Where have I been?

Right here, of course. And I’ve been here doing absolutely nothing exciting. I’ve been playing a lot of basketball, reading a lot and being a slacker. July 4th weekend was a long one for me–we got a four-day weekend–but I was pretty bored before it was all over.

Basketball has been ok, but we’ve been getting worked. We’re now 0-3, but I guess we’re showing improvement. I don’t really wanna’ talk about why we stink, but we do. Now that we’ve got guys showing up, I hope we start to learn how to play together (I don’t know some of the guys on our team).

I’ve mostly been reading poker books. It’s not the most entertaining reading, but I’ve been improving my game, so it’s worth it. I would like to read some good fiction, but that’ll have to wait.

I’d like to go to Florida soon, but I’m afraid it won’t work out until September when I hope to get back to Gainesville for the Tennessee game. I will definitely be getting back for that one, but I’d like to get back at least once before then. I’m just kind of playing it by ear (read: waiting for really cheap plane tickets to fall into my lap). I’ve really been craving Newberry Backyard BBQ.

I really wish I had something else to say…anything…but I don’t. I really need to jump back into acting.


Same ol’, Same ol’

Not much going on. I’ll give a quick summary:

First, I finally bought a new car. I had been driving a 98 Pontiac Grand Am for almost 5 years. It had 115,000 miles on it and I hated it with a furious passion. It was formerly a Mary Kay car. I bought a new (2005) Infiniti G35 and I couldn’t be happier with it. I described the difference to a friend as follows: “It’s not even like I upgraded. It’s like I moved to a different planet!”

Second, I’ve been playing a lot of poker lately. Essentially, I’ve been breaking even for a couple weeks. Before that, I had a pretty nasty losing streak at $2/$4 Hold ‘Em, so I backed off for a while. That streak came after a big fat winning streak at the same stakes. I’ve been playing tons of smaller stakes tournaments lately (max $10 buy-in) and doing ok. I’ve moneyed a couple times and played some good poker. The highlight was the other night when I played a $3 + re-buys satellite to a WSOP qualifier. The prize was a $650 seat and the top 4 got paid. I finished 6th… but only because my internet connection went out for 20 minutes. I’m convinced I would’ve made the money about 90% of the time… I lost about half my stack while disconnected (blinds were pretty high) and I was dealt KK once while gone.

I’ve also been reading Harington on Hold ’em, by Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie. It’s definitely the best book on NL Hold ‘Em that I’ve read and it could be tied for best tournament poker book I’ve read. I’m trying to let the info sink in because…

I am playing in a $45 buy-in tournament with 37 other players next weekend. First place pays over $700 and the top 5 places get paid. Last time I played with this group, it was an 17-person $50 buy-in tournament and I finished second and made about $200 bucks. I hadn’t played at all in six months before that tournament and I’m much better now. I just hope luck is on my side. If it is, I’m confident I can win it.

Time for sleep!


Reading Sanford Meisner On Acting

Another student in my Meisner class told me he’s been reading this book and it’s helped him out a lot. I started reading it yesterday and it’s already been very helpful. The first thing I’ve noticed is that our class went much faster than Meisner did with his classes. After two weeks, we were where he was in over a month.

Moreover, it seems he was a little less strict with his repetition exercise than our instructor has been. This is true for a few aspects of the exercise. First, our instructor seems to want us to keep repeating each line for quite a while. I know there’s a fine line between flowing in repetition and doing a scene, but I always felt like we were closer to repetition than doing a scene while our instructor seemed to feel the opposite. I’m not saying I think she was wrong, just that we were more right than we thought. Also, one thing Meisner seems to emphasize is that we not say anything until we feel we need to say it, until our partner does something that makes us want to speak. This has been something I’ve felt is necessary and yet I’ve felt our instructor pushing us to answer quickly and passionately… problem is I often don’t feel like answering right away and the passion isn’t there.

Overall, I think the book is giving me more of a perspective on what Meisner intended with his technique. I have been gleaning little bits from my class, but I’ve also felt sort of helpless and lost for a good portion of it. This book is filling in the gaps and answering lots of questions. Before our final session, I intend to read and re-read the first few chapters of the book since they cover what we’ve done in class. Hopefully, I’ll understand it better and perform better for our last session.

One thing I’m seeing more and more is that I have to get out of my head with this exercise. It’s frustrating because we moved so quickly into adding levels of complexity to the exercise that I almost have to stay in my head in order to just keep afloat. What I mean is that we have several levels to each exercise: my activity, my expectation of who’s coming to the door, my interpretation of the knock at the door and finally the need of the person on the other side of the door. We take all this into account and then do the repetition exercise. Problem is I never became totally comfortable with the raw exercise itself: two people repeating a line.

Anyway, I think I’m learning a lot, especially now that I’m supplementing the class with the book. Hopefully I’ll be better prepared by the time we meet again and I’ll do better work.


Stephen Hawking: Genius, funny guy, kindergarten teacher

Well, after about a year, I have finally made more progress on A Brief History of Time. What really blows me away is his ability to explain some really complicated stuff in an interesting (well, I find it interesting… I wouldn’t want to speak for anyone else), entertaining and concise way. His writing isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, though it does have its moments, but at least it keeps my attention. More importantly, he’s able to cover ridiculous topics like black holes, the space-time continuum (Back to the Future flashback), mesons and time cones in just a few pages each. Not only that, but an idiot like me can actually understand some of what he’s writing. The guy’s got a unique combination of intellect and eloquence that I doubt I’ve seen elsewhere.

I guess one thing I’m learning as I read his stuff is that I’m probably always going to be a bit of a nerd at heart. Ten or fifteen years ago, that might’ve bothered me, but I’ve been learning for a while now that I just have to be comfortable in my own skin. I guess that’s an idea I’ll have to continue getting used to since I’m still just breakin’ it in.


Weekend Update

This week, I read Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, by David Sedaris. I enjoyed it and I got the feeling that his “voice” is similar to what mine would be if I was actually a writer. He’s sarcastic, satirical, sardonic and short. Basically, the book is little vignettes from his life. A collection of autobiographical short-stories that are disturbing and interesting at the same time. I found myself compelled to continue reading by a sort of morbid curiosity. Anyway, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a relatively quick read that will make you simultaneously laugh out loud and grimace for the characters.

I’m also still trying to finish reading other books I’ve started and put down. I’m working on The World According to Garp, The Illustrated A Brief History of Time, The Truth in Comedy, Money Matters and probably a few others that aren’t coming to mind right now. Between these books, TiVo, GameCube, Netflix and the gym, I’ve been keeping pretty busy doing things that ultimately don’t matter. I guess maybe I feel like I’m educating myself and killing time until I start moving into the next phase of my life.

One other thing I think I’ll start pursuing is sign language. I’ve been wanting to learn another language and, although French, Italian and other languages have a sort of romantic allure, I feel that learning ASL could actually be a useful way to invest my time. I don’t know if I’ll actually do this, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

More on music

A while ago, I wrote about shopping for an electric guitar. Well, I eventually decided I just didn’t want to spend the money on something that is essentially a variation on something I’ve already invested a lot of money in. That being said, lately I’ve been looking at digital pianos. I played for about five years until 10th grade, then I quit and picked up the guitar a year later. Since I got to college, I’ve been itching to play piano again and just haven’t had any way of scratching that itch… until now. I figure I can get a decent digital piano–weighted, pressure sensitive keys, good sound, etc.–for $500 or so, which ain’t bad. I’m trying to take my time and be patient about it, but the truth is I’ve been patient for the last five years and I’m really gettin’ the itch.

Maybe it doesn’t help that I’ve been listening to a lot of Billy Joel lately.


Almost done with Rich Dad, Poor Dad

I’ve only got about 20 pages left and I’m still wavering on how I feel about this book. I think it’s got good information, inspiring thoughts, nice anecdotes and other good qualities, but I’m having a hard time finding tangible ideas that I can use today. Maybe I need to find another book to address my particular situation: recent college grad with a pile of student loans to pay off, but also planning on trying to get out of my current profession and into the risky acting business.

Anyway, it’s definitely worth the $15 I paid for it, but I’m hoping the last 20 pages offer a little more practical and tangible advice.


Rich Dad, Poor Dad

A friend recommended this book to me, so I picked it up (along with a few other books) at Barnes & Noble this weekend. I’m only midway through the second chapter, but I can already tell this will be a very good book. It’s about money and how to make it. Really, I think it’s about how to make money work for you. That, of course, is a very interesting topic to me because I’m “gainfully employed” and have just entered “the real world”. Learning how to make my money make me money is bound to be useful and I’m pretty excited to put these principles to work.

I’ve always thought outside the box regarding money–I spent the last 8 months of college living off interest-free loans from credit card companies–and I think that sort of thinking will be necessary to safely transition from engineer to actor. Or at least it’ll be necessary to try to make the transition without going broke. And, realistically, I can’t expect to become a millionaire just because I want to act. I’m hoping to make a comparable income to what I have now and that means I’ll need to be wise with my money and invest it well.

Hopefully, this book will point me in the right direction.


Slowly assimilating

Well, work wasn’t too bad today, although I hated bein’ there. I hated it so much I left a couple hours early. I was tired and still sort of in vacation mode, so I figured why not dip out a little early. Anyway, I’ll make up the time later this week when I’m back into the routine.

Learning the acting

I finished Acting in Film and started How to get the part without falling apart. I’ve also learned a monologue from Good Will Hunting–the one where Sean tells Will that he’s onto his game–and done some more work on the scene from Swingers. Hopefully tomorrow’s lesson will pick up right where we left off last lesson. I’m beginning to feel more comfortable with the process and I hope it starts to show on camera.

I decided to try and rig up my camera to shoot some video, so I can practice my scenes on “film”. I wasn’t sure how it’d work, but I think it is working really well. The camera can only record about 7 minutes of video with audio, but that’s enough time to run a scene a couple times and play it back so I can give myself notes.

Moving quickly

I’ve said a few times that I’d like to move to L.A. eventually and continue working part-time. Recently, there have been buzzings around work that they need engineers to move out to L.A. and work. I’m finding out that all this moving may be happening soon… sooner than I’d even hoped for. So, now I’m having to think about whether I can adjust my plan to accommodate for a potentially quick move.

I’m already thinking over the financial and logistical aspects of such a move, and I’ll talk to my acting instructor tomorrow night about how different our “plan” would need to be for me to move out there sooner. I’m thinking I probably won’t be moving out there too soon, but I think it would be foolish to completely ignore the possibility.


Lesson 2 tomorrow

Well, it’s been a week since my first lesson and, while I learned a lot during the first lesson, I’ve probably learned a lot more since that first lesson. I’m almost through Acting in Film and I’m surprised how varied and useful all of the book’s content seems to be. Cain covers everything from set etiquette to creating characters and he does it in an easy-to-read-and-understand-even-for-the-layman way. Of course, I have to assume this book is written for laymen because I am one and I’m reading it.

Anyway, I’ve learned my lines and done some reading and I’m excited to see what’s in store for me this week. This is a very exciting experience because I’m jumping head-long into something that is totally unknown to me. I have no choice but to learn and learn quickly. Just my kind of thing.


Robin Williams on Inside the Actors Studio

I’ve always been fascinated by Robin if for no other reason than his brain seems to work at twice the speed of most humans’. All he needs is an inkling of an idea and he will go off on a twenty-minute rant about that and any other subject that happens along. He was no different on Inside the Actors Studio and I believe James Lipton when he said Robin’s interview was a five-hour event capped by a girl being sent to the hospital with a hernia due to “uncontrollable laughter.”

I’ve sometimes heard the term “force of nature” used to describe various actors and pop-culture personalities, but I’m not sure I’ve ever felt totally comfortable with that description for anyone until I saw this interview with Robin Williams. The man truly is a force of nature. Once he gets going, I’m not sure if anything can stop him.

What’s amazing to me is that he’s also capable of an Oscar winning performance in a dramatic role (with, of course, a little comedy sprinkled in) in Good Will Hunting and that he can play such convincingly disturbed and introverted characters as he did in One Hour Photo. This was definitely one of the most entertaining interviews I’ve seen to date on the Actors Studio.

Easter with friends

Friday, I wrote about eating dinner with some friends here in Dallas. Today, I went with them to their church and was invited to an Easter lunch afterward. I had a great time just talking with them and enjoying some company for a change. I have enjoyed living alone, but I also enjoy spending time with friends and engaging in meaningful conversation from time to time. I’m glad they invited me to spend Easter with them and I think it made my day much better than it would have been.

Back to the grind with lots to look forward to

Well, of course tomorrow’s Monday and that means I have to go to work, but this week is packed full of stuff that I anxiously anticipating. Tomorrow, I begin the fifth week of my new workout routine and it’ll be the last week before I’m off in Florida next week. Tuesday, I have my second acting lesson. And Friday, I leave for my vacation out east. The rest of the time, I’ve got several books to read, including The Last Battle–the last book in the Chronicles of Narnia series–and a few other books I’ve been working through. All in all, I think it’ll be a good week.