Saturday, May 12, 2018

Madam Secretary, or, 'The Good Family'

Because I'm a NYC actor, I try to keep up with tv that's shot here, so finally started watching MADAM SECRETARY, which is better than I expected to be, and turns out to be the story about a happy family, in the guise of a political procedural. I'm all for watching happy families.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

In FB Recovery Mode

Now that I no longer make political or personal comments on FB I feel like I escaped a cult—a jealous, hydra-headed, indignant believer in THE RAGE God—when I peruse the home page. I tried to be a reasonable and inquiring FB citizen but that Village of the Damned didn’t allow it.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

The Costar Blues

Today, I'm prepping a costar side for a workshop with a tv casting director.  The character is a prison guard giving testimony in a prison murder case. Straight forward enough, as costar sides almost always are, but to my reading, the side contains clues that suggest the character's circumstances give him a touch more personality--more attitude and point of view--than the situation necessarily suggests; there's room for a little humor, a little self-importance, a little uncertainty. The actor who played the role on tv didn't approach it that way: he kept it simple, 'just the facts, 'ma'am,' which is probably right; probably serves the stars acting in the scene with him; but may or may not serve the entertainment value of the scene.

I'll give it a crack and see how the CD takes it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Cold Turkey on My FB Addiction

Now that I've closed down my personal page on Facebook, I need to migrate the mini essays that I came to love posting there, back to here. The original migration happened because I found that FB is where my readers lived: my audience there grew faster, and was more actively engaged, than it had been on my blog. And posting on FB often gave me the gratification of seeing that some people thought I was 'smart enough, pretty enough, and gosh-darn good enough,' for them to spend some online time with me. Posting on FB was like crowd surfing a grunge concert that was already rowdy long before you got by the bouncer, and will still be going strong after you're eventually kicked out. Posting here, on my 'blog,' is like playing putt-putt golf by myself on a midweek morning, when everyone else is at work.

But I had to get off of FB, for the foreseeable future. Although I made my FB 'brand' something like, 'I'm the guy who talks reasonably but honestly and passionately about the unreasonable things that upset us all,' I also was too often the guy who lost his online shit in embarrassing, unreasonable ways. E.g., I can't talk long about Israel and the Middle East before getting defensive about what I perceive as antisemitism, I completely lose my patience when talking to others who don't share my panic about attacks on free speech from both the political left and right, and I have a hard time hiding how appalled I am by the lack of critical thinking skills I see exercised by people I desperately want to do better (in my judgment). My occasional rants around these or related topics took too much energy and self-respect from me, and has become a distraction from more important work I need to be doing: i.e., the writing and acting prep on which I need to focus in order to sustain a career in theater and tv/film.

My years of writing on FB brought me new friends, repaired old relationships--as FB friends and I got to know each other better through sharing ideas and passions on the page--and helped my self-esteem through the positive feedback for my writing and thinking. I find leaving it behind difficult. The ready-to-hand conversation and positive reenforcement is addictive, but it's time.

Putting my time and passion into building a career is scarier than posting screeds on FB. But, here goes....

Saturday, March 17, 2018

In Memory of Zach Doss

Zach, a 34-year-old writer whom I and many friends and colleagues who attended the U. of Houston in the same era knew and admired, unexpectedly died this week. His passing touches a nerve (though I don't know if Zach would approve of a euphemism such as "passing," as he was more direct than that.) He is already missed, even by those such as myself who didn't know him well enough.
Zach and I did NOT hit it off when we first met, to say the least. I found him youthfully arrogant and he found me ridiculously old and stodgy (we were both right about each other!) But, since we both roamed the same bit of ground at the same time, we became FB friends, after we each left UH, and I came to respect and like Zach very very highly! I don't often suffer correction from friends ("stodgy" is the word I used above), but more than once, I leapt to accept some correction from him, because he was often right, and always stood up for others whom someone like myself seemed to treat unfairly. I was looking forward to someday being in the same room again with Zach, because I wanted to say to his face how much I'd come to enjoy knowing him, albeit through the public, epistolary form of FB. I regret having waited. Zach was a good man, whom I didn't know well enough, and whom I'll miss.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

America's Original Sin

For reasons I can trace back to my childhood experiences of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, my parents participation as trainers in the Freedom Rides, being called "Kike" on school playgrounds in Vermont, having black foster brothers and sisters, and simply being exposed to what was in the cultural air in the late 1960s-mid 1970s, race in America matters a lot to me. Perhaps more than any other social ill I think of racism as America's original sin, a sin which I see neither the Right nor the Left in America addressing, nor do I see it effectively addressed by identity politics, which too easily loses a universalist spirit I intuitively believe we mustn't leave behind, even as we rightfully embrace the particularity of racial and ethnic experience. (I am firmly of the belief that 'race' is a made-up category without empirical justification; I roll my eyes every time someone is 'shocked, shocked' to discover their DNA makes them 'part' black, or Jewish, or whatever.)

I hope to find a place in tv/film in which I get to help explore stories of America's original sin in ways that find our common humanity.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Booked first Network TV Acting Job

Next week I perform as an actor in my first (legacy) network TV show in a strong/large costar role that's story centric. I'm freak'n thrilled. I even get to act with a tv/film star whose work I've long admired (I'm mindful of set etiquette, though, and would never fawn over a star, which just slows the work down.)

I look forward to posting details at air date.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018


ALTERED CARBON, on Netflix, satisfies my sweet tooth for sci fi urban dystopias, yet it plays out the same old film noir premise of a high society murder that turns out to involve sexual and other depredations of the bored rich. Owes a lot--for me, too much--to Raymond Chandler (whose work I adore, save for the misogyny), who's mid-20th century male understanding of women seems woefully inadequate to any future, dystopian or otherwise. At the center of this story women are literally treated as throwaway commodities, but I don't have confidence that the writers and directors are handling that with any sense of irony; it comes off as an unthought-out echo and appropriation of Chandler, done for the t and a.
The show also demonstrates what’s both right and wrong about ‘diversity’ in casting. On the upside: more diverse casting is great to see here, and at least three of the major characters are non-white. On the down side: people of color are still being used to authenticate the Caucasian hero and anti-heroes at the center of the action.
I'd like to see dark sci fi move away from the 'film noir' mash ups that have worked well until now but, for me, are paying fewer dividends.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Visiting the Pluralverse

Here's what you know only a little later in life: choices have long tails. Consequences last, and create further consequences, bad and good. Just as possibilities for real life narrow, you find yourself living evermore with the shades of lives-that-might-have-been, with the multiple possible universes of what might have been proliferating spontaneously from the twin fuels of your imagination and regret. Increasingly, you have one foot in, and one foot out, of the 'here' and 'now,' and you find yourself time traveling, visiting the pluralverse of all your incipient and abortive selves.

On the Rocks Today, In Deep Water, Tomorrow.

Today, I’m washed up on the rocks of my creative resistance and trying to ease myself back into deep water. I’m super mad at myself for being a terrible and nonproductive writer! A bad person! A nincompoop! A ———- (choose your favorite self put down!) I wrote this draft wrong so am stuck with a stupid final 45 pages after a reasonably readable 75 page beginning. I know I have to tear this thing apart and simplify in the next draft if I’m to get anything out of this except a learning experience. I’m deeply aware of how much better, richer, deeper, and more insightful are the imaginations of every artist I respect than is mine! In other words, I’m trapped on the rocks of ego.
So hard for us to accept our own peculiar genius in the light of our admiration for the insight, beauty, and talent of others! I’m in awe at the constant reinventions of form and genre that I see others commit daily in making their work and in creating an audience for it. 
My father was an extraordinarily difficult man who left me a legacy that’s like nesting bombs—inside each bomb is yet another smaller bomb—exploding regularly inside the protective concrete bunker of my crumbly brain. But one smart thing he was clearer on than I am: the only audience for our work may be ourself and that’s ok. Unfortunately, I thought his work was mediocre, but what do I know? It did something for him. Maybe I’m doing what he did. Maybe that’s ok? Maybe. Seems self indulgent. Like reading a book in the middle of the day while others are building the Brooklyn Bridge.
I take consolation in this: our lives never quite mean what we think they do; our contributions tend to be unseen by us in the privacy of the minds of others we may have touched, not through our big achievements, but through less intentional acts and through character. ‘Character is fate’ is not just an aesthetic dictum, nor an epitaph for the individual self; it’s how we transmit good from one to another, ‘fate’ created by one character effecting change in another, in a profluent chain reaction.