Category: Flotsam and Jetsam


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


Dream Theatre 73

In this dream I was back on a cruise ship again but only for a couple of weeks. It was a sort of part-time work and part-time vacation situation. At one point there was a woman who wanted to speak to someone about some kind problem and I was asked to go deal with it as they thought I had a very diplomatic nature and was good with people and handling things like this. When I arrived there was a very long dinner table and a woman at the head of it with long black hair in a long black dress. She seemed pleasant enough but then at this point I think the dream morphed into something else (or else I don’t remember what else happened before the “morph”).

Now this woman was shorter with a very short blondish kind of pixie cut. She had made her interest in me very clear and we were holding hands and running around looking for some place private to make out. We found what was the equivalent of a kind of portable little booth about the size of one those photo booths. It was basically a rectangular portable frame (PVC pipe maybe) with a 2 person bench inside and a curtain you could draw closed. We dashed inside and drew the curtain, exchanging passionate, hungry words and kisses. Then a Maitre D type person arrived with someone who apparently reserved this booth for dinner. The lady and I excused ourselves and apologized as we pondered where to go. I think we both had other people sharing rooms with us so neither of our rooms was an option. I also wondered how the hell someone could have dinner in the tiny booth that was basically a bench with a curtain.

Then I woke up feeling high from all those chemicals you feel in a new romance. I daydreamed of my mystery shipboard lady for the rest of the day.


Making Love Songs Like Jim Steinman Did, Y’all

Apparently, I never chronicled the release of this song here on my blog, only on social media. I had this idea many years ago but never actually wrote it until suddenly in August of 2021 I just had the urge and spat it out very quickly. I then set about trying to recreate the song “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All” by Air Supply which was written by Jim Steinman who wrote all of Meat Loaf’s hits as well as “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” and others. He definitely had a very signature style and I loved his epic, very theatrical sound. I decided to re-write the lyrics to be a formula on how to pen a Steinmanesque tune and tried to painstakingly recreate the music of the original as close as I could.


Time Capsule To A Younger Me

Just sitting in a recliner in an AirBNB, reading a script for a possible future project, waiting for my call sheet to see when I film the next two days, had to turn down an audition because I won’t be back before it’s due, then when I get back I shoot a couple of things for Zero World and jump on several VO projects as well, prepare for some road shows with Texas Comedies, finish some original music for and make an appearance in a film with an awesome team, prepare for a quirky, original play coming up, and various practices and gigs with various bands. So I take this moment to project this back through time to a younger Heath with artistic dreams to say this: we are far from where we want to be (at times it feels astronomically far), and can often feel frustrated, stagnant, and weary, and want to give it all up yet also know that we could never be happy and fulfilled following any other path, but all in all in the big picture, we’re doing alright, kid. We’re doing alright. And most of all, we’re good people with a good head and a good heart. #gratitude