Monday, December 29, 2008

Go Tell It On The Moutain... Pathetic Apathy.

Little Post Holiday video fun... this maybe viral... maybe real... I don't know and I don't care... it's awesome... the gal on the left looks like she's waiting to face the death sentence.

Daisey Skewers Butz

I applaud Mike Daisey for being one of the braver performers out there. He saddles onto the stage with a set of notes and a glass of water like gunslinger at high noon to deliver a fast pace, brash, and poignant performance. He is also just coming off an Off Broadway production deemed highly successful in some circles.

It is with this level of NYC theater street cred that gives him the voice to lambaste Norman Leo Butz's performance in the revival of "Speed the Plow". Lead Actor Jeremy Piven (who I respected a whole lot more before Entourage) famously dropped out due to Mercury Poisoning (Rumors that heavy drug use and lack of committment forced Piven out). Butz has been tapped to jump in and take the stage.

However after a few weeks of rehearsals and such, apparently he's not off book and he's using prompters off stage, and he's... on the stage. It's a little perplexing because for Gosh Darn Sakes, this is Broadway, not some College Stage Production. So, Daisy Really takes him to task, calling his work pretty much unacceptable. I think it's a matter of an actor being a little overwhelmed by the pressure of carrying a straight play on broadway. However, producers are sticking with him, what choice do they have? However, even I think that being a well paid stand in, you should be doing everything in your power to be at least off book. I have no idea what level of committment his co-stars are giving him... maybe they don't want to rehearse. However, memorization is like breathing to an actor... it's not something you should have a hard time doing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Steve Brule on Viral Videos

Hey! We love Doctor Steve Brule, and we're stoked that the old DSB has created a little tutorial on how to make a viral video. You know what a viral video is right? It's like some dude singing in a tree and then he falls out of the tree, and it's so funny people email it or post it on their blogs and befor eyou know it, that dude who fell out of a tree has a million hits, and then marketing people in a room call him a genius, and then they go to his house and say, "Hey, you should work for us, we want to hire you to direct a commercial for Pepsi." So, then the Tree Dude, does another viral video for about six figures, and it's basically him singing in a tree, only this time he's holding a can of Pepsi, and when he falls out of the tree his fall is broken, because he lands in a pool of refreshing Pepsi... Pepsi! Savor the holidays!

And now for your enjoyment! Dr. Steve Brule, You Turkey!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Art Of Function

We turned 1 years old this week! Yep, Art of Function was unleashed upon the unsuspecting humans nearly a year ago this week. We're super excited to survive a tumultuous year of labor strikes in media, a new president, news media flim flam, tons of cool gear, the rise of Mike Daisey, and yours truly posting videos of people doing odd things in the name of expression. 2008 was a great year for AOF, not so much the U.S. economy, but great for AOF!

Friday, December 19, 2008

You're Never Finished Growing

My father is a golf professional. He used to be a touring professional and has been the head golf pro for many prestigious country clubs. He now owns his own equipment business. When I was a boy, he was giving golf lessons to a beginner, who had decided at the age of 52 to take up golf. He had never played before, but he had moved into a Condo off the 14th green, and decided he wanted to do it. As a young lad, I often attended lessons my Dad gave to folks at the driving range. He is a terrific teacher and swing mechanic. On this occasion, his 52 year old student asked my Dad, "Why do you love Golf so much?" My Dad, replied, "Because it's a game you can play your whole life, and never stop learning." This statement has truly shaped my philosophy as an acting teacher.

When I first came to Hollywood, I took a class with Wendy Phillips. Her husband used to attend class, and he told us how a certain A-List actor still attended acting classes to this day to stay sharp. It showed that in Acting, like many arts, the process of self discovery is the paramount goal of the artist, and that journey never ends. That is why the journey is so beautiful.

However, out of all the actors in the world, many seem to lack an understanding of this important tenant. They think a few workshops in the bag, and they are good to go. Then the y wonder, why they never book any work. Did you know that Doctors have to attend education seminars every 4 years in order to maintain their license? Did you also know many other professions require that same level of continued education? If they have to do, why should we as actors stop doing it? However, so many folks refuse to go back into the Studio to work on their craft, and some never even start. It's this problem that truly saddens me. Because learning about your art, your craft, is so incredibly enriching. It's a community process that helps you become the artist you want to be. For the life of me, I cannot fathom why people choose to step aside or away from an opportunity staring them in the face.

Many young actors fall into two traps, that I see:

The First, "I've been told that I'm super talented, so I figure don't need training. I can see why some actors would need training, because they lack talent, but since I have it, I don't need training." Now, I'm not making this quote up. An actual actor (who was not talented by the way) told me this... out loud, in front of other people. It's this level of misguided understanding of what acting is, that really handicaps a lot of people out there. Talent may get you in the door, but training gets you the role. You know why? Because in a town like Los Angeles or New York, there are talented actors everywhere, and they have training, and talent and training will beat someone with just talent any day of the week.

The Second, "I've got a degree from the Muckety Muck Institute, I've completed my training. I don't need anymore." Oh, what a trap this one is. Academic degrees do little to provide practical application to students. This not the fault of the Academic circile. Academia is meant to provide a broad introduction to different styles and theories as it relates to acting. The Goal of a University is to broaden your perspective, not provide you with on the job training. Many actors, fail to realize this. They may know in their head the difference between Mesiner or Adler, because a class had them spend a few weeks discussing the techniques, but they probably have never really dug into the technique for themselves. But they 'know it'. So, in their minds, they have been trained. They have a degree they spent a lot of money on, so who could blame them for seeing their training as a process you can actually finish.

I want to share a little anecdote with you. I once had a potential student who had graduated from a very prestigious East Coast school, come to audit my class. I asked him where he received his training. He mentioned the school, I acknowledged the prestige of it. I asked him, what training he had received or who he had studied with since coming to L.A. He said no one, he didn't need it. He had a degree from Blah Blah Blah. "Okay, fair enough, can you tell me what brought you to my class?" His response, "I met with an agent and he told me I needed to be in a class. I just want to take one for a few months to get it on my resume." I tried not to roll my eyes, "Okay, well, jump in the exercises as you feel lead. Let me see what you've got." We started doing some exercises, and I noticed he wasn't stepping on stage with anyone. I turned to him, and I asked him to jump up. He shoke his head no. I decided not to press. At the break, I pulled him aside, and asked him why he wasn't getting out of his chair. His response, "Because I don't know how to do those exercises." He looked very shaken. "That's okay," I said, "You're here to learn, right?" He kind of shrugged his shoulders, "Yeah, I guess."

This happens a lot. I call it Univesity Ego. A degree creates a false sense of accomplishment in many professionals, and acting isn't excluded. A degree is beneficial but it is not the end of your study.

I'm not relaying this as something I've just observed, but experienced. I myself have a degree in theater. I came to Los Angeles, and was told I needed to study. I had no idea why, since I had a degree, but I did anyway. I studied under four teachers in three years, before finding my 'home' studio, where I studied for 2 and a half years. My teacher asked me to start teaching for him after that time, but I still to this day go an take one shot classes every month to keep my chops up. For me, the class work is the most rewarding. It's where I really get to stretch myself.

And it's in that last statement, "Stretch Myself", that I want to really emphasize on. An artist is only finished growing and learning, when they seal your casket shut. I read a memoir by Sir Alec Guiness about his life, and in his later years, he recounted that he got the same joy and nerves in his 70's before walking out on stage, that he found he had in his twenties. That passion for the art has to be cultivated through work and pushing yourself. It's why the painter or sculptor rents a Studio, to have a place to explore. It's why the musician picks up more than one instrument, or practices for hours each day. We can never be finished becoming better at what we do. There is no bottom to what lies inside of us, and our ability to pull it out for our audience.

I contend that the process of experimentation and growth for actors (or any artist) is the most rewarding part of the art itself. It's where our lives change, and to pass that up because of ego, shame, or ignorance is completely devastating to me. It makes me sad for people. It's like watching them tear up a million dollar lottery ticket, because they mis-read the numbers.

I work with a lot of actors who come to L.A. with no experience acting, it's just something they want to try. Maybe they had a mid-life crisis or a quarter life crisis, I don't know. However, they are fresh and eager. They know they need to learn how to act. The whole experience is a wonderful new journey. After a little bit of time training (sometimes a year, sometimes a few months) they start booking work. It never fails. I think it's because they do not carry all the baggage coming in that I mentioned above. They just want to learn. It's the perfect attitude to become the artist you want to be.

However, Ego, Shame and Ignorance are not the only enemies of growth. Perhaps the biggest hurdle for some artists is Procrastination. So, many people say, after the new year, I'm taking a class. Or they say, after I get my tax return. Or maybe after the summer, and then before they know it, they are a year older and no more the wiser. It is so key to act on your impulse as an artist. By it's definition an impulse is quick and sometimes lacking prejudice, but artists, have to live in that world. I once met an actor in a class, who had elected to give up his cell phone, cable, electricity (no joke) and gas for the car for a month, just so they could stay in class. That's dedication. This guy rode the bus, in Los Angeles, and read plays by candle light, so he could be in class four days out of the month. I once heard another famous Broadway actress say that in her early days of studying in New York with Sanford Meisner, she had to waitress to make ends meat, while waiting for the big break to come. She used to say to her co-workers, "I work 40 hours a week, so I can live for 3 hours on Wednesday nights." That's the mentality artists need to have at some point in their lives.

I know that many of you reading this are the creative type. You may be an actor, or writer, or painter... you have a creative spirit inside you. I challenge you to consider how you will cultivate that creativity in the new year. Some of you are probably thinking, I really need to jump start this project. You may think that you need to audition more. I would challenge you to consider taking a class. It's simple, it's effective and it gets the right momentum and energy flowing in the direction you want to go. However, before you embark on this, check your ego and your fear at the door. You will have a lot more fun that way.

Remember, you're never finished growing.

Mick Montgomery is a teacher at the Actors Workout Studio.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

China has the World's Laziest Army

This is a photo of the laziest army ever assembled, it appears that that Mall Cop movie coming out with the dude from King of Queens is more influential than some people thought. PS3 Jail Break Sale!

Big sale over at today on PS3 related items. I hear Fallout 3 is on sale for super duper cheap... so, go check it out if you still have some holiday gifts to buy for that big ole dork in your life.

Rosenberg Feels At Home in Hollywood

In a display that may show more the ever widening divide between the coasts in the creative unions, especially SAG, I was told today by several sources who attended the Town Hall in Los Angeles, last night that an overwhelming amount of people turned out to express their support of Alan Rosenberg and and the 'Yes' vote on the strike. This was a big turn over from the NYC meeting where several members turned out in droves to play down the strike authorization vote while simultaneously calling for Alan Rosenberg's head on a platter.

This is no shocker as Rosenberg has repeatedly appealed more to the Feature Film side of the acting business, almost completely ignoring television, which makes him Hollywood centric. A lot of TV shows are shot in New York, and the board in NYC has already voted a no-confidence on Rosenberg... which is not good, by the way.

After the meeting NPR caught up to Rosenberg, and he changed his tune a bit on the 'Yes' vote. In the past Rosenberg has painted the 'Yes' vote and a step towards an actual strike. Now, he's saying it's merely a threat to be used as a bargaining chip at the table with AMPTP. I think he knows a lot of members do not want to strike, and he's trying to pull back a little on his own rehetoric to gain more support. Cheap tactic in my opinion.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Has the Business Compromised the Art in 08?

I was reviewing my top 10 lists from last year, and I was beginning to formulate in my head some top 10 lists for movies and music for 2008, then I realized, that I have not really seen anything this year or heard anything this year that really blew me away.

Last year, we were treated to movies like "No Country For Old Men", and "There Will Be Blood". We had records like the soundtrack for "Once". You already know my opinion on the television product out this season. Very, Very lack luster. It seems the only good thing to come out in 08 was the web series "The NoHo Show" (yes, I am shameless).

Granted, a lot of the 'artsy' movies haven't really come out yet and are just now trickling in, but outside of a few, I'm not dying to go out and see anything yet. Usually, I will take an afternoon or two to see a bunch at once, but this year nothing is motivating me out of my chair.

Album wise, I'm usually plugged in, but nothing on the Indie Scene or Mainstream scene has been that interesting or relevant this year. If you disagree, please, comment away.

As I thought about this, I wondered if the Business distractions of commercial art product was distracting the focus of the artists themselves. It's no secret the music industry is in turmoil as it shifts from the firm album distribution model to the less lucrative, but explosive digital model. If you look at recent comments from Smashing Pumpkins front man, Billy Corgan, you would think that musicians are focusing more on how to adapt to the new digital audience and how they can make that profitable than turning out work that matters artistically. Corgan claims that folks like iTunes have killed the album, and are teaching consumers to buy singles only. In his mind, that means bands do not need to undergo the album process and should just churn out singles as they come. It's a valid point, but a shameful self admission that money is now the motivating factor for bands that at one time were considered ground breaking acts.

Over in Hollywood, the writers strike definitely handicapped the current television season and turned viewers away... pushing people to back log viewing of DVD's through netflix instead of tuning into primetime fair (although, I for one still love the Office and 30 Rock).

The current labor stalls with SAG show a faltering quality of product out there in terms of critical acclaim. However, despite the economic down turn, movie houses are showing profits above 2007. I would argue that most folks in Hollywood are more concerned about whether or not there will be work out there in 2009, than they are about what that work is, and with zero movie production in Hollywood right now due to the ongoing stalled negotiations (the default strike)films previously deemed unreleasable are now being dusted off and trucked out to the masses. It's kind of getting ridiculous.

Obviously, I am not naive enough to overlook the fact that good art has a certain dollar value attached. Money motivates everyone, but it's difficult to stomach a climate where the creative product is overlooked to an even greater degree because of the doom and gloom of a transitioning entertainment industry.

Monday, December 15, 2008

SAG Leadership Publically Brutalized!

SAG Leader Alan Rosenberg and Chief Negotiator Doug Allen were basically high jacked at the Town Hall meeting in New York tonight. Apparently, Alec Baldwin stood up and called for both Doug and Al to resign their posts. They were both called, inept, deceptive and Hollywood Centric.

There are several petitions and online circulations calling for SAG to take the deal while high profile members call for a No Vote on Strike Authorization. Stife and Division have come to the last major Hollywood Union hoping to get a better deal out of the AMPTP.

Sources report that the majority of folks basically argued that leadership had blundered the negotiations and that SAG should take the deal today and live to fight a more united battle in three years when the deals are up again for renewal. This is something we have been arguing for for quite sometime on this website.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Golden Globes are out today!

So, do you remember the Golden Globes? I bet you kind of do, but it's been so long since we had them. As you recall last year they were relegated to a half hour news special on NBC due to the writers strike. This year the may not happen due to the SAG strike. I think that is sad. I like the Golden Globes a little more than the Oscars, because they do a dinner style presentation, and I love it more because the folks get a little tanked before the ceremony begins and then sometimes say things they regret later. That's good TV.

Anyway, the Golden Globes, is the precursor to the Oscars, and a fairly important notch to have in one's belt, because a win in the category means your quote goes up. The nominations are also kind of important because they usually motivate me to get my butt out of the house to go see some movies.

I post the full list below for your consumption.

Warner Bros and Paramount Pictures
Imagine Entertainment, Working Title, Studio Canal; Universal Pictures
Mirage Enterprises; The Weinstein Company
An Evamere Entertainment BBC Films Neal Street Production; DreamWorks with BBC Films and Paramount Vantage
Fox Searchlight Pictures and Warner Bros.; Fox Searchlight Pictures and Warner Bros.



Working Title/Releasing Company; Focus Features in association with Studio Canal
Summit Entertainment, Film4, Ingenious Film Partners, Miramax Films; Miramax Films
Blueprint Pictures; Focus Features
Relativity Media, Playtone, Littlestar; Universal Pictures
Mediapro; The Weinstein Company



Walt Disney Pictures; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
DreamWorks Animation SKG; Paramount Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Constantin Film Produktion GmbH; Summit Entertainment, LLC
Final Cut Productions Aps; IFC Films
Fandango; IFC Films
UGC YM/UGC Images/France 3 Cinema/Integral Film; Sony Pictures Classics
Bridgit Folman Film Gang/Les Films D'Ici/Razor Films/Arte France/ITVS International; Sony Pictures Classics






Music by: Peter Gabriel, Thomas Newman
Lyrics by: Peter Gabriel
Music by: Clint Eastwood, Jamie Cullum, Kyle Eastwood, Michael Stevens
Lyrics by: Kyle Eastwood, Michael Stevens
Music & Lyrics by: Miley Cyrus, Jeffrey Steele
Music & Lyrics by: Beyoncé Knowles, Amanda Ghost, Scott McFarnon, Ian Dench, James Dring, Jody Street
Music & Lyrics by: Bruce Springsteen

Showtime/John Goldwyn Productions/The Colleton Company/Clyde Phillips Productions
Universal Media Studios in association with Heel and Toe Films, Shore Z Productions and Bad Hat Harry Productions
Sheleg, Closest to the Hole Productions in association with HBO Entertainment
Lionsgate Television
Your Face Goes Here Productions in association with HBO Entertainment



Universal Media Studios in association with Broadway Video and Little
Stranger Inc.
Showtime Presents in association with Aggressive Mediocrity, And Then...
Leverage and Closest to the Hole Productions in association with HBO Entertainment
Deedle Dee Productions, Reveille LLC, Universal Media Studios
Lionsgate Television



Sony Pictures Television
Trigger Street Independent Productions in association with Little Bird and Chicago Films and HBO Films
A Co-Production of BBC and WGBH Boston.
Playtone in association with HBO Films
Spring Creek/Mirage Productions in association with Trigger Street Productions, Everyman Pictures and HBO Films





Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blogging from the iPhone

I have hesitated to post anything as it pertains to the fact that I now own an iPhone. I wanted to have a few weeks to really tool with it to find out if it is indeed worth hype.

I can with 100% confidence that this little monster is completely awesome.

The fact I no longer have to carry two devices with is great. The syncing of calenders and email and contacts with mobile me is a dream come true.

The application store alone is sheer genius. In fact I am writing this blog for you from my iPhone thanks to an application called blog write lite.

There are so many pros when it comes to this device it is no wonder it is the #1 phone in the U.S.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

T.R. Knight Walks Away?

So, I have friends who are friends with T.R. Knight and I have heard nothing but wonderful things about him as a person. However, today it was pushed that the star walked off the set the other day and asked out of his contract with Grey's Anatomy because he is unhappy with the storyline for his character, Dr. George O'Malley. I don't blame him. I agree that the storyline for his character has been somewhat weak in comparison to previous seasons. He seems to float aimlessly in show.

However, this is not a posting about Grey's Anatomy's creative direction. This is also not a blog about whether Mr. Knight is selfish or acting unjustly. I realize he has a three year contract and some people say he should honor that. As I read this story, I ultimately asked myself, why? Why would you leave a paid acting gig? A well paid acting gig? And I'm not alone. I have several friends who have seen this story and said, "He's ungrateful." or "He doesn't know how good he has it." Maybe he is and maybe he doesn't. I don't know. However, for many of us, the acting roles are few and far between these days. Walking away from a six figure a year paycheck to do what you love seems odd... it seems confusing.... it seems self destructive.

However, if the reports are true... T.R. Knight has done exactly that. He's walked away.

It's interesting that Knight is the second high profile star to complain about the writing of the show. Catherine Hiegl was very vocal last year about her displeasure with the character of Izzy Stephens. This year it's not much better as she finds herself haunted by a ghost or something.

I love acting, and I think Mr. Knight does too. So, how bad must life be on that set to warrant quitting?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jack Sparrow Gets Flashed and Fired

You may not know this, but it's hard being an actor. Sometimes, you need to take a gig just to make ends meat. However, sometimes, that gig has fringe benefits. Like the guys playing Jack Sparrow at Disneyland. That is of course until the fringe benefits get you fired.

So, if you're an actor it's hard to keep booking national commercials and televisions shows. In Los Angeles, there is an estimated 300,000 actor seeking work, so go figure... it's tough to keep a job. So, a lot of folks take less than wonderful gigs to pay the bills. Brad Pitt was once the El Pollo Loco Chicken.

One thing that actors do is take theme park jobs. They are steady jobs, usually covered under AFTRA or some Union and they pay okay. They're easy to do, and you get to act a little.

One of the new 'legendary' fun positions at Disney land is to be Jack Sparrow. People love Jack Sparrow. Apparently, some women love Jack Sparrow so much they like to show him their boobs. Disney land is a family friendly place, and that means that boobs are a non starter. However, Disney, known for their Draconian ways, decided that a few bad apples needed to spoil the fun for everyone. So, they canned their Jack Sparrows and replace them with fairies for the new Tinker Bell attraction. So, the poor guys playing Jack are out of the a job because Disney security could not do theirs. That's tough.

By the way, when did Disneyland turn into the new home for woot girls. For love of Sanity, Ladies, it's Disneyland, not Cancun!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Sequel to D*** in a Box!

A few years ago Andy Samberg blew up for creating a video parody of early 90's rap / r&b bands. Both Samberg and Justin Timberlak donned sideburns and circle glasses for the video short, "Dick in a Box". This then spawned about a zillion Dick in a Box Halloween costumes. Samberg has done some funny stuff since D.I.B. However, I'm sure his fans were waiting for the sequel. Well, here it is.

Photos You Can't Refuse

Are you a fan of the GOD FATHER trilogy? Hey, what movie fan out there isn't to some degree. It may be one of the greatest commentaries on theDarkness and Light of the American Dream. Well, apparently a new photo album of candid shots taken during filming has been released. Some of the photos are in an article on the website Daily Mail. If you want to see some cool shots on how they made Brando's cheeks puffy or how Sonny took all those head shots, then click the link and read the article. It's and offer you can't refuse.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mick's 2008 Letter to Santa

Here is my letter to Santa, if you want to read it then just click to see the whole letter after the jump. I mostly post this for my relatives who like it when I give them hints on what to buy me

Dear Mr. Claus,

I hope you have had a truly fruitful and rewarding 2008. Hopefully, your retirement investments have weathered the bad economy. Mine have not done so well. Oh, well, live and learn. By the way, did you hear that they canceled Knight Rider, honestly it's about time. Right? I hear Heroes is next, but I watched it this week, and it's kind of getting good again. What do you think?

Oh, by the by, go check out Frost / Nixon and Yes Man in theaters this month. I know it's a busy time of year for you, but I have small parts in both, and I hear they're pretty good.

Anyway, I've been a real good blogger this year. I've managed to keep this one you're reading up for an entire year, and I'm really excited for where Art of Function is at and what it has been a forum for this year. As you know I shut down a few other blogs, I started up, but recently filled my writing slate with a new blog called Indie Majority. So, go and check that out. Oh, and go check out THE NOHO SHOW, that's my internet web series, I produce and direct!

On a personal note, it's been a great year, with the greatest gift of all being my son, Maximus coming into this world. It has been wonderful to watch him grow up this year. And even though a full night's sleep is a distant memory, I'm really excited that he is in my life.

So, on to the list. I'm a pretty happy guy. I already have my top three gadgets (Mac Book Pro, iPhone and Kindle). So, I decided to pair down the list in cost this year for some cool lower end stuff. Everything with the exception of the camera lens is under $60, and most of it is under $40.00. It's pretty interesting, and it contains a lot of odds and ends that I think are cool. I've factored in my increased use of the DSLR camera I purchased last year, and my new hobby Krav Maga. So, enjoy! I've tried to list everything by the most inexpensive price and by use through because that's a fairly reliable online source for buying gifts.

Amazon Gift Card: With my new Kindle, I download all my books digitally for purchase so, I have abandoned other book retailers like Barnes and Noble and Borders. Plus there are a ton of other cool stuff at Amazon.

iTunes Gift Card: Yeah, it's an addictive little app the old iTunes. That's why I love me some gift cards.

Nikon 55 - 200mm Zoom Lens: So, I'm a slave to my Nikon D40x. It's an awesome DSLR camera, and I've been meaning to upgrade the lens for quite sometime. This would be an awesome gift, however a little expensive, but I could also use a cool camera strap (link here) or I thought it would be good to protect my little investment with this cool Camera Case Armor by MADE (link here).

The Leatherman SERCA LED Flashlight: This thing is super bright and super durable. It's also better for the environment and is more power efficient than the traditional incandescent flash light. Plus Leatherman is a manly brand.

Gears of War 2: It's really the only game I have on the Xmas list this year for the Xbox 360.

The Front Pocket Wallet with Money Clip by Perry Ellis: It's a nice little wallet with room for more than three credit cards while maintaining a slimmer profile. And it's inexpensive for a wallet.

UFC Offical Fight Grappling Gloves: Since, I've taken up Krav Maga it's become apparent you need some good gloves every once in a while. These gloves are great for in class training as you do not need to remove them to practice grappling techniques.

Everlast Pro Style High Performance Training Gloves: I'm hoping to jump into the bag classes at my studio and you need a bit more padding on your gloves than what the above grappling gloves accomodate.

Under Armor: Compression shorts are a must when you're doing any training, and after owning my first pair of under armor shorts, I'm hooked. However, it's great to have more. So, if you want to get me some great (click link here). However, I'd be up for anything by underarmor. Size XL for shorts and XXL for up top.

Kleen Kanteen Water Bottle: Hey, if you are a fan of the Blog, then you know about our appreciation of the SIGG water bottle. Well, we have a new favorite, and it's called Kleen Kanteen and it's the same as a SIGG but with a wider mouth. I prefer the black model.

Tool Logic SL 3 Fire Knife: Ever watch Survivor Man or Man vs Wild? I do. And if you've ever watched Bear Gryllis light a fire with one of those sparking knives, you kind of get the chills. Well, here's one of those knives on the cheap!

Marmot PreCip Rain Jacket: I need a good water proof rain jacket that is nice and light. I have plenty of heavy coats that do not block out the rain. In Los Angeles, we get more rain than super duper cold.

So, that's it big guy. If you can somehow find a way to get a resolution to this darn SAG / AMPTP thing done then that would really help out in a big big way. However, what I am most looking forward to this year is going to a big family gathering like last year, and just hanging out with my family. I think as a whole I am pretty blessed in that regard.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sanity Restored

NBC has ceased production on the new Knight Rider and canceled future episodes. Finally something right is starting to happen on Television.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

SAG Fires Back! So Does AMPTP!

We posted a blog a few day ago that reflected on the AMPTP's Los Angeles Times add stating their side of the story. Now SAG have posted a response.

"Los Angeles, CA (December 01, 2008) - Today’s open letter, full-page ad from the eight entertainment industry moguls is confirmation of their continued refusal to bargain with Screen Actors Guild. In an effort to push negotiations forward in the face of AMPTP stonewalling, we asked two of the CEO’s who signed this letter to get involved in the talks in September. They refused. We wish they had taken us up on our offer. It better serves the industry to negotiate than to buy and respond to $100,000 newspaper ads.

We are still waiting for the CEO’s or their AMPTP negotiators to make a good faith effort at bargaining with us. Agreements with other guilds and unions can’t dictate actors’ terms just because they are part of a pattern set by the DGA. Actors issues are different and must be heard and addressed.

We are still waiting for our turn. We want exactly what the DGA got – the chance to negotiate an agreement that addresses the needs of our members. No other guild or union can negotiate a pattern deal that fits the industry and SAG members, any more than ABC can negotiate license fees for NBC. No one has our proxy.

Our issues are different – not better, but different and we deserve to have our unique issues and very valid concerns resolved in negotiation. Agreeing to fairly negotiate the unique needs of actors would mean that the CEO’s are honorably engaging in the negotiations process rather than continuing to stonewall.

Our message to the CEOs is this, “Gentlemen, please understand, the pattern does not fit. Now that you have at least acknowledged our effort to achieve a fair contract for actors, perhaps you would be willing to sit down with our negotiating committee and resolve our issues?”

Here is the response from the AMPTP:

"SAG's press release proves that SAG is now officially out of touch with reality. The Producers negotiated with SAG for 46 days - and over that entire time SAG failed to justify why it deserves a better deal than the six other agreements negotiated so far this year. On a day when the United States was officially declared to be in a recession, when Governor Schwarzenegger declared a fiscal emergency for California, and when the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 680 points, SAG continues to demand more and better than everyone else. Unfortunately, the chasm between reality and SAG seems to widen by the day."

So, here is the bad part of all of this. AMPTP has clearly become frustrated and if you have watched their behavior in these labor negotiations, you know one thing, if you piss them off, the more stubborn they become. The more they feel they have the upper hand, the more stubborn they become. SAG has never been able to actually understand this. The first team DGA knew this and they knew how to corerce the AMPTP into making a deal. AFTRA also made a deal. WGA made a deal following in line with DGA. It's quite simple. SAG is the last to the table. They get the scraps. Could they have avoided this? Yes, they chose to sit back and let the WGA and DGA do all the heavy lifting and then were shocked that all of their own demands were not discussed. They didn't even start negotiating until after AFTRA had already secured a deal. This mixed with the inevitable failure of a strike vote is simply frustrating the producers because it means more months of stalled momentum on the actual issue... Getting a deal signed. This is what is allowing the producers to sit back with arms folded and say, "Prove it to me." The reality is, they can't. Plus, SAG has to realize the AMPTP is in a bind. They can't reinvent a new model for one Union when six others have agreed to the terms of another model. It's not fair to the other Labor Unions.

Now, I know that the Producers have a ton of money. I get it. It's unfair, they won't share. Blah Blah Blah, Whine whine whine. Hollywood is profitable... who would have thought? Some big bloggers out there want to point out how hypocritical the producers are when they have so much money in their own accounts and then they complain about the economy. Look, let's be smart for once. The Moguls are businessmen and women. They're job is to maintain a bottom line for their corporations. They are not in the business of fair. It's not part of their job description. So, stop whining about it, and produce a compelling argument for why you want more money. Oh, that's right... you can't.

Your Letter To Santa?

Have you written your letter to Santa this year? I haven't yet. Since I was about 8, my mother made me compose my Christmas List every year. That somewhere in college morphed into a Letter to Santa I wrote with my tell tale Sardonic wit that became a humor point for my family. It's to the point, where it is now a popular holiday tradition. And if don't do it, people give me a hard time. Last year, I even posted my Holiday Letter to Santa here on Art of Function. Anyway, I wanted to find out what some of you readers are going to put on your Christmas list this year. I really wanted an iPhone and a new President. I already got both. So, I'm a little stumped. So... help a brother out y'all. Comment away!

Santa Photos Make Children Cry

Before you head out this holiday season with the intent of getting your chubby little cherub of a child to pose with Santa for the most adorable of adorable photos, I want you to read this article. Then think long and hard about what you are about to do to your little bundle of joy.

Monday, December 1, 2008

This is the Key to Awesome

Is it just me or is this freaking Key Blank, just plain awesome, maybe even Badass or Radical, or as my friends in sixth grade used to say, Badical (a combination of Badass and Radical mixed for complete dominance in the area of superlatives). I am going right out to my local Key stand, to see if they have this template. Then, I'm getting all keys redone. Oh, here's the website for the company who came up with this thing.

Here's The Mogul Argument

The above graphic is a letter to the public from the AMPTP explaining their stance on the whole possible SAG strike. Unlike some popular bloggers out there with the luxury of advertising dollars to protect their steady income, yours truly has a different viewpoint on the current labor stand off between Actors and Moguls. If you've been paying attention, you know I don't support a strike, because like many other actors in Hollywood, I do not draw my sole income from acting. I do other things to pay the bills (like many of you). I for one need Hollywood to be producing movies in order to put food on the table. I'm an actor and I sympathize with the issues SAG is bringing to the table.

However, despite the arguments brought forth in the lette rabove, I also would like to point out one more. When you have 100,000 options for a sevice available to you, the cost for those options goes down, not up. SAG's membership is incredibly bloated for the scale of work currently offered out there. Many members are paying dues for a union that provides labor protection for people who may never work on a project. It's kind of insane. This is why the producers do not want to pay the actors more money, because they know there are lots of people out there they can put in movies and on T.V. who will not quibble about the money. Think of it this way, if we had just 1,500 cellular providers out there, how much money do you think you'd have to pay for cell phone service? Probably not the fifty bucks you pay now. It would be more like 5 bucks.

However, SAG loves them some money. So, they won't turn anyone away.

This is ultimatley why this Union drives me nutes. There is no certification to be in SAG. There is no board that looks at a talented actor and says. Yes, they deserve to be a member of the Union. For example, You fall ass backwards into three days of extra work, and you're in the union. Does it make sense that all you have to do is stand there, and you get to be in a union?
You didn't have to have a speaking part. You didn't have to audition. You just have to be able to stand there. I'm not saying background isn't hard work (there are long hours involved), but as someone who has done it to make ends meat, it's a role that really challenges your acting chops. This is why so many talented trained regional theatrical actors give up and go back to where they came from. They've trained, received degrees, have years of experience, but for some reaons agents treat them like the plague because they cannot make friends with one of the nine extra casting agencies in L.A.

I worked some background a few years back. Everyone I talked to didn't even call themselves an Actor. They 'just did this for fun', or did it for the extra cash. Many had never even taken an acting class and didn't plan to. One guy saw me reading a copy of a play. He asked me what I was reading. I said a play. He said, "You mean you can buy copies of plays to read? I didn't nkow that". However, this guy was a member of the Screen ACTORS guild.

SAG has created this problem. They take anyone so they can so they canc ontinue to support the corporate model they have created for themselves. The Union is so bloated it needs a bigger deal to keep it up and running. It's no secret to anyone that SAG is fundamentally broken. It's model is corrupted and not working. This negotiation process is just one further example of why it needs to be dissolved, and re-invented.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Twilight Time for Hollywood Stars

The success of the TWILIGHT movie is considered a very very bad omen for the Big Budget stars that have made so much money selling their wares to Hollywood. TWILIGHT is in many ways an enigma. It's a cult favorite amongst women ages 13 to 50. And as a feature film, it has successfully tapped into that demographic and expanded it to create a large audience for the film. Because of the loyalty the fans have to the subject matter and story, the books and films are enjoying cross over marketing and repeat business. I myself walked past the local theater, to watch one packed out audience leave the theater, turn right around and buy more tickets for the late show.

The phenomenon even has a nickname, "The Twilight Zone". However, we've seen this rabid female fanbase churn out their money before in mild ways for "The Bridges of Madison County" and infamously for, "Titanic". This is the story you probably know from the news.

There is another story however buried underneath. With SAG being difficult to sign a deal, Hollywood moguls are actually contemplating behind closed doors a complete bankruptcy of the Union all together. They have been discussing what life would be like without SAG and all the high priced stars and agents that come with the Union.

The Logic right now is that a Big Star generates publicity, which in turn translates into box office dollars. This why actors like Angelina Jolie and Jim Carey make well over 20 million a picture. They're agents know that they tend to delivery a box office bonanza every time. Hence it's worth the investment to the producers.

However, you can bet the Hollywood Moguls hate all the courtship, ego and drama associated with big name actors. Most of all, they hate writing that fat check too. So, for the past 8 years, they have been laying ground work to completely disenfranchise their product from the need to have big stars.

A new story is hard to sell to an audience. That's why having a big star can help. So, if you do not want to rely on a big star, you need to find a very popular old story to sell. Twilight is a perfect example of taking a well established product (er... Story) and using unknown talent at a cheap rate to make a big profit. This is nothing new. The Harry Potter kids know full well, that they are paid a fraction of what a major star would make, but they also understand that the Harry Potter movies have made them. Without those pictures, they're just... kids.

The moguls have begun to explore the idea of taking this model and applying it to their Tent Pole franchises. There is a reason why smaller stars at cheaper quotes are being tapped for big roles in movies like the latest Superman remake. This is going to be the new model for big budget movies and unfortunately, litttle by little, the big Stars will start losing out on the big piece of the pie.

Sign This Petetion!

So, once again the landscape of media is about to be thumped one more time by the insane. It's become clear that the Media Mogul lapdogs AMPTP and their partners in stupidity, SAG Leadership, can't seem to figure out a way to get a deal signed. It's been almost six months, since the current SAG contract expired. So, instead of just taking the offer, on the table and living to fight another day, SAG is doing something stupid. Which is why I encourage you to go sign this petition.

SAG has very little on the bargaining table at this point. They are in backed into a corner. Six major Union contracts have been negotiated in the past ten months, with DGA, WGA, IATSE and AFTRA (an actors union) being the big high lights. The initial deals established a short term model that would allow the members of the aforementioned unions increased pay and compensation while allowing big media some breathing room to figure out how to make NEW MEDIA (the web) profitable. AMPTP is refusing to budge on their offer, because (and they have a point) why should SAG get a better deal than everyone else?

SAG Leadership is in a bad spot. They made moves a month ago to get some Federal Mediation at the table to help the process out. Membership indicated that if the Federal Mediation proved fruitless (and SAG did everything they could to make sure that happened) then SAG leadership could try and call for a STRIKE AUTHORIZATION vote.

The STRIKE is their last bargaining chip. However, what many non-industry folks do not understand is this... we've been feeling a defacto strike for about 90 days now. Without the SAG labor contract in place, and with the credit industry in turmoil, the Studios cannot get their lenders to release the budget capital for any new movies. So, no one is shooting anything in Hollywood right now except for T.V. and some independent films. This has forced many ancilliary companies who rely on production for business to start cutting back on staff and budget in an attempt to hold tight until the storm blows over.

Another STRIKE will in essence make the storm worse. However, rumor mill right now is churning around this vote. Whispers in the wind are basically stating that the membership is exhausted after the lack of income from the WGA strike. Many members do not want to strike.

It is my opinion that SAG Leadership is only forcing this vote, because they want to have the old "I Told You So" card to play when membership starts to grumble a few years from now about their deal again.

Regardless of the politics of the insane at work here, I encourage you to sign the aforementioned petition. Almost 8,000 people already have signed up, and you need to make your voice heard. If you live in L.A. and work in this industry, you know it's once again the 'little' people who are powerless in this fight, who have no voice at the table, who will suffer for bad decision making and bad negotiating. That is unfair.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Change is okay!

Okay folks!

I just wanted to a quick shout out to let you know we changed the template a bit. I hope you like it. It's just a visual change, the content will be the same, and unfortunately, so will the author... for now.

Moving the Political Chatter: Indie Majority

Okay, I admit. I was passionate about the Political Biosphere for the past several months. Who wasn't? I admit I went a little nuts on the political news media postings. Probably not enough art and cool stuff on the blog. Probably too much Obama, McCain and jibes at Sarah Palin.

Or was it?

If you really enjoyed that content posted on this website, then I have good news for you. I have been asked to be a contributor on a new blog called "Indie Majority". You can go check it out at

This is going to be a blog for those of us who live their lives in the middle and feel that they are a little independent from the extreme right and left points of view that dominate the new media. If you find yourself falling in the middle on several political issues, then this may be a site for you to add to your RSS feed or Book Mark it. I've already posted about six or seven blogs over there.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Xbox 360 Re-Launch is Here!

Oh, it is finally here, after months of speculation... the XBOX 360 Fall Update which will completely update the UI of the console is available for download. Apparently a flashy new video will play upon restart. If you want to see it, watch it below!

I am super psyched because this means NETFLIX streaming through the XBOX 360 in HiDef. Truly a banner day for my household with all the TV shows this fall sucking, we can now watch some great movies without having to wait for a DVD.

See more gamer videos at PWN or DIE

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Oh, Fall TV Makes Me Sad

So, the folks over at nothing corporate posted an article that I whole heartedly agree with. The Fall Television season is incredibly disappointing. There is no new show really grabbing the audiences attention from a scripted perspective. Fringe has been the only show to mildly catch my attention, but I am not scrambling to make sure I catch every episode. It's fine, but it's not great, and I am already wary of an J.J. Abrams show that touts a clandestine conspiracy as the central mystery, but aimlessly wanders through season after seaon. However, despite Fringe's okay efforts, there are some truly bad shows on T.V. like Lipstick Jungle, Kath and Kim and Eleventh Hour. These shows need to just wander into a hole and die. Oh, Wait Lipstick Jungle has already.

However, it's not just the newbies. The long standing great shows of the last four years have turned in tepid and uninspired performances. The Office has yet to really be brilliant. Heroes has fallen off dramatically and appears to have no central compass of a story, and is focusing more on making the stars look pretty. Prison Break is a complete joke on fox, and the Procedural Dramas (C.S.I.'s and Law and Orders) are just rolling along with the formula with almost a bitterness towards their audience. Even my personal favorite House has been up and down.

The only hope is that the shows waiting in the wings will bring a re-newed and inspired approach. 30 Rock has debuted with big guest stars and the usual brilliance of their cast. Will Lost do the same? Will Battle Star finish strong? Will 24 hit the mark? We have to wait and see.

Why is scripted TV so bad? Well, it's because we're spoiled. We had about three to four years of truly inspired writing for television. However, as more and more writes become more and more successful, they can afford to be selective on their projects. This mixed with what some people are calling WGA STRIKE ATTROPHY give us the current state of scripted T.V. And the state is bad.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Art of Function Readers Let us Know

So, way back in the summer after the tickets were secured we opened a voter poll to determine who you, the readers, were going to back in the election that is happening today. The results were not surprising to me. Barack Obama overwhelmingly won the vote by 75% to McCain's 25%. The interesting issue in the secondary poll, was why you were voting for the candidate. The War in Iraq won narrowly over the economy.

There are tons and tons of interesting stories out there today, so let me re-cap a few of my favorites.
Tim Robbins faced some difficulty voting today. You can read the story by clicking the link. Basically , Mr. Robbins has been voting in the same place in New York for 10 years. This year he apparently was not on the roster, and then got into a fight, then went to court to get proof he had registered. TMZ was along to actually do some semi-serious news reporting. Good for them for getting out of their comfort zone.

Voter Intimidation is a bigg issue in this election. Apprently, some Black Panthers took it upon themselves to make sure the 'white supremeists' didn't get to vote at a polling station in Philadephia. Thank the Lord, Fox News was there to report it. Click the link to see the full report.

Early Calls are beginning on NPR. It's now 8pm EST and they are calling several East Coast States. Those states are being called for Obamas. Is this wise? Early calls? Anyone rember Dewey vs Truman, or for that matter, Bush vs Gore?

I want to put out that you can expect (if Obama does win) incredibly angry 'red blooded americans' pouting and screaming about this victory being the end of America. I wonder if they will hold to their argument that God puts our presidents in office and they should follow them blindly the way they did for Bush... Oh, did I write that out loud?

The biggest of all these stories is the massive turn out of voters in unexpected numbers. Here in California polling stations are running out of ballots and there are two to three hour lines. Yours truly had to wait in line for 45 minutes to vote today, and in many ways, that's the victory. So many Americans are going to make their voices heard in this election. More than ever before. That's awesome.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The News Media is Doo Doo

I'm not posting the video below to pile on the criticism for Fox News or Faux News as some people like to call them. Obviously Fox News is known more for editorializing and promoting angry talking heads than actual news reporting. However, the clip below is a great example of where Journalistic integrity has completely fallen out the window for these so called cable 'news channels'. In this video Megyn Kelly basically verbally attacks Bill Burton (an Obama Press Guy) for calling Fox News a biased news entitiy. Megyn is supposed to be a news reporter... last I checked her name is Kelly, not O'Reily, but instead she engages in what has to be the most unprofessional personal attack on Burton, I've ever seen. Burton to his credit maintains his cool throughout the interview, but she completely throws decorum out the window and interrupts him time and time again, and at one point tells him to stop interrupting her. What's worse is she's defending her news station for fair and balanced reporting, while completely demonstrating the bias by attacking the same people, who accused her network of being biased.

Folks, this is not what news reporters do. Where the hell is Walter Conkrite when you need him? This is the problem with where our news media has gone since 911. It's not okay for them to be biased to the left or the right, it's not okay they attack their guests, it's not okay that news papers put out their endorsements for candidates no matter how much we may agree with the endorsement. WTF is happening here? And who is going to step in and hold people accountable for this? I'm all fired up... watch the damn video!

Random Tid Bits: Issue #5

Portal for $15.00: Yep, it looks like the greatest game released in 2007 will get an upgrade and now be available for download via Xbox Live Arcade. As you all may know Portal is not just my favorite game of last year, but maybe top three of all time. It's pure genius, and it is what many critics have hoped games would become a step towards an artistic achievement. I will be waiting to see this come to the Live Arcade.

A Better Mousetrap: A man has created the most simplistic non-lethal mouse-trap that I've ever seen. It's so basic and interesting that it will have all you pacifists ooohing and ahhhing over a new way to trap but not murder Mickey and all his pals.

Staying Relevant: This is how actors who do not have a whole lot of actual talent stay relevant in today's Hollywood. It's quite sad really. Click the link to find out who I lambaste here. I'm not saying the actor in question isn't good looking. I am just saying, what was the last piece of work they did that brought a tear to your eye.

What Play Do you want to see?: Mine right now is a toss up between Mike Daisey's "If you See Something, Say Something." and "Fifty Words" By Michael Weller. I would love to see I.S.S.,S.S because I believe Daisey to be inherently interesting, and I have yet to see him live. Plus the subject matter is intriguing. 50 Words makes my list because friend and blogger Dennis Baker did a review and the premise of the play so hits my own artistic aesthetic as a writer and director.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Perfect Video Analogy for Politicians

The video below is a glorious analogy for government. This is of course a South African Politician featured in the video not American. However, the analogy rings true, because it reflects a tendency all politicians have. They know there is a problem, but in stead of acting to fix it when first recognized, they choose to ignore it with the hopes it goes away. Then the literal in this case chair crumbles beneath them. The cut back to the reporter is also perfect, because it reflects what the media does... refuse to report on the issue right in front of them.

Are Red States Where Artists Should Go?

There is a part of me, as an actor / writer / director, who would love it, if less actors / writers / directors kept coming to Los Angeles. I am sure if you live in New York or Chicago or any other big media market... you would agree with me. It's hard enough finding work, and more and more competition makes it harder and harder every year.

Mix in a dash of economic hard times, and as you can see the mainstream media in Los Angeles is hurting. Labor issues in the past year have also added to the problems for Major Studios and Networks. Every mainstream media entity from Paramount to Sony are making major cuts to budgets and staffing. This is also affecting the amount of movies being made and new orders for T.V. Shows. Businesses are relying on old add campaings in stead of making new commericals, and with folks nervous about cash in their pockets, they are going out less and less to theatrical presentations. Credit in a crisis? Yes? What does that mean for independent producers? Less opportunity to get funds or budgets for new projects. For the other visual media artists, less money means less opportunity to sell paintings or get commissions to create new works. Galleries will start shutting down.

However, despite how bleak things are on the East and West Coast, I read a report today that the good old Heart land of America has not been hit by the recession, so much. States like Texas are still coasting on the economic bubble we were all coasting on about 18 months ago. That bubble may or may not burst. Why are they coasting? Well, most of the states who have major economic ties to energy and oil and food production are doing okay. Jobs are secure and unemployment is not on the rise. People are also not losing their homes. Maybe because their mortgages aren't insane. (Seriously, there was a 1600 square foot home near me, that sold for 800,000 a few years ago).

Anyway, these traditional "Red States" maybe the ripe new place for struggling artists to settle. I've asked myself... if I were going to start a theater for example, would I do it here in Los Angeles? Probably not, even a low key operation would take tons of work, and I'd spend more time renting the space to other people than doing actual theater. However, what if there was a medium sized city without a strong regional theater or arts center? Could I go there and provide a community with a place to send their kids for acting classes, and possibly buy season tickets to two or three shows a year? It makes you wonder.

Traditionally the coasts have offered artists opportunity financially to do what they love or at the very least trade their craft for a paycheck. The best and brightest go to L.A. and N.Y.C. and the surrounding cities to 'make it big'. However, with the opporunties dwindling should the artist start staring homeward back to their midwestern roots they left for the lure of the big city? It is an interesting question.

Red States as you know, are traditionally more conservative. It would probabably be hard to open a Drag Cabaret in say, Peoria, Illinois. However, a small theater with simple ambitions and a school for kids? Or maybe if you were a film maker, a videography business? I don't know. Perhaps the opportunities are endless. However, I wonder if all the 'liberal artists' weren't just living on the East and West Coast, if we all spread out, could that lead to a less 50/50 divided nation on a social and political scale between liberal and conservative?

Artists are traditionally not very good at understanding markets or business. It's not what we gravitate towards, usually. However in a Capitalistic Society like the good old USA it is important for an artist to be innovative not only in their art, but also in their business. It is funny, we have so much vision... but we do not ever apply to anything but the work. If we were to re-think the model of how we produce and sell our art perhaps we would be better off. Examining economic trends isn't fun or sexy, but it may help an artist understand how to live the life they've always dreamed of in a place they never would have thought to live.

Gee... if I opened up a Meisner Institute in Crawford, Texas? I wonder if I could get Laura Bush to take classes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This is Awesome!

I love a modded (modified) instrument. I think they are awesome. I think the one man band is probably the greatest achievement in modded musical instruments. However I now know of a modded instrument that is even more spectacular than a man with a Tuba strapped to his head a big drum strapped to his chest. That instrument is the KazooKelele. Yes, Part Acordian, Part Kazoo, Part Ukelele, this my friends is your next big Christmas gift purchase. Screw and iPhone buy one of these! If you don't believe me, watch the video below... and prepare for your mind to be blown away.... into space.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Random Tid Bits: Issue #4

Oh, we haven't been random for a while! Let's dive in!

A website that you must must check out if you want to stay informed on the debates and speeches of the upcoming election. is a website that follows our wonderful politicians as they talk about their opponents or plans, and then they go into detail to check their statements for validity or error. Also, post election, this is a great resource for you to monitor the bull shit spewing from you local reps mouth.

Are you psyched for the APPLE EVENT tomorrow? It's going to be huge, as it is obvious a new line of laptops from Apple will be unveiled... but what other questions will be answered, like... what really is BRICK? Will a 32GB iPhone finally be revealed... is Apple going to unveil a long rumored Newton restart? We'll see. I will be checking my newsfeed regularly.

Saw an episode (be-grudgingly) of the new Knight Rider show on NBC. (You may recall an early post, where I asked the networks to stop 're-inventing' shows from my childhood). While I hate the voice of the car, and I wish they could have worked good old HOFF into this show somehow, I think this show has a chance of working in the Saturday night timeslot that it is in. They show lots of women in bikinis. There is a hot car with lots of techno geek crap falling out of it. The plot lines are super simple and follow basic Comic Book plot devices. So, why will this work? Well, on Saturday nights, who is at home? That's right, teenage geeks with no social life, who will gladly break away from Marathon WOW sessions to look at boobs and a cool car. In the episode I saw, Kit (the car) was hit by a missle and instead of blowing him up, he was knocked into the ocean where he turned into a submarine. I think the Car Dr. Claw drove in Inspector Gadget could do the same thing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bad Economy = Tough times for ART

I try not to be Mr. Doom and Gloom when it comes to Economic Crisis. I try to find the light at the end of the tunnel, or I have tried to find it for years. However, my 31 year old self just had a talk via memory with my 24 year old self, and I had a realization that in the dark times when folks try to stretch a dollar, cut back on costs and keep a job, the one guaranteed area of our American Society that will suffer is the Arts.

This historically is quite different from earlier points in our nations history. During the Post Depression Era FDR created government subsidized programs for the arts to try and stimulate the collective American pride and morale. However, now we live in an age were Art and (especially performance art) is subsidized by corporate hand outs and big secret benefactors with money to burn.

What can I say? It will be tough out there in the coming six months. The markets are down and reliable investments like real estate are being devalued after spending much of this decade over inflated in price. You know the deal if you keep tabs on your news feed to CNN or Yahoo or DIGG that we're in a huge hole. So, hand outs for the Arts will be slim.

So, when I had a talk with my 24 year old self, I remembered the year 2001. This was BUSH's first year in office. It was my first year out of a nice reliable if not near poverty inducing performance contract with a 'well funded' theater in San Diego. I was struggling to sell a screenplay here in Hollywood that had a lot of interest, but I was struggling to pay bills as well. The economy was in the toilet at that point because the overinflated internet stock market boom had finally popped and people were losing money right and left. Then 911 hit and everything pretty much fell apart for many of my fellow friends in the arts.

When I left the theater in San Diego a fresh crop of faces came in to take my place. My boss was a great guy, and shortly after 911 I had a chance to talk with him when he visited L.A. on a day trip. I asked how life was at the theater, and he said it was the worst year he'd ever had working in theater. He had to let go of almost all of his actors and pretty much shut down any extra programs. General Admin Staff was cut to the bare bones. They were surviving.

Last week, I was in Grand Rapids and I talked with the Producing Director for the Civic Theater in town. Nice Guy, Bruce Tinker. I asked him how things were going, how the houses had been selling or filling out... he said... "We're in an economic resession and we have been since 2001. The rest of the country may just be coming around to it, but we've been in it for a while." His 750 seat gorgeous space is getting by. I could see his nervousness as he was to open a Fall Season knowing he may not have enough ticket sales cash to turn on the lights by December.

It's interesting what we place value on. Art is so far down on the food chain. I recently posted a Blog on Facebook featuring a video of Obama talking about how crucial the Arts were in Education. Several people commented that my posting was trivial. There are more important things in life, like Family, God and Freedom. I thought to myself... Wow it is amazing how much
fear has become a large part of the American Psyche in the last eight years. Hope is so far away to a lot of people.

This, however, is of course the best time to start talking about where we are at as a society and what we value amidst such turmoil. The best way for us to do that is through Art. Photography, Paitings, Gallery Shows, Theater, Books, all of the things that 'mean nothing' compared to Food and Shelter need to be taken to a place where we can truly have discourse of where we are at so we do not repeat our actions as we have for the past 16 years.

Food and Shelter are our most primal needs. However, even cave men, after finding food and shelter drew on the walls of their caves... and they drew stories. It is a storythat give us reference for where we have been and where we are going. Art is not unimportant, perhaps now it is more important than ever. However, it must some how continue to thrive and find an audience despite the shrinking wallets. This will be forever the burden of the artist... find a way to get the message across, despite limitations and boundries.

Monday, October 6, 2008

S.A.G. and infinite Stupidity

I am writing this knowing full well, I could get some sort of odd back lash. However, I do not care. I must vent finally on S.A.G. as a result of the ever broadening chasm of stupidity that makes up the leadership of one of the largest Unions in this country.

If I go back to archives, I've probably written about S.A.G. before, but spectacular stupidity often evokes this knee jerk reaction from me, where I just need to say "WTF" over and over again.

It is well known that S.A.G. is the last of several major Entertainment Labor Unions to come up with a new deal with the AMPTP (Hollywood Moguls). So far, the DGA, WGA, AFTRA have all come to terms on an acceptable deal. The WGA unfortunately had to do so, while costing the industry about 2 billion dollars and costing middle income earners in the industry thousands of jobs and lost cash. Some folks lost their homes, and others lost hope in their profession. I don't know what is worse.

The reality is that in June many of us industry professionals had weathered a storm, and we had hope that the storm had passed. One more Union needed to sign a deal. That Union was S.A.G.

This is when the idiocy began.

A Union must have clout to negotiate hard line. S.A.G. by being the last to the table, had none. Other unions had reached agreements, and they said their deals were 'wonderful' and 'fair'. AMPTP was tired and wanted this to end. They put the same deal on the table with some increased money for S.A.G. members. In their minds, this was a done deal. Take it or leave. The one bargaining chip the members had was a Strike.

However, with such division in the general membership a Strike Vote was considered un-reachable. S.A.G. was left powerless at the table.

So, S.A.G. first tried to stop AFTRA members from passing their deal. This would have presented a "United Front" against AMPTP. However, AFTRA went ahead and passed their proposed deal and this allowed actors with sole membership in AFTRA to work, and those with Dual Membership, could simply file for Financial Core status with S.A.G and keep working AFTRA jurisdiction shows. S.A.G. knowing this would cost them dues money decided to let all actors keep working even after the contract finally expired June 30th. July 15th a 'final offer' deal was placed in front of S.A.G. and leadership for S.A.G. did... nothing.

No Vote. Nothing. AMPTP folded there arms and waited. S.A.G. leadership decided to cloud the stalls by making a big deal of their leadership elections, which current leadership for S.A.G. lost.

Powerless S.A.G. really has no logical choice but to sign their deal and move on, and finally allow the industry which has suffered enough to move on.

So, what does the Lame Duck leadership do? They push to vote for a STRIKE. A vote they cannot win. An effort that will further distract from the issue and continue to stall feature film production.

This is incredible. SAG leadership has no clue that all they are doing is preventing members from competing for roles on films that cannot be shot because Studios cannot get budgets because there is no deal in place. The current credit crisis now even threatens this entirely.

We've lost billions of dollars in revenue, yet a few stubborn 'actors' continue to hold this industry ransom for the sake of ego.

I am an actor, I do not make the millions of dollars that Tom Hanks makes, but he and I share the same opinion, we need a deal and we need to move forward. Everyone is losing money, and with a shakey economy, that's not good.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Celebration Arts Make Me Cringe

Okay, before any HATE comments are posted, or I am in anyway criticized by an Evangelical for poking fun at 'Sacred Art' (dripping sarcasm) I want to make a point that most people make when they are believers and are about to skewer other believers... I happen to be a Christian, and have been one for longer than I can remember. I have also worked in the Church. I have been an associate youth pastor, I have done theater arts for churches, I've been on mission trips, I even rode a bike for Jesus in my youth. So, if anyone has the credentials to criticize the Christian Church (or the Christian Ghetto, as an old Professor at APU used to call it) for their poor forays into 'celebration arts', It is me. Below is a heavy selection of videos, that indicate what I find wrong with how a large number of Churches approach the concept of melding Pop Culture influences with the gospel message... the result as you can see is... not so great.

The first example is a video of a band (or program, I can't tell) called "SonSeed". The song they are singing is called, "Jesus is my Friend". I have no problem with the message. I have no problem with the title of the group or song. I do have a problem when 8 honkeys (hey that's racist) rip off ska music and do not have the common courtesy to get tatooed up and shave their heads and bleach there hair blonde ala "Sublime". I would like to point out the awesome bass solo in this video as well as the balding man in the back up singers, who is either falling asleep or hates the fact he was forced to wear a polyester vest. This is a case of what I like to call pop culture bastardization that the Church loves to take part in. We cannot just enjoy Ska music for the fact it makes us happy. We feel guilty this music does not contain a Christian message, SOOO I know! Let's make Christian Ska music. But since we know nothing about it, it will probably suck, but don't worry, we're righteous because we were able to say the word Jesus 73 times in the song, so everyone has to like it. Enjoy!

Our second example comes from a video called "The Renewed Mind". Apparently that is the name of this song. The church group is called "The Way". Once again like our previous example, the whitest of the white people have decided to use a little dash of hip hop to spice up the worship presentation. What more they also commit cardinal sin # 2 for bad 'celebration arts', the incorporation of Dance into a Church service. This is never a good idea. There are some choirs who can pull this off on occasion with some coordinated swaying, but when actual dance routines are placed into a portion of the service it just makes everyone uncomfortable. I was once involved in a church where an associate pastor wanted to use Dance in the services on a regular basis. So, they tried it and a woman was asked to come up with a routine for some hymn. She performed it. However, the problem here was she wore a tight fitting leotard. Common wear for a ballet trained dancer. Of course high lighting the female form can risk lighting the loins of parishoners. This lead to a complaint from some of the older members of the church, so a new rule was put in place. She had to dance in a choir robe. I want to point out that Dance is about watching the human form move and appreciating how we can do amazing things with our bodies. That's hard to do, when you put the human form in what amounts to a really pretty sack. The folks in the video below do not have that problem, but none the less their execution of their HIP HOP version of "The Renewed Mind" is less than acceptable. Like, me you may watch this and ask, why do the women have hand held microphones, and the man has a head set microphone... my response to you is... watch and find out!

Example number 3 is one of my favorites. It not so much about poorly executing the arts, but another favorite of the Church. Using a celebrity to add validation to the point of the pastor. It's like coming up with a great argument for why Faith Based Organizations should receive some Federal Support when they engage in activities to better society, like poverty or health care, then having Brad Pitt walk out and say, "I agree whole heartedly." However, in the case of the video below, we're trying to poke holes in the logic of aetheism vs creationsim by using a Banana to depict intelligent design (WTF) and to prove the validity of our point, we've asked 80's teen heart throb Kirk Cameron to sit in a chair next to us. Awesome!

Another example of Bad Celebration Arts can be found below. It pretty much speaks for itself, just give it a watch. If you can make it all the way through without your brain oozing out of your ears, you are more man than I am. This is an example of a very common mistake. Thinking that someone's passion for Christ translates into an ability to sing. It does not.

Okay, Okay, What is my point? It's really simple. If you can't do something right, or more importantly with any semblance of proficiency and that something has to do with music, dance, theater or anything where the word arts can be attached... don't do it at all! It does not enlighten the congregation or bring them closer to the Lord. It distracts them and makes them wonder why they are missing the Packers Game to come see this. Then when the donation plate is passed around, they put away the check book and reach for the spare change in their pocket.