Set Calls

LA Wall Art

Dan called us with some grand news about his future job prospects. I am of course sworn to secrecy and cannot divulge anything about his set dressing work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. There, gone is the Navy and all of its ships, except what might someday appear on the silver screen or much more likely on a TV at home. The place is as much a factory as it ever was, but now its products are the stuff of dreams. It hosts dozens of studios that support even more shows. He told us a story about the mogul who is the place’s landlord. Driving around NYC he saw an interesting building that intrigued him as a future set and he wanted to buy it, only to be told by a production assistant that he already owned the place.

Dan has been making daily early AM set calls, where he has been building this super great [Deleted] and [Censored] set, with all of this interesting [Deleted] themed scenery. Take my word for it, it sounded fantastic. Dan reads this blog and knows me all too well. I think that I have stayed in between the lines here.

He likes the job’s money, but not its early call time. One of the perks of the job is the union contract mandated food spread. Mostly the food has been fabulous, but this week they even ran out of coffee, which could be an occupational hazard when you couple sleep deprivation with the operation of power saws.

Dan’s big news had nothing to do with any of his NYC gigs, but with a new opportunity that he has just landed back in La-La-Land. He will participate in a reality TV series as a supervising carpenter. This show is a furniture design competition, where he will monitor the contestants for safety and assist them when necessary. He might even appear on screen. This six week gig is scheduled to begin at the end of this month. He is looking forward to reconnecting with his LA friends and then maybe even making it north again to Monterey too.

Trunk Bay Beach

Snorkeler’s Eye-View of Trunk Bay Beach

We hadn’t spoken with the boys, like in forever, when last night we got calls from both of them, after some prompting on our part. They are both doing fine. They had some news to relate, but all of the really good parts, they specifically forbade me from putting on the blog. I find that these things come out in time.

Dan is working hard as a union man. This means getting up at five to answer a 6 AM call. He’s building sets for several different TV shows. Usually as a fill-in for some else who is out sick or something. He doesn’t know from one day to the next where he will be working tomorrow, but other than that fact, the amount of work is pretty steady. He seemed really tired and opened our conversation with a yawn. Those early morning set calls are really not his cup of tea. He did offer me one out. If I could find other corroborating evidence, out on the web, then I could mention something that he said. He is so into protecting the intellectual property of his employers. Well, after clearing my Deep Throat, here we go. One of the shows that he has worked is called Faces.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, this yet to be released Apple TV series will star Julianne Moore and co-star Clive Owen. JJ Abrams is producing it and Stephen King is writing the show’s scripts. They are still looking for a director. King’s involvement certainly hints at the series’ supernatural overtones. The set that Dan was working on was huge. Faces is described as “a deeply personal thriller that follows Lisey (Moore) two years following the death of her husband. The story explores a series of events that causes her to begin facing amazing realities about her husband that she had repressed and forgotten.”

Our other phone conversation was with Dave. He has settled into his new job and it being a job-job, he now has more money. He was thinking about getting a new car, but instead now is looking for a new apartment and leaving his current bohemian digs, in the attic of an East Cambridge house. This hunt is not for the faint of heart. In Boston, landlords usually command three months rent, first month’s, last month’s and a security deposit. And on top of this the frequent need to hire a broker and you are talking about four months rent or about $10K. He does have some friends, who are planning on leaving Boston and if he can snag their apartment, then he shouldn’t need to pay for a broker. It is in West Cambridge, in a more upscale neighborhood. Stay tuned for more news later.

The Angelus

The Angelus, Jean-Francois Millet, 1859

Two peasants stop to say the Angelus prayer at dusk in response to the sound of the distant church bells. They are in the midst of the potato harvest, The woman devoutly worships, the man may be turning his hat, waiting for her to finish. The Catholic Angelus prayer, commemorating the incarnation of Jesus, is said three times a day, at dawn, noon and dusk. In the countryside, this praying was a way of regulating time in the days before wristwatches. This painting is probably Millets most famous. In France, the picture became a symbol of national pride and was widely revered and reproduced. It embodied a vision of piety and devotion, fruitful land and the dignity of labor.

Anne and I celebrated Valentine’s Day together. We didn’t go out or anything special like that, but instead, I fixed us a nice dinner at home. After dinner, we exchanged cards and a few gifts. We then ended up watching the newest episode of the Outlander TV series together. It is the initial episode of Season 5, The Fiery Cross, which was suppose to drop this Sunday, but instead Starz moved its release up a few days, making it available for watching on Valentine’s Day. I’ve seen all of the previous seasons, but have read none of the books. While Anne has read all of the books and has seen almost none of the TV show.

In the past, when I have read the book and then watched the movie, I’ve always felt that cinema had cheapened the story. Most of that has to do with the two medium’s confines. There is no way that any one motion picture could ever tell a story in the same level of detail as can be told in a book. At least not in a single sitting, but with the serialized story telling that’s available now, in these big production TV series, the two mediums are on a more level playing ground.

Game of Thrones is the arch-type for this TV genre. With it, I began with the books, but switched over to the TV and I am happy that I did so. TV concluded its version of that story last year, while the print version is still outstanding.

With Outlander, the books have all been written and the TV series is just trying to catch up, but I don’t think that I’ll ever switch over to the books. On the TV, the book’s characters are fleshed out by real life actors, who pronounce the Scottish dialects much more comprehensibly than I would have ever been capable of sounding out myself. A TV series with a dozen or more hours to tell a book’s story can more than adequately cover any plot, in my humble opinion. 

Signs of Spring Global Warming

Yesterday, Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, signaling that we will have an early spring this year. While winter isn’t supposed to be immediately over then, you wouldn’t have known it with the weather. It was a brilliantly bright day that arrived after so many cloudy ones. The mercury rose to 70 °F and I kept questioning my judgement, for not having put on shorts for the day.

We went to the gardens. The orchid show was on. Always, a mid-winter treat. Its fragrance made Anne’s nose tickle, but it was too nice a day, to tarry long inside. We walked the garden’s grounds. Almost all of the Christmas decorations have been put away and with the beds all turned for winter, there was little in the way of vegetative activity going on. Still, some of the shadows from the leafless trees were interesting and if you looked closely, one could find signs of spring. Witch Hazel blossoms are always an early indicator and seeing them was no surprise, but seeing them being pollinated by honeybees on Groundhog Day is a first. Later, in the Japanese Garden one of the turtles that live in that garden’s large pond, had pulled itself out of hibernation and was sunning itself on a rock. It was the only one we saw and was probably left wondering if it had shown up too early for the Super Bowl party.

After the garden, we headed over to South Grand. Looking for a late lunch, we ended up trying a new place, at least for us, Brazilia. They were serving a buffet, which we ended up partaking of. Our waiter came by, first with a big skewer of beef and then later with skewered pineapple. Each time he would hack the food off the skewer with a machete. We ate too much. Afterwards, we walked up and down the street, window shopping. There were many new shops to see and plenty more new restaurants yet to visit. The city’s investment in this ethnically diverse neighborhood looks to be paying big dividends.

Home again, we settled in for the night. There was no need for dinner or even Super Bowl snacks, after our large late lunch. Anne watched the Super Bowl, while I watched the Outlander series. I’m all caught up now, for this show’s new season debut, later this month. That’s the news, from Saint Louis, Illinois. 😉

Slammer Time

Britt, Anne and Dan via Donald Judd

We started late, finally getting to the art museum, with only two hours before closing. It being New Year’s Eve, the place closed earlier than usual. Stopping off at Kaldi’s first, for coffee and a little something probably didn’t help. Still, it was enough. We eschewed the Rembrandt show for touring the galleries. It was in the contemporary wing that I coaxed everyone to pose for a photo-op with the pictured Donald Judd piece. After art, we drove down to Midtown. Our destination was Black Market Eats, for sushi burritos, but it too had closed early for the holiday. This was probably a good thing, because I’m always leery of landlocked raw fish. Especially, at a place that normally caters to SLU students, all of whom are on break. Heading home, we stopped off at Fozzie’s the neighborhood sandwich emporium for some eats instead. They were both good and filling. After consuming and before the kids split for the night, we all settled down for a little TV time together.

We watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which is on Amazon. First, Dan educated me that Google and Amazon had patched up whatever corporate squabble they had had and that now we could Chrome-cast Prime to our big screen. Both Dan and Britt had seen the episodes that we watched, but they were new to both Anne and I. In some of his NYC travails, Dan had done set dressing for this show, but that was in its third season. We started at its beginning.

In this 1950s period comedy-drama Midge Maisel is an upper-class Jewish housewife living in New York’s upper westside, who has it all. Until one night, after her husband bombs, while pursuing his dream of being a standup comedian. While having always been supportive of him, she is shocked to find him packing her suitcase. He’s leaving her, for his much younger secretary. Later that night, in a drunken rage, Midge returns to the same comedy club where her husband had previously bombed and brings down the house, before being hauled off to the slammer for lewd and indecent behavior, a star is born.

This much acclaimed TV series has garnered numerous accolades that are all well deserved. In this #MeToo era, mad Maisel is the perfect counterpoint to that similarly period placed TV show Mad Men. Its writing is to die for. We watched half of the first season, before the kids jetted. Then Anne and I binged the rest, finishing the first season at 12:05. It was the new year, 2020 and not 1958 anymore. Yesterday, I had forecasted my planned New Year’s Eve scenario. So, much for my 20/20 vision. Still, it was a grand evening and I was right about one thing, I did get a kiss or two.

On Witches and Faries

2019 has been a banner year for television. As the numerous streaming services compete, we the subscribing audience were left with a bounty of TV series to enjoy. This is most true in the twin genres of sci-fi and fantasy. This year has seen the conclusion of HBO’s epic Game of Thrones saga. While its ending may have disappointed some fans. Its true climax at the Battle for Winterfell remains an enduring favorite. In 2019 Disney debuted its own premium streaming service, headlined by a new Star Wars franchise, The Mandalorian. Mando as he is called by his friendimies, is a bounty hunter in the mold of the original Star Wars trilogy character Boba Fett, but with a heart of gold. Featuring an adorable Baby Yoda, this marquee effort bodes well for the launch of yet another pay-to-watch platform, in an already crowded market. There is now so much good TV to see that a journeyman effort like The Witcher hardly stands a chance.

Dropped on Netflix this month, this sword and sorcery offering stars hunky Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia and is based on source material created by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. Basically, a witcher is like a warlock and Geralt is also a “good” bounty hunter. Hunting only bad monsters. He co-stars with sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra), and princess Ciri (Freya Allan), who find that all of their destinies are tied together. Lacking the production values of either Thrones or The Mandalorian, Witcher compensates with a certain campiness and a sense of not taking itself too seriously. It comes across like a playing of the game Dungeons and Dragons.

Think of the actors as knights of the dinner table, inhabiting their characters, with adlibs and asides. Like in any good D&D story, there is a fair amount of bumbling about, as the characters go hither and yon, questing for whatever each episode has served them up. There is an underlying story, the arc of which is eventually told across this show’s eight episodes of season One and nicely tees-up season Two, which has already been green lit. Witcher is not as good as its better competition, but is still enjoyable and not worthy of just discounting.

Unlike the Staten Island Ferry, Netflix isn’t free. It has held the lead in the race of competing TV subscription services, but everybody and their brother is in the race now. It remains to be seen how well it will perform in the future. Striving for king of the hill shows may not be their forte and the network might be better suited to utility programing, relegated to living on the margins with short haul successes, getting one from place-to-place.