Monday, January 31, 2011

New week, new me

Last week was killer. Working every night until 10 or 11 (expect for Thursday night, which I took off, and Friday, when I quit around 7).

But I was enormously productive. Just ridiculously so. Got so much done, including some really good work that pleased an old colleague who's now a new client. And then worked much of the weekend overhauling a couple of chapters of the book.

Up again today at the crack and back at it until around 9. If I have a really productive morning I should be fairly ahead of the game, because I have an 11:30 conference call that could seriously change the complexion of the next two weeks and make them really grimly busy. Which is great from a $ standpoint but bad from a mental health one.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Stop judging me!

This is Drama. She's the top dog's dog at the casting agency. She's got kind of a judgy look on, but I guess that's the nature of the business. She's not the only one there thinking, "You're wearing that?"

It was my first visit there in I-don't-know-how-long. Ridiculously long. A month, maybe?

It was good to be back, but I won't get the job. Not only are the odds against me (booking 1 for 1 would be a feat), I never seem to book casino jobs.

Also, it was tough. I worked hard on the script, but it ultimately came down to me being "confident and swaggering" without being "cocky." That and looks.

It truly is a dog's life.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

User unfriendly

Here is the process I have to go through when I book an audition with one my agents. It's their super-special proprietary system that they probably paid someone a lot of money to build, and then that someone built it with zero regard for the end users. These are the steps:
  1. Open email
  2. Click link in email
  3. Go to the job noted in email and click on link
  4. Here you have the breakdown (which describes the job, the role, the pay, etc. -- all the details). Awesome! So you print that out and go, right? Nope. It's some stupid framed deal with a scroll window. If you hit print, you only get what's showing on the screen, so you miss half-to-two-thirds of the breakdown. And no, you can't just go paperless because, of course, it's not mobile compatible. So you have to ...
  5. Highlight the text for copying and pasting. But not so fast. There's a bunch of boxes and other formatting there, so if you Select All, you'll get a huge mess when you paste it into a document, even if you have it paste text only without formatting. (Basically, the text will go into a one-inch wide column for 10 or 12 pages.) So you very carefully select only the text within the box and you forego some of the crucial information outside of it.
  6. Open Word document
  7. Paste into Word document. Awesome! All done now, right? Nope. They use some shitty, barely readable gray-scaled font that their stupid designer thought would look pretty but didn't consider, again, any impact whatsoever on the end user, so you ...
  8. Select all text
  9. Click on font color (auto) to make it black. And now you're ready to ...
  10. Print!
And that's all there is to it! Genius!

Isn't it bizarre that a major reason I would have for leaving this agency is the website it uses? I wonder if that was ever on their minds when they designed it?

(And I have pointed out this issue. Immediately after the site went live.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cross-eyed and painless

Another over-full day. By the afternoon I was getting seriously punchy, so I decided to go to the gym, which I skipped yesterday.

As I headed out I realized had not stepped outside for more than 48 hours! I've become a shut-in!

Terrible. But I've knocked out a lot of this one project -- 5 of 6 conference calls and nearly 4 of 6 write-ups. Just a little more in the morning then I save the rest for next week and pivot to the really important work.

First, a conference call with the publisher to go over the marketing plan for the book. Then some really heavy-duty analysis and writing for this new client that's going to take some serious brain power, which I hope haven't totally overspent for the week. I was down to writing near gibberish tonight.

So, other than letting the workouts go, I think I'm close to getting things completely under control. Tired.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Dying. Nine billable hours of writing and conference calls yesterday, another nine today -- all on this one project. (Plus other stuff.)

I read this article this morning that quoted research saying that people only have the capacity for a few hours of really intensive concentration per day -- after that, attention and quality tails off considerably.

I kind of believe that. I've always found that I have around 3 or 4 "good" writing hours per day. I can write longer, and often do when I have to, but that additional time is usually not as focused or productive and the result isn't as good.

This week I'm really stretching that. But that other project did not fall through after all, so I'm totally on the hook.

Monday, January 24, 2011

It lives

Last year I was tormented on and off again by this ongoing project from hell. And now I've got six more of these properties to write up. Six conference calls in four days, plus all the writing.

Again, it's not that it's particularly hard or beneath me or anything. But it's time consuming, energy sapping, and it always come just as some other major project is threatening. Today I was supposed to start up a new and very hard project, but nothing has happened with it yet.

But I am still scrambling madly to clear the decks ahead of it. So I just finished working a little bit ago, having done 9 hours of billable work (on top of all the usual smaller and admin-type stuff), and I'll be back at it from before dawn to long after dusk tomorrow and the next day and the next few days after that.

And what will happen? The other project will probably fall through altogether, and I could have gotten these six properties written up over a nice, leisurely two weeks instead of one.

But there's no way to know really. So I press on, into the night and the morning and so on ...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Showdown in LaPorte

Yesterday morning I gave the book a quick final look-through, sent it off to the editors and, with this huge weight lifted off my shoulders, got into my zipcar and headed to Indiana for the industrial shoot.

Normally I hate the thought of a long trip to a booking -- I can't stand being stuck in traffic. It just feels like an enormous waste of time. For some reason, though, I'm not minding having to go to Indiana. It just doesn't seem as perilous going in that direction.

When you're going up to Milwaukee or Guernee or places like that, you have to get on the damned Edens, which is almost always jammed and there's just about no way around it that's much better.

So I cruise down the Skyway and even the lake effect snow isn't giving me that much trouble. It just feels more wide open that way. More choices, more scenery. I went almost all the way around the bottom of the lake to a place just south of Michigan City.

Anyway, I'm wondering, as I usually do, how this gig will turn out. And I'm thinking, Indiana, what kind of quality am I gonna get here? What kind of tripe am I doing to have to perform?

But the company and its work is interesting and the agency people are smart and the script is actually pretty damned good. They're trying to do something different, something that will stand out. It's exactly the kind of thing I'd recommend in my book.

Of course, at the same time they're looking at me and wondering if this jackass can pull this off. Like so many of my jobs lately, I'm booked straight off my headshot. Maybe they went online and got a look at my reel, but they're pretty much taking a flyer on me.

So they spend a lot of time explaining the script, and the meaning behind the words, and showcasing the company's products -- all of which is great. But they even tell me to, you know, picture the things I'm talking about in my mind as I'm saying them. Okay, that's like the first thing they teach you in acting school.

There's real concern or maybe anxiety in their eyes because they know that all of their hopes for this project's success now live or die on the ability of these six actors to express their words the way they imagine it in their heads. And hell, they're probably imagining Michael Douglas and Johnny Depp and Julianne Moore.

So finally, finally, I get to actually do the lines and, boom, you can see the relief wash over them. Oh yeah, this guy can act like a real human being.

That's what makes this fun every time. Being able to deliver -- to truly meet and even exceed expectations. To please the client.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Eye of the storm

The new year has started very slowly in terms of work-work, and I am really thankful for that. I just finished two weeks' worth of edits to the book and I added a massive amount of words -- from 36,000 up to 43,000.

That's the wrong direction to be going in, but I'm sure there will be cuts along the way. Right now, though, it's in a really good place. As am I.

Tomorrow I have another booking. It's an hour-and-a-half away in Indiana for not fantastic pay. Good pay, but not three hours of driving pay, even with the extra we got them to throw on top.

But it's pretty much the last day before a seeming onslaught of work-work comes my way. It'll be an onslaught if everything comes through. Some might not. But there's still a lot there. If this booking had come a couple of weeks later, it probably wouldn't be worth doing.

Once I get back from Indiana, I'm going to have a restful, work-free weekend.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My daughter's in good hands

Last fall I totally blew this audition, or thought I did, and ended up getting the job. And here's the result.

It's a webisode series for Allstate, with messages on safe driving aimed at teens. They did it in a Friday Night Lights style, complete with shaky camera. And it's actually a good example for my book -- how a company can use stories (and video) to get their message across more effectively. Actually, I need to add that in somewhere ...

Anyway, my part is small -- starting at just under the 3:00 minute mark -- but I like the way it turned out. I'm the concerned Dad going through a divorce and trying to be a disciplinarian but not wanting to push my troubled daughter any further away. Angst!

My one small problem with it is the line about me working the late shift. I think we changed that in later takes because I don't think I look like someone who works shifts. Though in this economy you've got PhDs working at Walmart, so I suppose it's possible.

So, neat. It's been a while since I've had a clip to show for myself.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bizarro booking

I did the second half of a print shoot yesterday. Friday was a short solo shoot, and yesterday was a full-day with a group.

It was threatening snow and ice, but with an early start and the MLK holiday, I got up to Buffalo Grove plenty early for the 9 am call, did makeup and wardrobe and ... waited. And waited. Two of the four actor/models weren't there. We're thinking it's the snow or the traffic or who knows what.

Sometime after 10 we're told that they didn't even know they were booked! Yes, we got late notice -- an email around 4 pm on Friday. And the agency should have called people in addition to emailing, but still. How does a modern human under retirement age go 60-70 hours without checking email?

So one guy was out of town, and missed out on a pretty good payday. (It must have been chaos at the agency as they scrambled for a substitute.) The other made it up by around 11:30.

Several hours of paid reading/Internet time turned into chaos for the rest of the day. Luckily, all the talent was pretty good, so things moved briskly once we got going.

And now, apparently, I've got another booking for Friday. A short one -- another crappy road trip, though. And no audition necessary.

I'm gonna see if I can keep this up for the whole year -- two bookings for every one audition.

Monday, January 17, 2011

What's worse than taxes?

Complaining about taxes. It's futile. Like, obviously, complaining about life's other inevitability -- death.

Nobody likes to pay taxes, but taxes are just one of those necessary things if you like roads and schools and police and social safety nets and other stuff.

Nobody likes their taxes to increase either. But here's a fact: state governments (like the federal government) are in huge, huge trouble. Just terrible financial shape. They're doing so poorly because the economy is doing poorly.

Simply cutting spending is not going to solve the problem. The cuts would be so deep we'd be living in the Road Warrior movies. And simply cutting government employee pensions and benefits (the latest bogeyman) is not going to solve the problem either. (Though I think they should have to sacrifice like everyone else.)

I'm fine with Illinois raising our income tax rate. It was ridiculously low. Laughably so. Three percent? As the New York Times points out, "the top rate is 10.55 percent in California, 8.97 percent in New Jersey and New York, and 7.75 percent in Wisconsin."

Yes, we suffer under high sales taxes, and gas taxes and, I guess, property taxes. But even with all that, we still rank 30th among all the states in overall tax burden. We'll likely climb the charts with this increase, but it's long overdue, given the fiscal shape we're in.

I'd actually like to see an even higher, and progressive income tax than the flat tax we have now. That would be fairer. And maybe it would allow us to lower regressive taxes like the sales tax.

As a self-employed person, I pay a lot of taxes for that privilege. (I know, I just paid them last week.)

But I don't complain, because that's the choice I made. Just as I don't complain about high taxes in Chicago, because I consider it a privilege to live here. It's a great city. An expensive one, and justly so.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A good start

Even though I hadn't had any auditions this year until just yesterday, I did get my first booking -- also yesterday.

I didn't think much of it, but now they also want me on Monday for a full day, so it's turned into a pretty lucrative gig. If we do indeed go the full day, this one job will represent more than 10% of all of last year's performing income.

This one was booked directly, with no audition. I didn't go back and look but I think most of last year's bookings came about that way, too. Odd. My headshot and resume are doing more for me than my auditions. And my talent agents are doing more for me than the casting agencies.

If I wasn't so consumed by the book right now, I'd try a little harder to figure out what's going on. One of the big casting directors in town sent a memo around saying that he wants to see actors taking more classes and doing more theater, neither of which I've done much of in the past couple of years.

I don't have a lot of time to spare for a show right now -- I've turned down two audition invitations in the past month -- but I should look into a class or two.

Maybe that will break the logjam.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mary Siewert Scruggs

Mary Scruggs, who was one of my instructors at the Second City Training Center, died suddenly last night. She was only 46.

She was a wonderful teacher and a really wonderful person to be around. Exceptionally smart and insightful and also really, really nice, which is a rare combination.

Mary taught me many important lessons about writing, a couple of which are passed along in my book. And she taught me to be a better writer. She had an extraordinary knack for giving solid, direct feedback on your scripts while making you feel great about yourself. It never felt like criticism -- it felt like help.

Performers, artists can be a bitter, insecure lot -- even moreso as they approach middle age. But Mary stood out, exuding nothing but positivity and generosity toward her students. Her aim was always and only to make you better.

She was clearly very happy with where she was in life. She had spent time out in LA when she was younger and I understand she even sold some scripts to the networks. But she said the place wasn't for her. So she made a career back here -- teaching, directing, acting, writing plays and books and lots of other things.

Mary had an easy, boisterous laugh, and class with her was always fun. We had this running joke in our screenwriting class. She advised us that the montage was often a lazy gimmick used by unimaginative writers to propel a film's action forward. "Oh, hey, they're strolling hand-in-hand on the beach, they're trying on funny hats and laughing, they're talking closely in a little cafe -- they must be falling in love!"

So as we worked around the table on our screenplays, whenever we'd get stumped on a plot point, someone -- sometimes her -- would pipe up with, "Montage, montage!" complete with the Wayne's World "doo-dah-doo-doo, doo-dah-doo-doo" gesture, and we'd all break up laughing.

Thanks to Mary, I'll never be able to enjoy a movie montage again. (She also instilled in me an unnatural affinity for The Gilmore Girls. It was homework, I swear.)

I've been thinking about her a lot in the past year as I write the book. I was hoping at some point to present her with a copy.

It breaks my heart that she's gone, and I was just her student. I can't imagine what those who live and work with her every day must be going through, and my thoughts go out to them.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


A few additional thoughts about Tucson:
  • Simply because you're not posting something like "pray for the Tucson victims" doesn't mean you're not sad for them and concerned.
  • Expressing your outrage over the violent rhetoric that, at minimum, creates an overheated environment that could be seen, especially by unbalanced people, as legitimizing violent acts, does not disrespect the victims. It honors them, and all others who might be in the crosshairs, by trying to stop it from happening again and shaming people into some modicum of responsibility.
  • I don't consider it exploiting a tragedy for political purposes if people like me have been vocally pointing out the issue for the past several years -- both when politicians and commentators spout their vitriol and when the many, many other (albeit lesser) acts of violence, vandalism and intimidation regularly occur. This is just the latest example.
  • I don't know whether Sarah Palin is directly or even indirectly to blame for what happened. But if this incident, and peoples' angry reaction to it, serve to muzzle her hate-filled speech, even for a little while, if it causes her to think a bit before she speaks or, dare I say it, study a little of this country's long, sad, violent history, then some good will have come from this.
  • I still believe speaking up in protest and holding people's feet to the fire is more honorable and productive than sitting on the sidelines, quietly throwing up your hands, and dismissing all politics as corrupt and futile.
  • People who continue to push this equivalence argument are either disingenuous or they're not paying attention. The fact that most people don't vote and even fewer read the news suggests the latter.
To the last point, I will quote a couple of people. First, Andrew Sullivan:
"The right and the left both have intemperate voices. But here's the key: only the conservative movement counts the most vile blowhards as leading lights, embraced by the leadership. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Sarah Palin: these are among the most popular conservatives in America. Who are the folks on the left with equivalent popularity and influence?"
"Glenn Beck tells millions that Obama hates white people and is going to kill 10% of the population, and some random commenter at the Daily Kos says in a comment that a politician is 'dead to me.' It's the same thing!"
I try to respect other people's opinions. But that doesn't mean I think they're informed opinions.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I have a chapter in my book about watching what you say and do, in public, on the Internet, etc. Like don't go out and order a Bud Light when your client is Miller, don't treat the receptionist like crap and, of course, don't go around spouting extreme political positions without being ready to accept the consequences of potentially alienating a client.

And then I spent the weekend spouting my political beliefs all over the Interwebs. I suppose it could come back to haunt me someday, but this is something I'm passionate about.

I've said it before: politics is not some abstract thing for me, tangential to my life. I grew up around government and politics. Dad was in the military for 20 years, Mom worked on Capitol Hill and in the administration for 30 years. Her husband was a lifelong government employee.

Mom majored in political science, as did I. I've been reading the Washington Post since I was 11. I schooled my third grade class, introducing them for the first time to the word "Ms."

I interned for the government in college. I worked on Capitol Hill for a government association. I worked for the attorney general of Ohio. I volunteered on his campaign and multiple others. I lost my job when he lost his.

I read somewhere between 30 and 50 politically-related news stories, blog posts and op-eds a day. That may be a conservative estimate.

I believe in politics, I believe in government and I believe in my party.

And I've believed and have been saying since at least August of '08 that the hate-filled rhetoric from the right is dangerous. That it would someday fuel some nutcase to take action. And I believe the right is responsible for 90% of the problem.

You can't compare one freshman democratic congressman and some angry anti-war protesters to established politicians and leading media figures -- senators, congressmen, governors -- spewing stuff like traitor, tyranny, death panel, job killer, un-American, government takeover, 2nd amendment remedies, reload, etc., etc.

I believe that fully, as does this Nobel Prize winner, this respected analyst and this lawman. Along with many others.

I can accept Republicans replying strongly and denying the charge. Of course they would. Why wouldn't they?

What annoys me more, though, are the "everybody does it" crowd. They're pushing this false equivalence. (And it's not close to equal, as the links above argue.) These are people who dislike politics, politicians and government anyway. They're the kind who can vote for Al Gore in one election and George Bush in another.

And I ask, which is more cynical -- the person who proudly and vociferously stands by his party or the one who just writes off the whole system as corrupt and refuses to engage at all?

That's a rhetorical question. My beliefs are mine. They've been thoughtfully considered and honed over 30-plus years of study and debate. I may be a damned partisan, but I know what the fuck I'm talking about.

Friday, January 07, 2011


Reports have been coming in from around the hinterlands -- Atlanta, Kansas City, etc. -- that this spot was running again around the holidays.

Which would be great if they had permission to actually do that. The original contract was for 13 weeks. The only possible technicality I can imagine is maybe it didn't run the full 13 last year and they had some left over. But I'm 99% certain that's not how it works.

I had an issue like this five or so years ago. I actually got in touch with a lawyer over it, which didn't thrill my agent. It was a total clusterfuck. People at the client move on and "don't know" what the terms of use are, or the production company is afraid to alienate the client and the agent is afraid to alienate the production company, etc.

I eventually got more money out of it. It was never a ton of money in the first place, but it was the principle. Actors always end up getting the shaft.

I don't know exactly what the story is with this situation. The people I worked with were great. Hopefully my agent will get on this and be successful. Either way it will be a good test of the relationship.

All I know is, if I start using these in my speeches and presentations for my book I will feel zero compunction.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The rest of the year that was

I was kind of grousing about the year's commercial auditions and bookings the other day, but the truth is, it wasn't that bad at all. It was totally fine, actually, considering I was mostly consumed with the book and, especially in the second half of the year, work.

Now I don't know if these other distractions had any direct impact on the numbers. It wasn't like I was turning down auditions and gigs left and right. I probably missed out on a few, but not 30 or so. At some points when things were really crazy, it was actually a relief not to not have three or five auditions in a week.

I wonder sometimes if there's some kind of unconscious or indirect action going on at times like this. Some weird energy that's put out there.

Anyway, it was overall a very good year. Interestingly, very little of what I did and accomplished was planned:
  • I wrote a book. Had no idea I was going to do that. Not a clue. But it was a really enjoyable and satisfying process.
  • I took two fantastic trips. First, to Alaska, my 46th state. Then to London, a longtime, huge missing piece in my travelogue and a very welcome return to overseas travel after a long hiatus.
  • I did some really interesting work for some good clients -- Harley, Coors, Mars and United -- getting some more great experience and excellent contacts in the process.
  • I got into a really good workout groove. Even though it's 7 days a week, I'm doing something different every day, adding yoga and body blast to Pilates, spin and weights. I like the diversity, and how each sort of helps the other, but I wonder if I'm sacrificing gains in each of them by only doing them twice a week. I may see a trainer in the new year about adjusting things.
  • I had a full year of gold-plated, affordable health care, thanks to SAG. I didn't meet eligibility for this year, though, so it's back to a crappy plan or COBRA. Anyway, got everything fully checked out and I seem to be in good working order.
  • I had what might have been one my least stressful holiday with family periods in many years. Not that there were fewer stressful things -- some of it was just awful -- but for some reason I approached it all with a more relaxed, accepting attitude.
  • I am sleeping like a baby. Very, very little waking up in the middle of the night worrying about everything. I think that's a result of being busy, productive and mostly content.
Looking back, I can see that even though much of this was unplanned, I was laying the groundwork without even knowing it. The book was the result of an increased push to do more networking early in the year. Along the way, as I was reaching out to people, it just occurred to me that I should do it.

And the new business stuff was the result of contacts I made over the last couple of years. Which totally reinforces the value of networking even when it doesn't seem to be having any direct, instant impact. You have coffee or lunch with someone, feel like you made a good impression, keep in touch, then a year or two later they think of you when something big comes up.

I feel a little guilty because it seems the entire Facebook universe had a horrible, horrible year. I guess it was just my turn to have a good one.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Ghost doctor

This summer I shot a SAG commercial for a local hospital and it still hasn't aired. They shot a bunch, so I guess it's not too surprising.

But the problem is it conflicts me out of doing any other hospital jobs. So I've missed out on at least three auditions since, including one yesterday.

Air the damned thing, already. Or set me free! Or send more hold checks.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The year that was

As I suspected, 2010 was not a terrific year for commercial work, and the numbers bear that out. It's a little concerning -- we'll have to see if this pattern spills over into the new year.

After two straight years of 100-plus auditions, the 2010 number plunged to 63 (11 print, 8 industrial, 39 commercial, 4 film, 1 voiceover). That's the fewest I've had since 2006. So it's gone like this:
  • 2006: 48
  • 2007: 86
  • 2008: 103
  • 2009: 101
  • 2010: 63
What in the hell is up with that? If I'm determined to stay in this business this year, I may have to think about new representation.

As for bookings, I had 12 (3 print, 4 industrial, 3 commercial, 1 film and 1 voiceover), which is pretty much the average over the past few years, with as few as 11 and as many as 15. Some of those bookings came directly -- many of them, actually. So it's hard to make any kind of a "1 booking per xx auditions" ratio.

The key on bookings is quality, both in opportunity and in revenue. Both were down in 2010.

Of course, 2009 was a phenomenal year -- I made almost two-and-a-half times what I made the year before, which had been my best year up to then. And two giant bookings made up a good chunk of that income. So that was probably a fluke of a year.

In terms of revenue, this year was back down to 2008 levels. A little better actually, making it my second best year, but a distant second. Acting revenue made up 23% of my total income -- again, way down from 2009, where acting accounted for HALF, but more in line with 2008.

What's really odd is that while my acting and consulting income have fluctuated a lot over the past few years, the total always seems to come out around the same. So when one's down, the other's up. It's strange, but fortunate, I guess, how that works.

I'm not all that disappointed, actually. I knew 2009 would be tough to top. In terms of bottom-line results, 2010 was not bad.

Anyway, much change to come in the year ahead. I don't even know if these measures will be relevant this time next year. More on the future later ...

Saturday, January 01, 2011

The joy of nothingness

I have not gone to the gym all week. I haven't done any work at all. I've slept in until 10 am several times, which is very, very odd. I didn't think I was capable of that kind of sleep anymore.

What have I done? I've read a lot. When I go to Argo, I take books instead of the laptop. And I sit on my couch for several hours at a time reading. It's wonderful.

I'm reading some pretty good stuff right now, and I think one resolution, if I make any, is to not waste my time on books that don't completely grip me. Like that damned book on salt. Even the book on waves got pretty tedious.

Books should be so good that you can't wait to get into bed to read them. You might even turn off the Colbert Report early. You might read them at breakfast instead of the news. You might actually put the laptop aside for an hour or two.

It's funny to hear peoples' prejudices about books. I've heard lots of people turn up their nose and proudly say they never read fiction. Which is insane. So they've never read or think there's any value in Hemingway or Shakespeare or Wolfe or Kingsolver?

On the flipside, my mother says she refuses to read nonfiction, which I think is equally bizarre. I quickly challenged her -- what about Katherine Graham's memoir? Biography is different, apparently. Regardless, she feels nonfiction authors just don't write as well.

I don't believe that either. I think that's an even tougher skill -- to find a compelling story within the parameters of truth and fact. Lots of people do this really well -- Krakauer, Junger, Ambrose, Gladwell, Bryson. And many of them can handle the language just as masterfully as the best novelists.

Obviously, the key is to read what grips you, without prejudice.

Anyway, the point is, I've been reveling in my own crapulence, and loving it.