Wednesday, January 31, 2007

People are cool

So first off, let me apologize for making it a slow blog month. I had a bit of blogger's malaise. Can't say I'm over it, but I was thinking about this today, and thought I'd share it.

People are cool. At my workplace, there are pictures of people around Chicago, not really doing anything; there's a picture of a Hasidic Jewish family (with a beautiful little kid) sitting in Union Station. There's a steelworker looking at something work-related off camera. There's a fat guy screaming out his orders on the trading floor of the Merck. There's an old man bowing his head before the wind on a cold, blustery day (hmmm, haven't seen much of that lately, have we?). Just pictures of people. Complex and different. Diverse and unique.

And then I look at all the people out on the roads. Take a drive down a highway at rush hour (I don't, I take the train, but work with me). Look at all the cars coming at you the other way. Each one has at least one person in there, possibly more. Each of those hundreds, if not thousands, of people has a story as complex as your own. Maybe a little more or less eventful, but they have the same ups and downs and cool stories and quirky relatives and aspirations and dreams and regrets and needs as you do. And that's only a fraction of people in this metropolitan area. Then there are the millions of people in other individual cities across the globe. Thinking about one city is mind-boggling enough, thinking of another specific one is even moreso.

It has been going through my mind lately: people are cool. Yes, people have their crap. You do, I do, someone else does. Not everybody lives to their potential, and a lot of people live in a half-stupor (yes, I'm speaking from personal experience). But when you open your eyes and see the world, how it's created, how the people in it live, thrive and survive in it, it's freakin' wonderful.

And yes, it's an epiphany, but it doesn't keep me loving everybody all the time. Just more appreciative of them.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


So, here's an enormous kick in the pants (and my thanks go to Richard for pointing this one out): HBO is doing a TV series based on what is arguably the greatest fantasy series ever written. Well, fantasy isn't so much the right term for it, it's more of a political thriller set in a fantasy setting, the Song of Ice and Fire. It starts with the Game of Thrones, and I'm currently on the fifth book, A Feast for Crows. Over the past five books, they started with one noble family ruling some backwoods area up in the frozen north. Over a period of four books, they promoted that family to a higher ranking in society, and killed off almost every one of them during the bloody, horrible civil war that has been going on since the last actual king's death in the first book. It's a little hard to read, because you're entirely unsure if this character you have grown to love is going to die shortly, or if the people their betting their life on are tinkering behind the scenes to bring about said character's demise.

But it's freakin' PERFECT fodder for an HBO series. Considering what they have done with previous series, this is going to be big, it's likely to be good (based on the source material), and it's definitely going to be a reason to get HBO. No word yet on when it's supposed to start production, but when it does, it's a gimme.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

2007 Goals

It took a while, but I've determined my goals for this year. Yes, I know, the year is already 1/37 over, but I'll have to cope with the shortened timespan. So anyway, the reason for posting the goals is for accountability, and so I have a place where I can refer to them, should the need arise.

1. Get at least 5 union voiceover gigs: Yes, it's being optimistic, but I think I can do it.
2. Get one national gig: This will likely overlap with goal #1
3. Get at least three agents in the local market: The local market includes Milwaukee, and at present, I have one there. So getting two more shouldn't be that much of a hassle.
4. Get into both SAG and AFTRA: Getting to the point of being Taft/Hartleyed, but not actually "in" is sufficient, although with goal #1 being what it is, it'll be more likely that I'll have to be actually "in."
5. Drop my bodyfat to 12%: I don't know where I am right now, but I'd estimate around 24%. This is a more definable goal than saying "I'll get back in the gym," and it's less restrictive (if I'm working out by running or martial arts, I'm not really "In the gym").
6. Travel at least four times: I'm already 25% done with that.
7. Get my headshots done: I'm thinking this is a good goal for after I've trimmed down a bit.
8. Join the Fighting 501st: They're a group of Star Wars costume enthusiasts, primarily stormtroopers. I've had the stormtrooper outfit in a box for almost two years now, and the first part of joining is to build the suit.
9. Make enough with voiceover that one of us can quit our day job: It'll likely be Heidi, as my schedule isn't hindered by VO auditions, and she's likely to pick up a sizeable freelance income.
10. Brew at least four batches of beer: This is one of those goals I'll probably exceed, but I'm OK with that, too.
11. Read the Bible from beginning to end: So far, I'm doing really well with this. The previous disconnect was that I had a bad history with the version I was using (NKJV). Heidi got me an NIV Bible, and also suggested I do my VO warmups with it. Both really good choices.

So anyway, them's the goals. If you'll notice, there are two more than last year, and last year I didn't even finish half of them. Why do I think I can succeed with eleven when I didn't succeed with nine (or for that matter, five)? Because I know what held me back previously, and I'm willing to put up a fight to get them done.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

This ain't no disco...

Heidi and I don't like to give each other Christmas gifts. It's all our money, so we're just going to give each other something that effectively we're buying for ourselves, but without much actual input. Instead, we like to take a trip early in the following year. We weren't sure if we could do anything this year, as money's been a bit tight as of late, until Heidi saw that JetBlue was opening service to Chicago in January. They were offering $36 one way from O'Hare to Long Beach. Problem solved.

First, let me sing JetBlue's praises. OK, they were close to two hours late coming into O'Hare, but that wasn't a JetBlue problem, that was an O'Hare problem (we left when the nasty rain just got started). On JetBlue, they don't have first class, and they doen't have huge airplanes, so they can treat their regular passengers (read: everybody) with respect. They don't have huge seats, but they're all leather, which is nothing special to me, but a pleasant touch. What is special to me is the inflight entertainment. It's a small screen imbedded into the seat in front of you, but it's 36 channels of DirecTV. On the flight out, I saw all of NBC's Thursday night lineup that I care to, and, on a different channel, I saw Supersize Me (which is one of those movies that makes you really want to change your lifestyle).

Long Beach airport is a joy to fly into. It's a small airport, so it doesn't have heaps of amenities, but the baggage claim is quick, and the car rental place is right across a slow-traffic street. Most of the airport is open to the elements (much like the Burbank airport), which can bite you in the ass, but in this case it was freakin' lovely. We also got a free upgrade on our rental, for no reason other than they were in a good mood. We could have had a Hummer, but I'm morally opposed to driving one of those, and we plan to put a lot of mileage on our car; we don't want to waste our travel savings on gas.

We're right now staying in a Residence Inn in Manhattan Beach, thanks to our pals at Priceline. It's built to make people comfortable with long-term stays, so it's quite a breath of fresh air from your typical hotel room.

But here's the thing. I used to live in LA (not down here; I hardly ever came this far south), and I left completely defeated. It took me years to get over my failures when I was in Chicago. Now I'm back, admittedly just to visit, but it feels very "right." Heidi's feeling it, too. She's said a few times, "Yeah, if we could afford it, I wouldn't mind living here." I have yet to see any of my friends, but I'm sure once I do, my desire to return here will increase tenfold.

I had a lot of problems living here before. I was underemployed pretty much my entire time here (when I was employed), I lived in some crappy places, and my social life was limited to mostly uneducated people with a "what can you do for me" mentality. I'm not saying this place is perfect, but, like the rest of life, you have to make wise decisions. My life in LA was pretty much a series of bad decisions, and I suffered the consequences. Moving back here could potentially be significantly easier, now that I'm wiser, and (more importantly), that I have a wise wife by my side.

I'm not saying that we're going to move here next week; but I am saying there are a lot of good reasons to move here. It's an option that has become much more palatable in the past few months, and although we're not making any definite plans (let's see how this year works out), it's something that we won't dismiss out of hand.

In any case, whether or not we end up moving here, this is one of the most relaxing vacations we've taken in a while. It feels good to be here, and that's what a vacation should be.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Lady in the Water

We didn't see Lady in the Water when it came out primarily because of mediocre reviews. Not many critics thought it was a decent film, and we really didn't want to waste our time and money on a film that wouldn't be worthwhile. It recently came out on DVD, and so we rented it. I'm kind of wondering what movie the critics were reviewing, as this thing is one of M. Night Shyamalan's best films since The Sixth Sense (although Signs is a really strong contender in my book).

Effectively this is a fairy tale. Not the charming, innocent fairy tales that the Shrek movies lampoon so well, but rather a dark and dangerous fairy tale that the Brothers Grimm would have written (the real ones, not the movie ones). It's set in an apartment complex, which Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) manages, and is filled with much quirkier characters than are usually in a single apartment building. Cleveland finds a "Narf" (I'm kind of surprised there wasn't a creture named a "poit"), and asks the local Korean family about it. They start relating the fairy tale within the fairy tale, but not in one sitting. As the story unfolds, several iconic characters are mentioned, and Cleveland starts figuring what roles people in the apartment complex play in the story. M. Night Shyamalan plays a much larger part in this one than he usually plays in his films; it seems a bit self-indulgent at first (he plays a writer who will go on to change the world with his book), but it's a convincing character, and it's really tough to direct oneself and be good at both.

This story could have been told in twenty minutes, but it unfolds over a much longer period of time. This is not to say it should have been twenty minutes, but it could have been done quicker, to its detriment. It was a great film, as long as it should be, and not a moment longer.

This is a character piece, really. The plot is interesting, but you're introduced to a number of different characters that are all really quirky and fun to get to know. The characters turn what would otherwise be a good movie into a great one (when I say great, I don't mean Bridge on the River Kwai great, but Signs great).

I highly recommend this film. If you haven't seen it yet, put it on your netflix list (or whatever you use to rent films) and see it soon.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Children of Men

Heidi and I took a trip into the city to see Children of Men yesterday, as the only place it was playing was River East. In retrospect we won't do that again, as it cost an arm and a leg, but it was a decent time.

Anyway Children of Men was a brilliant film, filled with intrigue and maintaining a really high level of tension through a moderately long movie. It establishes a unique and intriguing concept and, at the core of it, distinguishes between the solid, enduring qualities of faith over the randomness of chance.

The film is about a world in which nobody has been born for over 18 years. As a result of no children being born and the imminent death of the human race, the entire world is in complete chaos. Britain is slightly less hosed than the rest of the world, which results in countless illegal immigrants to Britain. Subsequently, the British government initiates a violent, oppressive crackdown on illegal immigration. This is a world of despair, a dying world. The people have a lot of choices to deal with their misery, from antidepressants to easily available suicide kits. It is criminal for people to avoid fertility tests. Through a twisted series of events, Theodore Faron (Clive Owen) finds himself responsible for transporting a young pregnant girl to the coast, where she can get onto a hospital ship of a group called "The Human Project," a sort of underground science community that are working on the infertility issue. She, being the only pregnant woman anybody has seen for nearly two decades, is a commodity to whoever has a political agenda, and there are a lot of those.

This show tells its story succinctly and tightly, but with the viewer open to filling in a lot of the gaps. Not that there are much in the way of plot holes, but there's a lot of exposition that is left up to us to figure out (or not, as the case may be). As it is, it's still tightly packed with information, getting us up to speed on the world and the characters. I like how they use the countless bullets flying around the one remaining hope for humanity (that we know of, anyway) to such great degree. It's a plot device, but as soon as you see that this girl is pregnant, about a half hour into seeing the effects of infertility on the world, she suddenly becomes more important than any other character in the world. And there are alot of people dying through excessive violence around her.

This is a very violent movie, but I have a theory why (and keep in mind that, like much of the movie, this is completely up to the viewer). People fight because they're angry at how the world just seems to have shut off the switch for the human race; they end up taking it out on anybody around them. But also, what had stemmed the tide of excessive violence in society before was that there were children to think of. Without that impetus, there is nothing to live for, and therefore people don't so much care about the consequences.

The show isn't so much about acting or interesting character interaction, but Michael Caine plays Theodore's father figure Jasper, and does it with style. He's a great character that is an old, eccentric, hippie and Michael Caine plays him with great energy and fun. He's a little remaining spark of life in a society that has little life left.

I recommend this film, but it isn't for everyone. Heidi didn't much care for it, but I find it to be a deep and rich vein of thought-provoking material.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy 2007!

So one year is over, another has begun. Last year was a good year; a lot got accomplished, much of which is completely life-changing. 2007 will be just as significant, I predict, but with different things going. Since I was so verbose about my goals last year, I'm going to continue the trend. However, I still need to recap my goals, to see how everything turned out. Hence, this post:

1. Get Married: Successful
2. Move to a new place: Successful
3. Get a different job: I got the new job I was looking for, then lost it, then got another new job, then lost that. I think next year I need to be a bit more specific. So I'll call this one unsuccessful.
4. Get back in the gym, and establish a regular routine: I started, and was doing pretty well with it, until my back gave out, and I completely dropped it. In retrospect, dropping it was a bad decision. We really haven't done anything since. Unsuccessful.
5. Get at least one Voice-over gig: I was really diligent to get things going, but didn't actually get a gig this year. Unsuccessful.
6. Brew at least three batches of beer: Successful.
7. Travel at least four times: Successful. I actually did five, but there's nothing wrong with exceeding your goals.
8. Write a script: Unsuccessful.
9. Read the Bible from beginning to end: Unsuccessful.

And now, the analysis:
I succeeded in 4 out of 9 goals. Not a bad average for batting, but I'm not much of a fan of baseball. Of the four successful, each of them relied entirely on me or me & Heidi (one all me, three both of us). Of the five unsuccessful, three were all me, and two were resulting from actions outside of my sphere of influence. The three that were all me could have been done had I been less lazy, but I was lazy. Of the other two, I worked my can off for those, and still wasn't successful. So, here's the track record:
Me & Heidi: 3/3
Me: 1/4
Me & some external influence: 0/2

This brings interesting things to light. If I involve Heidi in my goals, they're going to get done much better than if I just do them on my own; two is better than one. Relying on something external is perfect material to get me hosed; this is bad, because a lot of my life does revolve around other people than my wife playing along. So the trick is to figure out how to get those externals working better.

I haven't yet figured out my goals for this year... I'll post them when I have them in order.