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. FactCheck.org 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.