Saturday, April 30, 2011

The $1,391 pinky


Three months ago, if I had found myself in some dungeon, tied to a chair and a guy with a hatchet said, "I could chop off your left pinky finger or you could pay me $1,400," I might have actually weighed the decision for a little while. I mean, it's a freakin' pinky. On my LEFT hand.

Fourteen hundred dollars, on the other hand (as it were) ... well, there's lots I could think of to do with that money. iPad. Nice vacation. Oh, wait, I did those things, too.

Oy.

So $1,391. And that's with a pretty nice health plan. But, of course, there's the $500 ER deductible, and the $200 ER co-pay, and the 10% co-insurance payment, then ANOTHER damned $500 major medical deductible for followup doctor and P/T visits.

Absolutely ridiculous. Even my crappy old catastrophic-only plan covered ER visits 100%.

The biggest problem small business owners face is not onerous taxes, it's obtaining and paying for decent healthcare. Only in America!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Well, whaddya know?

I got called back to that audition I tanked. Isn't that always the way?

I'm looking forward to going in there and doing it right. The worst part of the audition was that the casting director had to explain what the character was really about. And I KNEW what he was about. I analyzed the script, dissected the relationships and motivations and objectives -- I got all that.

I just performed it terribly. (In addition to the dropped line.)

Oddly, I would rather be known as a shitty actor than a stupid actor. For the record. Though it's too late for the latter, I hope to disprove the former ...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A book by its cover


Mightily relieved to have the name and cover design decisions put to bed. And now into the deep, dark interior.

I started going over the galleys today and I think the publisher is going to freak at my line edits. But many of them are conversion-caused issues going from Word to layout. Apparently there were a lot of those that they already went through and caught, but I'm still finding some.

Others are some original typos of mine -- not too many. Still others are small revisions that have occurred to me. I'm trying to resist those, and take my own advice to use this stage only for typos and errors instead of major edits.

Then there's a fourth category. I swear I'm not going through line-for-line comparing my last draft to the galley, but it may seem like it. It's uncanny. Tiny little changes the editor made here and there -- as small as a word or two -- just stick out like rusty nails on a board.

I'm talking tiny. A word that's not italicized. Changing "we" to "you" or "your audiences's needs" to "the needs of your audiences."

I don't know if I'm so used to the words I wrote because it's been 11 months and 9 drafts or if the edits are awkwardly done. I think it's mostly a musical or rhythmic thing. It's like I'm reading along and something just goes CLUNK. Like a pianist hitting an untuned key.

I think I do have an ear for the language that some people don't have. It's kind of a pain in the ass.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Peeeeeee-YOO!

Had a film audition this afternoon and I seriously stunk up the joint. I mean, seriously.

And it's too bad. Not so much because of the project. It was an interesting script but pretty violent. I totally love violence on TV and in film but I don't so much like perpetrating it or being the victim of it (either in acting or IRL, obviously).

But it was a good casting director I hadn't been in front of in a long time and I wanted to do a good job. So I prepped my lines and studied my scenes and analyzed the script, and thought about it and practiced it all weekend.

Then I get there and they're way behind. I had to wait an hour to go into the room and do my thing. I'm not going to blame that, though it is hard keeping your focus and energy going all that time. But I finally got in and just ... didn't quite have it. I seemed to be confused about everything, from the instructions to the slate, and then when we finally did it I totally dropped a line.

Badly. I mean, I forgot a word and completely froze. Couldn't think of the actual word or a synonym for it and didn't have the wherewithal to just roll with it.

So I sucked. And the saddest part was, I only got one whack at it. I'm so used to commercial auditions where we do at least two, sometimes more, takes. But they say you should be ready on your first take and do it like it's your last. I know all that, but it doesn't happen that often. I enjoy the process of conversation and asking questions and adjusting things. But the casting director just said, "If you get called back, you should [do x and x]."

Right. The callback. Oh, well.

As always, I don't mind so much not winning a role -- the only thing that really bugs me is if I didn't give it my best, or somehow wasn't able to show my best.

Urgh. I'd say tomorrow's another day, but I don't have an audition tomorrow. So really it's just another day is all.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Oh the apps I have blocked

According to Facebook, I have blocked 602 applications. That sounds about right. Remember the "What Beatle/Golden Girl/Shakespeare character/etc. are you?" phase? Those were dark times indeed.

I would say the only thing worse than wasting your time on Facebook is wasting your time playing with apps on Facebook.

Here is the list:

"Which Hogwarts teacher are You?"
# Of Days You Will Survive In The Zombie Invasion
$100 Target Card Giveaway
5 Tricky Questions
8 Image Immature Test
21 questions
101 Treasures (formerly 101 Eggs)
1980's One Hit Wonders!
@Kisses
Anesthesia Drugs & Equipment
Are you a Mac or are you a PC?
Are you a potato?
Are YOU a Southern Belle or a Redneck Princess?
Are you a true black person from Louisville
Are you a True Chicagoan?
Are you a true Cincinnatian?
Are you a true Floridian?
Are you a true Puerto Rican?
Are you Gay, Retarded, or Canadian
Are you Jen Ellison?
Are you on a boat?
Badges
Bar World
Bejeweled Blitz
Best Friends Casino
Between You and Me
Big Prize - Bridgestone Super Bowl Sweepstakes
Big Prize iPod Nano Giveaway
Big Prize Publisher
Biotronic
Birthday Cards
Black Strat/White Falcon Sweepstakes
Boston Red Sox Fans
Bouncing Balls
Bullseye Gives
Butterfly Collection
Café World
Castle Age
Celebrate
Chain Letters
Chase Community Giving
CHOCOLATE
Christmas Greetings
City of Wonder
CityVille
Classic 80's Singles
CNN National Report Card
Collect Hearts
Columbus Blue Jackets Fans
Commonly Confused Words Test
Creepy Dolls
Crime Wave
Daily Horoscope
Death´s Time
Decode your robot name
Demon Wars
Determine your Ayurvedic Dosha.
Discover Your Birth Number
dMotivational Posters
Dogbook
Downey Landmarks
Do you know your Palps?
Dr. Phil's Personality Test
Dr. Seuss Personality Test
Drinks On Me
Dudeist Sacraments
eBay Selling Feed
Eyesores
Family Feud
Family Tree
Fan Appz
Fantasy Bachelor
FARKLE
Farm Town
Fast Typer 2
Find out your Birth number and its meaning
Find out your ruling planet and its meaning
Find your perfect job in the Empire!
Finish the (Greatest) Song Lyrics
Finish The Famous 80's Lyrics
Florida St. Football Fans
Flowers
Flowers for Friends
Flowers for Moms
Fly the American Flag
Fortune Products
For what BADASS crime will you be arrested?
Foursquare
friend.ly
Friend Hug - Happy Easter
Friend Statistics
Friend Wheel
Frontier Bonuses
FrontierVille
Fun Surveys
Games
Gameyola
Gatos
Gay adoption
Gay Marriage Poll
Ghost Town
Gift Creator
Gifts from Central Pennsylvania
Gifts from YLand
GoToQuiz Polls and Quizzes
Grammar Quiz
Hanes Sock Drive 2010
Happy Aquarium
Hell's Kitchen Game
Honesty Box
Horoscopes
Hotel City
How Dirty is Your Mind?
How Dorky are you?
How good is your Grammar?
How likely are you to go to jail?
How Long Will Your Relationship Last?
How many kids will you have?
How many kindergartners could you take on in a fight?
How many of me?
How Michigan are you?
How Mississippi are you?
How much do you know about newborns?
How much of an *sshole are you?
How North Dakotan are you?
How Northern Virginia are you?
How North Shore are you?
How Obscure is Your Taste in Music?
how old do i act
How perverted are you?
How Southern are you?
How strong is your Relationship?
How Well Do You Know Ashland, OR?
How well do you know Dirty Dancing?
How Well Do You Know Me?
How Well do you know Women??
How well do you know your friends?
How well do you REALLY know Everett? Screw that other quiz.
How well do you remember the 80's?
How White Are You?
How Will You Die
HOW WILL YOU DIE???
How would you do in a fight against Chuck Norris?
How ______ are you?
Hug Me
I'm Reading
I bet i can find out your favorite color in 7 ques
ideeli
iHearts
I Love Tallahassee
Intuit.com
In what BADASS way are you going to become famous?
In what BADASS way will you TOP YOURSELF?
In your circle of friends, what is your label?
IQ test
IQ Test
IQ Test
IrelandTown
Island Paradise
Jewel Puzzle
Just How Well Do You Know Trevor, Anyway?
Kamikaze Race
Kickmania!
Kiss Kiss
Know-It-All Trivia
Lexulous
Likeness
LivingSocial 1-Day Deals
Lucky Train
M.A.S.H
Make a Gift!
Marine Corps
MarriageBot
Marvel Characters
MindJolt Games
Mobsters 2: Vendetta
Mob Wars
Mob Wars: La Cosa Nostra
Monty Python Gifts!
Most Commonly Misspelled Words *American Spelling*
Mother's Day Roses
Movies
Mr. Men & Little Miss
Music
MyCalendar
My Christmas Tree
My City
My Daily Fortune
My Polls
My Rock/Metal/Punk
My Top Fans Pro
NFL Mini Helmets Past and Present
Nike+ Running Monitor
OSU Football Fans
Paradigm
PathWords
Personality Test
Petcentric Sweeps
Pet Society
PetVille
Picture Text
Pi Day Challenge
Pieces of Flair
Pirate Clan
Polls
Polls
Polyvore
Pop Answers
PositivEnergy
Pot Farm
Promotions
Puzzlebuilder
QRANK – The Ultimate Trivia Challenge
Question Party
Quizazz
QuizBone
Quiz Creator
Quiz Maker
Quiz Monster
Quizopolis Quizzes
Quiz Planet
Quiz Whiz
Remember This!? (Growing Up 80's)
Restaurant City
Roller Coaster Kingdom
Rorschach Test
Save the World
School of Wizardry
SCRABBLE
Scramble
Send A Round
Send Life is Good
Sex and the City
Shite Gifts for Academics
Sketch Me
SmartyPig
Smiles
Snake
Snowball Fight
Social Calendar
Social Interview
SocialVibe Activities
someecards
Sorority Life
spongebob squarepants
Star Wars Figures
Star Wars Trivia
Stats About Me
Status Statistics
Suggestive Fortune Cookies
Superhero City
SuperPoke!
Super Scratch Offs
Super Slot Machines
Sweepstakes
Texas HoldEm Poker
The Corner Store
The Definitive LOST Quiz
The Fellowship
The Hall of Justice or Arkham Asylum
The New Astrology™
The Official Michael Jackson Quiz
The Oregon Trail
The Political Idealogy Quiz
The Real You.
The True Age Test
The Ultimate Grammar Quiz
The ULTIMATE Harry Potter Quiz
The Watchmen Personality Profile Quiz
Throw a Softball
Top Gun
Top Words
Totally 80's Stuff
Treasure Isle
Treasure Madness
Typing Maniac
Vampires
Vampire Wars
Video Game Screenshots - NES
We're Related
We know Reno - do you?
Werewolf Revenge
weSocial Quizzes
What’s your ideal Chicago date?
What "Periodic Element" are you?
What's going to happen to you this year?
What's your Actual Age?
What's Your Bible IQ?
What's your Celtic Zodiac sign?
What's your ideal career?
What's your Musical Key?
What's your Native American Indian name?
What's Your NPR Personality?
What's your personality type?
What's your Red Neck Name?
What's your true nature?
What 70's t.v. show character are you?
What 90's band would you be?
What 2009 song are you?
What accent should you have?
What Alcoholic beverage are you?
What alcoholic drink are you?
What Animal Are You? (Improved)
What animal is your spirit guide?
What are you?
What Arrested Develeopment Character are you?
WHAT BADASS ANIMAL ARE YOU?
What Beer Are You?
What brand of cigarettes are you?
What Calvin alter ego are you?
What Character from a John Hughes Movie are you?
What Character from Literature are You?
What character on "Lost" are you most like?
What Chicago neighborhood do you really belong in?
What classic Guns N' Roses song are you?
What Classic Hollywood Actress Are You?
What color heart are you?
What colour is your soul?
What Country Song Tells Your Story?
What crayon color are you?
What Cubs Player Are You??
What D&D Character Class are you? (3.5)
What David Lynch Movie are you?
What DC superhero are you??
What dead rock star are you?
What Dead Rockstar are you?
What Decade Fits Your Personality Best?
What Disneyland Attraction Are You?
What Does Jesus Think of You?
What does your mind look like?
What do your eyes say?
What Drug Are You?
What early 80's wrestler are you?
What Element Are You?
What epic warrior do you unleash?
What Famous Lesbian are You?
What Famous Literary Character Are You?
What Full Metal Jacket character are you?
What girl are you from which girly movie.
What Godfather character are you
What Golden Girls Character Are you?
What Handgun Best Suits You? Part 2
What historical figure are you?
What Hooker Name Are You?
What Hymn are you?
WHAT INSANELY BADASS INFOMERCIAL PRODUCT ARE YOU?
What is the theme song of your life???
What is your Birthflower?
What is your color?
What is your Hippie Name?
What is Your Inner Self?
What is your IQ?
What is your NFL team?
What is your patronus?
What is your Pharmacy IQ?
What is your Stripper Name?
What is your symbol?
What Kenny Chesney song are you.
What Kevin Smith movie character are you?
What Kid Rock song is yours?
What kind of Beatle-fan are you?
What kind of BITCH are you?
What kind of camper are you?
What kind of curmudgeonly old recluse are you?
What kind of demented old lady will you be?
What Kind of Drunk Are You?
What Kind of Gay Are you?
what kind of girls do you attract?
What Kind of Hipster Are You?
What kind of Lesbian are you?
What kind of metal suits you?
What kind of quiz are you?
What kind of Sword-fighter are you?
What kind of trash are you?
What kind of writer are you?
What Large American City Are You?
What Literary Time Period Are You?
What Lord of the Rings Character are you?
What Marvel hero or villain are you?
What Miyazaki Character Are You?
What Monty Python and the Holy Grail Character are you?
What movie is your life?
What movie should you be in, and as what character?
What Muppet Are You?
What Musical are you?
What Musical Instrument are you? (best version!)
What musical theatre character are you?
What Musical Theatre Leading Lady Are You?
What nationality are you?
What Office character are you?
What old movie actor are you?
What old school WWF wrestler are you?
What periodic element are you?
What Personality Trait Stands Out Most In You?
What Plastic Army Man Are You?
what poem are you?
What President are you?
What Prince song are you?
What Princess Bride character are you?
What random object are you?
What Random Object Are You?
WHAT RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME CREATURE ARE YOU?
What Saved by the Bell Character are you?
What Scrubs character are you?
what Shakespeare character are you ?
What should your name really be?
What should your nick name be
What should your parents have named you?
What Slings and Arrows character are you?
What Sonic Drink are you?
What sort of drunk are you?
What Spice Girl Are You?
What Star Trek character are you?
What State should i live in?
What Stephen King character are you?
What stereotype do you fit?
Whats the chance of your survival on an island?
What Swear Word Are You?
Whats your hidden talent?
Whats Your Monster Name?
WHAT THE SH*T-F*CK ARE YOU?!?!!1!
What time period should you be living in?
What to Wear
What type of a person are you?
What type of gay are you?
What type of shoe defines you?
What U.S. State Do You Belong To?
What UC do you belong to?
What Work of Literature Are You?
What Would You Be If
Where in all of Disney are you most likely to be found?
Where in Ohio do you belong?
Where Should You Be Living?
Where will Kanye interrupt you?
Where will you go when you die?
Which "Aliens" Character Are You?
Which "Mad Men" character are you?
Which "Waiting For Guffman" Character Are You?
Which 60's subculture would you belong to?
Which 80's Song Describes You?
Which 80's Toy Are You?
Which 80s song describes your life?
Which 1960's rockstar are you?
Which Action Movie Hero Are You?
Which Actor are you most like?
Which alignment are you?
Which American Playwright Are You?
Which Anchorman Character are you?
Which Australian state or territory are you supposed to live in?
Which BADASS thing are you?
Which Band Of Brothers character are you?
Which Batman Villain Are You?
Which Batman villain are you?
Which Battlestar Galactica Character are you ?
Which Battlestar Galactica character are you?
Which Beatle are you?
Which Beatle are you most like?
Which Beatles song Are You?
Which Beatles Song Best Describes You?
Which Big Lebowski Character are you?
Which Bill Murray Character Are You?
Which Billy Mays Product are YOU!
Which Black Books character are you?
Which Blue Valley High School teacher are you?
Which Bluth Are You (Arrested Development)?
Which Bon Jovi song are you?
Which book of the Bible are you?
Which Breakfast Club Character are you?
Which Buffy Character Are You?
Which Care Bear are you?
Which celebrity should you marry?
Which celebrity would play you in a movie of your life? (women only)
Which character are You from "Plan 9 from Outer Space"?
Which Character from Battlestar Galactica Are You?
Which character from HBO's True Blood are you?
Which character from The Wire are you?
Which classic children's book character are you?
Which Classic Hollywood Actress Are You?
Which color best suits your personality?
Which crazy bitch are you?
Which Crazy Writer Are You?
Which cult movie character are you?
Which Dazed and Confused character are you?
Which Death Eater are you?
Which decade are you?
WHICH DINOSAUR/WEAPON COMBO WOULD YOU RIDE INTO BATTLE!!!!!!
Which Dirty Dancing Character Are You?
Which Doctor Who are YOU?
Which dog are you?????
Which Drake Theatre Professor are you?
Which Entourage Character Are You?
Which EU capital should you live in?
Which Evil, Evil Person in History Are You?
Which Facts of Life character are you?
Which Famous Historical Couple Are You?
Which Famous or Infamous Woman In History Are You?
Which Famous People Share Birthday With You
Which figure from The Book of Mormon are YOU most like?
Which film director are you?
Which Firefly Character Are You?
Which Fleur de Tease performer are you?
Which Food Network Personality Are You?
Which Freak or Geek are You?
Which Friends Character Are You?
Which gay stereotype are you?
Which Ghastlycrumb Tiny are you?
Which Ghostbuster Are You?
Which Gilligan's Island Character are you?
Which Golden Girl are you?
Which Golden Girl Are You?
Which Goonie Are You?
Which Greek God are you?
Which Greek Goddess are you?
Which Happy Bunny saying fits you best?
Which Harry Potter character are you?
Which He-man/She-Ra character are you?
Which highly specialized kitchen implement are you?
Which Historical Female Badass Are You?
Which Horror Movie Killer would you be?
Which Iron Maiden song are you?
Which Jedi are you?
Which Justice League of America member are you?
Which Leading Lady Are You?
Which legendary warrior are you?
Which Liquor Are You?
Which Little House On the Prarie character are you?
Which Lolcat are you - taek teh quizz!!1!
Which LOLcat are you?
Which M*A*S*H Character Are You?
Which MadMen Character are You?
Which Madonna song describes you best?
WHICH MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CHARACTER ARE YOU?
Which Match Game Celebrity Are You?
Which mathematical function are you?
Which math theorem are you?
Which Member of the Griffin Family Are You? (Family Guy)
Which Metal Band Are You?
Which Michael Jackson Song Are You?
Which movie romance do you fit into?
Which Muppet are you?
Which of Jesus' Disciples Are You?
Which of the X men are you?
Which of your Chakras is most open?
Which Old School Obscure Seasame Street character are you?
Which Peanuts Character Are You?
Which Princess Bride character are you??
which punk band are you?
Which punk rock star are you?
Which Quentin Tarantino Character are you?
Which race would you belong to in Middle-Earth?
Which Red Wing are you?
Which Rocky Horror Character are you?
which Rocky Horror Picture Show character are you?
WHICH SEXY LADY ARE YOU?
Which Shakespearean Character Would You Be?
Which Shakespeare Play Are You?
Which side of your brain is dominant?
Which South Park Character Are You?
Which Spaceship Captain Are You?
Which Springfield resident are you?
Which Star Trek: The Next Generation Character are you?
Which Star Trek captain are you?
Which state should you live in?
Which Steel Magnolias Character Are You?
Which Superhero are you?
Which suspect from "Clue: The Movie" are you?
Which Tarantino character are you?
Which that 70's Show Character are You?
Which Tim Burton Character Are You?
Which Tombstone Character Are You?
Which Tom Waits are you?
Which total badass are you?
Which Transformer are you?
Which Transformer are you?
Which TRULY Badass Historical Female Are You?
Which TV Mom are You?
Which type of woman are you?
Which US President are you?
Which Wes Anderson character are you?
Which West Wing Character are you?
Which Will Ferrell Character Are You?
Which Winnie-the-Pooh character are you?
Which Wizard of Oz Character are You?
Which Zodiac Sign Are You Most Compatible With?
Who Has The Biggest Brain?
Who Is Your Disney Prince?
Who Should Direct the Movie of Your Life?
Who Were You In A Past Life?
Who Will Play You In A Movie? (The Black Version)
Who would be your celebrity boyfriend?
Word Twist
World at War
World War
Yar! Pirate Flags!
Your Birthday Profile
Your Indian Name!
Your Tarot Card Reading
Your True Theatre Calling
YoVille
Zombie Slayer
Zoo Kingdom
Zuma Blitz

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Acknowledgements

The only parts of the book left to write are the dedication and acknowledgments. I'm not sure I want a dedication, unless it's a funny one (a friend dedicated her book to Mr. T) -- otherwise it seems kind of pretentious.

As for the acknowledgments, I'm similarly flummoxed. Looking at other writers' acknowledgments pages I see long lists of people who provided information, interviews, documents, feedback, proofing, reality checking, soundboarding, reassurance, inspiration, free therapy and a bunch of other things.

And I look at my book and I feel like it's mostly been a pretty solitary exercise. I wonder sometimes if I should have done more collaboration and reaching out. Should I have gone to some Second City people and found out what they think are the keys to using humor successfully? Should I have surveyed my actor friends on the most important lessons from performing? Should I have talked to clients about the kinds of things they're most interested in learning about?

I don't know. I've never really written like that. I'm not big on reaching out. And, in fact, the times I have looked for help I've been kind of disappointed with the response. I asked one of my old Second City instructors to look over a couple of chapters that dealt with humor and sketch comedy. He said he'd look at them, but then he never did.

I even paid a guy -- or offered to pay him several hundred dollars -- to review an early manuscript and give me some general feedback on the overall direction and content. (This was before I had an editor/publisher.) He missed the deadline and the deadline extension and ultimately just disappeared. That was really odd -- when you can't pay someone to read your stuff.

I've found this a lot with people in the acting world. It seems business people are generally more responsive and reliable. I recall old projects where an instructor or director would look you in the eye and say, yes, I want to help, I want to work with you on this, and then ... they just don't. Not even an explanation -- I've changed my mind/I don't have time/I looked at this more closely and decided it sucks -- just silence. Which I think is pretty weasely.

I guess all of that's just life and human nature. Not everyone does what they say they'll do. Also, it's important to keep things in perspective and remember that nobody really cares about your stuff the way you do.

I have had some help. A few friends agreed to look at a few early chapters and provided helpful feedback. A couple of notable people have patiently heard out my angst. And I've gotten lots of feedback on the various title options -- I guess that's a fairly simple, concrete thing that's easy to help with.

But for the most part, other than the publisher, I feel like I've been pretty alone on this. As with, I think, most other stuff in my life.

One thing's for sure: if I do write acknowledgements, I should wait until I'm in a brighter mood.

Monday, April 18, 2011

West Coast

Fifteen years later, California's central coast is still the most beautiful place in the lower 48 (and I've been to 45 of them). There's lots to see there and we had a pretty packed agenda, but I think the absolute best is just the drive along the coast. It is one jaw-dropping sight after another.

Still, if you're there, you don't want to miss these things. The Monterey Peninsula is shaped like a square jutting out into the sea. The town of Monterey is okay, but even better is out on the "top left" corner: Pacific Grove.


That purple plant is Pride of Madeira, and it's everywhere there. And the Monterey cypresses, in the background, run all along the coast.

Just south of there is Carmel, a gorgeous town set on a long hill going down to a wide, white-sand beach. And just a few miles south of there is Point Lobos State Reserve, a spectacular wooded peninsula with rocky, wave-swept shorelines and deep coves. The air coming off the Pacific is so cool and fresh it's like drinking pure oxygen. Plus it's infused with sage and fir and eucalyptus and a thousand other things.

You could easily spend a day hiking around there. We spent four hours and wished we had more time.

Down the way in Big Sur, wild and dangerous Pfeiffer Beach is at the end of a long, narrow, unmarked road. I imagine at one time it was better marked but the people who live there and want to keep it secret probably tore down the signs until the authorities gave up. I'll help keep it on the dl and just show a closeup of the beautiful purple sand:


Apparently it's the result of certain minerals running down from the bluffs.

There's wonderful hiking at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and farther down at Julia Pfeiffer Park (the Pfeiffers were clearly pretty big wheels around the time they started naming the key sites there), but for me the best sites are along the road. It's just mile after mile of this:


And this:

I could spend all day watching the ocean from one of these overlooks. And sitting and thinking ...

McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Park.


A woman used to have a house looking down on that cove.

As you get to the end of the Big Sur, don't miss the hundreds of elephant seals south of Piedras Blancas.


And, of course, Hearst Castle, with it's Greco-Roman swimming pool.


They have at least five tours of the castle, each taking an hour-and-a-half. People spend a couple of days there to take it all in, or come back year after year to explore different parts.

Hearst was quite a character, but for all his robber-baronism, he was progressive in some ways. Treating his staff like family, and hiring a woman architect, Julia Morgan, to design the place. She was apparently a pioneering figure in her time. I'd like to read more about her.

Sigh. It's truly paradise. If it's this beautiful there, I can't imagine how spectacular Hawaii is going to be. Good thing I'm saving that for last.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Cutting the cord

Call blocking

I finally, finally ended my landline service.

I knew it was time last fall when political candidate robo-calls were ringing the phone off the hook. (See solution, above.)

But the last straw came this week with the daily calls from a collections agency. They weren't after me, mind you. It's a neighbor they're targeting and they seemed to find me via a criss-cross directory or something. Of course it was also a robo-call. They did provide an option to "press 2" if you're not the person they're trying to reach. Unfortunately, that just results in a recording telling you to call an 800 number to clear things up.

Bullshit!

I blame the phone companies for being unable to manage their networks and keep scammers and other lawbreakers from exploiting them. Of course I'm registered on the federal Do Not Call list, but that only works for legitimate enterprises. Fraudulent telemarketers don't care about the list. And it's wide open to charities and political organizations. The least the phone companies can do is provide some kind of free call-blocking service.

I had just two reservations over cutting the cord. One was that it didn't seem professional to do business over a cell phone, but in the past couple of years more and more of my clients are actually doing most of their business on their mobiles.

My second concern was that I'd have to start using my cell number when filling out forms, applications, etc., and then I'd start getting telemarketing calls there. But then my brother offered an elegant solution. He just gives out his canceled landline number. Problem solved!

The AT&T lady only had one argument. She informed me that when calling 911, the landline automatically gives your address to dispatchers, while with the cell phone you have to tell them. I'm okay taking that risk. I figure I'm a few years away from "fallen and I can't get up" territory.

It's ridiculous that I've paid $50 a month for a phone that basically served as spam folder for unwanted callers. That money can now be put to far better use: data plans for my iPhone and iPad.

It felt a little weird this morning picking up the phone and getting no dial tone, then disconnecting the units from the walls. But I've always hated the phone anyway. I hate the interruption, I hate that terrible sound, I hate talking on the phone. If you want to reach me, email me, text me, message me, FB me.

Just don't call me. The fact that Miss Manners approves is of immense comfort.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Following orders

All my technology is now in order. The laptop's new hard drive continues to hum along (though I may tweak it with more memory), the iPad is fantastic, and today I got the iPhone's battery replaced at the only non-Apple place in Chicago that will do it -- a nerdy little storefront operation in Jefferson Park.

As the guy handed over the phone he told me to run it all the way down and recharge it fully -- twice. He said it was very important. So important he told me three times. He said lots of people ignore the advice and then find they have problems with the device. I assured him I am veerrrry good at following instructions.

And I am. I peeked at my file at pinky rehab and there was a check mark indicating what a ready and willing learner I am. A few years ago when I was doing voiceover classes the instructor seemed genuinely surprised that I was doing the prescribed daily vocal exercises. And commercial directors often marvel that I manage to do what I'm told.

I'd chalk it up to my German heritage if I took any stock at all in the notion that my behavior is in any way impacted by the culture or genetics of a place my close relatives haven't lived in for a century and a half.

Nope. I think I just like structure.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to using my phone when it's not attached to a wall outlet or car charger. You know, mobile.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Back to it

California was awesome as expected, but I haven't had much time to dwell. After a delayed redeye and 4 or 5 hours of sleep I went straight into a SAG audition, then catching up on some work stuff then yesterday an industrial booking (playing "Ralph" went off without a hitch), then work today and deciding on whether to audition for a play.

That last one's the toughest. I haven't done a play for a long time -- a couple of years. I'd like to get back on stage sometime, but it's a tough call. I stopped specifically so I could focus more attention on marketing the business and doing paid, on-camera work. That turned out to be a good decision, as both improved markedly as a result.

Now I feel like maybe I should jump back in. I've been invited to audition by a company I know and like. But if I get it, it would be lot of work. About 40 hours of rehearsal, plus probably two or three times that amount of time practicing the lines on my own. With the book coming out, can I justify that?

I should be devoting that time to writing speeches and articles and pitching them and marketing myself. Not to mention working with the publishers on finalizing the content, approving the galleys and, of course, doing my regular work, which is still what pays most of the bills.

On the other hand, maybe it's good to be over-scheduled. Sometimes if you have too much time on your hands you don't use it productively or efficiently. Like when your back is to the wall you can do in an hour or two what might otherwise take you a half-day or full day when you have the time to fill.

Priorities. My number one priority has to be the book, then work, and any choice I make in the next few months must serve those priorities. How much will doing a show now improve the book's content or sell more books or expand my network? Probably only tangentially. But would it provide some kind of intangible X factor? Motivation, energy, inspiration?

Here's the thing: if I choose not to do it, I had damned well better kick some serious ass productivity-wise over the next couple of months.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

You can never go back

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur, 1997

That's what they say anyway.

Fourteen years ago I took a trip of a lifetime, spending five days driving the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It's only exaggerating a little bit to say I came back a changed person. Carmel and Big Sur are just about the most beautiful places on earth. Big Sur, especially, is wild, remote and untouched.

It was definitely a mind-, heart- and soul-expanding experience. I hope it can be that way again. This time I have company, so that will be different. Also, I'll be seeing a few different things as a result of this:


About 40 feet of the PCH south of Carmel fell into the sea a few weeks ago. So to go 20 miles south we literally have to drive 155 miles around. That's how remote this place is. Pretty much only one road in and out. But that's okay -- it will be worth it to spend the night among redwoods.

Can't wait!

Point Lobos Reserve, Carmel, 1997

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

I am Ralph

And just like that, I booked another job. The Ralph one, of all things.

The people were great, the space was cool, I was given a paragraph of copy to memorize when I got there and I nailed it on the second take. I was wishing I'd dressed a wee bit more ralph-like, but I could tell they liked me anyway and I booked it.

It's nice to keep the momentum going, but this one is definitely a "single," to continue yesterday's baseball analogy. That's basically three singles and three doubles. Plus, I don't know, a couple of extra bases on wild pitches for the checks from past years' jobs?

The best thing? The job is just a 10 minute El-ride away. After renting three cars and hitching a ride in the first quarter to go to Indiana and Schaumburg and Naperville and Joliet, that will be huge, huge relief. Imagine a four-hour job taking less than five hours total, instead of seven! A job that, after transportation, taxes and agent commission, actually pays a living wage!

I love playing on my home field.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Beisbol been bery, bery good to me

I played a lot of little league baseball and the coaches would tell us, "A hit is all we need." That is, you don't have to swing for the fences -- if everyone just knocks out a single, the runs will start to add up.

I hadn't felt like I was doing all that great this year, but now that I look at it thus far on paper, it's not bad. In three months I booked five jobs.

It was deceiving, I suppose, because it all seemed kind of fragmented. Two of the five jobs required two separate sessions. When you added them together it turned into real money. On top of that, I got two additional checks for commercials I shot last year and the year before. So it's like seven or nine jobs.

Hell, if this pace continues it would be my second best year for acting. That, year, 2009, had a couple of big home runs (half my record-setting income came from two big jobs). But it would be cool to do really well by just hitting a bunch of singles. And the occasional double.

Play ball!