Making Movies

Posted: March 14, 2013 in Uncategorized


As someone who knows how building systems work, I always deal with being jerked out of my suspension of disbelief when Bruce Willis holds a lighter up to a sprinkler head and the whole building system triggers.  Because that is not even close to how sprinkler systems actually work. Not since the first few years of systems.

And when elevators fall, I usually hold my tongue.  Because:  elevators don’t fall.  I will not get pedantic about the systems, but elevators are pretty much the safest thing you ever travel in.  When was the last time you heard about an elevator fatality?  It is in the order of a hundred or so, annually.  And yet, nobody quavers when they get in a car.

So the thing is, the falling elevator? it doesn’t happen.  Let me tell you this:  on a cable supported elevator, there are 10-16 cables supporting that cab.  And ONE of those is capable of supporting the cab.  And for low-rise buildings, 4 stories or so, it is most likely an hydraulic elevator.  And do you know what is the worst case scenario in the failure of an hydraulic elevator?  It will slowly go down to the lowest level.

But after watching a few recent episodes of Weeds, I have a new one:  Nail guns.

Nail guns are designed so that you can’t shoot a nail across a space.  Mythbusters actually addressed this. And nail guns are most often air-powered.  And nails are not very aerodynamic projectiles, so outside of a few inches, they start to tumble.

So, NO, you can’t point a nail gun At someone and consider it an actual threat. And outside of a foot or so, the nail will not stick out like a prick.

Fuck that, nail guns are designed so that you can’t fire a nail unless the guard is depressed against a surface.  FUCK YOU, TV assholes, nail guns do not even activate the trigger unless the guard is depressed.  Any commercial nail gun will NOT shoot a nail into the air, no matter where it is aimed.

These are the things that aggravate me when I watch movies and TV shows.  Sometimes, they just take me out of the story; but sometimes, like with the elevator and sprinkler things, they make me throw things at the screen because the story is not plausible in reality.  I AM LOOKING AT YOU, BRUCE WILLIS.

For fucks sake, is there a reasonable TV asshole who might want to consider a consultant who knows how buildings and codes actually work?

  1. mikey says:

    You have TOTALLY triggered me. In the late seventies, desperately needing gainful employment, I opened the “building materials” part of the mikey saga by getting hired by a door shop in San Rafael, ostensibly to drive da truck. Now, zombie knows this shit, but as an aside to his other readers, a ‘door shop’ is a special kind of lumber yard. Specializing in pre-hung doors and windows along with interior finish, we’d be contacted by the contractor to supply interior and exterior doors, millwork packages like trim and custom hardwoods, cabinet doors and inlays, custom flooring, closet packages and hardware (doorknobs, cabinet pulls and hinges, etc.). Marin Lumber. In the middle of the hockey-stick growth of one of the three or four wealthiest counties in the country, full of people who LOVED them some natural wood interiors. Three words: Vertical. Grain. Fir. Also Clear All Heart Redwood. $$$$

    So anywaze, we had a helluva shop in the back. Door machines, an acre of table saw, shapers, band saws, planers, jointers, a knife-grinder and BIG ASS air compressors delivering lots of air to lots of work stations. And yes, we had nail guns. Brad guns, nail guns, even those big motherfuckers that shoot 16 penny Vinyl Coated Sinkers they use in framing. And zombie is one of those doods that’s good for theory, but needs a dose of reality – dood, those safety mechanisms? They come off, as they are productivity killers and prevent the real effective use of the tools.

    And we had nail gun shootouts. Lots of them. Every damn day. And in the end, the zombitect is right. Nobody got hurt. Mostly. Oh, it might sting if somebody unloaded thirty 4 penny finish nails on your ass in a few seconds, but mostly it was ongoing intermittent combat between the door shop, the fabrication shop and my guys (oh, I ended up the foreman) in the delivery side. Plenty of nail guns, plenty of air, and lots of drugs – hey, it was the seventies, did I mention? The other contest was how many prehung doors you could carry at once – Tom Armstrong won with 14, but I once carried 13 for a respectable and difficult to match second place.

    The one real injury was one Christmas Eve when me and Tillman the Millman (swear to gawd) killed a bottle of Jack Daniel’s before ten aye emm and I was really fucked up and trying to shoot the lights out with a nail gun. But I kept missing. God dammit. So I laid on my back on the table saw (did I mention it was a couple goddam acres of table?) and carefully aligned myself with the lights overhead, braced the nail gun against my drunken cheek and carefully fired, corrected, and fired again. GOT THE FUCKER. And, of course, the glass from the great big industrial incandescent light bulbs came down on my face, nearly blinding me. Dammit.

    One other time Tillman the Millman (swear to gawd) got frustrated because the sole was coming off his boots. He pulled off his boot and nailed the sole back on with his smallest nail gun. A few hours later he got this funny look on his face, pulled off his boot and poured out half a pint of blood. I am NOT making any of this up, but I did take a lot of mind-bending substances in those days so there’s your grain of salt…

  2. I kilt someone in an evelator with a nail gun once.

    I dropped it on their head.

    With a brick.

    Okay, seven bricks.

  3. Gad, I love it when Unca Mikey goes into story mode.

    Note that his story was dated before my comments. Modern nail guns are based on the hijinks of people like mikey. Like, say, The idea that industrial places were lighted by incandescent fixtures. Seriously, 30 years at least. Long before Bruce Willis was dancing around with Karo blood on his chest.

    Hmm. “Willis” is not on the spellcheck.

    Howevers, “spellcheck” is.

    16 d nails were the ones typically shown on video (how dramatic are staples) and we are chuckiling ruefully at mikey not using the common abbreviation in favor of ‘penny’. Because there is no illusion of mikey not mocking us if we used a computer abbreviation improperly, cuz Uncle Mikey is that way.

    So let’s go into Uncle Zombie story time:
    Regards Tillman the Millman. I have absolutely no doubt about either his acts, or his name. Let me tell you about an architect who cares enough to drive occupancy; we were working on a rehab on s project downtoen Milwaukee, and we had anyt number of tasks to be done on a weekend. Said architect was walking around the jobsite, making sure code issues were addressed, when said architect stepped on an auto-nail with integral washer — of course this made the whole thing stand up vertically…

    Said walking person stepped directly on the extraneous nail.

    It was hardly painful at first. felt like a pebble in my shoe. until I tried to remove my shoe, to get rid of that pebble.


    And then, being a weekend, I had no choice but to sit down on the sidewalk, grit my teeth, and pull my shoe and the attendant nail out of my foot.

    Then I packed my foot full of packing and went off to the emergency room to get a tetanus booster. Which was likely not necessary because the powernail was new, stainless.

    Also, I kinda want to have access to that shop that mikey worked in. Holy hell, I have remodeled nearly ever aspect of my house with a basement of hand tools; if I had access, my house would be EXTRAVAGANT.

    • Also, and I kinda just want to emphasize this for the squeamish amongst the others, that the nail I talk about came up in the foot right in the middle of the two bigger pads of the forward pad of the foot. Kinda right in that soft spot between the pads of a foot that non-flat foot people walk on.

      I speak on that as a person who is kind of genetically predisposed to flat-footedness. Afterwards, I spent many years working in martial arts to no be so flat-footed. I still need to think about it, to not be a big stomp-footed monster. But when I am thinking, a am a fucking ninja.

  4. In the end; mikey, I challenge you to a duel; you have a modern nail gun; I have a standard length shovel. Lets see how that works out.

  5. You poor life-deficient fool.

    You know what those fuckers do to geology? Electricity?

    I submit Dante’s Peak, Space Cowboys, and fucking Barney, the cocainosaurus Drecks.
    Any film with a Jacob’s Ladder. Any biography of Thomas Edison that does not present him as the greatest con-artist in history.

    And I have been grievously wounded by a nail gun. And screw gun. Ladder, channel locks, unreliable voltage tester. Class 5 and a finished concrete floor. Man lift, on, and in front of.


  6. Oh, and porn? Don’t get me started.

  7. Fuck that, nail guns are designed so that you can’t fire a nail unless the guard is depressed against a surface. FUCK YOU, TV assholes, nail guns do not even activate the trigger unless the guard is depressed.

    Back when I worked as an investigator, I had to interview a guy who put a nail in a co-worker’s head. The two of them were putting up an extension on their boss’ house. They had the frame up and Eddie was cutting plywood and Tommy was nailing it to the frame. They were both hung over. Tommy had the “trigger” depressed while he was waiting for Eddie to hand him the next piece of plywood, when he felt the nail gun go off. He looked down and saw Eddie reeling backward, and realized that he’d just put a nail in Eddie’s head. He ran down to tell the boss to call 911 and awaited the ambulance. When the EMTs arrived, they found out that the boss had taken the nail out. Fucker got a putty knife under the head of the nail, raised it enough so he could get the claw of a hammer under it, put his knee on Eddie’s shoulder and *VOILA*. Needless to say, the EMTs were horrified. They got Eddie to the hospital where the doctors determined that the 3.5 inch nail had gone clean into the center of the top of Eddie’s head, pretty much straight down into the cleft between hemispheres.

    Still, Eddie had recurring headaches and found it hard to concentrate on work so he only worked sporadically. Oddly enough, his wife, who was pregnant with his brother’s kid, returned to him after a period of estrangement. The real horror of it all was that the insurance company was reluctant ot pay his disability claim.

    • I remember seeing an x-ray of that kind of accident where they DIDN’T pull the nail out. Guy with the nail gun was descending a ladder, finger on the trigger, his buddy was leaning over below, the safety trigger hit his melon and WHAMMO.

  8. Ya know, Hilty should put out an ad campaign: “Strong enough to penetrate a human skull, precise enough not to do much damage.”

  9. Pinko Punko says:

    This thread is amazing. Like Gavin M’s oscilloscope. I hate it when they spin a single tube in the centrifuge, or their lab shit is so FAKE that IKEA seems more real.

  10. Silentmike says:

    What pisses me off is the cops always feeling the hood of a car and saying “it’s still hot”. That hasn’t worked since the early 70’s when they tucked the biggest GD engine they could find under the hood. Go ahead, after a long drive feel your own hood. Cool as a cucumber baby. Yippie ki yeah ka oh my ass.

  11. herr doktor bimler says:

    I don’t remember any of these health-&-safety issues coming up in mikey’s reports of his time as a vibrator repairer.

  12. Silentmike says:

    Or someone grabbing all the wires from under the dash, finding 2 to twist together and the car starts. Starters only need a short connection to engage the starter. And for some reason connecting those two wires releases the steering wheel lock. Never understood that!

  13. Silentmike says:

    Or someone flipping a lit cigarette into a trail of gasoline, causing the “Fuse” effect leading to the car and it exploding the gas tank. You can put a lit cigarette into a cup of gas and the fluid will extinguish the cigarette. You need atomized gas to cause the explosion. Shall we go on?

  14. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© says:


  15. I’ve said it before but I hate it when movie or tv ppl leave the fridge open. SHUT THAT SUCKER

  16. mikey says:

    Oh. The premise itself wasn’t nail guns?

    Kay, I see that now.

    Suppressors. Er, some of you probably call them silencers. They do not go “phut” or “Fheeeww” or even “Psss”. They go bang. Just not as loud as without. Some, when used with 9mm subsonic or .22LR go Pop. The point is not that other people can’t hear them, it’s that they don’t sound like gunfire and/or it is much harder to determine the firing location from the auditory signature.

    But if they are silent, or nearly so, it opens up some truly wonderful plot possibilities, so we’re gonna be stuck with this for a while.

    Meanwhile, score another point for crossbow man…

  17. mikey says:

    Yeah, that’s true.

    But everybody else kinda went east while I very confidently marched west. At some point I stopped to unwrap my meat pies and preserved peaches and noticed I was all alone, so I left my vacuum flask full of hot tea and sugar and left the keys right in my car. And, um, hustled back to where all you peeps were talking about movies and teevee n shit.

    Speaking of, my most profound discovery of the week is that, thanks to Mishone, I find I can still get a boner. A helluva boner.

    And I’m just wondering. The zombies have all this, you know, blood. And I’m wondering – if their heart isn’t beating, how do they avoid lividity? All their blood in their lower legs, say? And oddly, this question turns out to belong quite comfortably in this thread.

    So bring us some righteous zombie canon…

  18. Speaking of terrible movies, anybody (besides mikey) remember “the net”? The hi tech plot device was these websites that had this barely hidden pi symbol on them that got you access to sooper secret shit. Mid nineties or so, when the web was still relatively young. I think one of the fake sites I made with the secret pi symbol is still out there, collecting stupid people’s useless logins, all these years later.

  19. fish says:

    So the complete abdication of physics is fine, but a safetyless nail gun is where you draw the line?

    Also too, physics.