Thursday, March 31, 2011

Does not sleeping make you a somnambulist?

After sleeping a regular six hours every night for a few months, this week saw a return to the erratic schedule and averaging a little over 6 hours a night. I can feel the difference. At first it felt good, like I had a lot more energy, but every day after I can feel the strain. I started out snappy, but now I just snap. I feel anger quicker. That's odd that I could have gone for so long like this and not really noticed it until after I got the recommended amount of sleep. Talked with work to try and get a more reasonable schedule, so we'll see. Until then, just one more night of this, then I can schedule sleep blocks that will allow me to live.

I remember when I was little I didn't want to go to bed because it meant the day was over. I know most people my age can't wait to sleep because that means the day is over. I am somewhere in between. I want to sleep, because I know my body (and I) need it, but I also want to live every second I have. It's another one of those paradoxes that to live fully, I have to spend 1/3 of every day sleeping.

Monday, March 28, 2011

It's what people do

I realized that when I journaled (technically I still do, I just haven't in probably almost a year), I mostly did it when I was feeling more stress, or had a moment of time. I'm following the same pattern with blogging. Now I just "don't have the time" though I make the time for other things, but stuff is also going pretty well (for the moment, at least). I've got a full schedule making things come together, or at least nudging them along, so I feel a much smaller need to blog, because I don't really need reassurance. Journaling and blogging are different kinds of prayer for me, I think. They help me state in writing what's going on, and I usually end with some statement of encouragement. I suppose that's what most people do with religion. When things are going well, they figure they do not need it or God, and when things go wrong, well, I think every single person has prayed to God (or their version of a diety) in times of peril and crisis. Maybe I'm just a normal person in that regard. There I am.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The power of a name

To name something is to take away its power.

Rumpelstiltskin. The Doctor's real name. Awkward moment. Irrational anger. Fear.

I have a hard time remembering names, even the names of people I've known forever or see every day, I still forget their names sometimes.

My mom talked to me about how some people say things that she doesn't like, the kind of things I hear people say and feel angry about. What does one do in that situation? How is it resolved? Ignoring it? Probably not the best option, that leads to festering. Name the effect in your own head? Acknowledging anger helps, but isn't that more like a symptom of something else? Name what just happened that led to the feeling? That one is usually difficult. Saying how negative someone else is being, it puts both the other person on the spot, and you in the fire. Though when you name it properly and justly, can the fire really burn you? Does the same angel protect you who protected Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego?

Maybe she will if you know her name. Maybe she sees that you know it in your heart.

Either way, the thing that was named has become a fixed point, and lost its ability to follow and lead you in quite the same way. Nailing a moment or feeling down with its own name; I am willing to call that power.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough

I am happy. I had a terrible improv night. And I am happy about it. It started out sucking, got a little better, had a couple small moments, never really rose to something more. I am mostly happy because I stayed in it and pushed through, found some nice discoveries and had help from my fellow improvisers. This is a failure I'm happy about because I didn't give up on it. I think I learned something...I wonder what it is.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The news really is

I don't really watch the news that often, or ever, really. I do listen to NPR on occassion and sometimes BBC News on TV. Nor do I like politics that much. Something strange has been happening to me lately, putting my routine into question. A while ago the first of the protests in the middle east caught my attention and I found myself really listening to what was going on. I went out of my way to listen to up-to-the-minute updates on the radio. I heard a man talk about how he thought the peaceful protest would turn violent in a few hours, right before it did just that. I felt so much a part of this history that was happening so far away from me as a person.

Then the earthquake and loss of life in New Zealand. I lived in that country for a year and a half, and this city I remember was in ruins, many dead. This too caught me up in it.

Now, it's Japan. First the earthquake immediately followed by the terrible tsunami, washing people away into the unknown. Human lives, then the nuclear reactor, the partial meltdown and the lives. So many human lives are lost, and will be lost. The originally 250 people working to stabilize the multi-failing reactors, reduced to a skeleton crew of 50 people, who knowingly remained, offering their own lives as forfeit to save the lives of countless others. Those men will surely die from the radiation poisoning. They are giving their lives. As you can tell, this has swept me along with it.

These people, these individuals all across the world, their stories effected me in a way I was not aware I could be moved. This is real, and happening now. This must be why people read the news, because it involves real people, just like them, just like me, just like you. All living their own lives, and then something happens and they must continue to live, even if that means dying.

I really do not know what this all means, not that I'm following a double rainbow right now, but for me, the reality that the news is truly about real people and not numbers has floored me over the past two months. I now want to be a truly informed citizen of the world.

Let's see how long that lasts.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I chose...poorly

Crap. That feeling where my eyes are yelling at my face that they are so tired, but my stomach is yelling at my decision-maker for choosing Arby's and root beer for dinner instead of real food. Body parts rebelling against each other. Nobody wins.

I knew better than to eat so bad (it's just what Arbys does to me), but also not to eat so late, 7pm, I think. Late for food, and way too late for pop. Why is it that I make these choices even though I know I won't like the consequences? Now that's a question. It's not an addiction, but when the singular event is analyzed against a single choice by an addict, they aren't that dissimilar. I don't repeat it often, but I do repeat it. Maybe it's a guy thing, eating bad things regardless of the known consequences. My thought is that it's more of a human thing. What tastes better than the imagination and memory of some forbidden fruit. The lure of an idea. Some ideas flourish when they are made real, others give you upset tummies and angry bodies.

When will I finally learn?


What's it worth?

When an opportunity for work crops up on one of the acting forums in Portland, I always know the first bulk response (because everyone responds to all, so that we can all benefit from the gets a bit much); what's the pay?

About every other month there is a huge strand of conversation devoted to being paid as an actor or not. For me, I'm starting out and building my reel. Turns out I need to have done stuff so I can do bigger stuff. Makes sense. For this reason I do check what's going on and if something interests me, I find out more information. I've found a few neat projects through this method. The question is, why is it okay for me to be expected to do work without pay? Do people expect this from plumbers? I graduated from a two-year professional actor training program, which is the metaphorical equivalent of trade school. Do you hire an electrician who just graduated and have him rewire your house so he can build his resume?

I think the issue is that every a) thinks they can act, and b) knows about acting. Everyone sees movies or watches TV, and they all have opinions about that. Few people watch house painters and say that looks so glamorous, I want to do that too. Is that what I'm saying? Market saturation? That sounds silly. Scratch that one.

I guess it is a big issue. It means being respected or not. If I am expected to work without compensation, then I must have very little intrinsic value. However, I can't demand pay when people can get someone else so easily (even if I am more qualified or not). This is a strange career to be in. I want to talk more about this, but I have to leave so I can drive for an hour and a half to get the the set where I am filming an unpaid student project.

I like the concept and I like the part. It's small, but it will look good in my reel. It's a new concept for me, to be building the foundation of my career on the cheapest bricks with plans of increasing the worth of every layer I add.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What does selling out look like?

I'm trying to figure out if I'm a sell-out or not, or what a sell out actually is.

Some fringe artists seem to believe that any time you get money for doing something, that's selling out. I'm not that anti-anything to fall near this camp. I know another actor who gladly admits to "selling himself out" for any and every commercial over the span of fifteen years. He seems comfortable in his life. Not super famous, but been in pretty much everything as a day player. Is that selling out? Working your craft?

My issue right now is that I got cast in a commercial for a company I do not support. Does this mean I sold out? I'm an extra, so my face probably won't be seen, even if I'm not seen, it doesn't change the fact that I'm still doing it. Is it okay because I'm taking their money, or not okay because I'm taking their money? Work is work, but not all work is created equal. At this point, I'm not doing anything against my personal morals, but yesterday morning I never would have thought of working for them. Ever. Now I apparently will.

All steps to get my own stuff produced, like I am gaining points for doing all these other things, and when I get enough points, I can cash them in for my own project. In that sense, I think the means and the ends are not that different. As of now, I am content in my choice. It does not not change who I am. It does remain an interesting question; what does selling out look like?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Monsters (watch it)

Pleasantly surprised.

Someone posted they had watched the movie Monsters in their facebook status and he is an intellectual, so I figured I might want to check it out. This evening when I logged into my friend's Netflix account I saw that he had watched it too...or at least 6% of it. So I figured why not.

Excellent choice. I wanted to keep watching it. Sometimes when I watch movies at home I end up doing other things. With this one I just watched it and enjoyed every moment of it. I even had to sit up more than once because I was so drawn into the moment. Some mildly thrilling moments placed throughout this one. It's a small movie about small things, with big things happening in the background. It's the kind of "monster" movie I like, one that is not about the monsters, but about the people dealing with the monsters. I also went in hoping that the title was a double entendre figuring I would be disappointed when I would inevitably figure out that it's just another low-budget movie about the effects. It had effects, but only to tell the story, not really showing them off too much. And the title? Contented with its play on language. [NOTE: if you haven't seen the movie yet, you'd be better off stopping here and watching it. There's no spoilers per se, but my experience of this film was going in blind. I think that's the best way to do it, so go watch it. Yes, you!]

That's what a real monster movie should be about, how more like the monsters we are. Not that this one did that, but it was subtle enough for me to go through the whole movie and only ponder on this note when I was done. If it surprised me, then I have to rave about it. Also, I discovered why it showed that my friend only watched 6% of the movie, because as soon as I finished it, I went back and watched the beginning just to see if what I thought was true or not.

It was.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Caring is...caring

How much do you care about things?

How much should you care about things?

So many relationships fall apart because people care about the wrong things. Scratch that, they fall apart because the individuals care very much about certain things but perhaps channel that caring into other aspects. Namely into trivial matters like putting the toilet paper roll in backwards (there is a correct way, just so you know). Is that what the relationship is about? If the rolls go in right, you'll live happily forever? Nah, it's a signifier for being heard and respected, but these are the things we find ourselves caring so much about, to the point of destruction, at times.

I've been seriously wondering how to upgrade my status at work, to get paid for the job I do, not the position I am in, filling the shoes of someone who left, but since I'm doing it so well, they just aren't opening that position up. That means I'm not being recognized in the same financial way my predecessor was. I also do more than him, but he was with the company too long and was far too jaded to really care. That's the path I see myself on. Caring so much about being compensated that I am expending my energy trying to justify my own right to be paid closer to my worth. Do I want to continue working for Columbia? Heck no. Why do I care?...because I do. I would be far happier to clock in my hours there, and clock out the second I leave that building. I should expend my energy in my real passions, instead of in a corporation who can't even put the toilet paper in right!

Something in me needs to change. I may give them a few hours every week, but I cannot give them my energy the rest of the time. I don't need that raise and job title (though I would not reject either), so I need to stop spending valuable head-space on that topic. I need to care less about that. I know me and my need to achieve, but who in their right mind would want to achieve at banging their head against a cold rock?

Perhaps too many people.

Either way, what do I care about?

Love[?] And sharing it in the ways I know how through my writing and acting. And accepting all the hardships that go along with it.

Is that it?

Probably not, but it's a good start, and much better than the other option, the one that ends next to a toilet.

Happy birds

How do the birds know when morning is coming when it's still dark outside? They're definitely excited for something.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Loud skin

Apparently I'm on drugs. This came as a bit of a surprise to me. Though perhaps it shouldn't have. It kind of exploded then crept up on me, now it's creeping all over me.

The story.

I had headaches in October, they grew and got worse, so in December the doctor gave me some pills to take before bed to help me relax. Those pills were also anti-depressants, apparently. They also made me sick. Slightly vertiginous and nauseous. For two full weeks, then lessening. Other than that, they seemed to work. Now I've been weaning myself off them the last couple weeks. Skipping a few nights, etc. Then the other night I noticed that something else has been creeping into my life. My skin. Or at least my over-awareness of it. I itch. All over. Now all the time. It just kind of happened. More than that, my body feels wrong, like everything is in slightly the wrong location. My hands annoy me the most. When I hold one hand straight where my fingers touch all the way along their length, it annoys me greatly. Just the feeling of it feels wrong. Even my hands typing, my fingers, all the edges that touch things give me the sensory equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.

This is a wondrously new and fantastically irritating experience. My skin does not cause me pain, but in the same way, it feels as though someone is pulling it from the rest of me. Not pulling my skin off, there's no pain like that, but like they are separating the layers, and each layer has its own unique version of annoyance. I am too too aware of my skin. I'm not wishing it would melt, but it is everywhere, and feeling everything. I try to read a book, but my hands scream at me a silent protest to the prolonged touch of the paper. As does my skin for being on my body. This is not a happy feeling. I felt it in small ways the last few days, but tonight it exploded into something fierce, with a head and teethe, ready to eat me whole.

I just took off my shirt, but I'm still itchy everywhere it used to be. This I do not want. Now I can feel what it's like to come off drugs. I'm glad mine were just prescription, but this single experience has been, and is be a great big one. I will avoid drugs like this as long as I can. I do not want my body needing something so bad it cannot function like a body should without it. Why do doctors prescribe tiny pills that have such a huge impact both in their beginning and end of treatment? I do wonder if the headaches were better. As it stands I've not had them, but I will risk revisiting them as long as I can fully estrange myself from the varied sensations this medication has brought me.

I'm conjuring a solution with an over the counter antihistamine as a temporary source of relief. I can't imagine being so desperate as to choose this for a lifestyle. I can say no, some people are addicted to things the cannot say no to by themselves. Now there's a place I would rather not find myself. In that perspective, I'm all right, because I know my skin will eventually shut up.

Only the good die young

I miss liking some shows. I remember when 30 Rock started, it...well, it 30 rocked. It was not long after the mourning began over Arrested Development's untimely demise, so it was the closest thing to fill that viewing gap. Every season it improved and got better and better. Last season it was perfect, and continued to be so until the last two episodes. It forgot to tell me that it was keeping its momentum and growing. It got, dare I say, too silly for me. It may be nostalgia, but I remember it taking the characters seriously and giving them room to grow. Now it feels too static, yet feeling the need to keep pushing those boundaries. I guess my lines are drawn in the sand, and it pushed right through them, leaving me here on the beach wondering how I got here. I'll keep watching it, but I know they'll keep pushing the world so far into the ridiculous that I'll lose all connection with it.

Same with The Guild. It wasn't that great to begin with, but I loved the idea of it so much that I supported it (bought season 1 and 2 on DVD out of solidarity). Then season 3 came and with it a rival guild with characters cut from...I dunno, some gothic cereal box, I'm sure. Characters who would never exist as real people, then it kept going and I stopped watching it. It outgrew me.

Maybe that's why I still love Arrested Development, it widowed me, and now all I have is the memory of the good times, and they were all good times. We never had the chance to grow apart. Same with Firefly and the tenth doctor. All my truest loves died young. What am I supposed to do?

I think that's me. I love the heart of things, where they come from. I find that the first albums by bands are my favorite (Cake's Motorcade of Generosity is by far my favorite of theirs, and Weezer Blue is one of my top albums of all time). I think it might be because those are the songs they spent years perfecting, that truly speak from where they come from, before record deals allowed them to create more in shorter periods of time and they attain the lifestyle they always dreamed of, which somehow stunts them in the way that they can live solely in their own worlds. Maybe that's just the story I made up to justify it.

I think my approach to all this is to create something myself and follow its growth and change. Thing about kids, you kind of know what they'll be like when they grow up, but you're never really the one who chooses it for them. Kids grow and change and become bigger versions of themselves until life events happen and they make choices and adjust accordingly. Where will this baby take me? Probably far from where I started, unless it dies young. That's the journey.

Friday, March 4, 2011

What's my motivation?

"How do you get motivated if you don't 'feel' it at the time?"-Cate

I'm kind of liking the "Dear Abby" approach. I wouldn't mind this becoming a Dear Vinnie blog. Not that I'm qualified to answer anything, but if Betty White can do it, by golly, so can I!

It's funny you say I don't seem to struggle with motivation. I do. Greatly. Daily, in fact. That's something I'm figuring out, or at least learning more about in myself to try and figure out how not to be so lazy. That's where I sit with it. I feel lazy most of the time. Now I've incorporated relaxing time and game time into my day to relieve myself from the stress of feeling like I'm wasting my time. I accepted the fact that I need to relax every day or I will die. That's helped with the headaches, but not the motivation part. I find that playing with scale helps. Big things, like earning a degree, making a movie or building a house or business are great things to have done, but hell to be in the middle of doing. That's what Set Theory is for me now. My show, yes, but huge, with so many steps that it is completely impossible to even imagine all of them being done. This is where people with money get other people to help them along the way. I am very lucky to have so many people helping me every step, I just need to know when and how to ask...which I am learning at a snail's pace.

You know, when I first read your comment last night, I wanted to dig in and write immediately, but I put it off. I answered the other comment because it came in first. I've had enough time to go through all the elements I wanted to say, repeated them, and subsequently forgotten them. That's a big lesson. If you feel the urge to do something, do it that moment. That's where my list comes in, the one I carry with me in my pocket. My to-do list, constantly being updated, added to. If you have an idea, that's nice, but it's not an idea until you write it down, because it can go as quick as it came. Just taking note of things triggers something in your brain making it important and more memorable.

There are days when my to-do list does not get shorter. Like today, I pretty much did nothing on my list. I know why. No good reason (other than being engrossed in both a book "The Writer's Tale" and a TV show "Downton Abbey" (which is BRILLIANT, by the way, thank you for suggesting it. I've only just finished the second episode, but I cannot wait to see more, it's so dense and British and intelligent, I love it!).

I didn't cross things off my list because I didn't schedule to do them. Plain and simple. That's my downfall. If I am responsible to someone else, like with lines or when I have a meeting or something, I do my part every time. When I am responsible to myself, I let it go. That's not true, I actually beat myself up for being so lazy, but I know I didn't lose face. The days when I am proud of getting things done, are days when I wake up, look at my list, then mark one or two things. Those things I do, then as soon as I'm done, I mark something else, then repeat those steps until the day is over or I am tired. The secret to getting things done is doing things. It's like when you want someone to volunteer for a job, you don't ask the person with the least amount to do, they'll say no. You ask the person with the most on their plate, you know they will say yes. People follow Newton's first law. If they are in motion they want to stay that way. If they are not moving, why get up and move? It's that first step to anything. That first step of breaking the static friction of life, to create motion. Once you're going, you're going to move.

I sometimes let myself get depressed. Not the big depression, but I have had panic attacks and fed the solitude, camping in my own world sheltered from the outside. Sometimes it's what I need, but most of the time I just need to tell that voice that says to stay in to stop and go out anyway. I figure as long as I don't let those bouts of hermitude last longer than a cold, then I'm okay.

I think what I want to get across is the importance of writing things down and scheduling them out. Just writing stuff down is a huge step towards making things real. My personal problem is when I don't schedule things. I know I work much better when I schedule with other people, it's a way of holding myself accountable. There's no real secret, it's just telling that voice that says "worry about it later, just sit down and watch tv" to shut up. Then do stuff. Although, having a complex where you feel like you need to accomplish more or you're worthless helps too, but not in the long run.

I don't know if that helps with your severely depressed patients, telling them to shut up, make a list of things to do and do one at a time, but that's what I do. Even if it's gas the car or buy milk, those things are on my list right next to write episode 5, schedule ADR and take a bath/read.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Act 1

"What first inspired you to act?" -Stephanie

(thinking sounds)

I know everything in life, at least all the big choices, even the small ones stem from single events. Something happens, we respond, and our response sets a pattern for the rest of our lives. For me, there are a few moments that stand out. The first big one was in fifth grade with possibly the best teacher ever, Mrs. Lau...or was it Law? Something like that. She believed in solid hands on, participatory learning. The visceral things are the ones that stick best.

We were doing a unit on the Greeks, this day was about the first marathon, and by that it's really the story of why a marathon is a race named after the city-state of Marathon. None of us knew the story, and I remember it was a pretty hot afternoon. I don't know if I stood out or not back then, that was shortly after I started going by Vinnie instead of the full Vincent, but something had her choose me to act out the story as she read it. Heck, I may have volunteered, I don't really remember. There was probably a girl involved I wanted to impress, or I was just bored. That's not the point. As she read, I acted it out in mime, because that's what came to me. If you don't know the story, here it is as I remember it from way too long ago:

Everything is fine in the seaside City-state of Marathon, people are doing nice, Greeky things in the Greek sun. Harvesting olives and whatnot. Then a city lookout sees a fleet of ships on the horizon approaching the city. Warships. I forget where they are from, but the city is isolated, and has not enough people to face the phalanx headed their way. They took their only hope of defending the city and placed it in a sole messenger and sent him over the endless mountainside to the nearest city, some 40 miles or so away. He ran and ran and ran, up and over crags, down valleys and up more peaks, along the roughly hewn road until he could see smoke from the fires of their nearest allies. He told them of the impending onslaught. The warriors prepared to head to sea and flank the enemy at midnight. Knowing that the rest of his people must be told, the messenger resolutely turned and began to run back to Marathon to tell his people of their hope. He ran and ran and ran, back down into the valleys and up over the peaks he had past hours before. The sun was low but still shining heavily on his straining body as he worked with every ounce of strength he had left to return with the message before it was too late. Finally after hours of running, his birth-city peaked over the mountain crest just ahead of him. The enemy was on the beach, assembling to attack the city. The messenger sprinted to the gates to give the word, and upon telling them of their hope, he collapsed and died from exhaustion, knowing he had saved the city.

So yeah, that lesson stuck...even if the facts are a bit off. I'll leave what I did to your imagination, but I remember having the entire class perched on their desks, just waiting for every new bit of story, caring about the fate of this lowly messenger and his heroic feats from centuries ago made alive through me. That's the first time I remember realizing how much of an impact a good story well acted has on people. Also, how great it felt to have the whole class tell me how great it was.'s a great drug.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

RE: The meaning of life

My second go at answering this, since my first one got eaten by the computer, the internet, or both.

"What is the meaning of life? And don't bother answering 49!" -Stephanie

Thanks for the question, you're always on it.

I enjoy this question and its variations. The meaning of life, the secret of life, the secret to life, etc. I've always had an answer to this, though it has changed pretty much every time. In the first draft I put a joke about the meaning of life being Rhubarb, which made sense in context, but since that version was lost, I'm not going to try it again.

The secret of life is love.

That's it. In all its capacity, that's what life is, is about, and what it means. At least, as far as I know at this moment in time.

Also, the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42, not 49. Just being pedantic.

Vinnie out!