And they brought in a new lead who was totally different from the previous one.

It's funny that some of the things that I never thought about as a kid kind of bother me now. Like how the characters would always come to the bar before and after going anywhere. They would come in dressed up for their trip, or they would lug their luggage down the steps say goodbye to the gang and then carry their bags up to the street again. Things like that.

I was pretty smart as a kid, and aware of certain things, but there were jokes that I originally didn't catch. I also noticed that they seemed to try to make the bar patrons diverse in the background. It doesn't make up for the fact that the cast was all white. Or that one of the first times a black guy had multiple lines, he was brought in to indicate a threat of violence.

Anyways, it was good that the show ended when it did. They were pretty much running out of ideas, and they were able to leave on a high note. (Unlike "The Office", and I'll get into that later.) But obviously, "Cheers" was able to influence the situational comedy genre. Like the elaborate pranks you see on "The Office" or the inane conversations on "Seinfeld" or the adult jokes on "Married... with Children".

And I'm not sure about this, but they were probably the first to have a shortened theme song. I think this came about during the to-be-continued episodes around Season 4 or 5. They edited a shorter version of the song, and flashed the names fast to fit it. I also noticed that they added the background "Ah-ha"s on the fourth season as well. I remember thinking that it sounded like it was Woody singing the song, and then there was an episode where he sings the Kelly song on the piano.

I guess I'll check out "Frasier" next. I've only seen a few episodes of it. I was never really into it, although I never hated it or anything. It's funny that he mentioned that his parents were dead on "Cheers" (Season 4, I think).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Queue Tips: So far to go.

I don't really understand the point of it.  A great film like "Fargo" didn't need to be cannibalized and regurgitated into a lame TV series.  I'm not sure how the Coen Brothers feels about allowing their work to be adapted, but it just totally pales in comparison.

The overuse of the theme music took away the scenes' poignancy.  Most of the characters were trying to hard to be quirky.  And the writers decided to simply lift some dialogues straight from the film, as well as some moments that resemble those in "No Country For Old Men".

I didn't know what to make of Billy Bob Thornton's character.  He seemed be derived from Anton Chigurh.  He had the same strange mannerisms and odd conversations with other people.  They even gave him an odd haircut.

And I found a lot of the situations too preposterous to suspend my disbelief.

Thornton plays Lorne Malvo, a cold-blooded killer.  He has murdered so many people in his past.  Somehow he had gotten away with them.  So an experienced criminal doesn't have enough discipline to drive carefully?  So he gets stopped by a cop, and he threatens the cop, and the cop is so scared that he lets him go.  And also, he pays cash at a motel and yet signs his real name on the ledger.  Shouldn't this guy have dozens of aliases by now?

Lester Nygaard conveniently meets Malvo at a hospital.  Malvo had a small injury from a crash.  Later on, when he literally breaks a leg, he tries to fix it himself.  But for a minor boo-boo, let's go to the emergency room.

Nygaard was at the hospital because he broke his nose after a confrontation with a bully.  The bully was insulting his wife, whom he wants to kill anyway.  It was the prototypical movie type of bully, with two quirky bully sons.

So Malvo plants the thought into Lester's head to kill the bully.  I actually liked this aspect of his character.  He simply liked to mess with people.  He urges them to do evil things and watches.  But with Lester, that wasn't the end of it.  He actually goes out of his way and kills the bully.  Without getting noticed, caught, or leaving a trace.  Except that he signed his real name on the motel's ledger.

I guess he felt invincible?  I mean, earlier he abducted a guy out of his office in broad daylight without anybody stopping him, calling security or the cops.  And in this day and age, all they could come up with is a grainy framegrab from a security.  Oh wait, this was in the dark ages of 2006, so I guess I can buy that.

So now, there's two guys who are looking for the bully's killer.  One of them is deaf.  He just is.  Will it pay off later on with a scene where his deafness helps or dooms him?  No, he's just deaf.  (There sort of is one scene where stuff happens behind him while he is drilling on the ice, but you could have written that the drill's noise was just too loud for him to hear.)

The discovery of the money in the snow had a lot of potential.  Unfortunately, a lot of that remained untapped, in my opinion.  Some guy's car runs out of fuel right next to where the suitcase is buried.  And then he just goes over there and digs, thinking God gave it to him.  Meh.

To be sure, there are some good moments in the series.  Lester finds himself in the same place as the two goons he thought he had escaped.  The whiteout hunt in the snow was intriguing.  And Lester coming up with an idea from seeing his nephew's picture.  (Though the payoff to that was pretty lame: the kid's bag simply falls to the floor.)

So anyway, Malvo, instead of simply hiding behind the trees or something, allows himself to be arrested by Duluth officer Gus Grimly.  Even if he was certain he would have a rock solid alibi, wouldn't the logical choice be to simply evade arrest instead of being handcuffed, possible receiving physical abuse and locked up in a couple of hours?  Wouldn't you just rather avoid the inconvenience.  Why not just step behind the tree and see if the police car continues on its way?

In Bemidji, Deputy Molly Solverson has been working on the bully and Mrs. Nygaard's murder even though her Police Chief Oswalt forbade her to.  Yet, when she finds out that Malvo is in custody, she decides to tell the chief about it.  She even interrupts a meeting to do so.  He conveniently takes over, leaves her behind, and Malvo ends up free again.

And then there is the elaborate blackmail scheme, making a religious businessman believe that God is after him.  And the elaborate scheme to get a blackmailer shot to death by a SWAT team.

Later, Malvo kills three people in a Las Vegas elevator right in front of Lester.  He allows Lester to get away.  He then travels all the way to Minnesota just to kill him.  Why not just kill him right there?  Why didn't he kill him earlier?  Really, dude?

Anyways, apparently a lot of people like this show.  It has been nominated for numerous awards.  They have announced a second season.  Maybe it will be good.  As for the first, instead of watching the ten episodes, I recommend simply watching the original film six or seven times on a loop.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Another One

So the other my wife and son were in the car on the way home from school. They were listening to Queen and singing along to "Another Bites the Dust".

After a few minutes my son goes, "Mommy... Does that mean somebody bite the dust and then somebody else bite it again?"

And then yesterday morning, he was singing, "We will, we will rock you."

So I say, "Oh, no! You are gonna rock me?"

He laughs and says, "No, Daddy. It's just a song.  I will not turn you into a rock."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


So the other day, I was watching a music video on youtube on my phone.  And my kid was watching with me.  The song ends, and he yells into the phone, "Sing it again!"

Monday, March 3, 2014

Queue Tips: Zzzzzz

When Hurricane Sandy happened, I was terrified.  I mean, I kept pretty calm but I really didn't know what to expect.  I didn't know how long the power outages would last and how people might react.

In addition to lack of electricity, we had no cell phone signal.  My wife, my son and I had no communication with the outside world for a couple of days.  Our neighbors didn't know much of what was going on either.

We sat in the car to listen to the radio.  That was how we got our news updates.  And how we charged our cellphones.  For some reason, our cell signal was also stronger there.

One neighbor told us that the signal was stronger at the train station, so we walked there.  There were people milling about, some with their cellphones raised in the air.  Some were charging their devices in whatever outlets they could find.

It was pretty peaceful.  But in the back of my mind, I kept wondering what would happen if this situation didn't improve soon.  Would society eventually break down?  How would I fend for myself, let alone for my family as well?

That is what I thought I would see based on the trailers of "World War Z".  I thought it was about war breaking out and a man having to protect his family through it all.  What kind of sacrifices would the main character suffer through for his wife and kids, and what kind of horrible acts would he be willing to do to others to insure his family's safety?

I thought it would be like "The Walking Dead" without zombies.

And then I watched it, and it turned out to be just another zombie movie.  The Z is for zombies.  Only, unlike "The Walking Dead", this was lame and boring.

It was more like World War Zzzzzz, as in the sound you make when you're snoring.  Because you are so bored that you are sleeping through it.  Or maybe I was just lost because I didn't see parts A to Y first.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Don't hate, facilitate.

Okay, well, I'm not sure where to begin with this one.  Earlier this summer, an old friend of mine reached out to me to see if I would be interested in editing something for a buddy of his.  (I'll call my friend Francis Talk, and his buddy is Yuri Nasole.)  I'm just going to kind of rant here.

So anyways, Yuri gives me this detailed email with a schedule: the rough cut for him in about a week, another draft for the client a couple weeks later, and then the final version about a week after that.  So after taking a look at their other work on their website, I decided to take a chance to see where this would lead, and I actually held off on making plans for the summer.

Francis was supposed to drop off a hard drive with the footage earlier that week, but I didn't hear from him.  On Saturday, while I was at the park with my family, I get this text from Yuri that since Francis can't drop off the hard drive (no sh**, really?) he can do so since he is on his way to NYC.  So rather than enjoying the afternoon, I'm now having to scramble and head back home to meet this guy.  After a while, I realized that I can probably just meet him at the mall since that is right by the tunnel.  So we meet there and he hands over this LaCie hard drive with a USB 3.0 micro output.  It had been raining torrentially hard just minutes ago, but he's holding the thing like a loaf of bread.  I stuff it into my pocket and go back to my family.

We stayed home that night and the rest of the weekend.  One of the instructions was that they wanted everything to be 1080p 24 because they "like the film look" and don't like the "video look".  But for some reason they shot half of it in 50 fps so I would have to convert it.  Fine.  I have the Adobe Suite so I used Media Encoder to convert everything.  That pretty much tied up my computer.

Here are some of the "style suggestions" I received:
Sound bites should be no longer than 30 seconds or so.
Each interviewee should not be on camera on the same shot for more than 10 seconds.
Optional: Add some light flares or soft glow effects throughout.

The following week, I go through the footage during downtime at work.  I'm taking mental notes, doing some basic assembles of the interviews and paring down the B-roll.  After a couple of days, I'm getting confused as to how to get this down to 9 minutes or so, and I'm not sure how to deal with dozens of hours of footage in such a short amount of time.  So I look back at their website to familiarize myself with their style, and then it hit me.  Some of that footage is from their old projects.  And they didn't tell me.  So I email Yuri Nasole to confirm and he says, oh yeah forget about that other stuff.  So yeah.  They told me they were giving me a hard drive containing 160GB of footage but failed to tell me to ignore 100GB worth of it.

And how much of that 60GB was actually usable, by the way?  They shot with 3 DSLR cameras.  How do I know?  One way to tell is the folder structure on the hard drive.  Another is that I can see the other cameras in the footage whenever they would walk into each other's shots.  They also had no lights and used monopods instead of tripods.

And they kept starting and stopping their recording whenever they felt like it.  There was absolutely no way to efficiently synch this footage.  And much of it was junk anyway.  Like, why are you framing that soda can in the foreground?  How does that pseudo-artistic junk pertain to the message?  And why are you shooting these people chewing away during their lunch meeting?  How do you figure they or anybody else would ever approve of that going into their marketing video?  And really, 30 seconds of b-roll is enough, right?  Argh!  I could go on and on.

So let me go on and on.  One of the cameramen was supposed to convert time-lapse footage for me, but it never came.  Apparently, he was busy working on other projects.  And how did they shoot their time-lapse?  Clicking still frames every few seconds.  Loudly clicking.  Which is being picked up by the other cameras, making the other shots unusable because of that audio.

So after wasting most of the week, I redo the entire project and stay home again during the weekend.  I get him the rough cut by the deadline.  I send him a hi-res version via Dropbox and a lo-res version through  He emails me back to thank me and that he will "watch it tomorrow".  So after he's wasted my time, and after I've hustled my ass to meet his deadline, he can't take a few minutes to watch it and get back to me.

So I don't hear back from him for a couple of days.  Then on Wednesday, he emails me and wants to know when is a good time for a phone call so we can go over the changes.  So we schedule it for Thursday at 4pm.  The appointed time comes.  And he calls me from his car.  While driving.  In traffic.  And then he asks me if he can call back later that evening because, you know, he's in his car driving in traffic.  So I said, okay.  So while I blocked off time to talk to him, time that could have been used more productively, he couldn't plan ahead so as not to be operating a vehicle and endangering his life, and more importantly, the lives of others at that specific agreed upon moment.

So later on, I head home and after exiting the subway, I get this voicemail that says tomorrow would actually be better for him so he'll call me tomorrow instead.  Tomorrow comes and he calls me.  This time he's not driving a car.  He's in some kind of cafeteria.  And it's loud.  And I can't hear a damn thing he's saying.  I'm not sure why he couldn't just email me days ago when I first sent out the rough cut.

So after a whole bunch of "what?", "sorry?", and "can you repeat that?" I get his feedback, and pretty much, he wants to overhaul the entire thing.  He wants the sequence backwards, wants to change the music and lower third graphics.  I tell him it would be best if he gives me copyright free music that he already has and already knows that he likes.  (I don't mention the fact that obtaining music costs money.)  He agrees to do so.  He also volunteers to give me a graphics template.  I tell him that it's no problem to make all those changes and I'll confirm when I receive the music and graphics.

I also bring up the fact that the audio quality is terrible.  At one point, they had interviews with people in the middle of a party.  They pinned a lavalier on them instead of using a cardioid or something.  And I'm pretty sure nobody was monitoring it, or they might have figured out that the audio sucked in that room.  Why don't we step outside for a few minutes while we conduct this interview?  Because otherwise, we would be just wasting our time, the interviewee's time, the client's time, and more importantly in this case, the editor's time.  So he tells me he realizes that the audio is terrible so "just do what you can".

Days go by, and I don't get anything from him.  Then the second deadline comes, and still I get nothing.  At that point, summer is nearing its end so I made last minute plans to go on vacation.  Of course, the hotel rates were not ideal, but we went anyway because we had no choice.  And I took my laptop and his footage with me.  My vacation comes and goes, and I don't hear from him.  Then the final deadline comes.  So I said screw it.  I don't know what happened, and I don't care to know.  Either they had a copy of the footage and they worked on it on their own, or the project is FUBAR.  If it was the latter, I wasn't going to facilitate the project for them for the amount of money I was getting ($500 for the entire project, which was nothing compared to what I would be getting if it had been at my hourly rate).

So about two weeks after the final deadline, I get this voicemail from Yuri Nasole.  "Hey, I'm sorry I haven't gotten back to you, but I've been busy with other projects."  Huh?  Why even mention your other projects?  Like I'm supposed to be understanding of your ineptitude because you had other priorities than the one you took me on?

But wait, there's more!

He goes on, "Luckily, I was able to get an extension by promising the client two extra short videos at no charge."  Goodie for you.  And then he asks me if I can get the final version turned around quickly.

But wait, there's more!

He then asks me to re-upload my draft because somehow the link doesn't work anymore.  Because he didn't actually download it or anything, I guess.  The project being so important that he just leaves it wandering around in the internet somewhere ready to come back to him at his beck and call.  And then he says, once he's seen it, he can get back to me with his notes.

But wait, there's more!

He then adds an encouragement that we should get this done quickly so that we can work on other projects.  Apparently, he's got so many other opportunities waiting in the wings.  That certainly makes it worth my while having to deal with this hot shot professional producer.

He also asks me for some raw material and how big they are so he can clear space on his Dropbox account.  So I tell him it'll be about 14GB and that I don't have enough space in my Dropbox, but if he gives me his account info, I can upload it.  He gets back to me with his email.  So I'm thinking, um, I already know your email.  We've been emailing each other.  And I know how to send out a link once it's uploaded.  What I actually need is your account info, i.e. your username and password so I can actually upload it to your account since I don't have enough space in mine, as I have previously stated.

So while I'm going through this material, he then texts me and says, "Never mind.  It turns out Francis actually has those files so don't worry about sending them."  This was on a Friday night, and I went out to dinner with my family.

He then adds, "In the interest of time, since Frank Talk and I are used to working fast together, can you please send over the project file so he can drop it into his timeline?"  I text him back and say it is not a problem and that I will do it once I am home.

Later that night, I sent the both of them an .XML file, which should open in whatever version of FCP they're using, as well as Adobe Premiere.  I don't hear anything back.  No acknowledgement.  No confirmation.  No "let me see if it works and get back to you".  No "it doesn't work you *&%#$&(*^" or anything.

So around 4pm on Sunday night, I get this text from Frank.  He says he can't find this footage of so and so, and can I please upload it to Dropbox.  I tell him no problem.  I will need somebody's account info.  He texts me back with his email.  So finally, it hits me that I need to spell it out for them, and I text him back that I will need a username and password to an account that has enough space.  I finally get the account info and proceed with the upload.  This ties up my computer for the night.  Actually, it ties it up for a couple of days, even though I have FiOS.  Again, I get no acknowledgement or confirmation that they are seeing the files and are downloading them.

I check the files, see that they have successfully uploaded and that they are being deleted soon after.  Then after a couple of days, I am no longer able to access the account.  I guess they got what they needed and changed the password.  So now I'm not able to unlink my computer from their account and every time I log on now it's looking for me to enter their username and password, which is really freaking annoying.

But wait, there's more!

Days go by, and late Thursday afternoon I get another text from Francis.  "Yuri Nasole is going to be in your area this evening and wants to know if he can swing by and pick up the hard drive."  I text back, "I won't be available but I can FedEx it to him if you give me the address."  He replies, "He really needs it today.  It's urgent.  If you're going to be home late or whatever, it doesn't matter.  He can swing through late.  Or if you can drop it off at The Swinging Hip Cat Place Downtown because he knows the owners there.  The point is he needs you to accommodate him somehow.  He needs that drive tonight."

So again, Yuri Nasole's lack of preparation is turning into my emergency.  I could have given him that hard drive days ago.  Actually, weeks ago.

I really don't know how these guys can sustain this kind of workflow.  They are probably wasting too much time on projects than they should.  And it seems like they are too busy acquiring more jobs to actually oversee them.

Anyways, my mistake was in assuming that they knew what they were doing.  And I guess it was wrong of me to bite my tongue instead of telling them outright how it should be done.  If this had not been a friend's referral, I would have said if you need this done by this time, you need to give this right away and you're going to have to let me do this my way to meed the deadline, etc.  But whatever.

I text back, "I won't be in the area, but I can swing by the house in the morning and bring it."

"His house?"

Huh?  I'm gonna swing by his house in the morning?  Don't I have work to go to?

I text back, "I can stop by my house on the way to work, pick up the drive and meet him at NYC.  Or meet him at the train station at 8:30."

"That works.  He can do that."

"Which one?" I ask.  "The train station?"  No reply.

I then get this email about meeting at the train station.  And then I confirm it.  And Yuri confirms it.

So I'm busy working on a project when I get a text later that night.  "I'm at the station in a car with blinkers on."  So I'm thinking, what?  I look at the time.  It's 8:30pm.  I double check the email.  It says "8:30pm".  So now I'm thinking, what?  I guess when I said that I wasn't going to be in the area that evening, that I'll have to swing by my house to pick up the hard drive in the morning, somehow it still was possible for me to meet him with the hard drive that night at 8:30pm.

So long story short, I again have to scramble and met the guy an hour later at a Dunkin' Donuts.  I get there and he's sitting at a table munching away at a croissant or something.  Not even looking out if I was actually going to show up.  So I hand him the hard drive, this time wrapped inside a bubble wrapped envelope, with the USB cord neatly rubber banded to it.  He says, "Thank you" and I move on with the rest of my life.