Thursday, March 31, 2011

In a Word

I usually complain about overly specific character breakdowns that go on and on in endless, often contradictory, detail, a la: "intellectual, quirky, passionate, brilliant, authoritative, likable, authentic, charming, captivating, memorable, deadpan, witty, roguish, innocent, child-like, enthusiastic."

A couple of weeks ago one of them went so far as to specify the color belt I was to wear (brown -- with black pants, inexplicably).

Today it was the opposite problem. Here is the entirety of my character description for tomorrow morning: "Ralph."

What do I do with that? One Facebook friend suggested it was a verb. Another said I just need to play a heavyset bus driver. So binge then purge.

It does say wardrobe is "professional." Maybe I'll go as a professional wrestler. Or a race car driver.

I could have called to get clarification, but I'm tired of always doing that. I'm just going with the flow lately. I've even stopped asking for different audition slots, so I'm stuck with 9 am.

I've got a lot of eating to do ...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bigger fish to fry

I was all geared up to raise hell about the money. Okay, I was never going to raise hell -- I was just going to needle in a pointed way to put them on notice.

But then we quickly realized we had bigger fish to fry. Everyone there kept calling it a commercial, which is a very different thing from an industrial. Especially in pay. Some of this information came from a member of the client's marketing department (a woman I happened to work with at Ogilvy and hadn't seen for almost 15 years).

So a good bit of the day was spent comparing notes with other actors, who also kept hearing the c-word, and exchanging furtive messages with various agents and mapping out our options. Ultimately what it came down to was the release from our agents stipulated the conditions, they didn't have us sign anything else that contradicted that, and people often call any corporate video a commercial.

Other than that, it was a really fun day. This was a national chain of steakhouses and we were surrounded by good food and drink. One guy was having a scotch at 8 am -- I was having champagne (with a sugar and cinnamon-coated rim).

And the people were fun. I worked again with and got a ride from my pretend nemesis. And there was another actor there from the casino shoot a couple of weeks ago. We all just laughed and laughed and had a blast.

It's odd how sometimes I feel really awkward around people and make bad chit-chat, or fail to make any at all, and other times it comes really easily. I tend to blame myself for that, but I think sometimes you just click with people and sometimes you don't.

I also suspect that the people I enjoy being around the most are those who are young and attractive. Is that so wrong?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Digging for dollars

Tomorrow I have a booking -- another direct one, no audition, which is cool.

I wasn't going to do it because the pay was low for a long day out in the burbs and the cost of renting a car, gas and tolls.

Then they raised the rate and got me a ride with a guy I know who's also on the shoot. So I agreed to do it.

And now I just learned it's with a company that I've worked with before that takes five-to-six months to pay. I could say no, but that would really put my agent in a bind.

One of the rules of the business is that you never talk money on the set with the client or production company. That's strictly for the agent to take care of.

But hey, these guys are practically acquaintances, right? So I think I'll be testing that rule tomorrow.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A clean well-lighted place

I wrote most of the book at the little Argo tea around corner, and I like the place, especially in the summer, when you can sit outside. Their tea is really good, too, which helps.

The inside experience is a little different. Close quarters, and you're packed right in there will all the regulars. The middle-aged Serbian dudes who run out every 15 minutes for smoke breaks. The old guy we call Kojak, who strikes up a conversation with every woman under 30. The dude who surrounds himself with magnets (don't ask). Etc.

But none of that bothers me. That's just local flavor. What bothers me is those signs there in the windows. This is a classic case of a company looking past its existing customers toward the new ones they can draw in. Those signs are positioned at about the right height to catch the eye of passersby.

Unfortunately, that's also the height that completely blocks your view when you're sitting at the window. And the whole point of sitting by the window is to stare out it every once in a while, and in half the seats you can't do that.

It's not just me -- it bothers a lot of people. People are always futzing with the damned things, trying to roll them up or swing them aside. I guess instead of complaining about it here, I should just do something constructive. Like twitter about it.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Every year a combination of inertia, a damned unbeatable location and an amazing amount of space and light conspire to prevent me from getting off my ass and moving out of this hovel.

And every year I haggle with the slumlord over various lease concessions, repairs, etc. And every year they push to get me to just sign the damned lease and be done with it.

One of the tactics is to send people to come view the apartment. They tried it today with less than 2 of the required 48 hours of necessary notice, and I said no. But because the showing time coincided with a trip to the gym I couldn't be sure whether they'd bring people trouping through here or not.

So just in case, I posted this sign in the entryway.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On the technology front

My latest trip to the Apple store today was reminiscent of the scene in Casablanca where Captain Renault says he's shocked -- shocked -- to discover there's gambling going on at Rick's.

I was similarly aghast to hear that all the moisture indicators in my iPhone were glaring bright red. Why, whatever could have caused that? It would have been great if, when the genius guy cracked it open, a bunch of river water and salmon eggs came pouring out.

The phone seems to be on its last legs, which may or may not have something to do with its baptism in the Kenai River last summer. Ideally, it's just the battery. I found a good place that believes that's the issue and can do a cheap out-of- warranty battery swap (with a money-back guarantee if it's not).

But just for giggles I had the apple guys give it a quick diagnosis today and that's when all the little red sirens went off. They basically said no amount of battery freshening is going to fix this mess. But that's their MO -- they are very strict about water damage. The indie pirate tech guy suggests otherwise.

If worse comes to worse, I can get it replaced without committing to a two-year contract, so I can still get the new version that comes out this summer, which is what I've been holding out for all this time. Of course, I'd rather just pay 50 bucks for a new battery for a phone that I'm only going to use for 3-4 more months.

One thing I do know is the status quo won't do. A mobile phone really should be, um, mobile, and not tethered to a power cord and electrical outlet.

When I get this taken care of I should be well set in the technology department, as my laptop seems fixed and not crashing on a daily basis. Hopefully I can keep it that way until the next-gen MacBooks come out in 11 or so months and counting.

I think I'm really hard on my gadgets. I've got to swaddle that iPad ...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Two out of three ain't pad

I lucked out this morning and got the iPad!

It was a little rainy when I got there before 7. Unfortunately, they switched things up and opened at their regular time of 9 instead of 8. So two hours of standing around.

The good news is, they had tons and tons in their latest shipment. I didn't get exactly what I wanted. 3G, check; AT&T, check; black, check. No 32 GB, though, so I traded up to the 64. But better to have more than less.

So far, so good. Got a bunch of apps loaded and organized. I guess I got a little caught up in things -- I completely forgot to go to yoga. Mercy! Tuesday is always double-workout day -- duh.

This is gonna be fun. AND productive. Can't wait to have this thing on my next booking, meeting or trip.

Also, as penance for my conspicuous consumption, I donated 5% of what I spent to crisis relief in Japan and the recall effort in Wisconsin.

So if we're keeping score, the iPad and the book are in the bag. The pinky's gonna take a little longer, but back to rehab tomorrow.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, March 21, 2011

Turning a page

This evening, after wrapping up my work, I headed over to Argo for an hour to just read. I left my computer behind because for the first time since May 1, 2010, I have nothing left of the book to write. Other than some proofing of galleys to come, it is finished.

What an odd feeling. Bittersweet. Liberating, yet a little sad.

Just for fun I went back in to look at some of the earliest chapter drafts from last summer and I was surprised to find that they're actually pretty good. I think four months after I started I probably had it about 70% nailed.

I since added a lot of stuff, and scrambled and shuffled a bunch of things around, but a lot of that original content was actually pretty good and made it through nine drafts relatively intact.

New information that could be added continues to come up every week, but I'm going to resist doing that. I've done lots of revising, but I definitely know when to stop. And I see the potential additional material as a positive thing. It tells me my content is relevant and it promises to deliver lots of new examples and insights that I can use to keep the material fresh as I merchandise it.

And that's why I'm not truly done. Still plenty of things on the agenda. Marketing materials, videos, speeches, articles, etc. But I'm not going to think about that for a few days. This week we'll send the book to layout and finally settle on a title and cover design.

Then I'll get back into it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pinky, iPad, Book, Repeat

That seems to be the sum of my life lately.

Pinky. Making slow and sometimes painful progress with the pinky, wondering if I'll ever be able to make a hook fist again, and feeling pressure to make more progress before my next appointment with the physical terrorist.

iPad. Lined up at the Apple store Friday, only to be told there were no AT&T models in stock. Then Saturday it was no 3G models at all. I'm giving this just a few more shots, starting Tuesday, then will probably give up and wait for my late April delivery. Though the crisis in Japan is threatening to impede supply in two-to-three weeks, so who knows?

Book. The book is finally in the final, final stages of finality, with just a few finishing touches this weekend, including making sure I don't sound like a prevaricator, exaggerator or showboat. Not sure what I will do with my life when almost 11 months of writing comes to an end. Speeches, articles and marketing, probably ...

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Long day of comedy and tragedy. Not trusting either of the two alarms I set to get me up, I awoke at 2:45 am, fresh from maybe three-and-a-half hours of sleep, if that. I was all set to be grumpy about the early call and the no hotel but, as usual, the crew and cast turned out to be all pretty cool people.

The major drama of the day came during a short break to re-set the lights during the first shoot. One of our group strolled up to a slot machine, inserted a dollar and pulled the handle as we all watched. Welp, turns out that's illegal! Employees and vendors are prohibited from gambling or drinking on the premises.

He was promptly swarmed by staff then led away by security, never to be seen again. Rumors ranged from his arrest to being locked away in the holding cell downstairs. We all felt terrible. What a crappy way to start the day -- or, in his case, to end the day. And imagining the likely reaction from his agent turned our stomachs.

We all agreed that what he did was probably inappropriate -- it wouldn't occur to me to essentially play on the client's time and in the client's place of business -- but illegal? I guess they could lose their license for something like that, so it's very, very serious. On the other hand, nobody told us!

Anyway, that was just hour 1 of a 10 hour shoot. Worked with an old friend, made some new friends and got coupled up with a 26-year-old instead of the 56-year-old, which I thought was both appropriate and cool. (Though the director at one point asked us to "look like you're having a good time and, you know, like each other." We couldn't help it. We were in the background and just doing what actors do -- comparing notes and griping about auditions, agencies, jobs, etc.)

Twelve hours door-to-door-to-door, but at least traffic was a breeze, both to and fro.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Clean slate

Brand new hard drive on the computer and restored the factory settings on the iPhone today.

So far, so-so.

The computer seems to be humming along well enough, but the phone is still wonky. Which means the iPad can't come soon enough. I missed this morning's shipment, but am going to try again Friday.

I'd go tomorrow, but I have a 5 am call for a print shoot in Joliet. That's right. Arrive at 5, depart at 4, up at 3. I'm going to try, try, try to get to sleep by 10 tonight.

Someone on Facebook said, "At least you're getting paid." Yeah, but a hotel room the night before would be nice ...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Snake Eyes!

No iPads were delivered this morning. Apparently there were 30 people lined up before opening.

Me, I just got up at 5:15 and arrived 45 minutes or so before opening, so at least I didn't lose too much sleep.

So while waiting for my service appointments I went ahead and ordered an iPad online. Which I can always cancel if I happen to come across one in the next few weeks.

Worst of all, they admitted my computer for hospitalization so they can replace the hard drive. See, this is why I need the iPad. I could do virtually no work today.

It should be ready in the morning, which gives me one more excuse to go down there and stalk them ...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, March 14, 2011

Once more, into the breach

Word has it that more iPads are arriving tomorrow, and it will be another first-come, first-serve thing.

I'm hoping not many people know about it and even fewer will be able to get down there to wait on a Tuesday. Hell, I was there this afternoon just to confirm in person what I heard over the phone and some pinhead comes strolling in saying, "I'd like to buy an iPad." How the hell could he have not heard or read the dozens of stories and hundreds of message board postings about the damned thing selling out this weekend?

And he's just the kind of unobsessed, casual user who will probably luck his way into getting one ahead of everyone else.

So tomorrow I'm conducting all my business in and around the Apple Store. I've got two genius bar service appointments lined up first thing. Actually, one of them before the store's official opening. Which I will be early for, just in case.

For all I know there are hundreds of people camped out there right now. These are the times I wish for real-time Google Earth/Street View capability. Seriously. You should be able to sit on your couch and, say, peek inside a bar or restaurant you're thinking of going to to see how crowded it is at that moment. Or if a party is lame.

So that's it. One more try. If tomorrow's another washout I give up and order online, the wait for which is now going on a month!

Friday, March 11, 2011


Granted, there are worse things that can happen to a person than having to wait a while for an iPad. Like tsunamis or having your right to collectively bargain taken away.

But I was really, really looking forward to getting my hands on it today. I wasn't willing to wait outside 8 hours, though, so I got to the Apple store at 4 pm, an hour before the release, and there were only a couple hundred people ahead of me. This won't be so bad, I thought -- 2-3 hours top.

By 5:10, they said all the AT&T models were gone. And elsewhere around town, at Best Buy, AT&T, Walmart and Target, they were either running out and swamped or they hadn't even gotten any shipped to them yet.

I don't claim to know more about marketing than Steve Jobs, but I would think you'd want to have enough models on hand to sell to all the people who want them. Even online they were running out. If I had gotten up at the 3 am order time, my wait would be 2-3 days. By dawn the wait was 2-3 weeks.


Oh, well. I will continue to hunt and forage for a few days and then, if necessary, give up and order online.

Back to the dark ages ...

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

I'm no loser

I've never been one of those people who loses things. In fact, I've lost so few things in my life that I can remember most of them.

In elementary school there was the little Aztec medallion my Mom brought me from Mexico. Lost that somewhere outside playing. I lost a Kennedy half-dollar that I carried every day for almost a year in my teens. In college I left my ATM card in the machine on a visit to Roanoke. In my 20s I'm pretty certain a kitchen knife went with an empty pizza box into the trash.

In fact, I'm convinced most of what I've lost has been accidentally thrown away. I'll go back to the kitchen with 20 things on my mind and 5 things in my hands -- spoon, empty yogurt container, napkin, cup, etc. -- and I'll inevitably throw away and save the wrong things. I open the trash can and there's the spoon sitting on a bunch of coffee grounds.

In the past few years I've lost a lot more stuff. Sunglasses on the bus. Scarf on Wellington Avenue. Multiple ear warming devices -- 180s, headbands, etc. I don't know if life is more complicated or if I have more stuff or if I'm just losing my mind.

The other day I lost my iPhone earbuds AGAIN. I had to buy my FIFTH set. I didn't lose them all -- some I just broke, which is another issue. But I've almost bought enough to buy a whole new phone!

It's really bugging me. I'm going to try focusing a little more and being less distracted. And for safety, tying them up whenever possible.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The pinky chronicles

After a good first week of rehab, my progress kind of stalled out, according to today's OT appointment.

But then it was amazing what she could do in a 45-minute session with a paraffin bath, heating pad and a push attitude. I actually got my fingertip to connect with my palm for the first time -- woo-hoo!

So I've got to step up my homework. I could go see her more but even my good insurance is reaming me. I already could have bought an iPad with what I owe so far. But I'm not going to let that stop me from buying the iPad.

I'm also going to try to stop knocking it into things. That will help.

Monday, March 07, 2011

67 Hours

I just got my laptop back from the shop this afternoon after three days' absence. I timed it mostly over the weekend so I wouldn't miss much work, but this morning I still had to take notes during a conference with pen and paper. Which is not only a pain, but it makes the actual writing harder, since I have to key the stuff in.

The time away has made me more intensely aware of several things:
  • Apple makes high-quality products, but I am tough on them. And I use my computer, literally, 18 hours a day -- a little less on weekends. But it's a LOT.
  • I really need a backup computer. I thought this would be it when I purchased a new MacBook Pro this spring. But the new versions that just came out were more evolutionary than revolutionary, and I was burned before when they overhauled the model a year after I bought this one.
  • So I need to hold out with this one for another year, which is going to be tricky since the service just ended. (Apple only lets you buy three years' worth.)
  • To extend its life, and to give myself a semi-decent backup, I am definitely buying the new iPad that comes out this Friday. I've waited long enough for the revamp, and even if they tweak it again in 6 months, I've decided it's a critical need. I CANNOT WAIT, and hope the lines aren't bad Friday, since they're not accepting pre-orders.
  • The tiny iPhone screen and virtual keyboard are no substitute. That's how I got along the past three days, and it was tough. People who say the iPad is nothing but a big iTouch must have better eyes, nimbler fingers and more patience than I have, because it's a real hassle.
  • My iPhone is slowly dying, and I need to squeeze a few more months out of it. Again, new models are coming out this summer and I don't want mine to be obsolete so soon. Hopefully the iPad will also take some of the burden off the iPhone.
That is the plan. Wish I could just go to sleep and wake up Friday ...

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Tunnel, light

I remember the afternoon after the blizzard, I was downright distraught over my workload. After a quick early morning trip to see the snow I was right back at it, grinding away for 7 hours on one of these white papers. (Which aren't actually white papers. If they were white papers they'd be easy -- instead they're supposed to read like the Economist or Wired.)

And it still wasn't right. And I had others coming in. Plus a big pile of other client work all coming at me at once. Plus the book.

But after six weeks of numerous weeknights and weekends, I gradually chipped away at it, even as additional stuff continued to flow in. And this week I finished draft #WhoKnows of another paper, a bunch of web copy for a client, a brochure and a proposal for another client, web copy for still another client and by last night things were starting to look pretty good.

Then feedback on the book came in from the editors. Gah!

But I finished up my client stuff this morning, spent part of the afternoon going through the book edits to see what was what, and I was pleased to find it's in pretty decent shape. I might actually have a fairly normal couple of weeks ahead of me. A new project is about to start up, but it's pretty doable.

I do enjoy a challenge but I also have nothing against just regular ol' run-of-the-mill work that's not super-taxing. Maybe I'm lazy that way, but in the end they both pay the same.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

It's not me

And it's not you, either.

A member of this acting network I belong to sent an email today saying she received a message from her agent essentially saying, "Don't worry, your career isn't over just because you haven't auditioned this year. Barely anyone has auditioned this year. It is more than officially slow at the Chicago casting houses."

That is good to know. I haven't not auditioned this year, but I've had far fewer than usual. And many of the ones I have been getting have been random things -- open calls, small studios, low paying jobs. Not much at the big three casting agencies.

Of course, the fact that few people are getting work is no cause for celebration, but at least I know it's not personal.

What's weird is that 2008, at the height of the economic meltdown, was a pretty good year for me. And 2009, still an awful year for the economy, was my best year ever. Then last year, as the economy was supposedly recovering, things tailed off considerably. And now this year is starting even worse.

Is there some kind of weird latent effect on advertising? I don't think so. It's one of the first things cut in bad times and one of the last to come back, so it's hard to account for my two good years there.

I suppose what it comes down to is the not-very-helpful or repeatable lesson that every actor is different and you just never know when either the luck of the game goes your way or it just happens there's a need for your type.

Not that I've had much time to obsess over it with all the work-work going on ...

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Digital Display

Got very high marks from the physical therapist today on my pinky progress. I didn't even have to brag that I've been doing my exercises 5-6 times a day -- she could tell by my increased mobility.

I had noticed some progress but it's all gradual here. She did her protractor measurements of various angles and checked the diameter for swelling, compared the data to last week and pronounced me well on the road to recovery.

I do like achieving! And feedback. Even if it's just a stupid pinky ...