I think we’ve all had days like this. You know how it is. You’ve just blown yourself through the wall of a building, your hair’s on fire, your ankle’s busted, you’ve possibly cracked your pelvis and collarbone, and you can’t even lift your arms to signal an extraction because it appears you’ve dislocated both shoulders. But to your girlfriend, you’re just lying around doing nothing.

Of course in this case, the pilot’s ghost isn’t going to stay this side of the spectral plane much longer, so delivering the message has a certain time-critical element. And Sophie’s protection during the blast earns her a pass anyway.

Still, relationships, amirite? Not always easy.

Speaking of which, don’t forget our special Valentine Vote Incentive!

More below!



Fresh Outta The Oven


One of the things we effects guys try to avoid at all times is any use of what we call “the B-word.” Charges designed to throw dust and debris in the air are called “lifters.” Charges designed to make noise are “salutes.” Anything designed to look like an explosion is an “effect,” a “gag,” a “burst” or a “squib,” depending on size and intent.

This was especially important for me back when I was making movies with my kids, and I’d let them and their friends help with some of the simpler effects. Things like sugar-based smoke composition, or tiny fireball effects made from powdered coffee creamer.

I could generally rope in a twelve-year-old boy or two to assist in these matters, if one was available. Having an extra hand was useful. They were usually assigned to simple things, like weighing out powdered sugar on a digital scale.

But one time a youngster grabbed the ziplock bag of powdered coffee creamer instead of the similar bag of powdered sugar, and by the time we’d noticed the error, the coffee creamer had been used in what was supposed to be a sugar-smoke mix.

Not a big deal. Naturally, we did the responsible thing of drenching it in water and disposing of it properly.

Hah! No, we did not. What we actually did was put a small amount of the concoction on a concrete slab and light it, to see what would happen.

Had it been the proper sugar smoke mix, it would have created a brief, thick, boiling cloud of white smoke. But since it had coffee creamer instead of sugar, what we got instead was a slow, smoldering, drifting plume of white smoke that lasted nearly a minute.

Interesting. And actually quite useful.

Some experimentation later, we’d discovered that by mixing in just a little water, rolling the stuff into tiny balls, and baking them in the oven, we could create “cookies” that looked for all the world like golden-brown snickerdoodles, but when lit, they would smolder without flame but give off a steady plume of smoke for upwards of three minutes. They were great. Totally non-toxic and dependable, they could be tossed behind rubble in disaster shots for “atmosphere.”

It’s been ten years, but those “smoke cookies” are still one of the best accidental discoveries I’ve ever made. Cooked up a fresh batch just for this page. For a while we had the recipe on a web site, and I know a number of people used it. I also note that these days you can buy professional “smoke cookies” that serve the same purpose. They may have existed before and the similarity in name may have just been coincidence. I’m not sure.

But the one thing I do know for sure was, when my twelve-year-old assistants (the ones that were not actually related to me) went home, and their parents asked how their day went, they always said more or less the same thing.

“Oh, it was great! We helped Mr. Forward make bombs!

Cue the phone calls and the long, careful, patient explanations. It generally worked out okay.

But there’s a reason we try not to use that word.

Enjoy the page! And if cookies aren’t your thing, Marissa has some candy to share!

— Bob out