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A Journal of the Plague Years (with apologies to Dafoe and Spinrad)

Posted by Office-Bob on 05 Apr 2022 | Tagged as: General Craziness, The Church of Pyro, FX

Hi there, long time no see!

How y’all doing? Keeping busy? Staying safe? Managing to refrain from killing your spouse/SO after being cooped up inside with them for what seems like an eternity?

It’s been a bit of a ride here but we’ve weathered the storm and come through it in decent enough shape. Sure, there were some tight spots when I wasn’t working but fortunately my wife was able to work from home, so while income was reduced it wasn’t eliminated.

As you may have surmised, since public events were cancelled due to COVID I didn’t have much occasion to shoot pyro – no concerts, no fireworks displays, and I had to wait until the initial lockdowns were over to get back on set and get back into doing FX and pyro. I did manage to pick up a gig at the PNE last summer which helped take the edge off my cravings for stuff that makes noise and shoots fire into the sky (literally; one of the things I was doing was setting off some freakin’ HUGE propane fireballs on top of towers set on either side of the PNE Amphitheatre stage) but otherwise, BOOOOOOORING.

All current indicators are that 2022 should allow me to shoot some shows, though there won’t be a Canada Day show in Vancouver this year (boo!). Celebration of Light, while being promoted on the event website, hasn’t locked down the specifics yet (though I’ve been told I have a spot on the crew if it does go forward [yay!]), and the odds are good that I’ll be able to put on my Halloween show for a local school…which means I should really get started on designing the damned thing (I have two shows worth of music edited together already, so thank Dog that part of the process is finished). Not sure yet if I’ll be offered gigs at PNE and FVDED, so we shall see how that goes.

I was offered a local license gig for Slipknot, but as the show is on Easter Sunday and I’ve already committed to attending Norwescon in person that weekend, I had to turn it down.

I’ve taken advantage of loosened restrictions when possible; I visited my parents for American Thanksgiving which was nice, even though I had to perform a nasal swab for a molecular test via teleconference so I could get back into Canada without quarantine…

…And then, over Christmas, I came down with COVID.

I wasn’t sure it was COVID at first because all of the symptoms made it seem to be your average winter cold, but I had a spare rapid test lying around (this was before tests were being made available to the public; I’d bought them for my cross-border trips) so I took it, and – uh-oh.

This was on the 25th, so Merry Fucking COVID Christmas. Fortunately, we had no plans outside the house so there were no last minute schedule disruptions.

I let my wife know and booked us spots at the local drive-thru test centre on the 27th for PCR testing, which also came back positive for both of us. As I was still on holiday break from the show I’d been working on, and my wife was WFH, isolation wasn’t a problem.

Neither of us had any complications, probably due to both of us having had both vaccine doses already*. I’d gotten my booster a week before so it hadn’t reached full effectiveness at that point, and she hadn’t yet gotten her booster, but I have friends who got COVID before the vaccines were available so I know how bad it could be even if it wasn’t fatal.

Side note: Last week, one of my online friends passed away from a pulmonary embolism related to long COVID. I’m sorry we never met in meatspace, H, but I know you were a wonderful person and the world is a lesser place without you in it.

While I would never recommend coming down with COVID, there were some benefits:

  • It made cross-border travel easier when I went to my fireworks convention in February; at the time I went on my trip CBSA requirements for a negative PCR test when returning to Canada by air were waived if you could provide lab results of a positive test within the last 180 days, along with a doctor’s note saying you were cleared to travel.
  • After the holiday break was over, I was scheduled for my regular COVID test before going back to work but upon being told I’d had it over Christmas, I was asked to provide a copy of the test results and they’d defer my testing for 90 days, because PCR tests could still show me as positive within 90 days of my original positive test. I’m now past the 90-day deferral so I can look forward to nasal swabs at least weekly (I’m usually far enough away from the talent that I only need to be tested once a week)…hooray?
  • One of the best things to happen during these “unprecedented times” (are you as sick of that phrase as I am? Of course you are, which is why I used it) is that I was given the rare opportunity to present the display fireworks course to someone who’s visually-impaired. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ll explain in an upcoming blog entry. Until then remember to wash your hands, wear a mask as needed, get vaccinated and boosted when you can, and help others in need.

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    Popularity: 5% [?]

    NWC 43 RIP

    Posted by Office-Bob on 13 Mar 2020 | Tagged as: General Craziness, FX

    Norwescon 43 has officially been cancelled; memberships are being rolled over to next year so I’m not out anything there, and the hotel will be refunding first night deposits (though I will be checking my CC statement in advance of Hilton’s COVID-19 cancellation policy deadlines just to be safe).

    On the one hand I’m sad that it was cancelled, but I was already hoping it would be as I was trying to balance the risks of attending a large gathering with spending Easter with my parents, both of whom are in their 80s - plus my father has respiratory issues which would put him even more at risk - and now the decision has been made for me, so that’s one less stress factor that I have to deal with, which is a good thing since the production I was working on recently has taken a short (I hope) hiatus from filming because one of the main actors may have been exposed to the virus.

    As a side note, a number of NY-based shows have halted production (maybe some LA-based as well, I dunno), and there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t happen up here, so time will tell how much of the entertainment industry is affected. I’m also wondering if this will impact Canada Day and Celebration of Light or if they are far enough in the future that any bans on large gatherings should have since passed - fireworks displays require long-term planning, though, and between the issues with Chinese fireworks production and then adding shipping times into the mix, the PTBs may be running out of time to make the call on those events.

    Oh well, I’m alive, relatively healthy and I have sufficient TP, flushable wipes, Coke Zero and coffee that I’m in good shape should self-quarantine be required…

    Just don’t fuck with my internet or I’mma cut someone.

    Popularity: 18% [?]

    When you’re odd, what are the odds?

    Posted by Office-Bob on 15 Mar 2018 | Tagged as: General Craziness, FX

    Over the years, I’ve been told that I looked like certain people.

    When I was younger and thinner, people told me that I looked like Monty Python’s Graham Chapman; when I got older/fatter/grayer, people told me that I looked like George Lucas (I still get that one a lot, usually the first time I show up on set to work on a new show).

    One day, when I was working on LUCIFER, the VFX guy stopped me and said that I looked like a colleague of his in Los Angeles, and asked if he could take my picture to send to the man in question. I said I was okay with that, as long as I got a picture of him in return.

    I’m not going to post the pictures for comparison because I don’t have the other guy’s permission, but damned if we don’t look pretty similar – and those to whom I’ve shown the picture tend to agree.

    It gets even weirder, because he and I both share the same first name.

    Who knows? Perhaps some day I’ll be visiting L.A. for whatever reason, and I walk down the street someone will call out my name - then, as I turn around, they realize I’m not the person they thought I was, at which point I will tell them this story and we’ll have a laugh.

    Of course, if it turns out they thought I was someone else entirely and that there’s another doppelganger of me out there, I’m gonna wonder if maybe there’s some “Boys from Brazil” shit going on.

    Popularity: 31% [?]

    NDAs – not just for high tech jobs anymore

    Posted by Office-Bob on 14 Mar 2018 | Tagged as: General Craziness, FX

    On your first day of work on a film or TV production you’re presented with what’s known as a “Start Pack,” which contains all of the paperwork you need to complete to be hired on to the production. Most of it is stuff that anyone who’s worked anywhere will recognize – things like tax deduction claims, personal information, and such – and there will also be things like the official policy on harassment (they’re against it), workplace safety (they’re for it) and proof of residency for tax credit purposes (they want it).

    One thing that has become part of the experience (or should I say “ordeal,” considering the amount of paperwork the typical start pack contains) in recent years is a non-disclosure agreement.

    I’m used to seeing and filling out NDAs from my years working in software development, and their purpose here is no different; you’re expected to not publicly discuss or take/display pictures of anything you hear or see while working on the production, although those restrictions are usually relaxed once the show has aired or the movie has been released. They’re not kidding around, either – I worked on a show (no, I’m not gonna name it) where tales were told of one semi-regular background actor who was fired because he posted some set pictures onto his Facebook page, and the general consensus was that he’s probably going to have trouble getting work in the future because he violated his NDA.

    That’s not to say that pictures don’t get taken – after all, it’s human nature to want to document things that you had a hand in creating – but those who do so are usually pretty discreet in how and when they take pictures, and they keep them to themselves or else only share them with a very close, trusted circle of friends.

    As for me, I will happily discuss something I’ve worked on once it’s escaped into the wild but until then, the most you’ll get out of me is admission that I worked on PROJECT NAME and, maybe, a comment to the effect that I think people will like it when it comes out…if you want the REALLY juicy stories, you’ll need to buy me a drink or three after it’s gone public.

    Popularity: 31% [?]

    Yeah, I know, it’s been a while…

    Posted by Office-Bob on 02 Mar 2016 | Tagged as: The Church of Pyro, FX

    Sorry for the looooooooong time between entries…it’s not because I don’t love you (okay, some of you I like but don’t love, and others I perhaps love too much) but things have just been cruising at a relatively normal pace so I haven’t had much to say until now.

    Here’s a catchup post for those of you in the cheap seats:

  • I worked on a number of projects including FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, ONCE UPON A TIME, STAR TREK BEYOND and DC’s LEGENDS OF TOMORROW;
  • I did my usual summer fireworks shows (Canada Day, Celebration of Light) as well as other events like Motley Crüe and New Year’s Eve (the first NYE fireworks in Vancouver in ten years!);
  • I made my annual February pilgrimage to Lake Havasu City, AZ for Western Winter Blast and ended the trip with a few days in Las Vegas (I heartily recommend the Happy Half Hour at the High Roller; 30 minutes of open bar while getting an aerial view of the Strip).
  • I’m now in the process of prepping to teach a Special Effects Pyrotechnics course on March 17th and then, during the Easter long weekend, I will be attending Norwescon 39 and taking part of the Hellbender Filmmaking Workshop along with the usual suspects and a couple of new partners in crime.If you’re at the con please track me down and say hello and I’ll give you a special badge ribbon (limited quantity)!

    That’s all for now; I will try to write more often but don’t hold your breath (unless you’re into that sort of thing - but remember to auto-asphyxiate responsibly).

    Popularity: 35% [?]

    Bright lights and late nights

    Posted by Office-Bob on 07 Jun 2015 | Tagged as: The Church of Pyro, FX

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s a safe bet that anyone who talks about “the glamour of the movie industry” has never actually worked in it.

    I recently worked two nights on an upcoming TV show which, because of an NDA that I had to sign, I won’t go into detail about because I’m not sure if my own personal blog falls within their definition of “social media.” Here’s how each day went:

    DAY 1 - call time 3:00 pm, wrap at 4:48 am the next morning.

    DAY 2 - call time 3:30 pm, wrap at 6:00 am the next morning.

    Considering that the money one makes on a union production is pretty damned good, especially when you factor in regular rate, overtime, double OT and meal penalties*, all things considered I’d still rather work on fireworks displays or do live theatre. Why, you ask? Well, because:
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    Popularity: 35% [?]

    Tomato Catch-Up

    Posted by Office-Bob on 03 Feb 2015 | Tagged as: Rants, The Church of Pyro, FX

    It has been a while since I’ve posted anything, for which I apologize. Life has been in a state of flux and thinking of witty things to say hasn’t exactly been high on my to-do list, but from now on I am going to try and be more regular than a well-fibered colon.

    I’m still not working on a full-time basis and while that’s allowed me to take on more pyro and FX work, this whole “not having a steady paycheque” thing is getting old and I’d be happy to get back to the daily grind of sitting at a desk slaving away for a regular wage….oh my dog, did I just write that?

    I don’t know what’s worse - dealing with job applications where you don’t ever hear back or dealing with recruiters who tell you they’ve got the perfect position for you but they never call you back after you start dealing with them; of the two I’d say the recruiters are the worst but of course that’s just my opinion.

    Okay, that’s enough of a pity party for now.

    As I mentioned earlier I’ve been able to engage in more pyro and FX work these days, including three TV shows and a TV movie, as well as a number of fireworks displays which not only included the usual suspects of Canada Day and Celebration of Light, but the Port Moody Centennial and last year’s Port Moody Days…though that had the downside of having to set up my firing control panel next to the stage where an ABBA tribute band was playing. The group was great, it’s just that I’ve never really been an ABBA fan.

    I’ve also worked a few BC Lions home games and was part of the Grey Cup 2014 FX crew, and I got to be the “local license” for Motley Crue when they came to Vancouver. Other pyro gigs included a wedding, a city hall opening, a casino opening, a couple of “private” displays (so called because they’re not advertised, but as you can guess once the first shell goes off it’s difficult to keep them a secret) and a New Year’s Eve show for a client who was so secretive, the only person who knew who was paying for it was the guy in charge - and he had to sign an NDA and couldn’t even tell the rest of us. I also did some consulting work on a few plays and made some breakaway vases for another play.

    Next week I head to Lake Havasu City, AZ for Western Winter Blast. there are a few seminars that look interesting this year, especially one on gas mines, and I’m hoping to come away with some new knowledge that I can put to use soon.

    2015 should be interesting because I am now officially certified by the Explosives Regulatory Division as a pyrotechnics instructor and I will be teaching my first course in March. It’s being held in a town that’s about 4 hours away from here but I guess you have to start somewhere, and I’m hoping to have more courses set up soon in the Metro Vancouver area as there seems to me a lot of interest in becoming licensed. If by some chance you, Dear Reader(s), are in the Vancouver area and are interested in taking either the Display Supervisor or Special Effects Pyrotechnic courses - or both - leave your contact info in the comments and I’ll let you know who you need to contact to express interest.

    That’s all for now…Stay Green!

    Popularity: 39% [?]

    Year in Review: 2012

    Posted by Office-Bob on 12 Jan 2013 | Tagged as: General Craziness, The Church of Pyro, FX

    Now that enough time has elapsed that I feel like an utter jerk for neglecting my blog for so long, it’s time to look back at the past year. With the exception of the startup I’d been with since 2007 apparently going under in December (I say “apparently” because while they’ve gotten rid of everyone who was working there, the site itself is still online for now), it was a pretty good year.

  • I got to see the Mythbusters Live! tour when they came through Vancouver…although I missed out on the chance to get an Adam Savage bobblehead because I figured they’d have lots available and I’d buy one after the show, only to find they’d run out.
  • While I attended Western Winter Blast per usual in February (where I got to see my first oxygen lance), this time I flew out of Bellingham because even when adding the cost of the shuttle to/from the airport it was still over $100 cheaper than flying out of Vancouver (Hey, Canadian airline industry, are you paying attention? I’m not the only person doing this) and due to a combination of lack of sleep and coffee, and the unfamiliarity of a new/much smaller airport, I managed to screw up when trying to go through security. Despite the horror stories you hear about the TSA, the staff at BLI were very nice and helpful and even had a sense of humour, which made what could have been a major hassle into nothing more than a minor hiccup in my travels.
  • I made my reality TV debut on an episode of PYROS and I came out surprisingly (for me) well.
  • I did a consult for Metro Theatre for a production they were mounting which I’d done FX for previously – unfortunately due to scheduling issues I wasn’t able to see the show itself.
  • I had lots of pyro gigs this year, including the World Model United Nations conference in Vancouver and my first New Year’s Eve show since 2007 (which may turn into a recurring gig, huzzah!), but two shows which stand out for me were Rammstein (flamethrowers, giant cooking pots, and a foam machine painted to look like a penis – what’s not to like?) and Skrillex (bad point: backstage politicking, good point: being able to take home all of their unused pyro as it was the last stop on the tour, and they didn’t want the hassle of trying to take the product back across the border into the US). After reviewing my calendar I figured out that the total number of shows I worked on in 2012 was 12 – which I’d say is a respectable number for someone who isn’t doing pyro as a full-time gig.
  • For those of you who are into such things, here’s what a show looks like before it’s fired and here’s what it looks like as it’s being fired (Yes, Mom, I was wearing all of my safety gear and I had something to duck behind if there was a problem).
  • I also learned how useful pyro pokes are, and that I should have purchased a set long ago because not only do they make it very easy to insert e-match into tight quickmatch, or when you’re e-matching directly into a lift charge, but they’re a great way to make friends when you see someone from Team Brazil trying to use a piece of wood as a poke, and you loan him one of yours. I suppose I should add “International Relations” to my resume…
  • I created my first scripted show this year using the Cobra system; even though the show suffered from heavy rains which knocked out a bunch of product (I thought I had everything properly protected, but I obviously didn’t - but now I know for next time!), it was nice to not have to pay attention to a stopwatch and cue list while trying to push the right buttons at the right time.
  • Shows I attended but didn’t work on included John Fogerty, John Prine, Bonnie Raitt, the Chieftains, Don McLean and the Vinyl Café Christmas Concert…and while it wasn’t live I saw the latest “arena tour” of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, which has cemented my man crush on Tim Minchin.

    All in all, 2012 was a good year. 2013 looks to be okay as well – I already have 3 shows scheduled and I expect at least 3 more - but I guess we’ll see how it turns out.

    Popularity: 56% [?]

    Fun flies when you’re doing time.

    Posted by Office-Bob on 05 Jan 2012 | Tagged as: General Craziness, The Church of Pyro, FX

    Happy 2012, everyone! Don’t let that whole Mayan calendar thing get you down, ’cause it’s all a bunch of hooey - however, if you’re really looking for a sign of impending doom, consider the fact that Rob Schneider is getting his own TV show.

    Sheesh, and I thought reality TV was bad.

    Speaking of reality TV, it looks as if I’m going to have to lift my embargo against The Donald and watch Celebrity Apprentice because George Takei is going to be a contestant on the upcoming season. DAMN YOU, TAKEI!

    New Year’s Eve was pretty quiet; I haven’t had a NYE fireworks display since the economy tanked, although I almost had an indoor gig this year…they decided against pyro, however, so instead we went out for an early dinner and then I went to watch a show put on by a fellow pyro that I’m sort of mentoring. I loaned him my firing system, though, so I guess that sort of counts as having a show, amirite?

    In other pyro-related news:

  • I’ll once again be attending Western Winter Blast in beautiful downtown Lake Havasu City, AZ in mid-February. I’m really looking forward to getting away from the cold and wet of Greater Vancouver, even if it is only for a week. This year I’m flying from Bellingham, WA because even adding in the cost of a shuttle from Vancouver to Bellingham I’m saving around $100 over flying out of Vancouver - every bit helps.
  • I may have mentioned it before but I’m already booked for Canada Day - hell, I was booked before last August (it’s good to be popular).
  • Celebration of Light is supposed to announce the 2012 dates sometime in January; while there are never any guarantees I’m reasonably certain that I’ll be asked to crew again, though it’s going to be interesting how the logistics of not having Benson and Hedges (the two fireworks barges, which have been sold off) will work.
  • I’m both anticipating and dreading seeing myself on TV when PYROS finally airs on Discovery Canada.
  • That’s all for now…I wish each and every one of you a fantastic 2012…

    …at least until the Mayans and Rob Schneider are done screwing it up.

    Popularity: 59% [?]

    Long Time Gone…

    Posted by Office-Bob on 11 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: General Craziness, The Church of Pyro, FX

    I just did a quick check to see when I last posted something, and holycrapIhaven’tpostedsinceApril?

    Wow…I guess I have some catching up to do.

    Okay, let me think for a minute…what’s been going on?

    In May, I:

  • Built a silk flame effect for a play and assisted the production in brainstorming some “bullet coming through the window” effects;
  • Did a “local license” gig, which was aborted because the giant robot suits, which we were to rig with pyro, didn’t make it to Vancouver in time (I still got paid so it wasn’t a total loss).
  • In June, I:

  • Did some prep work for Celebration of Light involving moving a semi trailer full of mortars from the trailer onto the fireworks barges;
  • Made a weekend trip to Edmonton to visit relatives and get eaten alive by mosquitoes;
  • Saw The Odds in concert.
  • In July, I:

  • Travelled to Vancouver Island to crew a Canada Day show;
  • Stayed on the Island an extra day to crew a show on July 2nd;
  • Began crewing on Celebration of Light;
  • Was asked to crew for someone next Canada Day (yes, I’m so popular that people want to book me a year in advance).
  • In August, I:

  • Finished Celebration of Light;
  • Attended the wedding of two friends from my fencing class;
  • Entertained a fellow pyro who was visiting from the U.S.
  • In September, I:

  • Worked a convention which involved installing over 30 confetti bombs in the Vancouver Convention Centre and then setting up (and firing) a barge show which was part of the same convention. Part of the process involved being filmed by a camera crew, which I’ll cover in more detail later (probably next year when the show is scheduled to air in Canada).
  • This brings me to October, where so far it’s been pretty quiet and I:

  • Started fencing again (I took the summer semester off because with all the shows I did, I’d have missed too many classes);
  • Started getting things ready for my regular Halloween fireworks display at a Burnaby school.
  • That should keep your curiosity sated until after Halloween, when I hope to have more updates.

    Popularity: 55% [?]

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