Saturday, December 15, 2012

THANX HATERZ

With all going on with my Mad Skillz class and upcoming show, I was reminded of a good story today from  when I was in 10th grade Biology class.  Guns N' Roses' Use Your Illusion records had just been release, Pearl Jam was all over the radio, and Nirvana had a huge buzz all over school.  I, however, was rockin' my 1988 DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper tape in my Walkman.  Since rock was the mainstream at the time, I of course would be liking something that nobody was into which was rap. 

The first cassette I ever bought on my own was DJJJ+FP's"And In This Corner..." right at the end of 8th grade. I adored that record (and still do) so a couple of years later, I was checking out their back catalog.  The first time I heard the title track, I was blown away by how complex and hard hitting the rhyme flow was.  I bumped that record constantly from the summer into the 10th grade.  I wrote a ton of rhymes on my textbook covers trying to do something similar to what they were doing.  I lived, breathed, and recited that record all of the time - in between classes, at lunch, when I got home.  It gave me the reinforcement to pursue music as a performance medium.

There was this guy in class Colin who LOVED to torment me.  I was his favorite guy to pick on during that class.  I was nerdy, not popular, and different enough to not fit in.  So, the daily ritual went as follows:
  • I'd show up to class 5-7 minutes early. Colin would already be there.
  • I'd put on my headphones to block out everyone else and get a little bit of solace before class began.
  • Colin would see me and get together with his buddies in class to call me names and threaten me.
  • I'd appear to ignore them but would listen to every word they were saying.
  • After class started, everything would be fine until about the last 2-3 minutes where we'd start packing up to go to our next class.  I'd think about all of the things I should've done in retaliation.
After weeks of this routine, other people in class would start sticking up for me at times and would make an effort to reach out.  I kept bumping these songs ad nauseum  and bega  writing my battle rhymes in the event we ever met in a court of music.  I would anihilate the dude not with fists but with words.

At our high school reunion,  I kind of hoped I would run into the guy just to see how he was doing.  He didn't go (at least I don't think he did) but I had some of those battle rhymes stuck in my heads.  I was going to thank him for being a dick all of the time back in high school.  If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have practice my craft so much.

I feel I have gained a leg up from that experience with free-styling and song composition.  Can't wait to use that past pain to fuel my future happiness.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Budget Cuts Affect Us All

We've decided (or rather were forced) to go on a budget.  we're cutting out our second biggest expenditure - eating out.  WE LOVE TO EAT especially at restaurants.  Over time, that adds up quickly to a lot of wasted money.  We're even going to be picky about what food we're going to buy.  we cut cable (right as The Walking Dead was getting good), cut our home phone line, and are watching our gas cinsumption (my biggest expenditure).  After 1 day of going without fast food, I am feeling the effects.

The first thing I noticed were the habits I got into eating out all of the time.  I had done an audition in the middle of the day in Chicago and had class at night.  There was no point in going back to Indiana to just come back up again to Chicago so I decided to hang out and work from the city.  To avoid spending money on food, I packed a lunch and dinner with me.  Right after the audition was done, I started driving north to find a spot I can work in close to where my class was being held.  I began driving north and all of a sudden I noticed that I was automatically heading over to Uncle Julio's Hacienda!  DAH!  I passed it up and was about to turn around and went, "Wait.  I have a cot damn lunch!  STOP IT!"  Right then I knew this was going to be harder than I thought.

I ate my lunch ravenously and felt better.  I then went to Starbucks and got my planned snack and drink before dinner while I worked.  No problem.  However, right as dinner time approached I was starting to get super hungry again.  I had grabbed a couple of microwavable cups of lasagna on my way out for dinner along with a fork.  Then I realized, "Hey, I don't have access to a microwave!"  The prospect of having to eat the food cold was not very enticing. 

After taking a nap in the car (opa gungham style), I decided to leave my car where it was and walk the four and a half blocks to the class location.  I've not been exercising since I moved to Crown Point so I feel like I needed to walk a bit more (getting kinda doughy).  I took my food with me and began my journey.  I got the my destination in 15 minutes which left 30 minutes before my scheduled class was supposed to start.  I decided to break down and buy the cheapest food I could find to hold me over until I got home.  I kept walking.

A friend of mine called me and saved the day by reminding my that local convenience stores have microwaves.  Luckily I was in the vicinity of 7-11 so I headed over there with a renewed sense of purpose.  I bought my allotted drink, warmed up my food, and tore it apart quickly as I walked back to class.  Mission accomplished!

After class, I was again hungry.  I decided to go home instead of hanging out with some classmates as that would necessitate eating out.  My stomach was in turmoil all the way home but I told my self to chill out and wait to get home.  I drove rather slowly to save on gas as well.  Once I got home, I went straight to bed to avoid consuming calroies I knew I wasn't going to burn off.

So back to my initial question.  I by no means am poor but this experience made me question what I would do if I were poor.  Eating is important but eating gross amounts of food like I've been doing is bad for my health and especially my wallet.  By no means am I trying to draw a true parallel between my situation and someone who really has no means to eat well.  I just feel that I just gained some new insight into how hard it could be to stay well fed when you've restricted your options.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Oh The Guilt...

OK. I'm not 100% sure about putting this out into the web of trolls and daemons but I need to find an outlet for these feelings and I have yet to get a shrink.

My father recently had glaucoma surgery after it was revealed that he needed to do this before getting cataract surgery.  So, we set it up for him to get his surgery performed while my brother was here.  He went through a week of recovery with my brother present and a week without us while we tried to get him some help from a home care professional group.  little did we know that trying to get people to act quickly to help him out would be impossible (I predict a blog rant on health care in the near future).  So, as a result of the lack of consistent care for his eye and Dad fawking with it, he erase all of the progress in that eye and is on the verge of being blind.

Great.

The basic feeling I am harboring right now is guilt.  I feel guilty that my Dad is in this state and my inaction to directly be involved in his life contributed to it.  There's guilt that he's in pain.  I feel guilty that I can't bring myself to tell him this now to his face and like a coward instead am writing it on my cot damn blog.  I feel guilty that my Mom had to support my Dad all be herself and that as a result it killed her spirit to live for herself.  I feel guilty that all alternatives that we have to give my Dad care are all pretty much bad choices and I am going to help make decisions on his behalf that are probably in his best interest but in the end are against his will.  I also feel guilty that my Wifey has had to hold down the fort for almost two weeks straight with the kiddos.  Oh...and my best friend pulled a lot of strings to try to connect this week and now I have renege on the plans to care for my father (he's cool with it and understands but it still sucks).

Logically, I know that I am only responsible for myself; Dad played a 98% part in ending up in this situation.  He fought tooth and nail to allow people to help him and be an actual part of his life.  My step brothers and sisters don't talk to him anymore, he pushed away his immediate family for a long time, and now that he's really in trouble, he all of a sudden is going along with our decisions.  Even knowing what part he played in all of this, I can't help feeling this way.

So, I am going to take it one hour at a time and focus on good things that have resulted thus far.  At least I have:
  • helped put into motion the actions to try to give my Dad a better quality of life.
  • teamed up with my brother and in-laws on this.
  • utilized the time to reconnect with my feelings even if I don't like them right now.  I feel like I am confronting my deepest issues right now.  I have been more honest about how I am feeling with people lately and that is a good thing even if some may construe it me whining/complaining/being week.
  • been writing A LOT more.  I'm on a crazy writer's trip.
As a friend of mine said, "Nelson is the bomb."  Yep. I'm the bomb.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

I've Got Friends In Low Places...

At risk of dashing some people's well-formed and outstanding perception of me, I have to leave out a few details from this story, but feel free to hit me up on the street to get the missing details :) .  What's important in this blog is the message and not the details surrounding how the message was arrived to.

I decided to go out and visit the nightlife of major Midwestern town outside of Chicago.  I took a long a new found buddy of mine Pete for the ride as we both didn't really have a whole lot to do in the evenings after all-day meetings at work other than eat, drink, and sleep.  We decided to go hit up a local establishment we had read about online that promised to be both entertaining and engaging in different ways.  After a quick bite to eat at a sports bar (where I missed out on a chance for live band karaoke - here known as "bandiokie"), we headed on over.

Eventually through the night's festivities, we ended up talking with a girl and a group of her friends sitting near us.  After busting out a freestyle rap about them as an ice breaker, we hung out with them for about two hours telling jokes, sharing stories, and having pleasant conversation. Then shite got real.  I gave her a hypothetical question:

"It's your day off.  Some one hands you $10,000.  What do you do with it?"

She thought about it for a bit and said, "Well, I'd go get a massage.  I don't know.  Then like, go get my nails done.  Do I need to spend it all in one day?"

"It's up to you," I responded.  She was very uneasy with the fact she couldn't really answer the question.  So, of course, she turned the question back on me.  "What you do with $10,000?"

"Well," I started out, "I would wake up and thank the person giving me the money.  Well, I guess I'd already be awake at this point so I would just thank that person.  Then I'd get dressed," I said to break up the tension a little bit.

"Then, I'd call my man Pete here, go to Guitar Center, get some instruments, some recording equipment, set it up in my basement, then jam out and record a $10,000 record."

The second I said this, her entire demeanor changed from a subdued state to complete animation. "YES!  YES!," she said.  "That's what I would do!  I would totally - you don't know how much I've wanted to be a singer."

"Can you sing?" I asked her.

She smiled and said, "Yes, totally."

"Then why aren't you pursuing it?" I asked.  By this time, her friends had bailed so Pete and I had her undivided attention. "If you know you're a singer, go out and sing!"

"Well, I haven't found people yet to do it with," she said in a defeated tone of voice.

"So?  You no longer need a 'band' to be able to perform.  You can sing in the shower, on the train, in a car, a corner - you can sing in the middle of a Starbucks.  Just ask Pete!"

"Yeah," Pete responded pointing at me. "We were at Starbucks earlier and he was singing all kinds of crazy stuff."

"Well, I've got to get my head together first.  I've been trying to straighten out my life for the last three years,"  she said trailing off

Right as she was about to say something else like "Oh, I can't do that!" or "That's not me", I spoke up in a very confident voice and said, "Look.  You can accomplish anything you truly want to.  You are your own worst enemy (Ed. - ironically enough, I had chosen "My Own Worst Enemy" by Lit to sing at bandiokie but ran out of time).  Stop blocking yourself from achieving something that makes you happy.  This is what I want you to do."

I took out a piece of paper and folded it in half length-wise then opened it back up.

"Fold a piece of paper, a napkin, a manual - any piece of paper like this.  On the left side of this paper, title it 'Things I Will Do'.  On this side, you will jot down things that you are most definitely going to do no matter what.  Nobody will be able to stop you from doing it.  You could get shot right now and you'd still find a way to get it done.  Nobody will stand in your way.  Then on the right side, title it 'Things the Universe Will Do'.  List here the things that you want to happen; from getting a large amount of money to traveling to becoming famous - write it all here.  These are the things you're going to allow the Universe to align itself to provide you without any direct effort from you.  Don't worry about this side.  Just trust it will happen eventually."

This girl's entire demeanor totally changed after giving her this advice.  it was like her opening up a present on Christmas morning because she just lit up like the Christmas tree.  She looked at us as if she were on the verge of crying and said, "I...I totally needed this...something...to show me that I can do this...because I can do this...I just really needed a sign to let me know..."

With that statement, it was like *BAM* we're all connected here.  Her smiles seemed empty all night but now they were totally full of life and vigor.  She definitely put on a show for everyone but we cut right through that quickly.

Before we left, she was so overwhelmed with joy that she gave us a nice hug and was like, "I'm going to do this.  I'm going to this!"  Pete and I walked all of the way back to the hotel talking about what we just experienced.  We all left feeling like we were all in a better place.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

It's My Birthday! Do Me A Favor...

Today's my birthday. I get to be a young 36 years old.  I do like the fact that various social media forums remind people it's my birthday especially after my little experiment a couple of years ago on it.  I now take all well wishes as genuine so thank you all who have been wishing me a happy birthday via text, email, and online.  I'd like to take your well wish one step further this year.

As a present to me, I'd like you to take a little but of action.  If you can, please support my efforts with Salsation for my birthday today.  Do any of three things (or all of them :)):
  1. Attend our event Word Up! on October 6th @ 7:30 PM at Gorilla Tango Theatre (1919 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, Il, $10). I will be performing slam poetry for the first time and could really use the support that night with friendly faces in the crowd.
  2. If you can't attend #1, consider making  a small donation to Salsation via our website at Salsation.org (look on the right side for the Google donation cart).  We could use the money to keep the machine going :)  We're a 501c3 not-for-profit so your donation is tax-deductable.
  3. If #1 or #2 don't tickle your fancy, share the event online via Twitter and/or Facebook.  It will take you 10 seconds to do and I will again be eternally grateful for your second gift to me this day.
Thank you all for the warm thoughts and well wishes.  Love you all.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

QUESTION: What Is A "Waka Flocka"?

 

 As response to my previous blog, I was told in an email:

"I'm still trying to figure out what a 'Waka Flocka' is...I hope it's nothing that if I say it to my kids they'll say 'MOM!!!! You shouldn't be saying that in public!'"  - CZ

Well CZ, here's what I learned about Waka Flocka from the extensive research my assistants have performed.  The Waka Flocka is an endangered species protected by the federal government. There's only a couple left that I know of:
  • The Flame subspecies that we previous documented.
  • Wocka Fozzie Bear subspecies that's well known throughout the United States. This second kind can be quite hilarious at times to watch in its natural environment:



    It's apparent the Flocka is a genetic mutation from the Fozzie as he has the propensity to make me laugh.  
One uses a lot of slurring and profanity, the other uses a lot of puns and schtick to communicate. Either way, my life has been changed by the Wocka animal and I hope that each of you recognize that they are both to be treasured and respected like the American Bald Eagle  and the Texan Armadillo.

So CZ, thank you for bringing your concerns to me.  I hope I was able to arm you with enough knowledge that you can be in public situation with your family, and be able to talk and educate them about the Waka Flocka.

Friday, September 14, 2012

What Keeps Me Going


After a long day at work, rehearsal, or a show, I become a journeyman.  I get in my car and head home and turn on music that will soothe my soul.  More importantly, I want to soothe my mind because I use it a lot during my day.  

Take this song by Waka Flocka Flame - "No Hands".


Listen to the speak-and-spell level of the lyrics.  They're totally relatable to anyone who gets their world news from People magazine.  Notice how half the lyrics are omitted (or it's a clever way of including miming into the music video) as they are so fresh that they don't even need to use complete sentences to get in your face with things of social importance.   I can identify with things that make my life worth living - money, girls, dancing, making it rain...

The women in the video are their to show their support for equality and respect for women everywhere.  In fact, they are so moved so much by what this song is about, they dance all over the place.  You go gurlz!

Ultimately, I feel better after listening to this kind of music.  It makes me say, "Wow, if these guys can write, record, and promote this kind of music, I am doing just fine."

THANKS WAKA FLOCKA!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Yo Man...Bust Out Cho CRICKET!

I've developed a new slang term and want to document that I'm the 1st to use it this way.  How do I know I'm the first to use it like this?  Because I said so (and a cursory search in UrbanDictionary.com didn't produce any results)!

The term is "cricket".  Here's the defitinion:

Cricket /╦łkrikit/
  1. An insect (family Gryllidae) related to the grasshoppers. The male produces a characteristic rhythmical chirping sound. 
  2. An outdoor game played on a large grass field with ball, bats, and two wickets, between teams of eleven players.
  3. A low stool, typically with a rectangular or oval seat and four legs splayed out.

    and
  4. A euphemism for a mobile phone regardless of brand, make, and model.  Phones that operate with Cricket Wireless typically are considered of cheap value as the carrier's service and features are limited in many areas across the nation.  The expectation is that any phone used with Cricket Wireless will not be able to perform whatever is asked of it (texting, phone calls, picture taking, GPS directions, web browsing, etc).

For example, let's say you're about to go to a show with your friends but don't know how to get there.  I would say, "Yo man...bust out cho CRICKET!  Getcho CRICKET and look up how to get there, man!"

This normally illicits one of two responses.
  1. "Uh, it's an iPhone/Android.  I don't have Cricket."
  2. Bust out with laughter because they get the joke.
The time it gets weird is when I say that to someone to be funny and they actually own a Cricket.  This is then followed by everyone else laughing at that person and the Cricket owner looking at me with a sad, pathetic face saying, "Yeah...I know...I need to get a real phone."

I am sure there are plenty of folks out there with Cricket phones who are perfectly happy with them.  Too bad.  The phrase will continue to be pushed!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Power Of Attraction Strikes Again!

My Saturday two weeks ago was intense!  If ever I was to enjoy the direct results of the Power of Attraction, it was that day.

Shouldn't You Be Doing Something?!
I had signed up for some auditions a week before to try to broaden my acting horizons a bit and try something new.  There were 3 auditions to choose from and I signed up for two that seemed like they'd be up my alley.

The day of the audition, I'm driving my kids over to a birthday party when *bam* I realized I had to get over to the northside of Chicago in two hours and wasn't at all prepared (thank gawd for Google Calendar).  I had also booked myself for later that night to jam with some friends in Lombard, IL.  I dropped the kids off at the birthday party and rushed back home to get dressed, put together some headshots and resumes, and get on my merry way to the city.

I knew that the Wifey had wanted to edit a bunch of photos she had taken from earlier photoshoots and needed to get them finished by the end of the weekend.  So, I decided that it would be unfair of my to leave her with the kids all day while I went off and enjoyed myself (man, there's just no nice way of saying that).  So, I volunteered to give my night of jamming with the guys to allow her to go off and begin editing what she needed.  When I offered it up, it just felt really good to do so for some reason so I held onto the feeling for as long as possible.

I got on the phone and called the jam ringleader and apologized for my flakiness, but needed to watch the little ones while Jill took care of business.  Not 5 minutes after that phone call, Wifey calls and tells me to go ahead and go to the jam as she had another commitment she had to attend with the kids later on that wouldn't let her do the editing she needed.   This super warm feeling came over me telling me, "Dude, you just made that happen!"  I thanked her profusely (while asking "Are you sure?" 45 times) and called homie back to tell him the jam was "tentatively" on.  I didn't want to commit again in the even I decided to dislodge something in the Universe to make me miss it.

Make Things Work For You!
I rushed back home, got dressed, printed out resumes, and got my headshots set up.  I zoomed to Chicago as quickly as possible.  Traffic was SUPER light, i.e., I got to the northside of Chicago from Indiana in less than an hour.  I had roughly 15 minutes before my first audition when I realized that the Chicago Air and Water Show was going on (you would think that the zooming planes overhead would've clued me in).  So, I dipped quickly into the adjacent parking garage to Second City Chicago and got to the audition on time.

I had two auditions.  The 1st one I read for went relatively well.  I got the chance to cold read the script.  Man...I forgot how hard it is to do that.  The monologue I read was nothing spectacular but I felt that the scene I did was pretty good and real.  The second audition again was done cold.  While reading the parts it was obvious to me that this play was not right for me.  I left the auditions feeling okay.  Luckily I had this jam sessino to look forward to so I concentrated on that.

As I was getting ready to leave to go grab some dinner, I went to pay for my parking and this number popped up on the screen:

$45

SAY WHAT?!  I was there roughly 25 minute total!  There was no way I could've...

Then looked at the sign under this amount and it read:

EVENT PARKING RATE - $45

Frak.  OK.  Well, I guess that's what I deserved for being in a rush.  I had some time to kill before my jam session so I decided to make that $45 work for me.  I lurked around the halls of the Second City, peeking into rooms, making phone calls from the lobby, and all around waiting for something cool to happen.  So, I sat down on the stairs outside the Training Center doors and just waited for something to happen.

Something Strange Happened On My Way To The Staircase...
About 15 minutes later, a guy opens a door, pokes his head out and sees me.  He walked up and says, "Hey. Are you a student here?"

"Not at all", I responded.

"Can you sing?", he asked.

I found the question completely left field but luckily for him I said, "Yes.  Of course!"

He then walked out of the room and up the stairs with a smile on his face.

"Do you want to audition for a musical?"

"Sure," I said without hesitation.

I was already dressed for auditions and had the skills they were looking for.  I ended up having a killer audition complete with a little showmanship on the guitar and in the scenes they had me read for.  It was magical.  I definitely got my $45 dollars worth that day.

After that, I decided to finally head over to Uncle Julio's Hacienda for dinner, but due to the insane amount of traffic as a result of the Air & Water Show, I decided to forgo trying to drive around for hours looking for parking.  Then I remembered that the other Julio's location was also in Lombard - minutes away from where I was going to jam.  I went west!

I got there in roughly 35-40 minutes and walked in just in time to see the floor manager coming up to the stand.  Luckily, I knew who she was as a result of my numerous years of going to the Chicago location.  We quickly played catch-up and then I got the cool honor of being her guest for the evening.  My meal was comped!  Could any more great things happen to me in this day?!  Hellz yez!

The Same Music Ain't Got The Same Soul...
After my excellent dinner and a few theatre related phone calls, I decided to head over to the jam spot.  Of course, my Cricket (my euphemism for "phone") started crapping out and forced me to restart it; thus, my GPS was out and I was left to my own devices (no pun intended) to get there.  I started driving and trusted I was in the vicinity of this guys house.  I started heading down this one road I had never been down and ultimately decided based on feeling to turn on another road to get me to another street I was familiar with.  As I drove down the road, i got this weird feeling I was really close.  As I came up to the stop sign, homeboy's house was right there!  HOLY SHITE!  That's some "Hand of Gawd" type shite.  We ended up having a ball playing 40-45 song that night.  It was totally fun and laid back.

I felt so blessed this whole day and KNOW that this philosophy works.  I'm going to cook up a blog posting discussing the Law of attraction within the context of particle physics (it will blow your mind).

Sunday, June 24, 2012

REVIEW: “Oceania” by Smashing Pumpkins

(Reprinted from http://www.musicalchairspodcast.com and written by yours truly)
The Smashing Pumpkins are a hard act to follow – both as a musical act and as a fan in this day and age.  From the very beginning the band has been a point of controversy by never doing what they were “supposed to do”.  Billy Corgan wore his emotions (and his mouth) on his sleeve.  At the time they were fresh on the scene, Corgan led music that didn’t fit into any existing genre.  They came from a Chicago club scene where they didn’t truly belong and relatively quickly overcame it to join the ranks of helming arenas.  In 1995, they put out a double-album of some of the best work possible when nobody in their right mind would take the risk (ahem, Gun’s ‘n’ Roses didn’t even do it with their Use Your Illusion records being sold separately).  In 2007, Billy reactivates the Pumpkins with long-time bandmate Jimmy Chamberlin, seven years after an acrimonious break-up with their former bandmates (which still hasn’t been commented on by all parties completely) with the music industry that helped make them one of the biggest bands in the world having imploded in the wake of the digital overthrow in music.  New band members, a new record called Zeitgeist (whose subsequent tour found Corgan challenging the fans directly both musically and verbally), unpopular licensing of music to TV  commercials, re-releasing of older material, and the implementation of the Teargarden by Kaleidiescope project all pointed at signs that the captain of this alternative rock juggernaut was willing to take the ship to the edge of disaster if need be.   All of this activity makes it a challenge for the common fanatic to continue throwing their support behind what could be a sinking titan of the 90′s rock scene.

Lucky for us, the Smashing Pumpkins stuck to their M.O. of charting their own course and delivered an incredibly strong effort on their new album Oceania.

This record features what I believe is a first for the Pumpkins – people other than Billy Corgan and the drummer got to play and contribute their parts to each of the songs.  Armed with that knowledge, this record feels much more inspired and cohesive than the last two major efforts along with the singles released thus far from TGBK.  As Billy as stated in interviews, this record sounds focused and directed at forging a new path for the band that honors the legacy of  the Pumpkins but also has something new to say – “we’re doing it OUR way.”

Openers Quasar and Panopticon harken back to overdriven sounds the Pumpkins are known for.  Lyrically these songs visit religion and love – two things Billy has a lot of questions and answers for.  They serve as a good introduction to satiate the appetite for some rock and set up the palate for the more subdued sonic landscapes of  The Celestials and Violet RaysThe Celestials opens up with a synth line reminiscent of Phil Collins’ Just Another Day In Paradise which sets the listener up to get ready for some heartfelt, thoughtful lyrics, but then it turns into a bit of a rocker halfway through.  Arping synth lines opens Violet Rays which sets the mood to hear the story of a desperate lonely woman awaiting companionship amongst a group of sailors returning home after a long  journey.  This song captures the “new” Pumpkins – storytellers with lush sonic landscapes.  My Love Is Winter also subscribes to this new formula and has always been a fan favorite live.  The synth intro in Pinwheels is a bit lengthy but once you get past it, there’s a song in there which conjures hints of Americana as Billy sings about love once again.

The title track Oceania is basically a 3 part opus clocking in at 9 minutes.  This is song is a challenge to be gaga over.  It’s a song that’s better experienced live vs. listening to on a pair of earbuds.  It may even be cool to listen to on a nice turntable cranked up loudly at home.  None of the songs on the record are singles and Oceania doesn’t disappoint.  It would’ve been nice if the title track could’ve been a bludgeoning array of sound like a SuperChrist or Gossamer.  We’ll just have to take an artsy piece for now.

Pale Horse is a great song and finishes out the “new” Pumpkins showcase.  The most “old school”  Pumpkin songs are at the tail end The Chimera and Glissandra where Billy shows that SP hasn’t forgetten where it came from; however, these songs don’t retread the characteristics of those rock songs they remind us of.  Inkless is the truest to the form here,and as of right now, is my favorite song on the album.

Billy and Co. have made a fantastic artistic statement with this record.  It stands to be the strongest effort from them since 1998′s Adore.  I do wish that Billy’s singing would be more engaging in the songs.  It’s more impassioned on this outing  especially on the non-rockers like Wildflower and One Diamond, One Heart; however, I miss the more emotional singing of the past where I can hear his whiny voice go into screams and whispers.  I also do miss the more intricate drumming of the past as well; however, I am glad to hear what Mike Byrne has to offer in his own collection of songs.  The man plays for the songs just as Jimmy Chamberlin did even if it’s not nearly as busy.

Oceania serves as a good vehicle of making the Smashing Pumpkins relevant again in an age where bands they influenced are able to do older Pumpkins better than they can.  It’s a new band effectively with a new sound and that’s exactly what you’re going to hear.


Monday, June 4, 2012

What Is A Producer?


Not in a million years would I have told you that when I grew up I would hold jobs whose descriptions are ambivalent and nebulous.  For example, I'm an "IT Architect".

"Soooo....what is it that you actually do?" is the number one question I get when I tell people I work for an IT firm.  I then have to resort to drawing from popular culture and quote the (in)famous Tom Smykowski line from Office Space to give people an idea as to what I do:
"Well look, I already told you! I deal with the goddamn customers so the engineers don't have to! I have people skills! I am good at dealing with people! Can't you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?"
 Still don't know what I do?  Don't worry...most people still don't really know what the hell I do for a living.

Another job I have grown into is theatre production.  My aptitude for it is very high; it's not everyday you get to put mundane corporate skills to work.  It's akin to being the quarterback on a football team; when the team loses, it's all your fault; when the team wins, you had absolutely nothing to do with it - it was a "group" effort.

Soooo....what is it that you actually do?

When I tell people that I'm an actor, director, and producer, the first two items click in their minds.  The third one gets me weird looks like when I go to club frequented by 20 year-olds...


...but I digress.   Being a theatre producer means doing a lot of the same things corporate middle managers deal with:
  • Contracts
  • Personnel
  • Budgets
  • Promotions
  • Politics
To date, I've produced over 25+ productions.  I can only think of one that didn't break even or make a  profit.  And at the end of the production, typically the best I can expect as a reward for my efforts to make it happen is staff and talent walk away saying, "Well, that was fun.  See you next time." as they go off to their next project,  Sometimes the acknowledgement is more and many times it's less.  After 7 years of doing it, I ask myself, "Why do it?"

I'll tell you why.  There is a satisfaction I get when a production of mine goes up, the audience is having a good time, talent is happy, and the venue is happy to have my production there.  Seeing the magic of what it took to get there finally pay off is a huge high for me.  It pays off to see my "baby" at work.  Of course, in my own blog, I'm going to take a ton of credit for these things working (yes, it's a group effort but fawk it ... I am taking my cot damn props for once!).  It's super rewarding.

Today I was on a call where some of my staff openly admitted, "There's a lot more to production than we originally thought".  My response?

"WELCOME TO MY WORLD!!!!"

It brought a big smile to my face and large cackle from my gizzard.  For once, people understood what is that I do as a producer.  If they were to ever ask anyone in theatre the question "Soooo....what is it that you actually do?", they will know what it means when they hear "producer"!!!!



Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Success Is The Best Way

Lately I have had the (dis)pleasure of understanding what The President of the United States most likely struggles with on a weekly basis; he gets the privilege of making important decisions that affect a lot of other people's lives.   Many times he doesn't have the luxury of taking into account all the aspects of those decisions because things must get done and there isn't time for a committee.  It's a blessing a curse; it's a blessing in that you don't have anyone you really have to answer to to answer on behalf of the people; it's a curse because if the shite goes down, there's no one else anyone will look at to place the blame nor is there anyone above you to let you know what you're doing is the right thing.  It's what being an Artistic Director is like :)

My theatre company Salsation recently had it's 2nd successful fundraiser.  I am only now soaking in what a feat was accomplished by the group as a whole.  For one thing, we had  inexperience in putting together fundraisers in general; granted, we had done one last year at the same place but the logistics of this one were different.  Not only did we need to repeat everything we did correctly last year with a great raffle, pre-sale ticketing, and food & drink for our guests, we had to expand on those items and add new things.  We added our own performance to the night's events, booked disparate supporting acts, provided lights and sound for the performances, instituted our first photobooth", hired photographers, videographers, and DJs, and had to decorate and manage the event.   The logistics were incredible for such a big undertaking.

Last year we decided to not perform or rehearse and instead focus on getting our fundraiser off the ground.  This year, we actually were rehearsing and performing improv up until the fundraiser executed.  We also had our first all-hands meeting in a long time to try to get everyone on board and heading in the same direction.  Getting 20 people to all agree to follow my lead was a big undertaking when I myself wasn't 100% sure how all of the ambitions of Company members were going to be forged into a performance season.  However, I threw it out there into the Universe to provide a way for it to all happen.

The fundraiser was a our first major event this year after our Sketchfest 2012 appearance and it worked out well thanks to the dedication of almost all members involved.  It's been a long time since I had seen such a level of support, comradary, and sacrifice from a group of people who basically believed enough in the Company to pull this thing off.

The "haterade" that has been dumped over our collective heads for a while has lessened a lot.  My belief in the Company is so strong that I am fueled by the naysayers' taunts and publicly unspoken, under-the-breath comments.  To watch this Company succeed when many thought it was over is awesome, and to watch it grow stronger is breath-taking.  Unfortunately, I am not above letting disrespect of my Company run it's course.  At the same time, I don't typically retaliate directly.  I come back at it by succeeding and surpassing expectations.  We're doing it - one day at a time.

Even with the amount of awesomeness that has occurred, we still will face challenges in the months ahead.  I am proud of where we've gone in the last few years and look forward to setting this year and next year up to be even greater!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Ask And You Shall Receive...HELP!

So, with this trip to Texas, I am working on getting my Dad's affairs in order.  Part of that is getting family momentos and stuff out of my parent's home.  My brother pitched in a helping hand and we both were floored by the amount of crap my parents (mostly my Mom) crammed into every room, closet, cabinet, and drawer.  We were both ready to pick through it and just abandon a lot of it for someone else to deal with until...

...we were driving down the street and my brother lamented about how crappy the house looked due to the overgrown "lawn" (a lot of dirt and some grass/weeds growing in patches across the property).  I saw a gentleman a few houses a way cutting grass and suggested to my brother, "Why don't we just hire him to do it."  So, we did!  Nothing like being able to tell one of your own people to cut YOUR grass (*rimshot!*) - but we do it in Spanish - cuz he'll do a better job for us (*rimshot!*).  Anyway, we hired him and paid him to make the house look a little less abandoned by cutting down the jungle.  While he did that, a crew looking for scrap metal came by and asked if we needed any help hauling stuff away.  *BAM*  More of our people to assist!  So we hired them on the spot!

Both of us were floored as to our good fortune.  Not only were we able to  get help clearing out the house we were able to also sell off some of the items we has no idea how to get rid of - lawnmower, barbeque, tools, TVs, etc.  And on top of that, we were able to clear the house out completely!  RAWK!

We put up a couple of things on Craigslist being pessimistic about our chances on selling them.  I've been getting text messages/phone calls galore on these items!  PRICED TO MOVE!  So, after these things are sold, we actually may have covered the cost completely of hiring the crews and shipping the keepers to our homes!

I know that I put the request for help into the Universe and it was granted for me.  YES IT WORKS!  I get it Universe.  Thank you for reminding me of that!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Becoming a Jive Tukey

<-- Looks scrumptious, right?  Yep, I thought so too...

Easter weekend involved a lot of family time.  With everything going with Salsation, work, my Dad, the kids, tax season, and my other yearning artistic endeavors, I'd been under slept for a while.  I wasn't really into going to dinner with in-laws -not because of them - but I just wanted to sleep.  A good reason to go in addition to being with family was that we were going to be fed. Yum!

Easter dinner typically consists of Thanksgiving's fixings - turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, etc.  So, naturally, it made sense to chow down on the meat and potatoes portions.  I should avoid those things but don't.  One, it's not often I get to eat turkey, and two I was hungry.  I ate it and felt no ill effects from eat the bird.

Two nights later I got treated to eating at a neighbor's home.  Again, I as under-slept and wanting just to go to bed.  My neighbor decided to use his rotisserie adapter on his barbeque to cook it and it came out awesomely.  So, of course, I pigged out.

The very next day. I woke up SUPER anxious.  I felt like I was going to explode - life was too much to bear.  Everything was super amplified in priority and nervousness.  I was breathing heavy the whole morning, unable to think about anything for longer than a couple of minutes, and just felt like crap.  The other odd things was that for the life of me i couldn't my hands or feet to warm up.  They were solid blocks of ice.  My hips and pelvis started to ache and I just want to shut down completely and curl up in a ball in a corner somewhere.  I also felt tightness and short pains in my chest.  It was the oddest feeling.

I racked my brain for an explanation.  I thought to myself, "Just the day before I felt fine and tackled a ton of things on my own. Now today I can barely handle the sound of my own family living with me. WTF?!"  This behavior continued until 2:30 PM after forcing myself to get out of the house and into the sun, getting some food, and trying to chill out by listening to talk radio at very high volumes.  I finally felt "normal" around 5 PM.

I took time to reflect on what could've cause this for me and the only thing I can think of was eating that turkey.  My body doesn't like turkey anymore.  I guess it never really did.   So, the next time I know turkey is on the menu, a quick stop for food is in order :)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Don't Talk, Just Do Follow Up

So, It's been about 12 days since I seriously commited to the idea of just doing things instead of talking about doing them.  Here's my progress report so far:
  • Started the long-talked about musical podcast Musical Chairs Podcast where I give my honest opinions about music that I (don't) care about.  I come up with a list of 5 things for a subject I really have some strong opinions about.  I've been going at it solo because I felt I couldn't do it alone.  However, with this new attitude, I decided to go at it alone.  Even if it sucks, at least I accomplished something.  As Eli Porter would say, "I'm da bess man...I deed it..."
  • I am starting to getting interested in auditioning again.  I've signed up for one next week and had one last week.  I keep talking about doing it - getting back in the game - and coming up with excuses to not do it.  I also reached out to a few folks to start booking shows for me to perform in.  gonna just jump back in and sink or swim.
  • I am dealing with some family matters that quire frankly gave myself a 13 year reprieve some by moving away to Chicago.  It's giving me more creative material than I may want to deal with at this time but I think it's also therapeutic as well as I've got a lot of unresolved issues.
More things to document soon.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Don't Talk - Just Do

As the new year has arrived, I've come to the realization that I've been my own worst enemy regarding what I want to do in my creative life.  I come up constantly with reasons as to why I can't/won't do t things I' ve always wanted to do.  Here's a short list of items I constantly have runningi n my  brain:
  • I'm not a good singer...
  • I want everything to be perfect...
  • Inspiration is just supposed to happen...
  • It's too hard...
  • I don't have the ability to do it...
  • I don't have time for it.
When I was a kid, I could do anything.  Why as an adult do I put up so many obstacles to my own creativity?  I feel like a liar when talking to my sons a bout being anything they want to be when I don't live up to what I preach to them.

That's changing.

Tomorrow.

I can and will do anything I want to.