Friday, September 25, 2009

Public option... again, why we need it...

A good friend of mine back in MA would like to get state health insurance. She is unemployed (just lost out on a job she waited 3 MONTHS to hear about), supplements her groceries at the local food pantry, but because she made just that little bit over the limit to qualify for state health insurance, she can't get it until NEXT year.

Another woman I know, who just got a great new job, has to be considered "part-time", despite the fact that she works there five days a week, because the company can't afford health insurance for their employees at this time. She luckily qualified for state health this year, but by next year, there's a chance she'll have officially made too much, lose the qualification and possibly have to go without unless her company a) starts doing better financially and can actually afford to provide health care OR b) a decent and affordable public option becomes available.

There are far too many stories like this out there and yours might be one of them. Please call, write, fax and/or email you congressfolk and make sure they support the public option. Perhaps even send them this video for a chuckle that still hits home.

IN THE MEANTIME...The the Yankees this weekend. The Yanks had the day off yesterday therefore will essentially be more rested. Or perhaps just more cocky and will not be ready for the beat down the Red Sox would like to give them. Let us think positively for the boys in Red this evening and...GO SOX!

Peace and Keep Paying Attention!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cuz, you know...Carter isn't wrong...

It became a whole lotta news when former President Jimmy "I don't care if it's unpopular I'm gonna say it" Carter claimed that the reason behind the extreme reactions to Barack Obama's first few months in office is racism. It is a blanket statement, but, while he may not be completely right, you know he's not wrong either.

The man has not been in office longer than the average pregnancy (I should know as two friends of mine conceived in January and one of them just gave birth last week - yay Kelly!) but he has already received, as previously mentioned, 400% more death threats than George W. did during his entire eight year reign. I doubt it's just because he's considered a little liberal. If anyone got that viral video that has been all over Facebook and YouTube about the 9/12 rally, there are a good number of folks out there who still believe he's a Muslim - something that shouldn't matter anyway as we are a pluralistic nation AND any rational person knows that not all Muslims are extremists or terrorists...just like not all Christians are fundamentalist wackjobs out to wipe out the Muslims.
Thing is, when these people think Muslim, they don't necessarily connect the word with the faith, they connect it with "Arab"; they connect it with a brown person (preferably with a turban or a burqa). (And one could note how there were virtually no people of color at the 9/12 rally in DC.) it brings us back to when the conservatives during the '08 campaign insisted on discussing the "foreigness" of Obama. He has the funny name, has a father from another country, but not just any other country. Oh no, his father came from a non-European country...a country full of black people and Muslims and therefore, unlike anyone else who has a funny foreign name - like my first generation Danish-American mother - he became listed as truly "foreign". And it gave the conservatives campaigning against him a better word to use than "negro".

I would like to believe that somewhere, there may be some conservative person out there who might actually want to dispell the ignorance abounding with some other argument other than "It's not about race! It's about how the president bailing out the banks! and trying to socialize our medicine! and allowing the gays to get married!" etc etc etc. Those arguments don't work because, a) they make you look bad, b) the banks failed because of various and sundry folks -primarily Republican - taking advantage of deregulation arranged by the Republicans, and c) oh don't get me started on health care and how gay marriage does not mess with the institution of marriage.
But sadly, the GOP does not have an adult leader at this time. They are a bunch of discombobulated lambs - wait, how about young wolves - being led, not by a responsible elder statesman, but by crazy pundits like Glenn Beck, Mike Savage, Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh; and many others, but these folks shout the loudest. The GOP should be embarrassed by their behavior and by how they have allowed themselves to go along with the slinging of misinformation and to become the mouthpieces of over-the-top media personalities rather than actually thinking for themselves. God forbid they stand up, tell these crazy people to shut up and actually try to have some rational discourse across the aisle.

Yes...I actually just felt bad for the GOP. But, you gotta admit, it appears that somehow the election of the first black president seems to have completely thrown them over the edge. Rather than taking in the historic moment, accepting the fact that the people voted this man into office, and taking the opportunity to work properly with the new president, they started screaming like tantrum riddled children. I mean come on, there was a choice between a woman and a black man....I really believe now that this threw the old schoolers into such a tizzy that their present reaction would be shocking if it were LESS extreme, thus it is sadly not entirely unexpected. It is just thoroughly disappointing that rather than to rise above the shock that America is indeed evolving and decided to vote in someone other than a conservative older white man, they would instead prefer to divide the country with ignorance and hate.

And speaking of America evolving, one thing the census is working on improving is how they count multiracial folk. There is also a group out of Arizona State that is actually trying to study the multiracial experience. I've never seen a survey like this before and don't know of many studies, so if you are bi- or multiracial and would interested in taking this survey, I have linked it below. Thank you Jen Chau, head of SwirlNY for posting it on Facebook.

"Under the direction of Professors Brandon Yoo, Kelly Jackson, and Rudy Guevarra at Arizona State University, we are conducting a research study to examine the multiracial experiences of ad...Read More

In the meantime, KEEP PAYING ATTENTION! And go hug a conservative as obviously they have not had enough love in their lives.

Peace --Alex

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall? Already? What?

Yes, the days are already getting shorter, the temperatures are dropping (after already having a cool summer) and football has begun - though someone needs to tell Tom Brady that after their pathetic showing against the Jets (and while they beat Buffalo, there was still quite a bit of sloppy play).

At least the Red Sox seem on track for the Wild Card and are only five games behind the Yanks.

My in-laws are not sports folk - unless you are talking golf, which I still have trouble seeing a sport (SORRY!) - but my brother-in-law and his family are Angels fans. Their oldest, Christopher, apparently can give you names and stats and all the rules, but I don't think he is quite old enough for me to talk baseball trash with him. I so wanted to though after the Sox took 2 out of three from the Angels and are now only five games behind the Yanks and pretty much right on track for the Wild Card. (This despite Manny Del Carmen and the rest of the 'pen blowing the game last night)

IN THE MEANTIME...It is Climate Week NYC and the streets around the UN are blocked and crowded by visiting dignitaries. And according to a guy I know who works at the UN, the cafeteria is no longer - at least during this week - offering plastic plates, but asking people to grab a real plate for their lunches which they can bring back to the kitchen for washing. As this appears to be a new policy, I'm guessing the UN suddenly has new low pressure sinks and toilets and all sorts of new green stuff that they forgot about until setting up a Green conference.
Now while you may not be able to get in on the various speeches inside, you can check out this panel during which my friend Marisa will be debuting a selection from her documentary Glass Houses. Besides watching our plastics and our carbon "footprint", you gotta also think about how we might shrink our "foodprint" as more often than not industrial farms are more a hazard to our environment than a help.

And, unless you've been watching Fox news, you have missed out on the fact that Obama will be seated "a few feet away" from Mohmar Qaddafi during a session tomorrow. Which, of course, proves to Fox that Obama is indeed a fanatical Muslim looking to get some helpful fascism hints from Libya's leader. (see "UN Seating chart")

Speaking of Black/Mixed people, I highly recommend checking out the work of this group of which I am a member. Over the summer, they held an event called SwirlCamp during which a small group of folks sat down and seriously discussed issues of race, multiracialism; what issues we've had and still have and what we can do about them. There are no easy answers, but the ideas were flowing and posted here. I recommend the read...

And now for shameless plugging and deep thoughts...

The second show I ever directed was as part of the Estrogenius Festival at Manhattan Theatre Source. I had an excellent experience and did it again the following year. I missed it the next year and last year, but this year, I am back at it. One reason I applied to be a director again earlier this year was to give myself something to creative to do that wouldn't involved too much talking or singing as I continue to deal with my inconsistent voice, but I'll tell ya, I am already getting so much more out of it...and talking much more than planned :p.

As part of Week 3, The Dueling Princess is one of 5 excellent shows being done. Written by Lisa Zadok of Allston, MA, it is about a feisty Princess who has to marry, but is not going down the aisle without a fight. And because while we may be feminists and fighters, there is still something about being a princess, more women auditioned for this show than any other in the week. I had an embarrassment of riches to choose from, and am so glad I have the fab cast I have. We had a great rehearsal last night and I gotta say, there is nothing like working with good people to bring out the funny to remind you that while things might be frustrating, we can still guide laughter into the world.

Other good things? Two weeks ago, I did some back ground recording for my friend's boyfriend...and came home with ProTools on my laptop, a microphone and an MBox. Last week, I was trying to record stuff and found out that my laptop could not hold the power of ProTools. That was Monday, and I had a deadline for Wednesday. I also had a decision to make: do I head up to Greenwich, give everything back to the boyfriend and go up every few weeks spending up to half of what I might make recording on train fare? Or do I make an investment in a new computer, keep all the equipment and take advantage of the fact that essentially I would have a recording studio - however rough - in my apartment; have the ability to make my own demos, make podcasts, be a Manhattan recording branch for the boyfriend, master ProTools, etc etc.
I made the investment.
I had some initial technical difficulties and as I worked out the quirks of the program and all, and no doubt there will be more. But somehow, after recording pop vocals all morning last Thursday, making sure I was not pushing myself, watching my vocal technique, I somehow surivived four days of immense stress and sleep deprevation and came out with the voice I know I am supposed to have.

And then I did Big Night Out and nearly lost it at the end of the night :p BUT I know more and more what it is supposed to be like.

It has been a very frustrating year - okay YEARS since this all began with the loud jobs many moons ago - avoiding auditions because I couldn't be sure what the voice might sound like, and still not getting work when it was good; really wanting to market myself; get out there on Twitter and FB and work on my brand with The Savvy Actor and my show with all the characters voices I need to work on...It often has left me jealous and bitter and cranky and led to sulking over bad TV and snack food.

But according to my vocal therapist, I've hit a turning point.

And if that is indeed the case, then it is a point of lift off. It may still take a good long time for me to be fully consistent vocally, but I am determined to turn at this point and never go back down the previous path again. If I don't shout over the crowd at ya at a bar, miss a late night because I'd like to healthy for my church gig/audition/recording session/rehearsal the next morning or avoid a chat during a Motorhead show, I do hope you'll understand, it's not you. It really is me...and I'll sing ya somethin' pretty for your patience.


Peace --Alex

Friday, September 11, 2009

And where were you?

A friend of mine posted on her Facebook page, "Where were you on 9/11?" and told the story of how she was teaching pre-school in Boston at the time and as it got around that two planes which had taken off at the nearby Logan Airport had crashed into the twin towers, she and rest of the teachers were trying to keep it together for the kids.
I didn't want to post the whole story of my day as a "comment" as I never can just shorten it to just that first moment when I and the other fellow actors in line for an audition heard the news, so I sent her this message instead. I added a couple of details that I forgot to add at the time, but,'s where I was that fateful day...

The day started out sitting outside on this cool, perfect and clear tuesday morning, waiting in line for an audition. I remember talking and laughing with people, all of us remarking on how gorgeous a day it was. We got let into the building at 8:30am or so - sign in was at 9am - and as we are getting settled, this guy with those radio headphones calls out that "a plane just hit one of the Twin Towers" I got my walkman out, scrambled to get my headphones on and listened to the news as well. The room was kind of hushed already as we took in the news that a "small" plane had hit one of the towers: what sounded like a horrible accident. Next thing you know, the hush is broken by first, the monitor who has not heard the news yet announcing that it's time to sign in and to find our places back in line if we'd left, and then by the guy with the headphones saying "The other tower's been hit, We're under attack!" We're not awake enough and too much in shock to take this in just yet so the line shuffles forward and we get our appointment cards and as soon as I get my card, I get my walkman back out and start listening.
I remember stepping outside and noticing how quiet everything was. No cars, hardly any people...a woman walked up to a coffee cart guy and said "Did you hear what happened?" You heard random "What's going on?"'s and "I can't believe it!"'s and such. When I got to the corner, I looked left like you would for traffic, except there was no traffic, and at the end of the street on the horizon all you could see was billowing smoke. As I walked west to work from 54th and Lex, that smoke continued up Park, Madison, Fifth...I don't think I passed more than 8 people on the streets, and saw all of two or three cars and this was essentially rush hour in New York City.
There's a hotel on 6th avenue whose bar window usually is draped in red curtains. As I passed it, I noticed the curtains were pulled back and there was a construction guy and a businessman, I think, standing in front of the window. The bar had the TV on there on the TV news was footage of the North Tower with a gaping hole billowing smoke. I remember thinking that I had seen some of the building from the street, but there's no way I could have from where I was, but I will never forget that smoke for the rest of my life.
I got to work and immediately turned on the phones, in case someone needed... something. Only a couple of my co-workers were in at the time, one of whom turned on the TV in the boss's office. I somehow felt I had to be glued to my switchboard and rarely left it, as if the news was frivolous and any call that came in would be some sort of an emergency. I did not see the towers fall on the news when it happened, but the guy who had turned on the TV ran down the hall to tell me about it. I remember that was one time I went to the office to see it on TV. And then I ran right back to my switchboard.
Of the few calls I got before they sent us home, one was from my co-worker Marisa in Brooklyn who couldn't get into work because they had shut down the trains...there were ashes that blown across the river and were now on her stoop and the street; another was from my co-worker Seth who had asked if I had heard from his brother as his brother was supposed to cater there that morning and he hadn't heard from him (the catering ended up being some place else, but as cell service was derailed, the only way Seth's brother could contact him was by calling their parents in Alaska and the parents called Seth on a landline...this is why I still have a land line phone in my apartment). Seth asked me to call him if I heard from his brother and then nearly broke down as he told me how he had seen people jump from the towers (he and his brother lived downtown).
I started getting emails. People couldn't use their cellphones in the city, but we managed to have internet. The first email I got was from my best friend's (sadly now ex-) wife and simply read "Are you okay?" Next came from my friend Sean in Boston and then others. I printed up all the emails from that day and still have them...and am so grateful I got them.
The company that was booked at City Center at the time called the boss (who had made it in from Brooklyn that morning) and asked about whether or not they would be performing. We were like "Um, did you see what has just happened?!?!" Apparently, they were worried about missing a chance at a NY Times review (they were from Spain and I would like to believe just in shock). They were assured that the dance critic from the Times was not going anywhere tonight. No one was going anywhere that night.
I remember looking out the window later and seeing lines of people walking. The subways and buses were shut down, no vehicles were allowed on the roads save for emergency vehicles, so people were walking home.
When we got let go for the day, I remember heading to a cafe for lunch with a co-worker. It was packed, full of people talking, but no one was laughing, smiling, joking. Just loud mutterings really. My friend and I were couldn't help but look around, caught up in the eerieness of it all. By the time we were done, the buses were back up. I grabbed a bus that rolled very slowly to 175th and was full of stunned and emotional people. I was planning on walking from 175th, but the subways were back running by the time I got there. I took the train home, walked to my building, went to get a beverage at the bodega at the base of building and looked at the Lebanese guy who ran it behind the counter. His eyes were red and wet...and my first thought was how he and his brother were going to get a lot of crap from ignorant people, despite the fact that they were just as upset as everybody else.
I watched as much of the TV footage as I could stand, but it was so constant...

The next day...I went to work...we were going to be open that night. It would be free to the public. Many folks were appalled, as most of Broadway was going to be dark again in tribute and I was surprised as well, but I volunteered to usher that night even if it was only to get out of the house. I gotta tell ya, so many people were so happy that we were open. We had all these tourists who wanted to get away from their hotel TV's and were so glad to have something else to see and do that night after 9/11. I was so glad that we could be there to help...even if the show ended up not being that great :p
So that's where I was on the the 11th (and the 12th)

Where were you?

Peace --Alex

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Because "stay in school"...

is a socialist mantra.


I know the conservatives still can't believe that Obama is president and can't stand the fact that he is, you know, trying to improve things, but seriously...spouting to the public that Obama's speech to school children this morning was going to amount to liberal propaganda and his pushing his "communist agenda" on the wee minds of our children is going above and beyond...again.

I saw a woman interviewed on the news this morning, holding her child, standing with her husband...and she remarked how she does not believe in abortion or gay marriage and does not want these liberal views shoved down the throat of her children. seriously believe that the president is going to actually talk about THAT on the first day of school?

Reagan spoke to the kids, Bush 41 did, even W. did...and while I am sure I might not have been pleased to have my (presently non-existent) children have to listen to W. - mainly because I just couldn't stand listening to his whiny voice for longer than a couple of minutes at a stretch - I would know that George was not going to make a policy speech. He was going to make a speech, like his father and Reagan and others before them, about staying in school and hey, have a great first day! the speech was put on the internets here for all to see, I decided to see where in his speech he says he wants kids to have abortions and be okay with gay marriage...And I couldn't find it. Nuthin'. I kept looking amidst the sections about how students should take responsibility for their destiny, let alone their schoolwork and not let various disadvantages distract them from working harder or give them an excuse to talk back to their parents or teachers, but nope, never saw anything about abortions and the gays getting married; not even the WORD communism...I'm still looking, and if it's there, I'll let you know...

KEEP PAYING ATTENTION! (Like your teacher said!)

Peace --Alex