Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Slovember

Two (2) auditions this month. One film, one print.

I just quickly looked back through my calendar and didn't see a worse month in three years. It may be more than that, but that's as far back as I cared to look.

The thing is, it was kind of a relief, what with all the work, meetings and out-of-town trips I had this month. But I'm sure it will drive me nuts if it keeps up in the month ahead.

Not sure what the deal is. Maybe something's up at the casting houses. Maybe there's someone new who's my type and getting all my auditions. Turnover at one of my agent's may account for it, but generally what one misses the other one picks up.

Maybe I need a new agent. New headshots? More focus?

I'm going to not worry about it. Much.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fall is there


DC was beautiful. It's always beautiful. Crisp, clear blue-sky winters, long, warm explosive and flowerful springs, lush, verdant summers, and paint-by-number falls. Just gorgeous.

It was a good visit. Lots and lots of leaves. All down my Mom's street:


Ginkos in the neighborhood:


Maple on the mall:



Sycamores, too:

And I'm glad to be back home.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Travel travails

The American people, or at least a certain percentage of them, have spoken loud and clear this holiday travel season, in the same voice and with the same logic we hear over and over.

They absolutely demand total, 100% security and safety from any terrorist threat, and are ready to hold the government responsible for any slip-ups. And they also are unwilling to pay any personal price whatsoever for such security, whether it's accounting for the true costs of war in the budget or submitting to a relatively harmless pat-down at the airport.

Just as they will happily affix a "Support our Troops" magnet to their car, while continuing to drive that car anywhere and everywhere, without regard to the economic or security consequences of our dependence on foreign oil.

I have traveled a few times since the new rules were implemented and the scanners don't bother me and the mild rub-downs don't either. What bothers me is that it's taken 40 minutes to get through security the last couple of times. If people would just get with the program, we could keep things moving efficiently.

But I guess getting to the airport two hours early, instead of one, is the price I pay for Freedom.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Let's get physical

I got a physical today, for the first time in I don't know how long. Fifteen years, at least. Maybe 20. And it's been almost that long since I'd even seen a general practitioner.

I think I shocked the nurse with this news, until it was clear that I'm over at Northwestern several times a year seeing the allergist and the opthamologist and the dermatologist. So that's partly why I haven't gone. Another reason is that evidence shows that physicals don't actually do much to keep you healthy or prevent disease.

Another good reason is they're icky. But this one didn't involve anything particularly invasive, so that was nice.

But mostly it's because I'm just so damned healthy. I have almost none of the major risk factors for premature death. I'm not overweight, I don't smoke. I work out all the time, I eat tons of fruits and vegetables. My blood pressure is low, cholesterol is low (with the good high and the bad low).

I do have a beer or two now and again, but he didn't seem particularly alarmed by that.

I think he was actually a little amused to have me there, since I'm so off-the-charts healthy -- not just for someone my age but for much of the population half my age. I even brought in my bloodwork results from a few years ago from another hospital and he was mostly thinking another round was unnecessary, in the same way my dentist, who is great, whispers to me that if I only wanted to floss a couple of times a week I could get away with it because my teeth are so healthy.

So I gave him one or two things to look at. A weird complaint or two. And we went ahead and did the blood work anyway. Maybe I can beat my scores from last time!

I figure since I have these near-debilitating allergies I deserve to have the rest of my body in good order.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My music's worse than yours


It took much of the past week, but I did it. I got just about all the music in my CD collection into iTunes -- 1,726 songs, more than doubling my existing online collection. I wanted to get this done because with the way things are going, it appears the computers OF THE FUUUUTURRRE won't have CD/DVD drives anymore.

And at the end of the process, I've come to a sad conclusion: I own a LOT of bad music. For several reasons:
  • Sometimes I've been loyal to bands beyond all reason. So while the first few Cranberries albums were good buys, the fourth and fifth were seriously unnecessary. Same goes for the Connells' third. And Social Distortion's second. But I ripped then all.
  • I would often buy CDs to get one song I liked. Like, um, Hanson. Shut up! Mmmbop is a damned good song and I'm only partly ashamed to say so. But I ripped the rest.
  • Worse than that, I would sometimes buy CDs because I had a vague recollection of maybe hearing a band's songs on the radio sometime. Thus you get That Petrol Emotion. Which I was amazed to find is not only on Wikipedia but for sale in the iTunes store. Ripped it.
  • And I bought a lot of music in the '90s. So there's some EMF, some Electronic, Everclear and the Farm. (And that's just the Es and Fs.) Ripped them, too.
  • Once I bought a CD because the group's name -- The Schramms -- was the same as my girlfriend's last name at the time. I don't know how I ended up with it because I actually gave it to her as a gift. Ripped it.
I ripped it all. All the bad songs by bad artists as well as the less favorite songs from good ones. That means 83 more R.E.M. songs. 92 by Smashing Pumpkins, whose Aeroplane Flies High box set of covers and Melon Collie outtakes I inexplicably bought.

I put all my remaining Beatles tunes online, including songs I over-listened to as a kid and albums that I think are really overrated, like Sgt. Pepper. I had a really nice client a few years back who had a huge collection and asked what music I like. Off the top of my head I said, the Beatles, Bowie ... and he ripped their entire catalog for me.

So now I have 461 Beatles tunes, which is odd since they only recorded about 150 songs. There's live stuff, and the Anthologies and various duplicates.

I even went through all the random CD mixes I got from weddings and birthdays and shows I did. I was a little choosier with these, since it wasn't my music in the first place.

It's all on the computer now. 3,183 songs. 17.71 GB. Over 8 days of listening. Which now would overload my 16 GB iPhone, so I need to do some selecting and playlisting.

And it's all backed up, too, so I'm thinking of getting rid of all the CDs. (If I could also scan all my photo albums and replace all my hard copy books with eBooks, my next moving job will require maybe three boxes.)

What an ordeal. For anyone converting their discs to the computer, I would recommend doing it all at once. When I burned mine 5 or 6 years ago I was selective. Big mistake. iTunes is a finicky mutha. So if you've got The Pretenders listed without the "The," iTunes is going to put them in different albums. Or if your punctuation is off or a hundred other things, you've got a lot of manual fixes to do.

Glad to be done. And this wasn't even on my to-do list this year ...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ready for the holiday

I know the month's not over, but to me it feels like it is. I'm just glad I got through it, as it was looking pretty awful from the other side.

I had a ton of client stuff to get done, and I did it. To wit:
  • Drafted a lengthy briefing paper on physician leadership, including interviews with several doctors;
  • Created multiple treatments for a print ad;
  • Developed copy for a marketing brochure;
  • Researched and drafted a 1,200-word bylined article;
  • Scripted/edited a four-minute video and made cuts/edits to four others;
  • Traveled twice to Virginia for a new client, conducted a dozen or more employee interviews, drafted, revised and presented a strategy and key messages.
And I edited two thirds of the books' fourth draft. With the remaining days, plus holiday, I plan to get that finished. Along with a ton of errands, appointments and other personal stuff.

I'm feeling very accomplished and looking forward to a day tomorrow with what appears to be no demands from clients or anyone else but myself and, hopefully, a pretty light couple of days before Thanksgiving.

Beer me!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Back to the Valley

A guy in college once said that he'd been all over the country and he hadn't seen a state more beautiful than Virginia.

I remember being surprised at the comment. Having grown up and attended college there, I think I took the place for granted. And I'd only been to a few states at that point, so I had little to compare it to.

And as a consequence of not having traveled much, I maybe lacked the curiosity/exploration gene. I think now of all the little towns and side roads left unexplored over the many trips back and forth from the DC suburbs to Charlottesville and other places.

All this to say I was back in the Shenandoah Valley this week for this client engagement and it took all my willpower (and pretense of professionalism) not to jump out of the car and take photos on the trip from our hotel to the plant. It's the definition of pastoral -- hills and dales and meadows and cows and winding roads and mist-shrouded streams.

Not to mention unspoiled and undeveloped. At least out there in the country. Virginia has a ban on billboards, which is nice. And the trees. Sooooo many trees.

I need to go back there for fun sometime. Yesterday was a 21-hour day -- grueling, but we're doing good, interesting work.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Washington Post editorial page is total garbage

And the wonderful Kate Graham must be spinning like a top in her grave.

I first started reading the daily newspaper when I was 11 years old. Luckily, we lived in the Washington area, so my first real experience with a paper was with the Post. When I was 14 or 15 I started delivering it as a paperboy.

I wrote for my high school paper and served on the managing board of my college paper, where one of my first official acts was to redesign it to mirror the Post's layout. As an adult, when I was having delivery problems with my paper, I wrote to the publisher, Donald Graham (Kate's son), who wrote a nice letter back.

As I traveled and moved to other parts of the country I was shocked by the precipitous drop-off in quality from papers like the Post and the Times to those in the next tier.

I started getting the paper's weekly edition delivered to me in Chicago so I could get top quality political analysis and some of the smartest editorial writing in the industry. Later on I made it part of my morning online ritual every day to catch up with the news in the Post.

I've seen All the President's Men more than a dozen times and I read, loved (and listened to the audio version of) Katherine Graham's memoir.

So it is with dismay and sadness that I see what's happened to the Post's editorial page in recent years. It really has been hijacked. I wasn't sure why, but they seemed to print just about anything from just about any right-wing political hack. I assumed they were desperately trying to shed the liberal label. I've recently come to learn it's mostly due to Fred Hiatt, who runs the editorial page there.

The latest and maybe last straw came this weekend in a ridiculous op-ed they printed from two washed up, fake-Democrat political has-beens -- one is a Fox News analyst and the other was the genius behind Jimmy Carter's malaise speech (which makes him, what, 80?) -- calling on Obama to resign. A shameless piece of garbage intended solely to shock and grab a round of cable news headlines.

This piece in Slate captures it perfectly. Allow me to excerpt:

Fred Hiatt, the insufferable editor of the Post's opinion pages, seems to believe that people hate his section because he has clung with fearless integrity to his support for invading Iraq—WMD or none, operational ties between Saddam and al Qaeda or none—and because the section's overall politics are to the right of the beliefs of the average reader of the Washington Post.

Actually, the reason some of us despise Hiatt and his section is that he consistently chooses to print dishonest garbage, composed by disingenuous partisan hacks, lobbyists, or lobbyist-hacks. The Post opinion section is not a place where serious thinkers work through the issues of the day; it's where professional propagandists float their newest lies, slogans, and unsubstantiated nonsense, to see if they can get them to bob into the political mainstream.

It's a sad, sad time for print journalism.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day late, dollar short


I received this bumper sticker in the mail the other day in return for a contribution I made to the Dems a couple of months ago.

Not that I have a car anyway, but this had more potential usefulness before the actual election than after.

That would have been a change that actually mattered.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What's old is new again


I bought these sunglasses a few years ago in a hurry before a trip to Mexico. They did the job of protecting my retinas but I kicked myself ever after for buying such out-of-fashion sunglasses.

But suddenly now, or in the last few months, they've come back in again. Everyone's wearing these wayfarer-style shades. Of course, that just means they'll be back out again in a year or two, just as the aviators that were all the rage a while back are now passe.

So that's what I face with the new glasses. The rectangular frames are already out. But if I go with the bigger Clark Kent-style frames ... well, their days are likely numbered, too.




Decisions ...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Across the table

Interesting film audition today. Since I've been focusing on the commercial side I've done film auditions as they come along and sound interesting and theater auditions just about never.

So it's weird. I feel totally comfortable in commercial auditions now because it's usually back to the same casting agencies seeing the same people I've been auditioning for and with for several years now. Film and theater is different -- less familiar, often more formal (at least in the sense that you're dealing with strangers).

Anyway, today I felt totally prepared. Got my sides down, read the script twice, did some research, thought about the character, etc. And yet still it was awkward. People across a table, fellow readers in chairs across the room, a hemmed in area to stay in for the camera. The biggest deal, though, is having no knowledge like I have in commercial auditions of how much I can/should engage in conversation, ask questions, get familiar, etc.

Mostly I just follow their lead, speak when spoken to, etc., which is the safe way to go. I got to do several reads with different direction, which is great, but at one point my heart started pounding right through my ribs, which was really weird. I hope I was able to "use" that in service to the character. And that nobody could hear it -- to me it sounded like thunder.

Overall acquitted myself well. It's a character I'm pretty familiar with -- kinda nerdy. But he's supposed to play piano and sing harmony, so if that's important to them, I'll doubt I'll be going back.

Monday, November 08, 2010

I wear eyewear


Last Friday night I wore my old glasses, just for fun and to see what would happen. On one hand, nobody noticed I was wearing the old ones, but then when I pointed them out AND proceeded to put the new ones on, everyone admitted they liked the old ones better.

It replicated some results from an industrial shoot earlier in the week. I showed up in my new glasses, then showed them the older ones, which the stylist immediately chose, saying, "We want you to be 'hip Dad.'"

Part of it's the shape, but mostly it's the color. I liked the new ones because I thought they blended in nicely with my hair, not realizing at the time that you actually want contrast. Duh. So I need black-framed glasses.

Of course now, when you go to they eyewear stores all the frames are BIG. That's the way the kids are wearing them these days.


But you have to be careful in patterning your fashion after ridiculously good looking people. JFK looked glamorous smoking a cigar. Most men with cigars look like a-holes. Good looking dudes are good looking in almost anything.

Also, it's important to note the example of Ryan Howard in The Office. From his bad beard to his dark shirt/tie combos to his most recent cardigan sweaters and nerd glasses, he has always been the embodiment of the office douchebag.
You can find the narrow rectangular ones, but usually only in the discount chains. And besides, the people who still wear those are all ... old. Keith Olberman, Matt Lauer, Sarah Palin. I suppose an argument could made that I am, too.

So age and dignity are definitely a factor. Also fear of re-living my nerdy childhood when the only glasses were thick and black-framed. Not to mention my small face -- it can only credibly handle so much hardware on my face.

I'd say it's no big deal, but it's my FACE.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Perspective

Losing the House was a blow, no doubt about it. Losing some great public servants like Russ Feingold hurt, certainly. And the prospect of the GOP ginning up a nonstop subpoena and impeachment machine sure sucks.

But all in all? I'd rather be in our position than theirs. As political prizes go, the White House and the Senate ain't too bad.

Things will be tough, for sure, but in many ways not much tougher than it was with a bunch of Blue Dogs in the House and without a super-majority in the Senate. And it will be interesting to see if Boehner has something beyond "no" for a policy agenda.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The aftermath


I should be more depressed about the elections but, luckily, I've been too busy to dwell and stew too much.

Plus, thanks to the Internet, it wasn't a huge shock like in 1994 (when I actually lost my job as a result -- talk about having a stake). People have been seeing this coming all year.

I go back and forth between being disappointed in Obama (for his politics only, not his policies), mad at the three or four percent of voters from '08 who didn't turn out this time, and whose participation would have made a pretty huge difference. And, of course, there's the stupid voters who did vote, particularly the people the GOP continues to bamboozle into voting against their own interests.

But mostly it's disgust at the Republican smear machine, with their death panels and government takeover and take our country back and all that. But even them I'm not too pissed at. (Or maybe I'm just tired.) I have confidence in their ability to screw this up royally. Because now they have to be part of the solution. And helping fix the country will only help Obama's chances in 2012, so either way -- helping out or continuing to obstruct -- will ultimately benefit the Democrats.

And just this morning I woke up and for a full minute or two I'd completely forgotten what happened last night. Maybe tomorrow it will be five minutes.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

From dusk 'til dawn



Long, long day yesterday.

After flying to Dulles Sunday evening, driving 2 hours west to the Shenandoah Valley and sleeping 3.5 hours, up before dawn, 10 hours of meetings and interviews, back on the road, to the airport, dinner of trail mix and potato chips, home by midnight, sleep.

But the Blue Ridge mountains on a beautiful fall day? Worth it.


That and the money.