Author: Heath

15
Jul
2023
15:35

Some More Info On The Actors’ Strike

A few people have expressed support and empathy for the actors’ and writers’ strikes but also said they don’t exactly understand what’s going on. Here’s a little more info. There are many issues on the table, but a couple of the key issues are residuals and AI usage.

Residuals are what actors get paid each time a show airs or a movie plays. In the past, TV and film residuals were how most actors (and writers) survived. You have to understand a few key things here. Firstly, 99% of actors are not rich. 99% of actors, even actors you might know from TV and film, are working actors just trying to pay the bills like anyone else. Our job is mostly auditioning. So, basically we are constantly interviewing for jobs. I once heard a statistic that if an actor is booking 10% of their auditions, that’s really good. 90% rejection means you’re doing well. If you book the job, there are many different levels and contracts, but in general you get paid a certain fee for the days you work. Then, with larger TV and film projects, you get paid a smaller percentage every time it airs. Just like how musicians get paid every time a song is played on the radio or on TV or in a film. This not only helps get us through to the next job, since we don’t get paid to audition, but is also only fair as the places playing the show or movie are making money from that every time they show it, so the creators also get a cut.

Enter the age of streaming. Streaming is still fairly new, and as such, both movie and music executives have used it as an opportunity to put more money in their pockets and screw over artists such as actors, writers and musicians. Streaming is considered a different medium from TV or film, and thus has different contracts. Those residuals that actors and writers used to survive on? They are practically nonexistent in streaming. Where someone in a major television show might have been able to survive for a year on their residuals in the past, with streaming they are literally getting checks for pennies. There are countless stories out there of actors and writers on huge shows making almost nothing from streaming. So this is one thing the guilds are fighting for. Just trying to get streaming in line with the contracts that have been in place for film and television for many decades. Streaming is not some weird “exception” that shouldn’t have to pay the same agreed-upon rates as TV and film. Streaming is TV and film now, and actors and writers should be able to make the same livings as they have from TV and film in the past. As mentioned, the same thing has happened in the music world. Whereas a hit song used to make an artist rich in the era of radio and albums, now you could have  the biggest hit song on the planet, and yet not make enough to live on from the streaming revenue.

Now let’s talk AI. The studios have proposed being able to pay a background actor, or “extra,” one time for one day’s work and then have the right to use their likeness forever with no additional pay or consent. This is ludicrous, and I’m sure will eventually try to  extend past just background actors. This would be like you getting a job, and then getting paid for one day of work to train a robot to do your job, and then you never work again. Eventually there would be no need to hire any new background actors, because if you have a data bank full of them that you can just pop in for free to as many crowd scenes in as many movies as you want, why would you pay some human to do that? There are a lot of very troubling potential precedents with AI right now. Offering voice actors a one-time fee to add their voices to the AI data bank so that they can then just generate future voiceovers without the need to hire you again. 

These are just quick, simplified, “tip of the iceberg” examples to try and help those of you who have expressed empathy and a desire to understand more about exactly what is going on. It’s not simply greedy actors, or successful millionaire “stars” asking for more money. Art, storytelling, and escapism have been giant and necessary parts of humanity practically since we emerged from the primordial soup. Everyone consumes it. Everyone uses it to get through hard times, to decompress, to get inspired, to feel something. And yet so many take it for granted and want to villainize those who create it as worthless, greedy children playing with toys. And the millionaire/billionaire executives want just that. For you to not be looking at them, but instead directing your ire at these “unreasonable, lazy bohemians!” I can’t even really blame the uninformed for falling prey to this. Our industry is strange and unlike the typical jobs people are used to, and therefore the inevitable comparisons just don’t work. You can’t compare “salaries” or “wages,” as it’s apples to oranges in how it all works and breaks down. I also realize that not everyone is lucky enough to be doing something they love or are truly invested in, and that can be tough. As humans we can fall prey to the “Misery loves company” aspect and it can be hard to empathize with and support others for many different reasons. I fall prey to that. I’ve definitely worked jobs that made me feel like a tiny piece of my soul died each day. That aspect of humanity, along with the lack of actual working knowledge of the job makes it easy to trivialize the arts as “not real jobs” that are frivolous and easy. A lot of it is amorphous, esoteric, and hard to quantize and explain to those in more traditional industries that are more familiar to most folks involving standard hourly wages or monthly salaries and a 40 hour work week. We all walk a unique path and I do find myself truly hoping that everyone I see is happy with their life whether it be as an actor, a programmer, a person working at a sandwich shop, a dentist, an accountant, someone who make tchotchkes for flea markets, or anything else I encounter on my path.

So to those who feel need to bash and trivialize artists and their industry, I can’t pretend to know the seed lodged deep in your heart that makes you feel the need for this bile, but I sincerely hope that despite your attitudes and efforts, we the targets of your ire get to keep making things that might help make your short sojourn on this spinning rock a little bit better. 

14
Jul
2023
22:13

First Impressions Of My Zoom B2 Four

I had been using my Line 6 Helix as my bass rig either direct to house or run through my QSC 10.2. It’s an awesome bass rig but I’m a pretty simple man when it comes to bass and I didn’t need that many options and I also wanted to see if I could find something smaller.

First I tried the Tech 21 Bass Fly Rig. I just didn’t click with it. I had looked at the new Zoom B3n but it didn’t have an XLR out which was a deal breaker for me. Then a friend and bandmate said she had the Zoom B3 and loved it. It’s the older, now discontinued version and in my opinion (and others I’ve read) superior to the newer B3n, and it has an XLR. I was looking at used B3s when I decided to search “bass multi-fx” here on Sweetwater and see if anything else looked promising. The Zoom B6 looked great but again, way more than I needed. Then I stumbled upon the B2 Four. PERFECT.

Small, simple, yet still LOTS of options, and it had an XLR out. I was also very impressed by the design in that the navigational buttons are on a raised corner meaning you can use them fairly easily with your foot too. Looks sleek. You can “only” have 5 FX at a time (that includes amp sims) but that’s plenty enough for me.

Today I went through all 250 presets and was very impressed. They sounded great and spanned lots of sounds and genres and most were very usable. It’s fairly intuitive and if I have one complaint it’s that the manual is pretty sparse and basic but has all the information you absolutely need. My first impression is that there are tons of great emulations and a huge variety of ways to run it. I’d be surprised if you couldn’t find many sounds you like and cover anything you would want.

There’s many varieties of all the different kinds of FX, plus a great selection of preamps, amp/cab emulations, and a dedicated switch that steps through 6 different modeled DI boxes, 3 tube varieties and 3 SS versions. Or you can just turn it off, which I do since I run amp/cab sims so it seems weird to put a modeled DI after an amp/cab sim.

I also wasn’t exactly sure how the preamp models should be used. It seemed strange to me to put a preamp in front of an amp/cab sim, but some of the presets definitely did that, and I mean there’s really no “rules.” If it sounds good, it sounds good. I might just be too mired in old analog thinking of “Bass into amp/cab.” I mean who knows, maybe a preamp into an amp/cab and running one of the DI models might produce something cool. I haven’t tried yet. The presets also serve as a great way to learn the unit by analyzing them and seeing what’s running verses what you’re hearing. I remember one preset that was running the pitch shifter module but not actually doing any pitch shifting, but the unit itself definitely drastically changed the tone just being on. Another one used that same unit with a pitch shift of 1 cent to get a pretty good “With A Little Help From My Friends” sound. I never would have thought to use it in those ways.

I’m very happy with it and can’t wait to give it full run at next week’s gigs where I’ll probably run XLR straight to front of house. I have a simple patch set up with a noise suppressor, compressor, drive, and chorus, into an amp/cab, and I can use the 3 footswitches to toggle the compressor, drive, and chorus on/off. Your mileage and needs may vary but this unit was EXACTLY what I was looking for.

14
Jul
2023
12:36

The Entertainment Industry

I made a post today about the SAGAFTRA and WGA strike and why I support it. It’s only noon and I’m exhausted already by the trolls and uninformed idiots with an agenda who have come out of the woodwork like roaches.

I want to make people understand the entertainment industry but also must accept that it is an impossible task. I’m curious as to how anyone with the spoons would have replied to the troll I deleted who laid out average salaries of TV writers and such as if it was ridiculous that they were asking for more. I couldn’t even. I’m tired. I can’t explain to every idiot why our industry is so weird, misunderstood, complex and abnormal. How making $2000 for a day of shooting a commercial may seem like a lot to people not in the industry but is NOT when you consider all things such as cuts that go to agents and such, and how that might be your only payday this month. How residuals are fair compensation and make up for the unsteady nature of our business and yes people do deserve to get paid not just once, but every time something is shown. The naysayers always have some come back like “Well then learn a real trade” or “Get a real job.” I want to make people understand and yet do not have the will. They just see the seemingly high numbers and have no understanding how that breaks down and can not be compared to a salary or hourly wage.

EVERYONE enjoys and consumes art. Needs it to survive. All the creators of it deserve what they get paid. Billions of dollars are made off it and the distribution of that is extremely uneven. Yet so many want to paint us as spoiled children who get paid ridiculous amounts of money for “playing pretend.” I want to make them understand, but I haven’t the spoons. And their minds are probably dense and impenetrable anyway so any attempt would be futile.

06
Jul
2023
15:56

Threads Is Here

Let’s talk “Threads” day 1! Threads is Instagram’s new Twitter-like text-based social media platform. I had heard surprisingly little about it so I was totally shocked when suddenly it was live yesterday. By the time I signed up at around 10PM or so, I was already around the 7.6 millionth account (you get a badge on your Instagram profile telling you this information, which can be turned off if you wish).

I have really enjoyed my initial foray there. And big kudos to having something like 10 million people sign up and the app remained functional if maybe a little sluggish, but it held up! There has been some confusion and weirdness but still pretty great for such a huge simultaneous launch.

The first thing I noticed after signing up was that there were a bunch of follow requests awaiting my approval, but then other ones were just automatic. As far as I can tell, any requests that came in before I signed up, I had to approve, but any that came in after I did not (since I have a public account anyone can follow). I wondered how really big account would deal with logging on for the first time and having a million follow requests to approve, since I imagine most people do what I did which was the one-click “follow everyone I follow on Instagram” option.

I’ve really enjoyed the people I’ve seen there. At least in these golden early hours, it seems like a lot of really cool fun people with a really enjoyable atmosphere. Now the developers have made it clear that this is still in the very early stages with bare bones features so there will be a lot more coming. For example, at the moment you have a single “Home” feed. It’s algorithmic and there’s no way to choose “chronological” or “Just see people I’m following.” You will see lots of folks you aren’t following. There IS a setting however, if you dig into profile (bottom right)>settings (top right)>notifications>Threads and replies where you can set “First threads” to “From people you follow” instead of the default “from everyone.”

While normally I am big fan of the “People I follow, in chronological order” feed, I actually found myself enjoying the algorithmic feed and discovering cool, fun, new people to play with. I was surprised how much I liked it as my gut instinct was “Nope, hope they fix that soon.”

At the moment there’s no hashtags, no thread search (you can only search for people), no DMs, no edit post function (probably my #1 complaint), and a lot of other missing functions that I’m sure will come. Still, from what I’ve seen it seems very well received for the most part with people posting about how addicted they already are and how much fun they’re having.

Another common complaint is that by default the app vibrates every time a new notification comes in if you have the app open and are using it though it’s not obvious why it’s vibrating. I have notifications completely off on my iPhone for the app and it still does this. The only solution I found to go to profile>notifications and turn on the “Pause all” option which will only let you pause for up to 8 hours at a time.

When I logged on this morning, I found that weirdly I couldn’t see any notifications or replies that were more than few hours old, which I imagine has to be a glitch. I easily imported my IG profile info, and my verification transferred over as well. A few concerns that have been raised are that the app does ask for a lot of data permissions which makes privacy police VERY uncomfortable. Also once you sign up, you cannot delete your Threads account without also deleting your Instagram account. They are (at least for now) irrevocably linked.

Will Threads be the new “Twitter” over the trash fire that is now Elon’s abomination, as well as over BlueSky (which seemed to me to have the most interest), or Mastodon (which has not had a hugely wide adoption sadly)? Only time will tell, but if I was a betting man, I think I’d put my money on Threads. Why? First and foremost, people hate change. They want the path of least resistance and Threads offers that for anyone who is already in Instagram, which is a whole lotta people. While I personally found Mastodon not all that complicated, it just just different enough to put a whole lot of people off. They don’t understand “instances” or exactly where they should sign up or what that even means. BlueSky is still invitation only so most folks are still just waiting for their chance to get in and even try it (it’s also still in the very early beta phase). It’s supposedly going to connect to the decentralized Fediverse (if that’s meaningless gobbledegook to you, you are not alone, it’s still a very new and confusing to most), just like Mastodon and BlueSky. And admittedly it was very nice to just be able to auto-follow everyone I follow on IG, and already accrue almost 3K followers on a brand new platform, I’m guessing because of many of my 89K IG followers using that “auto-follow” option.

At the moment, it’s definitely a fun new toy that has a very enjoyable vibe. I’m definitely very interested to see how it all shakes out in the long term.

20
Jun
2023
14:11

Dream Theatre 75

At the end of night full of kinda crappy dreams, this was the finale. I was with a girl I dated in the early 90’s. We were at some kind of school dance in a weirdly laid out gymnasium type room where the elevated stands took up like half of the small court area and almost reached all the way widthwise across to the other wall and kind of half blocked the one entrance. She and I saw this girl in the stands in a bright blue sort of puffy Cinderella-esque dress pull out two razor blades with a malicious look. On that cue, several other girls in matching dresses of different colors pulled out razor blades too.

We retreated toward the door and found that some others had already found it was barred shut from the other side. As the razor girls came toward us, I grabbed a metal folding chair and swung it at the hands of the girl in blue hoping to disarm her and tried to retreat more. At that point I wasn’t sure what happened but it appeared that they had been overwhelmed by the rest of the crowd in the gym who I presumed had taken them down and got control of thing.

Next scene was my girlfriend and I laying on a bed in the corner right by the entrance to the gym as the Principal stood by the doors as someone unbarred them from the other side and opened them. I said “That’s pretty unsafe only having one set of doors in or out!” She agreed. My girl and I just laid there on this random gym corner bed recovering from the ordeal.

14
Jun
2023
13:59

Simply The Best

I’m someone who’s always looking for the “best” or “most optimal” choice. When it come to literally anything. I often research “the best…” when buying something. Anything. New electric toothbrush? DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE OF “BEST ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSHES!” Is there possibly a “better” pillow out there than mine? RESEARCH!

But it extends to much more ephemeral things too. My hair. I kind of like my hair longer but I also like it shorter. So then I think “Well shorter is definitely much easier so that’s probably the way to go,” but then somehow worry about what if longer is “better” somehow? Like if you polled the entire world what if longer came out on top and would therefore be better and appeal to more people? Same with my beard. I like my mostly silvery beard but I also like being clean shaven (and look about 10 years younger for what that’s worth). But again, somehow I search for an “optimal” answer knowing damn well there isn’t one. It’s all subjective.

Mainly I just find this an interesting personality quirk of mine and wonder where it stems from psychologically. It has its perks certainly lends to my analytical mind and why I worked in QA for many years, but it can also kind of be exhausting spending so much brain power analyzing and trying to decide something where there is no definitive “right” answer.

06
Jun
2023
1:06

Dating History Patterns

For some reason I was just thinking about my dating history and the patterns that appear amused me.

“Girlfriend” #1 (~1987 I think, all dates will be hazy approximate guesses; really just a first kiss and a couple of weeks of casually “dating”): met doing a children’s theatre production of Tom Sawyer with ‘Magination Station

#2 (~’87 or ’88?): also just a quick casual thing that barely really qualifies (though I did write a kick ass song that would make you think it was some epic love affair): met doing a play (I can’t remember which one).

#3 (~1989): Met doing children’s theatre at ‘Magination Station

4 (~1991): Met when I was the villain and she was the heroine in the melodrama “Caught In The Villain’s Web” at StageCenter.

#5 (~1993): another super casual, occasional makeout scenario. Met doing dinner theatre.

#6 (~1993): Met in some theater production. Maybe “Smoke On The Mountain” with The Aggie Players (I wasn’t an Aggie though, just born and raised there).

#7 (~1994): Met when we both worked at Texas Renaissance Festival.

#8 (~1995): Met when we both worked at Sears (This one is the biggest anomaly).

#9 (~1998): Met on the internet. I can’t remember where exactly. A musicians group maybe as we were both musicians? She lived (and still lives in Australia). This was the super early days of internet.

#10 (~2001): Met on the internet on a message board for Buffy The Vampire Slayer. She lived in England. We quickly started dating. She visited here. I visited there and we got engaged in the airport in Scotland waiting for my plane back home. She moved here and we were married for 8 years.

#11 (~2009): We went to school together from elementary through high school but never really knew each other well. Re-met on FB around the time of our 30th reunion and lots of folks were reconnecting. She lived in another state.

#12 (~2011): Met on FB through a mutual friend’s post.

#13 (2013): Met in a production of Macbeth at City Theater.

The End.

I’m social media friends with about half of them. Many of the others aren’t on social media or we lost contact, but no bad blood with any of them.

10
Mar
2023
16:05

Tips for IEM cleaning

As a professional musician, I’ve used IEMs (In-Ear Monitors) for many years now. They let me hear everything great as well as protect my hearing from loud stage levels, and they’re especially great for me since I’ve used digital modeling gear for decades now and don’t use an on-stage amp most of the time.

One difficulty with them is keeping them clean. Obviously this starts with your ears. I usually use an ear irrigation bottle to clean my ears before a gig. Usually just with water in the shower. Sometimes for a deep cleaning, I’ll pour a capful of hydrogen peroxide in one ear at a time, and let it do its work for a few minutes before turning over and letting it drain out on a tower. Please note I am not a doctor and I would definitely consult an audiologist or ENT before just listening to a guy on the internet.

Now despite trying to keep my ears clean, sometime your IEMs will still get some wax in them. They usually come with a small cleaning tool but it doesn’t go in very deep. Sometimes at a gig I’ll feel like one of my IEMs has stopped working but it’s always just blocked up and clearing the blockage brings everything back to normal. Recently I had a problem though in that some wax had gotten lodged deeper than the cleaning tool could reach. I managed to clear it with the gentle use of a pin but there was still some deep in there. I highly recommend getting translucent IEMs (mine are purple) as they allow to see inside them and know if there’s something lodged deep in there.

I have Cosmic Ears IEMs so I wrote to them asking what I should do. They told me I could send my IEMs to them (in the UK) and pay £50 for a “Deep Cleaning.” Naturally I did not want to spend that much plus shipping and be without my IEMs for an extended period of time. I started searching for other solutions. I found some “IEM Vacuums” online but they were all pretty expensive and with mixed reviews as to results. That’s when I discovered this simple, cheap hearing aid cleaning kit which seemed like just what I needed.

I really thought that it would be pretty tough to get that stuff out from deep in my IEMs and that I might risk pushing it in further, but I was pleasantly shocked at how easily I managed to gently maneuver the small flexible wire on one of the tools and easily pull some small wax chunks from deep down. I basically sat a bright LED flashlight on its end, held my transparent IEMs over it so I could see exactly what I was doing, and within a few minutes, I had them totally cleaned out!

Another tool that came in handy was a simple solder sucker similar to this one. I had one small chunk that I got near then end but couldn’t seem to coax out, and that solder sucker sucked it right out!

Obviously there are risks involved with everything mentioned here so be careful, gentle, and attempt at your own risk, but I was happy to find a good solution that worked for me that I could use regularly myself at home!

20
Feb
2023
21:36

Kvetching About “The Biz”

I don’t generally like complaining on the internet, but sometimes it is a really helpful part of the process to just get it out. Acting and music are the reasons I am in this universe. The things I have the most passions for and that make me feel the most fulfilled and alive. The “business” part of “show business” however is brutal, exhausting, and demoralizing. I’ve mentioned before how not many days go by that part of my doesn’t want to just quit, but also I know I can’t. I’d never be happy.

My acting career has been in what feels like the most stagnant slump ever for the last couple of years. Now of course, much of this could be simple skewed perception and many of my peers have expressed similar feelings that the business in general has been much slower and tougher. I realized last week that I felt like I have just kind of “given up.” Not given up acting, as I don’t think that could ever happen, but I realized I had only been doing things that just happened to come to me. When my agent sends me an audition, I do it and do my best. When someone comes to me with a role or a chance to audition I take it. Outside of that, however, I’m not doing anything for myself. I’m not hustling, chasing, looking. I’m not working on putting demo reels together or scouring casting sites for roles I can submit myself for. I’m just tired and demoralized and feel like nothing is really going to change unless some equivalent of a lottery ticket win just somehow finds me and drops in my lap. I feel stuck and frustrated.

While “fame” has never sounded like something I didn’t want, it has also never been the goal. All I’ve ever really wanted is to the things I love and do them well, and hopefully pay the bills while doing those things. And truthfully, from a certain perspective, I am doing that. I definitely try to never lose sight of that fact and that I’m living a life that would make younger me scream “Holy shit! You are living THE LIFE!” I definitely try to be happy in every present moment and not constantly adjust my sights so that reaching one goal is no longer satisfactory and I just push it further to something else I don’t have, but I don’t think that’s what this is. I’ve always had a vision for what I wanted to do and the life I wanted to live, and this isn’t it. It’s a good life, and on the path I want to be on, but I want more (a seemingly perpetual human condition).

I think the frustration stems from feeling like I just don’t have access to the opportunities I want and feel equipped for. There’s so much luck and things beyond our control and that’s always going to be the case. It’s almost as if I’m so close to it but still kept away from it, which in a ways is more frustrating than something seeming so far away as to the path to it being incomprehensible.

This is not necessarily anything new and I feel like it’s a common phase that all my artist friends go through. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating though. To those of you still hustling and busting your asses trying to make things happen, I salute you. I wish I could at least say “Well I’m doing everything I can on my end so I have no fault in any career dissatisfaction” but that would absolutely be a lie.

I shall try to heed my own words from the past and “Keep my head down and do good work.”