Thursday, December 29, 2005

Happy Whatever-You-Celebrate

I've been slackin' on the bloggin' due to the craziness that is Christmastime. Between all the last minute shopping, work, parties, and family get-togethers going on, there just hasn't been enough time for my personal stuff. I'm seriously looking forward to the 3 day weekend coming up.

I hope all of you are having Happy Holidays (no, this sentiment isn't an attack on Christmas, I'm just fairly respectful of other cultures). Mine was great. Christmas day started with a drive over to my parent's house, where my sisters, mom and godmother cooked a huge breakfast for us all to get gluttonous on. I haven't seen my godmother and godfather in a while, so it was nice seeing them again, especially on Christmas.

After dealing with a bout of food coma, we went to a party thrown by my auntie Amy that night. This party has been a tradition since I was but a wee child, until a couple of years ago when her husband, my uncle Aki got sick with cancer, and she stopped having them. He died earlier this year, but my aunt mustered the strength to start the tradition again. What a turnout - over 75 people must've been there, making merry. This party is the most multi-cultural, beautiful thing I see all year – we sing Christmas carols (my mom led the sing-along, playing her guitar) and Hanukkah songs (we lit the first candle on the Menorah, this year), have tributes to the people who have passed, welcome newcomers (anyone and everyone is invited), and mingle with people of all colors and persuasions. Lots of fun. My aunt's son, Stevie, who I used to play army men and Micronauts with, made it in from Oahu this year, so that was very cool seeing him, too.

The next day, I had off from work (thank god), so I recharged a bit by sleeping in, then headed over to my sister's house in Valencia for another huge meal she made for my parents, godparents, auntie Amy and Stevie. Was nice being able to spend time with them in a personal setting, but sad that my uncle Aki couldn't be with us.

So that was how I spent my Christmas. Although this coming weekend will probably be just as hectic, I look forward to the parties, food, and hanging out with family and friends to ring in the new year. I'm sure between everything I've eaten in the past week and the food I've yet to eat this coming weekend, I fully expect to gain 10+ pounds. I guess getting off that weight will be one of my first New Year's Resolutions.

Oh yeah, the picture accompanying this blog entry is my sister Linda, niece Airica, and brother-in-law Mike sporting an authentic Middle Eastern headdress his aunt picked up for him during her trip to Egypt this year. Where he got the gun, I don't know, but I can't think of another image that sums up Christmas at the Schuetze's like this one. I guess you can just scratch out what I said about "Fairly respectful of other cultures..." above.

edit >> pic replaced with "christmas taco," the schuetze family dog. previous pic proved too inflammatory.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Festivus for the Restivus

For the past three years in my department at work, we've put up a big, fake Christmas tree and decorated it with ornaments and lights. It's quite a job and takes hours to do. At a recent meeting we were discussing who exactly was going to be involved with putting up the tree and when. Nobody was that enthusiastic so I suggested we put up a Festivus pole, just as in the Costanza household in the Seinfeldverse. There's not much work involved; no branches to organize and arrange, no electricity or baubles to deal with, we just needed to get an aluminum pole. Our department director put it to a vote: a.) Bah humbug, we do nothing. b.) Christmas tree. c.) Festivus. Much to my surprize, Festivus won.

One of the guys had an aluminum pole. I made a collection box for the Human Fund and drew up some signs. Bang, we were done. Reaction around the office has been mixed. As people from other departments pass our display they either chuckle or look at the pole suspiciously. A couple of people asked us when we were going to put the branches on our tree pole. I wouldn't be surprized if HR came by and asked us to take it down. Whatever. The Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength will happen later today.


update: So far, we've collected 32 cents, some candy and a couple of guitar picks in our Human Fund box.

update: Much to our joy, someone put in a check for $100,000 made out to the Human Fund. Turned out to be fake, though. Darn.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Oooh Baby, Baby, It's Wild World

I picked up Animal Crossing Wild World when it was released for the DS a couple of weeks ago but due to my day job and the craziness of the holiday season, I haven't been able to play it all that much - maybe 10 minutes here, 30 minutes there, stealing some time during a lunch break, waiting in line for a movie, before an audition, etc. All these moments I've spent with it however, have added up enough so that I'm confident I can give you a decent review.

Just like Nintendogs, this is a game that stretches the boundaries of what videogames are all about. There is no shooting, exploding, killing or destroying in this game and there's no real "end" - you play the game because you enjoy interacting with it. Sure, there are goals but you could play this game indefinitely, really, depending on how much OCD you have. If you've played the Gamecube version you'll know what I'm talking about as this is basically the same addictive game, only in portable form. That isn't a slam against the game at all; the Gamecube version is one of the best reasons to own that console and has a kind of cult following among gamers who devote many a website to uncovering its secrets.

Wild World starts off with your character moving to a new town inhabited by walking, talking animals. You are given a small house to live in by a raccoon named Tom Nook, with a hefty mortgage to pay off and no money. Your first goal is to figure out how you're going to do that – I became a worker at Tom Nook's shop, running errands and delivering furniture and items to his customers around town. When he finally ran out of things for me to do and fired me, I began collecting shells and fruit to sell to him. When I eventually got enough money, I paid off some of the loan for my house and bought a fishing pole. After getting more money from the fish I caught, plus more fruit and shells, I bought a shovel to dig up fossils and treasures.

In addition to running around town, looking for stuff to sell, you must interact with your neighbors by talking to them, writing them letters and giving them gifts. Sometimes they'll have an errand for you to run, usually they want something delivered to another townsperson, and they'll generally give you something in return, like, say, a new shirt or piece of furniture for your house. Writing letters in the Gamecube version was a huge chore due to having to select letters using the analog stick but in Wild World it's much easier using the DS's stylus. The stylus also makes managing your inventory and designing patterns for fabrics a much more pleasant, intuitive process. You can pretty much run the whole game with just the stylus but I find using a combination of the stylus and crosspad/buttons more ideal.

Like Mario Kart DS, Animal Crossing Wild World supports Nintendo's new Wi-Fi service, something I was really hyped about initially, but have since found it as a pretty limited feature. I envisioned the online component as something that would let you visit towns, send letters and trade items in a worldwide community. In Mario Kart, you just log on and the service will match you up to race others online. Not so in Animal Crossing. To find a friend to match up with, you must have already exchanged DS-specific "friend codes" and then schedule a time where you and possibly three other friends (for a maximum of four), log on at the same time to visit their town. Not very convenient and easy, especially as I have very few hardcore gamer friends anymore (Nintendo Wi-Fi was supposed to alleviate this problem for me! Ah, well.). There are a couple of websites that help with this problem, giving friend codes and times to meet, but there's no way to stop them from coming in and raiding all your fruit, chopping down your trees and otherwise wreaking havoc on your village, so don't give your friend code to just anybody.


I've barely scratched the surface of what Animal Crossing Wild World has to offer since there's just so much you can do – bug collecting, pattern designing, feng shui, music composing, gardening, holidays, astronomy, the list goes on and on. My favorite things to do at the moment are fishing and fossil collecting; once you catch a fish or dig up a fossil you can donate it to the museum where they will display it if they don't already have that particular item. Sitting by the river or on the beach, casting my line and hoping for a new type of fish to reel in occupies most of my game time, and hoping to find a new fossil that will complete my Ankylosaurus and Seismosaurus skeletons when I'm digging up holes around my village occupies the rest. Mundane, simple tasks to be sure but there's a primal satisfaction to discovering new things and having them displayed.

At the moment I've just paid off my house, and that damn Tom Nook has offered to build me a bigger place. Of course I said yes - the more space to display the Christmas Tree and Watermelon Table I just purchased, but I'll be indebted to him again, for sure. Oh yeah, and a coconut has just washed ashore which I've planted in my peaches-only town. Tom Nook is sure to give me more than the 100 bells (Animal Crossing's currency) he gives me for the peaches, when my coconut tree grows and bears fruit. Ah, sweet bliss.

If you couldn't tell by now, I love Wild World. Due to its casual gameplay and simple tasks, it's perfectly tailored to portable gaming but has so much depth that it will have you playing for at least a year (due to seasonal and holiday-specific changes in the game world). I wish the online aspect were more robust, but really, there's so much to do in the single player game, that it doesn't detract from the game too much. If you have a Nintendo DS pick up Animal Crossing Wild World immediately.

If any readers want to swap friend codes for either Animal Crossing Wild World or Mario Kart DS, do not hesitate to email me here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

I Work Hard For The $

Man, feelin' a bit woozy from the past couple days of working long hours here at work. Getting home after 11pm or so is becoming normal practice, by god – had another deadline this morning where a team of experts came in and looked at the training program I've been working on for the past few months. They all gave thumbs up to the cartoon characters, dazzling animations and interactive exercises I've been toiling away on, so I'm feeling pretty good about the late nights. Damn, if I could put this much time and effort into my acting career I could probably remove the "in progress" from my site's title by now.

Actually I would consider this job pretty cool if 1) It wasn't so far away (35 miles each way) 2) I could work from home (seriously, I work using pencils, paper, Flash, Illustrator and a scanner, all of which I have at home) 3) I made more money. But, the money really isn't that bad and they let me go on auditions, so I can't complain too much.

Here's a rejected character from one of my training programs. The company I work for is a Swedish security company so I thought a Viking-like character mixed with a security guard would be hilarious. I was wrong and "Torr" was out.




















(I have removed all company logos from Torr and replaced
them with my own out of fear of being sued. Working for
The Man fosters this type of paranoia.)

edit - apparently, Blogger doesn't allow for Flash swf files.
To view the Flash file of Torr, click here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Gettin' Nekkid

Yesterday, Fig and I went to the Barenaked Ladies concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. As always, the Ladies put on a great show, with this one having some extra Holiday flava since they mixed in some tunes from the Barenaked For The Holidays CD into their set. The stage was dressed like a living room during Christmastime, complete with Christmas tree and stockings hung with care over a giant fireplace (you can make out a wreath and Christmas Tree in one of the pictures), and the show started off with a children's choir from Orange County singing some carols with the band.

Overall, it was a great show, with a set list mapped out by Jim Creeggan that didn't disappoint - Pinch Me, Brian Wilson, If I had a Million Dollars, Old Apartment, and of course One Week, were all played, interspersed with Christmastime (Oh Yeah), Jingle Bells, I Have a Little Dreidel, and other Holiday classics. Steven Page sounded amazing, although his voice did crack during his operatic rendition of Silent Night during one of the longer, higher notes, to great comedic effect when the band just stopped playing and looked at him. During one of the encores, in which Steven sang Break Your Heart, I don't think I've ever heard him sound better; his voice is getting a raspier texture as he gets older, and it suits the material well. Ed Robertson sounded great too, and is a real pro at talking to us in the crowd and keeping us entertained throughout the show and his improv'd rap was, as usual, really clever and funny. Kevin Hearn on keyboards was great and his voice sounded sharp on Christmastime (Oh Yeah). Whenever I hear his voice I always think, man, I've gotta pick up his album (apart from BNL), but then I forget. Jim Creegan on bass chose to sing Spider In My Room. Was good. After the first hour or so as people got tired of standing and bopping to the music and started to sit down, Tyler Stewart on drums got up to lead the crowd in a spirited version of Feliz Navidad, and got people back on their feet.

I think I've seen BNL in concert at least seven times (at least five with Fig) and they never disappoint or get boring, partly due to the fact that they keep their shows loose and improv a lot of the banter between songs and genuinely seem like they're having a good time. I remember seeing them in small venues, like the Universal Hard Rock when they were up-and-coming, and then at huge places, like the Universal Amphitheatre after One Week catapulted them to fame in the States. Recently they've been playing to smaller audiences, and although they can rock out at times, their style is really more personal and friendly, which is better suited to more intimate settings like the Civic Auditorium.

About halfway into their set, Steven let us know the band has been working on a bunch of new songs for the next album and personally, I can't wait. Steve's side venture, The Vanity Project, was good but it was no Barenaked Ladies album, which are always quality and something to look forward to. Ed sang a song from the upcoming album (called Easy, I think) which was very chill and lovely. Very Adult Contemporary pop, but good. I'm sure when they tour for that album, I'll be there again – Fig and I gotta get into the first five rows for that show; we've been getting progressively closer to the stage each time BNL comes to town and I think next time we'll (at least) break the 10 row barrier. Then it's on to the pit.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Work Sucks

Totally overwhelmed by work again this week, even after coming in over the weekend for several hours to try and attain some breathing space. I have another deadline this Friday and due to a couple of auditions, a Barenaked Ladies concert (tonight) and the normal hustle and bustle encountered during the normal course of a week, it looks like things are gonna be tight. Again.

On a side note, John and I had another great Talent To Go experience yesterday, this time meeting Scott Davis and Gina Garcia of April Webster Casting. Our scene went well, April and Scott had some good notes for us and overall I think we did a bang up job so hopefully they'll remember us when pilot season comes along.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Postings...

Haven't been able to post here as regularly as I'd like this week due to the fact that my day job is sucking the soul out of me with straws for Section 2 of a project I've been working on all month - I have a deadline today for it that I'm not sure I'm going to make even though I was here until 10pm last night working on the thing (I thought this was my day job). I have lots to post about though, including a couple of cool auditions, new games, my annual company Holiday Party, and the fact that I'm on freakin' avail for that Hyundai commercial (so it seems you really can Bend It Like Schuetze. Some of the time, at least).

Since I'm trying to wrap up this work project today, next week I should be back to my regular schedule of posting stuff quasi-daily during the work week. Of course, Section 3's deadline will be staring right at my ass by then. *sigh*

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Happy Pearl Harbor Day

Since my mom is Japanese and was raised on Oahu when Pearl Harbor was bombed, I knew at a very young age exactly what Pearl Harbor was all about.

My neighbor certainly didn't let us forget - How I remember the hilarity that ensued every December 7th of my youth, when he would play silly pranks on us to celebrate the occasion. One time after school, I remember being with my mom in the car going up the driveway, the automatic garage door opening to reveal a big sheet with the words, "WE WON!!!" spray-painted across it in large, black letters and the Japanese flag crudely drawn and crossed out. Oh, how we laughed! And how I looked forward to these shenanigans year after year!

Although the big surprises like that ended when I got older, we would still get a big box of donuts on our porch every year, with more messages encouraging us to remember Pearl Harbor written across the lid. How much sweeter all that sugar and dough made the memory stick with us!

When I buy a house, I hope to pass this wonderful
tradition on to all the neighborhood Middle Eastern kids every September 11! Maybe with a big package of Cinnabon or Mrs. Field's cookies!!!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bend It Like Schuetze

Actually, I wouldn't recommend bending, twisting or otherwise touching it like me. Seriously. My body is pretty much broken and bruised after another audition where I was required to play soccer again. Fortunately, this time wasn't as bad as the Coca-Cola one from a couple of weeks back - there was no asthma attack - but there was still a lot of pain involved.

When I showed up to the park, this time off La Cienega in Beverly Hills, I was hopeful as there were no 7 foot Latin guys with matching uniforms. Rather, there was a diverse mix of people from all ages and ethnicities. Cool. After signing in I warmed up a bit with one of the other actors (named Elvis), kicking a ball back and forth, popping it up, etc. We were called over after a few minutes and a soccer coach with an English accent started giving us instruction as a camera videotaped Elvis and I. "Just pass the ball back and forth." Cool. Easy. I could totally do this. Even flipped it up some and got a bit fancy. "Pop it up more! Give it some air." Alright. A bit harder, but I was still in the game. "Faster, faster. Keep it going! Good. Stop. That's enough." After stopping I was pleased that I had managed to keep control of the ball and look competent. Elvis and I high fived each other and started walking back to the signout sheet. I was like, "That was easy." It was then I heard the English voice behind me once again, "Whoa. We're not done yet. Come back over here." We ran back over and then, much to my dismay the coach said, "That was just the warm up." Over the next fifteen minutes he had us enact several different soccer scenarios. "Elvis, I'm going to throw the ball up and you head it into the goal while Jeff jumps at the same time and pretends to head it away from you." "Jeff, you jump up and hit the ball with your chest while Elvis jumps into you." "Both of you jump up and collide with each other at the same time while I throw the ball above you." "Jeff, jump up, twist your body in mid-air, then do a bicycle-kick, kicking the ball into the goal when I throw it at you." I had to do that last one five times, coming down in the dirt onto my side all five times. I think I connected twice with the ball, but didn't make it near the goal. I thanked god when it was over.

When I woke up this morning, I could barely move.

Anyway, although I did take a lot of punishment, I think I did pretty well. If nothing else, I showed I can take a beating and keep coming back if that counts for anything. At least I don't think I did anything that would merit placement on the gag reel once they wrap the commercial, as was probably the case with my Coca-Cola audition. Yeah, I bled a little but I didn't feel absolutely crushed. I think that's as close to a "Rudy"-esque ending as I'm gonna get (Mitch).

Friday, December 02, 2005

Nintendogs : Initial Impressions

I mentioned yesterday that I would post my thoughts about Nintendogs for the Nintendo DS, but I didn't get a chance to really try the game out last night. Been working late all week so didn't get home until after 9pm yesterday, then had to work on a menu for Chabelita Mariscos restaurant (plug: really good Mexican food in Chino, CA - 3746 Riverside Dr.) until after midnight. When I finally had the time to start messing around with the 'dogs, sleep finally took hold of me. I did get a chance to play more of it today at lunch though.

Such a weird game. Actually, it's not really a game as there's no real end goal or "finish," it's more of a puppy simulator. Upon boot, you're shown a dog kennel where three puppies are running around that you can play with. You use the DS stylus to "pet" the puppies, which respond to your affection by closing their eyes and making puppy sounds, among other things. You can then "buy" a puppy with the limited funds you start out with. Since I have the "Chihuahua & Friends" version of Nintendogs (there are two other versions), my initial choices were limited to choosing between Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. I chose the chihuahua that looked most like my parent's dog and took him home. Once there, the game's tutorial leads you through naming your new puppy (Takoyama), teaching him his name through the DS microphone, and a trick (sit) which was done by placing the stylus on top of the puppy's head and drawing it downward in a quick motion. You start off with a couple of toys for your puppy including bubbles which you can blow at him (Tako was afraid of them) and a tennis ball you can bounce around (he really liked this, and would chase it around the room). I bought a frisbee at the virtual store and walked Tako to the park to see if he would respond to it. At first he ignored the frisbee but after a couple of throws he really got into it and started jumping for it as it passed overhead and would then bring it back to me. I was surprised at how pleased I was when he started doing this. There are competitions you can take your puppy to once it's good enough so I think he's going to do well in the frisbee event. I walked him back home and on the way he pooped which I then had to clean up by clicking on it with the stylus. Once we arrived back, I gave him some water and food (now I need to buy more).

In Japan this game is huge and it seems to be a hit here in America, too. I can see why - it's way cute and easy to pick up and play in short sittings and doesn't require an innate mastery of all the buttons and interfaces of the DS. In fact, you can pretty much play the game just using the stylus. On top of that, the puppies are incredibly lifelike in their movements and behavior and there are a ton of accessories and toys to buy them and discoveries to make when training them. Yeah, I realize this game sounds totally gay, and it is to some extent (heh), but there's something totally soothing and Zen about it that makes me want to continue playing it. I'll post more impressions as I get deeper into the game, so this will be somewhat of a "rolling review." Hopefully, I'll be able to play the other DS titles I have - Tiger Woods DS and Zookeeper - and give you impressions next week, if I can just stop playing Mario Kart DS and World of Warcraft, that is.

Here I Go Again

Well, I just received a phone call from my commercial agent that made my blood run cold: I have an audition for Hyundai on Monday where, you guessed it, I have to be a soccer player once again. Now, regular readers will know how my last foray into this sport went, so needless to say: I'm not looking forward to this. What are the odds that I would have two auditions in a row where I would need to play soccer? I must be attracting from the universe the need to get my ass kicked by soccer ball.

November Usage Stats

Was browsing the usage stats for last month and was surprised to see that traffic to this site has essentially doubled since October, reaching 23,485 hits! It looks like most of these hits are from returning readers, although I chuckle to see "big lips" and "naughty friends" still among the top search strings, bringing new people to the site.

Thanks for reading, if you're a regular - it's nice to know I have an audience. I'll have more content in the future to maybe keep you coming back including the long promised Working Actor (in progress) webcomic, and of course, the daily posts.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Nintendo Rocks My World Again

Last night I finally got my little claws on the special edition Nintendo DS w/ Mario Kart bundle. I've been wanting a DS for a while now so it was with much anticipation that I sped home from Fry's Electronics after purchasing it, carefully opened the box, cut out and applied screen protectors, then popped in Mario Kart and powered on the DS.

First impressions: it's awesome. As if there was any doubt. It's a Nintendo product, and they've never let me down (alright, the Virtual Boy was a bit of a disappointment). The DS is pretty big and hefty for a portable, especially since I'm used to playing my Gameboy SP, which is small and perfectly sized, but the button placement's good on the DS and the two backlit screens are sharp. Its form-factor isn't nearly as pretty as a PSP but once you're experiencing gaming bliss on it, you won't mind much.

After some initial configuring (time, date, name, birthday, etc.) I was able to boot up Mario Kart and take it for some spins around the tracks. The game itself plays very smoothly (60fps, I've heard), looks very similar to Mario Kart 64 and has the usual single player modes you'd expect from a kart game such as Grand Prix, Time Trial and Battle, but the game really shines when you're playing against human opponents, and since this game is the launch title for Nintendo's new Wi-Fi service, I was eager to try that aspect out. Getting the wi-fi enabled was fairly easy, even with the firewall and protection my internet connection has in place. Basically, I needed to input some WEPs and MACs and I was suddenly playing live people from around the world, wirelessly, in some 4-player karting action. Amazing and totally addictive. And did I mention Nintendo's wi-fi service is free?

I have other games for the DS I've accumulated in anticipation of owning it but didn't get to them last night, I was so consumed with Mario Kart. It's really just a fun, perfect little racer, especially when playing live opponents. If I can tear myself away from it long enough, I'll try and take Nintendogs for a walk tonight.