Saturday, August 23, 2008

Things I've Been Doing

There are a bunch of things that have not made their way into the blog this month, so I'm smooshing them all together here in this post.

1.  IPod
I've been really into using my IPod to its fullest potential.  
Audiobooks:  Kate has been listening to actual books and novels while at work, but I have been getting Shakespeare plays I haven't yet read.  Shakespeare (depending on how picky you are about acting) is tailor-made for headphones.  If what you want is to hear the words, baby, you got 'em.  Richard Burton's Hamlet I bought for pleasure and found it to be very engaging, so I thought I'd brush up on the rest of the canon--whatever I'd never seen live before.  Julius Caesar, for example, is awesome and the one I downloaded from ITunes had a really great cast (some of the recordings have casts that are sucky).  Some others on the list to get are Macbeth and Pericles.  

Voice Memos:  While working with Mark Sitko on prepping Van Cougar, it came to my attention that the ITalk (which is a tiny dictaphone that unobtrusively attaches to the USB port) is an incredible tool for actors.  I've been using it to memorize lines and try my hand at voice-over technique.  You know, like Rosewitha or Shikoku.  The ITalk is by Griffin, but they're a little harder to find.  There's another model by Bose that's more popular but it has speakers jutting out of it on either side that look like buboes on a plague victim.  Not sexy or discreet.  If you get the ITalk, check its compatibility since on mine I have to select record from an onscreen menu instead of just pushing the big button in the center.  That's pretty upsetting because what I want to do is push a big button if it's right there in front of me, you know?

Podcasts:  There's a Comic News Insider podcast floating around out there from Men of Steel and Fight Girl which I was a guest on, and that got me started on a bunch of cool podcasts that I listen to everyday (although they're a day behind).   The one I'm really into right now is The Rachel Maddow Show.  She's smart and funny and translates a lot of political obfuscation into concise, biting clarity.  Nine Inch Nails also has a pretty revolutionary podcast where users can take the source material, remix it on Garageband, and then put it up their own versions.  It's called remixnin and the podcasts are the various songs themselves.  It's a great way around having to pay for them individually as songs on ITunes (which is what they would do if they could--"Fuck the pigs!").  Brilliant.  You can also do video podcasts like Meet the Press and Countdown, but that shit tires me out.  Also the screen is so small, it's almost not even worth it.

Videos:  Again, rarely is it that great to watch something on such a small screen (especially difficult on the subway).  I have been watching a lot of pilots that can be found on the "Free on ITunes" section of the store, though.  One of the shows I thought would be awesome was Man vs. Wild with Bear Grylls, but he seems to be in the mountains too much for me.  More Jungle!  Unfortunately a lot of the pilots are bad which is why they're free.  Actually, the Primeval pilot was pretty good for killing half an hour.

So good, there's the IPod section.  On to:

2.  Theatre
Summer and Smoke at Theatre Row:  My friend Tlaloc Rivas is directing this and has got one of the best performances I've seen this year in Mary Sheridan's Alma.  I have told everyone who will listen that I have never liked Tennessee Williams, and this is the show that has turned me around.  A spare, physical, beautifully designed show that highlights the text and the relationships--which is right up my alley as an audience member.  And my friend Harry Barandes is in it as a loveable loser, too.  Drink some coffee beforehand and bring a sweater.  It's really cold in there.

Self-Portrait as Schiele in the Fringe Festival:  Gerritt Turner directed Mark Lindberg's play about a painter haunted by Austrian young-girl-portraitist Egon Schiele.  It's closed now, but it had some really penetrating insights into the nature of art and sexuality and the transmission of knowledge.  I've been thinking a lot lately about what can be taken away from seeing plays,  and sometimes a line will stick out and stay with you for days (now weeks).  One from this show was something like:  "Just because you depict death does not make you master of it."  

A Day in Dig Nation at P.S.122:  You could see this show and appreciate it for the sheer discipline it took Michael McQuilken to perform it.  But again, it's deeper and more profound than it appears behind its bells and whistles of projected scenery and mise en scene.  It's performed by McQuilken solo as he navigates a surreal day-dream life accompanied by voice actors who play a host of other characters.  The voice over talent is incredible in this show, and may not have been matched or used so effectively in my past experience.  It's all foley sound-work like Dogville where you see the actor's hand mime opening an invisible door and from the speakers you hear the sound.  Well, here all the sounds dictate the actors's movements and it's pretty amazing to witness live.  The deepness I mentioned above comes from experiencing some no-shit human condition at work in comical but loaded scenes--like in the bunker with the radio.  I can't say more until you see it, but sometimes you see something and you say, "By god, there is something that is a fundamental truth of life."  Seriously.  That particular scene is pretty bleak, but the ending of the show leaves you with some real hope for human compassion and potential.  Great things lie in all of us, no matter what has come before.  The future is completely ours to make for ourselves and that is crazy to think possible.  Especially with November looming.  As Omar might say, "You feel me?"  There's also singing and dancing and multiple conceptual set-pieces that dazzle.

3. Cooking
Kate and I are cooking up a blizzard of rice at our little apartment, and everything that can go on top of it we throwing on it and then serving it up for dinner or putting into containers to take in with us for lunch.  Now, I have never liked cooking.  However, in this day and age it has become a monetary necessity.  It has its good points.  It's pretty fun as activities go (until you're done eating and you see the dishes in the sink), you get to chop and dice out your aggressions, and we play music and have drinks while we do it.  (Not drinks like Donna Reed martinis for Mr. Stone when he gets home from work drinks, but fun, youthful-abandon drinks like Rum and Coke or margaritas.)  Plus, it's healthier and cheaper than going out.  And considering I only ate things that were crispy and brown before this that's saying a lot. 

4.  Finances
I know shit about money, but I'm working on it.  I kind of knew going into it that acting and theatre were not about the glamour but the work... but can't a guy have nice things?  Can't he pay his bills and think about retirement?  This guys is.  My job offers matching on their 401k, and I should have been putting in there since I started and now have to catch up.  I'm getting on top of my bills, my debt and my spending habits (with Kate's enormous help and encouragement) and that is tangible power.  I recommend it to anyone who is an artist and hates numbers or anyone who has sought out being poor for the cred or anyone who has somehow found themselves paying off the interest instead of the principal.  I'm not home-free, but I'm getting out from under it just like the rest of the country.  I can see a distant light!

Stay tuned cause I'm drafting a post that will cure American politics.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I wrote a post about my love/hate relationship with TV work that I have now erased because it was, upon reflection, too bilious.  Kate tells me that unless I change my attitude about money (it's the root of all evil) I will subconsciously avoid having it and do things to prevent it from entering my life.  By extension, my hard feelings about the sitting around on commercial sets and the impersonal nature of the work and the feeling like an automaton and the lack of dignity can easily influence (subconsciously, according to her and some unnamed theorists) my actions, and can prevent me from actually being successful in the work itself.  One, so that I avoid having money, and two, so that I avoid the drudgery that most of that work consists of.  

This state of affairs cannot be; so I am turning it all around.  I am going to try to open my heart to the idea of being a rich fart who actually does some good with the money he makes in this world and consider the drudgery as a part of the whole process.  Because, as the man said, baby needs a new pair of shoes.