Friday, April 29, 2005

Riding High

Back again, having shaken the scary internet stalker lady. It seemed to be too rare an opportunity to miss; writing a blog at 12000 feet. Racing along at 900 miles/hr (or something equally impressive), I found myself able to access the net! Seeing as it clearly won't be thrilling to anyone other than me, I'll keep this brief. Car commercial. The brief was "Willem Dafoe". Got cast. Off to Europe. Business class. Ah, the luxury. After a delicate crab salad, venison, chocolate fudge cake and a glass of Graham Beck's Cabernet (fine South African wine), the night is progressing splendidly. All I can hear is the hum of the engines and the occasional whirr of no- not choppers or sweepers, but electric seats adjusting into beds.

This is the way humans were meant to travel. Heck, business class is nicer than my apartment. I've got personal aircon, a fine LCD TV with movies on demand, 24hr service - what more could anyone want? Maybe I'll stay. I'll conduct all my "business" (which is..?) from the air. Yes, I like this idea. Only touching down to refill. The daring, global, high-flying... what? What would I be? I don't have an internet business! I'M the business. I'm an actor, for crying out loud and no-one wants a performance up here. They want some peace and quiet. Besides, the aisles are too narrow for my kind of show. Ah well, another life, perhaps. I should probably get some sleep now - they'll be waking us in an hour or two. Can't switch off just yet. I just want to soak it all up, you know? Before it's all gone. And I'm back in economy. Ughh. Economy... What an ugly word. I feel a rush of nausea coming on. I may need to barf in my business class paper bag...

Boarding now

As I sit to write this, I realise 3 things. One: LAX has the filthiest toilets I've ever encountered. I've visited cleaner lavs in Malawi. Two: If you're going to make an airport announcement in English, have someone who actually speaks the language do the honours. Three: if you want to use the public access internet terminal, just ask. Don't sit next to me sighing heavily and patting your legs with mounting irritation. It's not gonna make me get off any sooner. Sorry.

So yeah, I'm off to foreign climbes - Slovenia for a commercial. More later, but times running out and lady next to me become threatening...

Monday, April 25, 2005


If noise is an earthquake, I live at its epicentre. I am constantly amazed at just how noisy my city is. I naively thought I could set up a little home studio for voice and music recording. A success if I wanted all my tracks to have a gentle bed of traffic. I remember my first morning, waking bolt upright to what sounded like a plane about to land on my head. I waited for the caucophony to pass by and recede. It didn't. Instead, it became louder and louder, signifying its imminent arrival in my bedroom. At the moment just before eardrums burst and blood trickles down the cheek, I rushed to the window and thrust back the blinds, desperate to see my attacker before my certain death. There in the alley was the SWEEPER; a grotesque metallic bug of gargantuan proportion, hissing and whirring, as it's many furry legs gather the trash that lines the streets. Terrifying.

Then there's Big Mama, the dumpster dumper. A great green block on wheels, that races between homes and screeches to a stop at the next dumpster. As its powerful arms gather and hoist each dumpster aloft, we are blessed by the monosyllabic Parp Parp Parp to warn us of its presense. An easy vehicle to miss, being as it is, the size of my apartment. Then there's the inevitable crash of metal as the dumpsters are flipped and flopped and dumped back down. And all this happens 10 feet from my swollen brain. It is swollen because when Big Mama and Sweepy are terrorising people elsewhere, I have the whoosh-whoosh of passing cars at the nearby intersection, the drilling of my DIY afflicted neighbour and the half-hourly Wooooooooeeeeeeeeuuuuuu of emergency sirens rushing off to who knows what. It's extraordinary. I lived in Johannesburg, one of the crime capitals, for years and never heard sirens this often.

Nightfall offers little respite, as the criminals prefer hiding out at my apartment block. Or at least that's the signal I'm getting, as police choppers regularly whirr and screech overhead, scouring the dark with their searchlight, blinding any poor sod who's just run out to see what the fuss was about. I'm begining to think that LA is either very very dangerous or very very clumsy. Perhaps we're getting rescued from ourselves. That's a consoling thought. Maybe I'll be swept up by LAPD just before switching over to The Apprentice. Or just before starting on that second tub of Haagen Daz. Yes. Maybe that's what they do. As I grab a coffee and set off on my day without eating a proper breakfast, I can almost hear it now.... Woooooeeeeeeuuuuuuuuu!

Friday, April 22, 2005

The G Factor

Today is a good day. Firstly I'm not dead. And secondly, I have 2 auditions: one for a sleazy talent agent, and the other a callback for a Russian pimp. I know, I know - there's a bit of a theme running here, isn't there? Evidently I am viewed by some as "shady". It's nothing new. Even though I consider myself honest and trustworthy, I have long emitted the G factor. (Guilt) It may be the shifty eyes. It could be the way I stand, shoulders hunched in readiness. Or perhaps I grip my bag a little too tightly. Airport security personnel are fond of me. They'll pick me out at 100 paces. Browsing for shampoo (a rare activity) in the local drug store almost always prompts a "Kin aye help yew?" from the staff. This would be fine, if it wasn't for the fact the voice comes from directly behind me in an aisle that was empty seconds earlier. (What kind of stealth training have these creepy folks undergone?!) I hate the feeling of guilt that surges over me when I had no intention of doing anything dodgy. But for some reason, I now feel responsible for a crime that has yet to be committed. The only solution is to actual steal something - to fulfil their expectations, grab that bottle of Pantene and run. Well, it's not the ONLY solution. But one day, Savon ninjas... One day you'll help me over the edge.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

What were they thinking?

What is it with those concertina Post-Its? You know the ones- they're stuck in alternating fashion; top, bottom, top, bottom, etc. Everytime I go to peel one off, it seems I pick the wrong end. Then when I DO pick the right end, the whole thing concertinas (new verb) away from my hand, like I'm performing some magician's card flourish. There is zero practical value here, folks. Only frustration, tears, anger and, in extreme cases, death. (Oh I dunno- everything can kill you these days, can't it?) What were they thinking?

My other favourite is the stainless steel milk pourer. The kind that is mass produced and you find brought to you when ordering coffee somewhere. This particular animal (for it is wild indeed) has the suggestion of a spout. Not a real spout, just the hint of one. Like the subtle whiff of perfume in an elevator someone's long exited. The genius who invented it (he must be a genius- he's affected millions of us) didn't want the white fluid to run smoothly from spout to cup. No. Unlike any sane inventor who designs a tool to make our lives easier, our mad milkman's spout ensures that it is near impossible to effect the very outcome for which it was intended. The milk has a 97% chance of trickling down the pourer with the precise velocity and volume to saturate critical documents lying beneath it, or soiling darkly coloured pants with the added bonus of mmmmm.... stinky drying milk. That 97% chance is a conservative estimate, by the way, as I have only succeeded in avoiding these premeditated (the genius, remember?) "accidents" twice in my life. And I drink a LOT of coffee.

So who's to blame? Will we ever be able to pinpoint the precise individuals responsible for money blown on dry cleaning bills or the hours of productivity lost in playing sticky paper fingers? The answer, of course, is no. But it's nice to dream...

Friday, April 15, 2005

You're a Star!

I wrote earlier about magic in the mailbox and hotdang - today it delivered again. The Star Auto Group told me (in writing) that I had been "identified as one of (their) customers". Wow. How did they know I'd bought one of their vehicles? Do they keep records? Evidently so. And yet, Star's records are questionable at best, considering they persist in trying to schedule a service for a Ford Focus I've never owned. But back to the letter. The auto group offers in their, well - offer, to pay the "original manufacturer's suggested retail base price" for my car. (A Ford I DO actually own) Whipping out my trusted Kelly Blue Book Guide, I discover that my special limited-time-only trade-in value is an impressive $24,545. Whoah, that's a lotta cash. Cash I'll never see, as it'll apply to a downpayment on a new Ford, but still - a lotta cash. I wasn't looking at a new vehicle (actually I look a lot, I just can't buy), but this changes everything. Maybe it IS do-able. Do-able up until the little phrase "deductions will be made for equipment failure, body damage,reconditioning costs and mileage of 29c per mile".

Hmmm. Let's see now. The equipment's working, damage is minimal, but what exactly does reconditioning entail? Do they wanna recon the whole engine, gearbox and diff? And who determines the cost of that? Ah well, let's pretend it's negligable (that lotta cash starts looking like a bit of cash) and calculate the mileage deduction. Just to be certain. You know? I mean, this offer's only good through Monday. So, I just multiply my mileage, roughly 105,000, by 29c and..... oh-oh. That can't be right. My mileage deduction comes to negative $5,905. Yup. I'd have to PAY my friendly Ford dealer nearly 6 grand to take my car AND, wait for it, buy ANOTHER freakin' Ford! Are you kidding me?! It's not like they don't know my mileage - they tried to schedule my 100,000 service recently, so they obviously DO know. They're just messing with my mind! Luckily I was one of the fortunate ones to spot the deception. I pity the poor buggers who drop in to Ford this weekend all excited, kids in tow, only to find themselves tied to a trade-in agreement where the dealer can get YOU the buyer to pay THEM to take your trade-in. Faster than you can finish that free hotdog. And remember, in the state of California, there's no cooling off period. Nice. Now, if I can just get them to buy back that Focus...

The Designated Screamer

As I sat in bumper to bumper traffic yesterday, I felt a disturbing surge of emotion come over me. It wasn't the usual low, throaty growl that typically escapes my lips when travelling the 405. Nope. It wasn't even the misty-eyed wuss who emerges during TV commercials for hair products. Not that, either. What crept across my face was a smile. Curious, since my eyes would suggest the moment just before driving over the cliff. A tad incongruous. I opened the car windows, in a futile attempt to channel extra oxygen and calm myself. That's when it hit me: the scream. Loud, prolonged and a sound that would give Wes Craven the creeps. I checked myself in the rearview mirror - closed mouth, so couldn't be me. Whew. Still not completely disconnected from my brain. To my left, a man in an SUV was on his cellphone. Except he wasn't having a conversation. For a full 8 seconds, John Doe vented. And vented well. His chin thrust foward as his head performed a slow-mo jig of agony. Ever so slightly, I could feel my smile returning. Not a mad smile this time. Rather a simple smile of contentment. Aaah. I wondered if other drivers found it cathartic to have someone else scream for them for a change. Lord knows I've done it for him in the past. The remainder of my journey was equally slow. My speedo needle barely flickered. I could have walked faster. But no ulcer. John Doe saved me. So here's a big "shout out" to John. And as you venture onto the roads this weekend and the coming week, may you also be blessed by the designated screamer.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Anyone, anywhere, anytime

The mailbox is a wonderful thing. Who knows what suprises are in store today? There could be postcards from old friends in foreign climes, checks from the agent, or the latest Victoria's Secret catelogue. Yummy. In all likelihood, however, my mailbox will be stuffed with bills, fast food flyers, the 85th attempt from SBC to take over my phone service, and umpteen credit card offers that will cost me nothing until I miss a payment and lose the house I haven't bought yet. (Though thinking like that, does mean I do, eventually, get a house, even if I lose it - so that's cool) Nothing out of the ordinary, really. Except for a white, unsuspecting, pseudo-handwritten envelope. I say pseudo, because it's addressed in cursive blue ink, but closer inspection proves it's just printed on the thing. And that's where they've got you (or, in this case, got me). I've taken a moment to examine what is clearly junk mail. Or is it? Hmmm. Can I simply rip it in two without peeking at the contents? What if it's really, really exciting stuff? Oh, who am I kidding? I LOVE junk mail. I do. It's a sickness. I relish the weekend papers chock full of colourful images and "prices slashed". Mmmm. The search for a bargain is a powerful urge. And if something comes free, they've pulled me in even deeper. I bought a little guitar once, just for the shiny plectrum. (I think you get the picture. Basically I'm blurring the line between human and magpie.)

But back to the envelope. I tear it open to reveal, wait for it; "How to instantly kill anyone, anywhere, anytime you choose". I'm not kidding. I wish I was. Nope- that's today's marketing offer. I have to say, it's piqued my interest. Come one folks; "anyone, anywhere, anytime" - that means you don't even have to be there to do it! That's impressive. I can't think of any victims just at the moment, but give me a day or two. Imagine the unwavering confidence that comes with knowing you have an arsenal of "brand spanking new lethal moves". None of those tired, old "sidekick to the knee" or "one knuckle kidney punch" techniques. Pur-leez. These are hand to hand moves that "immediately turn you into something scary". Of course, my mother's been calling me scary for years. But I swear, when I focussed the magnifying glass's pinpoint beam of sunlight on her big toe, I was doing valid scientific research.

It goes on to promise I'll be taught how to become a "walking slaughterhouse". I don't know about that. Slaughterhouses are messy. And noisy. I want a quiet kill, dammit. If there's a big racket, someone's gonna hear it. And if there's a mess, I'm bound to step in something and leave a footprint! Oh man, this isn't the package for me at all. I'm looking for something a little different. I want the "How to instantly make anyone say yes and mean it" course. That would be something. Or how about "How to clear the road ahead of you anywhere, anytime, instantly". Now that's something I'd send off for. Heck, I'd even order an extra 5 copies for friends. Or not. Maybe I'd just keep it for myself. Mmmm....

Saturday, April 9, 2005

There's a problem...

"There's a problem with the problem page". That was my greeting as I sat down to write this post. I mean, come on, people - a problem with the problem page? How daft is that? It got me thinking about the time-tested phrases we learned as kids and pass on as adults. (And I couldn't think of anything else to write about, to be honest) Here's a gem: "A rolling stone gathers no moss". What the hell does that mean: if you're a travelling salesman, you'll always be bald? I personally know many salesmen who have a fine head of hair. Well, actually I don't know many salesman. Just a few. Alright, none. But that's not the point. The point is that we need to reevaluate the phrases we throw about.

Here's a perennial favourite: "Things don't always go the way you plan them". Now there's an understatement! If you're honest, you can find a DOZEN things that went wrong today, or yesterday, or tomorrow - even though it's yet to happen. Naturally, this is the first step in having a crappy day today and securing a smooth transition to an equally crappy tomorrow. Which really isn't my goal.

My goal is to offer an alternative: "Not all things go wrong". That forces you to look at the day and go "hey, at least I didn't spill my drink and ruin my brand new never-been-worn-so-expensive-I-saved-up-for-months-before-I-bought-it dress today". Yesterday, perhaps, but not today. Or how about "oh sh*t, I don't have any quarters for the parking meter, so I'm gonna have to buy a crappy coffee from that crappy coffee shop to get change for the meter before my meeting where they'll give me crappy coffee anyway which at least is free crappy coffee and I don't mind crappy coffee so long as I'm not paying for the crap cos there's enough crap coming my way without buying more to heap on the pile, but at least when I've got my change I can walk to the meter unassisted and use any combination of my 8 fingers and two thumbs to deposit the coins". And I had a meeting - let's not forget about that.

So you see, it's possible to deal with crap and still have a grrrrreat day. (That's a Kelloggs Frosties grrrr in case you were wondering) If we take a moment to look deep, deep down inside, sure we can uncover the Manson in all of us. The important thing is NOT to take that moment. Or at the very least, take it outside.

By the way, the dress wasn't for me. It was uh... it was...for a friend. Yes, that's right - for a friend. Okay?

Thursday, April 7, 2005

It was an occident, I swear!

After a leisurely drive I found myself at peaceful Occidental College - a good thing, considering that's where I wanted to be. I participated in a directing workshop where future filmmakers get the chance to explore a scene. Myself and fellow actor Jennifer had a short page of dialogue, devoid of any action. The language was sufficiently ambiguous for us to be talking about a number of different scenarios. And so the afternoon saw us (the actors) play numerous different characters and intentions as the students saw fit. A challenging task, when you are tied to the same dialogue and have to make it truthfully fit each fresh set of given circumstances.

At the end of the session, I'd been a troubled convict, a scorned lover, a sheepish customer and a frustrated son to a terminally ill mother. All with the same 8 lines of dialogue. A good workout. But as I drove away, one thought kept nagging at my brain; who in their right mind would name ANYTHING "occidental"? What the heck were they thinking?! Put your mind to it and the gags come quick and often...

(Just as they do on a choppy sea...)

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

As I lay me down to sleep..

Years after I'd left school, I used to have dreams where I left my bag in the classroom but couldn't get back in to retrieve it. I'd be wandering around the playing fields after dark, freaking out over the homework I wouldn't be able to complete. Then there was the recurring dream where I lived on a large plot of land. I leave the house to visit the densely planted vegetable patch at the bottom of the property. But it's not just ANY veggie patch. The plants are thick and tall and are surrounded by an imposing wire fence. I open the gate and take a step inside, before realising that this is something verboten. So I leave and walk briskly back to the house. As I walk, the sickening thought hits me - I haven't closed the gate. That's when I hear the wolves.

Last night's dream was decidedly more adult in nature. A vendor refused to accept my debit card. Woohoo. Trippy, huh? Except it's not just an "overdrawn" or "faulty magnetic strip" punchline. No, sirree Bob. "Why not?" I ask the guy in my dream. The trembling 7-Eleven guy replies "The person who used this card murdered 2 people!"

The implication that someone had stolen my card, murdered Jo and Janet Shmo, then returned it, didn't concern me. Nor did the absurdity of the tenuous link between retail purchases and death. What did concern me, however, was the terrifying possibility that I might have done it myself. Let me just say that waking this morning, was a happy thing indeed. Perhaps there are larger worries than that tax return...

Saturday, April 2, 2005

If I had a dollar...

Anyone can sue anyone. That's one of the joys of living in the USA. You can slip on a wet patch of soda, and sue the store you were in, the beverage company and the poor shmuck who spilled it. You can sue a construction company for trauma suffered as a result of the noise of the earthmoving equipment and heavy machinery on the site across the road. Heck - you can even sue your parents for keeping you from spending your inheritance on fast cars you're not old enough to drive! No-one says you're gonna win, just that you have the right to legal action.

So I was thinking; why don't I sue the Gideons for using my name for profit without my permission? You know the Gideons - they're the guys who place the Bible in every hotel room. Globally. With my name on it. That's a lot of Bibles. Now, before you tell me they're placed for free (or next to nothing) AND that it doesn't prompt people to make a purchase or anything, consider this: I wouldn't get away with promoting my new free theatre showcase with a happy snap of Brad Pitt on the flyer. Well, I wouldn't, would I? Nope - I'd be sued. So how about I just put Brad Pitt's name on the flyer? Still dodgy, I believe. What's any different about MY name on those Books? I think I'm due a little remuneration, if you know what I mean. (And I think you know that I know that you know what I mean) And let's take a close look at the copy they're using, folks. It says "placed by the Gideons". It doesn't say "placed by Gideon Johnson" or "placed by the Gideons of Harley Street, New Hampshire". No sirree, it's just "the Gideons" and to me that means ANY Gideons.

Now, all I need is a calculator, a good lawyer and the Gideons' address. Whoah, wait a minute. If I'm entitled to a cut, then the rest of the Gideon's are, too. That's no good. There could be 5,10,15... ah, heck - millions of 'em. That's not gonna work! I'm not gonna get rich with this at all- even if I DO win. Damn...

It did seem promising for a moment, though, didn't it?

Friday, April 1, 2005

English can be a byotch

With my April Fools out the way and me the only fool, let's move on to language. What a challenge English can be. (Not to mention reading my blog) I can understand why some people say "uvva-cah-doe" and others "avvo-cah-doe". As long as I get my daily dose of consenants, I aint complainin' (see how flexible I am?). What puzzles me is why people say "erb" when they mean "Herb". I mean, these folks don't say "ello 'arry, 'ow's your 'and after the 'ellish 'orseback riding incident?" If they were Cockney, they'd have a reason, but they're not. So what gives? I listened to my parents' Herb Alpert record as a kid. Who did they listen to; Erb? And that's another thing. What's with horseBACK riding? Why do you need to say "back"? Why isn't "horse riding" enough to sell you the idea? I mean, where else are you gonna ride the animal - underneath? Or maybe, that's it. Maybe there's a long standing tradition of belly-riders in South Dakota or Tempe or Woodland Hills who get a rush from strapping themselves to the underside of big sweaty animals. They simply don't want to confuse the two. Come to think of it, you could belly ride other creatures too, like cows or elephants or gorillas... Or not.

I think that's the crux of it, folks. We can do these things or we can choose not to. Such is our God given right. And so, may I extend a warm welcome and best wishes to the erb eating belly riders of the world. It's not my world, but it's yours for the taking. Ave a great weekend and a drink on me. Not literally ON me, you understand. Just for me. Although you can't really drink FOR someone can you? You can eat for them and regurgitate it I guess, kinda like a human blender. But that's another pocket of society I'd sooner not hook up with for Sunday brunch...

Words can't describe, but they'll have to do

Wow! What a start to the day. Switched on my cell to find 5 new messages. I have an audition for this new pilot about an actor who's moved to the States from South Africa. But no-one takes him seriously cos his accent sounds British. Here's the kicker- he was BORN in the UK and moved to Africa as a kid. Cool, huh? Anyway, he wanders around Hollywood for a year or so and then starts working at a fast food place called Up & Down to help pay the rent. And that's where the series is set. I dunno if it's really me, but I'm gonna give it my best shot. Oh, and get this - my landlord stops me on the way to get gas and tells me I don't have to pay this month's rent, cos he just "knows" I'm gonna make it! And then he says I can take HIS car to the audition. Man, what a headrush.