Baby, You’re A Star


Sunday was a nice, blustery day so we decided to get out of the house and do a little bit of shopping – mostly window-wishing – at the local outlet.

As is the case with most outlets these days, the walkways are riddled with independent vendors trying to push their wares to anybody that passes. I had heard it said that these guys are the modern-day equivalent of pop-up ads and it’s true: they just keep pestering you.

But one booth wasn’t selling tennis shoe polish, laser-etched iPhone cases or fidget spinners (and I swear if I hear my kid say that one more time, I’ll scream). And unlike most of the booths, it was unmanned when we passed it.

What they were selling was a Hollywood dream to make it big in television and movies. It was a casting agency that specialized in recruiting children and teens for studios like Nickelodeon, Disney, etc. or so they say.

And it wasn’t until we were ready to leave when we were approached by the person who was running the booth. Apparently she thought we looked like a bunch of pigeons as she walked up to us, taking particular interest in Anthony.

She first asked if we were local. I confirmed her suspicion. Then the spiel began about how she was looking for teens age whatever-to-whatever to cast for shows on the aforementioned networks. That’s when I started to grin and then dropped the mic on her.

“Nah, that’s okay. I used to do background acting and…”

At the mention of “background acting” I swear that woman left a puff of smoke behind her and disappeared faster than Usain Bolt in the 100m dash.

Why is that?

There are a few reasons for her to not take interest in me or Anthony.

First, casting agencies in general. When you’re selling Hollywood to some slack-jawed yokel that doesn’t know any better, they will of course shovel out whatever it takes to make their kid a star. And that’s the problem: legit agencies will NEVER ask for money up front, and you can bet that this one was going to ask me for my wallet in order to get Anthony a few headshots that would be stuffed into an album of hundreds of others that already got bilked and still haven’t been cast for anything. For my casting file, my headshot was taken with a digital camera at the agency. That’s all they need especially if it’s only non-union background work. Speaking parts require SAG-AFTRA union membership and that costs money, something that you pay directly to the union and not the agency. Only then will you make decent money. Until then it’s minimum wage, baby. Except may for the monetary bumps for exposure to smoke, water, or the studio using your car in the background as well. Living the Hollywood dream? Hardly.

Second, I’ve seen what kids have to go through in this industry. For adults, it’s no big deal other than hustling for more jobs during your downtime between shots and there is a lot of downtime. For kids, however, it means having their parents on location with them, going to the on-set “school” between shots, and just long days that nobody that young should be put through. There’s never guarantee of when the production will wrap and if they have another shoot the next morning or get a callback for the current one, it’s a lot of stress for parents and kids. Kids also get hungry and antsy. This is why they are so hard to work with. It’s a miserable existence and a life I would never wish on any child. Believe me, it’s nothing like what you see on the screen or social media.

I can say quite confidently that those last two paragraphs are exactly what went through the mind of this woman as she ran away from me. She knew I had an inside track about the industry and didn’t even want to mess with me.

So sorry, kid. You’re not going to be the next big thing.

But you’ll always be our star.

Photo May 07, 5 28 41 PM

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Adios, Amigo


There are very few things on television, let alone television advertising, that I can honestly say I enjoy.

Sitcoms? Not so much. Dramas? Bo-ring!

Reality shows? Don’t get me started.

I’m just not into watching television. In fact when faced with the task of simply changing the channel, I get lost because I don’t even know where the Guide button is on the remote. Seriously – I have to inspect it for at least 15 seconds before I find it, and I kind of like it that way.

However, there’s a certain character who was a perennial favorite of mine and today I found out he’s been given a send-off only he would be worthy of receiving.

He’s the fictional spokesperson for Dos Equis beer or, as we all came to know him, The Most Interesting Man in the World.

This advertising campaign was just brilliant. Commercials were simple montages of his believable adventures with voiceovers that described his traits or persona, which only led to his mystique:

  • His blood smells like cologne
  • Sharks have a week dedicated to him
  • If opportunity knocks and he’s not at home, opportunity waits
  • He gives his GPS directions*
  • Mosquitoes refuse to bite him purely out of respect

And today, he embarked on his final journey: to Mars, never to return.

“His only regret…is not knowing what regret feels like.”

Ugh. This was the perfect way to end this campaign and I’m not afraid to admit that watching it sort of made me a little weepy inside. Hearing him utter his catchphrase one last time as he was being propelled deep into space really effed with my head, man.

But my attachment might go a bit deeper than most.

When this campaign first started some nine years ago, my family all went nuts. We had reason to.

“My God, that’s Uncle Lupe,” I recall many of my cousins saying. They weren’t far from wrong.

Uncle Lou, rest his soul, was our version of The Most Interesting Man in the World because of his lifelong habit of being adventurous and unpredictable:

  • He’d randomly show up at your door because he was in there area, even though he lived on the other half of the state
  • He wrote a book while sailing to the Galapagos Islands during hurricane season

There’s much more to the man than just those anecdotes, both of which were absolutely true. My family will attest to the fact that he lived a life that was pretty much parallel to that of TMIMITW and, to top it off, he sort of resembled him.

Now, sadly, the real adventurer and his doppelganger are no longer one with this earth.

Dos Equis, your campaign succeeded in doing what not many could: they made me care, and I don’t even drink beer** regularly. I couldn’t even care about Clara Peller, Homer and J.R., or the J&R Whiskey Liquor Lads the way I did about your character. And seriously, they were the only commercials that would make me go silent just so I could watch his latest adventures and catch up on the newest witticisms about him.

And honestly, I completely forgot what he was advertising at times.

So in closing, I raise a glass to The Most Interesting Man in the World and wish him much luck on his journey to Mars which, given his history, I’m sure he will turn into an inhabitable place.

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¡Adios, amigo!

—–

*This was my own contribution
**When there’s beer at the office for Social Hour, I’ll have one

Jumping The Shark


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The term “jump the shark” is used to describe a ridiculously stupid, pivotal moment in a television show’s history that drives the proverbial nail in the show’s coffin.

It was based on a moment in Happy Days when Fonzie literally jumped a shark while on water skis – and of course, wearing his trademark leather jacket.

But now that we’ve been watching terrestrial TV and an abundance of syndicated old TV shows, it’s plain to see that Arthur Fonzarelli did a ridiculously amount of stupid things that make jumping a shark seem like a normal event, like riding a bull and saving the dude ranch (a completely unnecessary two-part episode that included way too many songs sung by Potsie) or participating in a demolition derby to prove to Pinky Tuscadero that it’s no place for the girl he loves.

But I guess “jumping the shark” just sounds better.

TV for Dummies


Okay, now that it’s taken my laptop a good 10 minutes to finally decide it’s going to work for me, I can start tonight’s post.

For all intents and purposes, I don’t watch a lot of TV. In fact you could say that my viewing habits are practically nil when you consider the shows I watch on a regular basis: Big Bang Theory and Cosmos. That’s honestly it, and I just started with BBT this year.

How little TV do I watch? This may blow some minds but I’ve never owned a DVR nor ever had the desire to. Now I’m not sure when the DVR was invented but I can say that I haven’t recorded a show since I owned a VCR and even in my latter days of owning a VCR, I didn’t record much. I suppose a few reasons why I don’t watch much are that a) having been a background actor, it’s hard for me to find any escapism in them and b) they mostly seem like a monumental waste of time.

Dancing B-list stars don’t impress/entertain me, nor do “reality” shows. Also, I never subscribed to the cable channels that showed the most popular shows. We also literally and figuratively cut the cable cord a few months ago and haven’t missed a thing. (Roku, Hulu, Chromecast and broadcast TV are what we now use and even then, I rarely watch anything.)

I had to turn to my Facebook friends to give me some suggestions about today’s most popular shows so that I could take a stab at writing what I think they’re about or at least come up with an embellishment that would be slightly entertaining. They spoke, I listened.

Here, then, are just a few of their suggestions along with my ideas of what may transpire when watching said shows. Keep in mind that I’m totally clueless about most of them; I may know a character’s name but as far as plots and everything else, I’m completely lost.

24: I know a little about this one. From what I understand, Jack Box runs around on his cell phone while pointing his gun at people. I hear he also shoots it quite a bit, mostly for fun. A real renegade who needs a Bluetooth.

Castle: Seems simple enough. It takes place in a castle, right? It would have to with a name like that. I’d wager there’s always some kind of battle going on either within it or outside of it for complete reign of the country. I could be wrong, though.

Game of Thrones: This sounds like an imported Japanese game show in which contestants are made to eat ridiculously bad foods (or insects or insect droppings) to the point of nausea. Then, once they are near vomiting, they must play a game of Musical Chairs only the chairs are port-o-potties, or the “thrones.” The remaining contestant gets the throne, and the right to use it. In Japan, the show would be known as Bidet Sickness Impulsive! (ビデ病気インパルス!)

Veep: Veep is about an alien who was sent to earth on a recon mission. He has taken on a human form so as not to blow his cover. We won’t know what his real mission was until the final episode.

Mom: This is a spinoff based on the Futurama character Mom. With her three sons in tow, the comedy (slap) never (slap) stops (slap)!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: The acronym stands for Super Human Intelligence with an Emphasis on Language Detection. It’s about a group of proofreaders who proofread medical documentation in several languages by day and fight crime by night. Gee, this plot sounds really familiar, except the fighting crime part. I don’t have a superhero outfit.

Naked and Afraid: Some things don’t need an explanation.

Person of Interest: It’s a live show, 22 solid minutes (with 8 minutes of commercials, of course) of The Most Interesting Man in the World dispensing his wisdom to callers via Skype.

I think you get the idea.

Yes, I’m totally clueless. And no, I’m not ashamed of it.

Cutting the Cords


Cryptic__45First of all, Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you out there who care to celebrate it. We do and there was plenty of celebrating around these parts as it is also my birthday – 45th to be exact. I used the photo you see here as my Facebook profile picture today in order to cryptically acknowledge my date of birth.

With all of that out of the way, let’s get to the meaty center of this post.

As you know, things are starting to turn around for us. We’ve figured out how to pay for the car and I’m going to be trained for my new job tomorrow morning then start work the following week. Even so, money will still continue to be tight around here so we’ve decided to do what we could to cut back on some of our expenses.

One of the biggest and essential expenses we have is our bundled Verizon FiOS bill, which at present is just over $100/month for phone, Internet, and TV. Our contract is up next month which means that our 2-year honeymoon price will soon be out the window and it could then be upped to $150 or maybe $200. That’s way too much especially when this guy can’t tell you the last time he sat down and watched a network show. Remember, I don’t even own a DVR. That’s how important TV is to me.

rokuWe were looking into a variety of options including cheaper TV and Internet service. We don’t care about the landline because of our unlimited everything plans we have on our mobile phones. Even so, if we did get a new TV provider, we’d have yet another honeymoon period before our rates would jump to some crazy amount. Not what we want.

So after much deliberation, we decided to do the following once the contact is up.

  • Ditch the landline. We just don’t use or need it.
  • Keep FiOS Internet. It’s just the opposite of the landline.
  • Cancel FiOS TV service. It’s back to terrestrial TV for us.

So what will we do for TV? Roku, the tiny little box that streams content via WiFi directly to your TV, will be our TV provider.

Yes, we figured that this would be the best way to go once we get rid of our TV service and while it doesn’t have everything, it’s a means of entertainment. I bought a Roku 2 box the other day and here’s what I really like about it.

  • Almost free TV. Roku has a bunch of different channels that you can add to your account, the main one being Hulu Plus which runs $7.99/mo. (Hint: download the app then sign up for a Plus account through the app and get 3 MONTHS free vs. the standard 7 DAYS when you register via your computer!) And “almost free” means just that. While a lot of the content is free, movie channels require you to register with a credit card should you want to rent or purchase content. In fact, Roku also requires credit card info as some channels are not free.
  • Setup. Probably the longest part of setting it up was entering my ridiculously long WiFi password via the on-screen keyboard. The rest was a breeze.
  • Download the app. It makes using the device much simpler.
  • More than TV. Pandora and Slacker channels are also available so you can rock out to your favorite tunes and when you sign in to your account, your stations will be there and ready to stream. Handy when you have it connected to a surround sound system like I do.
  • Headphone jack in the remote (Roku 2 and 3). Talk about privacy! I watched a bunch of stuff last night and didn’t disturb a soul.
  • Watching streaming content from my La-Z-Boy. There are some shows like Leo Laporte’s The Tech Guy that I’d rather watch on my 42” TV and not on my small monitor. This solves that problem.

So what’s not to like about it?

  • Limited programming. You would think that with the plethora of channels you get that content would be endless. Well, it is. Some shows on Hulu Plus may only have one random season available and that could be the first or the ninth. It’s really hit-and-miss, and a lot of the movies are not the best. Popcornflix, for example, is just horrid although I did watch a documentary about the Dalai Lama last night which was interesting.
  • Not another account! Some channels require you to register in order to view content. This was fine and well until I realized that I needed a notebook to jot down all of my info for these accounts I just created.
  • Useless channels. In addition to creating new accounts, many channels cannot be viewed unless you have a qualifying cable TV account. This is pretty useless when your goal is to ditch your provider for the sake of something cheaper. Why do I want to watch such a channel on Roku if I already have it on FiOS? Duh.
  • Some channels listed but cannot be viewed. One such channel is Travel Channel which shows up on the Hulu guide but whose content can only be viewed online and not via Roku.
  • Limited content. Some programs may show up but you’d be disappointed to learn that only short clips can be viewed. It looks like a lot but in reality they are mostly just a few minutes in length.

One of the things I will miss about FiOS is watching my Dodgers play. While I can still get selected games via standard TV, a majority of the games are broadcast on cable so I’ll miss out. This is my sacrifice as is Ann’s abandoning of Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters.

The thing is that if you sit yourself down and search long enough, you will find something to watch on Roku and as of now, I’ve got around seven movies in my Hulu queue just waiting for me. If you’re one of those who absolutely must watch the next episode of that Kardashian reality show then Roku is most likely not going to be for you.

But if you’re someone just looking for some kind of entertainment whether music, movies or TV, this gadget will probably be worth the money you’ll invest. As a matter of fact, I bought two of them this weekend to plan for the impending doom of FiOS TV.

By doing things this way, we may end up spending around $60 for our TV service ($50 for Internet and $8 for Hulu Plus) vs. the over $100 for our new bill.

The cord cutting has indeed begun and while not 100% satisfactory, I’ll gladly pay the lower price.