Sep 20, 2011

What we have here is a failure to communicate

I have to say it, the time has come. It is the year Two Thousand freaking ELEVEN, people.

You need to get right with technology.

And I don't mean you need to shell out mad coin for that iCandy that everyone seems to blithely tote around as if it hasn't just blasted a rent-draining hole in their pocket book. No, what I mean is LEARN THE RULES.

Rule 1: Social networking exists. Deal with it. 
"I hate Facebook!" or "Facebook scares me, I don't know how to do it!" are excuses that will not any longer, as dogs, hunt, as it were. Facebook (which I'll use as a catch-all for social media here) is the evolution of how we communicate with each other. That's not my opinion, it's a fact.
If you decided to join, you need to accept the fact that people - your real-life friends, even - will try to get in touch via Facebook. They might not even use email and they certainly won't call you. But it's okay, you can handle it, you can figure out the weird and conFUUUUsing world of the social network... just try to KEEP UP. If you choose not to join, great. I hear HAM radio's making a comeback.

Rule 2: I asked you a KWISCHIN, boy!
RSVP, let me know, confirm receipt, tell me you got this, holler back, blink once for yes, twice for no, PLEASE. If you got the inquiry I sent you, could you at least do me the solid of tapping the web to let me know my note isn't hanging in techno-limbo somewhere. It's not just helpful for my sanity, it's JUST EFFING POLITE. I don't even need a definitive answer, not even close. Call me insecure and neurotic (maybe you're right, what are people saying??!), I just need to know where we stand.

Rule 2a: I know you're out there, I can hear you tweeting.
I sent you that text message request a week ago, you sent me a link yesterday to that super-HIlarious cat video, updated your profile picture, reply-all'd to the party invitation we both got. It's not like I can't see that you're online, dude. Take a quick moment between guffaws and Cheeto bites and ANSWER ME.

Rule 3: Everyone has emergencies, not just you.
My biggest pet peeve: "Hey, send me your info RIGHT AWAY so we can get tickets!". Okay, so then I do. Right away, just like you asked. Then I send you a follow up to make sure you got it, then I send you a note saying hi, how are things, then I post to your wall a few days later, then a text a few days after that- okay look, I'm not stalking you. I'm not gonna open a vein because you won't talk to me, but seriously? When it's your problem, I gotta jump to prevent the earth being swallowed by the sun, but you can't spare .14 seconds to craft even a rudimentary emoticon in response??!! Sorry, I gotta say friend I love you but you suck.

Of course, phones get dropped in toilets, computers explode, people have life issues that (bizarrely) take them away from their devices. I understand completely. I am down with the need for quiet solitude and an escape from the constant buzz. That's what vacations, nights and weekends are for. That's why baby Jesus invented the out-of-office auto-reply and the "offline" status icon. You see, just as there are tools and behaviors appropriate to being online, so are there also allowances for being off line. But you have to OWN that. Be a hermit, fine. Resist technology, get angry and move to the mountains to grow hemp and have a great life off the grid. People do it. But ignoring or judging the way people are choosing to conduct their platonic interpersonal affairs because you don't agree or are too scared or lazy to learn is not my fault, nor am I responsible for teaching you. Though my rates are quite reasonable.

I'm sorry it's come to this, but if you can't give me a good reason why you can't or won't come into the second decade of the 21st Century with the rest of the known universe (seriously, teenagers in Zimbabwe know what Twitter is), well, I'm afraid I will have to unlike you.

Jun 7, 2011

Beets: Origins

Because it was just on my mind the day I started this here we blog...

Miss L. Simpson

That is all.

May 31, 2011

The New Job

[Just found this unpublished post from last year. Reading through it, I was happy to find that it still resonates with where I am now, which is encouraging. I may actually be on the right track. Still struggling, still broke, but a year wiser and with some pretty encouraging developments in the interim. -Beets Ed.]

Sometimes to my detriment, I'm not usually one to get all rah-rah about landing a role. That's what actors are supposed to do - land parts. You, astute reader that you are, have undoubtedly surmised by now that this is an exception.

I just learned today that I've been cast in an episode of a fairly popular cable series and I'm a bit unsure of what to do with myself at the moment. Thrilled? Yes, of course. And how quickly things can turn around (another thing that should not surprise and actor yet always does). Last week, I felt like I couldn't get arrested in Seattle. I had come up empty-handed at a bunch of auditions earlier this spring (including two for this very show) and the day-job market wasn't looking any more promising. Now there's this opportunity. I realize it's a small part, I also realize that it's probably not one of those career-jump-starting small roles either. But it's something, finally, where there was nothing.

I think I've been doing this long enough to quit pretending ego doesn't (or shouldn't) matter as a performer. Everyone's got an ego - it's our armor and our rudder, socially and emotionally - but an actor's ego necessarily needs to be extra durable to protect against our uniquely potent workplace hazards. For my part, I haven't tied my self esteem to acting or performing as is often the stereotype, but there is a very real and palpable craving to simply work. To be asked to do a job for which you are trained, that you enjoy and do well. There is no shame in wanting that, of course, whether you're an actor or a software developer or a ditch-digger. Mostly, I've grown tired of not working, and specifically, not working in my field.

I've spent the last year or so trying to re-tool my mind to accept the fact that I should be pursuing work that I'm good at, work that fulfills me and pays me and challenges me. The simple equation that dawned on me is that I have a better chance of succeeding if I pursue the type of work in which I have a considerable level of expertise and experience (HINT: it's not office work). As hard as it is to be a self-sustaining performer, and all things being equal in this crappy economy, I think it's a path worth pursuing, if only because the alternatives are pretty unappealing to me.

So this is simply, wonderfully, thankfully work. Celebrity is not the goal here, it really is the universal satisfaction of doing the job well. Since being unemployed, I've found that following my nose and making it up as I go along, while scary as hell, is infinitely more gratifying than trying to fit in where I don't belong.

Apr 1, 2011

An Actor Despairs

Q: How do you get an actor to complain?
A: Give him a job.
Yes, this tired joke is probably only funny to theater people, but not entirely untrue. And while it's not regarding me getting a job, I have a brief beef to bring up here on "Beets".
As actors who audition, we're all too familiar with the phrase, "[the producers] decided to go in a different direction." This, of course, is one of many codes for "you didn't get cast." It's usually assumed that there's more to be said about your audition, but no one's going to press the issue. It's quick, polite and, after all, that's just the way it goes - actors audition and don't get cast, it's a hazard of our workplace and we develop a thick skin for it.
In a fit of fantasy today, though, I imagined a universe where a producer is able to say - in a manner simultaneously respectful and succinct - "your audition wasn't very strong". As it stands, going in a "different direction" already suggests that the direction you were going was the wrong one (as paranoid as it sounds. Welcome to actor-brain). A small, nagging part of me almost wants to dispense with the "it's not you, it's me" line in favor of a professionally-delivered (prepackaged, even) message of "you didn't show us what we wanted, try harder next time. Thank you." Sure, I'd cry in my pillow that night, but maybe the next day, I'd have a clearer idea of my limits and my strengths. Maybe even clear enough to inspire me to take action to improve. Who doesn't have pity and scorn for that actor whom no one's ever told they're crappy? How can we get better in an environment that always says yes? Personally, I don't believe grad school is the only answer.
Now of course I know it's not the producer's job to manage my career decisions or to offer critical feedback of my performance (or, truly, any feedback at all), and I believe people change their minds about the character or script. As I said, this was a fantasy moment. Realistically, my ego is just fine with the current arrangement, especially since entertainment professionals are not known for their bedside manner. But I'll always be curious about that "different direction" and why I'm not headed there too.

Mar 26, 2011

Let's be honest

Okay, so I'm not so hot at blogging these days. Don't think I haven't noticed. As is true with the rest of the world, the TweetyFaceTubes have hijacked my short attention span and my longer-form ramblings and musings have become fewer and father between.

Of course, there will be more, as there always is - looking back, I tend to have crazy writing jags every few months - so I'll reserve the right to keep this post up as a placeholder for grander things to come.

Cheers and happy Spring!

Jan 10, 2011

Words have meaning: parts 1 & 2

Part 1: The Audition

Read a scene for a play this afternoon that deals with the tricky issue of how sensitive words (an order of execution) from certain people (royalty) can influence and be interpreted by their recipients (the ill-fated messenger), sometimes with disastrous consequences (so long, Mary Queen of Scots). No need to say what's already been said better and at length re: current events in AZ. Just thought it was grimly fitting. 

Part 2: The Coffee Shop

After the audition, I stopped off at a cafe in my hyper-liberal, super-hip, culture-savvy neighborhood. It only took a few moments to realize that the speakers were blaring some pretty severe hip-hop. Words common to the medium and which are banned on television (and often less-than-flattering to black people and women) filled the air. Lest I sound like an old man, I love hip-hop and am no puritan when it comes to language. But looking around the room of nearly all white faces (none darker than the few Asians), I was amazed at the collective unspoken agreement that seemed to have happened: If someone walks in the door and starts screaming obscenities and racial and sexist epithets, we'll rise up in righteous indignation and expel them with the power of a liberal mob. But put a beat under those same words and play it over the loudspeakers, well, that's just what they play here and it's art and art is sacrosanct and if you don't like it why don't YOU get out, you clod. 

Or so that's maybe what everyone thought everyone else thought. But I wonder how a black person would have felt in that room of white lefties with this (well-DJ'd but lazily-MC'd) music playing? Were the female customers just ignoring it? If so, does that mean these ideas are dead? Can we finally move past ignorance and bigotry and blithely start calling each other whatever we feel like without repercussion? I'm thinking not.

Unless we put it to music, maybe.