Archive for December, 2010

Flicking past the windows

December 28, 2010

I love train travel for the moments, crystalised forever like a fly in resin, that are left behind in your mind as you speed past. You can never tell which ones will stay, and which your brain will let go. The brain’s random lucky packet creator chooses the strangest things – not the same ones I consciously photographed here.

Burbank... early on in the trip. You can see it's Burbank because of the white "B" on the hillside. I think they're still saving up for the rest of the letters.

A town where we weren

Snow. Very exciting for me. Somewhere in Oregan. I've never seen so much snow before. I'm hoping it'll snow in Seattle tomorrow, but it appears I drive snow away wherever I go. I'm surprised airports aren't beating down my door, begging me to work my magic for them.

My mom in a rare waking moment. After four days sleeping on an airport floor she was pretty ready for bed.

All the trippy people on the train say “hi”

December 26, 2010

This Amtrack Train would make a great moving set. It’s hilarious. I’ve never been to a place with so many rules – there are even more rules on a train than there are on an aeroplane. Wear your shoes. No singing. No using the tables between meals. No laptops in the cafe cart. No arriving for dinner at your pre-booked time. The dining room lady will inform you when she feels that it’s 5.15pm – at a time of her choosing. In the middle of the night, the police were called aboard at a stop to eject some passengers who weren’t behaving. So I’m keeping a low profile and encouraging my mother to do the same.

I love trains. Sleeping on one is twice as expensive as a plane to the same place, 30 times slower, and a million times more entertaining. The Coast Starlight is a sort of down-home version of the blue train - priced around the same as Eurail, if you consider that meals are included.

And the staff are a real motley crew. The woman in charge of the lounge car – Veronica – is the coolest. She has a genuine sense of humour, and the best Spanish accent ever. She’s being heavily courted by a hip hop guy in a big yellow jacket, who I think gave up and got off the train in Portland. Then there’s Henry, who tells the kids jokes and placates the passengers who have been told off by the woman who runs the dining cart. And Bryan who waits in that cart and seems to play good cop to her “schoolmarm cop”. And there’s the woman who runs the dining area for coach passengers, who announces in a seductive voice that she has “Coffee, tea, juice, jalepeno burger… or (whispering) a snickers bar… come see me”. I had to go see her. She’s a little old lady with grey hair who looks like she should be next to a fire, knitting.

And there’s Julio, who nobody’s ever seen, but who gets told where to be all the time. For some reason, they haven’t discovered the joys of cellular or walkie talkie communication, so all internal staff communications are broadcast throughout every single cabin on the intercom. As I write this, Julio’s last known location was the Dining Car.

And that’s just the staff. The passengers get pretty weird too. Like the reborn Christian evangelist who spent an hour lecturing some poor old man whose wife had died about how he needed to move on, then left… she was carrying a goldfish in a tupperware. And the dude who sat carving his lighter up with a flick knife, while making strange grunting noises. And this lawyer from California who followed me around and sat and stared at me wherever I went, and eventually gave me this poem, which I’d seen him carrying around specially printed out since we all got on the train in the morning.

Merry Christmas to you too.

As you can imagine, I’m having an awesome time. This is screenwriter heaven.

Mom wanted me to send my brother a picture of us together, to show I was looking after her nicely. Here's me doing as I'm told.

Christmas lights up behind the Orange Curtain, California

December 24, 2010

After all, My mom did arrive. My house feels different. Facebook is quiet. We’re going to Seattle in the morning. So since we’ll be on a train all of Christmas, we had a kind of Christmas dinner tonight at an Italian place near my apartment. I drank some Chianti out of a half litre caraffe. The food was average and over priced but the vibe was awesome.

Wine is cheaper than therapy, says the sign by the bar.

All I want for Christmas. And I got it.

Some of my friends made me these amazing hand made cards. My friend Rosie’s son Sam even made me a special flower. I think it’s the best flower a boy’s ever given me. And the first in a while, too.

Nice red petals to mtach the pimple on my forehead.

People go mad decorating here.

On a random lawn in Orange. Almost every house is covered in sparkling stars, weird Santa Clauses, reindeer and nativity scenes. It's kinda awesome.

Don't hold yourself back

Joy to the world. Or Edison Electrical Company in any case. So pretty.

Up in the Air on Groundhog Day in the UK and the USA

December 21, 2010

Some things never change. Like my old company has blocked my blog! I mean, this little thing? An old friend – like in the Paul Simon song sense – sent me this screen cap. They have the best medical aid in South Africa, but otherwise, they kinda suck. Yes, Naspers, you suck, and not in the way you’re thinking.

I hate to think what perverted computer calculation involving my mother, my father, a video and college led to this new stain on my record. There's a reason I nicknamed the server admin office "Mordor". I know, I know, making friends wherever I go...

My mother, by contrast is so rock ‘n roll. She hasn’t slept more than two hours in a row since Friday morning. When I phoned her via skype, she was still at Heathrow, in another queue. She told me this hilarious story about waking up the guy from India who was sleeping on the floor of the airport next to her when she had this crazy nightmare. Apparently he listened to her story and said: “We’re going to have to do more sleeping.” She was laughing and laughing.

Meanwhile, back home in Rainy California, my life becomes more and more like Groundhog Day. Every morning I wake up to new text messages from my jet-sitting (see what I did there?) mom, saying that it’s snow and disappointment where she is, and which flight she missed. Last night she nearly got on a flight to San Fran, then another to San Fran. Then another to Chicago.

When I called her, no answer. She texted again to say she was now “with some new friends in an airport rescue centre.” I googled the “heathrow airport rescue centre”. There is one, but… it’s for animals. I can’t help picturing her surrounded by slightly miffed cats, puzzled horses and smelly dogs, all kinda mangy and bedraggled, like she must be by now after so many days in the airport lounges, too.

Rotting behind the Orange Curtain – it ain’t that bad

December 20, 2010

Today, standing in line at the cinema in the rain, I was so pissed off. I had tried to re-organise the line at the box office, you see. There was plenty of place to line up in the shelter, under the roof, since only one booth was open. But Americans… well at least in California, seem to be terribly law abiding. So they lined up at right angles to the booth, despite the rain, and despite my attempts to mobilize them.

I got my revenge when they bought tickets to see The Tourist.

I needed revenge. I had not been having a great day. I woke up this morning with my father on the phone. A good thing in a way – good to know he’s alive. He sounded weird, and confused, though. He was speaking unnaturally slowly. I was half asleep still. And full of dread. There’s nothing I hate more than having my (divorced) parents interacting – in any way, even in an unnaturally friendly way for my benefit.

And because my mother has failed to grasp the basics of webmail, and her plane to California is grounded in London, I now have them playing a disastrous game of broken telephone with me as the person on the end of the line. It’s like my childhood, but without the free food.

Now you'd be forgiving for thinking it was really clear what to do in order to send an email. I used to write user guides. MWEB - could you make the EMAIL BUTTON bigger. Just for me? Thanks.

My mother… I guess I could blame her. She decided to fly to visit me via that moldy old chestnut of a city: London. And now she’s stuck there. This is horrible in many ways. First, I am longing to see her. Second, I can’t leave Orange until her plane arrives… although I guess I could go to LA and wait there – LA is about the same distance from LAX as I am right now. And third, I booked us our dream train trip – to Seattle, on a sleeper – and we will probably miss the train, and lose not only the tickets but also the four days in a great hotel. This sucks.

So, I was depressed this morning. To deal with it, I performed some emergency retail therapy, involving a hair dryer, and a double feature. Yes, movies again. I have some catching up to do – although I’ve seen four movies in the last week, they were all shown in class. It’s different with popcorn and overpriced soda. Oddly, both my movie choices involved similar themes. Tangled, my morning movie, is the Rapunzil story reinvented for the age of skinny feminists who have no trouble getting guys. And when I cried at the end it was mainly because I’m not 21. Or whatever it is that men want.

But I do love that they cut parents and anti-parents like me a bit of slack in Tangled. Calling the white horse “fleabag”? Now, that’s a stroke of genius. The blonde’s curly-haired evil kidnapping mother was the main antagonist. So mother-daughter story. Except I think my mother gave me less freedom as a teenager. Than an evil mother in a Disney movie. But she loved me properly.

You win some, you resent some more.
That’s why I think parenting is generally a huge big mistake.

Next up, Black Swan, with story by Mark Heyman (oh, God, I pity him at school, for that name), Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin co-writing. At first, although I was enjoying it, I was confused. Where were the fireworks? Was this just The Company, but starring Natalie Portman instead. And then… woooah. The longest first act in fucking history hit me for a six. A case of breaking the rules of structure, and getting away with McKee’s murder. No… oh, what an amazing movie. A screenwriter’s wet dream.

I'll never look at a nail file the same way again.

Just for fun, here’s other random stuff I learned while watching Black Swan tonight.

1. Ballet is really very competitive. I am now very glad that I chose the comparatively easy world of the film and television industry, instead of going to dance school.

2. Natalie Portman is amazing. She is the missing link – between men and women. The woman all men want to fuck, and all women love and respect despite this and because of it at the same time.

3. Lesbian sex while on X is cool. That shot of the pink lace panties being ripped off… You had to be there. Wow.

4. Darren Aronofsky
needs to make one of the films I write one day. Which means I need to write a movie in which the protagonist… no wait. I can’t finish that sentence without giving away the ending. Although even if you guessed it, the film is so good that it really, really doesn’t matter. I would, no I will, watch it again. Anyhow, despite the fact that he looks like Darrel Bristow-Bovey on a bad facial hair day in most of his photos on IMDB, he’s hot shit in Hollywood right now for all the right reasons.

Some final films of the fall semester at Dodge College, Chapman

December 18, 2010

The pros and cons of movie making… what I learned from the last month of filming all our final projects.

How many filmmakers does it take to change a light bulb? Depends on the gaffer, I guess.

Well let’s start with the cons: You can never control the results as much as you’d like to. The hours are long, and always longer than you expect. You don’t get to sleep. Creative egos are bound to lead to clashes. And technical stuff will always trip you up at the very last minute. So, nothing I’m not used to from working as a journalist!

The pros make all the cons worth it: The end result of what you made with other people is better than anything you could do alone. It doesn’t matter how long filming or editing or writing takes, because you love every minute of it. Sleep is overrated, unless you have nothing better to do. Creative egos challenge you to do your best. Technology allows amazing new things to be done every day, reviving that sense of wonder you had as a kid.

I took a whole bunch of photos of signs, but I’m sure you’d rather watch movies than look at photos. So I’ll post links to those I was involved with. And a few I just happen to think are really good, too.

Mine – Steal My Heart
I wrote, directed, edited and produced this – on a $30 budget. But I could not have done that without the help of my amazing cinematographers, actors, and everyone else who helped me out – all credited. Not bad for a 4.5 hour total shoot time. The editing took a little longer!

John Nodorft – Rifle Ave.
We talked about it a lot, and I co-wrote the screenplay with him. He did what every writer dreams of having done – he made it happen even better than I could have imagined. He is now my hero forever.

Ezra Lunel – Lucky Guys
Very much a work in progress. But I love what he’s doing with this so far. He and I workshopped his initial idea in a over coffee. Then he let me go mad writing, gave me frequent and fast feedback, and made me star in the movie at the end. It was great working with him – the actors will back me up here. And the movie was shot by John Nodorft – so it looks fantastic. Designed to be watched full screen.

John McKay – Punchline
Suspect you’ll only be able to watch this if you are his friend on Facebook. I helped write the screenplay, and learned a lot about how collaboration works in the process. Sometimes you got to just let go, and let the director make the final decisions. The results may surprise you.

That’s what I can find. I guess I’ll add others as they show up.

I had nothing to do with these, but I like them

Kennedy Phillips – Autopilot

Daniel McDonald – Sorry I Forgot Our Anniversary

Mike Fitzgerald – Niko and Claudia

Nikolas Passaris

Also liked but can’t embed vimeo on stupid wordpress.

Sarah Wilson Thacker – Freeze Dance

Windsor Yuan – The Day After

Charles J. Gibson – First day

Bruce Meyers – Cousins

A very funny restaurant naming #fail

December 15, 2010

Ah, finals week. The more stressed I get, the more vulnerable I am to sillyiness. I find myself surfing sites like Texts from Last Night and People of Wallmart. I click on every youtube link a facebook friend posts. I reply to discussions that I should really stay out of, exposing my ignorance of American culture. What’s next – enjoying Christmas music? Let’s hope I don’t lose it that completely…

Anyhow, this perfectly suited my mood. Posted by @orangecountygal, someone I follow on twitter, but have never met. Add her if you haven’t already.

What were they thinking? It's in Garden Grove. One of the hilarious results of non-english speakers trying to sound American, I'm guessing. Or someone with the same kind of sense of humour that led to a South African book chain being named CUM Bookstores. Christian Something, Something. But I can never remember! And neither could you.

16.7% of American Women Pee Standing Up

December 12, 2010

Or, so my study of the Dodge College women’s bathrooms seems to indicate. And sprinkling the seat is only the beginning of the horrors to be endured.

Hiny Hiders... American public toilets are kinda weird. They don't provide a hell of a lot of privacy, on the whole, except for the ones at Starbucks, where (as someone pointed out on Facebook, I forget who) you could literally murder someone and wash away the evidence. If I were a toilet cleaner, I think I might do just that...

Despite the lack of privacy provided by the average public toilet in the USA, women sure do get up to some weird shit.

Anyone who knows me relatively well knows that I will instantly refuse to date someone I really like if they pee on my toilet floor or seat and fail to wipe it up. There’s nothing less sexy than jumping out of a post-lovemaking snuggle to go to the bathroom and standing in bare feet in the chilly wetness of a guy’s urine. All attraction instantly fades as you wipe your feet with toilet paper. Time to figure out how to kick him out so you can have a hot shower, and wish this never happened. With any luck, most men make the mistake before you make the mistake of ending up in bed with him, but I haven’t always been that lucky or I’d probably still be a virgin.

As you can imagine, my intolerance for standing in urine significantly limits my dating “pool”. Or “Puddle”, really. Men are known to be filthy beasts. Some even consider it part of their appeal. And the unmade bed, the collection of socks hidden underneath it minutes before guests arrive, and the general lack of anal-ness can be reassuring signs of heterosexuality for many. For me, they’re like a low-level pot dependency: a sign of potential for worst.

And of course I am on shaky ground here. I have my own bad habits. I get the toothpaste out of the tube with my mouth. I drink from the milk carton – and refuse to stop, no matter how much my partner may hate it. I have no sleep pattern.

But recently I’ve learned that a lot of other women are much, much more disgusting than I am, when they find themselves alone in a public toilet in any case. Some of their favourite habits amaze me, like…

NESTING Americans are terrified of germs. It’s like mass-O.C.D. This doesn’t mean they get sick any less than anyone else, just that they’re paranoid. So all toilet seats come with paper covers, which can be placed over the seat and flushed away. Although germs can penetrate 30 layers of paper, America happily destroys rainforests to protect their buts from germs. I don’t get it… if I were a germ, I’d personally want to be protected from your but. But that’s just me. Then to make this all worse, they don’t flush them away. So when you come to use the toilet, you have to pick up their peed on paper and get rid of it first. Then go wash your hands, then go back in.

SMEARING: I’ve seen this all over the world. But it remains an endless source of fascination to me that a woman can somehow manage to smear blood and much worse things all over the toilet seat. It seems like a real physical feat, unless, possibly, there are women out there with vaginas and asses in the weirdest places. If there are, send me the link? But what’s weirder is how they then fail to notice and clean it up afterwards. I am beginning to wonder if it’s some kind of weird O.C.D. toilet fetish. I mean, it makes no sense. Even if common human decency doesn’t spur these chicks to clean up their mess, surely the fear of getting caught should do the trick? But no…

SPRINKLING: Looks like a guy’s been in there. What the hell happened? When women and learned to pee sitting down, the world became a better place. Considerate guys know how to do it too. This just feels like backsliding. And in any case, if you really want to pee standing up, chicks, please, learn to do a better job than the average piss-drunk undergrad.

Yes, I have too much work to do to be blogging about my fellow-students’ toilet habits, but after spending 6 hours in the video lab last night, and using the toilet 3 times in that shift, I had to get this off my chest.

A million miles away, and I still hear that “Meow!”

December 8, 2010

Before I threw myself off that big career cliff and went to film school, when I was still Editor at News24’s entertainment site, my friend and Movies section editorĀ  (and one of the best style subs and writers I’ve ever worked with), Shaheema Barodien suddenly developed this habit of going “Meow!” at random moments. It was totally bizarre, and I was worried that something was wrong. So after I managed to get her to stop listening to indie rock and talk to me, I asked her about it. Turns out she was doing the Muslim equivalent of lent. Catching up on missed days during the fast, and behaving better. EquivaLent? Anyhow. It was in March or April or something. And she was going Meow! instead of swearing, every time she was tempted.

Which in our office, was really, really often. It was like a freekin’ barnyard next to my desk.

I was cycling home down Palm Street, Orange, California, USA, when I saw this grafitti on a STOP sign and thought of a friend in Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa.

We screenwriters do table reads – basically reading out loud in which we get to cast other writers in the parts – to figure out what’s working and what’s not. There’s a girl in the class who says Fudge instead of Fuck, and Gosh instead of God when she reads. It’s like me when I have to say God, I just swallow the word. Or I say Fuck instead. It doesn’t change the meaning. But the meow! did. That stuck with me. That was funny. That was fucking funny.

9976 miles or 16051.38 kilometers and I can stand for five minutes staring at a sign, smiling. I didn’t know, at the time that I heard that meow! that I’d ever be here. And yet now somehow, it all seems so inevitable.


December 6, 2010

So I spend a lot of time trying to explain South African. What, for example, does “Eish” mean. I tried this at a party the other night: “So if you get home from work and your house has burned down or just vanished, you say “Eish”. Or if you can’t figure out how much to tip to make the tip exactly 15%…” Blank looks. Americans would probably also struggle to understand the Cape Flats’ custom (less popular than it once was, but not gone) of removing ones front teeth. (Well, most of them. The wisdom teeth usually get to stay.)

Checkers, an SA supermarket, is FOR teeth, and AGAINST removing them. They made this policy clear with the sign below:

I rarely, no, I never do this quick mention and link out. But this just too good to be true.

The gap left by the missing teeth is known as a passion gap… as a joke. Although I suppose it would make blow jobs simpler. I just don’t understand why a store like Checkers, who think that yellow and pink and black is good decor, care what their workers do with some pliers after hours. And I also see no reason why cashiers need teeth. Are hair and nails also a requirement? What’s next – banning the veil, or stopping Christians from wearing their crosses?

And I’ve shopped at Checkers. Once. What I would really value from a check-out person is a smile. Toothless or otherwise. Perhaps they could just pay them a little bit more… Eish… or I may be being really naive here.

Whatever the right and wrong, once thing’s clear. The sign is still hilarious.