Cerebral Flotsam And Jetsam - My Mental Maelstrom


My Sharon Osbourne show is on today.

So my experience as a Production Assistant for the Sharon Osbourne show was a blast, but would be pretty boring to write about. Basically, 3 people who do a lot of the “field” segments for the show came to Austin to do a remote from the American Cancer Society call center. They hired me, another P.A., a sound guy and a satellite truck here locally. Describing P.A. work is difficult, as you do so many different things. Basically whatever is needed. A sampling of my duties that day: improvise some door stops, take care of the snacks and drinks brought by the crew (it was a tiny crew, so there was no catering, just snacks and then we ordered dinner), and my most important duty was pulling the cables behind the cameraman to keep them out from under his feet.
Everyone was very cool to hang out with, and for the most part it was all casual and laid back. We rehearsed how it was all going to go, and then later in the evening recorded the piece “live to tape”. In other words it wasn’t actually live, but it went live to tape so that it was basically just like a live spot (although they could edit it in post if they really needed to). Sharon was talking to the to women who were on camera for the ACS through their earpieces and then what we were filming was being piped back to the studio in L.A. We had a few hectic moments when they thought they’d lost the sound board back in L.A., but figured out the problem, and then 5 minutes before we were going live, one of the lights blew out, and the cameraman and sound tech raced like a ninja pit crew to replace the light.
Twas a blast and only made me yearn for more work like that. Work that I actually enjoy doing. Nice work if you can get it! The show airs today (or tonight, times vary according to your market).


So this is fairly cool…

As part of my Production Assistant pursuits, I had placed my name in the Texas Production Manual. I got a call from L.A. last night saying they had looked me up in the manual, and wanted to know if I was available to do a one day P.A. job for the Sharon Osbourne show which was shooting a remote in Austin.
Pretty cool.


Irons in fires and such.

I have many irons in many fires. Hopefully some will pan out.
First off, I went to the voice audition for the “Fist of the North Star” anime film. I read one part of a secondary character where I got to use a fairly normal voice, which was nice. Then I read a big muscular villain with a set of metal claws, for which I used my big, burly, deep, tear my throat up voice. That was fun. I got be the typical cocky villain with lines like “So I see you practice martial arts!” and “No one can defeat me!” and such. I then get into a fight with the main character and had to make fighty grunting noises, and eventually the other guy puts his finger on my forehead to which I retort “You think you can kill me with one finger? Absurd! Hahahahaha *gurgle*” at which point I begin to bubble, twist, and my head explodes, so I got to spend about 20 seconds just screaming and gurgling horribly. It was cool.
Still waiting to hear on the video game tech support job with NCSoft where my friend Andy works. I’m really hoping for that one.
Also had a call about a possible 12 month contract job doing PC and networking support which sounded better than my current call center job.
I also submitted both my crew and acting resumes for the new Mike Judge film, “3001” to start shooting here in April. Damn that would be cool. Of course I would have to quit my job, but for that opportunity, I think I would have to.
Thinks are back on track for the CD, so hopefully we’ll finish that up soon.
Many opportunities, however my job prevents many of them, which is obviously going to continue to be a problem. We’ll see how that all ends up. Sooner or later I must choose my muse over the man, but hopefully I can fend her off until Jess has a better job, or until some really good opportunity comes along that I can’t resist. Life is complicated and stuff.


A bump in the road, or the beginning of the end?

For the beginning of this saga, go here and read my wife’s account and my subsequent comments. What follows is my epicly long account. I’ll be surprised if anyone actually gets to the end. I’m sure I still left out tons of stuff as it’s all very in depth and complex, but here’s the basics of it all.
The musical project I’ve been working on with a collaborator and friend just about self destructed in a huge ball of flame worthy of a theatrical film.
My partner came over to bring me his latest song to listen to. He mentioned he was thinking of maybe cutting a couple of the songs we had already finished, and replacing them with some of the newer songs that he thought were better. I disagreed with this tactic because that would delay the release of the album even longer. As it stands we wanted to get about 3 more songs, but if we cut some of the already finished songs, then that means we now need 4 or 5 more songs. This eventually led to the airing of many complaints on his part about my participation in this project.
Now a little back story. The way we generally work is that he cranks out what I call “song skeletons”. He writes songs amazingly fast. He lays down the basic chords and vocals, I then take it and add the “skin” to our skeleton. I add parts, dynamics, leads, guitars, bass, and little creative parts that take the song to another level (in my purely immodest opinion). If you ever listen to one of his demos, then listen to our finished product, I think my contributions can not be trivialized. His songs are great all on their own, but I think it’s the combination of both of us that takes into another realm. I’m extremely proud of the incredible music we’ve made.
Another of the ways in which I think we compliment each other well is that he cranks out loads of really great songs, and I think I’m really good and picking out the especially “cream of the crop, goes to eleven” gems from all the good stuff to choose from. This leads to some contention because he, almost inevitably, thinks that his latest batch are the best. Every time he cranks out some new songs, they become his favorites.
The first problem to be addressed here is that this album is taking forever to finish. He blames me, because I take forever to put my parts on a song, while in the meantime he cranks out 10 more songs. I will fully admit that I could work harder and get more done. I don’t deny it. It is true. My lazy nature is one of my greatest enemies. However the problem lies in that he refuses to accept any responsibility for it. I bring up specific examples of times when he’s said he would do this or that and call me back, and then doesn’t call back for weeks, or says he’ll get me this CD, or we’ll get together this week, etc., and then just doesn’t follow through. He of course denies all of this blindly and chooses to have a very selective memory, basically acting as if I fabricate all this or like I’m not remembering events correctly. The fact is that, yes, I could crank out tunes like mad if all I did was play the basic chords and not really venture any further, but I spend about 4 hours per song composing bass parts, leads, and cool guitar parts to really do the great song writing justice, compliment the composition and create something above and beyond the norm. This is why I like to determine which song we definitely want to tackle next, and make sure it’s a “keeper” before we really fully produce it. Once we have fully produced something, I get really attached to it because we’ve both put so much of our heart and souls into it. I find it kind of funny that I become more attached to our songs than the guy who initially wrote it. For him it’s all about newer and fresher things, and he easily loses interest and discards the old creations.
This also had to do with my argument about cutting songs. On the one hand we’re both frustrated that it’s taking so long, but on the other hand if decide to cut some songs in lieu of newer ones then we’ve just pushed the finish line even further away.
Now onto the song selection process. As this album has been going along, we have constantly discussed which songs to cut next, which to cull from the demos he’s made, etc. This is another fact which he denies and says “we never discuss these things”. The 12 songs we already finished (when I say finished I mean songs that we have both laid down parts on and are therefore beyond the solo demos he’s laid down himself) were culled from a larger group of about 20, yet he seems to not remember that, and thinks we just cut the first songs that came along and therefore we should consider replacing some with some of the “newer, stronger” songs. My argument was that these were already selected because they were some of the best and strongest songs, and therefore should be put out. We can always use the new songs for another album, but if we cut any of the old songs, they are effectively put into the trash can since I seriously doubt we would ever come back to them for a future album when there’s new stuff being cranked out all the time. I say put out these 12 AND the best of the other 20, instead of replace perfectly great songs with some of the other 20. This all goes back to him always liking his new stuff best. A prime example of this is that his first 2 albums have some of his best stuff ever, in my opinion, but he generally doesn’t really think that much of them any more. This circular logic could go on forever, in that we could constantly replace old songs with “better” ones until we die and never put out an album. His retort is that we could have had an album a year ago if we’d just cranked the songs out, to which my reply is, yes, but it wouldn’t be nearly as good since we have come up with some kick ass songs that wouldn’t have been written yet. So you can see it’s a fine line of figuring out how long to cull “the best” and when to call it a finished album.
He also expressed resentment at the fact that I have time for all this “acting stuff”, appearing in silly little projects that no one will ever see, but yet producer songs so slowly, when it would be just as easy for someone else to wonder why I’m doing this “silly little music stuff that no one will ever hear” too. Now of course, I don’t believe that, but it’s all about viewpoints. He’s not into anything but music, so to him it’s all frivolous, yet I’m sure others would see musical pursuits as just as frivolous. Needless to say, I find neither frivolous. Of course he doesn’t even take into consideration how I have to pass by a lot of things I want to do because I have a normal job and because I want to spend time making this project happen. Apparently, if I don’t spend 100% of my free time devoted to music, then I’m just not interested or dedicated.
Now one big problem is that when he gets mad, or hurt, he gets totally defensive and refuses to even listen to the other side. He is totally in the right and everyone else is to blame. He also gets very self-righteous and says some very nasty things. At one point, he said maybe we should let Jess listen to everything and see what hooks her, and then later after Jess could no longer ignore the baseless accusations and circular illogical arguments and therefore started speaking her mind, he pulls out the “John an Yoko” card.
Then there’s the money issue. Early on, he was instrumental in helping us out. He was beyond generous, and one of the best friends you could ever have. However, last night he repeatedly touted his “good will”, claimed he was “the best friend I have in this town” and told me how I might be able to “learn a thing or two about song writing” from him. I think I know as much about song writing as he does. Quantity has nothing to do with quality, and I can and have written songs every bit as good as anything he’s written (which is a lot of really great songs). He also repeatedly mentioned how he’d been such a great guy when I “went back on my word” regarding some money he lent me which was patently false. I pride myself on being very honorable and loyal so this blow hurt the worst. One day I needed $520 to pay rent. He was going to pay me $200 for sessions I had done, and then lend me another $350, which I said I would pay back the next day when I got paid for a jingle. The next day I found that bills coming out of my account had cause me to not have the $350, so I called him and said I was going to borrow it from my aunt to pay him back as I’d promised. He then insisted that I could just work it off doing recording sessions and not to worry about it. Last night he then says he was just being nice. He repeatedly brings up the money I owed him and how he’s bankrolling this album etc. Jess and I both insist on paying him back whatever we still owe him immediately then, to which he repeatedly refuses.
Eventually, after feeling ganged up on, he tells Jess that this is between me and him, and not me, him, and Jess. Jess indicated that if that is how he feels, maybe he shouldn’t come over to OUR house and have a blazing argument in our living room. He storms out. I chase him down and insist we settle this financial matter right now. He says don’t worry about it, I don’t owe him anything. I repeatedly insist on giving him whatever I owe him, he repeatedly refuses and says forget about it, I don’t owe anything. We talk some more about the whole situation and each of our feelings on it, and the fact that we each consider each other like family. Eventually we come to an amicable conclusion.
However, there is definitely scar tissue from this blow up. I’m not sure that I can go on with this nagging knowledge that he assumes no responsibility at all for dropping the ball from time to time, and that I am totally responsible for the lack of progress. He disrespected my talent, my wife, my contributions, and me and though I know it was out of anger, the words cannot be taken back. Especially since I know that his words were based on his own feelings even they were exaggerated by defensiveness.
I think that the parts I add to the songs are as much an integral part of the final creation as his songwriting, but I know he would totally disagree with that. If the roles were reversed, I would give him co-songwriting credit, but I’ve known all along that he does not feel that way, and sees my contributions as cool creative additions, as opposed to integral parts of the whole. I’ve never addressed this because I know how he feels, and I can live with that, because the songs we create kick ass, and I’m not going to quibble over credit or ego, at the expense of cool music. He writes the music and the words and the melody, and while I fell my parts are equally important to the whole, I don’t think him being credited as the sole writer is necessarily wrong. In fact that’s probably how the industry would do it I imagine, but to me it’s more about personal loyalty. Hell, I still credit some old band mates with writing credits on songs that they just added guitar parts, or bass parts to or whatever. I’m all about the team, and unfortunately I know I’m in the minority in that aspect and that it will almost always lead to me being screwed over in some way, but that’s okay. I’m still going to do what I think is right regardless of what other people do.
I want this album to happen. I want this band to come together and kick the music scene in the ass. Whether it can recover from the damage done last night remains to be seen. There is definitely still discussions to be had and bridges to repair. There’s still a lot of raw nerves, and tension in the air. I do know that our relationship is forever changed. I will never go to him for any kind of help again, regardless of whether or not our professional relationship (and more importantly, our friendship) recovers from this nasty exchange, because I do not want that held over me as a weapon any time he gets pissed at me. I’m more than willing to admit my faults and do my part, but I am not willing to be the only one who does so. I just hope that this doesn’t turn into the greatest album that never was.


Doors opening and closing all around me!

So I called the PA job and told them I couldn’t do it. Then I called Jess to say hi, and while I was on the phone, I got a call to come and audition for an anime voice over job.
I thought I had blogged about this before but I can’t seem to see it anywhere. A couple of weeks ago I saw an audition notice looking for people who could sound like seven foot tall, muscle-bound road warriors of the wasteland for an anime project. I worked on my best rough, gruff road warrior voice, and initially decided that I couldn’t do it because any voice I came up with would shred my vocal chords after about 5 minutes. In fact, just practicing it trying to get a voice down was pretty trying on my throat. I figured it just wasn’t right for me so I would pass on this project. Then I thought, ahhh screw it, I’ll try and get in the door then I’ll worry about long term shredding of my voice. So I followed the instructions, called the number and left a message in my best big mean rough, deep road warrior voice.
I’m going in to the studio to audition on Thursday (and I’m still waiting to hear about the video game tech support job too).


Gut check!

Argh dammit and all that. Yesterday I get a call from an infomercial company here in Austin (actually an L.A. company who have opened an Austin branch) wanting to know if I’d be interested in being an office production assistant for the next week for $100 a day. Of course I want to, since it’s actually something I want to do, and it’s decent money. However, there’s no way I could do it without quitting my current full time job. I felt like I was being tested, as if this was the moment where I symbolically choose to either follow my dreams or live a life of wage slavery. On the drive home I kept thinking “if only I had some kind of sign, or a potential interview at NCSoft (the gaming company I want to work for here), or any other potential job then maybe it wouldn’t be so crazy to just quit my job for this opportunity”.
I got home to find an email from NCSoft telling me that there were still some Level 1 Technical Support positions available and who to contact if I was interested. Exactly the sign I had asked for. I emailed my information to the contact, and then he emailed back asking for my resume, which
I then sent him. I called the infomercial company to get the details, and I explained to them my situation. I asked how quickly they needed an answer, and she said that I could get back to her the next day. She seemed impressed by my eagerness and told me that she had some calls out to some other people, but that she would wait until she heard back from me.
She also told me to send my resume on over either way, as they would probably have some on-set gigs coming up in the future and such.
So now it’s the next day, and I’m fairly sure I’m going to have to say no, and it just kills me. There’s no way work would let me take a week off (I’m currently still a temp technically, and they’re already short handed next week due to several people going on vacation), thus the reason I would have to quit to take this one week Production Assistant job. There are two equal parts inside me fighting for dominance. One is the part that says how stupid it would be to ditch a full time decent paying job (even if it is nothing more than a paycheck and gives you no job satisfaction) for a one week job that “may” open some doors and lead to new opportunities on one of my chosen paths. The other part thinks that these are the kinds of risks you have to be willing to take if you really want to make it, and that if I don’t then I’m just being a big coward and taking the easy, safe path which is steady but unfulfilling.
Well at least the NCSoft job may come through. There is some solace in that. Life is hard.


And the Oscar for best name stealing bastard goes to…

Heath Ledger! Oh, how I doth despise thee, Ledger! Thous hast pre-empted me in becoming the first big “Heath” celebrity. Each vile word from his userping mouth on the red carpet last night stung like someone slowly dripping acid onto my forehead. He’ll rue the day! Rue, I say! There will be rueing! Not nearly enough rueing these days.
Of course I had to have my annual bout of Oscar longing, where I watch the oscars with an underlying yet throbbing melancholy, feeling like I’m peering through a window into the world where I should be living. I must have been famous in some past life or something, because the feeling is just too strong.
Billy Crystal rules, and I loved Will Ferrell and Jack Black singing the lyrics to that music that plays when an acceptance speech is too long and they want you to shut up and get off the stage. I wish I could remember it all. People.com had part of it posted:
“This is it, Your time is through, You’re boring.
“… No need to thank your parakeet You’re boring. Look at Catherine Zeta-Jones, she’s snoring …”


Whine in the key of D minor

So I’ve been going through another phase of intense life restlessness and all that. I’ve whined about it before so I’ll save it for now. Firstly, as some of you may know, I had interviewed twice at a video game company for a great job being in-game support. The interview went really well, I thought. Last week it was announced that the Austin office will be closing. This is a double whammy in that a) there goes my freakin job opportunity, and b) the market will now be flooded with video game industry people looking for jobs, thus greatly decreasing my chances of getting on with the other company I really wanted to work for.
I really want to start pursuing voice acting some more, so I tweaked my character voice demo. Feel free to listen and critique it here.
I may send out a bunch of my radio voice demos too, and see if I can’t get on with a radio station again (I was a DJ for a couple of years). I have no job satisfaction right now, and worse, it has completely sapped all my time and energy to do things I want to do (of which there are too many; acting, music, writing, directing, etc). Life makes me want to scream ARGH! or some other such exclamation. Feel free to suggest your favorite.
In other news, we have no social life. We’re like prisoners of our apartment. No one ever calls us to do anything, and about the only social interaction we get is the rare occasions when we manage to get a hold of my cousin and book some time before someone else does, or when my friend Andy actually stays in town for the weekend (which is pretty much never), and we can’t seem to crack the barrier to being included in anyone else’s activities. Thank goodness I have my wife to keep me from going totally insane.
Now scroll back up and go critique my character voice demo.


Adventures in Geekdom Part 42

I recently set out on a quest to find one remote to rule them all. I was sick of needing 6 remotes. The problem was I refused to bother unless I could truly replace them all. Not have “most” of the functionality, but never have to touch them again (of course there are many functions that I never ever use, but that’s beside the point). One big sticking point was my TiVo. Obviously it has some very specialized buttons, and I love my little TiVo remote.
After much research I narrowed it down to a few choices. I decided I definitely wanted buttons, and not a touch screen. I’ve heard many people say you never realize how much you navigate by tactile sensation until you don’t have it. There was a $100 the MX-500, remote that could “learn” any key from any other remote, and was mostly hard buttons with a small lcd that has some programmable buttons, but in the end I went with the One For All URC-6131, which is made to accommodate TiVos and TiVo like devices.
Of course the normal $18 one wasn’t good enough though. Since it’s not a learning remote, you have to rely on pre-programmed codes, which many times have most, but not all the functions you want. Therefore I got the hot rodded model with a special chip and a JP-1 interface, and included JP-1 cord to hook up to my computer. This required delving into the world of JP-1 which is very techie, and not for the weak hearted. There are entire sites, a Yahoo group, forums, and more dedicated to it. I scoured them learning about programming codes, EFC’s, Hex codes, OBC’s, and many other spoonfuls of alphabet soup. I got a few of my devices working with no problem, but a few were determined to be difficult. There was a steep learning curve, but just as I was about to give up on it all, I had a breakthrough, and from there, things started flowing.
After many posts on the forums, I determined that my best solution was to buy another remote, the One For All 8810w, available at Wal-mart, purely as a helping tool. The reason being, that it can “learn” 4 buttons, and is JP-1 ready, so I could learn buttons from my remotes with the 8810w, then use on of the programs to look at the learned codes, and use that information to help me program my own device upgrade with a few proprietary programs and spreadsheets, and upload them to my 6131,which really is the best of the bunch as far as form and function. The designers really put a lot of thought into, and I am impressed.
I am happy to say that I now have one remote that controls all 6 devices in my entertainment center, and does so marvelously. There are now 7 remotes put away in the entertainment center cabinet (6 devices, and the extra universal used just for learning buttons so as to steal their code).
In addition to that, we got Jess’s website going (aside from email which up to the web host to figure out what’s up), got her started on Movable Type, and got her Reblogger working (for Lisa’s sake), ran a bunch of errands today, and framed our authentic Egyptian papyrus scroll. All in all, it’s been a productively geeky weekend.