Friday, February 27, 2009

Sign of the Times? (Or the Trib?)

This is weird. After my handwringing over the prospect of canceling my subscription, the paper was not on my doorstep this morning. I mean, sometimes it gets swiped if I leave it there a long time, but this was early. And sometimes the cleaning people dump it because they can't or don't distinguish between a fresh newspaper and a pile of menus and shopping circulars. But, again, pretty early for them.

So I've gone all this time without a Trib today. Though I think I'm going to pick one up in a bit. Baby steps.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I've been reading the newspaper on a daily basis since I was 11 years old. Back then it was the Washington Post -- today it's the Trib (not because it's particularly great, but because, well, it's here). I've had the paper delivered to my home, wherever home has been, every day of my adult life.

When the Internet came along, I was happy to be able to read the Post again every day, along with the New York Times. So I'd add those in after reading the hard copy Trib.

Over time, things gradually began to shift. I'd read the news online throughout the day, so by the time I got my morning paper, most of it was old news. I started just skimming the national and local news. Now sometimes the paper will sit unread for hours on a busy morning. And really, what it comes down to now is the Tempo section (or whatever they're calling it now). I like having the daily comics and crossword, Ask Amy, celebrity gossip, reviews, etc.

Is that enough reason to continue to pay $220 a year? Most of this stuff -- even crosswords -- can be found online. I love newspapers, and I hate to be one of those hastening their demise, but that demise looks pretty much inevitable (at least in print form), with major dailies shutting down at a sad pace (the latest being the Rocky Mountain News).

It all seems like a ridiculously cumbersome endeavor -- printing miles and miles of newsprint, shipping it out to the four corners of the region. Not very green.

So in these perilous times I'm contemplating becoming part of the problem, and ending something that's been a daily habit for most of my life. Maybe I'll start by cutting down. Weekends. Or Sundays. Instead of going totally cold turkey.

Oh, but it's sad when a love affair dies.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Window closes, door opens

So I had an audition scheduled for this morning that would have been right up my alley -- annoying, pesty guy who gleefully takes toys away from innocent children. SO me.

Okay, he had to be likable, too, but it was pointed out to me last night that I generally come across as likable the FIRST time you meet me. So maybe that wasn't such an issue.

What WAS an issue was that I had a product conflict with another commercial I did. Booo. And this was for a nice, fat national spot. Double boooo.

BUT then I got booked for job I was on hold for. And it's actually ... well, I don't want to jinx it. If it works out the way they're 95% sure it will work out, then it will be verrrry, verrry nice. The best job I ever had. And it couldn't come at a better time.

*multiple digits crossed*

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Over the rainbow

Print auditions are always in some place far, far away -- usually on the West Side, usually in some half-vacant warehouse district -- because that's where the affordable space with good light suitable for photo studios is, I suppose. 

Today was the farthest ever. When Grand Street -- an otherwise perfectly predictable East-West artery for most of its inhabited length -- starts jogging northwest, you know you're not in Kansas anymore.

The other thing that's not unusual about these castings is for one or more of the photographer's associates to snap your photos. Especially when you go to the places where the photog goes by one name and has giant portraits of Michael Jordan and Princess Diana and other celebrities that he's shot on his walls.

But, again, today took it up just a notch. I swear the girl who took my picture was maybe 14 years old. I think. I've gotten in trouble before misidentifying women's ages, but when I do it's usually on the high side.

Anyway, that was odd, but I googled the photographer and found his portfolio and he's clearly legitimate (and good), so we shall see about that. The stack of headshots was 6 inches high by the time I got there, I was 10 years off the range for the two characters I come closest to, and I had less than 4 hours notice ... but my agent said she was sending me anyway because she "thought they might fall in love" with me.

And you know what? On these longshot deals, sometimes that's all I need to hear.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Like a laser beam

The Lincoln Park Conservatory is a nice little -- okay, not that little -- greenhouse tucked into a corner next to the zoo. I find the warm, soothing, moist air therapeutic, and a lot more interesting than the steam room at the gym. And from a visual standpoint, very inspiring -- towering palms, giant ferns, a room full of orchids and tons of other flowering plants. Plus koi. Giant, giant koi.

Also a good place to test out the macro function on my camera. Sometimes I find when I get caught up in taking pictures I don't fully experience an event. Like with the whales and dolphins in Puerto Vallarta. At some point -- once you've snapped a dozen or so shots and videos -- you need to put the camera down and experience it with your own eyes.

On the other hand, I've passed through the conservatory before and passed right by a lot of things that I really didn't notice until I was on a mission to get some up-close shots of it all. Then suddenly I realize that amidst all the green are these stunning, rare flowers. It reminds me that I need to observe more, and listen more -- when I'm out and about, when I'm going through my daily business and commuting and in everyday conversations.

I need to have the focus of this guy.

Still, amazingly, I don't recall actually smelling any of these flowers. Ridiculous.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Worlds collide

So I booked one of the auditions from this week. Was it the SAG spot shooting in LA? Nope? The other SAG spot also shooting in LA? Hell no, it was the little local spot that pays probably one tenth of those. Also still on hold for that other job, so that lessens the sting.

The weird thing was how I found out about it. Not from my agent. I was out last night drinking a LOT of really, really expensive champagne, compliments of a client, when this familiar-looking guy comes to our table and congratulates me on booking the "wine" spot. The what now? Oops -- turns out they were the first to tell me, so it wasn't such a surprise when my agent called with the news today.

It was very odd having these two worlds come together -- the high-powered law firm partners and the wacky, artsy creatives. It made for some odd moments. They did at least find common ground in the bottom of a champagne flute.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

And just like that

Things seemed to be drying up, audition-wise, then suddenly this week I've got three commercial auditions, plus one for print, one industrial, one voiceover and one interview for a trade show gig. That's 7 total opportunities. Plus I'm on hold for a print job.

I don't think I'm going to fake my way through the golfing one, even though a couple of friends said they have clubs I can borrow. I know that's what you're supposed to do -- never say no, hustle your way through, etc. But I don't even have the right clothes for golf. And what happens if I actually get the gig? Am I supposed to borrow my friend's clubs and take them out to LA for the shoot? Eh.

Besides, I got an audition for another job that I'm much more likely to book, so that's what I'm doing.

Either way, it's all a good sign that perhaps the lull was just the normal cycle of things and not the apocalypse.

UPDATE: Crap, they relented on the golf club thing. So now I have three auditions today. Two of them 15 minutes (and a half-mile) apart.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Golf, anyone?

I've had several auditions where I had to play a golfer. Every time, they provided the clubs. Tomorrow, though, they want to see that we're "real" golfers -- real enough to own our own equipment and such.

It seems kinda silly. They should pretty much be able to tell from your swing whether you can actually golf or not. And I can't golf particularly well, but I do have a very credible swing. Maybe they just don't want to spring for equipment in the shoot.

Anyway, my first impulse was to go on Facebook and put out an alert to everyone I know. Then I thought, wait. How about instead e-mailing the handful of people you know who actually do golf AND who live nearby. Makes a lot more sense. But it's ridiculous the kind of random habit Facebook gets you into. Oversharing. Broadcasting. Talking instead of communicating. Facebook has become a very bad habit.

Monday, February 16, 2009

This is NOT grand

I'd say that among the CTA-related calamities that could befall you, second only to falling into the path of an oncoming train is just missing the Grand Avenue bus. 

That bus SUCKS. Most of the cross-town ones do, but Grand is among the worst. Followed closely by Armitage. It's always at least 20 minutes between buses. And today I just missed it TWICE, watching it roll past from just a half-block away.

I ran into an actor friend today at an audition and he was a little surprised that I still take public transportation. He owns TWO cars. I don't know -- I hate the person I turn into when I drive, and I do feel morally superior by not putting money in the ayatollahs' pockets, but on days like today, I dream about what I could have done with those extra two hours not waiting for and sitting on buses. Eh, probably just piss it away on the Internet ...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Theatah

I've been ridiculously delinquent about seeing shows. On the other hand, I've haven't been DOING much theater lately, so my need/obligation to go SEE theater hasn't been as great. And make that double for desire.

The first couple of years I was doing this I went to shows all the time. Fifty-plus shows a year for at least a couple of years there. So I figure it's okay to slack off a bit. This one actor who I respect immensely once remarked that he hates going to theater so he hardly ever does it. What a liberating feeling that must be. Because, frankly, more often that not I go out of obligation, not desire.

The theater just isn't in my blood. I wasn't a theater major. Most of my life I went to a show or two a year, typically of the Evita and Miss Saigon variety. But I do like to go see friends' shows, even if I don't always care much for the show itself. And I do reciprocate when someone goes to the trouble of seeing my shows.

All that being said, last night I went to see Steep's new production (In Arabia We'd Be Kings) and really, really enjoyed it. There was no real obligation to see it. I haven't worked with them in years. But they're a good group of people and usually do very good work. But I haven't enjoyed a show like last night's in quite a long while. I don't think I checked my camera-clock once, which is saying a LOT.

A couple of scenes, especially, I was just so into it I didn't even stop to analyze them. One of the actors, it turns out, just started performing a couple of years ago in a mid-life career change. That kinda struck me, because that was my story. Or, at least, what I wanted my story to be. But there he was, in a very good role, in a very good show, with a very good ensemble, doing better at it than I've ever done on stage. 

So yeah -- a poignant moment.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Sunset, Puerto Vallarta

Wow, things have been quiet. Way quiet. I had two full weeks in a row in January with no auditions, and another two already this month (though one of those was vacation). I've got a couple on Monday, but it will be really interesting (and frightening) to see how the next few weeks and months shake out.

I know on the work-work side, clients are cutting back -- eliminating off-site conferences and travel and slashing a lot of extraneous things like, you know, marketing and communications and PR. I've gotta assume advertising will be treated similarly. 

Still, you never know. Some people are spending. Just have to keep finding those people ... 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

See spots run

I've received several reports that the bank spot is back on the air. Maybe it never left, but the reports are on the increase. That's good news, in a cha-ching kind of way.

Regarding the office spots, it's funny. Several people, including a best friend and even my brother, said they didn't recognize my voice, all disembodied like that.

No one likes the sound of their own voice, me included. But having done a few of these now I recognize how different my own voice can sound from day to day, gig to gig, hour to hour. This one voiceover I did a while back we had to dub in a few changes to the copy and I had them play back the original for me because it was actually at a higher register than my voice was that day and I wanted to match it as best I could. Bad dubbing on edited-for-TV movies always REALLY bugs me.

For the office spots we were hearing playbacks all day and I was really not liking the sound. Very nasally. And I was supposed to be this authoritative CEO guy (as authoritative as an ink cartridge can be). So at some point I lowered things down, and it definitely comes through on the third spot -- the one that's just me.

So I need to practice that. Not just for gigs, but day-to-day. Nasally's never a good way to be.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


A couple of months ago I recorded this series of 8 TV spots for a big office supply retailer. It was a really fun process and I'm pleased with the results. Here are a few of them.

Right now they're just running in the Northwest. Hopefully the new store concept will take off and there will be lots and lots of buys in major media markets across the country.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Just a week ago today ...

... my biggest issues were "margarita or beer" and "beach or pool." And now I'm back in the clouds and the cold, drafting copy for a brochure on distressed real estate.

Man, I love the ocean. Though I never considered myself a "beach vacation" person -- laying around all day in the sun. I've always been more of a "no two nights in the same place" person. But I managed to find a nice compromise with this trip. Some solid down time, along with a respectable level of activity -- snorkeling, kayaking, whale-watching, sightseeing.

And it was so healing. Literally. The moisture and the salt and the sand and the sun. I haven't felt that good in months. Of course, it took just a few hours in a bone-dry airplane to almost completely reverse everything.

One thing I learned -- or re-learned -- is just how important travel is (and always has been) to me. I need to do more of it, and I need to have the kind of career, long-term, that will support that.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Thar she blows

Banderas Bay, Mexico

They're not the biggest whales in the world -- that would be the blue whales, which reach 100 feet -- but they're still pretty damned awesome. (40 feet -- though size isn't everything.)

I understand now why they call them Humpbacks. Also how sea-monster mythology came about. When they surface and dive in groups like this, it looks like one long undulating serpent.

Spectacular. I've always wanted to see whales, and now I have. Kill me now!

(That first one's a juvenile -- about a year old and probably 16 feet or so. He's hanging out with two adults.)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Say goodbye to paradise

Lunch, Las Caletas

I have purified myself in the generous, healing waters of the Pacific.

I have eaten 10 of 12 meals outdoors.

I have seen whales.

I have given my broken Spanish a major workout.

I have had 50 or so drinks.

I have tanned my skin in the sun.

I have not worn socks.

I have lived four days in a place where custom is important, but rules are flouted.

I have had drinks in the pool.

I have read a book.

I have kayaked with the dolphins and snorkeled with the fishes.

I have not broken my Internet addiction.

I am not done yet.

I am dining in San Francisco.