Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The other R

Well, I'm off the fiction for now.

That book was nuts. It was about the fastest 1,000 pages I've ever read. I was going to bed early to read it. I was reading it walking down the sidewalk from the bus. Sometimes I was reading it in the morning instead of the news.

So now I'm reading a non-fiction book about rogue waves. It's your basic man vs. nature yarn, but instead of being about mountains or avalanches or storms or forest fires, it's about 100-foot waves. The scientists who study them, the daredevils who surf them and the ships that founder in them.

And it's decent. Good enough. But not the same. It's a rare non-fiction book that pulls me in these days quite like fiction does. It turns out plot and character are pretty important things. Who knew?

I'll never understand people who say they don't read fiction. WTF is that about? So they disregard Shakespeare and the Brontes and Hemingway and Updike and Wolfe? All for what? Who Moved My Cheese? Weird.

So I'm racing through the surfing book so I can get to Jonathan Franzen's new novel, which I think (and hope) I'm going to really love.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Goodbye to summer

So I pretty much finished the book. Just some minor touch-ups and it should be ready for prime time.

And I finished it in fun fashion, doing something I rarely do anymore with how busy things have been -- I went over to Argo for one of our increasingly rare warm sunny days and gave the hard copy third draft a good solid read.

It's been a fun five months. And purposeful. I wonder what I'll be doing with my evenings and weekend afternoons now that it's mostly done? I guess there's plenty of other stuff to come -- writing articles and developing presentations and speeches based on the content.

But it won't be quite as fun doing it all indoors.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Giving back

I was on a roll Saturday. First, I took what my caller ID indicated was a telemarketer call, but it was actually a marketing company doing research for ComEd on its advertising. Since I'm sorta in the business, I decided to politely answer her dozens of questions about ads I'd never seen or heard.

Then at the grocery store, I helped a little old lady find the Oregano, instead of running her down with my cart. And the food bank people were there, so I gave them some money.

Then I remembered about six months ago when I was a little low -- feeling and wallet-wise -- that I managed to come up with a little something to help others out. So now that a lot of good things have come to me, I thought I'd give back.

So I gave some to my old boss who's in a tough race for Senate in Ohio. And some to the Dems in general, though they really shouldn't be rewarded for retreating on the tax cuts and mismanaging DADT and so many other things. But this isn't the time to make a statement. And they're gonna be punished enough as it is.

And then I gave money for breasts. Always a good cause.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Apropos of yesterday

I love this post today from Seth Godin.

I guess it breaks the Internets to cut and paste the whole thing here, so I'll excerpt a bit of it:

If the kids in the back of the bus/audience/store don't get it (or don't get you) it's their loss. Focus on those that want to celebrate the work you do instead.
In other news, I got called at the very last minute -- just two hours notice -- to an audition today for a network TV show that's shooting in town. I worked hard, prepared, got off book, thought about my character, practiced, etc. But when I got in the room, I just wasn't able to give it my best.

It wasn't terrible, no, but I got the ol' "one-take-and-thank-you-goodbye." And waiting outside to audition were 20 others guys of varying degrees of brilliance.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


That's how many hours of sleep I got last night. Insane. I'm just glad my 8:30 conference call was canceled ahead of time.

It's amazing how fatigue makes things seem so much harder than they are, and some solid sleeptime can make it so much better.

More of that, please.

Plus I need to stay away from negative people. (Maybe I'm one. I hope not.) But people who are always just shitting over others, rejecting new ideas, have nothing to offer but criticism.


Though handy, I suppose, in reminding me to make sure I'm not one of them.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fatty-Fatty 2x4

I've been working out pretty much 7 days a week for months now. Many months. And yet, I'm heavier now (or, at least, thicker in the middle -- I don't have a scale) than I've been in years.

What the hell gives?

In 2000 I started up Body for Life and in 10 weeks lost 15 lbs. and two-and-a-half inches around my waist. I never got a super-hard body like the people in the possibly-fake testimonials, but I stayed it on it more or less for the better part of a decade.

Then a couple of years I began to get concerned about the lack of fruits and vegetables in the program, and I started adding those and various Superfoods into my routine of lean proteins and "good" carbs.

Then I got FAT.

So I decided to tally up my calories and realized again why Body for Life doesn't have all those foods in the program. Fruits and nuts are chock full of calories. I make this smoothie in the morning that totals almost 500 calories. FIVE HUNDRED!

I have a spinach salad with dinner and the tiny bit of walnuts I add to it total 270 calories. TWO HUNDRED SEVENTY!

If I cut out the smoothie and the walnuts I could lose a pound a week!

Nevertheless, something's fishy. Because my total calories for a day are only 2100. AND I am really, really active. Yes, I cheat some on weekends. And apparently beer has more calories than water.

But something is seriously up here and I've gotta figure out what or I'm gonna be looking like Santa by the holidays.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Up for good

When I wake up at 4 am, it's a pretty safe bet I'm going to be up for good. Especially if it's a workday, because then I'm laying there counting the hours of potential missed sleep, and adjusting accordingly as time marches on.

That was today. All my deadlines seem to collide in the first two days of the week. I don't know why it works out that way. So today I was facing having to be in three places at once -- over at United, in the studio editing video for Mars and possibly an audition. Not to mention at home working on other stuff.

But the audition was kind of bogus and I blew it off, and my studio time got pushed back to tomorrow, and I was able to do the United stuff from home. Of course, I knew none of that for sure at 4 am. So I got up and started working, and by 10 am I'd accomplished most of the day's work.

So then I did more, and got even more ahead. And when that was done I worked on the book. And now I'm not even that tired, after 15 or so hours of work.

Tomorrow will be bad. I'll get minimal sleep tonight and be doubly exhausted tomorrow, when all those other chickens are trying to roost.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


It's ironic that when I'm on a roll and really busy and flush with client work I seem less likely to give -- of myself and money and all that -- while a few months ago when things were in a bit of funk I felt more generous even as I felt like I had less.

But there are lots of ways to help. I've mentioned before that networking workshop I went to where one guy said he approaches networking as an opportunity to help others. He'll just try to help as many people as he can, and if something comes back to him, great. But he doesn't evaluate a contact's worth based on what they can do for him. Which is an excellent outlook.

So when a director/filmmaker I know was looking on Facebook for an upscale restaurant where he could film a pickup scene for his new movie, I thought, I can help. I've got a friend who's part owner of a nice place in the neighborhood. I hooked them up and it's going to work out.

And this is someone who's never gonna cast me in anything -- he's moved beyond my meager talents. But I'm thrilled not only to help him, but that I actually am in a position to help.

But now I feel obligated to go out there at 7 am Sunday just to make sure everything's all right. But that's okay. I'll do it. And I won't be looking over my shoulder for good fortune to smile on me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bizzy bee

The United stuff seems to finally be cooking. The last half of this month could get a little crazy. I was there today, am going back tomorrow and things will just get more intense over the next two weeks.

I did some decent plate-clearing with some clients, but others are coming out of the woodwork with new projects. And one that had almost no action for four weeks, in spite of my repeated attempts to make people understand that foot-dragging was going to cause a major late September/early October collision, it's all going to pile up anyway. So 8 or 9 time-consuming activities that could have been spread out over a couple of months will mostly be compressed into a couple of weeks.

BUT, I still worked out tonight and I still found a couple of hours to work on the book. The big sacrifice? Instead of reading 50-60 stories about yesterday's primaries, I only got around to a dozen or so. I'm pretty sure I'm not missing much ...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I've been taking this weekly Body Blast class for a while now. Last week, I missed it for the holiday so this week I really, really felt it. I am practically paralyzed from the butt down. And yoga tonight didn't fix it.

It's my own fault. The instructor lately has been calling me out, asking if I've been certified or something because my form is so excellent on the squats and lunges (we do about 50 of each).

I've gotten really good at it for two reasons: 1) I take instruction very well; 2) I've got a big ego and think way too much about others. That's a real problem.

One of my yoga instructors always says to only be concerned about what's going on on your own mat. That is, it's not a competition.

I can't help it in Body Blast, though. We face a giant wall of mirrors and you can't help checking out everyone else's form. And I get really annoyed at the slackers -- people half my age -- who just slightly bend their knees when I've got my quads parallel to the ground. Or dudes who use the "pink" bar, which is a third the weight of the one I use.

Anyway, now I'm paying for it. So who's laughing now?

Monday, September 13, 2010


I had an odd experience at a callback last week.

The casting agency is in a secure building and they have to buzz you in. If you just slip in behind someone else or when someone's going out you may be trapped in the lobby, because the elevator button to your floor only works when you've been officially buzzed in.

This causes endless confusion for first-time visitors, along with all the other confusion that would go along if someone's never been to a this particular (or any) casting agency before.

Anyway, when I got buzzed in the other day, there were three guys standing there in the cramped lobby looking confused. One said, "Are you an actor?" Odd question, I thought. Then one said he recognized me, and I'm racking my brain trying to figure out which audition/job I'd seen him in.

We all piled into the elevator and they were thrilled that the buttons now worked. I explained about the process, figuring they were inexperienced actors, then pointed the way when the rear elevator door opened at our floor and directed them down the hall to the casting agency.

I don't think I was exactly rude. Just a little ... I don't know. Partly confused, partly quiet, partly impatient, maybe a little tiny barely-discernible bit condescending. But definitely not rude.

When we got inside I went to sign in and they were ushered directly into the casting room. Then it hit me. They're the client.


The ironic thing is I have this to say in my book:
Practically every director has a story (and maybe it’s the same story passed around) about the actor who didn’t get the job because he was rude to the person at the front desk.

You’re always auditioning. Always. At the sign-in desk (do you treat the receptionist like another human being?), in the waiting room (do you spend your time griping about the process?), even at the bar (do you gossip about people in the business?). Because you never know who’s watching or listening.

Like I said, I wasn't outright rude. But I was certainly more reserved than I would have been had I known who they were. I was a little concerned about it, while also figuring I didn't come across as badly as I thought.

And it turned out I didn't. They put me on hold for the job. Then they released me this afternoon. But clearly they weren't bent out of shape.

But I've got to try not to make that mistake again. Like the book says, we're always on.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I've been Oprah-fied!

That's me at my local Argo, where I go to work on the book. As you can see, I wasn't working on it much last night.

On the table is my Kindle, and in the Kindle is one of the most life-sucking books I've ever read. It's The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett. It was recommended to me by several people over the years who knew I enjoyed historical fiction.

I resisted for a long time. Follett normally writes potboilers, and this was a departure for him. Between its epic length (nearly a thousand pages) and its setting (Ye Olde Medieval Tymes), I was concerned it was going to be some kind of Frodo/Hobbit/Fantasy-type book.

But it was about the building of a cathedral and I'm a huge fan of churches and cathedrals. (Don't care much for religion, but I love the architecture.) And I do enjoy, you know, learning stuff. In that respect it's been great.

On the other hand, it's a bit of a melodramatic bodice-ripper. I mean, the guy can really weave a freakin' tale, but I'm feeling a little bit manipulated by the whole thing.

And I'm mesmerized. I was up until 1:30 almost every night this week because I couldn't put the damned thing down. (What's a page-turner on the Kindle? A "next-clicker?")

Wednesday night's events were so horrific I actually went to bed and woke up kinda depressed and anguished for the characters. Insanity! Which is why last night I put aside book writing to do some book reading.

Unfortunately, just as things started getting better for the characters, they got worse again. This thing is killing me!

And I can't wait to pick it up again. But I am not -- NOT -- going to read the sequel. I swear.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Spoke too soon

So today I got a callback from the most recent of those auditions. (I knew dismissing the possibility would make it happen.)

And I also suspected I did pretty well the first time around.

Also, a client I haven't heard a peep from in months and months just came out of the woodwork with two new projects.

I don't feel like I've quite earned that iPad yet, but we'll revisit at the end of September.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Tiny gig

Finished up a small, two-part booking today. Part 1 was a print shoot last week and today was voiceover. The pay was fairly low, as gigs go, but the time commitment was minimal -- two 1-hour sessions -- and I didn't have to audition. And it was right off the El in Evanston.

Still, I'd like to get back to booking some bigger jobs. I've had only seven on-camera auditions since vacation a month ago and none of them (so far) have resulted in anything other than a hold.

I haven't been too worried because between work-work and the book I've been pretty swamped anyway, and it's been a relief sometimes not to have interruptions to my day.

I keep waiting for my life to be taken over by the United thing, but it seems to continue to be a hurry-up-and-wait type deal. In the meantime, I'm in constant plate-clearing mode. 100 pages of a book to edit? Do it in two days. Six websites to write? Do them in one week. Clients are going to start to get ridiculously high expectations for turnaround times.

Speaking of which, I now have to get on a conference call with someone in China. I don't even know if my phone(s) -- either of them -- will call China.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Only in Chicago

Got a lot of stuff done this weekend - work stuff, book stuff, home stuff. But also packed in some cool fun. Saw a top '80s Polish band singing their biggest hits (in Polish) with their new lead singer, the third-place finisher from Polish Idol 4.

Also saw, and walked through, some incredible art. The Luminarium at the Redmoon theater event/happening/festival.

I love art you can go inside of.

And that's blue.

And big art. The bigger the better.

Been wanting to see The Eye for a while now.

Also saw a Talking Heads cover band and a group of Mennonites singing Christian hymns under the El. And enjoyed some lakeside fun and sun.

It's one thing to live in a city with a huge variety of one-of-a-kind options -- it's another thing to actually take advantage of them. I feel good when I actually do the stuff that makes living here such a unique experience.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

You don't hear that every day

Casting people are hard to impress. They're usually fairly encouraging, if only to keep things positive in the room. "Nice job," "Good work," etc. And some I know just compliment you out of habit.

Today I did this commercial audition that's supposed to be a sort of mock scenario, where we're talking about "the one." And I just took their suggested lines, changed it up a bit to make them my own, did my thing, and the casting person was saying things like, "Wow" and "Really fantastic" and stuff. She had to pause to figure out what I could do differently in the second take.

(As always with me, it was to go slower.)

It's obvious and cliche, but the more I do this and the more experts I listen to, the more I just try to do very, very little. Small. Simple. Like you're ordering a sandwich.

Which, oddly, is what I was doing earlier this week in another audition. And I think I was even more natural and casual in proclaiming my love for my fictitious soulmate than I was ordering a burrito.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Bad attitude

FYI to producers:
  • You can try to book your non-union jobs on weekends, but if you're not paying extra on an already low-paying job, I'm marking weekend days as a conflict.
  • Don't even bother asking about an overnight shoot if you're not paying a LOT of money. Seriously. I don't even stay up all night for fun anymore, let alone for work.
  • You can book me first thing in the morning after a holiday weekend, but don't think I'm going to take any special steps to be well rested and prepared. I'll be on time, but I can't make any promises about the condition I'll be in.
  • For a "one-look" shoot, I'll show up with three pairs of pants and three shirts. I know my agent says to "bring your closet." They can carry it if they feel that strongly about it. Or you can provide wardrobe.
  • As far as I'm concerned, "on-time" is on time. Not 15 minutes early. I'm already padding my travel time to ensure I get there on time or earlier. I'm not going to pad it an extra 15 minutes so I can be sure to get there earlier than on-time or earlier.
  • Shooting in the suburbs? Fine, that's your choice. But don't ask me to schlep to Schaumburg for $250 (minus agency fee, minus transportation costs, minus taxes, minus lost work time).
If this makes me difficult, so be it. I'll live with the consequences.