28 April 2008


Yesterday I had my first of two days' filming on The Compleat Victrola Sessions, a really, really cool project that I'm feeling very lucky to be involved with (albeit in an unpaid, catch-as-catch-can sort of involvement). The project is to create a silent film, which will be accompanied in performance by the musician who is also starring in it, one Ms. Rebecca Cherry. It's directed by Winsome Brown, and the directory of photography is Jennifer Reeves, who is filming the whole thing in 16mm. Yes: 16mm. As in, film. The black-and-white, silent kind, on which you can only get 44 seconds of shot-time at a go. The only way it could be more authentic is if it were a hand-cranked camera. (Here's a taste of what the cinematography may look like: The Unfolding Opium Poppy.) Needless to say (unless, of course, this is your first time on ma' 'blog [in which case: Hi! You should know I can't get enough silent film. Wait. Where are you going...?]) I could hardly be more psyched to sit in on this process, much less act a (very) little in it.

I arrived horribly bloody late at yesterday's shoot location: a quite run-down loft-cum-performance space in Brooklyn off the JMZ. In a slight panic, I dashed up the stairs -- which are probably not exactly compliant with housing standards, but I was afraid I was already fired from my non-paying job -- and burst into a large room in which several people were . . . milling about. Looking quasi-purposeful. A couple were women in 1920s' dress, and they had the same expression of expectancy that I would be wearing for about the next hour thereafter. Here we are. What do we do?

Eventually all was made clear, but not before I went through a good period of feeling oddly awkward and guilty, standing there, in suspenders and vest (AND pants, you ruffians), reading my NYPL-loaned play, wondering if I had dressed up enough, if I should be doing something, if I was creeping people out by not making nervous conversation with anyone. Eventually, the room was set up to resemble a "speakeasy" (I so wanted to tell them it was more a "blind pig," but for promising myself not to geek out too much through the day) and the director finished working in another room and found her way to clear a few things up for we wandering extras. Between her needs and our costumes, she allotted us roles and, owing largely to my shirt sleeves and vest I'm sure, I was cast as the bartender.

It ended up being a great day, when all was said and done. It was intimidating at first because A) I didn't know a single person there, and B) the general atmosphere of the building could not be helped but to remind one of a disused crack den. I soon discovered, however, that everyone there was not only excited to be there but generally interesting and friendly. The leads were even psyched to have extras there, I think, for having new folks to talk to. It is true for film in general, I believe, that a lot of the time spent "working" is, for the actors, time spent waiting. Particularly true for a silent film that can only be shot for seconds at a time, with one camera. As a background player, the most taxing thing I had to do all day was to stand for a prolonged period of time. Which, as Friend Patrick has attested, ain't exactly easy. So it's good to converse with your fellow man as much as possible. Most professional movie actors have perfected the art of taking interest in what you have to say, I'd wager.

As to the film itself, it's hard to get a whole picture of it (so to speak) from my perspective as a relative hanger-on. I'll tell you one thing: It ain't a comedy. Our heroine gets addicted to . . . opium, for one thing (heroin not yet being in vogue), and for another, it would be a real SOB to film a comedy in this format. The which presents some interesting considerations for Yours Truly, and I wish I had more hats to take off to all the silent comedians of days gone by. At any rate, be it 16 or 24 fps, I was of course a little disappointed not to find a pratfall anywhere in the room. I had even brought a pair of Lloyd-like glasses with me in case a little visual homage were in order, but it was clear from the start that such was not the objective of this particular moving picture. So I wiped the bar down, and I made chit-chat with actors when their mark was nearby. A pleasant day. And hey: Free Thai food!

I return to shoot in a couple of different settings this Wednesday. One of these settings is a concert hall, and occasioned the purchase of a gray top hat. Why do you need a gray top hat? I don't. Not really. BUT NOW I HAVE ONE! Ahh. It really is the little things in life. There is also something of a possibility that more of my individual talents may be brought into play. When I originally sent my information to Winsome, expressing interest in the project, I highlighted my movement experience, which of course includes some stage combat. Apparently there is to be a scrap filmed on Wednesday, and she suggested I may be useful for that. I don't know if that means I'd be involved on film, or advising about movement, or what. We shall see. Whatever the outcome, it's exciting just knowing that I get to return to that world.

I'm in a silent film. God, I love my job.

22 April 2008


Srsly. I can has releef? Frum LOLcats nd all ther kaind?

I feel like such a freaking doof (read: doofus, only less significant). I was generally aware of the LOLcat phenomenon when it began to crystallize into what it is today, but then I forgot about it. I mean, it's pictures of cats, with blocky fonts applied. It will not affect my life. Or so I assumed...

For those of you not in the know, worry not: Wikipedia's got you covered. It includes gems of explanation for the LOLcat phenomenon like a link to the brief Time (get it?) article devoted to them, and paraphrasing their use grammar thusly -- "Common themes include jokes of the form 'Im in ur noun, verb-ing ur related noun.'" It also links me to this interesting wiki-nugget, which helps me to understand why I am so enamored of teh LOLcats. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First I must explain my love-hate relationship.

Everything about teh LOLcats seems engineered to piss me off. (For [nigh endless] examples, go here.) I mean everything.

First of all, it's pictures of cutesy animals, which reminds me utterly of those cat and/or dog and/or other-small-animal mavens one finds in any office of America. You know, she's usually a she, and she has a cubicle covered in pictures of baby ducklings or some such. It just reminds me of porn. Sick, I know, but it does. Those people covet animals like others covet wealth or sex or spiritual fulfillment.

Second, LOLcats are self-generating inside humor, which is just irritating. There's nothing quite so grotesque as when people revel in how "inside" their jokes are. Exclusivity is practically a disqualification from the category of humor, altogether! ("Exclusivity is practically...") Humor is a tool in communication, not exclusion, and though I'm not accusing the LOLcat-erz of intending to do so, they're nevertheless excludin' teh masses. But I lie: A running gag that is largely unappreciated is even more grotesque than a simple inside joke.

Thirdly, the spelling and grammar are intentionally wrong. Do you understand? THE SPELLING AND GRAMMAR ARE INTENTIONALLY WRONG. That is so messed up! I get irate over misplaced apostrophes, and I'm subjected to dialogue superimposed over cat photographs and written out in "texting" language and gobbledy-gook? Holy sack of hammers! I ought to be trying to eradicate all LOLcats and their makers, not writing a 'blog entry about them.

Yet. I love the LOLcats. It's driving me crazy that I can't get their syntax out of my head. They're responsible for a lot of time wastage of late. They are obnoxious, and not remotely cool, and they are inside and ridiculous, and I heart LOLcats.

I'm beginning to understand why, too. In the first, for reasons inexplicable by modern science, I've been wanting a cat lately. I have been an adamant dog person my entire life, and I still prefer dumb-and-loyal animals (I relate to them better), but cats are more appealing now. I don't know. Maybe it's living in the city this long. I want a pet who knows where to poop and how to get there. More significant for me, however, is this use of language in the photos.

Language is simply cool. In general. It rules. Language is fascinating and mysterious to me, and I enjoy anything that plays with it. Correction: Anything that plays with it and contains an interior logic. So people constantly confusing the uses of "take" and "bring" drive me up a wall, and a text message that says "ill talk 2 u later" (You'll talk to me later, or you're ill, and I should bring you soup?) drives me kabonkers. But LOLcats, partly through the profusion of them, have developed a rather complex psychology behind their lunatic ravings. They've even developed a mimic mythology. Stupid? Oui. Ma forse, anche genius.

21 April 2008

Advent Horizon

I've paraphrased here before (oh, don't make me cite -- yes, I read my own copyright disclaimer -- yes, I'm a hypocrite -- I'm always a hypocrite on Mondays) this idea that my college art-history teacher was fond of putting forth: (art) history is not a progress. That is to say, it is a mistake to view history as a linear story of increasing knowledge, awareness and accomplishment. The veracity of Caravaggio's light is in no way superior to the Lascaux cave paintings, simply because of its skilled naturalistic composition, any more than Cubism was way better than Pop Art. Our tendency is often to observe human history as a linear progress, be it toward improvement or destruction, probably because this perspective is linked to how our minds work. Yet it is not only a limited view, when it comes to culture it's an incredibly inaccurate one. Take the Library of Alexandria, as a grandiose example. If we take the progressive, linear perspective, its destruction would suggest that some time just prior to the 8th century, the world took a huge step backward in information and culture. However, its destruction also vastly decentralized the accumulation of recorded human knowledge and increased the value of its recording, leading perhaps even more commerce of ideas. It's just as possible that we moved forward as a result, or in any three-dimensional direction. Culture is too complex a category to be judged by two dimensions in my opinion, even without the element of time getting involved.

Now, I'm getting dizzy from the heights of my academic aspirations here (and nervous that someone will quickly push me off for too much theorizing), so I'll just get to the topic I had in mind.

I'm still slugging away at Harold Lloyd: The Man on the Clock, and I've just gotten to the section in Harold's (in everyone's) history at which sound entered film-making. There are more misconceptions about this extremely sudden phase of movie-making history than can be summarized. It seems as though the entire industry just went ahead and freaked right the hell out over it before it had even begun, and so lots of the information we have from this period smacks of over-simplification, movie-mag exclamation and collaborative ass-covering. Perhaps the most common misconception, and one I subscribed to until I actually -- you know -- researched the topic, is that the famous comedians of the silent era mostly failed in sound because of vocal failings. For the longest time, I believed Buster Keaton had an awfully strong Bronx dialect that interfered with his "talkies." Not true. In character, and mostly in life, Buster had a very earnest, slightly dopey Midwestern American regionalism that actually served his deadpan expression awfully well. In spite of this obvious documented fact, not to mention his vaudeville upbringing (they talk in vaudeville, believe it or not), the myth of Buster's dialect is an irksome pervasion.

True, many film actors simply couldn't speak. Rugged cowboys had squeaky voices. Little darlings smoked five packs, unfiltered, per day. Yet if we have to summarize the cause of the upheaval of various actors' careers at this time, it would be more accurate to point to the bigger picture (pardon the pun) than the details. That is to say, with the advent of synchronized sound in movies, an entirely new form was created. We call them both "film," as though the material used to record these works was the defining feature, but it's a little like calling Picasso and van Gogh the same thing because they both put colors on flat surfaces.

Silent film had more in common with even dance and visual art than it did with talkies, then or now. Simply consider the fact that most major silent films were accompanied by live music. We tend to link silent film with film-in-general because we view movie-making as a progression, like technology, and because the two are similar in narrative devices. Even in this last commonality, however, the two are quite distinct. Silent films often suffered from too much story, whereas the bulk of popular American movies in the past 50 years have been largely driven by plot. It's a little difficult for modern audiences to grasp the idea of a "good" movie not necessarily relying on a "good" story, but in such a sceptical case, I point to two answers: a genre -- action movies -- and a specific film -- 2001: A Space Odyssey.

HOLD ON. I should have prefaced this by saying, beautiful as it is, I hate watching 2001. I usually spend the whole time thinking to myself, self, why did Kubrick have to give up on story-telling when he was so good at it? It is a mistake, in my opinion, to rule out individual movies simply because of a lack of story. 2001 has a great deal in common with silent film, and if you're committed to the ideal of film-making being a visual medium, well, there you go. In my humble opinion, where Kubrick went wrong was in effectively abandoning comedy at the same time he began abandoning traditional narrative structure. 'Cause he was incredibly funny, too, and the profound loss of the silent film is in its comedies.

That's not to discredit the melodramas, historical pieces and fantasy films of the period in any way. I just mourn the comedies more. What seemed to happen was that the industry got itself all a'twitter about the money to be made (and lost) over the advent of sound, and in the momentum of all that most everyone lost sight of the forest for all the trees; including the actors. Well, I shouldn't say "everyone." Some persisted in the original form. Chaplin made a well-received silent film after sound entered the picture (so to speak), and I'm reading about Lloyd's struggles to adapt, too. Apparently he was started on a film when everything started switching over and, when he saw people's reactions to the novelty of sound, Lloyd felt that he'd better try to adapt. He dubbed and re-cut the film, Welcome Danger, in response to the demand. Apparently, this film includes a sequence of minutes of black screen as the characters are heard stumbling around in the "dark." This was either a desperate incorporation of the new technology, or something of a wry joke on the audience. I prefer to believe the latter explanation.

The differences between a silent film and a movie with sound are too numerous to summarize in total. The general category of things I miss the most from silent comedy, though, is the sight gag. We still have visual jokes in movies today, but they work differently. Our stories have become so much about the written word that everything springs from its parameters. Instead of beginning with images or ideas, jokes begin with language and behavior. Behavior is, in fact, the dominant action in movies today. It quickly became automatically more sophisticated to build stories from words, and eventually that prejudice became so ingrained that we became embarrassed by our active past. Even the greatest actors of the past seemed crude to our "modern" sensibilities, telling us too much, insulting our intelligence, their actions speaking too loudly, so much louder than our words.

Many argue that it's just a change of taste, that what we have now is what we need now in terms of culture. Maybe so. Lord knows I have a biased affection for times gone by when it comes to visual art and -- to a lesser degree -- music as well. Maybe it's pointless for me to insist that silent films are still relevant, still interesting and affective, and that we lose something good by losing "the name of action." Maybe. Still. Watch Harold's young man struggling to climb a high-rise in the need for success; then we'll talk.

18 April 2008

A Couple of Things

[BEWARE: The moment this entry enters the TMI range for you, quit. It is carefully structured to start soft. You have been warned.]
Wait, wait! Don't go! We need to talk. Right now.

I've been putting this off for a while now, because I knew it was going to be a difficult discussion, but we can't go on like this. Something's got to change, and I'm just trying to make that happen, okay? I'm not trying to start a fight here, so don't jump all over me when I start being real. Okay? Try not to. Okay, My Balls?

Look, My Balls: I don't know where to begin. I think you know I love you. I try to show you that in little ways every day. Maybe some days I do better than others, but in general I think you'd have to agree that I'm neither abusing you, nor taking you for granted in any way. I . . . what? No, they're not. No, My Balls, it's called pants that fit! That's all!

This is exactly what I didn't want to have happen here. Can we take a moment? Just calm down? I'm not sure we're going to get much of anywhere unless we can talk about this like well-rounded adults. I'm not accusing you, no. No, you're pefectly round! If you take everything as an attack, then I can't say anything!

I'm sorry. I won't shout. I know. I was loud. I'll stop.


Okay. I acknowledge that some of this is my fault, and I am truly sorry for any harm I may have caused you. I'm inclined to believe that the problem lies in our communication. You were communicating in what you thought was a very clear manner--and I'm sure it was, I just need to listen better--that you were unhappy with something I was doing. Or, had done. Now, it's not really fair, My Balls, to only tell me hours or days after the fact that you disagree with something I'm doing. I'M NOT BLAMING YOU. I'm not. I'm just . . . offering some constructive criticism. I will try to listen better, and all. Please try to address your concerns to me in a timely manner. Thank you.

Now, as to where we stand now. No, now, listen: Everything is not fine. Well, I'm glad to hear you aren't having any particular problems, but you might consider the idea that my problems are in fact your problems. Hm? I mean, without me, you're just you. I mean, you'll have each other, but then what? You dig? Okay. So. Now. I'd like to be able to sit with you for a while.

No, not like this. I mean: yes, "like this," but for longer, and while I'm doing other things besides giving you my undivided attention. I like attention too, but you can't have it all the time. No, you can't. Ow! That isn't helping things, My Balls! Grow up! That's better. Ow! Knock it off! My job is at a desk, and there's nothing I can do about all the sitting! Oh, don't you eye-ball My Posture. How are you doing that, anyway? Never mind. My Posture and I are working on things, and he is doing much, much better lately! I wish I could say the same for some!

What's that? Ug. My Balls, I have to work out. I have to. It's part of my career, my health and just my general mood. I am trying very hard not to repeat the ugly incident we had, what, a year-and-a-half ago now? You have to help me out, guy(s). You have to hold the fort, as it were, a little better. I can accept that I used to do crunches too fast, and I'm being all Pilates-like now, so there you go. Now, let's just try to hold it together when I do things like pull-ups and push-ups, okay? I know these engage My Abdominal Wall, but come on. We all have to work together here. And before you say anything about it, yes, I'm having separate conversations with My Quads and My Gluteal Muscles. Don't try to divert the subject.

Oh. Yes, well . . .. My Pelvic Floor? You're right. Yes, you're right. I haven't had that talk yet. I mean to, I just haven't . . .. Listen, I didn't even know I had a "pelvic floor" most of my life. I'm a little shy about approaching it. Well, it's intimidating. I mean, it's the center of everything. Everything. My Gravity, My Musculature, the base of My Spine . . . My Pelvic Floor is really important, and I get really . . . tense . . . when dealing with it. Which doesn't help.

And so, yes, you've made your point. It is my fault. No, I'm not just saying it to placate you. It is hard for me to accept, but all of this started with my own sort of approaches to my physicality, and overcoming adversity. Hey: I'm trying to tell you something earnest here -- there is no call for the "Dr. Phil" insinuations. Apology accepted. Now as I was saying, it's precisely because I attack my challenges that I've gotten hurt. Attacking may be well and good and all as a youthful approach to challenges, be they career-oriented or physically-oriented, but as I grow older it would serve me well to work on approaching challenges from a more intelligent, constructive and controlled perspective. A high energy that's also calm and centered is called for. Thank you, My Balls. You've really helped me see things in a different way.

Hm? Oh all right. Yes. You can have a kilt. But I'm only wearing it on the weekends.

17 April 2008

I'm Not a'Scared of You

Things are picking up.

I don't want to go into much detail, because a lot of the work opportunities that I have coming up have yet to be variously accepted, detailed and signed-on-the-dotted-line. I'm talking here, of course, about acting work. There's also nothing necessarily career-making in the bunch. I mean, you never know, and hope springs eternal, and every rose has its thorn (what?), but speaking in the immediate sense, Spielberg has yet to call. (Although I'm presently in negotiations with Romero.) I know this is typically applied to bad news, but the following expression keeps cropping up for me: When it rains, it pours. What follows is as vague a summary as I can express.

Monday I am previewing a space in which I will be stilting and/or clowning for a benefit on May 12. The very next day begins rehearsals for an environmental theatre piece I'll be doing, the which I have yet to receive a specific rehearsal schedule on, but which I also know will perform May 14 through 17. On the 30th of this month, I'll be playing a featured extra in a silent film someone's making (bizarre: I'm not the only one). At a certain point in mid-May, I've promised to do my best to get out to Wilkes-Barre, PA, to stilt in a "Fine Arts Fiesta" (ole!). I'm in negotiations to help develop a physical theatre piece starting rehearsals some time in May, and retreating to near Port Jervis in June for two weeks to work intensively. For four days at the end of May, beginning of June, I'm also rehearsing and performing a staged reading of a play I've acted for variously through its stages of development over the past couple of years, in the hopes it gets picked up for a New York run. And also in June, Zuppa del Giorno is attempting to recruit for a commedia dell'arte workshop to raise money to go to Italy in July, said workshop to run over the course of two weekends.

And I won't attempt to get into July. Maybe we'll be going to Italy, maybe not. There are definitely, however, 3-4 workshops in Pennsylvania to be taken and led, not to mention the further life of whatever I'm working on May-June that continues apace.

This all comes after a few months of relative inactivity on the theatre front. I kept busy with readings and development workshops, and not to underrate such work in any way (oh no; I'd never do that), but that sort of thing is always at least a bit limited in several ways. I have been craving work, and not just work, but work that leads to some sort of fulfilled product. So this(these) is(are) a(all) good thing(s). A(All) great thing(s)! All in all, a(all) grood thing(s). Cause for celebration. Hip, hip--!

Oh crap. What if I lose the job I just got months ago to replace the one I lost because I couldn't commit to being there from month-to-month? Oh crap. How am I going to juggle this work and keep it all, without pissing people off or seeming unreliable? Oh crap. Where is the money going to come from for all the obligatory expenses I've literally scheduled for myself in the coming year? Oh crap. Do I still remember how to act? Oh crap. What if one of these gigs is phenomenally over my head, like A Lie of the Mind often felt last year? Oh crap. This is a lot of physical stuff, and I'm out of shape and haven't resolved my pelvic injury. Oh crap. Come June, I can't sublease my apartment anymore. Oh crap. Oh crap. Oh--!

It's vexing, going through these stages. It seems as though success always brings anxiety with it. I'd be kidding myself to say that none of this is guilt-related. The world tries very hard to tell us that we are failures as human beings if we're having too much fun in our work and not making a lot of money, and it's continual--though not constant--work to remind myself that this is just not so. The larger part of the anxiety, however, is owing to hope. Hope may be constant, to varying degrees. Every time a good run of work comes my way, there is within it the hope for it to continue, and continue, and continue. In the summer of '06, for example, I had enough to spend three months straight on continuous work. It was difficult, involved a lot of bouncing around and scrounging what money I could make, but it was also blissful in its way. And it was a time when my hopes for a full-time acting career felt more realized than they ever had before.

The most accessible allegory I can think of has to do with love. Bear with me. (Or, just sign off. Hell: I'll never know.) Every time a period of work ends, with no further work in sight, it feels similar to a break-up. When a potential new love comes your way, you get scared. Frightened not just of it failing, but of the promise of the new potential succeeding as it never has before, and what that will mean. Things will change. A dream just might be realized, against impossible odds and in the most unpredictable ways, and if it does it will change your life. Maybe for the better, but who's to say? The point is, you want the possibility of it so much, you have to overcome the fear. You have to make some big mistakes, take some big hits, keep going. You have to take the chance. Again. And again.

Here we go.

16 April 2008


I just finished me my first read of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a book I have longed longed to read, and was not disappointed by. If Dickens had only written about magicians, I would have enjoyed my required reading so much the better. In an odd way, it encourages my steampunk leanings of late. Of course the setting of the book predates any sort of industrial revolution by quite a bit, yet something about the juxtaposition of magic on an otherwise historically rational world sets me in mind of the steampunk. That, and it's set largely in Britain, home of all good steampunk. (Expatriate Dave: I need a grood steampunk gadget to go with my steampunk jacket.) (All: Can I stop saying "steampunk"? No I can not. And you wouldn't want me to, really. Steampunk.) Finally, on the subject of steampunk (henceforth: steampunk), someone really needs to make a good, contemporary movie in this vein. Sadly, no one will. Oh, they may try, but they'll botch it good. Elements can be found in The Golden Compass, Hellboy, and of course any Jules Verne adaptation. In fact, in my ideal world, such an ideal steampunk movie would be directed by Guillermo del Toro, with consulting art direction by Tim Burton, include specific references to Verne all over the place, and feature predominantly craft and in-camera visual effects. Also it would be aware of the cultural similarities between Victorian England and contemporary United States. Make it so.

But the actual subject of this post is actually to point up something I've noticed thanks to the new book I'm reading: The Man on the Clock, by Tom Dardis. It is, so far, not a great book, but it was the only remotely portable biography of silent-film actor Harold Lloyd I could find. Lloyd was a great comedian, and was the basis of my base character in Silent Lives. Not nearly as many people know him as do Chaplin and Keaton. I wanted to learn more about him because I dig these guys as pioneers of art, entertainment and media, and because I'm lagging a bit in the idea department in completing my clown silent film outline (see 3/27/08). As I read, I discover (assuming Mr. Dardis' writing is to be believed) that I have far more in common with Lloyd than I was aware of. He seems to have been a very careful sort who loathed making mistakes, and something of a frustrated actor in the beginning, trying to find his own way. I've also noticed a remarkable potential connection between two things I love.


+ this:
= this:

Harold Lloyd apparently had some difficulty early in his film career in establishing a memorable, unique character upon whom the production companies could bank. He was just a few career footfalls behind Chaplin, and only one or two behind Keaton, but it could be argued that he was a lot more behind in experience to the two. He grew up on stage, but as a regular actor who took what roles he was given, rather than the kind of innovative vaudevillians Charlie and Buster had to be. In an unfortunate turn, he even made a character called Lonesome Luke that was so derivative of The Tramp that it's a little difficult to believe as an honest mistake. (Then again, it's a pretty human tendency to "borrow" -- sometimes without even realizing it -- from those around you when starting something new.) At any rate, audiences liked Lloyd because he was daring, easy on the eyes and a good actor, but they didn't really identify with him until he figured our his glasses character, or Glass Man.

The glasses were pivotal in Lloyd's effectiveness as a character. The Glass Man worked because of the expectations implied by his appearence with the glasses. They made him accessible and identifiable, sure, but in a very specific way. The films Lloyd made after 1918 and his discovery of the Glass Man began to evolve his stock progression. A goof, a klutz, and hopeless boy gets in over his head in adventures that have him thrown this way and that, until just at the end, seemingly miraculously, he overcomes every adversity, usually through some incredible act of bravery, strength and cleverness. It must have been as though one were going to a Buster Keaton movie that switched at its climax to a Douglas Fairbanks. As he established his character, Lloyd even bested Chaplin (in my humble opinion) at incorporating pathos and empathy. A conglomeration, to be sure, but a very effective one that may have been responsible for moving movies toward still more sophisticated forms.

Nevermind whether or not that was a good idea.

Siegel and Shuster began a long process of creating the Superman(TM) we all know today in 1932. He went through a lot of revisions over the six years before they sold him to Action Comics (the initial comic they wrote featured The Super-Man as a psychic bad guy), at which point his appearence and general origins are at least similar to what we know today. It's just possible that they were sunconsciously influenced by Lloyd films. Many of the names they used in their creation were references to movies, and though they've never mentioned him by name, they have included silent films amongst their influences. Shuster: "But the movies were the greatest influence on our imagination: especially the films of Douglas Fairbanks Senior."

Harold Lloyd was tall, brunette, athletic and charismatic, but it was all belied by those glasses, and his own relatively reserved persona in real life. Superman certainly was a zeitgeist comprised of too many elements of society and culture predating him to point to any one as a significant source. It is precisely because of this conglomerative nature that I'm inclined to believe that Harold Lloyd's character had some influence on the creation of at least Clark Kent, if not Superman himself. And hey: Even if I'm wrong, it's clear that American audiences love a good underdog scenario.

Which gives me hope.

15 April 2008

It's a Long Story . . .

The Aviary has a new feature to the left (to the lef'!): Links to my shared items on Google Reader. Expatriate Dave introduced me to Reader, all from across the Atlantic and everything, and for this he must die. Dave, you are a sunumabitch, and must die, for now I have a tremendous difficulty justifying any time spent on the activities of my actual day job. Dave's imminent demise notwithstanding, now you can quickly view other 'blog entries and online articles that have piqued my interest of late. It's a nifty way of citing my sources and streamlining some of my brain activity not necessarily related to The Third Life(r); though really, it all relates. Plus, my 'blog is about ten-to-twenty screen shots tall, so I could probably insert one of Shakespeare's histories to the lef' without scraping bottom.

I have hoped and searched for a way of making this style of 'blog wider in format, so that such would not be the case, but it is as yet in vain. I am nerdly, but not in a computerly way, and shan't venture to edit the html myself. God no. Imagine the potential losses!

I do go on. And on. And on. (And on. [And on. {And on.} And on.] And on.) And, I on. Wait. What? I on. Hold on. I--on. I . . . woul- on! On on on! Look at my goings on! ON!

The above is an abstract sort of summary (get it?) of my mental processes. I may be way off base here, but I think this aspect of moi is a big part of the reason I experience so much frustration in learning other languages. I am at once in love with order and complexity. I appreciate specificity in ideas, but strongly resent the inability to wiggle within formats and the mediums of expression. So I'm rather stuck on English -- that most ambiguous of languages -- rather than html, or Italian. In part because I learned it first, hence I have "wiggle room" that no other language can compare to sans decades of study, but also because its value is ingrained on my conscience. English means the script of a new play I've been cast in. English means communication with my loved ones. English means western literature. I heart English.

That is part of why I write at such length on almost every subject I address here. Most of my entries, I'm well aware, would not pass the mustard (intentional abuse of idiom; because I can) with any English teacher in his/her right mind. Most of my ideas can be summarized in an abstract (ah ha!) of about twenty-five words or less. I write on these ideas in meandering, playful ways because I'm improvising on a theme. (I knew I should have stuck through to Jazz Band! Where's my trombone...?) I'm improvising on a theme because I enjoy it, and because it's the best way I know of surprising myself with my own conclusions. There's almost nothing empirical about the process, when I'm doing it right. Generally speaking, I'm a little too cautious to become a Dirk Gently altogether, but there's something to be said for not determining the end before you've begun.

I suppose I have mental processes on the brain because I've been helping Fiancee Megan with her thesis paper. Last weekend was spent by-and-large helping her compile and organize data, actually. (It's fun to pretend you're in school, if you can reach that state of feeling as though it takes a certain load of decision-making off of you.) It had been a while since I had dipped toe in that kind of scholastic world, and I was reminded of the comforts and drawbacks of ideas such as determinism, causality and the empirical/scientific processes. Simply put (or so I hope), most school environments depend upon concepts of quantification and objectivity in order to function to standards, which concepts have varying degrees of use or relevence to any given lesson. They gots to grade you, and you gots to learn somethin' from its. I'm not faulting empiricism at all. How could I fault something so useful? Neither, however, do I consider it the Omega to every question's Alpha.

Consider a school paper. Generally speaking, the student is supposed to state an objective and hypothesis, then do this and that to prove the hypothesis, preferably using hard data and citing other opinions. In the end, a conclusion is drawn. The conclusion needn't be conclusive, nor even agree with the hypothesis (though some teachers insist on revising one end or the other until they match, which is so stupid it makes me want to scream), but no one likes to feel dumb and most people, by the end of working on something, like to feel they got somewhere relatively significant. So a conclusion ties it all up. Like a well-crafted play, there's a beginning, middle and end, with no dangling doubts or questions. Pretty. Concise. Let's us bronze it, and put it on a pedastal.

Though it has been reprinted onto numerous magnets, mugs and mouse-pads, I'm still a big fan of this excerpt from Rilke's collected letters to a young poet:

"I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."
One of my biggest problems is that it's hard for me to admit that I don't know something. It's not that I can't do it; it's that it pains me to do it, which is in some ways worse, or at least more complicated. So I practice not knowing things all the time, even as I'm trying to learn more and more in the hopes that by the time I'm 80 or so I won't have to endure not knowing quite so much. Until then, loving the questions is a pretty effective approach to ignorance. At least that way, the questions get asked, of myself as much as of anyone else.
Update (not minutes after I posted; see reader sidebar article): Ira Glass agrees with me...
"Indeed, that might be the single biggest reason that This American Life has more in common with the documentary films of Errol Morris or the writings of Studs Terkel (both oft-cited Glass influences) than with any network magazine news program: It follows its sources where they lead, instead of using people as props to support a premise that’s usually been decided upon before the actual reporting has even begun."

12 April 2008

Meat Growth

Now if that title doesn't earn me pornographic status in the various 'blog rating systems, I don't know what will. Right-wingers beware -- I use ambiguities in our God-given language to my advantage. Now:

I am not one who condones senseless paranoia inspired by emerging technologies and based in pulp fiction, but this is going to turn us all into zombies. You can see that, right? Even without the abstractly disturbing visual attached to the article, the facts read like the prologue to a dreadful zombie film.

The world thought it had reached equipoise at last -- genetically engineered food sources eliminated hunger, and peace began to evolve from a dream into a standard of living. No one could see anything wrong with the technology . . . until one day, the horrible latent virus in the meat that gradually atrophied the reason center of the human brain reached a critical mass. Panic swept the globe, surviving only as long as most of the population maintained its reason. Soon, however, all that was left of humanity was an awful conglomerate of vicious, shambling undead, feeding on all the live, un-vat-grown flesh they could find.

Or so it seemed. Subversively, on a small island in the North Sea, a group of passionate vegetarians lived and planned an uprising. They had never accepted the practice of consuming meat, despite the supposed lack of cruelty to animals in consuming Vat Meat(TM). Now this pack of loners must gather its disparate groups from around the world and, much like the virus that seemed heaven-sent to destroy the meat eaters, come to life and destroy the new race of cannibals. They may be relatively weak and rather anemic, and they'll have to overcome some certain scruples as regards mammal murder but -- by God -- they'll take the planet back.

Meat may be murder, but these zombies are nothing but vegetables . . . and the vegetarians love them some crudité.

Romero: Call me. I get 20%.

11 April 2008

Revenge of the Nerdly

Last year, not too far off from this time, I wrote to you about my experiences at Camp Nerdly (see 5/7/07 & 5/8/07), the weekend excursion for people who enjoy role-playing and story-telling games. It is true to its name, and is a brilliant excuse for people who are "old enough to know better" to go out into the woods and play pretend. I was hesitant to attend last year. Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but it took Expatriate Dave keeping an eagle's eye on my ever-changing schedule to get me suddenly signed up and ready to go. I was all, "I'm going to Italy then; I can't," and he was all, "Are you still?" and I was all, "Well, no, not then, but--" and he was all, "Hey, you're signed up and paid and do you need me to bring camping gear?" I couldn't help a sense of dread. I stopped playing that sort of game in my later teen years because I found it started inhibiting -- instead of hosting -- my social life. And now I act for a living (well, for certain periods of said living) and why would I do that, in effect, without pay? I couldn't conceive of feeling comfortable, much less having fun, at the event. Nevertheless, I attended, because time with Dave is invariably well-spent, and because at that moment I needed a little quiet time to myself with some trees. Boredom be durned.

Boredom be durned indeed. I ended up having an incredible time. It was like a renaissance of creative wells I had plum (get it?) forgotten about over the years. Hence my return this year. Well, that, and the fact that Childhood Friends Davey and Mark are going to nerd-out there, too.

Last week I found myself in conversation with Friends Adam and Geoff at Rodeo Bar, when I brought up my return to Nerdly. Adam naturally resorted to our glib repartee vis-a-vis (all this, and not a day of French class) "rolling 20s" and "+1 to attack," but Geoff, being of a somewhat less nerdly sort (he watches [and understands] organized sports) did his best not to mock me. Which I congratulate him on: A for effort. Instead, he tried to understand why in God's name I would ever spend time and money on such a pursuit. Having to explain myself in terms a fellow actor could understand proved to be an interesting challenge. I'm not sure how successful I was, though Geoff seemed satisfied enough to not follow up with D&D jokes.

Why? Why why why? Well, to begin with, let me dispel a few misconceptions. Camp Nerdly is primarily adults, so I'm not going in relishing the idea of appearing as a God (or, as a rather pathetic 30-year-old) to a bunch of pubescent SciFi/Fantasy types. Nerdlians have jobs and lives, generally speaking. They do this for fun or, in many cases, it is their job. They get paid to work on games. Also, Nerdly is not a huge LARP (Live-Action Role Playing [the ones you fear, who costume themselves and have sword fights in public areas]) festival. I've got nothing against that kind of gaming per se, but if it was the dominant form at Nerdly I probably wouldn't be interested. Finally, when you read "role-playing games," you have to think past bedroom secrets and children getting overly excited over rolling dice. Think, as well, of story-telling.

I get naturally high (booze and drugs are banned) off of attending Camp Nerdly, because it's three straight days of creating unpredictable stories with very intelligent and creative people. When I was all done last year, I rode a wave of creativity for weeks. Creativity is like one's physical muscles, in that the more one works with it, the stronger and more adept it becomes. And, similar to physical training, adding elements of competition and/or teamwork (gaming & collaboration [which, together, you might as well term "improvisation"]) heightens and specifies the exercise. Camp Nerdly allows me to bounce off game designers, writers and even some fellow performers, who all compel me to stretch and strengthen my imagination. Plus, I dig fantasy, man. Everyone does, in their own way. I'm just a little less limited in my appreciation than some ... and way more limited than others, most notably many of the attendees and game-hosters at Camp Nerdly.

So I'm looking forward to it. Now all I have to do is not get acting work that conflicts. My friends might kill me. It can be hard to help people understand how having a freelance career means it trumps almost all other plans. It's all just a roll of the dice.

09 April 2008


In a similar spirit to yesterday's post, I'm writing today about oral tradition. (Where is my mind? Oh yeah, there it is: in the gutter again. Besmirched.) Yesterday I wrote about how important it was to continue our habits of learning from people directly, sans email or books or carrier/passenger pigeons. One of the ways to maintain this kind of good habit is to make as much conversation as possible. This, I recognize, is a tricky proposition. New Yorkers may think it's particularly dangerous for them, what with all the hurried, irate and/or insane types we have smunched (is SO a word) together. I would argue, however, that there's a trade-off there. New Yorkers are more accustomed to having regular contact with strangers and psychos than some, and we learn stronger coping methods for dealing with them. Plus the psychos are generally easier to spot here, I think. Not that a psycho can't look average, but here you can at least rule out a certain segment of aluminum-foil-hat-wearing sorts as being perhaps not the most coherent conversationalists.

Friend Chris once suggested to me that wherever I go, I should talk to people about what they do. Post office, elevator, subway, etc., every day we come in contact with professionals, and most of them are pretty eager to talk about something they can be an authority on. Get in the habit of talking with them, and you both benefit -- a report is established, greasing the wheels for any other transaction, and you may learn something to boot. I try to remember to do this. It often backfires. I don't have the most unimpregnable ego in the world, and when I get a negative response from someone I don't know, I'm more inclined to let the talk drop than pursue it. The thing I have to keep reminding myself is that a negative response is often a stock response, and can be wispy-thin. Get past it, and there's every possibility that you'll find something interesting or moving on the other side.

I also find that everyone -- everyone -- is sending out invitations, all the time. There's so much information coming off of people that it's amazing. Even without eye contact with someone, you can start to form an impression of what they most want in terms of communication, be it sympathy, enthusiasm, agreement or something wholly unique. (And with eye contact: forget about it.) The tricky part for me has always been balancing what others want with what I want. When I was younger I had this problem a great deal more often, but it still happens to me now and again. Now its not so much that I blindly subserve to everyone (is SO an expression). When I was younger, I would often get into this conversation with my friends:
"Whatcha doin', Jeff?"
"Building a canal out of a single cinder block."
"Oh. How's it going."
"Well, it's okay. It's kind of hard, though. And slow going. And I'm not sure what purpose it will serve. And I was supposed to go play Dungeons&Dragons(TM) with some other pubescents today, but I guess I can't now."
"Oh. And why are you doing that?"
"Because someone I only just now met wanted it done."
Now it's more a matter of not quite getting across (to myself as much as anyone else) just how important the really important things are to me. So I do a lot less painful self-sacrificing, but every now and again I'll get to a point in something at which I'll suddenly explode. "Why am I not getting what I want?! Why are your wants automatically more important than mine?! Why are you doing this to me?! Oh! I never told you what I want?! I ... I didn't, did I? Oh, ah ... whoops. My bad. Sorry for spitting on you just then. Um. I can't do anything for you, can I? Build you a canal, perhaps?"

It's taken me a long time to learn, and it's a continuous "practice" for me ("practice," in this usage, as in the yoga sense, in which "practice" is a nice way of saying "something I can't do at all yet, but just keep trying, anyway") to remember, that everyone's a little bit psycho, in their own way. We all occupy worlds inside our individual heads that have nothing to do with the rest of the world, try as we might to deny it. And it's scary, the possibility of tripping upon someone's inner world. It may be less a fantastical trip to Oz, and more a nightmare ride down the rabbit hole. There's just no knowing.

The thing is: The more you risk that, the more you're living and learning. Be it Oz or somewhere really weird, at least you're going somewhere. No one wants to go nowhere; not if they really pause to consider what that would mean. Having the courage to really talk and really listen is supposed to be what actors are all about. Lord knows, I'm not the best at it. A few months ago I was sitting around with a cast at NYU, waiting in their luxurious lobby on the seventh floor for our director to show up. Two of my fellow cast members struck up a conversation. It started out a little irritating -- "Who do you know?" "You don't know him? How can you not know him?" -- but they eventually got to matters un-network-y, and began talking about the city. One of them, a rather young woman, said, "I don't understand how people can just walk around all day, plugged in to their earphones. That's just stupid. They're missing so much." I discreetly attempted to shove my iPod deeper into my coat pocket. "I know. Why would you live here, and shut all of it out?" So I'm trying to engage more with my fellow man. It's good practice.

But dang it, on the subway I'm keeping my earphones on. It's not that I prefer The Mars Volta to my fellow man, but . . . well yeah. It kind of is. Practice, practice, practice!

08 April 2008

Inherited Knowledge

Yesterday, at il day jobo, my boss asked me to add up some numbers and attach them to their respective back-up. So I fired up the computer calculator (this in spite of playing Brain Age for the Nintendo DS of late), added the numbers and wrote them on post-it notes to afix. When I turned them in to my boss (Me: Well, she should be impressed with that speed-of-return...) she informed me 'twould not do. She needed to see the calculations. Oh. Okay. I'll do it in Excel. No no, says she, we don't want to attach whole sheets to the papers, just a little slip. Use my adding machine. Oh. Okay. That shouldn't be a problem.

My dad's an accountant, and I associate these machines with him. You've seen them, even if you've never had cause to use one. They're like over-sized calculators with a spool of receipt tape atop, that prints out what yer' computin'. They make a very distinctive noise that usually indicates someone who is deep in concentration. When you enter a figure into yer' computin', it prints it with a brief gear-y, scratchy sound, and when you want to pound out the final total, it makes these sounds for considerably longer (having as it generally does more to print at the end) as though to say, "Congratulations! You're one major step closer to whatever you're doing!" Interestingly enough, these machines also have the addition and equation symbols on the same, over-sized button.

Cut to me, twenty minutes after my boss' request, pounding my head in frustration as I try to figure out how to get the adding machine to PRINT the G.D. TOTAL. Every number I enter automatically prints to the paper as I press the big addition/equation button, but when I get to the end of the line . . . what am I supposed to do? When I press the big a/e button again, it simply adds the previous number to the line again, thereby ruining that particular slice of tape. It seemed so convenient and obvious to me before, combining those functions. Every time you hit it, your running total appears on the screen. Now, though, it is my enemy. They should be separate buttons! Does the manufacturer get a deal on buttons if he makes one over-sized? WHAT the HELL?! After many minutes of flicking mysterious switches experimentally, trying to interpret all these "M-" buttons and generally doing what I do to figure something out with Microsoft programs, I notice something. In the column of function keys, there is one labeled "x" and one labeled "*". Huh. In my (computerized) mind, those are both symbols for multiplication, so I didn't find either out-of-the-ordinary when regarded individually. When I noticed both were there, I tried pressing "*".

Success! All praise "*"! It even printed a sub-line that illustrated how many figures were added together to make the total! I could make-out with my adding machine!

It would not be a lasting relationship, however, infused as it is with such opposing passions, so I relented in my desire.

It reminded me of something I had been reminded of earlier in the weekend as well. I was watching Elizabeth for the first time, with Fiancee Megan, a movie I had long intended to see. There's quite a good amount of classical dance in that film, and Megan said she thought it must have been strange, knowing all the same dances. This reminded me of something Friend David (Zarko) often laments -- that we don't all know the same dances anymore. Dances. Adding machines. What does it all mean?

Nothing in particular to the nouns, or even all the words of my little meandering story. It's in between those words.

There is something rich and important in passing knowledge from person to person, with no intermediaries or tools involved, and something richer still in passing knowledge between people who have a relationship. That's not to say that the world is going to Hell in a handbasket because you can Google or Wiki world history as you need it (...and why, I ask myself, did I not simply Google adding-machine instructions...); I think the ability to access information instantly and specifically is an amazing boon to human culture. Plus it makes moving easier, what with needing to haul about fewer reference books. The only problem is, when we take a break from correspondence courses and search engines, and even encyclopedias, and engage in someone from whom we learn, something different happens. Something good, and difficult to put into words. I wrote that I probably wouldn't have learned acrobalance as I have if it hadn't been taught to me by Friend Kate (see 3/14/08). Perhaps I'd know more dances -- care to know more dances -- if I had a community that regularly met in order to share them.

I'm sure a lot of men have had the experience of coming upon a challenge and thinking, "Huh. I'll bet if I paid more attention to my dad when I was young, I'd have this licked." I've also had plenty of experiences which I've come through and thought, "Whoa; glad dad taught me that." (This perhaps most notably the several times I had to save my old computer by fixing things through DOS; also every time I get a compliment on knowing how to tie a full Windsor.) Friend Todd is excellent about striking up educational conversations with everyone he meets, a trait I most admire and try to cultivate in myself. In many ways, this is part of what's so important about live theatre. I don't know who's teacher and who's student in that scenario, but I do know we're all there with a little time to get to know each other, and learn to push each others' buttons.

07 April 2008

Back Ward

You may have noticed my absence from the Aviary for the last week. I continued writing, but wanted to leave my entry addressing Staff Sgt. Keith "Matt" Maupin (see 3/31/08) up and prominent for a week. The remainder of last week's entries have now been published, in which you can find plenty of evidence that I'm back to my usual inanity.

The last week was actually a pretty busy one with theatrical activities, each of them under the guise of a "staged reading" (and y'all know where I stand on those [see 2/27/08 {but also 3/11/08, for a semi-retraction}]). These were paying readings, however, and at least one of them was a play I might actually stand a chance of playing the character for in a full-scale production. Allow me to procede in reverse chronological order. Or, if you won't allow it, read backwards.

.yllautnevE .ti fo gnah eht teg uoy ,em tsurT.

Last night I participated in a reading for an aspiring playwright, one who simply wanted to hear her words aloud in order to move on to the next stage of revision. Kate Chadwick is an actress, primarily, but I've never seen her work. I met her whilst working at the law office that used to employ me full-time. She is also a dancer, and the subject of her one-act that we were set to read, Swan Song, was the inner world of a classically trained dancer coming to realize she needs to break free of some of that world. I played the central character's brother (rather the comic relief, along with their sister) and we read in the living room of an apartment in Queens. I've usually enjoyed this kind of pizza-and-soda reading, but this one was particularly fun. Kate has a particularly lively sense of humor that, it seemed, everyone there shared. Interesting, too, how she incorporated that sense of humor into her writing of a largely serious play; I reaped a lot of the benefit of that, playing a kind of clown type. Kate's piece was also interesting to me for being a kind of dance/theatre hybrid, akin in some ways to the circus/theatre work I do. One can never adequetely describe those movement aspects in writing, so the play can not exist solely as literature. Frustrating in development, but ultimately a worthwhile effort, I find.

Saturday was occupied with the rehearsal for and performance of a staged reading of one of the NYU BFA program's playwright's plays. (That sentence? Totally why I haven't applied to said program.) Juliana Avery wrote The Biographer, and last Saturday I and a group of about six worked to represent it on stage. It was something of a gruelling day, actually. We rehearsed from 2:00 to 6:15, then took the stage at 6:30, and with a five-minute intermission the play ran until 9:00ish. Juliana, to her great credit, is entirely aware that cuts are necessary to make the play function. We received some of those cuts at 5:00, and they were certainly good ones, so I trust she'll procede along those lines. Juliana developed this play under the auspices of NYU's Steinberg lab, a subsection of their BFA program that I have been lucky enough to be involved with, in-class (I often wish I could make a sustaining day job solely out of the work I do for that class, actually). The Biographer reminds me of the novel Starting Out in the Evening, in that the inciting action has to do with a somewhat successful writer in his twilight years allowing a young female writer to interview him for a biography, but thereafter it takes a very different series of turns. I played the writer in flashbacks to his thirties (it really is an extremely castable decade of my life I'm in), when he met his (lasting) wife. By and large, a supporting character. The scenes were brief by comparison, and the character emotionally young, for all his life experience to that point. Yet he was delightfully fleshed out. Juliana has a real talent for throwing no opportunity for character development away and, as an actor, I value that extremely.

Finally, straddling Thursday and Friday was The Things We Did and Did Not Do, by Theresa Parsell Giacopasi. I read scenes from this play twice in class with Theresa, and she was kind enough to cast me in the reading. I do mean kind, because the character I played afforded me the opportunity to play to the hilt one of my favorite types, and one I rarely have an opportunity to play, at that. Jackson is a would-be private eye, and I modeled him largely after Bogart's Marlowe, naturally. I realized in working on TTWDaDND (for those too-brief hours) a big aspect of that type that makes it particularly appealing to me, especially in the context of Theresa's play. I am a straight man (read: stage type, not sexual orientation [though, read that too, if it suits you]) and there's no getting away from it. That's not to say I don't have a sense of humor; it's just that my type is the straight guy. Playing a PI trapped in 21st century upstate New York allowed me to play it straight, and still be the one to deliver punchlines. Best of all, the key to the character is that he's a guy who's frustrated at how unaccomidating his world is to the kind of man he's most fulfilled being -- something of a familiar position for a struggling actor (not to mention a geek who wishes Batman were real and he were him). The play is a comedy with a healthy dose of melancholy conflict. Theresa even gave Jackson a saucy moll to bounce off of at the climax (Gentlemen: Kindly remove from the brains from the gutters.), perfectly portrayed by fellow First Look actor, Michele Vazquez. In short: Too much fun.

These drams of theatre can often serve only to whet one's appetite for more, if the material is interesting enough, and such is the case here. Assuming I am still headed for Italy some time this summer (which, at this point, is its usual dubious sort of assumption) I've got a limited amount of time in which to be cast in something that won't conflict with that trip. Which means I need to jump on the audition train. Poste haste. Which I hate.

So somebody hire me based on my unique writing style. Hire me as an actor, mind you. Ready . . . GO!

03 April 2008

Boing Boing Boing

You know what's a great freaking site? Well, I'll tell you: boingboing.net. (I suppose technically it's a collaborative 'blog, but man; what a 'blog.) If you don't know the site, there's probably no hope for you ever knowing anything worth knowing about the internetz in a timely fashion, because I've known about it for a couple of years, and I my URL could easily be argued to be www.hopelessnessdefined.org. They are smart and funny and with it and hip, in charmingly geeky ways. Therefore, everything they have to say in their moderation policy goes double for me. Except, of course that I can't actually "disemvowel" your comments. And I can't afford legal representation. BUT OTHER THAN THAT...!

What does this have to do with a meaningful life, you may ask? That remains to be seen. But I will say this: boingboing.net definitely helps to keep me off the online versions of Space Invaders.

Well, it reduces the time spent, anyway.

02 April 2008


We seem to be obsessed with contorting our lives into unnatural forms. Perhaps it's some after-effect of evolution and self-awareness -- that we know we're adaptable in the long term, so we feel we ought to be able to mutate to any situation we can conceive of in the short term. Perhaps, though, it's just that human beans are stubborn (not yielding, like Lima). We want to shove that square peg into that round hole because, dang it, give us our way!

No where is this more evident to me than at my day job. There is a central struggle to my day job, a daily effort to achieve, that has absolutely nothing to do with the business of the business I work for. That struggle is to come out of my day feeling better than crippled.

As some of you long-time readers may recall (and hey: thanks; your complimentary Easy-Bake Oven[TM] is in the mail), a little over a year ago I gots me an injury that I didn't gets diagnosed until some months later (see 5/16/07). Well, in spite of pretty extensive (not to mention invasive) physical therapy and a greater understanding of my pelvic area than I ever hoped to attain, the son-of-a-bleeping injury persists. Sometimes I even aggravate it, quite accidentally, by doing something extravagant; like pooping. (That's not quite a fart joke but it is, to my credit, way too much information. You're welcome.) In sum of substance, I have a bad pelvic floor, and it will require constant vigilance and good habits to keep it in working order.

One of the worst things to do to it is to sit for prolonged periods of time. Worse still, to slouch.

Part of one of my very first professional theatre experiences was joining an intern class in the Suzuki method. "Suzuki" is not the same thing (or, indeed, namesake) for actors as it is for string musicians. Tadashi Suzuki is a director who believe actors should strive for a full bodily expression in their work, and who pursues this through a rigorous physical training not unlike martial arts training. One of the primary goals is to build up the legs to great strength and control, and so his technique involves a lot of slow rising from the floor, or stomping, or holding difficult positions for long period of time. I dig this. I'm all about it. Punish me so I feel good! Growr! <--[ferocious; I'm telling you]

What man was never meant to do is sit in a chair for eight hours a day. Hell. We weren't meant to do it for an hour. It's bad enough when you've nothing in particular wrong with you. When your entire well-being rests on the regular stretching and release of your pelvic floor, well, brother, I'll tell you what. What? I'll tell you: It blows. And not in that nice Las Vegas way. Many's the time I've considered taking the pay cut just to have a more active job, like a bike messenger, or someone whose job it is to spend all day stretching their pelvis whilst wearing non-binding pants. If I ever see an ad for an actor to play a traditional Scotsman for tour groups, I'll leap at it like I was already wearing the kilt.

I know I could use a little more grace in my growing old. I'm working on that. But I also know it's pretty messed up, what we expect from our bodies day in and day out. Get out there and move, people. That's what's good. That's what's meant to be.

01 April 2008

"April is the Cruelest Month"

It's taken me a long time to come to this decision, and I have to admit it's difficult for me to declare it, particularly here. It's also apt, however. I began this 'blog with the intention of chronicling the efforts of an actor trying to find an effective balance between his work and the rest of his life. "The Third Life," I called it. From the very beginning, I had to acknowledge the possibility that such a frank observation might lead me to a conclusion I wouldn't otherwise have entertained the possibility of. Now I find myself ready to make a change in my life, and I just have to ask for your understanding in doing so.

I am giving up acting.

To a few of you, this will come as little surprise. From the rest, I don't know what to expect. If you are counting on me for a specific project we've discussed, don't worry -- I'll be honoring those commitments, and fulfilling them just as I would have before my decision. And I won't stop helping friends out with their work, naturally, if they ask me. It's just that I'm going to have to start basing the decisions of my life more upon other things, apart from trying to act all the time. After giving it much thought, it's clear to me that this is the right decision.

It came down to this: What did it matter if I continued or not? What's really important is living a life I can be proud of, one that helps other people and supports my loved ones. Besides, the whole notion of "art" needing to be my career is hopelessly naive. Art can still have a prominent place in my life, regardless of what I spend the majority of my time doing. I won't stop thinking and having ideas, feeling and reaching out to others. I'll just stop auditioning and rehearsing and performing. I'll catch up on all the fun to be had by living a life that's still unique (it is me, after all) but lived a little closer to the main way.

There is a lot I enjoy doing, and a lot I want to try that has nothing to do with acting. Teaching, for example. I used to view it as a painful compromise, but I've been doing more and more teaching lately, and more often than not I find it a really gratifying experience. I'm not sure just what I'll teach, now that it won't be performance-related, but there's time to figure that out. And I can finally spend time figuring out all those little financial details everyone else has in their lives: 401(k)s, stock options, equity, etc. I have no idea what these things really are! And now I'll have the time and access to them to learn. I've been wanting to reacquaint myself with the trombone since last Fall, and can finally take those guitar, Italian and kung fu classes I could never commit to before.

Finally -- and this is more important than may at first be obvious -- I will no longer have to feel uncomfortable about myself in relation to the rest of the world. I can meet people and simply say, "I'm an accountant," or, "Did you see how the Giants were playing on Sunday?" People will accept me, and I will understand people. The world will make sense, and I can't wait for it. I've spent so long re-enforcing my own lonely battle for some idea of "truth," and asking difficult questions. Sure, I've had some friends who felt similarly and who questioned with me, and I hope I'll keep them, but now I'll have the rest of the world as my friend. I respect those who can continue that sort of struggle. I just have to do what's right for me.

So thank you, one and all, for joining me for the last year or so of my life lived a certain way. From here on out, this 'blog will catalogue different things; possibly guitar tablature and reviews of television shows, that sort of thing. I'm not sure yet. But the title is definitely going to be "Wednesday's Hobby" from now on.

[Oh and ah: Check the date of this entry. Hope you had a happy one, Fools.]