Monday, December 31, 2007

Season's Greetings & Best Wishes for the New Year

I haven't had a decent Internet connection since I started my vacation, but today I managed to get Airport and our DSL provider to get up to a good speed. No waiting for the spinning wheel of doom up in the corner.

That being the case, I've only got a few minutes to post greetings and wishes before getting ready to go to Larry and Fuzzy Niven's house for a New Year's Eve party. It's a dress-up event and the food is quite good. I just hope I don't fade before it is over.

I had an unexpected expense when I found it necessary to move the Arabian Prince from where he was living to a new barn which is across the street from the very first ranch I kept him at when he came to California in 2001. The new facility has a lovely barn with big indoor/outdoor stalls. He's got as much of a run as he had at the previous barn, but in addition to the box stall, he's got a covered area outside and large uncovered area as well. So he can enjoy the sun or keep dry while it is raining. We're expecting a big storm by Thursday and I will be absolutely thrilled that he'll be able to keep his feet dry when it happens. I just wish I didn't have to come up with a deposit and the first month's board during the Christmas season. So much for a cash cushion! He has settled in quite easily (we moved him on December 26) and he is nicely protected from the awful winds which have picked up again today.

The holiday season has been filled with parties and the company of friends. We did Vigilia with the Bodner-Oleckis who then did Christmas day brunch, presents, and the movies with us. We also went to the present exchange with the Lasfasians on Christmas Eve.

On the Saturday before Christmas, we attended the party which Patric and Maiya Verrone throw every year. We weren't the only ones surprised that Patric would be up to it with the WGA strike in progress, but we were glad they had it. Favorite line overheard: "If they settle in the next three weeks, we'll know we didn't ask for enough money." Probably true, but no sign of a big settlement yet. We are happy to hear about the agreement with World Wide Pants, which agreed to all of the WGA negotiating points. Too bad the rest of the industry is ready to cut off their collective noses to spite their collective faces.

An ad in the industry trades has reminded me that I've had direct dealings with two of the studio heads. Barry Meyer was a Case Western Reseve University School of Law graduate whom I contacted and met with when I was looking for a summer job while in law school. He heads Warner Bros. Michael Lynton (I think I'm spelling that correctly) was Len's boss at Disney Publishing when Len was the editor-in-chief of Disney Comics. He is now the head of Sony Pictures. The AMPTP still hasn't gotten that they are dealing with a very different situation from previous strikes. Picket lines start up again next Monday. I keep hoping we can go to a dress-up picket line for the Golden Globes.

As the world at large continues to go to hell in a handbasket, I can only hope for a change in our government here at home. I really don't care who gets the Democratic nomination because I'll be out working for whomever does. Senator Dodd impressed me with his filibuster just before Christmas. I like that John Edwards has been out on the strike line with our writers and would be labor friendly. I like Senator Obama and I'm really pleased to see how well Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is doing. However, only Dennis Kucinich really sounds like a good liberal on the campaign trail. Isn't that a shame?

So for next year, I am wishing for a change for the better in our government, for people realize there is a reason for the separation of church and state and the separation of governmental powers, and for Congress to remember that the First Amendment and privacy are important civil liberties. I am also looking forward to the day when George the Third and Darth Vadar are hauled off to the World Court to be tried as war criminals, but that may take a little longer. I'll echo Viggo Mortensen on this one: Impeach. Remove. Jail. George Bush, Dick Cheney and their cohorts are criminals of the worst sort and it is now less than 400 days until they will be out of office. Unless, of course, they try some dirty trick to further destroy our Constitution.

On that note, try to have a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Visiting Vento

My friend Melinda Snodgrass, who bred the Arabian Prince I've owned for six years, just bought herself a wonderful Christmas present: a beautiful Lusitano stallion. He was imported from Brazil in the spring and has been living at Brookside Equestrian Center outside of Los Angeles. He's five years old.

People have some peculiar ideas about stallions being unmanageable or a danger to have around. I suppose this could be true, but I've recently had experience with two different stallions who are amazingly well mannered and give an absolute lie to this preconception. Both of them are far better mannered than some of the mares and geldings I've seen people own. Of course, the stallions' owners are both outstanding "lead mares."

Vento will be Melinda's new dressage horse. She lost her beloved Hanovarian, Steppi, about 18 months ago to colic. Vento's a bit smaller than Steppi was and Melinda really looks perfectly matched on him. I think it would be great to see him with a big red ribbon underneath her Christmas tree.

I figured I ought to go out and meet him while I had the opportunity. I even let "Talky Tina" direct me to go through downtown Los Angeles (early Sunday morning) to get there, which took about 45 minutes. If I tried that on a weekday, I'd still be in traffic.

When I got there, I was introduced as "Vento's visitor." "Vento gets visitors!" the trainer announced. He's supposed to be on a transport to his new home this week and I am so happy for Melinda. Vento looks like Shadowfax. He's got a ways to go before he is totally white (most white horses start off dark and shed out over time, but their skin remains dark underneath and technically they are called "grays" not "whites.") Vento's knees look like he was playing in coal, and there's still plenty of dark in his mane and tail, but he is expected to completely gray out.

The Brookside Equestrian Center was the location for the shoot of the 1940s version of National Velvet with Elizabeth Taylor. When I saw the film recently, I wondered where it had been done and I saw something on line which suggested at least part of it had been shot in Pebble Beach.

Brookside is gorgeous, but Melinda told me that when it was purchased by the current owner in the 1980s, it was a mess. I was very impressed with the way hoof cookies were cleaned up immediately and piddle spots were quickly washed down. The stalls were large and well-bedded, the tack pristine, and the people really nice. And there's a huge covered arena. When I got back to my barn, I told my friend that it's too bad the commute would be impossible, because we'd both enjoy having our horses at Brookside. There's nothing like it nearby, unfortunately.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

You'll Never Work Again--until...

It seems that Peter Jackson and New Line have worked out their differences and Jackson's company will be doing The Hobbit. Any other result would have laughed New Line off the map, I'm afraid. I think that it's great to see a 900 pound gorilla that can beat the studio system. On the other hand, I can't imagine that fellow writers are happy about the announcement of the project in the middle of the Writers Guild Strike.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Good Idea

Rachel Abramowitz had a great idea in her L.A. Times article covering the Golden Globe nominations this morning: take the $100 million the studios use to promote films during awards season and use the money to solve the writers' strike. Not likely to happen, since it is logical and shows how the studios are willing to through good money after bad in some cases. I guess the studios look at it as millions for defense but not one penny for tribute. Cheap bastards.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Excitement We Don't Need

We've had an exciting few days at home, not in a particularly good way.

On Saturday evening, we lit the menorah (a nice mixed marriage celebrates all the fun holidays) and were watching television. When Len shouted "oh my god!" I thought he had recognized the actress on the Burke's Law episode we were watching, but no. The table cloth behind me was going up in flames. Somehow, one of the candles had dripped or toppled, setting the cloth on fire. Before we got it out, the table was charred, one of the chair seats was melted, my son's jacket was melted (fortunately, not the side with the PS2 and games in the pockets), some newspapers caught fire, and black ash landed everywhere. And the supper I had just started to eat was all over my chair as I rushed to grab a blanket to smother the fire. That's truly a way to get adrenaline pumping.

On Sunday night, after we went to bed, we heard one of our beloved golden retrievers sounding like she was in the race for her life. If you've ever watched dogs, you know they must dream about things like chasing rabbits, because when they are asleep you can see eye movement and sometimes their legs start to run. But you can usually wake them up. We could not get Muffin to stop and she began to foam at the mouth. Finally, it did stop and Len took her to the vet in the morning. Her tests came back fine, but she's had three seizures like that since Sunday night and has trouble getting on her feet afterward. Len's calling the vet again today.

Our other golden, Sheba, turns 13 this week. We got her from a rescue when she was 7 months old. Muffin will be 13 in February. We've had her since she was two months old. They are great dogs who almost never bark (Sheba doesn't like the gardeners) and they have us well-trained.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Coming up Short

My impression of I.A.T.S.E. president Tom Short has not improved after reading these two articles which appeared originally in the L.A. Times (2006) and the L.A. weekly (1995.) They can speak for themselves.

I myself have been rather bemused by the fact that as a freelance photographer working for a magazine or newspaper I was paid better rates and retained more rights to my photographs than I would working under the Local 600 contract. Of course, I couldn't actually shoot on a set without belonging to the union, as I discovered when my friend George R.R. Martin asked me to take pictures for him to promote his pilot "Doorways" back in 1992. I'm lucky that the producer nicely told me that after two days I couldn't shoot any more, rather than find my equipment destroyed (a reaction I had read about in the past.) I did join Local 600 when the opportunity arose--it took me two years to pay off the $5000 initiation fee, which is far higher than the WGA's, btw--and I pay my $800 a year in dues despite never getting a job through the union. Those annual dues are eight times what a non-working WGA member pays. The only reason why I simply haven't quit paying those dues is that someday I might need to be on set with a camera and I'd rather not be stopped.

Monday, December 10, 2007

To Boldly Go: Recognizing Trek Writers on the Strike Line

Considering how badly many writers were treated by Gene Roddenberry and some of his successors, there's a certain pleasure in knowing what's going on over on Melrose Avenue today. Oh how I wish I could be joining friends like Harlan Ellison and David Gerrold outside of Paramount Studios for today's Star Trek themed strike event. I would so like to get one of the special tee-shirts the WGA printed up. Having a day job is definitely getting in the way of my avowed occupation as a creative rights activist.

Friend Gillian Horvath explained about the various strike locations she's been on last night at our Amazing Race (yes, it's reality TV and no, we don't boycott it) watching dinner (this shiksa managed to make a nice brisket and latkes, even though I no longer eat red meat and brisket is a food I never ate with my Italian-American family.) She explained that the Bronson Gate at Paramount has "strike dancing" every Monday at 11 and it also has a "singles strike line" the same day. And I thought it was pretty funny 20 years ago when certain supermarkets in the D.C. area were identified as great places for singles to meet (the up-scale place in McLean was my favorite--rather like a Pavilions, Gelsons, or Bristol Farms is out here in L.A.)

Gillian gave us a demonstration of the "strike dance" choreography, complete with the drill team moves. Priceless. We agreed that the themed strike events are doing a lot to keep morale high during this trying time.

Meanwhile, the AMPTP showed its lack of good faith by walking out of talks Friday with a prearranged PR release blaming everything on the writers--after failing for four days in a row to produce the response to the WGA's counterproposal on Tuesday as they had promised. And Tom Short got IATSE to march in what was, in effect, a protest against the WGA strike over the weekend. No wonder they didn't want WGA members to support the demonstration. I have less and less respect for Tom Short every day and I can't help but feel much more sympathy toward the members of Local 600 who clashed with him (and lost their places in the board.) The man is acting like an AMPTP shill.

Some producer was quoted in the L.A. Times as saying the selfish writers don't care about the working stiffs. I've got news for said producer: my husband and his colleagues ARE working stiffs.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Scare Tactics

The Los Angeles Times reported this morning that the AMPTP has done such a poor job of telling its version of the WGA strike story to the public that they've gone out and hired a hard-ball public relations team to take over from the in-house effort and combat the very good job the WGA has done to tell its story to the world. Isn't it amazing what good writers can do? The article is here, and it should be a warning to all WGA members about what is to come in terms of devisive tactics so the studios win. Given this warning, nothing which is said by the AMPTP should be taken as the truth. I hope people remember this.

PR professionals profess that getting the truth out quickly is the best way to counter potential bad publicity. But when the truth is that you are greedy, scum-sucking weasels like the corporations which make up the AMPTP, it's very hard to tell the truth. That's why PR professionals are also known as hacks and flacks and are likely to work for anyone who will pay them. I have no doubt that the price of this publicity campaign will cost the AMPTP far more than the paltry $151 million over three years requested by the WGA for its members. Just watch.