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Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Good Day For Ducks

(Sent Via Moblog)

Posted byCOMTE on 2:18 PM

2 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

Friday, April 28, 2006

And Back To One

(Sent Via Moblog)

The crew for the TV shoot showed up around 9:00 a.m. - and it was a crew indeed: producer, assistant producer, cameraman, sound recordist and lighting grip. So, for most of the day there have been six of us crammed into my tiny living space, trying our darnedest to not get in each other's way.

It's just after 4:00 p.m. now, and we're winding down shooting for the day, finishing off with some "cutaways" (for those not up on their Hollywood lingo, that's a shot that basically breaks up a take or allows two different takes to be spliced together), and then we'll do a time-lapse take and after that, as they say in the film biz, "it's martini time" (although in this instance, it'll be "Strawberry Daquiri time", since that's what they asked me to make for my time-lapse sequence).

It's been a long day, but I have to admit, it's been a lot of fun showing off my funky little apartment. I'm being told the episode will probably air sometime in the fall - September or October - and my segment will probably only be about five minutes in length, but for that they've shot (at this point in the day) roughly 3 1/2 hours of footage. The idea being that you get as much coverage as possible, which gives the editors lots of options. Plus, as the producer explained it, the show uses a lot of quick cuts, split-screen, time-lapse and montage effects, so they actually end up using quite a bit of what they shoot, even given the brief duration of the piece.

I've seen some of the output on their monitor, and it's really going to look great. The high definition video is amazing; the colors are very rich and full, and the smallest details come into sharp focus, even in the long shots (good thing I cleaned so thoroughly last night!). So, all the "organized clutter" of hot sauce bottles, books, sci-fi props, and various-and-sundry things I've got on display will show up with crystal clarity.

5:30 p.m. Looks like we have one more shot to do, outside with me sitting in a chair surrounded by the barely contained chaos of the yard. The crocuses are in full bloom, with tulips scattered here-and-there for contrast, and the cats doing their cat things for additional "color", so it should make for a nice closing shot. Naturally, the cats have been given featured exposure throughout the day, so they're going to be seen almost as much as myself.

6:15 p.m. and the crew has packed up and just left. So, now things are more or less back to normal.

It'll be interesting to see how it all turns out. I'll let you know.

A brief compendium of strange utterances from the day (guess you had to be there):

- So, what color base are you?
- Let's use the "hero" phaser.
- Tell us, what's under the hula skirt?
- I've been in a lot of homes, and that is the cleanest fridge I've ever seen.
- The cat's using the litterbox - roll tape, ROLL TAPE!
- And THAT my friend is why I love "the joker".
- This was before Kubrik became a genius.
- Okay, who left their keys in the refrigerator?
- Back then, maybe people needed to grind meat and whip merengue at the same time.
- No, I think having a serious side is GOOD.
- That's one small sip for man...

Posted byCOMTE on 3:39 PM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

Thursday, April 27, 2006

They Paved Paradise And Put Up A Parking Lot

So, two near, but not-quite encounters this week have me thinking about how many such similar incidents occur to us, and of which we are never otherwise aware.

Case One: On Tuesday evening a man was shot and killed by police at an intersection of Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. This is the largest shopping district nearest where I live, and one through which I happened to have walked just a few minutes prior to the shooting. Several times just earlier, I had stopped to chat with friends and neighbors I encountered along the way. Had I lingered a minute or two longer with any of them, there's a very strong possibility I would have been at the intersection at the moment the shooting occured.

Case Two: Last night, walking home from doing some after work shopping, I spent a few moments briefly glancing over a 1968 Mustang with a "for sale" sign in the window, about two blocks from my apartment. Not seriously thinking about it (one 30+ year-old vehicle is quite enough), but just out of curiosity. I stopped for about a minute, then continued on my way. When I got to the intersection just before my block, I noticed a woman walking on the other side of the street. She's someone I used to know from my days at The 5th Avenue, whom I haven't seen for nearly 15 years, although recently we've bumped into each other several times in the neighborhood, and it's pretty clear we live in close proximity to each other. Now, if I hadn't stopped to look at the car, we would have been standing on the same corner at the same time, and I would have had a chance to talk to her again.

I mention these two incidents because they point to a phenomenon that frequently gets overlooked in our daily hustle-and-bustle, namely, that these sorts of "almost encounters" probably occur with a lot more frequency than most of us realize. I'm aware of it of course, because in the one instance, it's been in all the papers, and in the second, because I happened to be the one just a few steps afar and behind. But, unless or until I have another chance meeting with this woman, she'll never know how close we were to running into each other at that particular moment.

Not that this is a big thing mind you, unless of course, as in the first example above, the incident involves some sort of dangerous or violent activity. But it does make me wonder about all the times this sort of thing happens, but about which we never know. I suppose some people might dismiss it as a sort of "should have, would have, could have" phenomenon that just isn't worth contemplating. But, when you become aware of what you've just missed, regardless of whether the interaction may have had positive or negative consequences, it becomes a bit difficult to ignore.

And, because we never know, we seldom spend much time thinking about all the lost opportunities, the close calls and near misses that may have occured just ahead or behind us as we scurry through life, focused on the task at hand, while something interesting or dangerous or perhaps even miraculous is taking place just outside our field of view. Maybe it means we're moving too fast, or not fast enough, but obviously there's no real benefit to lingering on the "what if"s, since in its extreme I suppose one could decide to just not move at all for fear of missing something important. And so instead, we just keep moving on, oblivious to the possibilities.

Except in those few instances where the unknown and unobserved becomes something known and seen.

And only then do we sometimes have an inkling of what we might be missing.

Posted byCOMTE on 11:40 AM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

(Sent via Moblog)

Posted byCOMTE on 7:26 PM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

We Might Be Giants

I recently changed my bus route to-and-from work (shaving a whole 8 minutes off my commute!) by switching to a number 48, which takes me into the "University District" just west of the University of Washington campus. As a result, I spend a few minutes walking between transfer stops each day, in the presense of a small smattering of what I presume to be freshman & sophmore students traveling between their dorms and classes.

And I've noticed something rather peculiar about them.

Roughly 80% of the kids I pass by, presumably between the ages of 17 & 19, are significantly shorter than I am. Not just by an inch or two mind you, but it seems like many of them are barely scraping 5'0". Granted, there are quite a few Asians in the mix, but the majority - probably 60% - are Caucasian, and even here there's a noticeable absence of height. And it's not just girls; most of the boys in this group appear to be significantly height-challenged as well. I admit, it's a pretty small group compared to the total student population, but I would also guess it's a fairly random one, which would seem to make for a reasonably representative statistical sample.

Now, even at the peak of my youth, I myself scraped the door frame at just under 5'8", so I'm not exactly a towering specimen, especially when taking into consideration the inevitable reduction in height cause by several decades fighting against the pull of gravity, the naturally occuring spinal contraction that comes with advancing age and what-have-you. Even so, it just seems weird to walk through an oncoming throng of undergrads and have a relatively unobstructed view over the tops of their heads.

So, what gives here? Is this some sort of demographic trend? Is it the result of poor nutritional habits? Something in the water? Are humans just breeding smaller offspring than previous generations?

I'm just wondering...

Posted byCOMTE on 1:42 PM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Always Another Dawn

Scott Crossfield (1921 - 2006)

Even when he became the "fastest man alive" after his record-setting Mach 2 flight in November of 1953, temporarily taking the title away from perenneal rival Chuck Yeager (the two would trade the first position several times over the years), Crossfield was little known outside the rather closed circle of test pilot ranks. Unlike most of his military colleagues, Crossfield was a civilian, and yet by all accounts his skills in the cockpit rivaled the best of the Navy and Marine "stick jockeys" against whom he frequently competed.

His contributions to high-speed and high-altitude flight stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Yeager and others in the Edwards AFB group of the mid-to-late 1950's, such as Gus Grissom, Deke Slayton, and Gordo Cooper, all of whom would eventually eclipse him (in fame at least) during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs of the 1960's.

After his active flying career ended in the early '60's, he continued to make significant contributions the industry, acting as a consultant to aviation and aerospace manufacturers on several major programs, including the Apollo command module and Saturn V booster; serving as CEO for Eastern Airlines for a number of years (where he was succeeeded by Gemini & Apollo astronaut Frank Borman); as well as playing a key advisory role within NASA for the last decade of his career.

Given that, for many years Crossfield inhabited a rarified world of speed and danger, pursuing a profession that was known for taking a grissly toll on his fellow pilots, there's a certain grim irony in the manner of his death: After surviving several close calls himself over the years, to finally succomb in a small plane crash seems as fitting as it is unfortunate.

One interesting local connection: Crossfield received his B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Washington in 1949, rounding it off with a Masters Degree from "The U Dub" the following year.

Maybe somebody there will think to name a building after him someday.

Posted byCOMTE on 4:43 PM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"Use your head, can't you, use your head, you're on earth, there's no cure for that!"

(Sent via Moblog.)

One of my neighbors set this up in front of their house today. It's about three and a-half feet tall, bolted to the top of the retaining wall, and made of something very hard.

Posted byCOMTE on 8:00 PM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

Monday, April 17, 2006

Superfin Kvalitet Fur Alla!

In preparation for the upcoming home decorating shoot, I decided the kitchen needed some new rugs, as the cheap coverings I started out with are beginning to unravel after numerous washings. Besides, I wanted something spiffier to show for the cameras. So, I've been shopping around for suitable replacements for about a month or so, but given the specific design elements I'm dealing with, I wasn't happy with any of the offerings I'd encountered to-date.

And then of course, I discovered Ikea.

Now, I understand, most human beings are already familiar - perhaps to the point of saturation - with the Wal*Mart of middle-brow interior decoration, but not moi. I think I may own a couple of items that originally came from Ikea, but I've never purchased anything there myself, and in fact, until yesterday, had never even been inside one of their airplane assembly building sized warehouse stores.

Not to bore you with the gruesome details, since presumably for many of you this is old hat, but - man-oh-man, if there's a way to cram any more as-mediocre-as-it-is-affordable crap into a single location, I'd like to know how. I suppose I can understand its appeal to a typical North American suburban bourgeoisie, since by all appearances it's designed to actively discourage making choices based on any kind of actual aesthetic considerations (just find the mock-upped showroom that fits your perceived level of blandized, color-coordinated non-expression and order every item in it), but the sheer volume of choices speaks to a level of excess - ironically (or perhaps paradoxically) couched in the "practicality is the byword" paradigm of contemporary Scandinavian design - that for me at least, quickly became mind-numbing. I mean, how practical is it really to be confronted by 26 different plastic rolling desk chairs, each completely identical in design and construction, except for their color?

And then there's the whole "Disney theme ride" layout of the store itself. All I really wanted to look at were rugs - and yet, I was forced to wander through a maze of labyrinthian proportions (replete with frequent "you are here" signs to chart your progress), presumably to give full expression to the latent impulse buying that no doubt accounts for a significant portion of their business. Sure, I was briefly tempted by the plastic room dividers, the endless array of kitchen gadgets, even the aforementioned chairs, but they were distractions from my main goal, which naturally was one of the very last departments at the end of the long, winding road of consumer choice.

Despite the obvious obsticles, I was generally undeterred from my mission, and eventually (after a much-needed stop at the cafeteria conveniently located at the heart of the maze, apparently intended to fortify already overloaded shoppers for the second half of their spending binge) I achieved my goal, managing to locate a suitable area rug, and several variously colored small round accent rugs, despite barely avoiding numerous close call collisions with the legions of tiny tots wandering the aisles, complete with appropriately-scaled mini shopping carts (evidentally it's never too early to instill in Today's Youth the compulsion to load themselves to overbrimming, just like that poor little VW bug in all their ads) who carreened around the store like errant pinballs in search of "bunny stations" where perky Ikea employees were handing out free Easter candy, or the hapless "backwards drivers", who had suddenly remembered they needed something from Lamps & Lighting Fixtures, and who were fighting desperately to negotiate back downstream from Bathroom Furnishings, against both the directional arrows and the spawning salmon-like upstream progression of their fellow shoppers.

Still, I got some nice, albeit dirt-cheap floor coverings, and managed to keep the ancilliary spending down to what I imagine was, for the typical Ikea customer at least, an extraordinary show of self-discipline. In any case, I did add a sheepskin pelt that goes nicely on the back of my recliner (intended to keep the cats from clawing the top of the chair back into bootlaces), and a medium sized stainless steel mixing bowl that will now serve as a counter top fruit receptacle.

And with luck, I'll never have to set foot in the place again - unless someone I know decides to remount their series of tiny domestic dramas.

But, I won't buy anything. I swear. Really.

Posted byCOMTE on 1:43 PM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"The Earth is the cradle of the mind, but one cannot live in a cradle forever."
- Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

Yuri Gagarin

"Anyone who sits on top of the largest hydrogen-oxygen fueled system in the world; knowing they're going to light the bottom- and doesn't get a little worried- does not fully understand the situation."
-John Young

STS-1 Crew

Posted byCOMTE on 12:39 PM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

With Two Cats In The Yard
Life Used To Be So Hard

So, just got an email from one of the producers of the cable series
Small Space, BIG STYLE informing me that my humble abode will be one of those featured in their upcoming episode on creatively decorated small living spaces in Seattle.

They'll be in town the end of the month, and figure on spending two or three hours getting footage of the space, along with a brief interview and probably some off-camera narration to boot. The episode should air sometime early this summer.

I must admit, not being much of a TV watcher (heck, I don't even have cable!) I'm not familiar with the show, although friends have told me a bit about it. But, just to give you an idea, here's a brief description from their website:

"Small Space, Big Style features incredibly stylish homes, all measuring in at under 1,000 square feet.

Meet the creative homeowners who have made the most out of the limited space that they have, and learn the tricks to make any small space seem bigger."

So, what kind of stylish accoutrements can you expect to see at Chez Comte?

- A swanky day-glo retro bar set up featuring classic Hellerware serving items, including a rare bullet tray, and even rarer Sergio Asti designed ice bucket.

- A complete 1970's era Oster Kitchen Center (mine's classic "avacado green" & has an ice crusher instead of the food processor).

- A collection of stainless-steel small kitchen appliances.

- A clever use of a narrow ledge along one side of my kitchen (I'm guessing it's some sort of inset for the foundation) converted into a display shelf for my extensive collection of hot sauces, and NASA and "Star Trek" memorabilia.

- My Gilligan's Island-meets-Archie McPhee inspired bathroom!

Of course there's no guarantee as to how extensive my segment will be (and there's always a possibility they might not use it at all - they're looking at about 20 other locations here as well as mine), but it's still a bit of a thrill to be included as one of only a score of incredibly stylish micro living spaces in Seattle.

Posted byCOMTE on 9:35 AM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sometimes The Light's All Shining On Me
Other Times I Can Barely See

Yes, yes, I know. I've been decidedly absent from the blogosphere lately, but I've got a good excuse - well, two actually. Okay, maybe three. Or four. Anyway excuses. Lots and lots of good excuses.

Excuse #1: Work

Things have been busy around the office. I mean BIZ-EE. We just completed our annual audit, and as de facto office manager and bookkeeper, it was my job to deal with the auditor; answer questions (to the best of my rather limited ability - I told them I wasn't an accountant during my interviews, and they hired me anyway, so it's not like they weren't warned in advance); fetch invoices and bank statements and receipts out of dark, dank drawers; scour through virtual reams of checking account and credit card transactions; nod my head in blind impotence as the auditor tries to explain the finer points of the arcane and completely incomprehensible alchemic methodology otherwise known as "double-entry accounting".

You know that sort of not-quite-migraine headache you get from staring at the TV or your computer screen too long? Imagine that same pain starting at about 10:00 a.m. and continuing until roughly 4:30 p.m. three days a week for a month. A pain that even exceeding the recommended daily dosage of Ibuprofin is unable to relieve.

Our Receptionist/Freelance Coordinator (everyone wears multiple hats in our office) just dropped the concrete block-sized final report on my desk a few moments ago. No doubt it contains terse, slightly condescending comments pointing up my sheer incompetence in the area of financial oversight; allusions to the shame I've brought upon the noble profession of Accounting; and dire warnings to all concerned that, in future, I should not be allowed within 30 feet of any version of QuickBooks.

Either that, or it says something to the effect of, "while not every "t" has been crossed nor "i" dotted, in general the bookkeeping here isn't any more or less horrible than what we would expect from such a rank amateur, and therefore in our sanguine judgement you should not jail this individual for fraud, larceny, embezzlement or any of the other crimes and misdemeanors we would normally recommend for such shoddy record-keeping".

Or maybe it just says, "Yeah, we looked at all the records. They're a little sloppy, but that's what we expected, so cut 'em a break, okay?"

I really hope it's the last one.

Excuse #2: Tax Season

As if all that weren't stressful enough, I'm currently smack-dab up to my eyeballs in my annual volunteer income tax assistance program. And so far, it's been one of the busiest seasons since I've been doing it. With a little less than two weeks to go, we've been booked solid on all our appointments; I personally have prepared close to 20 returns; and as Site Coordinator, I've had the added pleasure of dealing with the IRS bureaucracy.

Such fun, no?

Last Saturday we had a scheduled site visit by the Regional Coordinator. I'd previously only communicated with this person via email, and so had absolutely no idea what to expect. And given my recent experience with the auditor, I was expecting the worst.

Fortunately, my trepidation was groundless: she was very pleasant, exceedingly down-to-earth, and genuinely interested in our rather unique service. Doing taxes for artists definitely falls outside of the mainstream of her normal purvue, which consists almost exclusively of sites specializing in tax services to low-income and elderly/retired clients. Interestingly, she pointed out that we are actually one of the largest sites in the entire Puget Sound region in terms of number of returns filed and individuals served. And she wasn't terribly upset by the fact that we were providing additional services not normally covered by our program mandate (e.g. Schedule C's, IRA investments, etc.), since we clearly seemed to know our business. So, all-in-all a rather painless experience.

Now, I just have to get through the next two weeks before the filing deadline, when people tend to become increasingly nervous and desperate.

At least some of them think to bring the cookies, which helps a bit when dealing with panic-stricken taxpayers.

Excuse #3: The Theatre

I haven't had a full day off in over a month. Monday through Friday, it's the job; Saturdays and Monday evenings is the taxes; Sundays have been devoted to putting the not-even-close-to-finishing-touches on our teensy little theatre space. But, I must say, the progress has been steady and we're close to completion of the first phase, which will result in a functional, aesthetically pleasing 40-seat venue. Next phase will be working on the adjoining amenities: sprucing up the dressing room, getting the storage room in order, turning the currently bare-bones "gallery" into a swanky lounge/lobby, and other sundry projects that no doubt will occur to us in the meantime.

It's pretty amazing how much work has been involved in accomplishing the transformation of a 20'x40' empty box into a functional theatre: pipes hung from the ceiling to hold lighting instruments; wiring and conduit to run power to them; replacing heaters; building a tech booth; laying down flooring; UV coating windows; removing aged accoustical tiling and horrid window blinds; scrounging up chairs and platforms upon which to put them (not all of this work was done by us, mind you - sometimes you just have to hire professionals if you want something done right - and up to City code); moving boxes and bags and bins from one storage location to another - and them moving them again.

Still, all the time, energy and effort is paying off: we had our first public performance (a staged reading of some classic works from the French "Grand Guignol" theatre of the early 20th Century) last night (I of course was unable to attend - See Excuse #2 above), but am looking forward to seeing it tonight.

And then there was last weekend's slumber party. Somebody thought it would be a fun idea to have a sleepover in the space, so about a dozen of the stalwarts showed up with the requisite sleeping bags, popcorn, cheesey DVD's, and of course P.J.'s and had a little party until the wee hours, then were treated to a buffet breakfast, courtesy of our new neighbors, the yummy, yummy Crave Restaurant, before holding a monthly company meeting, followed by a reading of a play to cap off the weekend.

Excuse #4: Everything Else

No need to elaborate here, sometimes life just takes precedence over blogging, as it should.

So, there. I've run out of excuses. Good thing too, since you've probably become bored silly reading about them (assuming you've made it this far). But, at least you've got some small inkling of the most recent escapades.

Long, strange trip indeed.

Posted byCOMTE on 11:12 AM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

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