Sunday, February 28, 2010

A very good Saturday

  If you're looking for the short-short version, I made it to New York and the audition went very, very well. If you want a more detailed account, read on.
  Friday's storm in New York pretty much shut down the airports, and about 1500 flights were cancelled, along with mine. After juggling a few phone calls, I was able to book a seat on a sold-out Amtrak train that evening. I got into Penn Station at about 10:45 and walked a few blocks to my hotel room. Conditions in Manhattan weren't nearly as bad as I expected.
After hooking up with some Starbucks breakfast, I spent the morning in my hotel room rehearsing my monologues and warming up my voice. About thirty minutes before the audition, I walked over to Pearl Studios and headed up to the twelfth floor. Right after I sat down, they told me they were running early and asked if I was ready to go in. I said "Absolutely," and stepped into the room.
  It was your typical studio space. Hardwood floor, high ceiling, one mirror wall. There were two gentleman reviewing applicants, one of whom was a faculty member from LAMDA. Being a dialect freak, I was a little entranced by his English accent and missed a bit of what he said.
  There was a brief interview, then they asked me what I was going to perform for them. Then, it was time.
  I ran my Shakespeare piece first, and I was immediately awed by how good the resonance in the room was. My voice came out, full, rich, and ringing. I hit every line just how I wanted to. Then I switched gears (and put on my NY accent) for a monologue from Frankie & Johnny. Again, I hit it just how I had rehearsed.
  After I had finished that, it was time to sing. This was the thing I considered to be my weak area, and the only part of the process I was dreading a bit. Again, the room helped me here, and my voice came out smooth, and full. I didn't miss any notes, and I didn't have any breath issues. I couldn't have done it better at this point in my experience.
  They seemed to really like everything. The instructor from LAMDA gave me a different set of circumstances to work into the Shakespeare piece and had me run it again, obviously to see how I could take direction. I gave him quite a different version, and I think he liked it, because we discussed it afterward for a good few minutes. I got some good feedback from them, and they explained that callbacks were in London and how much school would cost, etc. I got the impression that I had done well, and I felt really good about it all.
  A few minutes later, I met a friend of mine on 8th avenue and we had lunch. I felt such relief that I wanted to just collapse. We spent the rest of the afternoon just catching up and walking around the theatre district. Then, I caught a cab to LaGuardia and flew back to DC.
  After that, I had a really nice evening out. I was pretty tired, and not much good for conversation, but hopefully she'll forgive me for that.
  Got to bed at about 2:30. Today, I have to catch up on everything I haven't been able to do for the last 48 hours, and it's a lot. Kinda wish I could just stop for a few minutes and do nothing. Meh, that'd just be boring.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Here I go

  Tomorrow, immediately after I wrap things up in DC, I fly to New York. Saturday, I’ll wake up, have a small breakfast, warm my voice up, and then make my way to Pearl Studios for what is easily the most important audition I’ve ever had.
  I’m feeling mixed amounts of stress right now. I’m confident in both my monologues, and I feel like they’re very strong. I’m comfortable with the choices I’ve made in how I’m interpreting them. But, I’m still admittedly feeling weak about my song. I wish I could just add about two or three more years of singing experience into my body. I’m at a very frustrated stage right now with my voice and a lack of consistency. Angela has been very patient and supportive and is the best voice teacher a guy could ask for. Yet, I still have so many hangups about singing for people, especially in this context, where it’s going to be judged. The further I’ve gone in my training, the harder I’ve made it for myself by over-focusing on technique.
  All of that aside, I’m looking forward to this. Regardless of the outcome, it’s going to be a worthwhile experience. The sheer fact that I’m going to New York to audition for a prestigious London acting school inspires me deeply. I was contacted by a director this week and offered ensemble work and understudy for a lead role at a professional theatre. That was a tremendous boost to my professional ego and gave me a much needed shot in the arm. Unfortunately, I had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts. But most importantly, they know me, and somebody has liked my work.
  I guess there really isn’t much more to say. I’ll report back, of course, just as soon as I can. I’m going to hang out with a friend of mine up there tomorrow night, and hopefully that’ll help me unwind a bit and not obsess over details too much. Break me a leg, everybody!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Kitchen Time

  So, with all this bad weather lately, I've really been on a cooking and baking bender. I've been making normal food the whole time, but I've also been experimenting with all kinds of delicious treats. I typically don't eat that crap, but it's fun to make, and I can usually pawn it off on other people. This weekend, perhaps inspired by one too many episodes of "Cake Ace" or "Cake Boss" or "Cake Fuhrer" or whatever they're calling it now, I decided to take a run at something higher level.
  Granted, the complexity of design of MY cake is nowhere near amazing, but for me, it was a challenge. I did a little research about what I'd need to accomplish the idea that was in my head, then picked the stuff up on Friday. In the interest of brevity, I won't go into every minute detail about the process. Right up front, I'll say that I wouldn't soon do this again. It's an incredible amount of work, and should only be done when there's a good damn reason.

  The first thing I tried were roses. Actually, the first thing I tried were lillies, because they were a lot simpler in design. When that didn't cause me to rip out fistfuls of my own hair, I gave the roses a go. It was actually very easy. Tedious, but easy. The stuff I'm making them out of in these photos is called "gum paste." You roll it out like clay, dye it whatever color you want, work a little vegetable shortening into it for some elasticity, then go crazy. I built those roses layer by layer, and had to brush each petel with water to get them to stick to each other. I was very pleased with the results.

  I mixed up three batches of cake batter next, and while those were cooking, I made this bowl of buttercream icing to help stick them together.

  These photos are pretty self explanatory.

  Next came the more complex part. I wanted to cover my cake in fondant, and rather than buy my own, I decided to make it. It really wasn't all that diffcult at first. You see here my redneck double-boiler dissolving some gelatine. I had to mix in glucose and glycerin and a few other things, and then eventually, when it cooled, the stuff turned into sticky dough. Then I kneaded in a bunch of powdered sugar- about eight cups worth. This kneading process took about 45 minutes, and KILLED my forearms. This was my least favorite part of the entire project.

  Finally, when the fondant was ready, I rolled it out as big as I could get it and iced the outside of the cake with the last of the buttercream as a bonding layer. Then, ever so carefully, I rolled the fondant onto my rolling pin and back out over the cake. A mistake here would have been disasterous. Luckily, I got it on there first try, smoothed it out and trimmed it.

  To finish up the bottom, I rolled out some more fondant and cut a ribbon shape into it with a roller.
  Then, I made up a batch of royal icing (stiffer, for gluing) glued the ribbon around the base, and then set about attaching my flowers and leaves. It was like putting together a puzzle I had never seen. Again, I was lucky and didn't make any mistakes or drips or anything. Then, I was done.

  It was fun, but like I said, I'm in no hurry to do it again. Now I just have to find somebody to help me eat this!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Don't hate today

  Celebrate it. Love it.

  There are far more hurtful and awful things in the world to be bitter about on this occasion. I'm aiming this message squarely out at you types who complain that Valentine's Day is "too commercial" or you're resentful because you don't have someone to share it with.

  Get over it.

  Everything is commercial. That's how our society works. Every holiday, every occasion, every trip to the grocery store. Every time you go to the movies or the mall. It's all for your money. Copping out today is just a lame excuse to be jaded. Why go to the effort? I'm not saying you have to run out to the store and buy a heart-shaped box of chocolates. I'm not saying you have to spend a week's pay finding the most beautiful bouquet of double-dipped roses you can. I'm just saying appreciate it. Yes, you should be loving and generous the entire year round and not just on this assigned day. I agree, wholeheartedly. But, if you're lucky enough to get to spend this day with someone that you care about, celebrate it. Find a way. Just take that person aside for a quiet moment and tell them what they mean to you.
  Not everyone is fortunate enough to have that opportunity. Make the most of it. Don't let that moment pass. The truest beauty is there.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


  I'd love to take credit for that clever little wordplay, but I got it from a cute girl who in turn got it from a cute news agency.
  I've had so little human interaction over the last few days that I'm going a little bit insane. Sunday morning, after the BIG storm cleared out, I went out to survey the dumpage on my driveway and found it was over my knees. As badass as the Jeep is, I knew it couldn't push that much snow. My elderly neighbor was just beginning to shovel his driveway (a tiny peck at a time) and offered me a spare shovel, since I'm still too stubborn to buy one.
  I shoveled the thing down to about four inches, which I knew I could easily clear in 4WD. Then, I went over and shoveled about 85% of Chuck's driveway, right down to the 'crete. He was worried that if any was left, he or his wife might slip and fall. During the shoveling, he proceeded to tell me about everything that has happened to every human being in the world since 1920. Once you get him started, you can't stop him. I struck him with the shovel several times, but even that had no effect.
  I went to the store later that day to restock, and it was really surreal. About 50% of the parking lot was taken up with what I've started calling "snow castles." They're about eight foot high cubes of snow that the front-end loaders have shoved to the side to clear room. They are massive burgs, and I can't imagine how long it's going to take for them to melt.
  Inside the store, I found many shelves emptied. The meat department was completely bare, as were the milk coolers.
  Monday was called off, job-wise, so I sat at home. Tuesday followed with similar results. Our latest storm rolled in last night and danced on us all day long, putting down another heavy layer of snow on top of this disaster. Today was called off too obviously, but I ventured out tonight into the nastiness to go to my voice lessons. All the other students had cancelled, I was told, and I was the only one insane enough to try it. I won't kid you, the conditions were very ugly. I actually got stuck in my driveway, thanks to Mr. Plow rolling about three feet of snow into my drive, but I had myself dug out in about ten minutes. I learned that bravado and a heavy foot can't help you when you have most of the Arctic Circle wedged under your transmission.
  There was no place to park when I got to the lesson, so I just ditched my Jeep on some flat ground and hiked into the completely unplowed area. The wind was howling, blowing ice into my face, and the snow was almost up to my waist in some places.
  I made it home, eventually, and here I am, settled in again. Work has been called off for tomorrow, and I expect to see the same on Friday. Crazy, crazy time.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Now, we dig out

  The storm is over. It was lengthy, beginning at roughly 10:00 am yesterday, and ending tonight at about 5:00. The heaviest, wettest snows came late last night around midnight.

  This jackass came wheeling down the street early in the evening and lost control, crashing backwards into my driveway. It took him about an hour to dig out. If he'd been driving reasonably, he wouldn't have had that problem.

  So, the final official measurement from my backyard is 22 inches. Just under two feet. Pretty solid, but not as bad as the three feet I had heard predicted. Still, this is going to be a major mess for the area, and I'm not sure when things will get to normal. Maybe Tuesday. I'm anxious to see what it looks like around here, but I don't dare venture out. The Jeep, amazing as it is, could get high centered in the driveway with this much snow, and it's just not worth risking it. I should have bought a snow shovel after the last storm, but I didn't think I'd need one again. Like Dubya said, "Fool me once, uh... shame. Shame on... you? Fool me... can't get fooled again."

  My beautiful rose trellis, murdered by the storm.

  There was a crazy invasion of red-breasted Robins this afternoon. I've never seen anything like it. There were hundreds of them in the tree in my back yard. They were eating the berries in a massive frenzy. Poor birds couldn't find any food anywhere because everything has feet of snow on top of it. I even saw one trying to hover and drink from a dripping icicle. I wish I had gotten a picture of that. I did get a shot of the flock, and that will be tomorrow's 365. For now, here's this guy looking forlorn. I did throw about half a box of Cheerios out there for them, and they thanked me by taking a massive group dump on my porch. You're welcome, boys.

  I was a little concerned about the weight my trees were bearing, so I decided to go out there with a broom and try to shake some of the snow loose.

  You win some, you lose some.

  I also baked some more sinful desserts. Something about snowy days is hardwired into my brain to bake sweets. I wanted to ice these and then have snowflake shapes cut out of fondant layed on the top of each one. The fondant I made wasn't pliable enough to make into shapes, so it became the icing. After I dipped each one of these and they cooled, they took on an incredible sheen. They almost look pearlescent, but you can't tell in these photos. I can also personally report that they are delicous. I'm going to take the rest of them to school Monday and give them away.
  Fun storm. Thanks, Snowpocalpse!


  Not at all as bad as I expected. The way people were panicked around here and looting stores and crashing their cars, you would think it was the end of the world. The local news affiliates have literally bumped all other programming to cover this nonstop. IT'S SNOW. I get it. It's white, it's cold, there's lots of it.
  I set up a camera shooting out the back window of the house that took a shot of the scene every five minutes between 3:30 pm yesterday and 7:30 am this morning. You can watch as the snow piles up, bows the trees and thoroughly destroys my rose trellis:

  It's still coming down out there, and they say we can expect another 9 inches today. Will update again with more pics as I get them.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Batten the hatches, Mr. P...'s coming. It's here!

  They tell me this is going to be an historic storm, and that this area is the bullseye. I tell them they're acting like little girls. I moved here from Spokane. They KNOW snow up there. We used to get storms like this every day before lunchtime, and we laughed at mocked the accumulation. That is, until it caved in our roof.

Mr. Potatohead disapproves of the snow.

  Whatever happens, I'm now safely bolted in, and I can sit back and enjoy it. I have nowhere to go for two days, so I'm going to watch movies, cook, and rehearse my singing and my monologues. Plenty to keep me entertained. When it's all over, I'll make that lazy spud get off his dirty eye-marked ass and shovel the driveway. Since I still don't own a snow shovel, it should be fun to watch. My neighbors will say, "Is that a potato shoveling your driveway?" and I'll say, "Mind your business, Nosey McGee."

Megastorm, table for one.

  There's a nice 'before' picture for your viewing enjoyment. I'll post again later after the snowpocalypse with shots of the dumpage.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

If you get this reference

  ...and you just laughed, then you and I will get along very well.