And Rome Dies
by John Tully
Governor Patterson declares: “It’s the Miracle On The Hudson”
John S. Tully
The New York Herald Sun
January 15, 2008
A flock of geese is being blamed for the water-landing of U.S. Airways 1549.
More than half a dozen water-ferries immediately began to rescue the 155 people aboard.
The pilot apparently meant to land it in the water off 48th street and the West side of Manhattan.
The flight originated from Laguardia Airport.
The first call to 911 was made at 3:31
All 150 passengers were rescued including the five crew members totaling 155 people who survived the crash.
Mr. Bloomberg told me at the press conference when I questioned him* that the pilot personally told the Mayor that he went back into the plane twice to check to see if there were any remaining passengers in the cabin.
The pilot has been identified by friends as Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger III
Reporter John Tully watches Governor David Patterson talk about the “Miracle on the Hudson”
*(right before the NYPD escorted Mr. Tully out for lack of press credentials)
Politics is not a pretty thing.
Look no further than this week in Washington D. C. Former Vice-president Albert Gore Jr. finally brought up the huge marsupial in the room. Criminy! folks, that’s gonna’ wake the whole herd up mate!
Senate Leader Tom Daschle, who seemed to have stashed his opinions in a lock box this summer finally blew his top on the Senate floor denouncing President Bush’s comment at a recent fundraiser that the “Senate” is more interested in “special interests” than in the Security Of Americans. That very same fundraiser pushed the President past Bill Clinton’s record of $126 million raised in one year and it’s only the last week of September.
Stepping right up to the plate this week was a small group of Senators who have been all too quiet this summer with any dissent of this administration’s dual War On Terrorism and Iraq. In fact the debate on war had bipassed “if” and went straight through to “when” and “who’s with us” by the time Mr. Gore finally cleared his throat Monday in San Francisco. Actual questions were raised about our effectiveness in toppling Saddam and how to proceed post-war in Iraq among others.
Sen. Robert Byrd paced and shook with disdain as he read Bush’s remarks from the newspaper on the senate floor. Sen. Daschle’s voice broke as he defended his colleagues, spoke of members who have served in the military and demanded an apology from the President. He also spoke of not politicizing the nation’s debate. It was a classic case of “too little,too late”
Back in June an internal G.O.P. playbook, authored by White House political strategist Karl Rove got into the hands of the opposition. The Powerpoint presentation suggested Republican candidates play up the “War” to keep the political dialogue on their side of the fence.The relative silence of the Democrats this summer only strengthened the resolve of the true hawks in the administration and a bipartisan resolution for war will almost definitely be passed by both houses. For GOP candidates however, the strategy might not pay off.
A new poll released this week shows that while the majority of Americans are for action against Iraq, three out of five want our allies to sign on. Colin Powell would like to go back to the Security Council soon with a joint resolution from the United States Congress and it looks as if he will have it. Unfortunately for the Republicans, this momentary truce focuses the debate back onto the domestic front where, as usual, it is the Economy…stupid.
Crikey! The bugger just ate his own heed!
Politics is not a pretty creature.
Manny Ramirez brings bat and baggage to Los Angeles Dodgers
August 1, 2008
He will arrive at Dodger Stadium today lugging 510 career home runs inside 510 pounds of baggage.
He will take his place in the middle of the Dodger batting order tonight as one of baseball’s biggest hitters and most baffling headaches.
In the biggest late-season acquisition in club history, the Dodgers acquired left fielder Manny Ramirez on Thursday from the Boston Red Sox and Mars.
They are counting on him to carry them into October and beyond.
Just as soon as they can find him.
Three hours after the trade, Ned Colletti, Dodger general manager, was asked whether he had spoken to Ramirez.
“I left him a message,” said Colletti.
Four hours after the trade, Dodger Manager Joe Torre was asked whether he had spoken to Ramirez.
“I left him a message,” said Torre.
Days after the Angels grabbed the national sports spotlight by trading for quiet slugger Mark Teixeira, the Dodgers have thrown a massive counterpunch by acquiring a guy who is part Hollywood and part Dagwood.
A guy who occasionally swings like Babe Ruth and is consistently as nutty as a Baby Ruth.
The only thing that flops around more than his trademark dreadlocks are his moods.
Nobody in baseball history has hit more postseason homers — 24 — yet when the 2007 world champion Red Sox visited the White House, Ramirez didn’t show up.
“I guess his grandmother died again,” President Bush said at the time. “Just kidding.”
Perhaps nobody in baseball history has performed better in a more pressure-filled World Series, as he was the MVP of the 2004 Series that broke the Red Sox’s 86-year title drought.
Yet a couple of weeks ago, during a sixth-inning pitching change at Fenway Park, he momentarily departed left field to make a cellphone call.
The Red Sox have long shrugged off such behavior as “Manny being Manny.”
But recently, with Ramirez ripping club executives in preparation for his probable departure as a free agent this winter, the Red Sox finally decided Manny could be Manny somewhere else.
Officially, the Dodgers acquired Ramirez in a three-team trade that cost them third-base prospect Andy LaRoche and pitcher Bryan Morris, who worked in class-A.
Unofficially, it doesn’t take a Laker fan to understand that they were given a gift the size of Pau Gasol.
Neither Dodger kid was considered a top prospect,
and the Red Sox agreed to pay the remainder of Ramirez’s $21-million annual salary, about $7 million.
“It’s crazy,” said Torre. “This is a huge ‘get’ for us.”
It is actually two “gets” for the price of none.
They do not have to pay someone who immediately becomes their best hitter. And, because of his impending free agency, they are not obligated to tolerate his nutty behavior beyond this season.
He is probably here only for two months, but with a swing that is as unshakable as his smile, he is capable of carrying the Dodgers every day of those two months.
“Three months,” corrected Dodger owner Frank McCourt, adding a month for the playoffs and World Series. “We’re going to have a great three months of baseball.”
It was Boston native McCourt who pushed for this deal Thursday morning, just hours before the trading deadline, when he realized that the Red Sox were truly serious about dealing their recurring headache.
In the weak National League West, one hitter could elevate his pitching-rich team to the top. And amid the inexperienced National League teams that will make the playoffs, one hitter could provide the postseason difference.
Ramirez, even at age 36, is still clearly that hitter, leading the Red Sox with 20 home runs and ranking second with 68 RBIs at the time of the trade.
“This team has hung in there all season with all these injuries. This is about giving them a chance to go for it,” said McCourt. “This is about paying back our loyal fans and rewarding our hard-working team.”
The fans will get it, and were already loudly cheering just the scoreboard announcement of the trade Thursday night.
The clubhouse may be a more difficult sell, particularly because Ramirez not only creates distractions, but a total of five potential starting outfielders.
“This is why we have a guy like Joe Torre as manager,” said McCourt.
Indeed, other than the Red Sox’s Terry Francona, probably the only other current major league manager who can handle Ramirez is Torre, who constantly dealt with wacky late-season acquisitions with the New York Yankees.
Torre, who was constantly haunted by Ramirez during the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry, said, “It’s funny, but I did everything I could not to have to see him again, and all of a sudden he’s showing up in the uniform I’m wearing.”
He smiled. “It’s pretty special.”
Pretty strange. Pretty, yeah, pretty special.
Bill Plaschke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.
Give and Take
Millimeter, Nov 1, 2000
was criticized for paying third-world workers less than a living wage
to assemble expensive sneakers, yet filmmakers brag about making a
killing at the box office with movies put together by unpaid artists
and technicians. While farm workers struggle for fair wages, film
professionals willingly work for free. What gives?
production costs low by using donated labor and services is a
time-honored practice, but recent advances in digital technology
coupled with last year’s huge financial success of The Blair Witch Project
spawned a cottage industry of no-budget productions. The blessing is
that it is infinitely easier and cheaper for filmmakers to realize
their artistic vision without corporate interference. The curse is that
profits rarely trickle back to the artists and technicians who work
The issues are not all black and white. Both hiring
free labor and laboring for free have advantages and disadvantages.
Millimeter recently spoke to several ultra-low-budget directors and
producers who hire free help, as well to a few cast and crew members
who volunteer their services. Shawna Brakefield, indie outreach
director for Screen Actors Guild, lends her thoughts on free labor –
and the law.
The Unpaid Picture: Producers and Directors
Besides saving the filmmaker a lot of money, using donated talent and labor also creates a built-in support system.
Reggie Rock Bythewood, who wrote, produced, and directed Dancing in September
on a budget of $1 million, used volunteers to fill positions from P.A.
to producer. He did it, he says, to gather a committed crew.
somebody is going to work for nearly nothing,” says Bythewood, “it
means their commitment goes beyond financial concerns. They are either
committed to the individual who is making the film, the subject matter,
the script, or the vision of the piece. Basically, you have a crew of
people who are passionate about the project.”
The appeal of a
supportive team also motivates writer/director Dean Noble, who has
produced four short films with volunteer cast and crew, including his
latest project, Kung Fu Kitchen. “When I’m feeling down about my career
and what I’ve accomplished artistically,” Noble observes, “I just have
to step back and say, `These people have believed in you and have
stepped up to the plate. They have spent time, precious resources, and
talent in support of a project that you initiated.'”
downside, though, filmmakers admit that unpaid can mean unreliable. “I
wasn’t sure how many crew members I was going to have, who was going to
show up day to day, or how long they could stay,” says Noble of his
experience with Kung Fu Kitchen. “You’re just happy to have them for as
long as you can get them.” Bythewood concurs: “It’s really hard to keep
people committed over an extended period of time. The people who remain
committed, you just cherish.”
With unpaid labor, filmmakers must
also juggle shooting schedules around actors’ availability. “In one
case, it was so somebody could go to lunch with her aunt,” remembers
Noble. Don Haderlein, writer/director of Moonbeams, a no-budget digital
feature with a cast and crew made up entirely of family and friends,
takes the flexibility in stride. “If someone was tired or had to go,
they could leave freely,” he says. “If a paying job came up for
somebody, they were allowed to be absent, so no one resented being
Producers and directors must also remember that many
technicians who work for free are rookies seeking experience. Their
lack of expertise can cause delays, compromise quality, and even lead
to serious mistakes.
Some mistakes were made in Kung Fu Kitchen’s
production sound, and, as a result, the entire film will probably have
to be looped. But Noble remains unfazed. “If you don’t have money, you
have to spend time,” he reasons. “And yes, you will spend time
The Unpaid Picture: Cast and Crew
Cast and crew members also have pros and cons to examine when
considering whether or not they should work for free. Are the creative
opportunities and experience that ultra-low-budget films often deliver
worth the weeks off a paying job?
Warren Yeager, SOC, Kung Fu Kitchen’s
director of photography, is a member of IATSE Local 600, yet often
volunteers on short or spec projects as a way to stretch his skills,
add credits to his resume, and experiment on someone else’s dime.
Equally important is the opportunity to build working relationships
with directors who can hire him in the future or recommend him for
paying work. “That’s the real advantage of it,” he notes. “You have to
get into somebody’s loop, and you have to do it with enough people –
because most people in the industry aren’t going to make it.”
Yeager asks for a written deferred-deal memo on any project that he
feels has commercial potential, he has only seen one project pay off.
So, since his chances of actually making money are slim, he volunteers
mostly for shorts with limited schedules that do not interfere with
paying jobs. “If it was a two-month feature for free that they were
really trying to market, then that would be exploitive,” he says.
are more liberal with their time. Special-effects make-up artist Brian
Sipe first spent a month creating three Chinese demons for Kung Fu Kitchen
and then hours on the set applying his creations to the actors. If
Noble had had to pay for the work, it would have cost him over $20,000.
explains the reasons for his generosity: “We’re given a chance to shine
for ourselves rather than shine for somebody else. Dean gave me all the
creative control I wanted or needed. Now I can add that to my
With unpaid work, actors often have the chance to
show off a fuller range of skills than their paid work allows. But
ultra-low-budget working conditions – with their nonexistent dressing
rooms, brutal hours, and fast-food catering – can also be punishing.
“Everyone is not at their best,” comments actor Craig Ng, who played a role in Kung Fu Kitchen. “It starts out as really fun project, but by the end of the shoot, it’s just a mess.”
the up side, though, Ng appreciates how low-budget films have allowed
him to become more involved in the creative process. In addition to
acting in Kung Fu Kitchen, he helped with casting, brought in the stunt
choreographer, and even suggested locations. “It just kept my creative
process going so much for everything that when it came to acting, I was
able to put more of myself in there,” he says.
The Unpaid Picture: Unions
On Kung Fu Kitchen, Ng worked under the SAG Experimental
Film contract, one of five low-budget contracts that Screen Actors
Guild (www.sag.org) designed to protect its members while allowing them
to do ultra-low-budget projects. Dancing in September was also done under a SAG low-budget agreement.
Brakefield, SAG’s indie outreach director, explains that the low-budget
contracts have various budget caps ranging from $75,000 to two million
dollars. The contracts offer much-reduced rates, and the experimental
contract allows performers to defer their entire salaries. The
contracts are basically sub-agreements of the SAG theatrical contract,
so rules governing overtime and working conditions apply, and residuals
are due performers if a film makes a profit. (At press time, SAG was
revamping the agreements, and officials expected to announce new
revisions this month. For more information, contact SAG’s theatrical
contracts department at 323-549-6828.)
“Sometimes actors need the
union to protect them from themselves,” comments Brakefield. “It’s the
biggest myth in Hollywood that actors want to work for free.”
also points out that the SAG contracts protect filmmakers from losing
actors who get a paying job in the middle of an unpaid project. “The
actors are hired to do a job, and they must render professional
services. They can’t not go back to work,” she explains.
everyone goes through unions. Mark Pirro, who has been writing,
producing, and directing ultra-low budget films for 18 years, says he
can always find actors who are willing to work for nothing without the
protection of a SAG low-budget contract. “There are so many people in
this town who want to do it for the footage,” he says.
resists the SAG low-budget agreements for “the same reason I don’t want
to get married even though I can live with a girl the rest of my life.
You’re further complicating an already complicated thing.” Pirro finds
the SAG conditions too structured for his ways of working and says that
he is not able to pass profits along to his actors according to their
contributions because he keeps no records.
Although he is not
against unions, Pirro does think that they should never have the right
to stop anyone from working, especially when those workers are unpaid.
“If actors aren’t getting paid, then they are not working,” he reasons.
“I don’t see how any union can stop anyone from volunteering their
To Brakefield, this argument is just making the union the
“bad guy” and taking the easy way out. “The more responsible way is
literally taking responsibility for your show, keeping good
administration, exchanging with everybody, and putting in a deal memo,”
Brakefield also says that Pirro and other
ultra-low-budget producers who do not carry liability insurance or
workman’s compensation are breaking the law. “If you are telling
someone to show up at a certain time and work a certain number of
hours, you are instantly classified as an employer,” she explains.
“State law requires employers to carry workman’s compensation.”
to the SAG low-budget agreements must provide workman’s comp for their
actors. “If the producer is smart,” adds Brakefield, “when they buy
their workman’s comp package, they don’t just buy it for the actors.
They buy it for everybody, so the entire crew is covered.”
doesn’t see it that way. “If somebody’s there and they get hurt, they
aren’t really my employees if they are not getting paid,” he states.
The Unpaid Picture … Unpaid
After producers and directors consider the pros and cons of
using unpaid labor and official union contracts, and after cast and
crew decide whether or not unpaid work is a good career move, one fact
remains: The chances of an ultra-low-budget film becoming the next Blair Witch Project are minuscule. In reality, even a modest profit eludes most productions.
fact, like unpaid labor itself, can be good and bad. “I guess I don’t
feel exploited,” concludes Ng, “because I’ve never seen anything I’ve
worked on amount to anything.”
DGA Goes Ultra Low
SAG is not the only organization creating contracts that sanction
members’ involvement in low-budget work. Directors Guild of America
(www.dga.org) also has contracts that allow members to volunteer under
For example, an agreement with American Film
Institute allows DGA members to work on AFI student projects without
pay. Students learn from professional assistant directors and UPMs,
while DGA members make connections with up-and-coming directors. The
agreement also allows DGA members to advance their careers by gaining
experience and credits in higher categories: Second ADs can work as
First ADs, and First ADs can work as UPMs.
DGA also has an
experimental agreement that allows members to work for free on projects
intended as demo reels or for the festival circuit. These films cannot
be longer than 30 minutes or cost more than $50,000. If profits result,
the contract provides for negotiated payment.
“If it’s not to
make money and our members want to do it, we’re flexible,” states Brian
Unger, DGA’s Western executive director. “But if somebody comes to us
and says, `I want to make this thing for $30,000, and a big distributor
is going to distribute my movie’, we say `no’. You don’t get a break
when there is that kind of potential.”