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Thursday, July 31, 2008

It Makes Me Wonder What's Going On Under The Ground

It's "deja-vu - all over again":

Our office was broken into - again - early this morning. Evidently, our "friend" decided to return to pick up where he'd left off.

Fortunately, someone in another office heard him break through my boss' door - again - and came up the hallway to check it out. From what we can tell, the perp heard someone coming, broke through another door into a currently unused office in our suite, then proceeded to break out a window to the street, apparently thinking he'd escape that way. However, we guess the jagged shards of broken glass jutting from the frame discouraged him, so he jetted back out the way he came in, whereupon the building tenant caught up with him.

Unfortunately, the dude pulled a knife, and the tenant, sensibly, let him go. But, at least now the police have a description.

Didn't lose anything - this time - but it's a little frustrating, not to mention disconcerting to say the least.

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Posted byCOMTE on 11:44 AM

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Monday, July 28, 2008

They Headed Down South And They're Still Running Today

I arrived to work this morning to find a blank copy of a Seattle Police Dept. incident report, along with a card belonging to an SPD office sitting on the counter inside my office, followed shortly by the arrival of the building maintenance manager, who informed me there had been a break-in/burglary in the building over the weekend, and that ours was one of four offices hit. They came in through my boss' door, basically just peeled the door molding off the wall with a crow bar or some-such, then smashed the handle and lock with something heavy enough to cave in the entire door. It's now being held up by a rather sturdy chunk of 4x8 screwed across the entry as a barricade.

The good news is that the burglars didn't cart off every single piece of electronic equipment in the office. The bad news is they did get my boss' laptop, containing roughly three years worth of files; some of these have been backed up, but not everything, so at this point there's no telling how much information has been lost.

They also got my old Palm Zire, but the only thing I was really using that for was to balance my checkbook - still, there was some personal information on it, that I suppose a really dedicated, knowledgeable person could access, if they put their mind to it.

The really disturbing part, though, is that we are supposed to have a reasonably secure building: the new landlord installed electronic locks, which also track who enters the building and when. But, there have been many times I've come in to find the back door propped open, and I've been told of times when visitors to the building have been let in by someone, without them really having any way to know whether the person had legitimate business or not.

So, you know, the lesson here is: security is only worth what you're willing to put into it.

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Posted byCOMTE on 4:02 PM

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

And You Think You're Immune But I Can Sell You Anything

Yesterday, my co-worker forwarded me an e-mail about an upcoming Zig Ziglar event occuring in town next month, adding, "I think this would be a great idea to really get us MOTIVATED!" I got a bit of a chuckle out of that.

Later in the day, she asked my boss if he had seen the e-mail, and what he thought about it.

It was only then I realized she hadn't meant it as a joke.


Posted byCOMTE on 12:08 PM

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fly Me To The Moon And Let Me Play Among The Stars

Happy Moon Day!

Space geek that I am, I brought my DVD of the Apollo 11 moon landing to my rehearsal this afternoon. Considering most of the people in my cast weren't even alive in 1969, I figured it might be - well, educational. But, when someone said, "I wonder why they never showed us this in school", I realized something very important, something that probably applies to much more than just this one, single, highly significant event: kids today, saturated in the all-pervasive media experience that so many take for granted, probably are completely unaware of the many historical events that have actually been recorded for posterity in the age of film and television. There must be literally scores of equally important events that have been recorded, but to which many young people have simply never been exposed: the Hindenburg disaster, Orson Welles "War Of The Worlds" broadcast, FDR's post-Pearl Harbor speech, the Kennedy assassination, Nixon's resignation, the Iran-Contra hearings; and so many other moments that have been captured, but are never seen by any except a few die-hards.

That just seems wrong to me, particularly when the means of transmittting this information, of telling these stories - along with the stories themselves - are right at our fingertips.

Somebody should be pulling together these important moments, packaging them and distributing them - free of charge - to classrooms all over the country, all over the world.

"Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it", or so goes the old saying. But in an age where history not only isn't, but CANNOT be forgotten, what excuse do we have for not showing what's been recorded to those who have never seen it for themselves?

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Posted byCOMTE on 11:26 PM

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Tell That To A Downtown Jury

Finished my second round of jury duty in three months (Municipal Court in May, County Superior Court this week) yesterday by almost getting seated for a trial. However, I think my somewhat snarky response to the prosecuting attorney's "hypothetical analogy" during voir dire probably put me on her challenge list, so I was out of the courtroom by 10:30. Unfortunately, they held us in the pool through lunch, only releasing us after we came back from break, so I still ended up spending most of the morning in windowless rooms waiting for something to happen.

Fortunately, my two hour lunch break afforded me time to hit the Northwest's second favorite book store, and also successfully made it all the way through the line at Salumi for one of their yummy prosciutto, goat cheese and fig compote sandwich - plus a pound of meatballs to take home - all definitely worth the 45 minute wait.

By the time they got around to letting us go, it was too late to bother with going back into the office, so I just bussed back up the hill and spent an hour or so sitting in the yard with a book and a glass of iced tea - about as much time as I've managed to be able to spend outside for the past couple of weeks.

Unfortunately, that's going to follow through the weekend, as we begin teching the show this weekend, which means I'll be spending roughly 20 hours inside a dark, warm box helping out the director - it's a light work-load to be sure, but I still have to be there; not that I'm complaining mind you -- well, okay, I AM complaining - just a little.

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Posted byCOMTE on 3:45 PM

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

And I Think I'm Going Out Of My Head

Held auditions for the New Show on Sunday, and first round of callbacks (sort of like a second interview for you non-theatre types), and will be seeing more people on Thursday. Then, sometime next week, schedules permitting, I'll try to moosh those two groups together for a final round before making casting selections.

Auditoning is an arduous, time-consuming, and frequently frustrating experience - regardless of which side of the stage you're sitting. It's one of the things I definitely do not miss from my days as an actor: standing in front of strangers rattling off some previously prepared piece of script, and hoping that you can convince them in 30 seconds that you are absolutely right for the part, and there's no point in even looking at anyone else. Personally, I much prefered "cold readings", basically just being handed a piece of the script, which you may or may not have previously seen, and making instant choices about characters and relationships based solely on what's presented in front of your eyes at the moment you read it. Any trained monkey can memorize a monologue; cold-reading is a skill, and in my opinion, is a much better gauge of an actor's ability to live "in the moment".

For directors there are other, equally maddening experiences. Actors are, as a general rule, rather flakey about things like: showing up on time, or, letting you know they won't be showing up at all, or being prepared when - or if - they actually DO show up. Of the roughly 25 people we had scheduled for Sunday, about seven or eight simply never appeared. I found out a couple had in fact e-mailed our production manager, but saying you won't show up for your audition two hours before it's scheduled isn't much of an improvement over completely failing to notify anyone at all.

The ones who do show up can generally be categorized into three distinct types: "the professional", "the amateur", and "the wannabe". The first, clearly, are those who are on top of their game, have their materials prepared, and who - regardless of their relative level of talent and technical ability - present a reasonably professional demeanor.

The "amateurs" are the relative newcomers, those who haven't had much experience with the process, who forget something crucial, like their head-shot, or half the lines to the monologue they've probably memorized just a few hours earlier, but who nevertheless seem earnest, and just need someone to give them some coaching on technique and audition ettiquette.

Finally, there are "the wannabes", the ones who simply have no clue; you wonder how they even found out about the audition, and marvel despite yourself at whatever insane, spontaneous impulse caused them to not only think this would be a good thing to do, but who actually manage to short-circuit the natural human tendency to avoid humiliation and ego-deflation, and show up anyway, regardless of the fact they: A.) have absolutely no experience whatsoever; B.) have no idea what is expected of them in the audition process; and C.) who, despite these other considerations nevertheless BELIEVE that they can compete against actors who have studied, earned degrees, and performed in real, honest-to-goodness theatrical performances.

You always get one or two of these every time; on Sunday I had three. No monologues, no resume or headshot, no idea about what they were getting themselves into - no indication in fact they had even bothered to read the audition announcement beyond the point where it listed the date, time, and who to call to make an appointment.

And you, as the director, the nominal head of the project, have to be nice to them - you absolutely HAVE to be, because you don't want the next person outside the flimsy wooden door - the actor you may have been waiting to see, who will absolutely nail their piece and give you hope for the future success of your project - you do NOT want that actor to hear you crushing the soul of some poor, misguided, perhaps even clinically delusional person with stars in their eyes, dreams in their head - and not an ounce of talent, training, or technique to their name, because they don't know that other person from Adam, and they will quite naturally think you a mentally unstable, misanthropic monster for whom they absolutely, under no circumstances whatsoever will want to commit eight to ten weeks out of their valuable lives cowering in fear of, or muttering in frustration about.

So, you behave yourself, thank the wannabe for coming, tell them you'll be making a decision soon, never for a moment revealing how excruciating the last three minutes have been for you, and - when you finally, politely usher them out through that door - you take a deep breath, shove the experience into your personal mental round-file, and get ready to greet the next one, hoping against hope they'll at least have some of the basics under their belt.

And it's pretty much like that all day long.

Which has led me to the conclusion that the only people who hate auditions worse than actors - are directors.

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Posted byCOMTE on 2:29 PM

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

And We'll Fly Just Like Birds Of A Feather

The brief weekend sojourn to Portland turned out to be rather hectic - I was there for a whopping 42 hours - but quite enjoyable nonetheless, due mainly to getting a chance to see my dad, and the "surprise appearance" of a couple of cousins I only see on rare occasions, as well as a very pleasant visit with my soon-to-be 93 year-old grandmother.

All things considered, everyone seems to be doing quite well. Dad is looking as good as I've seen him in ages, everyone else seems equally hale and hearty, and even my grandmother, who has had some not insignificant health setbacks recently, was looking surprisingly well.

And the kiddies - where-oh-where did all these darned kids come from? (It's a rhetorical question.) There must have been 15 under-teens - mostly in the newborn-to-four year-old range - spread out like kudzu in a cotton field on Friday at my uncle and aunt's condo in N. Portland. There were literally so many underfoot it was almost impossible to avoid stepping on one - which did in fact occur on a number of occasions.

Not that I dislike kids, mind you, but the sheer number was, well, a bit overwhelming for those of us not used to having them around on a day-to-day basis, and despite all, I found it necessary to retreat next door to my other aunt and uncle's adjoining condo for the 4th of July fireworks festivities.

I had initially intended to take the train back up to Seattle on Saturday evening, in order to make my Noon rehearsal call on Sunday, but my cousin Kim convinced me to stick around, enticing me with the promise of a chauffered trip north the next morning. I hemmed and hawed - for about 30 seconds - since it really was way above-and-beyond the call of duty on her part, but again, we have so few opportunities to get together these days (she lives in Phoenix), that eventually I gave in to her persistence.

As it turned out, plans changed considerably in the interim. Her boyfriend Dave, whom I finally was able to meet for the first time, had to fly back on Saturday night, so the two of them, along with one of my nephews, and Kim's "adopted sister" Diane had a pleasant dinner before whooshing Dave off to the airport, after which we dropped Mark off at the condo's, while Kim, Diane and I ventured downtown to check out the annual Portland Blues Festival.

Which, as it turns out was a bit of a bust, unless one considers listening to several hours of Zydeco (not an unpleasant musical experience per se) to be the height of "blues music". We could have stuck around for some more diverse acts (Charlie Musselwhite was the headliner that evening), but ironically, they were groups with which I was already familiar (e.g. Duffy Bishop, a long-standing Seattle blues maven), and frankly, even the people-watching left something to be desired.

So, we headed back to the condos, and ended up spending the evening watching a movie ("Mad Money", not a bad flick, just not one I would have paid $10 to see in a crowded movie theatre) before the three of us finally hit a wall of exhaustion around 10:00 p.m.

I checked out of my hotel room (directly across the street from the condo's - tres convenient!) bright and early Sunday morning, schlepped my meagre luggage over to my rendezvous with - Diane, as it turned out. She had already planned to drive to Seattle en route to Wenatchee, where she was going to spend a couple of days with friends, and somehow had been convinced to drag me along as a passenger, which did make sense, since there was really no other reason for Kim to drive up than just to take me home.

We had a pleasant trip, made good time, getting into town around 11:00 a.m., with plenty of time for me to drop off my gear at the apartment, grab my script, feed the cats (my upstairs neighbors being gone for the day), and head back down the hill, directing Diane to a local purveyor of fine Danish malt beverages on her way down to the waterfront, before walking in to rehearsal - which unbeknownst to me had been pushed back to 1:00 p.m.

Well, better too early than too late.

(Note to the family: Yes, Diane and I got along just fine on the trip, but don't expect anything more; she's quite serious about her boyfriend. Still, thanks for trying!)


Posted byCOMTE on 10:27 PM

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Mexican Guitar Shooting Fireworks Galore

Happy 4th from Portland!

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Posted byCOMTE on 10:19 PM

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Woke Last Night To The Sound Of Thunder


And it's still going on...


Posted byCOMTE on 9:49 AM

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I'm The Urban Spaceman, Baby, I'm A Supersonic Guy

Not generally one to repost these sort of things, but I simply couldn't resist this one:

(thanks to Heather M. for the link)

Oh, and I just realized - this is the first time I've embedded a YouTube video on my site - this could be dangerous, very, very dangerous indeed.

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Posted byCOMTE on 1:53 PM

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Don't Care How Much Money I Gotta Spend Got To Get Back To My Baby Again

Here's how I spent my first paycheck from the Second Job:

Say "hello" to HAL

My old laptop has been slowly dying over the past several months, so I figured I'd better upgrade before it went completely kaput. I did a bit of shopping around (I also just purchased another laptop for Second Job to be used by our research assistant), and had been leaning in a couple of other directions, when I eyed this baby. It was a bit more expensive, albeit still affordable (and roughly half the price I paid for Old Laptop eight years ago), and it has a lot of features that don't come on standard laptops - the tablet writing feature being the primary selling-point (not to mention its eerie similarity to this - Gotta love Clarke & Kubrick - we only missed turning this piece of speculative technology into reality by a couple of years!)

HAL is much smaller than my old HP Inspiron, so I may eventually opt for a larger flat-panel monitor for movie viewing, which comprises about 95% of my "TV watching", but the more compact size, along with the touch-screen functions make it much more portable, meaning I'll probably be lugging it around more than I did O.L., particularly since I need to move my Second Job work off my First Job office computer (there's just enough of a "conflict of interest" issue to require that level of separation.)

So, here's to the future we were promised - although I'm still waiting for that personal jet-pack, and vacations on the moon...

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Posted byCOMTE on 12:46 PM

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