Archive for August, 2013

Qubit Lab

Silly and science
Pack your brain with some knowledge
And maybe some laughs

The Qubit Lab

Here’s a series of science videos I did for the Qubit Lab in conjunctions with scientists from Oxfprd and across Europe! I really enjoyed these!

The Ultimate Drug

You can’t live without
Temptation all around you
Don’t give up the fight

My Ongoing Battle With Food Addiction, Body Image and My Upcoming Soylent Adventure

I was a pretty skinny kid until I was about 18. 30 inch waist and mostly skin and bones. When I hit 18 my metabolism screeched to halt plus I was driving and not walking nearly as much and I had formed horrible eating habits. I loved sweets, fast food, junk all around. I think that full sugar sodas were the only liquid I put into my body and did so in great quantities. Strangely, I didn’t really notice myself getting bigger. I’m not sure how it slipped by me but one day I went to get some new pants and realized I was wearing 40″ pants now. I occasionally tried to jump on whatever train I had overheard was the way to being fit, but never with any success. I topped out at about 230 pounds on my 5’10” frame. Apparently, I wore it well. When I went for a costume fitting once, the costumer didn’t believe me when I gave her my measurements.

Fast forward to 2004. I was married and living in Austin and somehow stumbled upon the South Beach Diet. I read the book. It was the first “diet” that really clicked with me. Mainly because it wasn’t just some fad diet that was a quick shortcut to losing weight. It was a scientific explanation of how the body processes the fuel you put into it and it just made sense to me. It was a change of lifestyle, not just a “magic formula.” With the help of my (now ex) wife, I managed to drop 60 pounds and get into the best shape of my life. I still wasn’t where I would optimally like to be, but I was definitely in the healthy weight range for my body. I could feel it. My body finally moved right and didn’t feel like I was wearing a fat suit. Since then, I’ve mostly kept it off with some small swings and backslides on the dietary front.

A few years ago I got into hot yoga and did that 5 times a week for about a year or more and definitely got in the best shape of my life. Eventually my diet slid a little farther than I would have liked and eventually the exercise did too, a bit. I was now a single guy who doesn’t like to cook, prepare or really spend any time on eating at all. Once I got back into a full time day job (as opposed to all my years freelancing) then yoga disappeared. Carving out an extra 2 hour window to go, do the class and shower felt like a Herculean task. I also hate deciding what to eat (which is usually my downfall). Now, 9 years after I finally got my diet in line, I am in the worst shape I’ve been in since dropping all the weight. I’m hovering at 190 which is at least 20 pounds more than I’m comfortable with (though I have added some muscle as well so the weight can’t truly be trusted to judge by). I toyed with “4-hour body” but quickly abandoned it. Food and the state of my body have become a major point of frustration and depression at times for me.

Let me divert for a moment to say that I know I have severely warped body image issues. I really have no idea what I really look like. Or maybe I do, I guess I don’t know but I know I’m not happy. As an actor, sadly, physical image is something I have to be concerned about. When I see myself on film it’s even worse than the mirror. I personally do not believe the “camera adds 10 pounds” crap. It’s a device that captures an image and I believe that it probably shows us truer than we see ourselves. I will also be the first to admit that while health is a factor on my mind, that vanity is the larger factor. I don’t like the way I look.

Lately I’ve found trying to eat healthy to be overwhelming and frustrating. I know low carb seems to work for me but I’ve now realized that I was probably not taking in nearly as many calories as I should have been either. Trying to eat low carb and get enough calories seems like a lot of work. I tried simply calorie counting a la Weight Watchers or MyFitnessPal but, puzzlingly, did not seem to get results. I’ve accrued a lot of nutritional knowledge over the years to the point where I now end up going down a rabbit hole and getting overwhelmed. For example, I think I’ll try to go low carb. Oh but I need to get enough calories as well. I don’t really like to cook or spend time eating so I go pre-packaged. But with pre-packaged, it’s hard to find low-carb options. I end up with some microwavable chicken breasts and a microwavable bag of seasoned broccoli, and then don’t like what I’m eating because it’s bland. Oh, and you should stay away from processed foods anyway which rules out almost everything I would normally eat that’s easy, pre-packaged or microwavable. Forget it, I’m tired of it and will just grab something somewhere. Just the other day, I went to the store with intentions of starting a new healthier lifestyle and within minutes, felt on the verge of tears, defeated and just grabbed some bacon, egg and cheese Lean Pockets.

Let’s address another big point. I truly believe I am a food addict. I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs of any kind. I’ve cut out diet sodas and am trying to cut out sugar (which I’ve done before back when I lost all the weight). Food is my vice. My drug. My addiction. It’s where I turn for comfort. It’s what I look forward to. It’s a source of happiness. I heard someone (I believe it was Riki Lindhome) make a great point which is that if you kick heroin or alcohol or many other addictions, you can go the rest of your life without those substances, but we all have to eat. We can’t give up food so there’s an extra layer of temptation there (and please know that I am not at all trying to compare or devalue the amazing accomplishment of kicking any substance addiction). I often feel out of control and like I “can’t stop myself” from getting and eating that thing as guilt sets in before I’ve even taken a bite because I’m unhappy with my own body and have no one to blame but myself. I suck at moderation. I can’t seem to eat a cookie or two, I eat the whole package. With foods I like, I can devour them in bulk, while sometimes I have trouble choking down a “healthy” meal if it’s something I’m not enjoying. I have a lifetime of really crappy eating habits to fight against and my tastes naturally run to the not healthy side. While I have had vegetables prepared that I have enjoyed, they still don’t exist in my mind’s database of “things I like.”

More frustrating is that I have done it before! I changed my diet and dropped 60 pounds so why can’t I find that place is again? Is it because I no longer have a wife who knows how to shop and cook? I remember how after a couple of weeks of changing my diet, that “I must have the french fries! I can not resist!” turned into “I would like some fries, but I can live without them.” I have not been able to find that place again yet.

I have often said that I wanted to find some kind of “People Chow.” Something I could make a huge batch of for the week that just had all the nutrients I needed. I don’t mind lack of variety if I don’t have to think about it and can just get rid of the hunger and give my body fuel. Enter my next adventure, Soylent. I’d read about Soylent quite a while back when it was basically one guy experimenting with formulating a drink he could drink 3 times a day to fulfill all his nutritional needs. Now they’ve raised millions of dollars and are going into mass production. They’ve been getting feedback, consulting scientists and dieticians and refining the formula and will start shipping by the end of this year. I will be trying a one month supply. The more interesting implications are as a solution to world hunger. I’m sure it will be controversial, and many will cry that no magical formula can replace nutrients from whole foods and such. I guess we will see. I’m certainly willing to give it a shot. The makers even make the point themselves that even if it’s not as good as eating a healthy whole food diet, it could still be a huge step up in health for many people who eat like crap.

Tonight as I once again battled the grocery store, determined to kick start my body again, I once again came close to giving up out of frustration. I grabbed some fully cooked microwavable chicken breasts and then my mind went down that rabbit hole again, “these are probably processed and not nearly as healthy as cooking and seasoning a chicken breast yourself and that microwavable bag of Tuscan Seasoned broccoli has who knows what else in it and the regular unseasoned broccoli is probably way healthier, but then I won’t want to eat it because it will be bland and, and, and…”

Eventually, I just stopped my mind and instead of giving up completely, I got the microwavable chicken breasts and broccoli. Because it’s still a lot better than grabbing burgers, fries, shakes, pizza and ice cream. I always want to do these severe and complete overhauls when it’s been proven time and time again, that small changes are far more likely to stick.

So that’s where I am. At least until my Soylent arrives, I will keep fighting this battle. I’ve failed before, and probably will again, but I guess what’s important is to keep fighting.

Letting Go of Perfection

Today I had a long talk with one of my best friends, Brian, regarding many things, including our podcast, our futures, goals, fears and graphically sexual improvised bluegrass songs. Among the many reasons I wanted to start a podcast, we discovered a new one today: to learn to let go of perfection and just create. He and I both tend to be perfectionists who don’t want to do things unless we can really do them to the absolute best of our abilities. Our podcast was always conceived as a sort of free form show with no real boundaries that was as close to the insightful, hilarious, wonderful, deep and ridiculously silly conversations he and I always have. Now, of course, that just isn’t possible to replicate because once you add a microphone and possible listeners into the equation, it changes the dynamic and there’s just no way around that, at least for us. The podcast just is what is is and will organically shape itself and grow and change as long as we do it. This means that since it is just us free form conversing, there will be moments that aren’t funny, aren’t insightful, aren’t in any way entertaining to someone somewhere and this is scary for us. We realized that it’s scary in the same way stand up comedy might be scary in that this is just us. It’s not us playing a character, or reciting a script or hiding behind any artifice. Therefore, if someone doesn’t like it, they essentially don’t like us. It is always going to be imperfect. And we must learn to embrace this and use this muscle.

I’ve found that for me and so many others, that quest for perfection, that fear of falling short of what you could be keeps so many people from doing anything at all. You want to make a film but feel you don’t have the money, equipment, talent or some other ingredient, so you simply don’t make anything at all. This could apply to anything. Music, painting or just life in general in whatever applies to you. If you can’t be (insert favorite director, actor, musician, artist, whatever here) then why do anything? Why put out something that does not reach our own lofty standards? Well there are many reasons. Creating for the sake of creating. Honing and practicing your art. You never know what roads could lead to which destinations. People have gone amazing places based on a “silly little podcast” or received huge development deals based on youtube videos with no production value shot on a webcam. There are a million ways to any destination and most likely, you will not see the road that will get you there. It will almost always be some turn of events you never planned for or expected.

Another example I spoke of today are the “Live Raw Acoustic” videos I periodically put out. These videos make me extremely uncomfortable. They are NEVER up to par in my eyes. When I am on stage with my band, I feel alive and in my element, but when I watch these solo acoustic, rough videos, I see so many flaws. I can see my own lack of confidence, my own doubts and hesitation. I hear the mistakes in my playing and singing and yet that’s the point. I don’t practice for weeks until I can hope to maybe give a much more polished performance. I just do it. It’s supposed to be raw and real. And I do it partially because it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know why, but I’ve definitely got some rebellious streak in me that makes me sometimes want to lean toward the things I think need improving as opposed to just sticking with what I know I can do well with my eyes closed or things I can coast through. When I find something that I can’t do to my own exacting standards, it just makes me want to do that thing even more.

Every day I want to grow and face my own insecurities and shortcomings and hopefully be a better person tomorrow than I was today. I often fail. And that’s where the real trick is. Not beating yourself up for that either. Muscles don’t get stronger without using them and working them out past their current limits. I believe this applies to emotional and spiritual muscles as well. Sometimes working those muscles out is uncomfortable and requires putting yourself out there and being vulnerable.

What’s my point? Hell, I’m not even sure any more. Do something. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t let the impossible quest for the ever elusive and mythical beast known as perfection stop you from doing anything at all. Do. Create. Be perfect in your imperfection.

Everything

By special request
Another acoustic song
For Sean Dornan-Fish

By request of Sean Dornan-Fish

My friend, Sean, requested that I do a Live, Raw, Acoustic video of Rock Springfield’s “I’ve Done Everything For You,” so I did.

Moving Day

Moving Day is done
Such a wonderful journey
Time to start again

That’s a Wrap on _Moving Day_.

Over the weekend, I spent approximately 35-40 hours shooting _Moving Day_ with an absolutely amazing cast and crew. I had met Louis and Samuel (writers and directors) when Kevin Machate recruited me to help shoot our “Chiphuahua” Doritos commercial for a contest. It was a fun shoot and I thought the commercial was great.

So when they approached me to audition for Moving Day, I jumped at the chance. I thought the script and characters were great and that it would be a fun shoot and a great film. After my audition via Google Hangout (I’m Austin based and this film would be Dallas based), they asked if I had a preference between the parts of Pete and Adam. I loved them both and thought either would be great, but in the end I leaned toward Pete. I felt Pete was a bit more of a challenge for me personally and something I hadn’t done as much of, and, quite frankly, there were elements of the part that made me a little nervous and scared. I would have happily played either part, but I figured that was a good reason to go for Pete to try and grow a little more in a direction I was not as comfortable with and a little further from the types of parts I sometimes tend to get pigeon-holed with. I was ecstatic when they decided to bring in one of my best friends in the world, Brian Villalobos, to play Adam. He is like a brother to me and I love any time we get to play together.

The shoot was one of the very magical experiences that come along all too rarely. My cast mates (Brian, Rachel Crothers, Edie Davis, and Christopher Cassarino) were all amazingly talented and more than that, they were all wonderful, hilarious people who I immediately loved. The crew were equally talented and amazing and it was one big, happy awesome film family. I loved getting to hang out with these people all day and I’ve rarely laughed as hard and had so many good conversations between takes. Everyone was so creative and it was almost like a big 3 day improvisational play session off camera. I can’t count the number of jokes, ideas and running gags we accrued along the way.

However, in additional to a plethora of laughs (yes, a plethora, El Guapo) It was also very emotional, both due to the story and having to go to certain emotional places and certain things in my own life weighing on my mind as well. My friend, O’Ryan Landa posted this quote, “It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not,” and it really resonated with me. For many different reasons, this summed up what is probably the overarching biggest struggle for me in many different ways. By the end of this shoot, I had been through a whole range of emotions.

On the second day of shooting, there was a tense fight scene involving Christopher Cassarino and I. We had done a few takes already and refined some of the choreography. When the time came, I lunged at him, and he slammed me into the wall. There was a distinctly bad crunching sound and I felt the wall give way behind me. Chris and I, finished out the scene with him punching me to the floor. The cameras cut and I looked to see the lovely hole in the wall, perfectly fitted to my shoulder. Everyone was fine, however, except the wall.

That night, it came time to shoot the most emotionally intense scene of the film with Rachel and I. She was amazing and made it so very easy to do. It was exhausting but beautiful all at the same time. Unfortunately, we realized toward the end of the night, that due a particular problem (that was no one’s fault, these things just happen in film), we would have to re-shoot it all again the next night. At first it was definitely something that kind of knocks the wind out of you. This was the moment that I knew would be the most difficult for me and was nervous about, hoping that I would be able to bring it to life and I felt like Rachel and I had really done a great scene, and we would have to do it all again Sunday night. After the initial shock however, I thought about it and decided I would choose not to to see this as a negative thing. I love what I do, and I love what we’d done and this just meant I would get to do it again, and recreate this beautiful, emotional moment.

We filmed all day Sunday, relishing this last day together as a film family. I think that it was quite appropriate that we ended up re-shooting our emotional scene as the last shots of the entire shoot. Brian graciously agreed to stick around longer than he had to so we could shoot the most most difficult stuff for me last (and the last shot of the film) when we could have shot it earlier to get him out quicker. This is kind of generosity that permeates Brian’s being and really helped me, a lot.

Louis had sent me a playlist of music that he felt represented the emotional arc between Pete and Carrie and as a musician, music is one the most powerful tools for me. It really helped me with the emotions and to build a history between these two. When it had come time to actually shoot though, I had made a quick playlist of my own of songs that I knew could put me where I needed to be. As we prepared for the re-shoot, Rachel asked if she could hear some of my playlist, so we stood outside on a beautiful, cool night under a nice moon, sharing my earbuds for a few minutes to get ready for Pete and Carrie’s last moments on film. Then we went inside and, in my opinion, did an even better scene than we had the night before, so everything happened just as it should have.

Rachel very generously offered to stay for my last scene if I needed her there and at first I said that would be great, but then after thinking about it, I realized that not having her there might be better for what I had to do for my last scene. Brian and I finished out the shoot with the last scene of the film, and the last scene of the shoot. That was a wrap. There were hugs all around and the sound man, Chase, told me that he had never teared up before during a shoot, much less during a no dialogue scene that he was only listening to with his eyes closed (the scene with Rachel and I). We all said our goodbyes, and as always happens in film, the family dispersed into the night, and on with our lives. Thus is the nature of the beast. I was exhausted, my ankles had been bitten up by some unseen parasite, there were many various bruises across my body from various sources, I was emotionally spent and still had to make the 3 hour drive back home. And I loved it all. Except maybe the drive but even that was fine because I was doing what I loved and created something that I can hopefully be proud of if I can get past my own discomfort and self-criticism.

I got home around 4 a.m., took a shower and emailed that I would not be into work the next day. I only got 5 hours of sleep before my brain insisted on getting me up. I feel like I have an emotional hangover. My heart is a bit heavy, I suspect partially from my own life and partly from character residue. The plan is to convalesce on the couch, nap, watch TV, play Xbox, recover and process things. And maybe get some pancakes. Goodbye, Pete. It was fun Quantum Leaping into your life. Oh, boy.

Dream 16

French Espionage
Kissing scene in a movie
Famous bass player