Monday, October 31, 2005

The (Not So) Great Pumpkin

Every year here at work, there is a themed contest to see which department can make the best pumpkin display. Each department is required to dress up or carve up a pumpkin and place it for all to see in the company cafeteria and everyone gets to vote on their favorite. Now, the department I belong to has kind of a tradition of underachieving. We pretty much put the least amount of effort into our entries, and it shows. One year the theme was "Pumpkin Through the Decades" so we had a carrot on display and called it "Carrot Carpenter." This year's theme was "Pumpkin In Action." As you can see below, the competition was fierce. One department made a CSI-type pumpkin murder scene, complete with video. Another department had a Pimp-My-Pumpkin type display. HR had a Energizer Bunny pumpkin and others had a Nascar track complete with working slot-racer Pumpkins.










So here's my team's Pumpkin Inaction (we must've misread the announcement) below, complete with opened Cheetos bag, Weekly World News, Dr. Pepper, Remote Control and Newports, sitting on a sofa. You can tell we put just as much work into this as the other departments so how we didn't win, I can't tell you. At least this year it was kept on display and not mistaken for trash and thrown away before the voting began (yes, this has happened in year's past).

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Buzzed

I mentioned in a previous post that I rode on the Buzz Lightyear ride at Disneyland with my friend Ric a week or so ago, and that I thought there had to be shenanigans involved in his beating of my score. Well, here's the proof, provided by none other than Ric himself. Click on the picture to see a larger view of me, aiming and shooting feverishly at passing targets, while Ric doesn't even have his gun out, much less shooting at anything. Proof positive he cheated. I won, and that's that. Gamer-cred secured.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Past Week Recap

Got like, 11 hours of sleep last night. I really needed it; I've been running on vapors since Wednesday and I can tell my thought processes just haven't been up to speed since.

If you've been reading my blog lately, you know pretty much what's been going on with me, but here's a brief overview to fill in the blanks. Numbers on images aren't chronological, as I screwed them up:

(1) Mike (my brother-in-law) and I made our annual trip to Knott's Scary Farm on Saturday (October 15). As per usual, we got a hotel and spent the night 'cuz we're getting too lazy to drive back to L.A. at 2 in the morning. Plus, it's easier. And, we get a package deal that includes the hotel stay, a couple of commemorative t-shirts, dinner, breakfast and early entry into the park. This year was pretty cool. The mazes were gory and scary as usual, the Hanging (2) was decent, and I won some prizes from the carnival games including a penguin from the Madagascar movie. (Love those penguins. If I had more time and money to waste I would've tried for two more to complete the trio.) Anyway, The Hanging is an event they have every year where they pretty much destroy the pop-cultural figures and events from the past year on an outdoor stage. Usually Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers do most of the killings, but apparently Knott's received a C&D because those three had a very limited appearance this year. Instead, Knott's unimaginatively had a mayor and a marshall (lamely named Marshall Mathers) do the hosting and several killings. Although Disney and its 50th Anniversary, Britney Spears, Brangelina, Kung Fu Hustle, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and others were savaged, the guest of honor for the hanging was Tom Cruise. Mike and I were also witness to a fight that broke out right next to us. Literally, the first punch was thrown a couple of feet from our heads. It was very surreal and I felt quite detached from the fight, noting how when a punch or kick connected, it sounded nothing like the wet slap I'm used to hearing in videogames, movies and TV. Also, watching the park workers in their zombie, werewolf and vampire costumes break up the fight contributed to the strange scene. Maybe I am being desensitized by modern entertainment. Anyway, Mike and I finally walked back to the hotel at closing and were asleep by 3am. We then got up early enough to make it in time for the breakfast buffet. Was a good time, although it seems some of the danger and chaos that's usually at the park is getting less and less each year, the big fight notwithstanding. This might be a good thing, but I'm used to seeing monsters with metal plates on their hands and knees sliding at you, sparks flying off the metal and pavement. Same with shovel-wielding monsters. Both were absent this year. Ah, well.
After we left the hotel, Mike and I met my friend Ric at Downtown Disney for lunch after he got off of work at Disney's California Adventure. When Mike left, Ric and I walked over to Disneyland and rode some of the attractions there. The relaunched Space Mountain is hella cool; the visuals of the stars and planets while you're speeding through the dark are better than before and the new soundtrack (Ric informs me it was done by Michael Giacchino of "The Incredibles" fame) takes it over the top. We also went on the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride, something I hadn't done before, which is a ride on a track a la Mr. Toad's, but you can turn your craft 360 degrees, and fire at moving targets using a light gun. Ric got the high score, but he tricked me. Pictures were taken at both rides, but Ric's gotta send 'em to me. We also went on Indy, Nightmare Before Christmas/Haunted Mansion (4) and were just in time for the Parade of Dreams. All cool.

After Disneyland we went over to Heroes (3), a sports bar Ric frequents, just in time to see the Anaheim (oop!) Los Angeles
Angels lose their chance at another World Series. Oh, and we saw a couple of guys dine and dash. Seems crime was following me around that weekend.

Monday was the start of the MAX Convention, which I've already blogged about it. Here are some pictures though: (5) General presentation. (7) Me in the hotel with a sucky TV. Bored, blogging and taking random pictures of myself. (8) Disney's California Adventure at night, where Macromedia threw us a great party. (9) Nerds: drunk and dancing. Yes, they are my people.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Back to the hotel

Riding on a shuttle to the Hilton, back from Disney's California Adventure where Macromedia held a big party for MAX attendees tonight. Went there after getting back from another successful Talent To Go workshop in Hollywood, after spending most of the day at the MAX convention here in Anaheim. Pretty pooped. Nerds can party, I'm just sayin'. I'll elaborate on Thursday or Friday when I do a recap of the past several days. Gonna get to my room, watch an episode or two of Firefly (thanks to my good friend Ric Figueroa, who lent me his portable DVD player) and hit the sack. 'night.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

MAX Conference : Day 2

Just got out of a general session where Macromedia was showing off its latest products and marching out some of its 3rd party developers. Adobe was here to show how Adobe After Effects will integrate with Flash, and it was pretty cool. The presenter took a Quicktime movie, created an alpha channel to remove the background from a moving figure with AE, then imported it into Flash, where he could mouse around the movie and change the background color in real time as the movie was playing. Very cool. Took a class this morning that showed off Captivate (formerly Robodemo) which was pretty interesting and useful for my job in making interactive training programs. Also took a class showcasing the next generation of ActionScript for Flash. Won't be coming up for a while, thank god. I was just getting semi-proficient in ActionScript 2. Was fun seeing the future, though. Looks like that aspect of Flash is just going to get more complicated but hopefully I can get my job to send me to classes. My next workshops today are for SCORM-Compliant eLearning Content with Flash and Captivate, Flash Game Development (which should be fun) and Advanced ActionScript 2.0. Then I gotta motor back to Hollywood for a Talent To Go workshop tonight with John. Should be fun, although I'm gonna need a major caffeine boost shortly.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Awesome to the MAX

At the Anaheim Convention Center for the Macromedia MAX conference. Between classes at the moment. Couldn't get up early enough this morning to take a shower (ended up not being able to sleep after Larry King last night, so spent some time working on sketches for the webcomic. No, I did not watch AvP), so had to attend my first two classes dirty. Hope no one noticed. My first two classes were "Mastering the 3D Experience" and "Drawing and Illustrating in Flash." Both were good, but the speaker for "Drawing" was better. Lots of cool, new stuff in Flash 8. Will definitely have to upgrade.

Got a free Macromedia backpack after checking in. Has lots of pockets for iPods, Treos, Gameboys, laptops and stuff. Cool. I love anything with lots of pockets.

Walking back to the Hilton for a quick shower and maybe a much-needed nap before "Web and Downloadable Game Development" & "Developing Accessible Rich Content with Flash."

In a hotel in Anaheim...

Sitting in a hotel watching a "Roseanne" reunion on CNN. Becky is actually looking good and coming off really funny, which is disconcerting as I've always loved Darlene more. What a great, funny show. Lost me in its final seasons but funny and brilliant nonetheless. I have a bunch of seminars and classes to attend for a Macromedia seminar tomorrow through Wednesday. I'm such a good, corporate robot. The fact that I'm blogging from my Treo and contemplating watching Alien vs. Predator, a film I've loathed since seeing it in a theater when first released, speaks towards the boredom and solitude I'm experiencing at the moment. I brought a DVD player from home to finish watching the complete Firefly series while staying here but the TV here has coax inputs only. How is that possible? The alarm clock/radio here actually has a built-in plug to connect my iPod to (cool) but no VGA inputs on the TV (lame). Maybe I'll try sleeping, once Larry King is done with the Roseanne cast. Gotta wake up early for the conference tomorrow. Whee! Actually, I kid, as I'm actually quite excited about learning what the latest version of Flash and Dreamweaver has in store for me. Yes. To bed.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Meet the Office Crew

Continuing to introduce the characters of my upcoming webcomic, Working Actor (in progress)... Of course, the characters and their likenesses are subject to change by the time the strip comes out, but this is who they are at the moment:

Here are five of the characters comprising Jeff's workmates. These are still works-in-progress so expect changes when you see them in the strip. At least one, possibly two of these characters will get cut; I'm still refining the "office" aspect of the strip, so this whole side of the webcomic is somewhat in flux. Figuring out what I want to say and what kind of humor I'm going for when Jeff's at work will be the determining factor on who stays and who goes. I haven't started drawing any of the "office" strips yet, but I have several ideas jotted down and will probably get to that this weekend. This is all somewhat important to the success of the strip so I should perhaps give thoughts about it more gravitas, considering that the title Working Actor loses it's puniness if the main character isn't sometimes actually at his desk job, working, and not on a set somewhere. It will be assumed the title just means he's a working actor in the traditional sense, which isn't the case.

Anyway, I've been designing the look of the new website over the past couple of days, and have completed pencils on a couple of the strips. I'm getting more and more giddy as the launch date approaches. I've missed enough deadlines at this point to withhold that information until everything's in place, but I can say it'll be soon. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Barely Managing

This past Monday morning, around 1 - 2am, I sent an email to my manager telling her thank you, but it was time for me to move on. I'd been pondering this decision for months, and at 1 - 2am on that Monday morning, it seemed like the right time to go about it (no, I wasn't drunk). The email was nice and cordial, and I expected to get a reply later in the day. Getting no response, I also called her office that afternoon, and left a message asking her to call me back. Still nothing. Tuesday rolled around, and still no response all day. I was beginning to think that either my manager didn't get my email and phone call, or was angry with me. I showed up for my acting class Tuesday night, where the teacher informed us that she'd be mixing things up a bit - she would be holding a faux audition, which was to be taped, and a guest manager was coming in to conduct a faux interview. One guess as to who that manager was. Yes, correct. Upon hearing my manager's name, I was unbelieving, then tickled (ah, this universe can be hilarious at times). I muttered, "Awkward" to my friend John, sitting next to me. Panic and confusion on my part soon followed, much to John's delight. I'm sure I was more rattled than I should have been but needless to say, I blew my faux audition, giving one of the worst performances of mine in the past 6 months, and the faux interview that came after was, well... awkward. I won't detail what transpired, but I will say we talked for 5-10 minutes before the subject of my leaving her management agency even came up. I'll probably give details in the webcomic, where this will surely be a storyline at some point, due to its absurdity.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Strip

I know I missed the self-appointed deadline to get all the characters for the Working Actor strip done last week, but actually, a lot of good acting things have been taking up my time, as well as progress on the 60 Minute Broadway comic I'm doing with John Keating (check out the new characters for that here.) Rest assured, I'll have the characters for the strip done shortly, then the actual strip and new site won't be far behind. Stick with me!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I'll have some fries with that talent

Last night, John Keating and I went to the Paramount lot and met with Lisa Soltau of the Junie Lowry-Johnson agency for the first of many Talent To Go workshops. Our "audition" went great, and the whole experience was just easy, fun and stress-free. I put the "audition" in quotes because, in actuality, these meetings aren't supposed to be auditions. There are no parts or projects you're auditioning for. These workshops are more like "generals" from the past where you get to meet the casting director and show off some skills. It's a great way to get your face in front of some people who have influence in getting in you in for auditions.

Actually, the whole idea behind Talent To Go is so practical, I'm surprised no one has done it before, at least on this level. There are a ton of casting director workshop businesses around L.A. - most of the time they consist of meeting a casting director at a theater or some other space with a crowd of other actors (both green and experienced), where the casting directors give you scenes and you do cold readings for them. It's usually on a weekend or after work, and it's no wonder that many times the casting directors seem either tired or somewhat frazzled during these sessions. What Talent To Go does, is bring in actors they have hand-picked through an auditioning process, with prepared scenes, to the casting director's office or any other place the CD's feel comfortable, and have the actors perform their (under 3 minute) scenes with a little bit of talk-time afterward. Talent To Go even provides lunch or dinner for the CD. Everything moves so fast and efficiently, it just seems like such a better way to go than the traditional Casting Director Workshop method.

John and I are going to see representatives from Lisa Miller Katz and Gregory Orson tonight in Burbank. Should be fun.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I'm gonna git you, sucker!

You all have probably heard the news by now since the story was released last week, but just thought I'd mention it again here: the Giant Squid (Architeuthis) has been photographed, alive, in its natural habitat. Parts of Giant Squid have washed up on beaches and dead ones have been caught in fishing nets, but never has a healthy, live specimen been caught on film. Apparently, a team of Japanese scientists, led by Tsunemi Kubodera, accomplished this feat by pretty conventional means: they tied some bait to a rope that had a camera attached to it. I watched a television special a few years ago, about a team trying to photograph these beasts by fastening cameras to wild sperm whales (natural predators of the Giant Squid) in the hopes that they would capture them feeding on the squid. I seem to remember the cameras getting bumped off or popping off at a certain depth before the whales caught anything, although seeing the whales diving down, ready for the hunt was exciting in itself.

Wow. This picture is so freaky to me - according to the AP story, the squid pictured is 26 feet long and was at a depth of around 3000 feet when photographed. Imagine that coming at you out of the murk. Click on the pic for a bigger view.