Just Because It’s Free, You Are Not Exempt From Criticism

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I listen to a lot of Podcasts. I can’t tell you the number of times the hosts have responded to criticism and comments from listeners by basically saying “Hey, it’s free, so quit your bitching.” This bothers me for several reasons. Firstly, it’s basically a big “fuck you” to the listeners that’s basically saying “I don’t really care what you think. You aren’t paying so you have no say in what we do.”

Now, I can see the logic here and it is true. I can do my own podcast any way I want and if I’m putting it out for free, you have no “right” to have input into it. However, here’s the thing: I want you to enjoy it and would genuinely like to know what people like and don’t like and how I can improve it. Sure, no matter what you do, you are never going to please everyone and will always have trolls and ass-hats who don’t really give any useful, intelligent feedback and just say “you suck,” or “eat a bag of dicks.” I’m not talking about them They are sad people who just want to make everyone else as miserable as they are and are jealous of any success and happiness that other’s have. But for people who really care and are submitting legitimate, constructive feedback, I would think that should be welcomed and considered.

I listen to a lot of Kevin Smith’s Podcasts on the SModcast network as well as Chris Hardwicke and the Nerdist podcast and have refrained from sending my personal comments to them because I am actually a fan and didn’t want to be dismissed or looked at as a “dissenter” or jerk who has the nerve to critique a free podcast, when the irony is that I want to help because I like them.

As an artist and a creator myself, I often tell others that the trick is to be open to all criticism while also not feeling like you have to act on everything. You need to be open minded enough to actually take it in and consider it, and then take what you think serves you. I’ve seen others go the other way and get overwhelmed because they feel the need to take every piece of advice and eventually lose their own vision and their project becomes a frankensteinian monster as they try to change everything that anyone thinks they should change and it’s no longer cohesive or true to their vision.

For example, I wrote a screenplay and I got a lot of very good feedback on it. After consideration, I found a lot of it was good, valid and helpful. Some of the other bits may have been good feedback but just didn’t fit the my own vision or the film I was trying to make. Then there was some feedback that I just had to discount because it was obvious that my film just wasn’t for those people and never would be. It’s a tough balancing act. To have a vision but be flexible and open to things that, in the end, may improve it.

This just as easily applies to Facebook or anything “free” (I won’t bother getting into the semantics of ads and such and whether something is really “free,” etc.) Stop using “Fuck you, it’s free” as an excuse to dismiss feedback. Criticism is not always from hostile people who are just jealous because they can’t do what you’re doing. Which brings me to another point: Also stop with the “I don’t see you doing it. If you think you know better, go out and do it yourself.” I think this argument is also a defensive, invalid response.

I don’t want to be an architect. That doesn’t mean I won’t have opinions and feedback on the design of a building. In fact, I posit that feedback from those outside the industry is equally valid. People who don’t see something in such detail with all it’s moving parts and such may have some great feedback you can’t see because you’re too close. You see behind the curtain. You know all the workings. They just see the overall picture or effect which could be very beneficial. Not everyone wants to be an actor/musician/podcaster/etc. But again, that does not invalidate their feedback and in fact may make it more valuable in certain ways.

To be absolutely clear, I LOVE Kevin Smith and Chris Hardwicke. I only mention them because I listen to so many hours of podcasts from them and they can both get a bit defensive and prickly and employ these responses I’ve mentioned here. I do understand it, and have reacted that way myself in the past, but it’s purely an ego defense mechanism. I’ve had constructive criticism I would have liked to have submitted and agreed with some of the criticism I’ve heard them cite and dismiss, but didn’t feel like I could contribute without being dismissed as one of the “uncool kids” even if I tried to present it non-confrontationally in a constructive way.

If you are putting something out into the world, then chances are you want acceptance and for people to enjoy it. Few people create something, legitimately just for themselves, to enjoy in solitude with no care whether others enjoy it as well. So let’s all put our egos aside and listen with an open mind and an open heart. Sometimes what is perceived by the ego as a hostile attack, is a friend reaching out a hand and wanting to help.

The Wonder of the World

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I try to live my life in gratitude, Never taking for granted or losing sight of what I have and all the wonderful things in my life and the world. It’s so easy to adjust our perspective and let our norm become mundane or lacking somehow. My iPhone is a good, if a bit obvious, example. I’ve often thought that if I could go back 10 years, 20 years and show myself my iPhone, my mind would be utterly blown (metaphorically, not literally). It is science fiction come to reality. There is a reason my lock screen is The Hitchhikers Guide To The Universe.

On a less obvious note, the other day I really thought about my keys. What an amazing piece of technology a key and lock is. A little piece of metal cut so uniquely as to open one lock which can only be opened by this magical combination of ridges. It’s really almost as magical as Gandalf illuminating runes and speaking Elvish to enter. A friend of mine also brought up what a status symbol keys really are. It says that you are prosperous enough to have a car or a house or whatever, and that it’s all locked away for your use only, you fascist ass-hat!

Sorry, I got a bit carried away.

I’ve taken up meditation and started using an app called “Insight timer” to time and log my meditation. It’s a really great app with a nice community layer to it. When you’re done meditating it will tell you how many other people were meditating (using the app) around the world. You can send message to people saying “Thanks for meditating with me.” I quite often think how vast our world is and all the things that are going on at any given moment. Right now, there’s almost certainly many people around the world doing just about anything you can think of.

At this very moment people are having sex, being murdered, getting fired, sleeping, shaving, climbing a mountain, watching a TV show, making a movie, vomiting with the flu, tickling a koala, snuggling, writing blog entries, plotting a scheme, eating way too much ice cream, getting married, achieving a lifelong dream, feeling depressed and useless, viewing the quivering fringe of a special doily draped across the piano with some surprise, pondering the significance of short-person behavior in pedal-depressed, panchromatic resonance and other highly ambient domains*.

The world and universe is filled with wonder. Never lose sight of it. With all we know, the fact is we know nothing. Only 4% of the universe is matter. The other 96% is still a mystery to us.

*-Frank Zappa “Evelyn, A Modified Dog”

The Value of Entertainment

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Today I was listening to a podcast with a studio head and he said something that I often hear people in the entertainment industry say. Basically that we are just making entertainment and we aren’t as important or noble as doctors, firemen, soldiers, teachers, etc. Now, I am guilty of saying this as well and a part of me agrees but then I started thinking deeper and I was uncomfortable with this devaluation and dismissal of entertainment. While I don’t believe it’s a competition and I don’t feel there’s any need to compare one profession to another, I think entertainment is very important. The problem is that we humans are not good with amorphous and intangible things. We want everything to be quantifiable.

A doctor’s job, for instance, is very tangible and quantifiable. He sews up your wound. She transplants hearts! They fix brains! Entertainment is much less tangible. It makes you happy. It makes you feel things. It makes you think.

Many people seem to view entertainment as “fluff” or just pure leisure and luxury, but I don’t believe that. I believe there’s a reason that entertainment has been around in some form or another since the earliest recorded history. There’s something to be said for something that can affect your spirit. Make you laugh. Make you cry. Make you think. Manipulate your emotions. I believe it is a vital part of a healthy brain and soul.It feeds you in so many ways you probably don’t realize. Inspires you. Relieves stress. Puts things deep into your DNA that you don’t even realize.

I also experience this on a more microscopic level. As an actor, I love what I do. It doesn’t feel like “work.” It feel easy and effortless (not that it isn’t sometimes hard and challenging) and just like what I do. I’ve often found myself saying what many others say in that actors have it so easy! We play pretend and get trailers while other crew member haul around heavy equipment and get there before us and leave after us, etc. But then on certain occasion, a crew member has said to me “Man, I don’t know how you do that. I could never do what you do,” and expressed a real appreciation for the work an actor puts in and it re-framed everything for me.

There is great value, skill and work in what I do. As there is in whatever you do. As with most things in life, it’s all about perspective. It’s not about comparisons.

Whatever you do, don’t devalue yourself. Entertainment is as important and noble a profession as any and a very important part of life. It may not be as easily quantifiable, but I promise you it not meaningless fluff. It changes lives. It is magic. It is not merely an extraneous luxury. It is a vital nutrient.

Firsties!

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I’ve noticed that a lot of people like to post birthday or holiday greetings on social media the day before the actual holiday. I don’t get this. It’s not the event yet. Wait for it. My only guess is the strange internet phenomenon of “Firsties!” The desire to be the first person to comment like it’s some kind of badge of honor.

It just seems like sort of a cheat. If the day before is fine, then why not a few days. Or weeks. Or months.

“Happy birthday for the next 5 years!”
“Merry Christmas for infinity! Whew, glad I got that out of the way. Now I never have to say it again!”

Look, patience is not one of my virtues. I get it. But wait for the day. It’s kind of like if you open your presents on Christmas eve, that seems all exciting at the time, but then it’s kind of a bummer when you have nothing on the day. Same with greetings. Hold out. Ask Sting for Tantric sex techniques or something and maybe you can apply them to holiday greeting. I hear Sting can give holiday greetings for like 6 days.

My Biggest Acting Challenge Yet

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I was recently contacted about being in a short about 2 German immigrants. They asked to just read the English with a German accent for the audition. Luckily I’ve always been really intrigued with accents and tend to pick them up quickly and do fairly decent job. They liked my audition and signed me on. The director then wanted to meet to see how well I might be able to handle the actual German dialogue. I’ve never spoken German in my life, but I have a very intuitive and natural understanding for languages. This was the first time it had ever been put to the test though. He literally just had me read the German script, totally cold (which I found an exciting challenge). He actually was very pleased with my reading and said he felt confident that I could do it and therefore was going to leave the script as it was instead of paring down the German and making it more English with a German accent.

Also lucky for me, my co-star is actually German and from the specific region of Germany as our characters. She was kind enough to send me a recording of all my lines so I had an authentic reference to refer to.

So now I just have to memorize the entire German script and understand what it is I’m saying as well, and act while doing it. I am terribly excited to take this on.

Dream Theatre 22

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In last night dream I was part of a live sketch show at a place not unlike The Institution Theater. Steve Glazer was directing the show I think and at the last minute someone didn’t show, so Steve filled in at the last moment since he knew the part. He came on as part of a trio and was dressed in a pink furry one piece kind dress thing, sort of like The Flintstones wore. It was not very long and Steve was not wearing underwear so everyone kept getting glimpses of his bits and pieces. When he sat on the ground with his knees up, he was full on flashing everyone.

After that act, I was up next. Me and a partner were lip syncing to “Mahna mahna.” However, instead of a backing track they were using some really old, crappy recording that was really hard to follow and that was very erratic rhythmically almost like if a really inebriated person was trying to sing it. Consequently, the lip syncing did not go well. I remember wondering why they didn’t just use a karaoke like track for it like the one Ralph Garmin and Kevin Smith use on the “Hollywood Babble-On” podcast when Ralph sings “Mahna Mahna” in various character voices.

Macbeth, I Hear You Calling

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During one of our first Macbeth rehearsals, I sat down at a piano and started singing “Macbeth” to the tune of “Beth” by KISS. This inspired both Brian Villalobos and I to write parodies. I painstakingly recreated the music and we recorded both versions.

Macbeth
Macbeth Duet

My Role in “Heelers” and “My Best Friend”

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Wow, I really have become crap at updating my blog. I’ve written about how since Facebook and Twitter have taken over my poor blog has been neglected. People don’t seem to want to go outside these “walled gardens” to external websites much anymore. The one advantage I’ve found about posting here is that it’s really easy to find something if I go back looking for it later, which is not true on Facebook and Twitter. So today after watching the latest Big Bang Theory episode where Howard sings a silly, romantic song for Bernadette for the anniversary of their first date (a song written by Garfunkel and Oates for the show), it reminded me of this song I wrote for the web series, Heelers. I was surprised to find that I, apparently, never wrote about it here, but I guess only on social media.

Heelers tells the story of a some workers at a veterinary practice. I play Glenn, a sweet if slightly awkward guy who often beings his dog or other animals he’s found to the clinic, at least partially because he’s in love with Brit, one of the girls who works there (who has no interest in him but likes the hunky veterinarian guy). For the last episode I filmed they wanted me to make an appearance at the company Christmas party and possibly play a song, so I wrote what I felt was an appropriately “Glenn” song for his to sing to object of his affection. Kind of endearing, kind of weird. Like Glenn. I found it surprising that apparently a lot of guys outright refused to read for Glenn because he’s kind of weird and unflattering. I loved Glenn from the start because I thought he’d be a blast to play, and to try and make him endearing as well as awkward and a little creepy. It still amazes me when actors are so vain that they don’t want to play a part that is not flattering or impressive. I love interesting characters and playing off-kilter flawed people can be so interesting and fun.

Of course, I’ll post when the web series actually comes out for public consumption but in the mean time, here’s Glenn’s song that he sings to Brit at the Christmas party.

My Best Friend

VH1: Behind the Pants

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I’m currently in a production of Macbeth with some of the most awesome people around. The banter that goes on backstage generally ranges from amusing to genius. So many intelligent, funny, talented people. One night after the show as we were all getting dressed, I started randomly singing “PANTS TIME” and we all started taking turns improvising lines. This went on for some time and I was inspired.

The next day I started recording. In an effort to retain the original tone and atmosphere, I didn’t write anything before hand. I basically recorded the vocals line by line, figuring it out as I went along and trying to incorporate as many references from the previous night as possible.

The next day, my cast mate, Elly, was kind enough to come lay down a trio of backup vocals.

Take your pants off or put your pants on, and give a listen to:

PANTS TIME!

The Key To Memorization Is Not Repetitive Reading, But Recalling

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I’ve read several articles such as this one (I can’t find the original article that I read about this, but there’s plenty out there) that talk about how the key to memorization is the act of recalling. So repetitively reading a script or passage will only go so far (this is the phase where your brain is loading it into your short term memory) but it’s the crucial recalling of that information that forms and strengthens the neural pathways, so the quicker you put down that script and start trying to remember it, the quicker you will strengthen those neural pathways and have the text memorized. Don’t spend hours re-reading something a thousand times. Only once you put it down and begin actually trying to remember it will you start the important phase of the process.

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