Thursday, August 15, 2013

Chapter 8--EQ Guy Meets Chicago Film Production

I had been gone from the Chicago Acting and Film Production scene for many years by time I returned from California, and when I went to find an agent or anybody who was doing casting I suddenly realized I no longer knew anybody. I took a few of the usual snap shots, I think these were still 3 x 5’s from a roll of film or disposable camera and started looking for what was going on in Chicago as far as film production. The year was 2003 now and I’d missed a lot. My main casting agency had left town all the way back at the Turn Of The Century and for the longest time I really had no idea what I was going to do. Somehow I ended up finding a list of current agents who were presently working in Chicago and managed to find out who was presently casting for the NBC-TV Series, ER By that time the show had been on quite a long time and since I’d already worked it once or twice in Chicago as well as at the studios in Hollywood, I was probably thinking it might be nice to make yet another appearance on that show. This was never to happen since it was now yet another agency I’d never worked for much less ever heard of and that was basically just about the end of it right there. I never knew why, but I never ever received no phone calls from that agency whose name I won’t say here.

I went on for quite a long time taking more pictures every so often and wondering if I would ever work in Chicago Film Production ever again.

Then it was ironic when I ended up working on a Major Motion Picture in Milwaukee at the new Miller Park, the baseball stadium built in Milwaukee in the 1990’s to replace the old County Stadium and is home to the Milwaukee Brewers, because my next big movie job back home ended up not even being in Chicago! It was the movie Mr. 3000 starring Bernie Mac, where he plays Stan Ross, a baseball player who retired with 3000 hits and then had three of them stricken from his old record and rejoined the team for the purpose of making three more hits to make his old record good. I know we sure worked a lot of days there at that baseball park and filmed a lot of baseball, too! At one point I was in the front row between home plate and first base and Bernie Mac came over and was talking to the guys right next to me and I actually got to shake his hand. That was when I knew I was really getting back into the swing of film production back home again, although with a note of sympathy for Bernie Mac passing.

Later when us same three guys were in those same seats, I noticed the camera was Zooming-In on us at the end of the, “Weiner Race.” I told the guys it looked like it was going to a Close-Up of us right there at the end of the Weiner Race and that at the end of the race we should go into a huge scene of cheering and high-fiving and all that and try to look real excited for the camera since it appears we are right there in the shot!

Well that is exactly what we did and you can still see us today at the end of the big Weiner Race there just a high-fiving and all excited and all that! The version in the movie theater anyways, I didn’t see us on the DVD version. That was one of those game changers as far as wondering if I’d ever be working in film production back home and it was a great feeling to know it now looked like I’d be in.

There would now be many others in my future as well as a lot of advancements to come in the business of tracking earthquakes. In fact one of my all time favorites happened at about this same time one day when I was watching some TV and an earthquake expert comes on the TV telling about the latest earthquake early warning system. So he goes on and on about how he was busily improving his system in order to better be able to give warning when it detects earthquakes in nearby areas, especially ones big enough that could do major damage or cause personal injury when they shake. Then at some point in all of his explaining, I realized he was a person from a nearby college and headed up there to the University of Wisconsin at Madison at once!

That would be the day I met Professor Richard Allen, today of UC Berkeley, but at that time still in Wisconsin at UW Madison. We talked about a lot of things of course to do with earthquakes and I can recall showing him on a big map on the wall of his office there in what I today know to be Weeks Hall, named for a Petroleum Geologist who discovered a lot of oil in his days and went on to work for oil companies. Citation: Australian Dictionary of Biography, Lewis George Weeks, 1913-1977 @

When I was all through there that day, of course I would return there on several other occasions and have stopped to visit him at least once at UC Berkeley as of this writing, when I finished that day could be when I discovered the huge globe in the lobby there in the same Geology Building at the entrance to the Geology Museum.

That would be the globe where I discovered how a lot of the different tectonic plates move by looking it over and because it is in graphic relief, I could clearly recognize all the mountains and fault lines around the world. This was also where I followed earthquake energy from a hurricane that had just made landfall somewhere around Florida and tracked it, using that globe, to a specific point I cannot say for sure if it was the same trip up there or a later one when I made this discovery. In any event when the earthquake struck I found that my estimate was now only fifty miles off!

In the years that had preceded this incident I had strived to perfect my system with the hope that someday I might be able to come a lot closer than a thousand miles on a regular basis and I was now astonished to see that somehow I had just came within fifty miles!

I thought, and thought, and thought about what I did different that I tracked this one all the way down into some little country in Central America and was within fifty miles of where this new major earthquake just struck. If I had even known to look a lot closer I could have even had a direct hit due to the fact that it appeared I may have just randomly picked the name of the nearest big city such as Guatemala City and not looked just a little bit farther west to where the most active fault line was nearby. . . and probably where the earthquake turned out to be. This was the point where I knew I was truly beginning to be Bringing Earthquakes To Life!

Richard Allen was the person who referred me to the California Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council and insisted I submit to them immediately. While my answer to him right at that moment was that I didn’t want to send the current one due to it not being a big enough alert that it required an Official Prediction submitted to CEPEC, he continued to insist I submit it to them just the same. I told him I certainly would as soon as one that I considered a major one came along and eventually that satisfied him.

We also discussed the National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council and he told me everything all about that organization, too. While it was not exactly in existence at the time, it was reorganized since that conversation and I have submitted to them on a regular basis ever since. Pretty much all my work with CEPEC, and NEPEC, you could say I owe to my having met Richard Allen today of UC Berkeley Seismology.

I also want to credit him with, but am not sure he had so much to do with the fact that at the time I met him I had only tracked earthquake energy from hurricanes that made landfall along our East Coast or Gulf of Mexico. I never paid any attention to big windstorms on the other side of the world and was not able to begin to figure out how that would even work, anyways. It was some time after one of our meetings that I felt like maybe it was time to start watching typhoons in the Pacific to see what affect their landfalls might have and where the resultant earthquakes might strike.

One of the first such typhoons struck a little island out in the middle of the Pacific by the name of Niue. It looked like if things worked the same out there in the middle of the Pacific as they had so far everywhere else, then there might be an earthquake way up there in Alaska somewhere. It wouldn’t be too long before a Major Earthquake struck Alaska and I was not only on my way to Bringing Earthquakes To Life. . . I was now on the brink of Bringing Earthquakes To Life all the way around the World!

It started to be more and more obvious to me that my new system, possibly due at least in part to the addition of the globe, would work the same everywhere else in the world that I would try to use it! After several other ones such as that at different places around the world I knew it for sure!

Tracking Earthquake Energy All Around The World quickly became my brand new slogan that I would start using everywhere. Earthquakes would no longer be a hobby that I mostly partook in during the Atlantic Hurricane Season. With the new addition of typhoons in the Pacific and an occasional tropical cyclone in the Indian Ocean, there was now earthquake work for me to do on a year around basis.

Cyclone Debbie would became one of the first such tropical cyclones that required me to begin checking into as soon as it made landfall on December 20, 2003. With winds reported of up to 200 miles per hour, I knew this huge windstorm would mean a lot of brand new major earthquake energy, it was just a matter of where it would strike. I checked the other side of the globe, found Australia, found the straight line, and simply tracked it right to Sao Paolo, Brazil and I thought I was done.

Days later the huge earthquake that I knew was coming struck Bam, Iran and it measured 8000 miles off from where I came out on my globe. This literally became my new line of study on a day to day basis. Instead of my continuing studies of earthquakes and reading whatever book towards a broader knowledge, I would instead pick up various maps of the Indio/Australian Tectonic Plate in an ongoing attempt to figure out how and why that major earthquake energy traveled so far north of Australia and why it was released all of the way up in Iran.

I can recall a lot of hours spent looking along the lines where it borders with Africa, Antarctica, Indonesia, the Pacific, and etc. Finally one day I was just standing back and looking at the whole bigger picture of the broad outline of the Indian Ocean/Australian Tectonic Plate when I discovered it was crescent shaped. That was it! That had to be the answer, since I found that Iran was situated at the top of the plate and it was obvious to me that was the direction it had just moved with the actual epicenter of the Bam, Iran earthquake very near the actual plate boundary.

The discovery of that movement of the Indio/Australian Tectonic Plate turned out to be probably one of my biggest discoveries on my way to Bringing Earthquakes To Life, too!
Today I can honestly tell you that I was correct and have put that discovery to use many times since that date and use it quite regularly today.

One of the first times I put it to use was in September of 2004 after Hurricane Ivan made landfall at Gulf Shores, Alabama near the Panhandle of Florida at 2am on September 16, 2004. Now, with what I had just recently learned back at the end of 2003, I was able to track the new earthquake energy to the TOP of the Indio/Australian Tectonic Plate and guess that it would now probably move in the exact opposite direction thereby affecting California. It was just twelve days later when the Parkfield Earthquake struck at Parkfield, California on September 28, 2004 and that was when I knew I was really Bringing Earthquakes To Life!

There was a calendar that I had drawn by hand of the month of September 2004 that had Hurricane Ivan circled and the word “EQ” circled and I had noticed one day that where it said “EQ” was the date of the Parkfield Earthquake. So I enlarged this drawing on a color copy machine and actually included it as a page in my first earthquake book which I’m sure I discuss in full somewhere else in this volume that I am actually trying not to write chronologically.
I discovered in the time that has passed since this calendar was all drawn up that October 1, 2004 was also an eruption of Mt. St. Helens, although as of this writing I do not have a lot of experience with volcanoes other than that they show up in my research from time to time. I can’t honestly say for sure if I mentioned Mt. St. Helens or not in any alerts prior to that date, but I can tell you the name did come up a lot of times back then, and that big volcano has been fairly silent lately, too, if you know what I mean.

The calendar page I was discussing was at one time a method I used to keep track of hurricanes, typhoons, tropical cyclones, and tropical storms and of course the earthquakes that I knew would always follow. I went on eventually to create an entire card for the purpose of filling out when a hurricane, typhoon, or cyclone makes landfall with blanks for wind speed, direction, and what cities might get earthquakes following the landfall. I still use these from time to time but have lately spun that process off into smaller sheets where I simply write the name of the windstorm across the top and pencil in the details as they come in. I’m thinking now as I write this that I might just create a smaller version of my “Hurricane Card” the size of these smaller sheets made from one-quarter of an 8 ½ x 11 sheet. The process of writing all of this stuff all down and keeping track of it all was also mentioned in Chapter 7, and so you might also be interested in using one of the above systems that I just went into some additional detail on there.

I’m sure the whole story about my first book and Literary Agency and all that appears elsewhere in this volume so I won’t go into a lot of those details here. I had also edited that first book down into a “Compact Edition” that I did send to my agent and she replied she would need a whole new contract for it and so I decided if she didn’t mind I would shop that version to publishers myself.

As a result there could be any number of those manuscripts still out there at different publishers out around California whom I won’t mention here because I might still someday want to publish that “Compact Edition” of my first book How To Predict Earthquakes.

While it may not have exactly been the next renaissance in Chicago Film Production this was all happening at about the time a movie called Stranger Than Fiction was in production in Chicago. I had a good part in that movie that of course changed when I got there, but the biggest part of that movie was working with Dustin Hoffman and Will Farrel. When it was time to go to the set they were both standing right there elbow to elbow with me as the director told all of us at the same time what we would be doing that day. Maybe two, maybe three takes and the day was over, but still one of my better days considering.

At about this same time one of the other agencies in Chicago must have been doing all the casting for a new show that was called Prison Break because I met up with all of these guys on a later project called Eagle Eye which actually turned out to be my first Dreamworks Production that I had ever worked on. Thereafter I came to work with the people from Atmosphere Casting Chicago many times including a big scene ice skating at Chicago’s Millennium Park in a scene with Patrick Swayze in The Beast. I had enjoyed working with him and was very sorry to hear he passed on one day. You might check out Patrick Swayze as Orry Main in North and South! Great Mini-Series from 1975! Upon a check of the Internet Movie Database, I also found Patrick Swayze was in Dirty Dancing, and Red Dawn and of course more great acting, too! We’ll sure miss him!

You can actually see me in Eagle Eye where they get off the bus at some point in the movie. I didn’t even know on the day I worked that the girl with the baseball cap on actually turned out to be one of the stars of that movie until I saw it in the theatre!

This probably happened well before that movie job, but one day there was an auction where they had several old IBM Thinkpad Laptops and I was lucky enough to win the bidding on three of them. I picked out the best one and had Windows 95 loaded into it somewhere, and I started writing my first Earthquake Book on it. This would have been late in the year 2003 because I was busy writing that book on that new laptop with Windows 95 when severe winter conditions just so happened to come along that December. By Mid-December of 2003 the conditions became so bad that I was forced to write-up and send out what is today my first EQ Alert via E-Mail that is a good one concerning severe winter conditions. Of course there are a few other great saved ones from those days but I think I discuss all that at other parts of this book.

There was also a movie I worked on somewhere around this time that was titled “Just Visiting.” A medieval guy travels the streets of Chicago on a horse and one of the scenes I was in was a police chase of some kind and I believe all the cop cars were chasing Jean Reno riding on his horse on a street that crosses at the south end of LaSalle Street in Downtown Chicago because one of my positions that day was standing right in front of one of those big bank buildings or whatever they are there on LaSalle Street. Just looking up this movie I found the release date was 2001 and the Extras Casting person was still my original casting director from the 1990’s. So it is possible that I worked on this movie before ever leaving for Los Angeles in say 1999. It appears this movie was a remake of a French movie from 1993 titled Les Visiteurs, also starring Jean Reno.

Looking back now I can honestly say that I didn’t really have all that much experience tracking major earthquake energy when Super Typhoon Nanmadol made landfall at the Philippines on December 2, 2004 and it was so huge and did so much damage that it was really big news. Back in those days I had a different system than the one I use today. In those days I would go by the amount of news coverage they gave to a big windstorm and wait to see if it was so big, that there was a lot of news coverage. Whenever there was, I would then be convinced that there would then be a Major Earthquake to follow. Today I just glance at the wind speeds and decide. So the landfall of Super Typhoon Nanmadol caused the most amount of damage of any typhoon in history and I immediately began following along to see when and where this next new Major Earthquake would be striking.

I followed a lot of foreshocks that were the movement of different tectonic plates until two days before Christmas on December 23, 2004 there was an 8.1 Richters Earthquake at Macquarie Island and I knew all of this new earthquake energy was headed right for those major populated areas when on December 24, 2004 at around 8:30am, I wrote an E-Mail titled “Big EQ Alert” saying as big as 9 or 10 Richters and the Great Sumatra Earthquake struck like two days later.

One day after the landfall of Cyclone Nargis also one of the biggest of all time, I was driving along in my car when it occurred to me that the region in the Bay of Bengals where it made landfall was actually still the Indian Ocean Tectonic Plate while the actual plate boundary was located all the way up in the mountains of China. I also realized there was a huge reservoir up that way that they had begun filling and would likely mean a giant earthquake as well. Well, it was not much of a surprise when on May 12, 2008 the Great Sichuan, China Earthquake struck and I could even see the “Three Gorges Dam” on the map just a few hundred miles from the epicenter.

Somewhere around that same time since I am actually not trying to write this book chronologically, was the landfall at Louisiana of Hurricane Katrina. Now up to this point in the book I do not know if that really tells you anything or not. Just another hurricane making landfall? Or are you saying that such a big hurricane like Katrina should equal something? Well, it did equal something and that something is today the Great Islamabad Earthquake. I just so happened to get a phone call from the Carpenters Union somewhere in between these two big events and explained the whole situation to the guy on the other end of the line. His reply was that he understood completely and actually has a brother who is an Astrophysicist at Harvard who works on the Chandra Telescope. A few days later after the big earthquake struck at Islamabad, I took the next call from him and went right out on the next carpenter job and never heard no more about that. One thing I do know is they had always said all phone conversations were being recorded so that you could possibly hear me discuss Islamabad with my Carpenters Union boss several days before it happened! I believe my words were “It should be of biblical proportions; and will probably take place over in one of those biblical countries.” Not really sure, though if Islamabad is one of those biblical countries or not.

One of the bigger carpenter jobs I went on at about this same time, not sure if it was one of the calls I was talking about there though, was at a big factory where they make those huge draglines used in strip mining or open pit mining. I was lucky enough to have seen a lot of strip mining when we traveled the west when I was nine or ten in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, so I rather enjoyed walking past those huge buckets as big as a car or house everyday on my way into that plant to wherever we were working on any particular day. Yes, today I can now show you on Google Earth where all those giant strip mines were once located due to reclamation never coming to fruition out in Wyoming and Montana. I also actually met one girl at a store located a ways to the east of Helena, Montana who is still upset to this day because they timbered out all her trees. I was able to sympathize with her having seen it before they cut all the big trees and then strip mined a lot of it.

It was once beautiful lush forest with a babbling creek rushing past and opening up into a landscape surrounded by tall mountains with magnificent forests. Today it’s all flat and baron and so much for reclamation along the Musselshell River, there. . . but it is still Montana just the same. I also seen a lot of the big giant sequoias and redwood trees that are today mostly all gone, too, as well as even most recently a lot of big forests along the Pacific Coast line which I can today see on Google Earth are also now all baron plains just since I cruised there in the early 2000’s. That is unless they are enjoying some reclamation out that way. Perhaps I will discuss that in my next book that I’m planning to follow Bringing Earthquakes To Life to be primarily all about my experiences in California and lots of other things related to California and maybe, just maybe I’ll title that book Bringing California Earthquakes To Life