Friday, April 30, 2010

Grip, spin, fling

I realize that commercial acting isn't a skill quite on a par with, say, neurosurgery, but it does sometimes rise above walking and chewing gum, as motor coordination goes. More and more in these industrials I do, I'm in front of a green or white or blue screen and interacting with imaginary words and images and other stuff to be added in later.

So without breaking momentum or tripping on my lines, I have to grab letters ...


... spin logos like roulette wheels ...


... and fling words and bullet points around like frisbees.


And do it all in a way that's natural and consistent and enables the graphics people to do their work. They actually have the much harder job, I think.

Now if I could just stop making my "what's that smell" face.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Killer Joe


Tracy Letts is a genius.

There was a last-minute deal the other day on tickets to Killer Joe and, having loved August: Osage County and, well ... respected and enjoyed most of Bug, I had to see this one. It was twisted and violent and graphic and profane and hilarious. I loved it. The dialogue, the characters, the story.

One of the things I love in a play or a movie is when one character nervously chatters away while the person they're talking to just stands or sits there in stony silence. You see it more often on stage, I suppose, because it's not quite "real." In real life, very few people have the discipline not to talk in that situation. It's just human nature to want to fill the vacuum with something, anything to relieve the squirmy awkwardness.

Except for reporters. They're pretty good at it. They know the more they shut up the more you'll spill your guts and, at best, say something truthful and, at second best, something stupid. (SO glad I was a press secretary in the pre-Interent era!)

I once saw a night of Neil LaBute short plays that used this convention and even wrote one like that myself, but it's hard to pull off without being gimmicky. Letts does it well, and apparently a lot. Here and at the top of Osage County and, as I've heard, in Man From Nebraska. Which is another one I need to see.

I see so many show that are just ... well, not as good, let's say. (Which is understandable since they're not all written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights.) So it's great once in a while to be in the theater and be absolutely gripped every moment.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Knack: Beyond My Sharona

Heh. I wrote this little guest-blogger entry for a couple of crazy bastards a little while back and it got a nice little shout-out as one of the more lucid posts on the blog, so I thought I'd cross-post it here.



With the death a couple of weeks ago of the Knack's Doug Fieger, "My Sharona" was once again all over the airwaves (or the webwaves, at least). No doubt it's an infectious tune. Though like most infections, it can cause waves of nausea.

Based on this song, people who weren't alive or sentient in the summer of 1979 may justifiably write off the Knack as one-hit wonders akin to A-Ha or that guy who also died recently who sang the "How Bizarre" song. But I would argue that the Knack represented so much more, culturally and even musically, than that one little confection of power pop would suggest.

As America limped toward the end of the decade that was the '70s, popular music was marked by bloat, excess, overindulgence and over-earnestness. In that climate, the Knack stood out to the extent that many people (insanely) hailed them as the second coming of the Beatles, which they quickly proved not to be.

But they did seem like the antidote to much of what was wrong with popular music in general and rock-and-roll specifically. To wit:
  • Musically, in a time of endless guitar, drum and, yes, FLUTE solos (I'm looking at you, Kansas!), the Knack, stripped down to the classic lineup of two guitars, bass and drums, offered short, radio-friendly songs in the tradition of early rock-and-roll.
  • Lyrically, while Rush was constructing mythology-based epics and Dennis DeYoung whined that life was "a grand illusion," the Knack sang almost exclusively about sex, one of the historical pillars of rock.
  • In terms of production, while Tom Scholz was just then embarking on the first of SIX years spent creating Boston's third album, the Knack's debut was recorded in two weeks on an $18,000 budget.
  • And in appearance, while the dudes from Heart and Styx and a bunch of other bands were dressing up in puffy shirts, lace-up pants and pirate boots, the Knack got haircuts and decked themselves out in austere black and white, Hard Day's Night style.
Of course, they were not the Beatles. But they were also not Leo Sayer or REO Speedwagon or Rupert Holmes (other denizens of the 1979 Billboard charts), either. Most importantly, they weren't the BeeGees. It should be noted that 1979 also gave us disco-infused tunes by Rod Stewart ("Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?") and, of all things, KISS ("I Was Made for Lovin' You").

Simply put, the Knack brought rock-and-roll back to its roots. They made music fun and exciting again. And they didn't take themselves too seriously. By way of contrast, I give you Mr. Peter Frampton, post-"Frampton Comes Alive" (his followup album was actually named "I'm in You" and, sadly, he wasn't talking about sex):


They were on the crest of the New Wave, and while others were maybe doing what they did better, the Knack, along with groups like Blondie and the Cars and the B-52s, were making alternative music safe for the masses, bringing it into the living rooms of Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public (in order for groups like the Clash and the Ramones to sneak in the back door and steal your beer).

That's the cultural impact. In terms of their music ... they weren't that bad! They were better than "My Sharona." "Good Girls Don't" was another popular, though far less known, song off that album. And here is my personal favorite:



No, they were definitely not the Beatles. But I submit that this song would fit right in with the Monkees' oeuvre.

And just listen to that drumwork! The real secret weapon behind the Knack was the drummer, Bruce Gary, who also met an untimely death just a few years ago. I only learned this recently (thank you, wikipedia), but he was a highly respected session musician who played for everyone from Bob Dylan to George Harrison to John Lee Hooker.

For "My Sharona" he employed a technique called a "flam," in which, according to wiki, "one drumstick strikes the drum just before the other does, registering as a single beat, but with a particularly full sound."

For a better view of his masterful skills, let's go back to "Your Number Or Your Name." Check out this "drum cover" (something I never knew existed!) of the song:



Sadly, the Knack never replicated the success of their first album. But that's rock-and-roll, as they say. They did, however, mark an important turning point in popular music, helping drag the country, kicking and screaming, into the '80s.

So thank you, Bruce, thank you, Doug, thank you ... other two guys ... for delivering a much-needed and long-overdue spanking to American popular music and helping pave the way for everyone from the Go-Gos to Green Day to the Strokes.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Weekend with Stompy

The jury's still out on this guy.

Or guys. I don't know how many people are actually up there. But there's at least one guy, maybe two. Don't know if they're gay or straight. Gay would be better, definitely. They're generally going to be more courteous, I think. And in my informal survey, 2 out of my last 4 upstairs neighbors were gay and they were both quiet.

On the other hand, gay could be problematic if they're the "come in drunk at 5 am after clubbing all night on a Sunday/Monday" types. Or the "have the whole gang over for Sunday brunch" type. Or the type that can't bear to take off their really nice, hard-soled shoes and clomp around. Or the type that blast really bad techno/dance music.

Straight has its own problems, of course. Giant, traditional stereo with floor speakers. Lots of dropping of baseballs, basketballs and other sporting equipment. Really bad classic rock or hip-hop blasting. (And if it's two straight guys, what are they doing in a 1BR?)

I got very contradictory clues this weekend. He or they were up at 8 am vacuuming on Saturday morning. Totally gay. Clearly getting his place "just so," as opposed to hooking up the wide screen, unpacking the remote and using all the unpacked boxes for end tables and coffee tables.

On the other hand, he/they were watching the basketball game yesterday with the sound off and the stereo on, which is a total straight-dude thing to do. ("There's nothing those damned announcers can tell me that I don't already know!")

I guess I'm going to have to just meet them and talk to them or something at some point. Especially if the early vacuuming and the stereo playing keep up.

The best news, though, came this morning, when he/they left, presumably for work, and stayed out all day. All my neighbors before were semi-employed or under-employed or students or houseboys. So it's nice to have a productive member of society up there. So I can be unproductive in peace down here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Return of Stompy?

One day a few months ago I answered the buzzer to find a Cook County Sheriff's Deputy at the door. He was looking for one of my upstairs neighbors. But instead of just walking on up and knocking on their door right away, he gave me the 20 questions treatment -- who lived up there, do I know their names, what about this guy, is he a big guy or a small guy, is he around, are they home, etc.

I was surprised to find myself increasingly uncooperative with his queries. Well, not quite uncooperative. Just ... less than completely helpful. Which is strange, because I have an automatic, maybe autonomic, cooperative instinct when it comes to authority figures in uniform. (Must be the German in me.)

But I felt somewhat protective about my upstairs neighbors, who were the best, quietest, most courteous neighbors I've ever had. I didn't know them well, which is fine. They were occasionally seen, and rarely heard -- just the way it should be.

The deputy said the younger, littler guy had skipped out on a warrant to appear in court. I have no idea what the legal issue was -- whether it was unpaid parking tickets or bad checks. Who knows? The deputy went upstairs and knocked and got no answer.

But later that day, I saw who I think was him standing on the sidewalk. I didn't know him well enough to recognize him, but I put two and two together after I got inside. He was standing there, shivering in the cold, with a few pieces of luggage and boxes about him, looking anxiously up and down the block, presumably for his ride. His face had an expression that was a mix of fear and anger and helplessness and shame and ... there should be a word for this ... but that feeling we've all had now and then of feeling subject to injustice or unfairness.

I'll never forget that. (Chances are, he already has, but it affected me.) A few weeks later, the other roommate moved out. But not without leaving a case of good beer at my door.

So they're long gone and today a new guy moved in. He's bumping around right now, moving furniture around. I'm praying he doesn't have a stereo. And that he has a day job. And that he takes off his shoes when he's inside.

We'll see. But it's been a pleasant couple of years, between the super-courteous and quiet gay upstairs neighbors and the blessed, recession-caused vacancies bookending their stay.

Back to reality.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Underneath the scrapes ...

... are bruises. Deep, deep bruises. I didn't really feel them at first, but now that the external wounds are healing, the palm and elbow and hip and foot are hurting more and more. Like down-to-the-bone hurt.

Last night I rolled over and propped myself up on my right hand to get a drink of water -- it felt like I was resting my palm on a red-hot knitting needle. It's actually astounding how much it hurts.

I do give myself kudos for at least having the cat-like reflexes to attempt to break my fall with my hand. Though next time maybe a shoulder roll would be the way to go. Or the head. The only freaking thing on my body that was protected didn't come close to hitting the pavement.

Anyway, I think there's a useful metaphor or analogy in here somewhere ...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Politically Correct

In my first job out of college, my boss was an attorney. Non-practicing, but he still had a lawyer's sensibilities when it came to the hazards of sloppy communication. He micro-edited my work and thus broke me of a lot of the bad habits and flabby writing that develops (because it's actually rewarded) in college.

He taught me to avoid loaded words and phrases -- the kind that will provoke a reaction that distracts from whatever you're trying to say. He taught me, on one hand, to be more precise in what I was saying but, on the other, to be vague when necessary. That is, to avoid absolutes and to be sure to qualify things -- because business, like life, is rarely black and white. Mostly he taught me to really pay attention to the way I communicate. Every word matters. And because so many words have different meanings, conscious and unconscious, they need to be chosen carefully.

In my next job I was writing for 50 different state elected officials of varying political persuasions. Learning to please, and not piss off, all those different constituencies was invaluable.

Then I worked for one elected official in a fairly public capacity, so it became not just about what I wrote and what I said but who I was and how I behaved. I was terribly -- and necessarily -- paranoid. The papers are full of stories of disgraced political aides caught in one problem or another, from drunk driving to messy personal relationships.

If I went to a party and came upon people smoking pot in the garage, I got the hell out of there. I actually fell off a barstool once and was mortified that it would end up in the paper. (As it turns out, reporters had plenty of ammo on me just with the official things I uttered when I was on the job.)

We also learned to be incredibly careful when talking on cell phones. There was a case in the late '80s or early '90s where some Virginia politicos, I believe, had their cell phone calls randomly intercepted and recorded by some ham radio operator then turned over to competing political operatives. Indictments ensued.

So we learned that when calling someone on a cell phone to announce that fact up front. And when leaving a message that wasn't to be listened to on a cell phone, we always warned that it was confidential. Not that we were breaking laws or saying particularly terrible things -- it's just a matter of imagining your most candid moments, when maybe you're at your most tired or worst, being aired on TV or printed in the papers.

And in agency life, we all heard the possibly apocryphal, but chilling nonetheless, story of the young account guy who was seen by his client patronizing a competitor's business. The agency was immediately fired. So damned straight if you're working for Miller you will not be ordering a Bud Light in a bar.

All this to say, I'm constantly shocked by how careless people can be. There was a story last year about a PR agency guy who, upon arriving in his client's city, twittered about what a shitty town it is. He wasn't fired -- just publicly embarrassed. This other guy, an actor, was fired, though. He didn't say anything impolitic about his client -- he just mouthed off to some tea partiers.

I feel bad for him, and he realizes he made a mistake and sounded very gracious to the client in the story. But that's just the way it goes. Clients don't like that stuff. Not because they disagree with the message or the thought or anything else. They just don't want any distraction whatsoever from the message they're paying very dearly to communicate.

Another big advertiser was recently shocked to see one of the actors in their commercials doing a TV spot for KY. In their next round they added that to their list of conflicts. Which is totally understandable and within their rights. If you've got some wholesome spokesman selling your All-American, apple-pie product, the last thing you want is for consumers to see that same guy hawking marital aids on the late-night channel. It's confusing.

Is it overly cautious? Maybe. But with lots of people to choose from in the market, why take a risk? That's why I always try to be super, super careful with what I write and say and do. I don't think I've ever put anything on this blog that I wouldn't want the person or the subject of what I said to see.

My Facebook account is for friends only. Well, also theater-people, but no work-work people unless they are friends first. And though I may slip up once in a while with the political rants, I am careful not to malign people, or whole segments of people, online. It's just a really stupid thing to do.

That's another lesson I learned. Burning bridges. There was this kid in our agency who gossiped and bad-mouthed a colleague who was at the same level. A few months later, the other person was promoted and the gossip ended up working for her. Oops.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Workin' it

My Dad used to say that in the Army, if you broke your ankle the doctors would break your arm to take your mind off it.

That's kind of the way all these workouts are going for me. Body Blast, with the dozens and dozens of lunges and squats, cripples me from the hips down, then yoga the next day pulls and stretches everything out. Then I take that jello-muscled feeling into spin the next day and sort of strengthen and sweat everything out. Then to Pilates where I bring it all down to the core, then back to spin and yoga, and weights, and Pilates again and ... well, there you go.

Sometimes it's hard when I've just worked my upper body and they've got me doing damned downward dog 20 or 30 times. Or when I've just done Pilates and the yoga instructor takes a request for core work. Or when Pilates has me working on arms when I just did that the day before with weights.

But either way, I'm feeling really good with all this variety. I feel like I'm working every single muscle and ligament in my body, and often in different ways. I cycle in and out of soreness, burning, and just feeling strong. Best of all, especially since I started Pilates two years ago, I never pull random muscles doing simple things, like reaching behind me or ... doing the worm.

Yup, I can now do the the worm without fear of injury. That makes it all worthwhile.

I don't know how long I can keep up 9 workouts a week -- someday I may have to cut back to the usual 6 or 7, but for right now it feels good.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Disarmed

In response to the gruesome accident photos I posted on Facebook, a friend said "There goes your career as an elbow model."

Funny stuff. And then I got scheduled for an audition with the following requirement:

Oops. Not too big a deal, I thought. I do have that other arm. Unfortunately, when I got there it was a right arm-only situation. As it happens, I'll probably get cast instead for the other project I auditioned for (same time, same space -- super convenient), since it pays a third as much.

Okay, back to the healing.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I left my palm on Lakewood Avenue


Ouch. Wednesday night I was biking back from dinner in Wicker Park when I had a wee little crash. It's not like I wasn't paying attention, but somehow my front wheel went into one of the grooves that parallels those old abandoned train tracks, causing the bike to go one way while I continued to go the other. Then up and over and down and bounce and slide, etc., resulting in this:



I've always made fun of people who fall hard -- either on the ice or on bikes or wherever. The ones in the winter who hit the ice and do a full-on Charlie Brown when Lucy pulls the ball away. I'm not a lot of things physically, but I am fairly nimble and light-footed. So if I do stumble I usually catch myself. And when I fall I bounce right up.

I've turned falls on ski slopes into smooth, graceful somersaults that have me right back up on my skis in one fluid motion and without breaking momentum. I once hit a car broadside while biking but I still landed on my feet.

So I worry this is an age thing. That's two bloody accidents in less than a year. Am I spiraling into early dodderinghood? Gah!

Anyway, it hurt. Though not as much as I expected it would. I had some pretty bad crashes on my rollerblades before (not from clumsiness, but from doing stupid things like jumping off four-foot ledges and stairways and over curbs and medians and things) and it hurt so bad I couldn't sleep for two nights. (Is that another sign of age? Reduced sensitivity to pain?)

It was mostly just a little scary. There was a lot of blood, and in the dark I couldn't really see how bad it was. Luckily I was less than a mile from home. Once I washed off the wounds (and found some bandaids the size of pot holders) I felt a little better. How does skin tear when the clothing over it (including shoes!) doesn't? Weird.

So I'm convalescing. Pilates was a little tricky -- no forearm planks for a little while. Yoga may be a no-go. And bruises are starting to emerge in places I didn't know I hurt. At least the bike survived unharmed!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Death and Texas

That heading only makes sense if this post had something to do with Texas. It doesn't. I just thought it was a funny turn of phrase. It's probably better suited for when I miss a connection and am stranded overnight in Houston, but when is that ever gonna happen?

Actors and taxes. I hear really funny things that make me very, very glad I have a reputable CPA doing my taxes.

I recall one actor backstage explaining how, if you're an actor, everything is deductible. Everything. Meals, clothes, haircuts, makeup -- everything. As it happens, little of that is actually deductible.

Meals? When it's business and with someone else, only half is deductible. Otherwise, when you're on your own, you can only deduct meals when you're staying overnight away from home due to work.

Clothes? Almost never. Even if you buy an article of clothing for a specific role or audition, if it's otherwise wearable in everyday life, you can't deduct it. Neon orange hazmat suit? Probably deductible. Blue button down you wear only at auditions and bookings? Not.

Haircuts? Again, almost never. If you have to get a certain haircut for a certain role, yes. Otherwise, no. Makeup? Unless it's weird zombie makeup or something and not everyday stuff, no. Same goes for gym memberships and plastic surgery and tooth whitening. No, no and no.

But people deduct stuff like this all the time. As it happens, most actors make so little money they're not an obvious target for the IRS, so a potential audit is not that big a concern.

Someone else was surprised that I owed money to the IRS, which I do every quarter. She was under the impression that your deductions should offset any taxes owed. Or that actors make so little they shouldn't owe anything at all. Weird. (I guess that might be true if I only did acting and it was an average or worse year.)

And I still don't understand why people -- actors and others -- get refunds from the IRS. Generally, if you're getting a refund, it means you didn't calculate your withholding correctly. Things should even out at the end of the tax year, so that little is owed by either the taxpayer or the government. I guess some people use it as a de facto savings account, but the IRS doesn't pay interest, so it's not a very good deal, unless you can't trust yourself to save otherwise.

So those are my tax day thoughts.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Incoming

There was a discussion going on this week among a group of independent/freelance types I belong to. It seems one of the guys had a little issue in which a client reported paying him at the end of one year but he received the money at the beginning of the next one. Eerily similar to what I went through last year.

Luckily for him, he caught it before filing. Prior to then it never on earth occurred to me to compare the 1099s clients send me with my own records. That can be a mistake, especially with those payments that straddle the calendar like that.

So this year I was more vigilant about it and I actually found of the nine companies who sent me 1099s, five had errors in their reporting. Some were small, and easily accounted for, but several were pretty big, inexplicable errors.

In fact, one of these just recently contacted me about a check I supposedly never deposited. Now I've never been one to not cash checks. It turns out they had mysteriously issued a duplicate check or something, because I was able to show the actual check stub that matched the invoice in question. So there's the error with that one.

The others I didn't bother correcting. It turns out that as long as you report more income than your 1099s report, the IRS won't have a problem with that. (Since you're clearly not underpaying taxes.) And between those errors and the companies who don't even bother sending 1099s at all, I was in good shape this time around.

Anyway, I'm glad I keep good records. According to an article I saw, some people calculate their income solely based on the 1099s they receive. That's nuts. And dangerous.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

(Still more) stuff I didn't get

Following up on the backflip gig I lost out on, here is some more I didn't get. And I'm spotting a trend here. Bald is apparently beautiful. Or maybe just funny.

This is one I really wanted. Stanley Steemer apparently dumped its ad agency, went back to its old one, and hired a Hollywood pro to direct a new series of spots. This looks like it would be an ongoing character with lots of exposure and opportunity. And some pretty funny scripts.




This guy does a good job. I can't recall exactly, but I think I brought up the "alpaca" thing in the audition. And monkeys. They do some monkey humor in the other spots. (Though I suppose that's a pretty obvious go-to.)




Then there's the new Sienna ads. This is a fun campaign. Again, another balding, quirky guy. And deadpan. Very deadpan. He's good. Damn him!

It's interesting to see what casting people are going for these days. It seems I'm either too conventional looking for quirky spots like these or not quite good looking enough for the more traditional stuff.

Then, of course, there was this one:




I was going for an Alec Baldwin/30 Rock kinda thing and they obviously went in a very different direction.

But once again, BALD! Thinking I should shave my head ...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Stop and listen

Listening is hard, especially when you think you've got all the answers.

Today I was at another one of those damned farmer -- excuse me, grower -- auditions ("Bring baseball cap that fits character"). At least this time I wasn't the actual grower, but the guy who sells him the seeds.

Anyway, the guy I get partnered with asks me what I know about farming. I give him a minute or two rundown of my online research -- stuff about heavy vs. light soils, variable drainage on high and low ground, hybrid seeds, yields, "emergence," the impact of El Nino on this year's growing season, etc.

He then tells me he works on a several-hundred-acre farm. Duh. Yes, he was kind of impressed at my research, but he wasn't asking me to fill him on farming topics and techniques -- he wanted to know if I was qualified to keep up with him as we ad-libbed our conversation in the audition.

I've gotten better at this over the years. I don't feel like I have to be the smartest person in the room, and I don't feel like I have to tell everything I know. But I'm still not Don Draper. The guys who holds it all in, close to the vest. And not just as a negotiating tactic, but as a general way of behaving in the normal course of events.

"What do you know about farming?"
"Just some things I've read on the Internet."

Then just go from there. It's not a big thing, and this is probably a poor example. But a lot of times I'll guess or make an assumption about what someone's asking, simply because I have information or a story I want to tell or I'm caught up in the momentum and energy of a conversation.

That's pretty common, I suppose. And, in most cases, relatively harmless, save for a little embarrassment. But I still want to work on it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Incurious People

When you watch those shows like Inside the Actors Studio you'll see artists go on about being keen observers of human nature, examining and dissecting the thoughts and viewpoints and mannerisms of everyone they meet, absorbing and storing up the information for later use specifically or generally for some future role or another.

Which seems to go against the grain of everything conventional wisdom tells us about actors -- that they're hopelessly self-absorbed. It's also not something I've seen borne out in my own interactions.

I'll occasionally go to industry functions with a date who's not in the business herself. And two of these people have independently come to the same conclusion -- that the actors there aren't all that interested in them. Their career, their background, anything. They'll have perfectly fine, fun conversations with them -- even about non-acting stuff -- but there's very little curiosity about the person herself.

I should first say that 99% of the actors I've worked with are good people. Sure, there are a good deal of off-kilter types, but I mean to say there are very few assholes. So I don't think the intentions are hostile. But I've tried to figure out exactly where this comes from.

One of the first questions actors will ask a new person is if they're in the business. And when they're told, "I'm a lawyer/accountant/urban planner," the reply is simply, "Oh." Followed by silence. I was with someone who's from Alaska, something that in every other circumstance prompts endless questions about igloos and Sarah Palin. But in this circle? Nada.

I probably have an overly-curious nature. Or more like I'm easily curious. I find few subjects (except for stories about dreams and about people I don't know and will never meet) boring. One time at a party I asked this guy what he does and he said he trades energy futures. I spent probably a half-hour talking to him about that. (He told his girlfriend afterwards that I was his favorite person at the party!)

I know part of it is just a thing I do because it's easier to hang on to one person than make your way around the room with a series of new introductions. On the other hand, though, I truly enjoy hearing about these weird jobs people have -- things you never dream someone does for a living.

Also it's an intellectual exercise for me. I'm very analytical. For a living I'm constantly digesting masses of information and synthesizing it into something comprehensible. So I kind of do that with people, too. I reflexively create stories and message points out of what they tell me.

But aside from all that, it's just plain polite. So I wonder what's up. Is it that these people have more limited or narrow experiences, making it harder to relate to people outside their normal realm? I doubt it. I've found the backgrounds of the actors I meet far more diverse than those on the business side of my life.

Is it an insecurity thing? Say you have someone in their 30s or 40s who's been told all their life by parents and loved ones that they should "get a real job" -- perhaps it stings a little to acknowledge others who took that path? That's probably a little too deep.

One thing I've seriously considered is that they're likely not all that interested in ME, so are equally likely not to be interested in who I'm with. I've been told that's not the case, but not by an objective observer. That sounds like something a really insecure person would say, but I try always to be really conscious of how I come across to others (which I think is preferable to those who seem to go through life stunningly oblivious to how they're perceived, always blaming others when the plainly obvious common denominator in all their conflicts and issues is them).

But I do have this thing where I tend not to make really deep, substantive connections with many people. An old boss of mine remarked once that I only open the door so far to others. He, on other hand, was always one of those people I've described as "emotionally promiscuous," sharing anything and everything, solicited or not. (He did, however, have lots of friends.)

As with everything, there's likely no one answer. It's probably a combination of these things and others I haven't imagined. But it is odd and a little confounding. I think next time I'm out I'll informally survey a few non-actor SOs about their experiences. Yes, that would be an interesting project.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Snowed under


Look at how cute that little guy is. With the snow all over him and all. Just plain huggable. And harmless.

That's what I thought, anyway. I guess Macs aren't immune to PC/Windows-type behavior. Last night I was doing what should have been a simple installation of the latest operating system and my whole damned world blew up.

Problem 1: the computer could no longer connect to my wireless modem. And the one and only password it's had since I got it was of no use. I spent two hours on the phone with AT&T configuring and reconfiguring the stupid modem, until one guy finally did a couple of fixes over the phone and the problem was resolved.

But that was just the beginning.

Somewhere among the multiple windows and menus and installation instructions (which I was half paying attention to because I was on the line with AT&T), I managed to create a whole new user account for the computer, since it didn't seem to recognize my original one. Only I didn't know that at the time, so to me it appeared that my entire hard drive had been wiped clean.

Not a total disaster, since I back up every month, but not too fun, either. I was furiously making lists of the documents that I needed to retrieve from emails, from my email trash folder and from clients (embarrassing), and which ones I needed to recreate on my own. Probably 10-12 hours worth of work. After a couple of hours of reinstalling all my files.

Thank jeebus for Facebook. It was only when friends noted that their installation left all their data intact that I finally nosed around into some sub-folders and found my original user account. Huge relief, but a really stressful evening overall.

Bad cat.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Coffees and lunches and meet-ups

I think I'm getting a better hang of this networking thing. I had meetings with three people over the past two days.

Two are people like me -- independents, doing their own thing. These people do a lot of networking because everyone's hustling for the few scraps out of business out there. But it's great to just talk with people, share tips and contacts and even kvetch a little.

The third is a pretty senior guy at a pretty major PR firm. After scheduling our lunch I started to regret it, thinking I'd be wasting his time, and wondering just who the hell I think I am, etc. But then, once we got together, it was just like the first time we got together last year -- long, fun, boisterous conversation about anything and everything, from politics to history to music to vacations.

And then, this part was nice. I didn't even have to ask for anything. Near the end he said I should get him my updated resume. Apparently they're gearing up their recruiting machine and he wants to get me into their process. Crazy.

Now that I've started to approach this thing strategically, it's amazing to find out how many people I actually know that I've taken for granted. This other guy I lost touch with a few years now works at a big employee communications agency. I wrote him and, boom, we're having lunch next week. So now I'm looking around at various software tools to keep track of all these people.

I really feel like there's this shift going on. It's more attitudinal at this point than anything else. But the employment picture, the stock market, the general climate is all contributing to an increased confidence. A feeling that things are on the verge of breaking loose and getting better.

Or, as some people think, we're heading for a double-dip recession and many, many years of under-employment ...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Released

I got released from a potential three-day industrial shoot, which is a shame. I wasn't looking forward to three straight days out of the home/office, but it would have been a decent job. So I'm back to square one with the most recent round of auditions, all of which I'm pretty sure are expired.

On the other hand, I saw myself on TV the other day in the ServiceMagic spot. It was MSNBC, I think. And others have reported sightings -- at a dentist's office in Cincinnati (tuned to Fox), and a dorm room in Virginia.

But back to jobs I didn't get. I auditioned a little a while ago for this:


A whole series of them were shot. It's the audition where I couldn't get out of Keith Olberman mode. When I saw who they cast, I felt better -- clearly they were going for a very traditional anchorman type. This guy could be Tom Brokaw's nephew.

And, in fact, when I googled the actor it turns out that he also had a two-decade career in news broadcasting. So there you go. Not much you can do about that. And congratulations to him.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

After all that ...

Of course, after my fuss over needing a higher rate for that job yesterday I ended up completely butchering my TWO lines. Four freaking sentences. I couldn't get them out and it was seriously embarrassing.

You have 15 or 20 minutes to sort of "prove" yourself to a bunch of people (including another actor -- and they're the toughest audience) who don't know you from Adam's housecat and have been hard at work all week on a project and then you come in and sort of fuck it up.

What made it particularly weird was that we were shooting right in the middle of a sea of cubicles where actual workers were doing their work. So you've got this audience of people overhearing you playing them. Gah!

Yes, the language was a little technical and jargony and kind of stilted, but all I had to do was hit my damned mark and say my few lines.

Okay, okay, I know it wasn't as bad as all that. At the end (of 20 minutes or so) they got a couple of good takes from two different angles. And the woman who walked me out was the person who actually sits in the cube we were using and she said I sounded just like her boss when he comes in and talks to her -- "really natural." (Which isn't easy when you're just standing around shootin' the shit about "SGI targeted areas.") So that's good.

And the commute was nearly effortless -- together with the shoot just four-and-a-half hours door-to-door (would have been less, but I waited around an hour before going on), and I was able to get my rental car back in so I didn't have to keep it overnight. Win-win-win.

Friday, April 02, 2010

#9

Navy Pier, Friday morning

I am now up to 9 workouts a week, which is starting to seem excessive. That's two sessions each of Pilates, weights, and spinning, plus a new body blast class, plus last last week I started in with yoga, doing two sessions of that.

Not sure about yoga yet, but I'm giving it a chance. Some things are definitely more difficult than Pilates and others are fairly familiar. Some of the moves really hurt, and others -- like lying flat on your back trying to "clear your thoughts" for a full five minutes -- are kind of a bore.

But I just haven't had the results I was looking for in the first quarter of the year, so I'm looking to step it up. The good thing is, we're getting some decent weather lately, though it's probably more a hiccup than a trend.

I usually don't consider outdoor work like biking or walking as a substitute for the gym. That's more like recreation to me. But now that I have a heart rate monitor I feel like I can get a good workout on the bike. And, in fact, an audition and booking this week prevented me from going to spin class, so I did a couple of hard bike rides, tracking the intensity with the monitor.

Plus, it's soooo beautiful out there. Especially in the morning. I've always loved morning light better than evening light. It just seems richer. I might make a morning ride a regular routine when the weather's good.


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Booking direct

I got a booking for tomorrow. An industrial -- just a three-hour shoot.

It's in freakin' Barrington, though. I told my agent I'd need an extra $75 for transportation costs (which was crazy, as "demands" go) and they actually raised the rate $150 and threw in another $25. So that was cool. And I'm counting on Good Friday to deliver unto me low traffic volume.

This was a direct booking -- no audition. In fact, three out of my five bookings this year have been direct. It's great on one hand, but usually these are the lower stakes (thus lower paying) gigs. Still, it meets my minimum, in terms of cost/hassle/payoff.

I'm also on check avail for the callback (nee comeback) from earlier in the week. That would be a pretty decent job -- a three day shoot, good money.

So that's somethin.'