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    Wednesday, November 26, 2003

    My Very First Concert Review

    Sorry if you read this on TOTC, too. Also, Blogger's been having some arguments with tripod, and some of my updates vanish, then return, without warning or reason. So be aware.

    The concert at the Troubadour Sunday night was honestly one of the most incredible performances I’ve seen in a long time. I arrived at the venue an hour before doors opened – standard concert procedure in Boston – only to find that very few people actually showed up before the doors opened, and the crowd only thickened right before the performers actually took the stage around 8:30. What’s up with that, L.A.? Too cool to show up early to claim a position at the edge of the stage? ‘Cause I’m not.

    Andrew Bird, the reason I was there, opened up the show. The only person actually on stage at the time, Bird used his violin, a sequencer, guitar, glockenspiel, and whistle – sometimes all at the same time – to fill the entire club with his layered, one-man orchestra and otherworldly voice.

    Bird, more than any performer I’ve seen, seems to act less as a musician than a conduit for his music. He plays with his eyes closed, foot stomping in times not actually found in the song he’s playing, and his entire body bending and twisting with the sinuous melody lines. All this artistry, and still some really funny audience banter. The total package.

    Bird left the stage after playing through some songs from “Weather Systems” and “The Swimming Hour” and debuting some as-of-yet unreleased songs. Next up was Howe Gelb, carrying a very beat-up looking acoustic guitar and a 4 piece band – female vocalist, upright bass, electric mandolin, wooden box (as percussion) – composed entirely of Danes. The band shifted easily from hard rock to blues to calypso and back again, with Gelb’s Tom Waits-ish growls nicely offset by his vocalist’s sweet, clear alto.

    At various points in the night, Gelb played slide guitar (using a coke can), electric guitar, harmonica, and CD player with found-sound samples. The band was a little sloppy, but that was part of its appeal. Every time it seemed like a song was about to shatter into chaos, it was all pulled back in.

    When Kristin Hersh came onstage with a lone acoustic guitar and sat in the center of the stage, it was clear most of the audience that night was there for her. Hersh’s pixie appearance did not prepare me for her voice, which ranged from operatic crescendos to full-on screams. While her coffee house acoustic folk/ punk probably isn’t something I’d pick up on CD, she is an engaging performer who is a joy to watch.

    The highlight of the evening happened after Hersh finished up her set and Bird and Gelb came back onstage to join in on one of Hersh’s songs, adding a lush backdrop to the formerly sparse song that improved it greatly. The trio played through one of Bird’s pizzicato numbers that Hersh claimed, “was the happiest damn song (she’s) ever heard,” before Gelb meandered his way into a pretty rocking rendition of “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad,” his bandmates filing back on the stage and joining mid-song.

    The rest of the night was basically an extended jam session, working on central skeletons of each of the songwriters’ works, and was as impressive to watch as it was to listen to. By now, the seven musicians on stage were shooting lines back and forth to each other, playing off riffs and improv-ed passages, and having a great time. When Gelb pulled out the riff from “Iron Man,” Hersh stopped the song and said, “you know, everyone has you as a roommate sometime.” Someone from the audience yelled, “you guys should all be in a band together.” I agree.

    posted at 11:53 AM

    Sunday, November 23, 2003

    Gentle Reminder

    I got my official State of California Unemployment paperwork the other day. Even though I've been working here since the summer, and am not working right now, and technically qualify for unemployment benefits, for some illogical reason the State determines your benefit amount based on what you were making exactly one year from when you file your claim. Since I was out here interning last year, and not making any income, I have a maximum unemployment benefit of $0. Zero fucking dollars. It'd be funny if I weren't so broke.

    Tuesday night, I got an email from one of the writers' assistants at "Malcolm" asking if I wanted to work there for a few days because one of the other writers' office staff was really sick. Of course, I jumped at the chance, and spent pretty much the rest of the week back on the Radford Lot in Studio City.

    Not only did I have a great time and get a small infusion of desperately-needed cash money, but pretty much all of the people who were there when I interned last year recognized me and were very talkative, nice, and (of course) humorous with me. And as luck would have it, we got lunch and dinners at my favorite restaurants -- Outtake Cafe (pumpkin ravioli, baby!) and Amir's Falafel in Studio City. Check 'em out if you're driving down Ventura Blvd.

    Despite working my ass off for 12 hour shifts, it felt more like a trip home than an actual job. It's heartening that for some reason, whenever it seems like there's no way I'm ever going to get a TV job and I should just cut my losses and find something else, something comes up that reminds me how amazing those TV jobs are and how suited my personality is to them. Since I seem to be focusing on the positive today, I'll put it in writing that I'm feeling good about my interview experience, and that I have a lot more contacts now than I did when I came out in June. All I need now is a permanent job.

    Which I better get come January, because I'm seriously coming back to L.A. with less than $1000 to my name. We'll see how that goes. But for now, Andrew Bird at the Troubadour! Score!
    posted at 11:15 AM

    Tuesday, November 18, 2003

    Flirting With Employment

    Last week, I applied for unemployment, which is basically what I was planning on doing for the few weeks I had left in L.A. before going home for December. It was going all right, but man, doing nothing all day -- and not really being able to do anything for lack of money -- will drive you insane. Spending all day alone in my apartment was driving me a little stir crazy. You can understand, then, how excited and surprised I was when the production coordinator for a show on the WB called me last night, asking if I was available to come in today for an interview for a permanent night PA position.

    Apparently, a resume I sent to Lion's Gate for a receptionist position way back in July or August floated its way to the NYPD Blue production offices, where it floated to this show because the production coordinators knew each other. It was totally bizarre, totally random, and totally in line with the way I've gotten my other jobs out here.

    I went in for the interview at Universal Studios confidently, and slammed the interview. Since the coordinator spent a lot of time telling me about the pay rate, mileage reimbursement, medical benefits, and how to get the most out of them while being a wage slave P.A., I left with a feeling that I probably got the job. He said he'd call me back today. And when he did, of course, he gave the job to someone else.

    To be fair, he sounded sorry on the phone, and said that he had to give it to someone recommended by one of the higher-up producers. He said he was impressed by me and my resume and that he wanted to give me a job, but he also wanted to keep his. It sounded like the truth. I hope it was the truth. I used to be able to tell when someone was lying to me, but now that I've been literally surrounded by lies and half-truths since the summer, it's getting a little more difficult to tell.

    Well thank you, Los Angeles, for giving me one last mindfuck before I went home.

    What I really need to do is stop getting myself psyched up after good interviews, fantasizing about being able to go see a dentist and doctor, paying off student loans, and feeling useful. It's the carrot at the end of the stick, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sick and tired of people pulling it away at the last minute, leaving me only the 69 cent macaroni in my cupboards.

    The one bright side to this is that I won't have to switch my plane tickets, and I'll still be going home in a few weeks. I just hope nobody thinks they're getting a Christmas present from me, because I sure as hell can't afford anything.

    1. Anyone in L.A. who's gonna be in the area is welcome to swing by our place on Thanksgiving. We hope to have a lot of east coasters here, and we'll be complaining about Californians and wishing we had Dunkin' Donuts.
    2. Anyone feel like giving me a lift to the airport on Dec. 3rd?
    3. I got a ticket to the Andrew Bird show on Sunday, and am very, very excited about it. The man's last two CDs have been absolutely breathtaking, and his live performances no less so. If you're even marginally interested, I found a site with an archived radio show of his where he performs some of my favorites live. Give it a listen.
    posted at 4:42 PM

    Sunday, November 16, 2003

    Killing Time, etc.

    Tonight I'm going to be on the red carpet for the AMAs, which should lead to at least two good anecdotes about bitchy celebrities for a subsequent post. Excited? Yes. Freaking out? No. That's what crazy people and celebrity hero-worshippers do.

    Because I literally have nothing to do during the day now, I've taken to catching up on my "Don Quixote," (yes, I'm still reading. That book is really good ... but damn, it's long), some rented video games ("Viewtiful Joe" is one of the best GameCube games ever. Get it.), and otherwise trying not to spend money. Thus, a trip to the Getty Center was in order for Friday. Free admission, baby.

    As if I haven't done it enough already, I really must recommend all L.A. area dwellers visit the Getty as often as they can. Now's a good time because the haze and smog are clearing out with the cooler temperatures, and you can see for miles and miles from one of the outdoor balconies. I'll have to take some pictures next time I trek out there, which will probably be shortly after I return in January. Check out TOTC for my thoughts on the more amazing exhibits.

    And that's about it. Not much exciting going on on the left coast. Self and Andrew Bird will be playing some shows this week, and I'm trying to rationalize going to go see them (tickets aren't expensive, but parking will probably add up quick), I'm going to start testing out some Thanksgiving recipes, and I'm pretty much going home right after that.

    So, anyone wanna come with to the concerts? Split parking?
    posted at 2:26 PM

    Thursday, November 13, 2003

    Kinda Good News

    Yesterday, I got a call from one of the producers I worked with at G4 asking if I was available for a shoot on Sunday evening. Of course, I said yes, and now I'll be working the camera on the red carpet of the American Music Awards. With HUGE CELEBRITY APPEARANCES!!!

    Less exciting for me than for me being able to use it as fodder for Tale of Two Cities. I swear I'll stop plugging it, but if you haven't been there, you really need to go. Joey and I are having a blast, and I think the site's gaining a little bit of exposure, too.

    Last night, I gave a guest lecture for the kids in the new B.U. L.A. program. I was supposed to meet up with some of the other alumni living out here, but I was the only one on time, so I basically talked to a room full of students for 20 minutes about my experiences moving out here, networking, and trying to get a full time job. Despite having very little actual industry experience (compared to some of the speakers I had when I was in the program), I think I managed to hold most of the audience and make some good points about getting on your feet when you first get here.

    After that, Grant invited me back to his apartment for dinner with some of his friends from the program. Knowing well Grant's culinary skills, I accepted and had a great time. Damn, that guy can cook. Even a simple pasta with shells and cheese tasted amazing. And he digs wine, too.

    Some of his friends there are interning at Malcolm in the Middle and Comedy Central, so I asked them to deliver some greetings to my old crews, and heard some very encouraging gossip about "Hollow Men." Apparently, it's going into focus groups soon, after getting a lot of positive reviews inside the company. They really need to put that show on in place of "Kid Notorious." Come on, Comedy Central. Let's get the ball rolling. And get me a job, too.

    posted at 2:23 PM

    Tuesday, November 11, 2003

    The Boring World of Unemployment

    So, as some of you may have guessed, I am no longer working at G4. The PA whose job I had for those six glorious weeks came back on time, thus leaving me jobless. But I had a great time, made some good impressions, and will be keeping in touch with people to try to get a job there in the future.

    On my final few days, people I didn't even know were coming up to me and saying they heard I was doing great, so hopefully, someone will let me come back somewhere down the road. It was a great place to work.

    So Monday morning, I applied for California unemployment. We'll see what happens with that. Problem is, I'm set on going home in early December, and I don't think I'm going to find someplace to take me for just a few weeks. If I do find a nice job somewhere, I'll push the plane trip back, but I would kind of like to feel some cold air in my throat. Followed by some Dunkin' Donuts coffee.

    Later on in the afternoon, I spent a little time on the phone trying to figure out the byzantine labyrinth of student loan statements I've been getting. Just about every day, a new piece of mail arrives detailing a different loan and run by a different company. I'm still not to sure what's going on ... all's I know is that I have ... to quote SlowKids ... a metric fuckload of cash to pay back.

    On my walk home from the Rite Aid down the street, where I needed to go to pick up some more organizational folders, I noticed this weird young man yelling to himself and people who didn't exist. He was also wearing a roll of caution tape as a hat. Immediately, I thought, "All right, time to get to the other side of the street," but it's L.A., so there's traffic, and I couldn't cross. I picked up my walking pace and then heard a smash behind me. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed some brown glass near my feet.

    The next thing I knew, I was darting through traffic to get to the gated safety of Park Labrea as the odd little man meandered along the rest of the sidewalk muttering to himself. So that happened.

    Now I know why everyone in L.A. drives everywhere.

    For my thoughts on "Elf," check out Tale of Two Cities.

    Tomorrow, it's the LACMA for me!

    posted at 3:42 PM

    Monday, November 10, 2003

    A Real Post Soon, I Promise

    Things I am Thinking About:

    1. My first screen credit, rolling in about an hour.
    2. The guy who threw a bottle at me today.
    3. Applying for unemployment this morning.
    4. How long I can realistically go without getting a haircut.
    5. Getting tattooed.
    6. Teaching myself guitar.
    7. Where I can get the money for above things now that I'm unemployed.
    8. Video games. Always, video games.
    posted at 6:56 PM

    Thursday, November 06, 2003

    What To Tell Your Parents Next Time They Tell You To Grow Up And Get A Real Job

    Playing Classic Games Could Help Your Memory

    More proof that games are good for you. From icWales.com.

    The power of pop songs to take us back to our youth is well known, but now a study has shown that classic computer games can have the same effect.

    Researchers found that playing video games such as Pac Man and Space Invaders induced a "positive emotional state" connected to a past happy memory. That in turn increased the players' focus, attention and memory.

    The study involved more than 100 men aged between 25 and 35. All were asked to play a series of classic video games. Results showed that after playing the video games, gamers' "cognitive responses" improved significantly.

    When asked how they felt when playing the games, individuals said their main emotions were happiness, nostalgia and cheerfulness. Researchers said these all led to an increase in their concentration and focus in various memory tests.

    Games from the 1980s triggered the biggest improvement in memory, followed by games from the 1990s.

    posted at 4:00 PM

    Wednesday, November 05, 2003

    Now You Have To Go

    I filmed interviews at a red carpet event last night.

    It was amazing.

    To find out who was cool, who was a giant baby, and who called me a pimp, check out Tale of Two Cities.

    I also got one of those coveted Hollywood Gift Bags, including a stylish Puma backpack, some Bombay Sapphire gin, free junk from some video game store, and a free Xbox game. Score!

    ... oh, also, on Monday, November 10th, at 7:30PM on the G4 Network, you will be able to see my very first on-air production credit. And it scrolls by at a reasonable pace, so you can actually read it! Score!

    ... and one last thing ... for all you Nintendo fans out there -- The Nintendo Gamecube just pulled ahead of the Xbox in total market share. In September, the PS2 had 52% of the market, Xbox 28%, and the Cube just 19%. Now, after some amazing price slashes, great new hardware to play ALL the old Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and new Game Boy Advance games, and some hit software coming out in the very near future, the Cube has 37% of the market share, compared to PS2's 47% and the Xbox's 21%. Go get 'em, Nintendo!

    Everyone who read that last paragraph is now 4% nerdier.
    posted at 2:41 PM

    Sunday, November 02, 2003

    Something Wicked This Way Comes. Wicked, In This Sense, Is The Massachusetts Synonym For "Cool."

    My comments system seems to have played a Halloween trick on me by totally freaking out. Posts are there, then they're not, then they might be there if you click your mouse in a seductive manner... But it's free, so I can't get rid of it. Just be careful, guys.

    It rained on Halloween just after I got out of work, too, driving everyone in the city into a frenzy. People here do not know how to deal with rain, but I luckilly got home and off the road before the rain really started coming down. Sirens were blaring on through the night. Actually, they usually do that every night, but this time I'm sure it was mostly for car accidents. The rain and cool weather did help with the fires, and also the rest of the weather, which was beautiful all this weekend. It almost felt like fall.

    Unfortunately though, Los Angeles has all but destroyed my hearty New England weather tolerance, and now I'm practically shivering if it's anything less than 70 degrees. I don't even want to think about how cold it's going to be when I get blasted by Connecticut December. My prediction: very cold.

    If you caught the Fox Sunday lineup, then you already know that "The Simpsons" sunk to a new low by stealing from a show that started out stealing from "The Simpsons." I don't even know how people can watch that show anymore. "King of the Hill" was good, "Malcolm" is back in stride ... but how disappointed are you with "Arrested Development"? The only show I was even remotely excited about failed on just about every level. Undeveloped, one-dimensional characters, unnecessary and brow-beating narration, unfunny jokes that tried way too hard, and a mockumentary shooting style with absolutely no other mockumentary elements. These type of things work when you have an experienced comedic cast that knows what they're doing and knows how to work with each other, which is probably why only David Cross managed to pull it off in his handful of scenes.

    I don't know what it is, but I feel like something really big is going to be happening with television soon. Network television ratings for the all-important Male 18-34 year old demographic have been steadily decreasing for a few years, but this year they dropped an overwhelming and unprecedented 31%. It's been blamed on everything from reality TV backlash, shitty pilots, and (of course) that all important social pariah, the video game. Advertisers have had to resort to program integration instead of traditional 30 second spots, and cable programming is finally becoming as good as, and in a lot of cases, better than network TV.

    Is the Age of the Big Network finally over? Will "Friends," "Good Morning Miami," and "Who Wants to (blank) a (blank)" at long last be buried beneath "Six Feet Under"? When "The Daily Show" finally defeated that cancerous blob of anti-funny "Saturday Night Live" in the Writing Emmy this year, people started to take notice of non-HBO cable channels as viable competitors for the Big Guys.

    I dunno. For most people, this probably doesn't mean a whole lot. Most people not in my age bracket still probably don't put too much thought into what they're watching, but nobody I know watches more than one or two network TV shows on a regular basis anymore. And in 5 years, when all these kids who grew up with the 6,000 channels of digital cable and HDTV simulcast satellite signals reach that "Young Male" demographic, do you think they're going to be watching channels that appeal specifically to them by narrowcasting, not a channel that tries to be all things to all people. Will there ever be another "Seinfeld," or are we just going to have to put up with smaller 'hits' from now on? Is that necessarily a bad thing? As someone who's been working at these "little networks," this is pretty damn exciting for me.

    Wow. That's a good rant, huh? Haven't done one of those in a while.

    Oh, you should all check out the new thing I'm doing with Joey. It should be fun. Comments appreciated. Also, if you're in L.A. and know something I can write about, please do. I don't get out much.
    posted at 10:32 PM