Tuesday, December 22, 2009

One down!

  Last night, I successfully completed "Voice I" at Studio and was recommended to proceed on to Shakespeare. My final went well, despite a couple of small hitches, but overall I got an "excellent" from the instructor. The poetry I recited was a piece called "The Anchorite," and here it is, for your reading pleasure:

The color of his walls, like ham or kisses
Was just too carnally pink
So he painted it over in rusty brown, like stale blood.

He sat in his solitary cell
Banished the cat as too female and familiar
Then shaved his lady's curls from his conscience
And pried her hands from his heart
One red-nailed finger at a time.

Weeks went, and he stopped seeing
Her hair in grocer's daffodils
In forsythia, lining the wet expressway.
The sound of her laugh drowned in traffic.

But some night, later than temptation
He will remember a forgotten knock
And dreams will pour through his door
Like a river into a desert
Her hair catching on everything
Sticky, and yellow as honey

  I'll be taking this next semester off to audition, and hopefully get into some shows. A friend of mine, who is going to be the assistant music director on a staging of the Mel Brooks show "The Producers" told me that they are holding auditions on the 5th and that I really should try out for one of the leads. I'm just now starting to find my legs vocally, and the show would require a lot of singing. Not sure if I'm quite up to it, but I will audition. Couldn't hurt, right?

Sunday, December 20, 2009


   Late Friday night, as you all know, the East coast got hit with a wicked Nor'Easter. It was loudly being hailed as the end of the world on all the local news stations, and it had everybody running for cover. After I was off the clock Friday, I decided I'd stop by the supermarket and grab a few things on my way home so I wouldn't have to venture out into Hell the next day. When I pulled into the parking lot, I was surprised (for some reason) to find that everybody else in the natural world had the same idea.
  I immediately tried to get out of the lot, but it was too late. All the entrances were jammed up with cars and every spot in the place was taken. It took about fifteen minutes before I could even turn up one of the aisles, and by grace, I found an empty spot. I took it and ran inside, where the chaos was even worse.
  Every aisle was stuffed full of carts and rude people, and the shelves were already going bare. I started laughing at how riduclous it all was. Up in Spokane, a snow like this was a weekly occurrance during December. At one point, I walked away from my cart for a minute to look for something and when I came back, it was gone. I quickly tracked it down one aisle over where some crazy lady was pushing it along and shopping. I said, "I think you have my basket, ma'am." She looked at me, completely dumbfounded and said, "I didn't think it belonged to anybody." I retorted, "You see all those things in it? That should have been your first clue." I was now officially in the group of Holiday Assholes. Bravo.
  As my patience wore even more thin with folks, I finished my shopping hurriedly and then stood in line at the self-checkout lane for about twenty minutes. I bagged up my stuff, ran the twenty minute parking lot gauntlet, and finally made it home.
  As I unpacked my groceries, though, I found something missing. Then something else. Pretty soon, I discovered that about half the stuff I had put in there was gone. Crazy lady had dumped half my cargo, and I hadn't even noticed. Unfortunately, she had picked things like coffee, which I was very much looking forward to drinking the next morning during the freezing blizzard. Such is my luck. There was no way I was going to venture out into that mess again. I battened the hatches and prepared for the "Storm of the Decade."
   And storm it did. When I woke up the next morning, I had about a foot, and the snow was still coming down hard. It snowed all day long, eventually dropping a good two feet on Springfield and slightly less on DC proper. My rehearsal that afternoon was obviously cancelled, so I didn't venture out once. Sunday, however, I did.
  It was exactly as I suspected. I didn't have a snow shovel, but getting out of my driveway was fairly easy with the Jeep. All my neighbors were busy shoveling and shoveling, and our street hadn't even been plowed. I had some business in lower Springfield to take care of, and then I was going to try to buy a shovel and pick up the rest of my groceries.
  It was like a whole different Virginia out there. I mean, it was really unrecognizable. The streets were fairly deserted, and it just looked like a warzone. I saw cars off the road, people shoveling and snowblowing, and there was even a Policeman stranded, trying to put chains on his patrol car. Remembering the local PD's penchant for ticketry, I didn't stop to help him.
  At Home Depot, as I expected, there were no more shovels left. My bad mood was lifted on the way back to the store, though, when I saw two little kids standing atop a snowplow pile as high as their mailbox. One of them had a snowball in his hand and he shook it at me defiantly and yelled as I drove past. It made me laugh out loud.
  I got what I needed at the store (again) and then came home, glad to be in one piece. After putting everything away, I went next door to my 80-year-old neighbor Chuck and asked if he had a snow shovel. He did, and I offered to shovel his driveway for him since he's got heart problems and has no business doing it himself.
  For the next couple of hours, I shoveled his drive and part of mine. Then, I wrapped up the day by catching my hand in the rolling overhead door of my garage and nearly breaking it. That's what you get for being in a hurry. It wasn't the crushing blow or the pinching open of skin that hurt the most- it was the fact that my bare hand had been exposed and was freezing!
  Tonight is the final for one of my classes down at Studio. I'm performing a spoken word piece called "The Anchorite." I'm a bit nervous about it, if only because it's for Voice class, and every single word has to be perfectly enunciated and pronounced, but also be performed with believeable emotion. Tougher than it sounds. It's actually possible to say "The" wrong for two different reasons, I found out last week. It's the first word of the piece, and I was stopped twice for not enunciating it properly. Yikes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It's all starting to pay off

  At least in some regard, the punishing schedule and compulsive multitasking are starting to lead somewhere.
  Last night, one of my instructors at Studio gave me a fantastic compliment when she told me I was "very castable." This is high praise from a woman who is notoriously ruthless with her students. She's had a lot of really great things to say about me lately, and said that the staff all knew who I was and how many things I'm in and how hard I'm working. That made me breathe a relative sigh of relief.
  My primary scene partner and I put our scene up again last night (the one we've been struggling so much with) and finally made some breakthroughs. We got a lot of really good notes and we were given an additional scene to work on as a reward/progression. We'll be performing both of them for an audience in January. My secondary scene partner and I will be putting our scene up tonight, and I think it's in great shape, too.
  Unfortunately, a head cold has robbed me of most of my voice this week, so practicing for my voice lessons has been pretty much zip. I have until tomorrow night to get over it, but I'm still a little hoarse. The worst part is, I'm going to miss two lessons this month when Angela's out of town, which cuts down on our rehearsal time for that big recital I'm going to sing for in January.
  I could go on about the multitude of other things that have to get done this week, but I think it would start to sound like complaining. More than anything, I'm looking forward to having a couple of days off from work next week!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Plan.

  It's my goal to move to the UK next fall and study acting full time. I have narrowed down my choices of schools to four: Oxford School of Drama, London Academy of Music and Drama, Central School of Speech and Drama University of London, and London Dramatic Academy Fordham University. Right now, Central is my top pick. I'll be auditioning for these schools in February in New York.
  This will certainly cause a lot of changes in my life, but I'm no stranger to that, nor am I afraid. I'm looking at apartments here in VA right now so that when my lease is up at the end of January, I can move out of my house and cut my rent in half. That way I can put a little extra money in the bank and square all my accounts in a shorter time. In the fall, when my work contract is up, I'll be free to fly over to the UK and begin the semester. Likely most if not all of my posessions here will be sold. What little personal items remain will be put into storage and I will retrieve them in three years when my degree is complete and I come back to the states.
  Lofty goals? Certainly, and there's a major chance that it won't happen. All the odds are stacked against me right now, it feels like, but I want this, and I deserve it. I've worked damn hard, and I've proven to myself time and time again that I'm capable. I've thought this through, come up with alternatives and looked at the consequences. Now, all that's left is to go for it, and that's exactly what I'm going to do.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Straight up murdering me

  Yeah. I'm still living three or four lives inside of mine. This week, I have several days that begin at 5:00 am and end at 2:00 am. Work, then classes. Work, then double rehearsal. Work, then class, then double rehearsal. Voice practice. Theory homework. Lines to learn. Poetry to memorize. And work.
  On the bright side, I have two days off from work this week. Thank God, because I need a bit of a break. I'll be cooking up the traditional feast of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole, cranberries, stuffing, rolls, and I'll be baking a pumpkin pie as well. Guests at my table this year will include: Vacant chair 1, Vacant chair 2, and Vacant chair 3. They're all regulars.
  In all the flurry of back and forth, things are going very well. I seem to be the favored student coming out of Voice I, and my scene for Character and Emotion class is rockin. My guest acting in the Principals class is also going very well, and I have a scene to perform there tonight, in fact. Here's a picture of that character, Joe Mitchell from "Waiting for Lefty."

  I have to admit, it does get a bit confusing at times, trying to keep track of which lines go with which show, and what cues belong where.
  Last week, I was asked by three other people to play in their scene improvs, and so I ended up being in four or five different scenes that night as four or five different characters. The class joked that it was "The Brian Show" that night and I caught a lot of grief. I feel loved in there, though, and I'm pretty much a giant smartassed goofball a good deal of the time.
  I have some rather major news developing in my life, and some big decisions to make soon, and I'll be posting more about that in the near future. I want to get a few more things sorted out first and make some solid plans.
  Happy Turkey Day, everybody!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Role-ing right along

  I keep meaning to write a blog about all that's going on, but I get so damned busy that I put it off. Then, more stuff happens and pretty soon, I don't want to blog because it takes too long. Here we go, rapid-fire bullet style.
  I'll be pulling double duty this semester after agreeing to guest-act in one of the other classes. Even though I'm already stretched so thin for time every week, I couldn't resist when asked. The opportunity was too great. I'll be playing Joe in "Waiting for Lefty." It's a great part, and I rehearsed for the first time this weekend with my scene partner. We have our first performance together tomorrow night.
  My main role as Bernie Dodd in "The Country Girl," is coming along nicely. I am performing a scene tonight, totally unscripted, that deals with the breakup of his marriage. It's a knock down drag out fight that is going to get really, really ugly. Should be fun. I've worked out almost all of the details of how I'm going to play this role, and I'm patterning my look after the one and only Cary Grant:

  The time period is a match, and Cary Grant stuck out in my mind after I read the script. I'm lucky to get such fantastic characters to play.
  Yesterday, I performed an assignment for class where I needed to connect to some very deep emotions and break down and cry. This is one of the hardest things I think there is to do in the world of acting, but it's an absolutely neccessary skill for a variety of reasons. I'm very, very proud to say that I nailed it. Everybody in the room cried, even the teacher. It was a huge confidence booster, and I worked really hard to get there. Those are the moments in performance to savor.
  After this week, we'll be on script and spend the rest of our semester rehearsing our scenes. January 18th and 19th, I'll be performing them back to back for the public.
  Additionally, I made some wonderful breakthroughs in my voice lessons this past week and got to hear a small piece of what my voice can really do when things are lined up properly. It was incredibly exciting, and I feel like I'll be in good shape to perform at that recital in January.
  I'm leaving a lot out, but those are the big points. Good times.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Frankie Valli, zombies make a good weekend

  What a weekend! Thursday, Kendra and Colby drove down from New York and we went out for a nice dinner at Chef Geoff and then saw "Jersey Boys" at the National Theatre. It was a great show with fantastic music, of course, but it still didn't trump "In the Heights."
  Unfortunately, it was a very short visit, and Kendra left late Friday afternoon. We had a nice time, though, and it was a great mini-break for both of us. Despite the pain-in-the-ass drive, hopefully I can coax her into coming back again sometime.

  Saturday, I had class in DC, then spent the afternoon decorating my house for Halloween. Kendra helped me design the faces on the three jack-o-lanterns I put out, and I busted out the cobweb gun as well. In the entryway, I had the fog machine set up with a red light behind it so that every time I opened the door, a huge cloud of red fog came out around me. The kids this year lucked out big time on the candy, because there were so few of them that I gave out pretty large handfuls of the stuff.

  That night, I dressed up as a zombie doctor and went to a Halloween party one of my classmates threw. It was pretty fun, and everybody was really grossed out by my white contact-lensed eye. There were a pretty insane array of costumes there, including one girl who came as a giant box of menthol cigarettes. There was a lot of dancing and some fantastic jungle juice that took hold of me a bit. At the end of the night, I ended up giving a girl from the party a ride home, and I don't think I've ever heard somebody use the word "like" so many times in my life. On the forty-five minute trip with Chatty Cathy, I maybe got to say "uh-huh" and "yeah" a couple of times and that was it. Yikes.
  Great weekend, overall, but for now it's back to work.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fellow smartasses

  When I posted my last entry, I stumbled across a treasure trove of images online while searching for that "Monks on a Roller Coaster" picture. What I found was a scattered collection of people like me who like to do something screwy in roller coaster pictures. I've been doing it for years, but it never occurred to me to look for other people's versions of "plunge pics." Here are some of my favorites.

Nice. Points for the genuine look of terror on the face of the guy getting held up by the hatface bandit.

Sleepy time! I've always been a fan of the "Let's look totally bored at the most intense moment of the ride" ploy. Points for the poses and the thumb sucking.

A mass teeth brush! First and only time I've seen this. Major points for group size and originality. Points also for the subtle middle finger of the kid in the front row. Rebel.

I love this one. The cell phone bit is great, and the guy is really committed to it, even holding his ear and making an annoyed "I can't hear you over this plunging roller coaster I'm on" face. The better part though, is the guy making a call on his shoe. Judging by his face, he's not getting good reception.

Just the loneliest bastard on earth. Tough break, buddy.

An obvious fake, but the concept is great. I did this one myself on my last trip down Space Mountain. Points for getting a group of four to sell the reaction.

The classic "punch out." Points to the girlfriend for being a sport.

Jenga! Another first. I love the studious intensity of the girl.

Holding a saber high above your head and screaming is pretty much the most badass thing you can do on a Disney Ride at the drop.

Punkass kids who aren't even probably old enough to be smoking. They get a pass for making me laugh.

Another cell phone guy, but I love that he's so serious about it. I can picture him talking to some client, maybe offering legal advice. "Bob, what's that sound?" "Oh, nothing, I'm on a damned roller coaster. You were saying?"

This is the classic "Photo Bomber." A bomber is a person who appears in your family photo with the sole intent of ruining it. Nice face.

So many points.

Really clever variation of the cell phone gag. I just want to know how they hooked this up during the ride.

My absolute favorite of them all. Group participation and an absolutely hilarious premise. I'm pretty sure there was some digital trickery done here, but it's still the funniest.

Smartasses of the world, I salute you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Like a roller coaster

  Sometimes, life is like a roller coaster. There are your beginnings, your endings, your long, slow climbs. Sometimes there are corkscrews or loops when you're so turned around you don't know what the hell is going on. Then, there are the plunges. Those glorious plunges when you're in freefall and you're screaming, you're laughing, crying.
  Right now, I'm just about at the top of a good climb. I can see the crest, and I can see a long, steep plunge coming. The anticipation is high, the nerves are tingling. What's going to happen? Will I be able to stand it?
  I realized last night at class that I was about to reach an acting pinnacle that I've anticipated for many years. I knew one day I'd be faced with this challenge, and I became even more aware of it when I finally started getting some real training. In two weeks, I have to break down emotionally for all to see. I have to crumble. Fall apart. Cry. It's a "sense memory" exercise, and one by one, each of us will have to take the stage and live out this very private moment in a very public way.
  I've had to cry once before in a film, but I cheated. I have never had to go from nominal to broken in front of people. I don't even cry in private. It's not a macho thing; I just don't do it. I have been molded, by neccessity, into somebody who is emotionally closed. To be overtaken by these feelings, especially publicly, goes against everything that I am. Beautifully, that's the point. "Private in Public" is one of Stanislavski's most well-known principals of acting.
  You can't just sit down and "make" yourself cry. It doesn't work that way. You have to take yourself there, and let yourself be overwhelmed with a physical response to emotional stimuli. For this assignment, we're supposed to each bring in an object that is connected to some event that will act as an emotional trigger. We are supposed to talk about it, though not in a narrative way, and let it take us to where we need to go. Ultimately, excercises like this are supposed to give us the tools we need as actors to find the emotion in a character and truly feel it on stage.
  This in itself is going to be a major undertaking, but I also am terrifically excited about it. To me, it represents the real "meat" of acting- the emotion. I've waited a long time to get this kind of training, and I really feel like a lot of things are converging here. This class, the voice lessons, the upcoming auditions in spring. It's the crest, and I can see the plunge just ahead.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Me? Gandhi?

  Yes. I will be playing famed Indian peace maestro Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi this coming Tuesday night at the DC Studio Theatre. Will I be dipping my bald head in oil and rubbing it against any women? No, but if you get that reference, you get a big gold star.
  No, I'm not miscast. Truthfully, it's just another class assignment: do a three minute pantomime based on a statue found in the DC area. Master the physical movements, gestures, posture, gait. Know everything about the person. How they feel, how they react, their subtext. Put them in a situation where they face a major conflict and have to make a decision. Make the audience KNOW who you are by what you reveal. Pick something challenging.
  Speaking of challenging, this "Frame 365" project is already proving to be difficult. It's not been nearly as easy as I thought it would be to find one compelling image per day. Last time I went to class, I saw some fantastic opportunities for shots, but I was running so late that I couldn't stop to get them. At Dupont Circle, there were a bunch of people sitting next to a huge water feature playing chess as the evening sun was setting behind them. It would have been a fantastic image. I can't whip out my camera during class to shoot anything, and I certainly can't have a camera near me during work hours. So I'm basically reduced to pictures I can take from my Jeep, or pictures I can take on the Metro, or pictures I can take of crap laying around my house. Not the most exciting subjects. We're only a week in and already the spring is running dry. This does not bode well for the project.
  The only other interesting thing I can talk about right now is that crazy Egyptian wailing on my body again at PT. This guy loves me, though. I think it's because we give each other a hard time. I will walk in and ask him "What's on tap for today? Are you going to shove me down a flight of stairs? Run me over with your car?" He was busting my chops yesterday for not getting enough rest and/or relaxation. He says stress is destroying me. Oh, if he only knew. One of the shitty things about my life is having to lie to my doctors and people who try to help me out. Ultimately, the lesson I learn over and over again is that I'm out there alone. There's nobody I can turn to for comfort anymore. Nobody is going to help, and, in the end, nobody is going to care and none of it matters. That's a bitter pill to swallow daily, but something in my core keeps me going anyway. I guess I just miss being appreciated.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The horror and hilarity of PT

  About three weeks ago, per doctor's orders, I began physical therapy for my shoulder. I was one of two people injured in a high fall accident a couple of years ago, and I came out of it a lot better than he did. Unfortunately, though I was able to shake it off at the time, the problem grew and worsened, and I have had constant pain ever since. I've been through a number of docs, specialists, chiropractors and accupuncturists and even had an MRI done earlier this year. Finally, happily, I think I've found someone who's going to be able to fix me.
  My therapist's name is Mohammed, but I just call him Sayid. He has a fantastic middle-eastern accent, which sometimes makes me laugh out loud. The other day, for instance, in one of his mispronunciations of the letters "th," he told me, "Raise the bar in front of your face. Right in front of your mouse."
  Sayid means business with my shoulder. He worked some knots out of the muscle so hard the other day that he actually left bruises. That's hard to do on this body. It was intensely painful. I literally saw stars and wondered if I might lose consciousness. No pain no gain, I suppose. My shoulder is already feeling better than it has in a long time.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

New York

  I love New York. I really do. Ever since my first time in the city, I fell in love with it. There's just a vibe there that you don't feel anywhere else. There's such a tremendous energy and weight to everything. Sure, New York has its beautiful places, and, sure, it has its share of "looks and smells like a public toilet" places. But damned if it isn't the capital of the world.
  I went up for three days this week to visit Kendra. We had a great time. I got to see her new place in Harlem, visit a lot with little Colby, see a couple of fantastic shows, eat a lot of good food, and explore the city.
  Wednesday we visited the Natural History Museum, where we saw a lot of huge-mongous dinosaur skeletons. There were a lot of crazy beasts in there that I had never seen before. Typical of NY museums, it was packed to the walls with awesome.
  That night, we were thrilled to attend "A Steady Rain," which is a two-man play starring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig that is only running for twelve weeks. It was brilliant, of course. I have to admit to being a little starstruck when the curtain went up and the lights came on and there were these two major actors I admired, sitting only fifteen rows ahead on the edge of the stage. Great, very dramatic performance.
  The next day, I kind of just strolled Manhattan, met Kendra for lunch at a little Mexican place called "Blockheads" and then spent the afternoon walking the great lengths of Central Park. It was a beautiful day for that kind of thing, and I was worn out by the time I got back to the apartment.
  The final day, we shared a little brunch before I set off on my day's adventures. I took the train to Chinatown and walked all over lower Manhattan. Then, I made my way back up the island to museum row and spent a couple of hours at the Guggenheim. There was a pretty interesting exhibit of Kandinsky's paintings going on, and I also saw some works by Monet, Picasso and Degas among others. That evening, I went back down to the Broadway district and bought tickets for that night to see "In The Heights." I can NOT say enough about how good that show is. Every single aspect of the production was brilliant. All the actors were very strong, the set was beautiful, the dialogue was sharp, the choreography was mind-blowing and all the songs were fantastic. I can truly see why it won the Tony for best musical. I highly recommend it and would see it again in a heartbeat. I had a seat 5th row center, and it really was spectacular.
  I polished off the night by visiting Kendra's wine bar "Clo" in the Time Warner building. Very innovative. They've got an interactive display that shows the "menu" on the countertop and you use your hand to interact with it and make your orders. The wines are all around the bar behind glass and each one has a spout that you place your glass under to recieve your pour. I tried several wines (including one from Israel!), all of which were very good.
  I had a fantastic trip and can't wait to go back. At least this time I was there for more than one night, but even at three days it went by in a flash.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fall drops

Unbelievably, fall is upon us once again.

There are so many things I love about fall- the mild temperatures, the colors, the holidays. There’s always a bit of somberness that goes along with it, though, because it’s the death of summer, and it portends the chill of winter.

This fall is hitting me on all fronts. I’m mourning adventures unfulfilled at the same time that I am celebrating forging into new territory. My workload, as of this week, has increased exponentially, which is at once exciting, confounding, dreadful and wonderful.

I can’t complain at all about this banner year. I saw the Moai of Easter Island and dived some of the clearest waters on the planet. I camped in the deserts of Australia and swam with turtles and sharks amongst the bright coral of the Great Barrier Reef. I learned to read music, and began a study of voice. I successfully completed my first classes in dramatic acting. I advanced my career and continued to faithfully serve my country.

Some of my plans didn’t quite make it. I wanted to take more trips; weekend jaunts with the tops off my Jeep. Up the coast to Maine. Down South to Charlottesville’s wine country. North to the ghostly ash-town of Centralia, PA.

I was supposed to go wreck-diving off the coast of the Carolinas with my friend Jeremy. I was supposed to reserve airfare to Egypt for a Spring trip to that country and all its fascinating history. None of that came to pass.

There’s still much of this year left, though, and it’s overfull with its own kind of adventures.

Yesterday was the first day of my second semester at DC Studio Theatre. “Voice I” will be teaching me more about diction, inflection, resonance, projection and levels. “Character and Emotion” will be delving into just that- hopefully bringing more emotional honesty to my work onstage. I’m most especially looking forward to the results of this course, even though the workload is going to be crushing. We were given our first week’s assignments last night, and I literally have no idea how I’m going to fit them all into my life.

My voice lessons with Ms. Winter will continue too, and there will likely be another recital sometime before the end of the year. Practice for this instruction is also a daily regimen, and the corresponding musical theory bookwork will have to fit into my schedule somewhere as well.

As if that weren’t enough, I also have several short film projects planned. I can’t help the ideas that come flooding into my mind, or my desire to continually try something new or push the technological envelope. These are the things that fire my brain. With any luck, I’ll be able to recruit some of my out of town friends to come down and participate.

And then there’s this weekend. I’ve entered a writing competition. Friday night, all the entrants will be emailed a subject, setting, and character breakdowns and will have until Sunday night to write a scene using those elements. 100 writers will then advance to round two the next week where the same rules will apply, only this time the deadline is 24 hours. Then, 10 writers will be selected for a third and final scene the following week where they will be given 90 minutes to complete it. I enrolled in this competition before I knew how much was going to be dumped on me this week from school, and it was probably a foolish move, but I can’t resist a challenge like that. Some of my best work has been done under pressure. Even if I’m eliminated in the first round, it’ll still be good practice.

In closing, I’d also like to mention that I hope everyone joins me in observing “National Talk Like a Pirate Day” this Saturday, September 19th. Arrrrrrrrr ya ready?

Friday, September 11, 2009


Saturday, September 5, 2009


  If you haven't read the entry previous to this one, do that now. This is the end of the story.

  You guys hear that buzzing sound? Neither do I, because they're all dead.

  At 2042 hours last night, "Lil Stinker" was successfully deployed on target. A BDA (battle damage assessment) was done this morning at 0700, and no wasp-insurgents were seen alive. It would appear that the weapon was 100% effective.
  The lawn was alive last night, friends, let me tell you. I took my flashlight and my giant can of wasp-death and shuffled quietly through the grass over to the nest-hole just before 9:00. There were so many crickets, gnats, jumpies and slimy slugs about that I felt like I wanted to just carpet bomb the whole place. When I turned the beam of my flashlight on the hole, I saw that there was a single wasp at the entrance pulling guard duty. For a second I thought, "You know, it really is an interesting insect society. They have guards, fighters, workers, a queen. There's a whole town under there." Then, I unceremoniously blasted the hole full force, filling it with a dense, white doomsday chemical. I imagine for that guard it was much like catching a neutron bomb in your mouth.
  It's really difficult to tell if the thing was fully effective, because so much of the hive is underground, but when I checked on it this morning, there seemed to be nothing alive. Some kind of flying bug came out of the grass toward me, and I let him have it. Not sure if it was a wasp, but I didn't take any chances. After checking on the hive this morning, I gave it another blast, just to be sure. Nothing like bombing the rubble.
  As for the lawn- it's now been mowed. As for me? I'm a tad itchy in spots, but looking forward to devouring the rack of ribs I just threw on the grill. Happy Labor Day Weekend, everybody!

Friday, September 4, 2009


  Cut loose a full four hours early from work, I jaunted home, had a delicious, relaxed lunch, and then decided to mow my recently neglected back yard. I've been seeding it, you see, to fill in some bad spots, and wanted to give it time to grow.
  I gassed up the old grass-chopper, rolled around to the back of the house and began cutting, iPod firmly in-ear.
  Not more than two minutes into the job, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in the middle of my back. Immediately, I knew something had bit/stung me, so I flailed my hand around and tried to knock the offending bug from my backside. Before I could even figure out what had caught me, I was hit several more times on the left side of my body. I immediately let go of the lawn mower, stalling out the dead-man switch. Looking down, I noticed I was enveloped in a cloud of very angry yellowjacket wasps.

                      Artist recreation of attack

  As I realized I was under full attack, I ran for my back door, taking a couple more stings in the process. I stepped over my garden hose and then stopped and picked it up, hoping to blast these insects off of me. Unfortunately, upon squeezing the sprayer, I realized the water wasn't on and I had cost myself precious seconds. Still under seige, I jerked the back door open and ran inside. About fifteen brave yellowjackets came in with me and continued their assault. I swatted at them with my hands and then a dishtowel, but they were too quick. I remembered then that there was a can of Raid under the sink, and I went for it, fogging the place up something fierce. A couple of the little bastards got sprayed directly out of the air and landed convulsing on the kitchen floor. Two or three stragglers were distpatched with the aforementioned kitchen towel of justice.
  I stood there, breathing heavily, heart racing, trying to look myself over. I found another yellowjacket trying to crawl up the inside of my pant leg and crushed him. I brushed my hand through my hair and still another striped kamikaze flew out and then got a dose of the towel.
  I went upstairs to the bathroom and took my shirt off to survey the damage. When I did, a last wasp flew out and met his end under my shoe.
  All in all, I took about fifteen stings.
  After applying a salve of baking soda and water, I decided to visit the local Home Depot and prepare for chemical warfare. I was going to find those responsible for this despicable attack and make them pay dearly. Before I left, I gathered up the carcasses of the wasps I killed in the kitchen and bathroom, threw them in a bowl and set them on the back porch. I wanted the rest of them to see what they were going to look like by the end of the day.

                      Intimidation bowl

  After returning home, I sat down to formulate my counter-attack while I enjoyed some soothing Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream.
  I would scout out their hidden fortress and then wait until just after dark, when the colony was asleep. I would then rain down chemical death on them from above, most likely talking a lot of shit in the process. I would obliterate them and their egg-laying hussy of a queen. That's right, wasps. I said it.
  After formulating my plan, I went outside to retrieve my lawn grooming equipment from the battlefield. It sat, embarrassingly, baking in the sun, abandoned in the initial panic of the attack. As I stepped carefully through the grass, I eyed a nearby bush that I suspected was the yellowjacket capitol. Just then, however, I noticed a finger-sized hole in the ground near my feet. As I peered closer, a lone wasp climbed out of the hole and flew towards me. I made a hasty exit, but I had ironclad intelligence now. Perfect overhead imagery, captured by my own two eyes.
  In the grand tradition of naming weapons of mass destruction, I am calling my genocidal device "Lil Stinker."

                                 "Lil Stinker" device

  Zero hour is approaching quickly. If you'll please excuse me, I have a colony to take down.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cutting room floor

Click to biggify.

  A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that I was going through my picture archives to find a good shot to submit to the "Photo of the Day" contest over at Earthshots.org. Well, my submission didn't make it, so I'm posting it here. I've previously shown some other shots in this group, but never this one.
  This was taken on the side of Kilimanjaro at about 14,000 ft looking back at Mt. Meru. That's one of my climbing buddies, Mike, down at the lower left, watching a sea of clouds float by beneath us. This was an absolutely breathtaking sunset- easily the most beautiful I've ever seen. The photos don't do it justice. I remember standing there in the chilly evening breeze, camera snapping away, and not hearing a single word of conversation among the group.
  I'm going to add a bunch of pictures from that Africa trip to my Flickr account pretty soon, and you'll see more of this remarkable event.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Treadmill of DOOM

  So, I'm running full bore on my treadmill last Thursday when I notice that my stride is starting to feel a little mushy. This feeling gets worse and worse, and near the end of my run, I decide to stop before an injury occurs. I get off and check the thing out, but I can't discern any problems. I cautiously step back aboard, choose a slower belt speed, and investigate further. Sure enough, the deck is bending slightly with each footfall.
  Upon much deeper investigation, I find out that I have actually cracked the deck. Now, I'm no treadmill expert, so I had no idea these decks were made of wood. Fiberboard, to be exact, laminated on both sides to reduce friction with the tread belt. This particular piece of laminated fiberboard is cracked 2/3 of the way down its length, and about 3/4 of its depth. It's shot.
  Like any other red-blooded american, I seek out Google immediately. I come to discover that my particular brand of treadmill is no longer made, and there are no replacement parts available. Because I am my father's son, I decide, "Screw it, I'll make my own."
  Now, anybody that knows me knows this is not an uncommon occurrance. I tend to just craft things when I can't find what I want. Some might call this stubbornness. I call it... well, I also call it stubbornness. A new treadmill would probably run me about $350 on the low side, and that's unacceptable. I have put many miles on this one since I bought it, after moving to Spokane, but I didn't, in any way, feel like it had reached the end of its sweat-inducing life.
  After completely dissecting the treadmill, I took measurements of the old deck, made a couple of visits to Home Depot and one to Lowe's, and came home with all my materials.
  Over the last two and a half days, I have cut, glued, trimmed, adjusted, measured and cursed my way to a new deck. It was not an easy job, let me tell you. In addition to my Bri-manufactured parts, I had to make some adjustments to the other factory parts to accomodate changes, and getting the belt tension adjusted right on both sides was difficult. I have a perfectly working, fully functional treadmill again, though, so I can't complain. Take THAT, Sportcraft TX400!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I hate my roommate

  So much.

Monday, August 3, 2009

As the world curves

  Uh, wasn't your Kilimanjaro climb back in 2006? Yes, yes it was.
  The reason for this recycling is simple. I'm going back through my photos right now, trying to find some really good ones to submit to "Earthshots.org" in the hopes of being shown. Somewhere in the archives there's got to be a few good ones. In going through the old Africa shots, I came upon this one, and I'm not sure it was ever shared. It's the only shot I really have showing the view from the top of Kili. What's remarkable about it, and what stuck in my memory, was that I was high enough to actually see the curvature of the Earth. I've drawn a line for reference in the picture below: (click to biggify either shot)

  Pretty amazing view up there. The oxygen left something to be desired, though. Looking at these photos is getting the adventurer in me stirred and it makes me want to start looking into that Aconcagua summit again. It's about 2,000 ft higher and much icier. I've got my eye on you, Chile.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hardy har har

  The third and final retrospective video is here! Ten minutes of bloops, goofs and outtakes. It was impossible to get them all in, and I had to cut a LOT of material that I thought was hilarious, but this is a pretty decent compilation of laughs.
  Thanks for watching my retrospectives. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed putting them together. Now, forward with new projects!

  Click HERE to start the hilarity!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

20 Years in the making

  The culmination of two decades of filmmaking has been forged into a seven and-a-half minute video that has now been uploaded to YouTube for your viewing pleasure.
  This was truly a labor of love, and it's been a tremendous pleasure putting it together. In addition to all the fantastic people I've worked with, there's explosions, car chases, fights, shootouts, romance, comedy and bad hair. If you see only one 20 Year retrospective of my films this summer, see this one. This is good viewing, folks.
  Expect the third and final video in the next couple of weeks or so, closing it up with bloopers, gags and other goofball antics. Thanks for watching!

  Click HERE and behold the awesome.
  Again, please be patient and let it load before you watch it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


  I just finished viewing a rough cut of the second "20 Years" video, and I am absolutely ecstatic.
  Seriously, I think it's one of the best things I've ever put together. It's seven and one half minutes of pure bliss. The stuff you'll see in this video, matched with the perfect music- well, it literally brings a tear to my eye. I can't remember the last time I was this excited to show something to all of you fine people. I'll have it up this weekend, most likely!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Behind the Scenes

  I've finished the first of the three "20 Years of Delta Wing Pictures" videos I'm going to post, and it's up on YouTube. (For those of you who aren't regular followers of this blog, scroll down one post to catch up.)
  This first offering is the "Behind the Scenes" video, about 4 minutes long. There are only a few short clips from the really early productions, but mostly it borrows heavily from two major films I did in 2001 and 2005. Unfortunately, there just wasn't a lot of surviving "off camera" footage from the early years, so this is by far not a proper representation of projects and people.
  The next video will be a look at all the best scenes from the actual completed films. This one will be a much more thorough look at EVERY project, starting in 1989 and going through the present. It's going to be awesome.
  The third and final video, sure to be the fave, will be all the bloopers from 20 years worth of screw-ups. It's gonna be hard to cut that one down to a reasonable length.
  For now, sit back and enjoy this brief retrospective. Big thanks to all my fellow actors and crew over the years!

Click HERE to see the video!

Oh, and do me a favor- let the video load before you watch it. Don't do it peacemeal, it destroys the rhythm!

Sunday, July 19, 2009


  Today, I finally finished digitizing footage from 20 years worth of films I've done. I never counted how many tapes it was, but it was a lot, when you consider all the raw footage in addition to the finished projects. I've boiled it all down to 15 hours of the best stuff, and that will in turn be boiled down into three seperate videos: A behind-the-scenes montage, a montage of the best film scenes, and of course a blooper reel from all productions past.
  This has been an incredible undertaking and I've spent countless hours on it over the past few months. It's been an inspiring journey back through all that hard work, and I can't wait to show you all the results. Watch for it!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Clearing the air

  So, if you follow my ever-fascinating spew of Twitter streams on the right side of this blog, you probably saw a tweet from about a week ago where I celebrated my independence (on July 4, natch) from sleeping pills.

  A little clarification is in order.

  I recieved a few messages since then congratulating me on conquering my sleep apnea, and I've had a few people ask how my sleeping is since my deviated septum surgery. The short answer is, it's really not any better, and there's no way to make it so. The type of apnea I have is a matter of brain malfunction. I don't have a throat occlusion, and I don't have insomnia brought on by stress. There are no relaxation techniques that are going to help. There's no melanin pill or sleepy time tea remedy. My diaphragm doesn't get the signal to breathe sometimes during the night, and (according to the last study) that causes me to stop breathing for sometimes upwards of a full minute. There is no solution for this.
  The Ambien, and later Lunesta, were merely crutches to help me not be aware of waking up 70-80 times a night. And it worked, for a time, until my body built up a massive tolerance to the medication. I was still having apena episodes that entire time; I just wasn't as aware of them. Same thing with the deviated septum. The most important reason for that surgery was to improve breathing. This, again, doesn't solve the initial problem. It merely assists in softening the effects. It had the added benefit of improving my endurance during heavy cardio events, like running, and it added a little range to my voice for singing. I think it was a good move.
  So, what I'm getting at, is this: I appreciate all the good sentiment, but it's really unwarranted. The reason I quit the sleeping pills is that I have built up over three years of tolerance to them. It's a waste of money, and it's extremely damaging to the liver to take those medications for a long period of time. I'm a week into the "no meds zone," and I'm doing just fine. In fact, I feel better, really. I think this problem is as solved as it's going to get, and I'm good with that. I'm not dying from fatigue, I'm mentally as acute as I ever was, and my body is physically healthier than it's ever been, both in endurance and sheer strength.

  What's there to complain about?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Herr Direktor

  In going through this mountain of old film footage, I've been reminiscing a lot about my filmmaking days of yore. Even though my last two big film experiences were horrible affairs I'd just as soon forget, something about watching the behind the scenes stuff really makes me miss the process. These are some shots taken during the filming of "Altered" back in 2002. I bet you didn't know that directors pointed at stuff so much.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Head trauma

  Here's another gem from the upcoming 20 Years of Delta Wing Pictures project I'm working on. I doubt all of these takes will make it into the final cut, so I thought I'd share them.
  A little setup for you: this was a scene for a movie called "Q" that I worked on with my good friend Bryan White about ten years ago. This particular shot required my goofball character to get hit in the head with a rock from offscreen. Hilarity and multiple contusions ensued.
WARNING: Contains language not suitable for the kiddies.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Australia pics up

  G'day! I have finished editing down the Australia pics, and you can find them by clicking HERE.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Underwater adventures

  Here you go, loyal readers- a look at my dive on the Great Barrier Reef! (photo credits: Michelle Philbin)




  Best of all, here's a link to a little 90 second video I cut together of some of the dive's highlights. Enjoy!


Thursday, June 18, 2009


  I’m choosing now to blog things a little out of order, mostly because the full account of my trip to Australia is going to take some time. I haven’t even written it all down in my personal journal yet, and I want to make sure I have all the details settled before I give you the condensed public version.

  That brings us to this entry, which I’ve chosen for its sheer entertainment value. This is the story of the day I came back.

  On Saturday, June 13th, I woke up at about 7:00 am in Sydney, Australia, and began a very, very long day. Some of the details may seem a little mundane at first blush, but they’re necessary to illustrate just how much was crammed into “one” day. You’ll never expect how it all ended, either. Here’s an account of the 38 hours that passed until my head hit another pillow.


  After a few hours’ sleep on Michelle’s moderately comfortable floor, I woke up, showered, and prepared for my last day in Australia. Since we weren’t coming back to her place before going to the airport, we’d have to schlep my luggage around Sydney all day.
  The walk from Michelle’s place to a nearby bus stop wasn’t quite as nearby as I’d hoped. By the time we got there, my elbow was screaming for some rest from pulling the gargantuan weight of my suitcase along. I had so much gear with me that I actually bought a second suitcase in Cairns to divide the load.
  A short time later, the bus arrived and took us to the train station. Once we were there, we ate some delicious “Sweet Chile and Sour Cream” potato chips on the platform while we waited for our train. (Note to USA: get these chips. Now.)


  After the train dumped us in downtown Sydney, we hauled the suitcases down to the harbor where they were setting up for an art vendor type of deal. Michelle was on the lookout for a particular vendor, but when we found him, he was still setting up, so we decided to go have breakfast.
  “Pancakes on the Rocks” is a place I would highly recommend if you ever find yourself in downtown Sydney for breakfast. Michelle had been raving about it since I arrived in country, and I was about to find out why.
  After a tremendously difficult decision-making process, I settled on a menu item called “Devils Delight,” which consisted of chocolate pancakes with a scoop of chocolate ice cream on top, surrounded by fresh strawberries drizzled with fudge sauce. Healthy, right? I ordered a side of hashed browns and bacon to add a little bit of fuel to my day.


  Bloated with breakfast, we then tracked down Michelle’s art vendor again before heading out on a picture taking excursion around Sydney Harbor. We had been there the night before (see future blogs) but things were a lot different in daylight.
  We strolled past the famous Opera House, then made our way into a sprawling park. There were massive trees, sculptures, and bats. Yes, bats- all of which were the size of large housecats. It was incredible to see huge flocks of them hanging upside down in the tops of trees, wrapped in their leathery wings.
  After the park, we continued on foot, luggage trailing awkwardly behind, further into downtown. We saw famous buildings, tree lined walkways, fountains, and a war memorial that I was dying to go into, but it was closed.
A few blocks later, we were at another train station, where we hopped a double-decker car to the airport.
  Once checked in, Michelle and I said our goodbyes, and about an hour later, I was airborne. The plane flew out right over the sun-sparkled harbor, giving me one last look at the Opera House, the bridge, and the beautiful city of Sydney, Australia.


  After the plane leveled off, I checked my watch. It was about 2:00. I had fourteen hours to go until I landed at LAX. I pulled a fresh copy of Cormack McCarthy’s “The Road” out of my bag and opened it to the first page.
  About thirty minutes before the captain began to make his final decent into Los Angeles, I read the last lines of the last page of the book and closed it up. Excellent novel, by the way, but I wouldn’t recommend it to those who are easily depressed.


  Getting through US Customs and Immigration was much faster than I expected. By the time I made my way out to the front of the airport, my friend Linda was waiting to pick me up.
  We drove across LA and into Linda’s neighborhood where we stopped at Mel’s for a burger. I was ravenous, having not eaten since my pancakes- some 19 hours before. Last time I flew internationally, I learned a valuable lesson about not eating a full meal on a plane. Full stomach plus turbulence equals extreme nausea. Anyway, not eating airplane food is doing your body a huge favor, believe me.
After we finished eating, we drove to Linda’s place, picked up her brother and drove him to work. I had been in LA for about four hours now. It was about two o’clock. Time for a nap? Nope. Time for Disneyland.


  Immediately after dropping Stan off, Linda and I made a beeline for Anaheim and the glorious gates of Mouseland. Parking there is absolutely ridiculous, and we didn’t know what we’d be in for showing up in the middle of the afternoon at Disney on a summer Saturday, but it wasn’t as bad as we expected. We got our tickets and headed into the park.
  We decided our first ride was to be “Space Mountain.” It’s arguably the fastest and most intense ride in the place, and I don’t think we were prepared for it. We laughed and screamed our way through the ride and came off shaking and hysterical. The requisite tourist-robbing photo they took of our faces was so hilarious that we bought a copy.
  So we spent the rest of the day doing the Disney thing. Indiana Jones. Pirates. Haunted Mansion. Matterhorn. Concession food.
  The big joke of the day, (and I’m not even sure how it started) was to yell out “Oh, shit, son! It’s Wayne Brady!” which is a line taken from an old Chappelle Show skit. More precisely, I suggested how funny it would be to yell that out during one of the rides, maybe when one of the Disney animatronic robots was doing something.
  So, you know how in the beginning of the Haunted Mansion ride they stick you in that elevator? At one point, the lights go out and then lightning flashes and you see a body hanging from the rafters high above you? That was the moment that Linda chose to yell out “Oh, shit, son! It’s Wayne Brady!” and point to the ceiling. I haven’t laughed that hard since I was a little girl.
  As the sun started to set, we figured we had time to wait in line for one more ride. We bookended our time by going on Space Mountain again. This time, we had a plan for our photo.
  Forty five minutes of wait time and 36 seconds of ride time later, we ran out to see our masterwork displayed on the video screen.
  In the photo, I’m staring at my watch, seemingly bored, and Linda is raising her hands in the air in celebration, only one of them is missing. She’s staring at her absent appendage in mock horror. Instant classic. Ring it up.
  After that, we stayed for Disney’s big fireworks show and then headed out.
  We fought the freeway traffic for something like 46 miles, getting off only once to hit the drive-thru of the In-N-Out Burger.
  During the latter half of our freeway nightmare, I made Linda laugh so hard, she almost wrecked the car when I suddenly went on an explosive and expletive laden rant about the other drivers. The more tired I am, the more creative I get, often with unpredictable results. Time for bed, finally? It was 11:30pm now, and I had been awake for upwards of 32 hours.
  Nope. Time to go to a party. LA style.


  After a quick shower and change at Linda’s, we were off to a party. We rolled into the place right around 12:30am, and it was a typical west coast scene. The well furnished house was full of food and drink, and people were enjoying a loud mix of music inside and out on the back patio.
  I’ll spare names to protect the innocent: the first person I met, a female rock star with wild hair and attire, shook my hand and said, “Nice to meet you. You wanna make out?” I smiled politely and before I could say another word, she laughed loudly and whisked me away to dance. Moments later, she flipped her skirt up in the back, revealing her thong. “What do you think of this?” she laughed. She was out to shock, plain and simple. She made sure I always had a drink in my hand.
  Other highlights of the evening included the host’s Marilyn Monroe-inspired stripper girlfriend (who couldn’t stop dancing) and his two confused dogs; who, like me, wandered about the party, seemingly in awe of the whole affair.
  There was a tall, well built guy who was "writing a script," an older guy in a suit who looked like he had no business being there, some cheese that smelled like feet, and a stuffed dead dog. The dog, I’d later come to find out, was a movie prop, as was the tremendously oversized prosthetic penis that was later hauled out of the closet and shown to me. Turns out the host was a makeup artist, and I found myself later admiring the Emmy on display in his living room. I won’t say what show it was for, but I was very impressed.
  Eventually, around 2:00, the cops arrived to break the noisy party up. My rock star friend asked the police officer if he was a stripper when he walked in. If I would’ve had any more of my wine left in my mouth, I’m sure I would have done a spit take.
  Time to go home now, surely.


  Incorrect, for it was time for party number two. I deliriously thought about waking up in Sydney so many hours ago. It seemed like days since that happened, but it was, in reality, the same day. The same endless day.
  On our way to the second venue, Linda, her rock-star friend and I stopped at a service station to buy some cigarettes. The middle-eastern guy behind the counter was enthralled by my companions as he rang them up. He asked if they were sisters and Linda's friend proclaimed loudly from behind her pink dreadlocks, "Yeah, and we have sex ALL the time!" They stalked out the front doors laughing as I purchased a bottle of Mountain Dew to give myself a much needed shot of caffeine. The guy behind the counter looked at me with either respect or sympathy. I couldn't tell which.
  Party two was at another house, and featured more entertaining LA stereotypes. First up were the hot, club-going lesbian twin sisters. I began to wonder if I’d been dropped into some kind of crazy sitcom.
  The host of this party was a striking blonde girl who, when we arrived, was wearing sunglasses, clutching a bottle of booze in one hand and was standing on top of a table. This was going to be interesting.
  Other guests included a sort of folksy-hippie girl who later brought out her guitar and dropped our jaws with her impressive playing and amazing singing of songs she wrote. Her album is forthcoming.
  The balance of the evening/morning was spent listening to the party guests play and sing (some quite horribly, some amazingly well) impromptu versions of songs from Oasis, Alice in Chains, and Creed, among others.
  Long about 4:00am, the party broke up, and we drove into the approaching dawn.


  After dropping the now completely hammered rock star off at her house, Linda and I returned to her place, where I promptly popped a sleeping pill (you’d think it would have been unnecessary). It was now nearly 6:00am.
  We had a short conversation, and then I felt the Lunesta begin to take hold. “If there’s anything you need to say to me,” I said, “you’d better say it within the next minute.” Darkness. The 40 hour day closed.
  In the blink of an eye, I heard Linda’s voice saying, “You awake? We’ve got an hour til we need to leave.” It was 11:00am.
  I quickly shook myself awake, showered, and we headed to the airport. Two flights later, I was back to Virginia, caught a cab home and strolled into my house just after midnight. Five hours later, I was up for work and started this crazy week.
  My life is fun.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Along the top of Uluru

  Man, I can't wait to get the rest of these pics out to you all.