Friday, October 6, 2017

Black Folks and Movie Theaters

Black Folks and Movie Theaters

I went to the movies last night to see a premier of MARSHALL. It’s a very good film that I highly recommend, even though it took me several minutes to get over my initial offense of Chadwick Boseman being casted to portray Thurgood Marshall. I know, in a perfect world, anybody should be able to play anybody, but his physical appearance is drastically different from Thurgood’s appearance and because of that, I was prejudicial. Hollywood tends to think we're interchangeable, but will go out of their way with make-up and prosthetics in order to make their actors look more like the characters they portray. However, Chadwick's amazing acting chops won me over and I found myself, suspending my believe, and settling comfortably into the story.
Now I know that Black folks talk in the movie theater. I actually enjoy certain banter that comes from, mainly Black women, in movies that excite them. However, I was sitting next to 4 people (2 men and 2 women) who decided to have a full-on conversation through the entire first fifteen minutes of the film. (I should have known there was going to be an issue because one of the women asked one of the representatives of the marketing company for her business cards. She stated she was a screenwriter and wanted to keep in contact with her. TACKY!) Soon as the movie started, they started cackling. I tried to contain myself, but I found myself becoming more and more irritated. After one such long exchange I couldn’t take it anymore and before I knew it, or had a moment to sensor myself, I turned to them and said, “Would you guys be quiet? You’re being incredibly rude!” 
Now, for a split second, after I said it, I thought to myself, “What the hell did you go and do that for? You know how “people,” are. Now you’re about to have a full-on argument, in a packed theater, with some ignorant folks.” But then I had to pat myself on the back because normally I would have said, “Would you guys shut the fck up?!” and I didn’t say that. I thought I was very polite.
One of the guys, peeked his head forward and had the audacity to say, “But we’re talking about the movie.” At which I said, “Do you have to comment on EVERY aspect of the movie? Can you do, maybe, every OTHER aspect, Jeez?” Then the big girl sitting next to him, who asked the representative for her business card, said, “Sir, you don’t have to be rude and use the Lord’s name in vain!” I responded, “JESUS, just be quiet!” Then I turned and continued watching the film. Even though they continued to talk, it was more sporadic and less noticeable.
After the movie, I waited till the 4 characters got up to leave. It was then that I discovered I was physically bigger than all 4 people and secretly enjoyed their awkwardness as we were exiting the theater. When I got to door, I mad-dogged the group before walking down the hall. I don’t know why I did it, I just did. Then lady yelled out, “Have a blessed day!” A “Blessed day,”? First off, it was evening. Second, it took every bit of will power I had to not go back and confront them. I merely turned around and said, “Bye, you fake ass Christian,” then turned around and slowly walked out, making sure I didn’t hear them talk shit before completely exiting the building. I know that was SO WRONG on so many levels.
When I got to my car, I had a good laugh and thought, “Why don’t people take responsibility for their actions?” These are trying times and sometimes it’s better to apologize and keep it moving. Next time that situation happens, I don’t think I will confront them at all. I’ll just go get an usher because I have to heed my own advice and take responsibility for my actions as well.
In any event, Black folks, try to remember that a movie theater, although it’s there for your enjoyment, is not your personal living space. If you want to talk through the entire movie, then stay your behinds at home and wait for it to come out on DVD, Netflix, or cable. Nobody has time to listen to your commentary on the actions happening on the screen. We pay good money to watch a movie, not listen to you! You may comment a little, but by no means, do you have to become part of the show!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Vegas Massacre and African Americans

Vegas Massacre and African Americans

I was watching the news today and shedding countless tears over the senseless deaths of the victims from the Vegas massacre; many from right here in Southern California. It’s heartbreaking to think that innocent people woke up and thought they were going to enjoy a great concert and but instead viciously lost their lives or had them altered forever. Why would someone maliciously kill innocent, unarmed defenseless, people? Why would someone feel so empowered and so privileged that they could take the life of a stranger without hesitation? Why am I so affected by this tragedy? Most importantly, why do I care when I don’t know the victims or have any relations to them? Well, it’s because I’m a human being with empathy and compassion. This is a human tragedy and as we come together to mourn the loss of our fellow Americans, I’m reminded that I have felt this loss before. We, as African Americans, have felt this loss countless times before. This is what we go through daily when our people are ferociously gunned down and murdered by police and civilians. 
I am, by no means, trying to compare tragedies. I am simply stating a point. It’s very interesting that the media and law enforcement are scrambling to ask the question, “Why?” They’re talking with family members, girlfriends, and persons of interest, in an attempt to get into the psychology of the gunman. Yet, when an unarmed African American is murdered by the hands of police and civilians, it’s hardly ever questioned. There is something warped about that ideology. 
History has a way of repeating itself. Especially by a “civilized,” society that has all the advancements in modern science and technology, but is significantly lacking in compassion for others. I’m reminded of Martin Niemollers statement, “…Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.” 
Instead of asking the “Why?” regarding the psyche of this maniacal gunman, we should be focusing on the bigger picture. Why are we, as a nation, allowing people the ability to purchase semi-automatic enhancements to weaponry? Why are we allowing the gun manufacturers the opportunity to control our legislature? A law was introduced to Congress a few years ago to ban these enhancements, yet failed to pass. Who were our Congressman who voted against this law and how do we hold them accountable?! How do we hold ANYONE accountable for the senseless murder of any unarmed person in our society? Most importantly, what do we take away from this tragedy and how do we learn to compassionately see that a senseless murder is a senseless murder, in any segment of our society, whether at the hands of civilians or police. 
The nation mourns (as do I), and for a moment in time, White America understands what it feels like to go out into the world and not know if you’re coming home because some maniac decided that today was the day he is going to take your life or alter your perception forever. This is but a semblance of what many African Americans go through daily. Hopefully you understand. Now, the question is; “What are you going to do with your feelings and this new paradigm shift in perception?”
As we continue to mourn the senseless loss of life and cheer the unbelievable acts of bravery and heroism, let's not forget these feelings so that the next time an unarmed African American is killed at the hands of a gunman, we can feel the same compassion and ask the same questions. Because now, we ALL know what it feels like to mourn, and hopefully, we, as a nation, will finally take steps to end these futile killings in our country forever. So that we can ALL live happily, in harmony and in peace.

Whites, Racist, and African American Responsibility

Whites, Racist, and African American Responsibility


As we look at our current administration and ponder how we, as a nation got here, let's not forget that not all White people are racist. There are many who have fought and died for the abolition of slavery and equal rights in this country. The NAACP was co-founded by White socialist, just to name a small tidbit of history revolving Whites who understood the evils of oppression. 

Let's also be clear about something else. The terms: racist, White supremacist, and prejudice, are synonymous with each other, but do not mean quite the same thing. Being a racist means one who has the POWER to oppress another culture based on race. Therefore a racist can be all three of those terms, but someone who is a White supremacist may or may not be a racist if he/she does not have the power to oppress. 

I think we focus our attentions too much on those that oppress and not enough on unshackling our minds from our oppressors. Racism is built into the structure of the world and it runs like clockwork with very little effort. Everybody has a responsibility in changing the system. WE need to understand that it takes great effort to create a paradigm shift in our minds from centuries of brainwashing. 

On the flip side of that, White people have been brainwashed too and in some warped ways are victims as well. However, they don't need to change because the system benefits them. It's going to take a conscious effort on both fronts to change the structure of racism and its oppressive nature. 

In the meantime we need to focus more attention on loving ourselves, and uplifting our communities by taking active roles in education and the politics and policies that impact us in meaningful ways. We need to stop making excuses and jump back into the trenches like we did during the Civil Rights Movement. But this time it's not about equal rights. It's about cleaning up our neighborhoods. It's about getting drugs, gangs and prostitution off our streets. It's about demanding resources so that we have healthy food and water in our communities. It's about giving our young people a shot at life through education and economic development. 

We don't need the dominating powers to do that because we've done it before with a lot less. Our mental and physical survival depends on it. Otherwise those that are in power are going to continue going for our jugular and our lives. This is our country too. We built it and with our brains, hands, hearts, wills, arms, legs, shoulders, backs, blood, sweat, and tears made it strong. We are not resident aliens. We are founders and we need to believe it, and with the faith of our ancestors, start acting like it. When we do, the entire world changes.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

8 Core Principles You OWE Your Children


Some parents might have a hard time with the concept of owe.  They feel that by using the word “owe,” it has the potential to bring with it expectations and obligations.  They contemplate that no one wants to feel obligated nor do they want the added pressure of their children expecting too much.  However, the reality is; that it the right of your child to expect and deserve the very best in what you have to give.

Most children see themselves as a mini extension of their parents.  If you expect the best in yourself, then they will strive to achieve the best in themselves.  Words are symbols that mean something. By obligating yourself to the word, owe you are committing to giving to your child all that you are, and will be, forever.

Wanting the best doesn’t mean that when your child graduates from high school you go into debt buying him/her a Porsche.  It doesn’t mean that your child comes to you with a list of demands in order to make life less complicated.  It’s simply a method in which you pledge to make a conscious effort to the protection, well being and stability of yourself and your family.

Because words are symbols used to direct our mind’s focus, we want to put into our consciousness the strongest symbols possible. Owe conjures up a strong characterization.  It’s an implication that there’s an unpaid balance that you share with your kids.  It’s a balance that’s always outstanding, sometimes overdrawn, at any moment frustrating, but never depleted.  It’s something you continue to graciously pay, even if from afar, knowing that its positive influence is the greatest reward.


BUILDING SELF-ESTEEM

There’s an old saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  Whoever created that statement must have never been constantly called anything derogatory.  Words are very powerful and often can cause drastic emotional injury to a child’s fragile self esteem. That’s why parents have an obligation to choose words and phrases that will be beneficial to the healthy development of their children’s blossoming self image.

Most responsible parents would never intentionally degrade their children.  In spite of that, even asking questions like; “What’s wrong with you?”  “Are you out of your mind?”  Or “Why are you making a mountain out of a mole hill?” can be emotionally damaging and cause serious psychological injury to a small child’s fragile ego.  Along those same lines phrases like; “You are driving me crazy!”  “You are getting on my last nerves,” (How many times have you heard that?!) “I’m about to knock you into the middle of next week,” as well as, “You make me sick!” are also emotionally damaging and should be avoided. 

Building self esteem means never being insulting, negative, swearing at, or calling disparaging names.  It means to never be overly critical, find ways of encouragement and opportunities to uplift your children’s spirits in every circumstance.

Keep in mind that damaging a child’s self esteem takes years of aggression, so don’t beat yourself up for the occasional slip up.  That’s normal.  As long as you remember that words hurt and that caution and caring are necessary in order to raise positive self assured human beings.

TIME

Children have no concept of time although it is one of the most valuable commodities of life.  They may, on some level, grasp that it last forever, but somehow they often inadequately equate it to themselves.  As adults, we realize that time is important, it must be respected, and that we must make use of every moment we have for as long as we have it.

We don’t have long on this Earth to contribute to our well being and solidify our purpose.  However, while we are here, it is our obligation to use our time wisely and focus on our goals.  Parents need to teach their kids that they are not invulnerable and they won’t live forever.  Therefore it is important to maximize all the time they have towards developing their talents and striving for their goals.

Many parents have a myriad of ways of surviving in this drastic economy.  Often they are too tired to spend time with their kids after work.  Remember, your children are your first priority and it is your responsibility to muster up the energy and spend precious moments nurturing them.  They’ll understand that you’re tired.  They’ll also subconsciously understand how important they are to you and how you’ve prioritized their needs over your own.

Time is about making every effort to be at parent conferences, football games, recitals, Science Fairs, Boys and Girls Scout meetings, speeches, birthdays and anything else that reflects your child’s development.  If you don’t take the time to show them how important they are in your life, then they will grow up thinking life is not important.

Time is also essential in the morning.  Kids need a healthy start.  That means a good breakfast to start their day.  This is very difficult for most families because of varying schedules.  However, maybe a Monday, Wednesday, Friday commitment where the family gets up and eats breakfast together is fathomable.  Maybe two days out the week like Monday and Friday.  That gives kids something to look forward to.  It also starts and ends their school week.


SOCIAL EVENTS

It is eminently important for parents to attend the social events of their children. Children need to feel supported.  It is part of the unpaid balance you owe.  Your presence should be felt in all aspect of their lives and when you make them a main concern they’re going to be compelled to believe in you and have faith and trust that you have their best interest at heart.

VACATIONS

Vacations leave lasting impressions and are often remembered for a lifetime.  Try to take at least one family vacation a year, preferably one that involves the outdoors.  When children are outdoors, nature’s delicate balance has a serene effect on them.

Being one with nature is also extremely settling.  Nature and all its enduring principles leaves a positive impression about the structure of life.  It reminds us that we are all connected to an infinite structure that’s always changing and growing, but never ceasing to discard any of its parts.  It’s constantly replenishing and regenerating.  Therefore it’s imperative that kids experience this phenomenon first hand and get a semblance of their place in the beautiful cycle of life.

Vacations don’t have to involve a lot of money.  Take a one or two day hiking or desert trip. Spend an entire day at the beach complete with a picnic lunch and dinner as well as plenty of games and other things to do. The most important thing is that you spend quality time with your children outside the home and away from the hustle and bustle of life.

RELIGION

Spirituality is a vital extension of our human experience.  Without spirituality there’s a complex void in one’s outlook and expression of existence.  Children need to be taught that there’s a greater force other than themselves and you.  (Yes, I said, “You!”) This doesn’t mean that you have to go to church every Saturday or Sunday, but it does mean that your family should have a habit or be taught a ritual of giving thanks to a greater power.  The good it causes to believe and have faith in a higher power far outweighs the bad.  It can create is a strong moral character and a belief that you are held accountable to something more significant than you.

MONEY

My grandmother once said, “The person that said money isn’t everything, never had any.”  Money is very important in the way we configurate our society.  It may not make you happy, but it will sure make you more financially secure.  On that note, teach your kids about Certificate of Deposits, Mutual Funds, Savings Bonds, and Real Estate.  If these are areas you are unfamiliar; then learn about them. (Libraries are free resources, so there’s no excuse.)

It’s imperative that children have a proper respect for money and its worth.  Money is power.  It does plenty to aid in the comforts of life and children need to understand its necessity in order to function properly in this society.  It must be understood, saved, invested and spent wisely.

An effective way of building proper respect for money is by giving children an allowance and by opening their first savings account.  This is a way of showing them the importance of saving for things they want or need.  It gets them away from the notion of instant gratification and aids in the understanding of patience and self reliance.  It’s going to take a long time to save for those sneakers that cost $125 if you’re only putting away $5 a week.  Yet once attained, they’ll have a better comprehension for budgeting as well as and appreciation for the items they purchased on their own.  (You better believe if they spent their own money, they’re going to value the product more.)

Make sure the examples you teach your children regarding money are beneficial. This means making an effort to keep you own finances in tact. (I know that’s hard in this current economy!) Try not to let your telephone get cut off.  Don’t have your child doing their homework to candle light because you didn’t pay the light bill and, by all means, try to avoid your child going to bed hungry because there was no budget for food.

Some of the previous issues may be unavoidable. On the other hand, try as best you can to set a strong foundation and some of those issues may become escapable or at the very least, short termed.

CREDIT

Just like money, credit is another area where children need to have a proper understanding and respect; especially before they go off to college.  Credit card companies prey on unsuspecting college students and if they aren’t knowledgeable they will graduate owing much more than school loans.

Credit is an important asset.  Not only can it be used to buy things of importance like an education, home or car, it can create financial independence.  There may be emergencies that arise where credit may play a significant role.  Therefore, it must be protected and taken seriously at all times; especially in communities of color.

CHARITY

Find opportunities where your family can be of community service.  Whether it’s beautifying your neighborhood or volunteering at a homeless shelter, find the opportunities to give back the blessings that are bestowed upon you.  Charitable contributions are meaningful, satisfying and rewarding to everyone involved.  It rears unselfishness and a compassionate disposition in kids.

There’s a biblical saying that states, “Do onto others as you would have them do unto you.” People who are unselfish have an increased fulfillment of life because they are making others happy. These types of people realize that what they do has a greater effect on everyone around them.  If you want happiness in your life, you have to give happiness to others. Charity is reciprocal.

Whatever it is that you want out of life, you have to give.  If you want to live large, you have to give large. It’s the law of the universe.  The most important thing is to be humble to the process and to point out when it is being applied so that your children learn to appreciate its grace and beauty.

Those are the 8 core principles that every parent owes their children.  They are non negotiable and essential in developing young people of character.  They are however, not the only principles, so if you feel I’ve left one out, leave it in the comment section of this post. 

As always, thanks for reading and spending some time with my artistry.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Back off of NANCY GRACE



               
       

Toni Medrano, a 29 year old alcoholic, committed suicide by dowsing herself with a flammable fluid and setting herself on fire one month after being dubbed “Vodka Mom” by Nancy Grace.  According to the Daily Mail, the young mother consumed an entire fifth of vodka, then fell asleep and suffocated her 3 week old son Adrian.  It wasn’t until 10:30 am the next morning, when she saw that Adrian was cold and purple, did she realize she had killed her newborn son.

Initially Ms. Medrano faced 2 counts of manslaughter. One charge was for “Culpable negligence creating unreasonable risk,” and a second for “Committing or attempting to commit a violation.” If convicted on both counts she could have faced up to10 years in prison.

The tragic story of newborn Adrian’s asphyxia was featured on the Nancy Grace’s syndicated talk show. On the show Nancy reveals that Ms. Medrano consumed the equivalent of 17 shots of vodka and that her alcohol level was .11.  A doctor on the show further revealed that little Adrian had probably been dead for hours due to the purple coloring in his skin, which is a sign that his blood had been pooling in his body.  Which means that his blood was unable to circulate because of the amount of force on his body. This in and of itself caused this poor child an immeasurable amount of pain on top of the pain of suffocation.

Outraged by the sheer neglect of this infant child, Nancy pointed out that Ms. Medrano had a history of alcohol abuse and had been cited with two Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) offenses. She then adamantly called for Ms. Medrano to be charged with Murder One, which is a charge of premeditated murder.  Although I don’t agree with Ms. Medrano being charged with Murder One, I don’t see anything wrong or inappropriate with the actions of Nancy Grace.  As angry as some people have been because Nancy called out Ms. Medrano on her actions and responsibilities as a parent, where was this anger at the horrific loss of an innocent child?

I strongly don’t believe Nancy Grace said anything that any person with some semblance of rational thought wasn’t thinking. It's tragic on all accounts, but that woman should have thought about the possible consequences when she “boozed it up” and fell asleep with her 3 week old on the couch. Where was the child’s crib?  If she couldn’t afford a crib, then she could have put him in a drawer, but she didn’t need to have him on the couch with her when she decided to “get her drink on.”  With that being said, she didn't deserve to set herself on fire and die in the manner she did, but I'm sure being suffocated and crushed is no walk in the park either. Little Adrian should have been her number one priority. Period. She may have been distraught after the fact, but that doesn't bring her son back and killing herself only exacerbates the issues her other children will have in the future.

There are some that are calling for Nancy Grace’s resignation.  Others are calling for the boycott of CNN and even Dancing with the Stars; at which I find absolutely ridiculous. What if Ms. Medrano had she been drinking and got into a car and killed someone other than her own child?  What if that child had been some else’s 3 week old? I bet those that defend her would probably have a difference of opinion. Is it because she killed her own child that she should somehow warrant public compassion? Before she took her first drink shouldn’t she have had the rationalization to put her newborn in his crib?  How about, “common sense”?  I understand that some people may not have “good sense,” but most people have “common sense.”

Alcoholism is a disease as is drug addiction, “yadda, yadda, yadda.” Let it affect you, your body, and your own circumstances. On the other hand, when you kill innocent people based on a "choice," get ready for the consequences. It would have been entirely different if the killing were completely accidental or unavoidable.  Had Ms. Medrano been sober when the accident happened we’re be talking about a different scenario with a different set of empathetic circumstances; but she wasn’t. She was “fu@k#d up!” She was so out of her mind that she laid on top of her child for hours before she realized she had killed him. It’s tragic on all accounts, but she gets no sympathy from me. 

I can’t understand how people can get so angry at Nancy Grace, but not so much at the fact that an innocent child is no longer here and the remaining children are motherless because Ms. Medrano made the decision to make two selfish choices. It's not Nancy Grace's fault that the mother had no integrity and would rather dowse herself with fire than face ridicule, a lifetime of remorse and possible jail time. At least she had choices. What choice did the little Adrian have?

If we’re going to get angry at anything, let’s get angry at mothers who make irrational choices at the expenses of their children.  Let’s get angry at fathers who emotionally detach themselves from the responsibility of nurturing their families. Let’s get angry at everyone who continuously chooses and abuses mind altering substances while their household are left to fend or defend for themselves.  Let’s just get seriously angry at unavoidable caustic choices that wreck havoc on our communities!

This woman does not get a pass because she was emotionally weak or a person of color.  Nor does she get a pass because of the horrific way she chose to end her life. I’m tired of all the cookie cutter excuses of being down trodden and drenched in poverty.  Everyone is going through issues.  The economy is horrible; people are losing their jobs, seeing the entire savings being wiped out and their homes being foreclosed.  If your actions are hurting your family and it is within your grasp to make a choice to choose a new direction, then do it!  No more excuses. Period! You don’t have money for rehab? So what!  The rehab facility in your area is filled to capacity?  So what!  The rehab facility recommends that you stay for 3 months? So what!  You do what you need to do to get yourself right for your kids. Period! That’s what a parent is supposed to do and it the right of every child to expect and be entitled to that commitment.  If you make a choice to bring a child into the world, then make a choice to be the best example possible. Period!

What Ms. Medrano did was wrong and I don’t blame Nancy Grace for getting angry.  Some may say that it was all for ratings.  Others may say exploitation.  Still, others may say she was just being a mean, old, belligerent Bi*#h.  I don’t care.  I may not necessarily agree with all her tactics, but for the most part I think she was right on point.

RIP Adrian



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
   
 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Failure Is Not An Option

We’re living in a tough economy.  Everywhere we look people are struggling with their current financial situations.  Many have or are in the process of losing their homes through foreclosures.  The financial institutions that caused this crisis in the first place, are having no mercy on American families.  People have given up hope and some are contemplating what they believe is the inevitable.  For some the inevitable means downsizing from a larger space to a much smaller one.  For others it may mean moving back home with parents or friends.  Yet for others who see no mode of clarity through the clouds and fogginess of their circumstances, it may mean something worst or God forbid, much more sinister.  Before you even begin to examine what the inevitable means to you, tell yourself, whisper if you have to, that “Failure is not an option.”  Say that phrase over and over again, even if you don’t believe it!  Tell yourself that failure is not an option.

I use to look at failure as a loss.  That somehow if I failed at something I put time into, I was a failure.  I’m talented, smart, paid my way through college and basically done everything right in order to achieve the American dream.  What was I doing wrong?  Why wasn’t I getting ahead in the game of life?  And the most pressing question, what was wrong with me?  Then a voice from deep within, I call it God you may call it something else, said, “Nothing.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with you.  Continue to passionately follow your dreams, help others along the way and diligently learn from your mistakes.”

What I didn’t realize was that failure is part of the journey of success.  Successful people fail all the time at their attempted endeavors.  It’s part of the process of learning and without it there’s no intellectual development or personal growth. Therefore, I decided that what I needed to change was my attitude and outlook on where my aspirations fit within this global economy.

One area of life I had to honestly look at was; how was I committed to refurbishing my dreams into reality?  What were the processes I was willing to go through in order to create a comfortable life for myself doing the things I felt creatively passionate about?  Most importantly, how was I preparing to make that happen when the steps I had been taking weren’t working?  Then that same voice said, “Take different steps.  It’s never too late to change direction in order to get a clearer vision.”

We have to start looking at our lives and the way we conduct our business differently.  Our world is changing and the corporate structure by which we do business and become employed is gone.  No longer are the times when you could work at a company for 25 or 30 years and retire with a gold watch, celebrated commemoration, and a full pension.  Today corporations are merging and constantly downsizing.  They’re combining several fulltime jobs into one.  Many of these same corporations are shipping jobs overseas and not because it’s cheaper so their businesses can stay afloat, but because they want to enjoy larger profit margins.  They are squeezing American workers and won’t be satisfied until there is blood in the streets, because in the end, that also creates larger profits.

What can we do when we’re so stressed from the daily grind of living?  What can we do when we realize that these companies we work for, that we give our hearts to, don’t give a damn about our well being and could care even less about our future?  Give up? Go postal?  No, we develop an entrepreneurial spirit.

In today’s economy corporations and other entities are in the business of squeezing as much productivity out of you as humanly possible, and when you burn out, they’ve already created an environment that allows them to push you aside and hire the next person in line desperate enough to take your place.  Now, more than ever before, is the time to figure out ways to turn your passions and skills into viable sources of income and multiple streams of revenue.  Even if you’re currently working at a job you love and are passionate about, start thinking of ways you can turn those skills into income, even if it’s part time.  Within today’s technological arena, you can realistically build an empire right from your own home, doing the things you love and offering those skills and/or services to others.

Maybe you work as a security guard.  Take those skills that you’ve learned and figure out how they can become profitable for you.  Maybe you can blog about the daily woes of being an unappreciated, undervalued and underpaid security guard. Maybe you can start a security guard training center. Maybe you don’t even like security, but gardening is your passion.  Use security to fund your livelihood while writing about your different gardening technique and methods.  There are people who will pay for your common expertise.  Be open to figuring out ways of turning your passion into profits because when you do, your entire reality will expand and you will begin to live without failures, but with triumphs.

Now is the time to turn your dreams into reality.  Others are actualizing theirs everyday.  The only difference between them and you is that they made the decision that they could. So can you.  Decide for yourself that failure is not an option.  Then go out into the world more enlightened and better prepared to challenge yourself into becoming the best you possible. You’re not dead, so it’s never too late!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Audition

                                     
    (A HUMOROUS rant on auditioning in LA)


It used to be that I would go out for starring and guest starring parts all the time. I’d even book a few.  It was nice to star in a film or guest star on TV.  My characters had arcs. They were essential to the stories and I even built up a pretty good resume and demo reel.  Then all these out of work movie stars, who snubbed their noses at television 10 years ago, suddenly discovered its “lucricity.”  It was a way to keep their newer “filled” faces in the public, while maintaining a steady paycheck in order to continue the lifestyle of their movie stardom hay days. Not to mention singers and rappers, whose only acting talents are their “name,” who now suddenly find themselves cast in roles that should have gone to real actors.  (Side note; the public doesn’t care about names as much anymore. All they want is a well crafted story with talented craftsmen regardless of who they are.)  Now all of us…no name actors (I hate saying “no name” that sounds so defeatist…I have a name…just not one everybody knows…well my family knows, but they don’t count.  Unless they’re in the industry… and connected…and can give me a job…or open the door to a job…or at the very least…point me in one’s direction.  Then I guess they’d count…but mine can’t…so they don’t. Count, that is.) are subjected to auditioning for co-starring parts. 

A co-starring part is a role that has no real meaning except to move the story forward.  The, “He went thata way,” types of parts.  They’re nothing more than fillers for what’s really going on with or to the main characters. I know, “There’s no small parts, only small actors.” Yeah, well tell that crap to Denzel or Will, Brad, Tom or…Tom…not that I know them by their first names or am putting myself on their level…I could be on their level…if I had more parts or practice. And I’m not talking about classes or plays…in those lil theatres on that boulevard where men prance around in matted wigs wearing tight fitted clothing and barely able to walk in overstuffed worn down high heels. 

I remember doing lots of plays…for no money…no gratitude and no audiences. Trying to trick my mind into thinking I was really working on my craft. And student films, they’re the worst. They take all day…for no pay…with the promise of food…which is a huge plus…but it’s vegan and it taste like chalk…and you’re promised a copy for your reel…that you never receive and have to hunt them down and threatened to beat their ass before they finally get you a copy. 

I’m talking about a real role; that has a story line, and a budget.  Where the characters are loved or hated by the audience…and if it’s a guest starring one, it has the possibility to recur…and with great acting skills and an overwhelming response from the public…becomes a series regular!  Then you become the break out star and you’re credited with saving the entire production from possible extinction.  But no, I’m stuck auditioning for one or two liners. What the hell can you do with those? How do you prepare?  What kinds of characters can you create out of one or two lines?!  How many different ways can you say them or intentions can you have?  Sometimes I really believe they can be a detriment because you have no time to recover if you make a mistake.  There’s so much pressure to be perfect.  You’ve got to nail it and be “spot on” the first time out or you’ve shot yourself in the foot.

I remember I went in for a popular television series where I had one word, “Doctor!” What’s even more ridiculous is they had a pre audition where I had to read with just the casting director.  Then I was called back for the producers! Now, I don’t want to say that I didn’t put in the work, because I did.  I treated that audition like I was reading for the lead. But in the back of my mind, I couldn’t get past the absurdity of it all.  They could have cast an extra right on the set. Yet they held a huge casting session and saw lots of actors for one word! In my opinion that was just so the casting director could justify his role and responsibilities to the network.  It made absolutely no sense.

I booked that part though. I sure did! I think it was because I set the scene up, said the word, “Doctor,” and then bowed at the end like I had just performed on Broadway. Made em laugh. They saw how preposterous that shit was.  I got that money though and the subsequent residual checks.  A residual check; that’s what I call them type of parts, because they’re not really parts at all to me. They’re just residual checks and a credit on your resume; ways to pay some bills and keep it moving.  

Every blue moon I do get an audition for a one day guest starring part. Used to be anywhere from 5 to 8 days.  Even with SAG minimum, it was some good money back in the day. Now they’ve narrowed that down to one or two days in order to save all the big money for the stars. So, I get this big audition; 16 pages of sides.  Those are the pages from the script. I don’t know why they call them sides. Makes them sound like lunch or something.  Anyway, when my agent said there were 16 pages, I was like, “Yes! Finally something I can sink my teeth into!” So, I downloaded the sides and…okay, usually sides have a continuous amount of dialogue and directions.  This aids in continuity and preparation for the scene.  However, parts of the dialogue and directions in these particular pages have been crossed out with a thick black marker. Now, the first thing that goes through my mind is, “WTF!”  Why would they cross stuff out in big black marker?! Don’t they realize how much ink those X’s take up on my printer!  Then if that’s not bad enough, entire scenes have been skipped.  Somehow I’m supposed to spend my precious time making sense out of all this shit.  But I do it, because I’m a professional…and talented…and I love the competition of it all.  I’m perfect for this part and my mantra is, “He who makes sense out of all this crap…wins.” So, I put my cell phone on silence and turn off the TV.  I devote all of my time to the motivation, subtext, and to preparing the character to being a person in a place.

By the time I walked into that casting director’s office I was ready.  I’d connected every dot and I’d made every stupid unnecessary cross out make sense.  I was fully prepared to kill that audition when the first thing out the casting director’s mouth was, “We’re only going to read the first two pages.”  What…the fuck?!  You mean to tell me I spent all night cramming my brain full of unnecessary shit for nothing. Not to mention the time I put into making this piece crap make sense and you’re going to tell me we’re only reading the first two pages?! Oh, hell no! We’re reading all these motherfucken pages! Fuck that! Sit your ass back, get all them pages out, and let’s go! (Pause)  That’s what I wanted to say. That’s what went through my mind.  That was the subtext of the expression on my face.  However, all I said was, “Okay.”  Okay?  Okay?! No I didn’t just say, okay?! I couldn’t believe it, I just said, “Okay.”  I wanted to smack my own self in the mouth.

Then she asked if I had any questions.  Any questions?!  Hell yeah I got questions.  Like, why are you wasting our time?  When did you know you weren’t going to use all these goddamn pages?  Didn’t you think it would have been appropriate to call our agencies and let them know?  Do you even feel bad about this?  Do you know how much better I could have been if I only had two pages to study? Why are some you guys also talent managers?! Why are you teaching classes and workshops?!  I shouldn’t have to pay to get in front of you. It’s your job to discover me without me having to pay for it! And don’t you think it’s a conflict of interest that you’re represented by talent agencies?  In addition, what qualifies you to evaluate my greatness?! You’re just an out of work actor who couldn’t cut it!  (Pause) Damn...I’m losing it. (Pause) So, instead I just smiled and said, “No…no questions.” (Pause) Why did I smile?

I didn’t get the part, probably because of all the nonverbal communication contradictions that ran through my body.  On the other hand, instead of me just moving on, I go through the arduous task of trying to figure out why not. When in reality, who cares?  Whether I was too tall, too short, too dark, too light, my nose was too broad, my lips were too big, I didn’t have enough hair, I was too skinny, too fat, I looked like the neighborhood bully that used to beat you up, I look like your dad or uncle that use to…, your ex-husband that use to…, I was too talented, not talented enough, too sexy, not sexy enough, and everything in between.  The bottom line is, nobody bought what I was selling that day and my ego can’t handle it. Therefore I’m going to morph myself into what I believe the industry wants.  You want a thug; I’m going to give you that. You want college educated; I’m going to be that. You want sexy; I’m that. You want nerdy; I can be that too.  I’m going to walk into the room as the character. I’m going to walk into the room as myself, then transform into the character.  The only problem is; I don’t know who I am or who to believe anymore.

Do I believe my parents who say I’m wonderful because they don’t want to disappoint me? Do I believe my acting teacher who says I’m talented because she wants that continuous check? Do I believe my friends who don’t want to hurt my feelings or my spouse who loves me just as I am?  My sense of reality is becoming warped and I start sinking into a depression. Am I good enough? Am I a fraud?  Am I kidding myself into thinking I have real talent? Am I enough? Do I have anything of artistic value to contribute anywhere?

I find myself crying hysterically alone, cursing myself for making the decision to become an artist.  Wanting to stick my head in the oven, only to realize...that’s going to hurt!  On the verge of a complete emotional breakdown, I become fully aware and present in the moment. I can taste the saltiness of my tears.  That’s when I pick myself up and look at myself in the mirror. I'm a wreck, but somewhere deep in my mind this little voice says, "What does the contortion of my face look like?  How does the feeling I’m having show up in my body?  Is there anything I see that I can use in my art? Anything? Anything?"  Then the voice says, "Use all of it."  All of it? (Pause) Right, I can use all of it.  I can put this experience in my bag of tricks and hopefully replicate it again when needed.  That’s what an artist does, imitates life and makes it more interesting.  

My cell phone rings. It’s my agent. I have an audition tomorrow, for another co-starring part, but with the possibility to recur.  I read the description, it perfect for me. Time to brush myself off, get myself together, open my bag of tricks and start the insanity all over again.  I got bills to pay, a show to book, and an intrinsic talent that’s just been rehearsed, but being wasted alone in this room.