Sunday, January 17, 2021

Tools Old and New: Mini LED Light Panels

We're a bit impressed with this mini LED light panel from these guys Nanlite - the LitoLite 5C RGBWW. Dimensional size of 4.2"x2.4"x0.9" at a weight of 4.8 ounces. Internal rechargeable (USB-C) Li-ion battery (cable included) - rated 1.5hr running time at full brightness. Adjustable CCT from 2700K to 7500K with green/magenta control. Adjustable HSI - 360ยบ of hue control and 100 levels of color saturation adjustment. Dimmable from 0 to 100%. All controllable via a panel adjustment or wirelessly via smartphone by free app (which would let ya' control multiple panels). CRI of 95/TLCI of 97. Package includes a snap-on (silicone) diffuser and carry bag.

The panel is pre-programmed with 15 adjustable pulse special effects such as fire/candle, storm, explosion and welding, to name a few. That's somethin' different to us. Figure they could be useful if needed in video production. We would liked to have had the police car effect back in the day for final approach to after dark, in progress backwoods keg parties - that would have been some fun. Not a bad package for around $75.

... havin' some fun with a pair of a bit alien looking 5C's creeping up a stove pipe - HSI channelled (blue) 192/100/100 - didn't record the exposure info - (magnetic) GorillaPod 325's for support...

Stuff like this can't be totally appreciated unless you have invested days designing and piece-mealing a multiple halogen lighting system together and afterward spent several days wrestling the works, all housed in a large, unwieldly Pelican Case (not to mention several separate 12v batteries) throughout squeeze crawls, slots and fissures of an underground cave system. Those LitoLites would have worked well in the tight spots.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Escape From New York

Around '89 we had made a few friends in the New York City (NYC) film community, and up until around maybe '92, when the opportunity arose, we'd occasionally take the Amtrak train from Union Station in Washington DC (where we were living at the time) to Penn Station in NYC to spend a weekend assisting with independent film projects. We weren't interested in full time employment in the "business", just wanted to get as much experience as we could to apply to our own work. Didn't need the cash so we worked cheap. Compensation always included free lodging and dinner/drinks - always at a Greenwich or East Village bar/tavern - each "storied for the literary luminaries who habitually frequented them"(1). Our amigos themselves were all artist and literary types 'ta boot - these their hangouts. Combine like minded sensibility with cheap labor, along with the fact that we knew our sh*t - and we were always a welcome addition.

Experienced a few interesting adventures on set/location. Once positioned a few 5K lights a bit too close to an unseen fire sprinkler sensor, potentially dousing a mid level floor of a Manhattan office building. Luckily the sprinkler system didn't activate. Set about every alarm in the building off, though. The precinct fire chief was pretty cool about it. Showed up alone and casually walked in and deactivated the alarms. Another situation had us negotiating with a pistol-waving Latino gang leader who was (acting) a bit pissed and wanted to know who gave us permission to film in his "turf". Insisted that we were undercover cops intending to secretly film their activities(2). Turned out to be a good guy once he realized we weren't backin' down - and we weren't cops.

Had a few interesting adventures in the bars/taverns. Was seated at one tavern noted for the celebrity and "literary luminary" patrons table-top wood carving signatures, past and present. Ernest Hemingway had been one to initial our table. We added our initials right below his. Think it may have been the White Horse Tavern or maybe McSorleys. Don't recall right off hand. Maybe neither. Anyway, suggests great minds think alike. Got to bullsh*t a bit with Rolling Stone Keith Richard at the ACME Bar and Grill. Bought us a beer and we returned the favor. Ran into him another time at the Bluenote and he remembered us. Thought that was pretty cool of him. The best time was one evening we went to the Pyramid Clubwhich was a popular gay/transvestite bar (plenty of gay folks in the NY film industry - all good people the ones we worked with). We had among our company a very good looking aspiring actress/model who wound up being a big hit with the "boys". She was drinkin' for free all night and they continually had her up on the bar dancin' with 'em. We figured because she was OEM equipped. She was visually a knockout, but by late evening we had to rate her 5th place - there were some good lookin' "gals" in that place. She took first place in the "stock" division, however. Lot's of fun. We've been in plenty of bars over the years but we've seldom been treated any better than there.

(Internet Image)
McSorley's Old Ale House

(Internet Image)
White Horse Tavern

(Internet Image)
This place was originally established by (Van Halen) David Lee Roth's uncle, Manny Roth.

Recalled list of hangouts - no specific order - don't even know which ones are still operating:

                                                      White Horse Tavern          Petes Tavern
                                                      Old Town Bar                   Chumley's
                                                      Up & Up                           Minetta Tavern
                                                      McSorley's                        PJ Clarkes
                                                      Whitehorse Tavern           Cafe Wha?
                                                      Pyramid Club                    Blue Note
                                                      ACME Bar & Grill             Mars Bar  
                                                      The Odeon                       Nuyorican Poets Cafe

Probably have forgotten one or two that we could add to the list.

We had a few beers at the St. Marks Bar and Grill. Now closed we learn. Is where The Rolling Stones partially filmed their video 'Waiting On A Friend' (see below).

There was a pretty good country & western bar. Don't recall the name. Thought it was a pretty cool place for being' in the middle of NYC. Was funny watchin' people walkin' in and out and down the city street dressed like cowboys when ya' know that most of 'em wouldn't even know how to start a lawnmower.

Which sets up our short tale:

One of those friends contacted us a few months back saying that, because of the so-called pandemic and, combined with the city's sorry state of affairs, the whole town is quite a mess. Commented that things had been going downhill long before that. This just exacerbated the situation: 
"What a mess - everything's closed - can't get anything - you don't even want to go out after dark - you guy's don't see this stuff on TV - gettin' to be almost like the old movie 'Escape From New York'... lookin' at a place in your area in PA - gotta' get outta' here!"

Heard from 'em again just before Xmas:
"Hey - purchased a place in SWPA (we're not sayin' where)... not far from a small regional airport (frequent occupational travel)... fifteen minutes from the house."

Reply:
... "That's great - just don't tell anybody to follow ya."

(Internet Image)

Unfortunately, we know where this could lead... we got to know Greenwich and East Village pretty well - we're told that we wouldn't even recognize 'em now'days.

Hey - just let these guys run the city:

(YouTube Video)

(YouTube Video)

(YouTube Video)

We were attending a film program at NYU for a period. We'd visit this small bakery and get a nut roll and carton of orange juice every morning for breakfast, then set outside on the staircase to eat before class. We're settin' there early one morning around 7am. Here comes another guy enrolled in the program walkin' down the street toward us. He gets closer and we notice he's staggering all over the sidewalk. Closer still and we see he's decked out like headin' out for an evening on the town. He was one of those left over disco guys from the late 70's and for the most part was dressed like it. However, he's got blood all over the left shoulder and down the sleeve of his light-colored leisure-style jacket. The rest of his jacket and matching pants are smeared with dirt. The left pant leg from pocket to cuff is completely slit to the outside - every step forward exposes a bare leg. The left rear pocket is completely torn out - would be showin' some bare ass if he wasn't wearin' underwear. Hair is completely disheveled. We're thinking' he got run over by one of the garbage trucks or buses out makin' their early morning rounds.

"What the f*k happened to you?!!"

Turns out he was out at the bars 'till late that evening. Around 2am he's pretty well loaded and decides to hit up an ATM - on a NYC side street yet. Uh-Oh - the sites bein' cased. Said the machine no sooner dispensed his cash when a guy comes running out of the dark right toward him. He "puts up his dukes" to defend himself. The guy charging immediately hollers "Joe!! Vinnie!! Last thing he remembers is getting clubbed over the head from behind. They took his withdrawal and practically ripped his pants off 'em to get his wallet. He wakes up layin' on the sidewalk at around 6:30am. 

"People were just walking around and practically stepping over me - just like I wasn't there!"

We never laughed so hard in our life!

(1) To paraphrase the title of a recent book on the subject - 'Storied Bars of New York - Where Literary Luminaries Go To Drink, Delia Cabe, 2017.
(2) We were out shooting some establishing/transition 2nd Unit-type stuff. Referred to as B-Roll footage now'days (video jargon). "Cut to the horse" (film jargon) then.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Highland Honey Part II (aka: Our Wabi Sabi Ways)

 ... currently feel like a slacker - then someone we haven't seen in a while asks us what we've been up to lately - we recollect and it's "hey, I guess we have been up off the recliner a bit"... we harken back...

... for the most part, climbing with the gals...

... some 330 million year old sandstone (give or take 10 million years)...

... observed some recently placed "hairpin" amenities...?...that boulder is easily rigged (for TR) end to end with a single 20ft runner girth hitched to the large backside tree (de rigueur 'till now) - could've saved themselves a few bucks... "Bolt it and they will come" (we guess)... that easy face pictured above is also a decent place to practice some elaborate gear placement and is an (old/BC) easy highball boulder problem...

... didn't bring her stuff - had to rig this gal a make-shift webbing harness (good skill to know - basics can always save your ass*)... dusted the cobwebs off an old pair of Skywalker boots - fun stuff...

... worked just fine as always...

... some variation on this short squeeze chimney - three climbs in one - bottom two images from the following weekend...

... just a bit off the ground on the adjacent rock face - a nice thin flake route ascends to the top...

---------------

*... a few years back an out of town friend (a very experienced whitewater paddler and instructor) was visiting and was showin' us some video he shot of their wintertime paddling sessions in their local indoor pool - we commented positively on a fellow in a kayak performing some impressive cartwheel maneuvers - our friend replied "Put that guy in moving water and he'll swim a Class III river"...

(You Tube video)
... no substitute for experience...being a homicidal paranoic doesn't hurt, either... our kind of guy... brilliant!...

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Highland Honey

"Come on children 
Now learn how to run
By heaven, the stars, the moon and the sun...
...You run for the money,
You don't even know about wild mountain honey"

                                                              -  Wild Mountain Honey /Steve Miller          

... fall MTB...

... Root Hill down...

... Root Hill up...

... crank'n the hills...

... cruisin' the hollows...

... flushed an old O-possum out of his den...

... and he's still crank'n hard... like poppin' the cork on a vintage pinot noir...

... that's one big fungi - a giant puffball mushroom - 4.6" Fat Tire for scale...

... puncture...

... creek'n...

... the reservoir...

... an ode to our beloved highlands...

(YouTube video)

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Fright Nights

... we're familiar with three local "tales of the strange and supernatural" that for us were once first and foremost opportunity to (literally) scare the gals out of their pants...

Giant Indians and The Broadford Witch

... the "ol' pop" worked on the bygone P&LE Railroad... they had a large railroad switching yard, railroad station and roundhouse located along the bottom land adjacent to the Youghiogheny River in the small community of Dickerson Run, PA, from which he regularly worked... he hung out there a good bit even on his days off, and would frequently take us along... we got to hang around the station and, being little kids, the yard crews would occasionally take us out and we'd get to ride around on the switcher engines as they went about their yard business - lots of fun - we even got to drive on occasion, including easing the switchers into the railcar couplers - imagine doing that now in these over protective and litigious times...

(Internet Image)
... historic photo of the P&LE Dickerson Run yard...

... that whole adjacent river bottom was nothing but scrub brush and loaded with pheasant and rabbits, so once we were of hunting age we spent all our time hunting and running the beagle while pop hung out at the station - if he didn't join in... 

... there was an old oddball hermit type who used to walk the tracks all the time - everyone just called 'em the "old nut" - he was full of tales - he'd corner ya' and talk your head off about nonsensical events and such... he told one tale in particular about the construction of the railroad yard and that it was built on a large, ancient Native American Indian burial ground - we could believe that - but then he'd add that when they excavated ("dug 'em up") the graves, the exposed skeletons were all over ten feet tall...?... he'd reference other burial grounds near the "old Indian trail" - which itself is a fact - the ancient 'Catawba Indian Path' crossed the vicinity a short distance upriver (maybe a mile south) near an area called the 'Narrows'...

(Internet Image)
... partial map of the 'Catawba Path' from the book 'Indian Paths of Pennsylvania' (Paul A.W. Wallace - 1965)... a superhighway for ancient Indian tribes... maybe the "old nut" wasn't so nuts...

... he'd then go on to tell of the "old witch" who lived in an old house along Narrows road in nearby Broadford - he claimed that she gathered and confiscated many of the bones from the graves, and would "dig up bones from other grave sites she knew along the river and trail" and would use 'em in her potions and such... more fact - there was an old lady who everyone called the 'old witch' who lived as described - the house has long ago been demolished and the old lady we're sure no longer with us...

... she'd occasionally set on the front porch - she definitely looked the part - a black cat or two lounging about... driving past it was always advised to not make eye contact with her... we'd always wave, to the horror of those riding along ("don't look at her!!")... pop actually knew her and would hunt the hillside property behind her house - he'd never comment on the witch questions (no baloney with that guy) - witch or not, the few times we hunted there with him we sometimes caught ourselves looking over our shoulder...

(Google Earth Image)
... Google Earth Image of the old P&LE Dickerson Run Railroad Yard as it exists today - the foundation footprint of the old roundhouse still visible - the rest of the land reverted to scrub brush...

The Dawson Monster

... rumor had it that a spirit-demon-beast-monster - form was never specified - inhabited a patch of woods located behind a small country cemetery within the vicinity of Dawson, PA... the "monster" was in fact a large stone (marble?) sphere, maybe 3ft to 4ft in diameter, which laid at the edge of the woods, in a ditch, just off the end of the cemetery dirt road - it apparently was an old discarded cemetery monument - a big disappointment to us when first learned... that didn't stop the fun, however... gals didn't know that - so to their reluctance ("c'mon - there ain't nothin' to be afraid of) you'd take 'em there late a night, spewing tales of the monster en route... approaching along the long, lonely dirt road, past the edge of the ominous, awaiting cemetery - itself located on a small knoll rising above the landscape - and proceeding to the dark, deserted woods beyond would really seal the deal...

... viewing the cemetery from along 'Cemetery Road'...

... park and cut the engine - you make an excuse to get out of the car... "gotta' take a leak - be right back"... "don't leave me here alone!!"... "I'll be right back!"... give her some time alone in the darkness and silence - after about five minutes go over and give the rear quarter panel a good whap and shake... "EEK!!"... she starts callin' - no answer - after about another five minutes - with still no answer - you unexpectedly and abruptly open the door and hop back in the car... "where the XXX were you?!!"... "why the XXX didn't you answer me?!!"... "why were you shaking the XXX car?!!" (this all from a gal who ya' never heard utter one swear word)... "I thought I saw some deer over in the field - I went over to take a look"... "I didn't hear ya"... and... "I didn't shake the car"... instantly... "get me the XXX out of here!!...

... a buddy of ours got the tables turned on him one night... there was a movie playin' at the Drive-In at the time about a hooded killer terrorizing a town in Texas (The Town That Dreaded Sundown)... pulling the same cemetery routine, he decides to take a hooded mask along with him... he said that when he popped up at the windshield wearing' that hood, the poor girl starts gasping for air and can't even scream - he's thinking that he's causing her a heart attack - said that it scared him so bad that he started hyperventilating himself... ha... they could have both been found there the next morning having scared each other to death - sounded like a twist ending episode of the 'Twilight Zone'...

(Google Earth Image)
... Google Earth Image of the cemetery and woods - annotation shows the old location of the "monster"...

The Casparis Crater

... we posted about this place previously... reportedly a crash landing site for an alien UFO - the craft supposed to still be buried underground to one day emerge a' la 'War of the Worlds'...

... recent image of the "crater"...

... not so certain about that... it is always full of clear fresh water - we figure from sink and artesian spring activity (the whole area sits atop a near surface bed of karst limestone)... but it's more probable that the UFO penetrated an underground water aquifer (don't want to ruin the narrative)...

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Spacemen Saturday Night

... time was goin' to the movies was somewhat an event... before the emergence of soulless, corporate run multiplex cinemas of the past forty years, theaters were for the most part mom and pop operations with a flair for showmanship and motion picture exhibition... first and foremost (to our affection) was the Saturday afternoon 'Super Spook Show Spectacular' - a two and sometimes four bill showing of cheesy Grade B Horror and SciFi flicks featuring a between feature stage show emceed by a ghoulish host, with ceiling dropping skeletons and spiders, audience buzzing bats and ghosts, and randomly scattered "electric shock" seat buzzers that always got an abrupt loud scream from the gals (and an occasional guy too) - in addition you had all the mayhem of an audience of two hundred screaming kids in a dark theater with consequential deviltry, all executed under a steady barrage of popcorn, milk duds, M&M's, malt balls and (the worst) hard candy fireballs and jawbreakers, all directed at the frontline (usually first ten seating rows), all delivered from rear seating (ground floor) and overhead aerial (balcony seating) assault - some "dug in" front row seating participants (veterans from prior shows) would go as far as bringing their plastic army helmets, cowboy hats etc.. to the event - but that just made ya' a bigger target - most would just lift their coats over head or set there with an empty popcorn box on their head until the ushers would restore some semblance of order to the proceedings, which always occurred at least by the end of the first feature... the highlight of the show was always the promoted appearance of a popular movie "monster", which was usually one of the ushers doin' double (hopefully hazard pay) duty dressed in a rubber Frankenstein mask and gloves, who would lumber across the stage to loud screaming sound track and flickering stage lights while artillery bombardment re-opened as the audience recognized the apparent "ruse"  and ushers scrambled to again restore order... talk about a good time...

 
(Internet Image) 

... Drive-In theaters delivered similar entertainment, although a lot more tame... minus the four-walled captive audience, along with the flicks the live entertainment was relegated to the snack bar concession which was decked in a horror motif of rubber bats, skeletons and the like, while zombies and vampires manned the behind counter operations and rubber-masked Wolf Men and Frankenstein monsters roamed the lobby floor and nearby grounds... occasionally beloved local TV horror show host 'Chilly Billy Cardille' (ref. previous post) would 'copter in for appearance and autograph signing - we had an autograph photo identical to the following - have no idea what ever happened to it...

(Internet Image)
... "Chilly Billy"...

... the best Drive-In entertainment (other than lone accompaniment with a gal) was following the screening of then popular hot rod, biker and similar considered "juvenile delinquent" flicks, which, when let out at 1:30am, fifteen to twenty souped up Fords, Chevies and such, amped by the features, would go drag racing the highway back to town...

(Internet Image)
... Invasion Of the Saucer-Men...

... we always enjoyed the flicks which featured peril, in the form of little green aliens, slithering blobs, disembodied crawling hands and such, to teenagers cruising backwoods country roads in souped-up rides between town, party and make-out spots (that's all everyone we knew pretty much did anyway come Friday and Saturday nights), the thoughts of which always got the gals to set a bit closer when alone on "location"...

(Internet Images)

... although we could generate a list, for simplicity we'll discuss only one favorite which comes to mind - Invasion of the Saucer-Men (1957) - don't think that it's been shown on TV since Chilly Billy's late Saturday night Chiller Theater days - we understand that there's been no official DVD release because of legal and copyright issues (although, we possess an old DVD bootleg copy) - there's a copy available for viewing on YouTube - we checked it out, however, and it blows - all the saucer-men scenes have been edited out...

... we don't want to ruin the tale for those that haven't seen it, but in short it's a bunch of fun nonsense about a group of little green space aliens terrorizing the local lovers lane - the shrimps possess extractable hypodermic needle fingernails that inject 150 proof alcohol "venom" - their hands, which can disembody from a dead alien, possess a single cycloptic eye, and apparently have a mind their own, perfect for hidin' under the car seat, eventually to crawl up and over shoulder of the unsuspecting heroine... none of the adults believe the teenagers and in turn suspect them as boozing slackers - subsequently, the teenagers have to face the alien menace alone... you get the idea...

... some great saucer-men costumes by the great low budget special effects artist Paul Blaisdell - great special effects overall considering the low budget - we still prefer the old "plaster of paris, rubber band and paper clip" method of special effect production even when compared to multi million dollar modern CGI effects, most of which come across as glorified video games (our opinion - who cares) - lots of soul in the old stuff...

... the film is based in part on a pretty good short story by sci-fi author Paul W. Fairman titled The Cosmic Frame - pretty good tale about a group of little green space aliens who frame a teenager for one of their murders as an automobile hit and run death, which is incorporated as subplot to the film narrative...

... film critics always hated and for the most part lambasted these productions - they were usually always older guys - we always figured the older guys you'd see settin' alone in the rear of the theater full of adolescents and teenagers, wearin' dark sunglasses and long raincoats - and hoping, we always figured, to score a dutch choirboy...

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Living Dead

 ... George Romero's 'Night of the Living Dead' premiered October 1, 1968...  at the time, along with two buddies, we caught the following Saturday night late show at the (now long gone) local movie theater... liked it so much that we again sat thru the late, late show viewing - our recognition for a "two thumbs up" movie rating...

 

 ... filmed on location here in SWPA, the filmmakers include a lot of references to local places and communities, scripted in part in a sort of "breaking news" format, lending further credence to the doings - one news "bulletin" even included our own home town with instructions for local shelter against the zombie menace, however, if it had been actual circumstance, about everybody we knew at the time would have said "Shelter Hell! We're goin' zombie huntin'!!...  they even included a cameo appearance by local TV spook show and news media personality "Chilly Billy" Cardille, who then hosted a Saturday late night twin bill of classic horror and SciFi flicks interspersed with campy schtick throughout the commercial breaks - we were faithful followers...

(Internet Image)
... 'Chilly Billy' and Chiller Theater cast...

... was a little after 1am when the show let out - couldn't have been a more perfect night - a bright October full 'Harvest' Moon with just the right amount of intermittent cloud cover adding a bit of atmosphere for the late night walk home... the two buddies lived a bit closer to town, so bid them farewell with about another mile walk home alone, for the most part through several blocks of familiar residential neighborhood, well lit with corner street lamps and the occasional porch light - nothing to fear while walking the deserted streets alone with images of all the ghouls and zombies we had just witnessed thru two late show viewings replaying in our mind - nothin' scares us anyway...

(Internet Image)

... the final half mile tread home involved a long steep hill - the final block a football field length of dark and deserted encroaching dense woods between street lamps... we hesitated below the final street lamp before the deserted, dark woods, surveying the trek ahead, illuminated by only a bright full moon beaming thru the trees, in turn casting a black widows web of long shadows across the path - dead silence - all of a sudden all those images of ghouls and zombies leapt from our thoughts and took position behind every tree on...

... standing below that final corner street lamp, watching overhead like one great cycloptic eye, we took one final deep breath and bolted up that hill like a rocket... duckin', dodgin' and hurdlin' every shadow zombie stepping into path - don't think our feet ever touched the ground... around the final turn, up a short alleyway, thru the back yard and finally bursting in thru the rear kitchen door - with a full high step wind-up, we 100mph fast balled that door shut with a f*k'n SLAM!! - shook the whole house like a bomb just went off! - shocked the sh*t out of the ol' pop too, who had shortly before gotten home from work and was at the kitchen table butterin' a ham sandwich - he must have jumped three feet into the air - eliciting his favorite line with exclamation...

... "What the Hell's wrong with you boy?!!"...

... not a fresh breath to be had, we're thinkin' but not sayin'...

... "F*k you man!!! - there's zombies snappin' at our ass!!!"...