On Tornadoes, Promotions, Dieting, and further DOTL Complications

As you all probably know, about a month ago downtown Atlanta was hit with a category F2 tornado. Before I write about it, I just want to send out some prayers to the family of the man who lost his life during this incident. Also I want to send out prayers to those individuals who were hurt, as well as everyone whose properties were damaged during the main tornado and the smaller ones that touched down as well that night. The CNN Center and the attached Omni Hotel were badly damaged, as well many of the surrounding businesses, homes, vehicles, and other structures. Even though you hear about such things happening on the news all the time, you never really grasp how fragile your whole world is until you experience something like this first hand.

It was Friday the 14th of March, 2008. I decided to stay late after work at the CNN Center because I was practicing with cutting some of the DOTL footage on my laptop, and just generally learning how to better use the Adobe tools. I didn’t decide to leave until about 8:40pm. Once I got outside, it was already raining. But that is nothing new because it’s been raining a lot here over the winter. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. No strong winds or anything like that.

I got home at about 9:15pm, and by the time I did the rain was coming down harder and the winds were picking up. Again, however, I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I turned the tube on and started fixing dinner, and about 20-25 minutes after I got home the local Channel 2 weather team cut in with their reports on the Tornado Warnings. Around this time my satellite signal started going out intermittently. However, it wasn’t happening like it usually does.

I don’t know how many of you have, or have had, satellite TV but usually during heavy storms you will see a lot of digital artifacts on the screen and the audio will start ‘chirping’ really loudly as the system is missing a lot of the digital information. However, my system was just going from full resolution to complete black and silence, and then back to full resolution again. I remember thinking to myself at the time that it must be storming worse than I’ve ever seen to cause the signal to go completely out all at once. Little did I know that a brewing tornado was passing over me at the time.

It wasn’t long after that when the news started reporting that what seemed to be a tornado had hit the Georgia Dome and the CNN Center. They were reluctant to call it a tornado at that time, but they kept showing 3D graphics on the screen that showed the rotation points where tornados could be brewing inside the storm. They could tilt the graphic up so you could see if the rotation was touching ground level (very cool technology by the way). There was a SEC basketball game going on in the Dome, and they kept cutting to footage inside where you could see the roof vibrating, and the catwalks swaying back and forth. It was craziness to see…I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be in there at the time.

The news crews had cameras downtown in no time. The winds tore a hole in the roof of the Dome. Windows were destroyed all over the place. Billboards were ripped out of the ground and tossed around. Several of the Olympic torch statues in the Centennial Olympic Park were ripped out of the ground. Apartments were severely damaged. One building had completely collapsed. Cars parked downtown for the SEC game and other events had their windows blown out, and many were crushed by falling trees and billboards. One taxi driver was interviewed beside his crushed taxi and told us about how the tornado had picked his car up, flipped it around, and hurled it down the street. It was chaos.

I feel extremely lucky that the storm only passed over my building, and also that I wasn’t outside walking around download just an hour later than I was. That feeling of good fortune increased as I walked around downtown the following Monday to survey the damage firsthand. I shot about a half an hour of footage downtown, so if any of my family or friends is interested in that then I can get them a copy on DVD. Crushed cars still parked in their spots where trees and other debris fell on them. Several days after the fact there still was glass scattered all around. Just about every building had multiple windows missing. The sign for the Chinese Restaurant “Golden Buddha” looked like a giant grasped it in their hands and wrung it out like a damp washcloth. The Philip’s Area façade was almost completely ripped away. It damaged the roof of the CNN Center as well, causing it to rain inside during times of inclement weather. Seeing all of that, I feel lucky that all that happened at my place is that the satellite signal cut in and out a few times.

I also have some pictures of the whole mess that a co-worker took. I will post those in the gallery (see the link on the top/right of the main page – note it’s not the DOTL Gallery as that is for Darkening of the Light stuff.) I’m going to look into taking some screen shots of my footage and posting it as well. Or perhaps I can post snippets of it…we’ll see what I can do.

I suppose there is no great segue I can make between describing the tornado aftermath and the content of the rest of this post, so I’m going to stop trying to come up with one. A lot of people’s homes, business, and their lives in general were harmed by that storm. So I kinda feel bad now about going on to describe happy times for me, but I suppose that life must go on. Maybe that’s the best segue we can have. Life, indeed, must go on.

Last month I had my yearly performance review with Turner Broadcasting, and wow it was a great one. I was awarded with a promotion, although it’s more of a promotion in name and salary than anything. I’m actually still doing the same exact job that I was before the promotion, but I’ll take the money and the slight prestige of course. I actually got two raises as a result of my review — one for the review itself, and one for the promotion. I probably shouldn’t go into any specific details, but I am now making several thousand dollars more a year now than I was. One is one, a couple is two, a few is three, and several is…more than three. If there is a designation for four, it would be more than that as well. So…there you go. You can imagine how pleased I am. I look back over the past 10-15 years of my life and I think…I suppose that if I absolutely had to go through all of that garbage to get to this place, then it was all worth it. I’m certainly in a better place, financially and professionally, than I’ve ever been.

And while I’m talking about self-improvement (hey there’s a good segue), I believe it’s time to report that I have put myself on a diet. If you read my last DOTL report, you may remember I complained about my appearance and my weight in it. When I got back home from that trip, I decided to go on a diet. I started on February 18th, at which point I weighed 262. I last weighed myself this past Sunday, which was April 13th, and I am down to 246. All I’m doing is counting calories.

I believe it is entirely possible that I was eating at least 1000 calories a meal before I started this diet. I ate fast food all the time – huge portions and all that. I’m sure I was eating 3000 to 4000 calories a day, and that’s just insane now that I think about it. Now I’ve cut back to approximately 1800 a day, plus I’m exercising a bit on one of the elliptical machine in my apartment complex’s workout room (30 minutes every other day or so). I am still eating basically what I was before, although I don’t eat a lot of fast food anymore. If I do, I look up how many calories are in any given item on their menu so I know what I can order. I think the main reason why many dieters fail is because they try to deprive themselves of the foods that they love. I’m not doing that. If I want pizza, I’ll eat it. I just don’t eat four or more slices in a serving – two at the most.

To me, it all comes down to your state of mind. If you want to lose weight bad enough, you will. It’s like quitting smoking. I smoked for about 12 years, from the age of 15 to about 27 or 28. I stopped a few times in between, but that didn’t last long. That was because I didn’t really want to quit (There’s a difference between stopping something and quitting. When you “stop”, you’re going to start again. When you “quit”, that is The End.) I enjoyed smoking quite a bit. But one day I realized how crappy it made me feel. I saw what it did to my Dad and I didn’t want that to happen to me, so I decided that it wasn’t for me any longer. That’s not to say that it was easy, and I still find myself occasionally craving a cigarette to this day, but it’s about making up your mind that you’re going take control of this no matter what. I am a firm believer in the ideal that your life belongs to you, and no matter the addiction or vice or whatever – it can’t control you unless you allow it to control you. Smoking cigarettes is a choice, and carrying this weight around every day is as well.

I am working to improve the quality of my life, and I’m hoping to get myself back down to somewhere between 190 and 200 pounds at some point in the future. Even if it’s just a pound or so a week, that’s fine by me because I know that I will reach my goal eventually. I have gained a greater appreciation for Lean Cuisines and Healthy Choice meals, I can tell you that. 🙂

So like I said, seeing how I looked in the DOTL footage led me to this place, and so now another glorious segue leads me to further adventures in the Darkening of the Light shooting schedule. I went back to WV to shoot more on the movie between 3/7 and 3/9. The 7th (Friday) was my travel there day, the 8th (Saturday) was our day to shoot, and the 9th (Sunday) was the day I would some back. Well, of course it snowed all day long on the 8th and we couldn’t go out to Pipestem. So instead we spent the whole day making up and then rehearsing the rest of our fight. We got that on tape so at least we’ll have it to work off of in the future. We also used the green screen to shoot close ups of all the dialog in the movie to be intercut in places during the scene. I will shoot some background plates at Pipestem, and will chroma key this footage so that when it’s cut into the movie you won’t be able to tell that when it was shot it wasn’t done at location. I’m excited to see the results. Anyway, we shot an hour of footage with all the dialogue for us both plus the shots of us rehearsing the fight. So that takes us up to 7 tapes (an hour each) of footage for the flick so far.

After that day, I went back to WV again for another weekend of shooting. This time it was 3/21 through 3/23. The same situation applied – 21st (Friday) was for the trip there, 22nd for shooting, and 23rd for the trip back. This time we had a gloriously beautiful day on Saturday and it looked like a certainty that we would finish the scene. But once again, fate had different plans for us. We got two set ups done, and were well into shooting a third when the unthinkable happened. My lightsaber hilt snapped in two right in my hands. It wasn’t because it was hit by a dowel or anything. We were just going through the steps of our duel and the damn thing snapped clean in two pieces, one in each hand, as if I took a freaking hacksaw to it. This royally screwed us at the time because we didn’t have a replacement for my hilt…they don’t make this version of the Hasbro lightsabers anymore (it is made in the style of Luke’s lightsaber he used in Return of the Jedi – not the style that he used in A New Hope and Empire that he lost along with his hand). I actually bought it for my nephew James back in 2005. So, since there was no more lightsaber for me, we had to pack up and call it a day. It was such a perfect day too, weather wise. The temperature was in the 50s when every other day that we’ve been shooting this scene it has been in the 40s. We were able to shoot just 25 minutes of footage on tape 8 on this day. Every time I think about it, I get pissed off about it again. We would definitely have scene 26 in the can if it weren’t for that shite.

Man…I just get the sense that we’re not supposed to finish this movie. Every little thing that can possibly go wrong is going wrong, outside of truly catastrophic things like losing or damaging one of the tapes or the camera itself. (Knock on freaking wood). However, I am encouraged at the thought that similar and worse things hampered the production of the original Star Wars as well. If you watch the documentary included in the box set of the original trilogy, it tells you about some of the nightmares involved. I can relate…in my own way. It’s just frustrating. We’ve put so much of our time and creative energies into this, and we have so little to show for it. I just want to get it done and show it to people. I just want everything we’ve poured into this to mean something. I suppose that if it’s meant to be, then it will be. Cross your fingers for us, and I’m sure some prayers would help as well. It certainly couldn’t hurt.

So, it’s been almost four weeks since the saber breaking incident, and too many things are going on in Kris’ world right now for us to finish scene 26. He’s been travelling here and there for Marshall orientation (he’ll be going there as well in the fall) and high school choir events. So we’re going to be extremely lucky to get back to Pipestem and find it still looking dead (as in the trees and foliage to not be at least budding with Spring induced life). This is going to at the very least change the scene as it was intended to be shot. We could always wait until Kris is on Christmas vacation to finish it, though, I suppose. We’ll see. Blah. I’m getting pissed off again.

Well, that’s the state of my life right now. Personally and professionally, things are great. Darkening of the Light stuff could certainly be better. I at least won an auction for a replacement hilt on eBay that is an exact match for the one that broke, so that’s good news. But still, like I said, it could definitely be better. All in all, though, I can’t really complain much. So I won’t. Indeed, I will be signing off, for now.

Take care, and come back soon for further readings of (I hope) interest. I keep meaning to update this more often, and perhaps I will start doing so soon….

Until then,

“The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.”

— Marcel Pagnol

“There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart…pursue those.”

— Michael Nolan

“We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke and a presumption that once our eyes watered.”

— Tom Stoppard