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Back before Stargate, before my years on teen sitcom Student Bodies, before my time story-editing for the CBS Saturday morning lineup, I was the Manager of Animation Development at an animation studio in Montreal.  It’s been a long while, but I still keep in touch with a few of my former co-workers and even get together with them on occasion.

Like yesterday, for instance, when Anne-Marie Perrotta flew in for super-secret business.  And dinner with us.  At Patria, a Spanish tapas restaurant on King Street that came highly recommended from Prodigy Picture’s resident foodie, Natalie Cooper.

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Also joining us on this night was another former face from my animation days, Natalie Dumoulin, now Vice President Creative Affairs at 9story Media Group.

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What we had -

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Piquillo peppers with oxtail and manchego.

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Octopus and potatoes

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And, of course, the paella.  With cornish hen and serrano ham.

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The dulce de leche churros

In addition to about a dozen other dishes including blistered pardon peppers, chorizo bombas, goat cheese with orange blossom honey and fig, patatas bravas, empanadas, roasted cauliflower, and chocolate pudding with olive oil and sea salt.

Patria: 478 King St. West

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Akemi gets acquainted with Natalie’s dog.  

After dinner, we headed over to Natalie’s place for drinks – although, to be fair, she’s the only one who did any actual drinking, opening up a bottle of red to celebrate our re-connecting after all these years.

Just like old times!

But with more tapas.

And less voice actors.

We’re heavy into prep on episodes #101-102 and, with the commencement of principal photography about a month away, sets are coming together nicely.  Our ship, The Raza, has come a long way in the past couple of weeks.  The corridors have been textured with faux-grate flooring, pipes, vents, and grills, its walls painted in metallic hues, sliding doors installed; the quarters are coming to life, the sub-level cargo hold and walkways finished, and the bridge…the window are in, front AND top, and the consoles went in today.

Meanwhile, work is being completed on the shuttle (the Phantom Class Marauder) interior design.  We’ve gone back and forth on its various elements – width, depth, seating layout, windows, and location of the door – and are in the process of finalizing the look.  I wanted something similar to the puddle jumper in terms of layout with a little more of the depth of the SGU shuttle.  Ultimately, I think we’ll also incorporate an element of the SG-1 cargo ships with its sectioned cockpit and separate hold.

Anyway, I contacted Stargate Production Designer James Robbins, who has been doing some fabulous design work for us on Dark Matter (Can’t wait to show you his work on The Marauder, the space station, and the various cruiser, destroyer, and shuttle class versions of the Ferrous Corp, Mikkei Combine, and Galactic Authority ships!), and asked him about the dimensions of those smaller Stargate ship designs.  He sent me the following which I thought were too cool not to share with you -

SGU Shuttle_Dimensions_R001

As James points out, the dimensions are from our VFX department and may not reflect what was actually built.  80 feet long for the SGU shuttle seems a bit much, but the 40 foot length of the Atlantis puddle jumper sounds about right.

ships small 01

Takes you back, no?

Many thanks to James for digging these up from the archive!

Prep continues with non-stop meetings.  Today, it was the concept meeting followed by visual effects, playback, and impromptu hair meeting, stunts, and special effects.  Tomorrow, it’s an Art Department review, props, paints, another hair meeting, and not one but TWO gun meetings!

File photo of Executive Producer Carl Binder eating something that turned out to be totally different from what he was expecting/I told him he was eating.

File photo of Executive Producer Carl Binder eating something that turned out to be totally different from what he was expecting/I told him he was eating.

Every morning, I  make myself a breakfast shake comprised of ten varied ingredients, usually: almond milk, keffir/yogurt, green tea, cinnamon, flaxseed oil, one banana, another piece of fruit, oatmeal/bran, a piece of manuka honey, and a tablespoon of peanut butter.  This day’s prep seemed no different than any other and, after blending together all the components and pouring them into an empty bottle for later, I licked the spoon clean as I usually do – only to discover that what I thought was the homemade peanut butter I picked up at last weekend’s farmer’s market was, in fact, Akemi’s white miso paste which, incidentally, tastes NOTHING like peanut butter.

As I tossed out the shake and got to work on a new one, I was reminded of my very first food miscue.  Way back, when I was in kindergarten, my class was once presented with a tableful of common pantry items, everything from butter to jams. Our teacher asked us to identify what we recognized from our our kitchens. “That’s sugar!”shouted one kid, pointing to a bowl and, before the teacher could respond, perhaps emboldened by my fellow classmate’s ebullience, I scooped it up and poured its contents into my mouth.  As it turned out, he was wrong.  It wasn’t sugar.  And, to this day, I rarely ever add salt to anything.

Two of my father’s most infamous childhood anecdotes involved his own eating blunders.  In both incidents, he snuck into the kitchen, after being sent to bed without supper, for a spoonful of what he assumed to be pudding.  The first time, it was chicken fat; the second, a hot mustard plaster his mother had prepared for his dad’s ailing back.

Akemi offered her own childhood story about her brother who, rushing home after a baseball game and on his way to piano practice, asked his mother for a glass of water.  He was apparently so thirsty that it was only once he’d polished off the glass that he realized his mother had mistakenly poured him an eight ounce shot of sake.

Akemi found the retelling of this story all sorts of hilarious – until I reminded her about the time she brushed her teeth with hand cream.

I’m sure everyone has their own equally horrific story to tell.

And I want to hear it!

Come on.  Fess up.  What was your most memorable food miscue?

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That’s it!  My Snow Monkeys move on to the semi-finals to take on The Mighty Merkins!

Let’s celebrate with doggy videos…

First up, Bubba finally has enough of Lulu’s noisy toy-playing:

Next season on Discovery Channel’s “Eaten Alive”:

Errands, errands, and more errands.  And I still didn’t have time to get around to a couple of them.

Despite the fact that our apartment is an island of dog beds, that hasn’t stopped us from picking up a few more.  Like this one we thought might be too tiny and tiny but Lulu manages to squeeze into all the same -

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I suspect she’s just hiding out in case Akemi decides to make her wear a silly hat for her walk.  Although, to be fair, as silly as that hat may look on her, Lulu’s got nothing on this dog we met this weekend -

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Rather  than leave anything to chance, I decided to test the Bourbon Brown Butter Cookie recipe I want to use for the upcoming Dark Matter cookie exchange (When: Monday, December 15th. Where: The Raza docked at Space Station 41-11B).  And good thing I did because the recipe was, in a word, crap.  Even with the addition of extra butter, bourbon, and eggs, it didn’t bind properly, resulting in a test batch of what looked more like scones rather than cookies -

1They tasted okay and I actually preferred the plain ones over the ones with the milk chocolate chunks because the chocolate masked the bourbon flavor.  A subsequent batch using white chocolate was much better, but the texture was still disappointing – dry and crumbly over the soft and chewy I was gunning for.

And so, we’re starting over with an all new recipe and all new batch.  We’re going to chill the dough overnight and will experiment with the new, improved version of our (Maybe Maple?) Bourbon and Brown Butter (with white chocolate/milk chocolate and nuts?) tomorrow.

Speaking of bourbon, Dark Matter Visual Effects Supervisor swung by my place today for a day of football.  His Mighty Hyphens and my Snow Monkeys are two of eight teams battling out in our Fantasy Football League first round playoff weekend.  He’s in a hard-fought battle while I am hoping Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb play lights-out tomorrow night to give us the win.  Anyway, Lawren came over bearing an early Christmas gift -

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I’ll open it tomorrow night to celebrate my Snow Monkeys victory and advance to the semi-finals against The Mighty Merkins!

Apparently, some Brazilian doctors have developed a test that predicts mortality. It’s a “simple” sitting-standing exercise that measures flexibility and your chances of dropping dead soon.  Real soon: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2858804/Can-exercise-test-predict-DEATH-People-struggle-sitting-rising-test-five-times-likely-die.html

Here’s it is:

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1. From a barefoot standing position, lower yourself down to a cross-legged sitting position without using your hands (or any other body part) for support.

2. Stand up again, once more without using any other part of your body for support.

The sitting down portion is scored out of 5.  And the standing up portion is scored out of 5.  Dock 1 point every time you use another part of your body for support. Dock 1/2 point every time you lose your balance.

According to the study, a scored of 8-10 is great;  a score of 7 or lower suggests you’re twice as likely to drop dead within THE NEXT SIX YEARS.

So, I had Akemi try it.  “Sit down,”I said and she sat down, smoothly transitioning to a cross-legged sitting position.  “Now stand up,”I said.  She planted her feet and stood up, just as smoothly.  It was as if I’d rewound a video of her sitting down.

I took this test to work and, amazingly, every one of my co-workers who tried the test passed.  In fact, pretty much everyone passed.  Except for one single person.

Me!  I had no problem sitting down but when it came time to standing up…  It’s not that I had trouble doing it.  I simply COULDN’T do it.  There is NO WAY I can stand up from a cross-legged sitting position.

All this to say, given the five year outline I have for the show, it may behoove the production office to have a back-up plan for the show runner position, just in case.

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Remember that guy back in the day?  The one with all the connections?  The one who could get you and your friends in anywhere, no matter how popular or exclusive the place?  Well, that guy now works on Dark Matter.  His name is Zachary Beckwith and he is our Locations Manager.  If you’re looking for somewhere to shoot that alley gun battle or forest sword fight or palace betrayal, he can get you in!

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We had our first official Dark Matter locations scout the other day, lead by Zach who scheduled a grand tour of not one, not two, but three locations (plus a fourth the following day) in addition to arranging transport and snacks!  Pictured above, Exec Producer’s Bodyguard Alison Hepburn and Assistant Production Manager Robbie David prepare for departure.

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One of the most important attributes of a successful writer-producer is flexibility.  Sometimes, that wild west town you scripted for your original comic book is unfeasible – or simply way too expensive for single, even double episode use – so you have to start considering alternate settings.  If you were shooting, say, in Vancouver, you could go with a tent village or quonset huts – but if you’re shooting in the Toronto area, it’s far smarter to take advantage of what the area has to offer.  In this case, a stones throw from T.O. (assuming Superman threw the stone) is Hamilton, home to a plethora of industrial settings.

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With the right builds and set dec, an area like this can be transformed into a part of a mining community or even a space station.

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Animal prints suggest a local wildlife that will add character to any futuristic set.  Space raccoons?

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These walk-thrus also offer much in the way of potential props.  I could see things thingamajig sitting in our cargo hold.

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Love the look of this place with its catwalks and ladders, offering great multi-level scope for shootouts.

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A bit of a fixer-upper.  Would take a while to clear.

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I quite like this look for the final battleground.

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Heading outside to check out the exteriors.

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It would look quite different once we were done with it, but this alleyway offers a great look for our crew’s encounter with Captain Salehi and co.

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A lot of these places offer tons of character in the way of unfathomable equipment.

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Another great look.

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Thinking ahead to the salvage op on the abandoned freighter in episode #105.  Looking for low ceilings, cramped corridors – and this place has it in spades.

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Again, loving the multi-level gun stations.  A possible reactor room?

Decisions, decisions…

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