Friday, July 30, 2010

Back Almost

Back from a really great time at the Grove to see an article about the very event on the front page of the New York Times.
It is an interesting essay and probably accurate to the depth of its research. One of the best Grove lines I heard, "I don't know anything about expensive wines, but I think I just took a five thousand dollar piss ".
It suddenly looks like a very busy third quarter. It is what I love about this business. A couple of days ago I was looking at some idle time. Two phone calls and several emails later I hit the floor running in a week wondering if I will have time to be home.
As you were,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Comic Con  
Comic Con starts today in San Diego.  If you don't know ComicCon then it has been too long since you read a comic book.  And you are probably older than 45 years old.   My youngest son is heading down today for the duration.  In his early 20's he is as excited as a 5 year old.

I told my friend Joe that Taylor was going.  Joe had an interesting reaction.  He kind of scowled at me and said, "I don't know why anyone would want to go to that."  I said, "Well, you have to be into comics and animation to really get it."

Joe said, "What's animation got to do with the Communist Party."

He thought that it was  Commie - Con... a convention for Communists.  It was a "You kids get off my lawn, " moment.

I'm off to my own ComicCon tomorrow.  Back to the Bohemian Grove for the second of three weekends. It has been a while since I was able to go.  Work always stands in the way of having a good time.  You can google the Bohemian Grove, but don't believe even half of what you read. It is a private club and they keep things private.  This fuels all kinds of speculation among the lunatic fringe.  I would like to share what I learn about the new world order there, but then they would have to kill me.

As you were,

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ask Alexander!

The Great Alexander was a mind reading magician. He was billed as " The Man who knows".  From the audience one could whisper any question to his assistant  and although Alexander couldn't hear it, he would answer as if he did. Perhaps he was more known for his elaborate costume with gilded turban and striped robe and his large lithographed posters than his psychic ability. 
I once saw this unique costume in the private museum of David Copperfield in Las Vegas.  Alexander has past away long ago and doesn't need the costume any more. David Copperfield does. Unique to the costume were  two clunky World War II wired head phones concealed in the full turban.  Alexander, it seems, did know enough to use radio headphones to hear the questions that were whispered into the assistant's hidden microphone.
As ancient as that technology is today, Alexander has a new life on the Internet.  There is a site called "Ask Alexander".  Anything written about magic or magicians can be found on this data base.  Although I don't belong to the users group I understand it is a monumental repository of and for magical history.  
Of course my friend Harry is one of the chosen that get to surf this massive data base.  He called to tell me that in a global search, my name is mentioned over 800 times.  That is impressive to be mentioned that many times in the history of magic.  I asked Harry how many times his name is mentioned and he said 14,000.  I was humbled until he said, "But I'm a magician." Ventriloquists are rarely mentioned.
I always liked magic.  If I had been better at it I might have kept magic in my act.  It was part of my repertoire  for a while when I was a kid.  A traveling salesman who befriended my Dad was an magician, and used to do magic when he called on clients.  He retired and gave me his trunk of tricks.  From that I practiced and put 10 minutes of magic in my act with SQUEAKY.  The night I kicked over my magic table and had to crawl around on the floor seeking multiplying billiard balls and linking rings spilled everywhere; my magic career was over. 
As a member of the Left Handed League I was involved in a lot of magic, and produced Harry's magic specials on television, but never really performed it.  I did become enchanted with the Three Shell Game and performed a talking Pea routine.  I invented a move that several magicians used to this day, and still keep my chops up with the shells, just in case.
So I would like to thank the Academy of Magical Arts and Sciences for the mentions.
As you were,

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Who do you write like?

I write like
Raymond Chandler
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

If you click on the the link above you will go to "I write like". You can put in some of the text you have written and an app will analyze it and tell you what famous author your style of writing is most like. I got three different results when I put in three different blog entries. The other two writers were David Foster Wallace and H.P. Lovecraft.

I was sure that it would come back, "Jay you write like your old High School English teacher".

Miss Gaydon was a 90 year old, never been married, English teacher that I had my senior year at Richardson High School. She never liked my writing because of my spelling. Or she never liked me to begin with anyway.... I still have nightmares of gray haired old ladies oppressing my creativity. Thanks Miss Gaydon.
As you were,

Friday, July 16, 2010

Venting Again

The Secret of Ventriloquism
Written by Jay Johnson   
August 2005

When I was growing up there was ad in the back of almost every comic book. It claimed I could “Learn the Secret of Ventriloquism” for twenty-five cents. Even as a kid I knew any secret that only cost a quarter couldn’t be that good. However, I invested two bits to find out.

What I eventually got in the mail was a swazzle (a flat reed-whistle that could be concealed in the mouth). The swazzle was great for making high-pitched bird noises, but alas, no “Secret of Ventriloquism.” I would have to find it myself. This began a career in search of that secret.
Explaining ventriloquism is surprisingly complicated. Does one talk about the history, the performance, the technique or the pure Zen of ventriloquism? You tell me...I find all aspects of ventriloquism equally compelling. But is there a secret? If so, what is the “secret of ventriloquism?”
Well, what is the secret of music? The secret to becoming proficient in any art form is the same -- practice. There is no way around the hours spent learning the craft of music. The same is true with ventriloquism. There is no way around the hours spent learning the craft of ventriloquism. So there it is. The secret of ventriloquism…PRACTICE. If you think there is a mantra or enchanted word that will make you a ventriloquist, you are in for a big disappointment.
A ventriloquial performance is the art of imitating life. The audience must feel they are watching two or more characters in conversation and not one person who has learned a trick voice. In this regard the art of ventriloquism is much like acting.
An actor must make a script come alive for an audience. It’s not easy to accomplish. It also requires study and Practice. Ventriloquism is even more nebulous and difficult because it is a singularly unique form of acting.
Consider two actors on stage. One speaks while the other listens to that dialogue, then they reverse the process and the speaker becomes the listener. It is the precise timing and interaction of this verbal ping-pong match that makes a great performance.
Unlike an actor who is sometimes just listening to another actor, the ventriloquist is speaking dialogue as one actor while at the same time listening to what is being said. Therefore, at the same moment a ventriloquist is speaking he might have to be “expressing” something entirely different.
Too many times a ventriloquist act fails because there is no interaction between the characters, that is, between the ventriloquist and puppet. The ventriloquist has a line, the puppet is lifeless, then the puppet has a line and the ventriloquist becomes lifeless. The audience reads the expressions of the puppet off the facial reactions of the ventriloquist. Even the best puppet has a limited range of expressions so the ventriloquist must use his unlimited human expressions to justify the puppet’s limited expressions.
I was once complimented after a show on the way one of my characters stuck his tongue out at me. I don’t have a puppet with that mechanical movement. What the person actually saw was my reaction to an expression they thought the puppet made. If manipulated correctly, the collective mind of the audience fills in missing expressions and remembers what it could not possibly have experienced.
In a short-lived television series called Broken Badges, I played the part of a policeman/ventriloquist. There was an emotional scene in a doctor’s office with my puppet character Officer Danny. It involved playing Danny as very angry and my character, Stanley , as very hurt. It was made more difficult because both Stanley and Danny also had dialogue with the doctor.
In the first few takes I couldn’t get it right. I was either playing both Danny and Stanley angry or both characters hurt. I just couldn’t seem to make the split between Danny and Stanley work.  To help me “get it,” the director, Kim Manners, called for an on-camera rehearsal. For one take he had the script supervisor read my part and I played only the part of Danny, in the next take she read Danny’s part and I played Stanley .
I suddenly got it.
I could feel how differently I reacted as Stanley when I wasn’t trying to also act as Danny. In the next take I was able to remember those completely different emotions and play them both at the same time. 
This is the challenge and the secret of ventriloquism. If you are asking an audience to believe that two characters are on stage at the same time, you better show them two distinct characters. Never lose your life or the life of your character, even a moment.
It’s not easy. If it were, would it be worth mastering? How do you do it? Practice. Video tape yourself doing a routine. Watch it back twice. One time never take your eyes off yourself. The next time through, never take your eyes off the puppet. Was there any moment when either character was not alive and expressing an emotion? Make whatever adjustments you have to make and record it again and again until you believe there are two people on screen, not one person at a time. 
A violinist practices his concerto until he hears not just sounds but something that transcends the notes on a page. He will practice and practice until it becomes more than horsehair scraped across metal strings, it becomes art.
An actor practices until he is no longer a person just repeating lines from a script. He becomes the very embodiment of the person in the drama.
A ventriloquist must practice until there is no longer just one person performing a trick voice, but two distinct characters on stage. That is when the craft of ventriloquism becomes the art of ventriloquism. That is the secret of ventriloquism.
You now owe me a quarter.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

One on my favorite Birthday cards  
from Leslie and Jake Crabtree

The caption reads....
"I see a great year in your future...
or bananas.  It's unclear. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

UberRat Is No More
There was a year when Taylor wanted a pet rat for Christmas. At the same time an unwelcome "Rattus norvegicus" - Norwegian grey rat - had taken residency in our house. As you will come to understand, I do not tollerate Rattus norvegicus taking residence in my house and set out to eliminate him.
I remember thinking how balanced life was as I drove home that Christmas Eve. I had rat traps on one side of the car and Taylor's beautiful  White Christmas Rat in a brand new cage on the other. You save a rat and you kill a rat... the world goes on. Balance and Happiness.
That Christmas I successfully caught the intruder, disposed of the evidence and cleaned up a space for Santa to bring the Christmas gift rat before the evenings local news. Once again balance and happiness.
My success at catching rats is very good.  Maybe catching rats is not the correct image.   I am the Rattus norvegicus terminator. I learned the skill of rat terminating as part of the "on the job" training when we bought the house on Varna. To the rats outside, those in the trees eating my oranges or running in the bushes, I tolerate with a live and let live attitude. You have your rat life and I have mine. Don't bother me I won't bother you.  But come into my house by any means other than a cage and it is a death to all such intruders. There is usually a 6 month detente between rat invasions, but eventually I get them all. I have perfected bait and technique to out wit even the best of Rattus norvegicus.
For the last year or so there have been no rats. But that all changed a month ago. Taylor sites a rat running toward the utility room from the pool table late one evening.  When I am told about this incursion,  I spring into Rattus norvegicus terminator mode.
I begin to assess all the routes the rat might take, where he might be hiding, where he would look for food and what were his favorite hours of the night to forage. I used my best trap, and placed it in a perfect spot. He didn't fall for it. I reset and relocated the trap with my secret rat bait. I don't use any poison. The rat's ultimate revenge is to eat the poison, crawl into your bedroom wall and die. Been there and done that and the memory is not pleasant.
But this current rat would not fall for any of my standard tricks. He slipped one of my best traps. After a couple of weeks and no evidence of the rat, I thought he had left. A few days later there was, once again, a Rattus norvegicus encounter. Taylor is now convinced the rat is a mutant with advanced reasoning. He begins to refer to the rodent as *Uber Rat* because he has out smarted the terminator for weeks.  Taylor did watch a lot of Ninja Turtles and Pinky and the Brain episodes when he was a child. I myself do not believe in mutated rats, at least not one that can out smart me.
Two nights ago I baited my favorite trap with "Jayson's Brand- Rat Irresistible" and waited. The next morning the trap had not been sprung. However, Uber Rat had been able to lick all the "Jayson's Brand- Rat Irresistible" rat bait off of the trigger of the trap, clean. He seemed to possess the skill of a surgeon and the touch of the bomb squad touch to accomplish the task without springing the "surprise". Uber rat indeed.

This brings us to last night. Same patented bait...same path for the rat... different trap. Yes they have built a better rat trap and it is now in the terminator arsenal. Uber Rat's luck and or skill ran out. Just like on Christmas eve the deed was done, evidence erased and once again I was the Rat King strutting to bed before David Letterman did the top ten. The only clue was scribbled on the refrigerator dry erase board... it read, "Uber Rat is no more."
As you were,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This is more of a tweet than a blog... but. I just checked online with CNN. The top story is how to fix your iPhone 4 with duct tape. No word on the success of the latest BP attempt to fix a well. As long as we have our priorities correct.
As it is,
Another Day
Okay so the birthday is over and I don't feel any older, in fact I feel younger than reported by some of the East coast papers. I evidently made it into the celebrity birthdays section of the paper that got syndicated all over the country. The feature listed me as two years older than I am. That's just not fair. My real age is shocking enough. If you are going to make a mistake, make it in the other direction.

I am convinced that after 21 years of age we should go to an ageless society. Once you are old enough to have all the responsibilities and pleasures of an adult, who cares how old you are? Before that, everyone has an age. There is a huge difference between a child of 12 and a child of 18. But is there really that much difference in a person 52 and a person 58?

(In the voice of Andy Rooney) Did'ge ever wander why people are always stating their age? Why do they do that. People in their 80's really talk about their age all the time. It becomes an excuse for anything they do. If they look good and do something well, they say proudly, "I'm 82." When they goof up it is more of a rationalization, "Well, I am 82." Let's just pretend that we are all old enough and young enough to do whatever we want to do. No one has to retire, if they don't want to. You can be whatever age you want to live at.

On a different subject. What is up with Mel Gibson? Whatever becomes of his new hit reality conversation, I am totally baffled by the whole idea that it even exists. I'm not baffled that Mel has such a violent temper, foul mouth, or bigoted attitude; how could he have let those words from his own mouth be recorded? Who today doesn't assume that every phone conversation, voice message and email is being over heard? Not only are they overheard, they are published and "viral-ed" around the globe. Has he already forgotten the Tiger Woods lesson?

Mel (I call him Mel because I have seen several of his movies) is going through a custody battle (read Lawyers involved) with his "girl toy" (have you seen her? Barbie dolls contain less plastic) who has his child and he calls to yell and scream at her, on the phone? I think the word I am looking for is stupid. Of course the conversation was recorded and valuable to the courtroom almost as much as TMZ.

I am sure the person most grateful that Mel Gibson is in the news is Lindsay Lohan.

As you were,

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

This is me and Nethernore at 2 years old . In reality I am holding a ceramic chicken for some reason... and not the front of the fowl but the back end of the chicken. I'm think the story goes that I was crying not to have my picture taken and the chicken offered a moment of clarity for the photographer. I decided to photo shop the speckled hen into Nethernore. I am pretty sure that I have too much time on my hands. Today I am celebrating my birthday with my friends (the usual suspects) in a very low key manner today.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Stalking Office Depot
I wrote about my obsession with chain drug stores and how perfect they are for someone like me. The overwhelm of visual stimulation and unrelenting attention on physical perfection appeals to the human ADD narcissist in all of us. To a lessor degree I find the same stimulation in trips to the hardware store and office supply places like Office Depot.

The hardware store because it is full of macho implements and parts that make even a metro-sexual want to buy some work boots and some Dickie's bib overalls. Nothing is more satisfying than actually changing a plug or replacing a light fixture without self electrocution.

Same thing for office supply stores. They are full service creative stimulation exhibits that offers everything from computer needs to simple pencils and paper. And not just paper, but hundreds of kinds of different paper, colored, glossy, photo, parchment, folded, unfolded, heavy stock, extra white, onion skin, three hole, two hole, no hole, hole punchers if you can't decide and envelopes to match. (Think that sound Tim Allen used to make on Tool Time).

So today I went to my local Office Depot, I took plenty of water and a compass for what was surely to be an adventure. You see my Office Depot expanded, and took over the Mrs. Grace Lemon Cake store, virtually increasing its floor space to half again the size. They shuffled everything around and changed the entrance. It was like going to a brand new store, discovering a whole new world. (There goes that Tim Allen sound again).

Well, just as I walked in the door a young kid with a walkie talkie and Office Depot uniform greeted me. "Welcome to the store. What can I help you find today?"

Without even thinking I said, "Envelopes to send a DVD."

"Aisle four by the wall." He said, and without breaking stride I was there in seconds. I got the envelope and was in line to check out before I realized what had happened. He threw me off. I didn't want to know where the DVD envelopes were, I wanted to wander around and find them myself like any true explorer. I wanted to get the lay of the land, the new foot print, see the up dated displays and accidentally find those envelopes after I had forgotten what I came in for.

It was a trip interrupted this time. I would have gotten out of line and explored once I realized my plans had changed, except I knew it meant I could get the thrill of the first time, next time, extending my excitement to two trips instead of one.

Next time I won't listen to Mr. Helpful Greeter. He can't help me next time.
As you were,

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Congratulations to Fred Willard who garnered an Emmy nomination for a role in "Modern Family" this year. Fred is one of the most unique and inventive comedy actors working today. His capacity for spontaneous character comedy seems endless. I have always been a fan.

Fred is my friend and neighbor and the parties at his house are always high on the must attend list. His wife Mary, a comedy writer, is the earth mother to an eclectic group of TV actors and comedy writers that is a who's who list of situation comedy. Mary and Fred's 4th of July party this last weekend reached new heights in fun. It would be great to add an Emmy to Fred's mantle. I think it is time that people acknowledge his talent officially.

Jim Parsons who plays Leonard, the OCD nerdy star of "The Big Bang Theory" got a nomination for best actor in a comedy series this year. Sandi works on that show and is always talking about how great Jim is not only as an actor but as a person as well. I will have a personal interest in hoping that Jim wins since that will mean a longer run for the show and a longer run for Sandi. Since Fred and Jim are not competing in the same category I will be able to root for them both.

For years I kept an Emmy Nomination speech in my back pocket in hopes that it would happen. Although SOAP was nominated several times and several of the main characters won, I never came close. I eventually got to deliver a form of that speech to a packed house at Radio City Music Hall when receiving the Tony Award. It never hurts to be prepared. You never know.

As you were,

Friday, July 02, 2010

The RED Tweet
When the president of Russia had breakfast at the White House recently, he and President Obama held a news conference afterwards. In his opening statement Mr. Obama said that President Dmitry Medvedev had opened a Twitter account when he visited the silicon valley of California the week before. Pointing out that he, President Obama, also had a twitter account he suggested that they might now be able to follow each other and be finally remove the "red phones" from their offices.

This idea got me thinking. What if they did do away with the red phone and begin a summit tweet? I suppose we should get ready for a new way to view the world stage.

DMed@ twitter - just nvaded Georgia again. Now having a vodka.

YObama@twitter - OMG seriously??? WTF :-||

DMed@ twitter - LOL - just kidding about the Vodka. Georgia pissed me off.

YObama@twitter - AYSOS? PU

DMed@ twitter - BOB - this is our thing...

YObama@twitter - FC'INGO this is so Cold War...

DMed@ twitter - YYSSW - gotta go. country to run...

YObama@twitter -HOAS - :( we're not finished.

DMed@ twitter - ZZZZZ

I think an exchange like this would prevent a nuclear Holocaust and it can all be done from the PREZ blackberry.

I spent an entire class at the University of North Texas learning how to write a business letter. You had to pass that class to receive a business degree at the time. I suppose "multi-tasking your media stream" would be the new scholastic requirement.
"You kids get off my lawn..."
As you were,

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Time and Its Relationship to the Moment
July 1st. It doesn't quite seem right, I haven't straightened up the patio from our Memorial Day celebration yet. I'm not even sure I have been home for more than a week or so since then.

I am trying to figure out why time seems to be accelerating right now. Does it have everything to do with this Mayan calendar/2012 prediction of the end of time? Is the world clock sprinting ahead with a last burst of energy before stopping dead? Or is it because the span of time I have been experiencing time itself gets greater each year? Not to reduce everything to a stage analogy (even though this blog is called the World's a Stage) but it is like my show. When I was first doing it at the Atlantic Theatre it seemed that I was on stage for a very long time. I felt every moment of every second and knew I had completed a show when I walked off.

In Laguna about the time I was aware of being on stage, I was moving into the finale. It seemed that the show started and was over so quickly it just couldn't have been almost two hours had past. That is just because I know it, the flow is not a struggle but an easy skate. Maybe that is why life time is going so fast now.

I have been through it and this existence is not as much a struggle, nor does it burn with the passionate idealism it did in my 20's. I saw a tee shirt on the ship that read: "Been there, Done that, and already forgot it." That perspective can only be reached the long way 'round. I'm no longer trying to prove something to myself, just enjoy it. Live every moment because experience has taught me that nothing except happiness is really important.

What ever it is. Happy midsummer to everyone. I am very tired from my trip, travel time does not seem to be getting any faster, but I am looking forward to writing again and just staying in the happiness of the moment.
As you were,