Thursday, December 24, 2009
I'm looking past all of the stereotypes that these puppets project and focusing on their entertainment value and effectiveness at brand recognition. Yeah, that all works in these segments, as they did with their introduction last year. This is an idea that, as long as it doesn't pretend to stand in for the community it reflects, can pass itself off purely as entertainment and not social commentary. If Avenue Q can get away with their content without nationwide panic, then I'm willing to see this for what it is: cute puppet versions of very popular icons.
That said, here are Lebron & Kobe, voiced by Keenan Thompson and David Allen Grier respectively; also check out the vocal cameos by Lupe Fiasco as Blitzen and (guess who!) playing the Giftmaster himself (without irony, I might add)...
Friday, November 13, 2009
This one is a year old, and has gotten well over 4 million hits on Youtube, but it's still blazing. I guess it takes a while for my simple mind to stop trippin' over the idea of Bert & Ernie spitting popular gangsta rhymes, but I only dignify it with this kind of attention when it's done well. Believe me, there are quite a few parodies out there of these and other characters on Sesame Street "flowing" over some well known piece of music, but few of them can match this in production value. To paraphrase the maker of this video, someone had a lot of time on his hands.
BTW, a year or two ago there was a video of Bert & Ernie singing "Drop It Like It's Hot" by Pharell Williams and Snoop Dogg, and after a few million hits that disappeared, so there's no telling how long this will last. My advice is to get it out of your system as soon as you find a safe place to watch. Tkae care!
Saturday, November 7, 2009
I watched, wrapped in the shadows painted in the back of the auditorium as my closest friends poured their hearts out on the stage, kicking, dancing and singing while the sound system blared and the stage lights blazed. The practiced steps, the focused and determined gazes, their limbs responding to the rhythm, while the crowd responded in turn in a mighty roar. The house was falling, and in my delirium I wanted to fall with it. My heart leaped with every leap on and from the stage, every leap from all the feet the auditorium could barely contain.
It was over, from the moment it began. The slow, agonizing sizzle of the fuse had reached the gunpowder, and the explosion arrived. It was all I could do to hold myself together and watch what I had helped bring to life continue on it's own. Intelligent design could not explain the raw emotion that now radiated from the stage and from the seats.
And it was over. The winners, by a long shot. Redemption for what was deserved, but not given. Now there was no doubt, and the revelers would have it no other way as they held hostage to the infrastructure until the edict was decreed. They won.
I drifted from the auditorium and found myself outside, in front of the school. It was a darkness that was oddly permeated with reflective light from the snow that was also drifting, drifting down to where I stood in anticipation... wonder... confusion... and loss. I was no longer a part of the energy that radiated from the crowd, I was no longer attached to the intelligent design that created the moment. I was myself. A lonely boy dying of something natural, yet unknown. A young man who sacrificed his body and his emotions to ensure that the moment was right. Now that it was over, there was nothing left to do but wonder if there would even be a next time. I spied the empty bench in the center of the parking lot in front of the school entrance. I sat down and pondered one mystery in my life:
Mission accomplished...now what?
I had done simply what i was supposed to. I supported my friends as they trained themselves for competition; I played the box while they rehearsed. When issues developed, I handled them in a constructive manner. There were times where I stood by and watched while they practiced their steps, and there were times when I reminded them they needed to do so. Somewhere along the line I kept them from falling apart at the seams. At some point, nature tried to take me out of the picture. I was back the next day as though nothing had happened; to which I was forced to rest and recover against what I considered my better judgment. I stood underneath so I could push my friends to the top, and when they finally got there, I let go and walked away so they could have all the credit they deserved. They worked harder than anyone else to have this glorious moment, and they were the ones who should bask in the limelight of victory and accomplishment. I was content to die alone in a corner where no one would notice and I would not be a bother or burden. I cried involuntarily at the notion, but I was ready to eschew what ego I had remaining and accept the order of existence. I leaned softly to the side of the bench, awash in the drifting snow that mixed with melancholy and waited for what I felt was inevitable.
A familiar face wondered outside and approached me. It was the woman of my dreams, or so I had once hoped. I had had a crush on her for several years, but that was dashed when I first began understanding the concept of truth. The truth was she didn't want me, and nothing I could have done would change that. And though that was a painful lesson for a teenager about the real world, my response must have inspired many to think about me differently in a subtle way. She approached me and asked me what I was doing out here in the snow.
I don't know what is to become of me, I said. We've come a long way to get to this point, and now that it's over I have to go back to being me again. They earned the lights and the cheers and the praise, all I did was help them get there. This is all for them, not me. I don't know what's happening to me. I may not live to see another day, never mind another day like this. No one should have to see this or deal with this, and I'm not going to drag them all down with me. So here I am, letting them enjoy the moment while I stay out of their way. If I die now or later on, at least I've helped to accomplish something important to all of us.
She looked at me, stunned. I can't believe you can say something like that, she said. What do you mean "drag them down with you"? Do you realize how important you were and are to them? You held them together when they were falling apart, you sacrificed yourself as much as they did to win this competition and you deserve as much respect as they do. You can't do this to yourself. Look, she said, choking, you've got me crying now. You need to get back in there with everyone else and take your rightful place among everyone else, and don't you dare tell me you don't deserve it.
I looked at the tears streaming down her face and decided that she was right, or if nothing else I now felt terrible for making her cry. Maybe I was shortchanging myself. Or maybe I had taken human nature for granted. Whatever it was, I shook off the flurries and made my way back inside.
I tell you all that to tell you this... When the ball reached Robinson Cano's glove and he threw to Mark Teixeira at first, sealing the Yankees' 27th World Series Championship, I was at once awash in glory and disillusion, creating within me a strangely muted warmth that has inhabited me even to today as I write this post. I am as true a Yankee fan as one could imagine, yet for some reason I could not enjoy this moment as much as my mind said I should. Perhaps it 's my experiences within the last nine years between the last championship and this one, perhaps because of the varying experiences and context of reaction from my Banter family, perhaps because I am no longer the young boy that was waiting to die in the snow after an important moment in his life, or perhaps because I've internalized all of these emotions and experiences and have hardened myself beyond typical reactions other than a a guarded optimism or boiling frustration that erupts from a geyser.
But my reaction is relative to my earlier experience in that now, as I witness a great accomplishment and watch others celebrate, I wonder to myself, now what? What is to become of certain players, of my friends and of me?
I went to work and sat in a van all day, which is my current assignment, while some of my friends and even my supervisors participated in the parade, either as spectators or actually walking in the parade behind the floats. I witness ed their joy afterwards as they happily related their experiences, and I felt every bit glad for them to be a part of history in such a way others could only wish for. My mind rationalized this all as partly luck, partly knowing the right people, but all good. My heart said, good for you. If it were me, I'd enjoy it too, but it's not, so whatever. Yet, I have to wonder if my heart is being true; not that I would expect to be jealous or even wish it were me over them, but I do wonder why, in my entire life it seems, the anticipation of reaching this goal is much more satisfying than the actual event?
When people say you should focus on not on the destination, but the journey, I wonder if they know what it's like when they do get there. Is it anything like what I feel; an emptiness at the fact that its all over?
Someday, I hope I'll be able to enjoy the destination as much as I enjoy getting there.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Over at Bronx Banter, Hank Waddles started a revolution by mistake. In one of his posts, he inadvertently misspelled a word while commenting on measuring the team's ability to score. Some of the eagle-eyed (and sarcastic) followers picked up on this mistake, turning the phrase "Score Truck" into a running gag for when the Yankees scored a boatload of runs in one inning; something that they seemed to have been doing a lot of since the All-Star break. Soon it evolved into a rally cry; whenever the Yankees fell behind in a game, someone would comment about hoping the Score Truck would make a delivery, and more often than not it would. It has now become a permanent member of the Bronx Banter lexicon.
Since Hank recently confirmed he is the genius who originated the Score Truck, I felt it would be nice to utilize my art skills to offer a tribute to his amazing contribution to the Banter community. Hopefully, the phrase will make it's way out of the blogsphere and into the real world; perhaps a homemade t-shirt or a banner that pops up during a YES gamecast. It would be even better if the phrase were to be uttered by one of any number of players or sportscasters during or after a game; this would be a fitting tribute to the genius that evolves from the Banter.
I do think big.
At any rate, here's my tribute to Hank Waddles' Score Truck, the latest sensation of and from Bronx banter. Oh, and if any Banter members want to clear up the story of it's origin, please feel free to leave a comment. Enjoy! >;)
Friday, September 18, 2009
I've talked about this before in a previous post; I live with depression because I can't afford to live anywhere else. In moments like these, I can't tell the difference between my dreams and the afterlife. When I'm awake, I wonder if I'm living in reality or experiencing a long practical joke. I question the existence of God, spirits and myself. The only thing I'm certain of during these moments is that I am depressed. In order to feel anything, I play songs with sad melodies; other types of music only make me angry at the idea that I'm ignoring or masking something important. And hey, it's easy to say "get over it" or "get help, go see a counselor." But unless you have health insurance to offer me for free, please keep those reflexes to yourself. I am a freelancer/temp worker, which means that if nothing else I have a vested interest in how President Obama manages to deal with health care reform and the public option.
Let's not kid ourselves, folks. You know people who are like me who have "issues"; who either cannot or do not deal with those issues. I fall in the cannot category simply because I cannot afford to see a counselor. Sliding scales are more like slippery slopes to me. And unless you can afford to see a counselor, there are no options. Period. You just have to learn to ride it out and try to keep the damage to a minimum. And maybe you're a friend who wants to help, but you either don't want to get involved too deeply, or you simply don't know what to do. I appreciate the thought, but again, I already know you can't help for whatever reason, so it's best not to mention it.
So, for all intents and purposes, I am not well, but I will be in a little while because like all eclipses, it's just a moment in time. Scary to look at up close, but marvelous from beginning to end. I'll start talking again when the sun shines again. Wish me the best! >;)
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
In the meantime, I will share with you that I've been seriously considering leaving the states altogether; with the economy not benefiting me professionally and personally, plus my ever-growing intolerance with stupidity and greed, and lastly with being subjected to dispiriting attitudes around and above, I'm planning on taking a soul-searching trip somewhere off-shores for a little while; perhaps Ghana or South Africa, perhaps France or Spain, perhaps Japan, or perhaps (gasp) Havana, maybe even Rio. Of course those things won't happen until I get some moolah in place, and the one dispiriting thing that is making me contemplate all this is that I've never been able to put together a whole lot of money that I can take a vacation of any sort and still meet my obligations. Hell, sometimes I can't even meet the obligations. It's not a good life here, that's for sure.
One of my buddies has been in my ear about NOT leaving, because he thinks I'm just trying to escape my problems; it'll be the same no matter where I go. I'm tired of explaining to him that going elsewhere is not to escape, but to discover; that a vacation, sabbatical or otherwise "let's get da hell outta here!" is not a retreat or admission of defeat, but a regrouping to find and put together the tools you need to overcome the obstacles to your goals. The way I see it, I have nothing to lose but my life, and that can easily happen here (NYC) just as anywhere else. But I'm looking outside the system for a chance; L.A. is no better off than NYC in terms of the economy and the foolishness, though the opportunities may still be far more abundant than in New York. I have other friends who, despite the report of a massive exodus of projects from the West Coast, are packing up and leaving here for there, simply because they can't stand it here and they are more inclined to find work there. I think I understand, and if need be I will leave everything behind to find what I need and return like a king.
But that's not the be all to end all. Hollywood is just a pit-stop. The world is where I need to go to satisfy my intellectual curiosity and my emotional well-being. That I still haven't traveled further north than Boston, further south than Atlanta or further west than San Francisco is a travesty I intend to make right. Some people never leave the city they were born in. The travesty is not in that, but the intentions not being met. I intend to travel the world and document what I see or tell stories where I go. If I can't do that, then what's the point?
To that end, I'm starting a photo album here if I can in order to document the nouns I've seen so far. I've seen a lot of things, but in my mind I see them artfully. Maybe it's not realistic, but then again what is real? My mind sees these nouns as an artist would look at a canvas; endless possibilities for a location or a painting, a sketch or a story. Even some things that appear mundane could have appeal if the setting is right; especially if you're seeing it for the very first time.
All I need is jet fuel and a way to earn it. We'll see...
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
At any rate, I myself have had a few important things run through my mind in recent weeks, but not the impetus to document them. I've had some weird dreams about friends and relations that were odd compared to real life: did I mention that I found my ex-fiance and her family on Facebook? I hadn't spoken with her in fourteen years, but then when I saw her sister's name on a friend's comment, I looked her up and before you know it, I was in touch with the one who inspired Sillone, Ozzark's girlfriend in my comic strip. She's married now, still living in the southwest from where we left off, but by her own words matured from the days of youth. I'm truly very happy for her; she found someone who is compassionate and tending to her needs, and also in her words, "willing to put up with me and listen at 3am." Ha! I remembered the marathon conversations we used to have in our youth, so this was not a surprise at all. I think the only thing that surprised me, and not that it should have, was that from her pictures, her appearance had not changed. She was still Sillone in many ways.
The air in Texas is far better than the air in New York, I suppose. But then, I paid a far greater price than most people to be where I am, and I've got little reason to complain personally. I've given up the notion of having a wife and kids, as reasonable as those may be to most. Life is not reasonable in New York unless you're rich; tolerable if you have a steady job and ambition. All I have is ambition, but the ambition has propelled me further than anyone could imagine under the circumstances. I remember talking with various female interests about the goals in life we reach for, and invariably there was a tinge disappointment in their eyes when they remarked, "you're very ambitious." That always struck me as very funny; why would you be disappointed bty something like that? Now I know why. And though I get lonely from time to time, I would not take back my decision to pursue my dream. Such is that I was prepared to break from humanity in order to tell it on the mountain. The price is too steep for me to come back... for now.
In other news, I intend to produce and/or direct two shorts in the coming weeks; one is a spoof on the Subway commercials starring ace pitchers CC Sabathia and Johan Santana, and the other is the Ides of March scene from Julius Caesar. My producing partner and I agree that we need to exercise our talents more often; in the spring we had begun producing web shorts at a once-a-month clip, but when my uncle became sick we dropped everything to tend to him. Since his recovery, we've been slow on the uptake and we've had to struggle to find work and keep up with our individual needs, but the tide is turning once again and it's time to work again. We have a longer short in the works involving a strange trip on a household spice that will definitely be making the rounds in the festivals; I believe we will be shooting that in a month. But the two I mentioned above should work well as warm-ups to the bigger acts (if you can imagine Shakespeare being a warm-up act >;) So we have that... we also have the potential for a full-length feature that may begin production in a few months. Yes, it will be my first feature film which I hope I can direct; there are some names involved that me preclude me from directing due to union rules unless we can score a waiver (I'm guessing). Not that I would mind joining DGA at this point; benefits are benefits >;) But as is my policy on all projects, I won't talk about it until it actually happens. So, like Jesus said to the blind man when he laid his hands on his eyes, we will see.
Anything else? Hmm... I hope the others will come back and update in a little while. I'll let you know if anything new is happening. In the meantime, feel free to comment and/or contribute. Support by the way of resources and funds for our film projects would be nice as well! >;)
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Friday, June 5, 2009
So now I'm temping as a DTV Converter Box Installer, which basically means I'm going from one person's house to another and connecting their converter boxes. instructing customers on how to use the remote and advising them on what to do in case they don't have a signal. As a former satellite TV installer, this is stuff I do in my sleep, but there are plenty of people who cannot do this type of thing themselves, or are just too nervous about tech hardware to know what to hook up.
There are at least two websites that will explain the need for and the process of hooking up a digital converter box, so that you may continue to watch network channels as before:
DTV.gov - This website was set up by the FCC in order to inform the general public about the digital transition, the necessary tools and hardware to install, tell you what channels you will receive in digital, depending on what region you happen to be in, and whether or not they are broadcasting in full digital or not, plus a handy channel guide for your region. It also has pages for locating local retailers in your area and how to acquire a discount coupon towards the purchase of a converter box.
Antennaweb.org - This site will give you options on how to "maximize your television reception" by offering various types of antennas and hardware to pull in the channels stronger. They also have suggestions and an FAQ about DTV and signal amplifiers.
- Not all the stations are broadcasting at full power at the moment; for whatever reason, some stations are waiting until the June 12 transition date. If you are experiencing weak signals on some channels and not others, this might be the reason. My suggestion is to wait until June 12th and see if the station signal stengthens. If not, go to one of the sites above for discussion on digital antenna options.
- If all else fails, what can you do? There are various digital TV amplifiers and aerials of different shapes and sizes, but if you can't install or afford those? Well, you more than likely can't get a refund if you used the discount coupon issued by the FCC, so determine if the box is in working condition (try it at another person's house where you know that person is getting signal), and if the box works, I suggest gifting or selling it to someone and getting some of your money back.
Unfortunately, the box is not a perfect solution to getting free TV; people who were not getting a signal before may likely not get one now, mainly because of obstructions in your locale like tall buildings or power lines. Cable TV is offering a promotion for new customers who are being displaced by the transition, and I'll bet satellite is offering the same deal, but the drawback for satellite is that not all building structures allow for dishes to be mounted on them, and if you don't have a clear line of sight between your dish and the company's satellite, then you're out of luck.
Now, none of this is an endorsement of one over the other, it's just a lsiting oof what your options are. You could also avoid the whole TV thing by getting your news on the radio and renting movies from the library for free.
If you are in need of further information or assitance, you can also call the FCC's DTV Hotline at 1-888-CALL-FCC (225-5322) or the TTY line for the deaf/hard of hearing: 1-888-TELL-FCC (835-5322). I currently service New York State only, but if you need to scehdule an installation, I or someone in your region will be scheduled to visit and install your converter box and discuss the functions and other options. And, please feel free to publish your experience of questions here. Good luck! >;)
Monday, June 1, 2009
There are several underlying factors into what drove (and drives) me into these funks, the like of which I have not experienced since Mom & Terry passed away nearly twelve years ago. In fact, that is one of the factors itself. My mother and my oldest sister were integral parts of my life as a child and a young man, and losing them in the manner we did and at the time of my life it occurred severely scarred me for several years; I can say it both accelerated and inhibited my development as an adult. It is an inescapable part of my heritage as much as being Black is something I was born with and will die with, except that being Black does not depress me (quite the opposite, I feel inspired!) But their passing changed me from one person into another, such was the bond I had with them and continue to have with my surviving family.
That also can be said about my relationship with my friends, which has changed with the times and circumstances; not the least reason being that my longer-term friends have married and and have started or are in the process of building their own families. I am happy for my friends who have the love and support of a "life partner", as most of them would call their husband or wife or girlfriend or boyfriend, and in most cases children to establish or continue a legacy of their own (not to mention shower with and receive unconditional love). I have neither, perhaps by choice, perhaps by nature. Such as it is, what's left unsaid, sadly, is that committed friends and non-committed friends often find themselves incompatible, and soon become former friends. It is one of life's sublime and perhaps nastier little discoveries that relationships change based on the dynamics of a person's lifestyle; most drastically if that person is married, single, divorced or widowed. I am single, a consequence of my choice to pursue a risky career as a filmmaker, where relationships are often key to building careers as opposed to building a family life (if you are a "successful" filmmaker or such in the entertainment industry, it's easier to do, but often comes after the success is reached.)
There are personal compositions to consider as well. I am anti-social; I can't/don't drink or smoke because of two congenital conditions I possess; one being epilepsy and the other Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) Syndrome. In my early teens, I started having grand mal seizures, the kind where you black out and convulse on the ground uncontrollably for several minutes. They were rather scary episodes where I occassionally hurt myself by falling hard on the ground; all this happening in front of friends and loved ones. What happened; not purposefully, but naturally and with good intentions, was that I was "incubated" by people who were concerned and scared about my health and well-being. As such, I felt islolated from normal activities and relationships (I was temporarily reserved from participating in Phys-Ed classes to the point where my prodigal father intervened on my behalf) and I was forced to quit any athletic ambitions I had (baseball and possibly basketball).
Since I couldn't drink or smoke, I felt very awkward in social settings where such activities were second nature, and I was certain that my friends felt likewise. I was withdrawn and moody, and though I put up a reserved front during my high school and college years, I was lonely and angry at excluding myself from being "normal".
I also may have inherited my depression from family members who experienced it themselves; Mom was never one to admit to such feelings, and if she did, she often tackled them head on with activities that involved hard work or pleasure excursions. My Uncle Woodrow (who, btw, left the hospital three weeks ago to rehabilitate in a nursing home before returning to his real home this coming Thursday) had told me that the reason he entered the adult home where he lives was because of depression; his experience there changed his life and he has become an active and well-adjusted gentleman of considerable strength, dignity and influence. But for reasons of their own, many of my other family members don't address these issues with each other, unless it's to explain certain eventys or episodes in our family's heritage. I shall not break their confidence as such, I only intend to discuss my own battles. Besides, who's to say they even had issues as dramatic as mine? That's for them to decide.
I will say that by addressing my own depression this way, I hope to conquer it for good and explain myself in what motivates the way I create, destroy or reconfigure certain aspects of my life and person. I am a devoted friend and artist, but I isolate myself from people, in my mind, for their sake. I have witnessed and/or accepted certain things that would devastate many others. My anti-social nature is bred from conflicts with myself and the nature of being part of a social fabric that would otherwise harm or kill me. I treat my friends and relationships delicately for fear that my nature would overwhelm them, yet I feel highly inadequate in their presence. I try not to hide my feelings, but the rejection stings as much as it ever has, and any reaction beside quietly moving along would be unacceptable. Perhaps this way of thinking would be considered "boxing myself in", but no one can say that without knowing where I came from and where I'm going.
Come walk with me, if you will. Maybe something you discovert about me will resolve a circumstance of your own. If nothing else, I hope you understand where I'm coming from. >;)
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Let me start by saying that I've been seriously underemployed for the last five or six months; as a freelance production assistant, I live by the amount of work that I actually find. So far this year, I've only found a handful of jobs in the entertainment industry, and one as a laborer. NONE of the temp agencies I am registered with have found any assignments for me, though they had in the past. I have to wonder if someone has a hex on me, but I think if that were the case I wouldn't be standing at this point. All spiritualism aside, I am a qualified office worker and laborer, and I can't find work. My roommate and I have subsisted by combining her temp income with my unemployment and infrequent gigs, but then she was laid off two weeks ago, and now we find ourselves in dire straits.
That said, I've been calling around to friends and colleagues, networking with professionals and scanning job boards on the internet. I've been doing everything I legally can to find work and earn a living wage. I would certainly have moved to another part of the country by now for work, but I can't afford to move (no money left to pay for a new place to live and all, that kinda sucks, huh?) and the few places I could actually get help from in terms of family or friends are suffering as well. If I'm just managing to get by right now, why would I move someplace where I'd be a burden on someone else?
So it's with this that I scan various websites and job boards for work. While on Craigslist (a waste of time, which I will get into soon), I found one ad that stood out mainly because of it's call for immediate action:
JobsDate: 2009-05-18, 9:19PM
Come down to our Job Fair Tuesday, May 19th thru Friday the 22th, we will be open all week right thru from 10am to 4pm. We have all types of Jobs and bring your resumes and all documents to (address, phone and web address redacted)
Medical Office Assistants
Data Entry Clerk
Front Desk Receptionist
Mortage Banker Assistant
Internet Sales Managers
Law Office Secretary
Home Office Assistants
Word Processing Supervisor
Medical Billing Assistant
Real Estate Assistants
Looking for a Office Worker for your home or small or large firms?
We have all kinds of Employees for your office Needs
If you need a office worker please contact us at (phone redacted)
For fast Placements
* Location: No Fee to Employers !!!
* Compensation: 60,000 yearly min.
* Telecommuting is ok.
* This is a part-time job.
* This is a contract job.
* This is at a non-profit organization.
* This is an internship job
* OK to highlight this job opening for persons with disabilities
* OK for recruiters to contact this job poster.
* Phone calls about this job are ok.
* Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.
I was basically responding to the fact that 1.) they had a "where", 2.) they had a "when" and 3.) they had a contact. These three factors are important when you are looking for a job, and the manner in which it's presented is simple, yet a little beyond the usual scam posts that are too generalized to be taken seriously. So my roommate and I decided to act on this one.
We drove from the top of the Bronx to the middle of Brooklyn; Bushwick to be precise. This should have tipped me off from the get-go, as Bushwick is a lower-to-middle class neighborhood that is suffering directly from the economic downturn and the creeping gentrification that is tossing mostly minority families from their homes to parts unknown. Undaunted, we proceeded to the block on which the agency, as they called themselves, resided. We saw nothing but brick row houses on this block, but on the next block we could see a large building; a school or a church perhaps. We proceeded toward this building, but before we reached it, we arrived to our actual address:
On the sign, literally in blue scribble, we could make out the words, "Express Emergency Domestic Help Agency". There was a man standing on the sidewalk in front, beside an open moving van. It appeared to me as though he were either the lookout or the security. "Do you know anything about this agency?" I asked, to which he shook his head and mumbled, "no, I don't know what's up there." We ascended the stairs, but before we could even knock or ring the doorbell, a pretty young black woman, corporately attired, opened the door and ushered us in. Another woman, older and dressed slightly more casual, quickly brought out folding chairs into the narrow foyer before we could proceed further (which I did, catching a glimpse of the spare furnishings in the living room/"office") She was pleasant and smiling, but nervous; she spoke directly to my roommate, but only glanced nervously at me. She remarked on my roommate's attire ("You look very nice!" she whispered), but kept giving me furtive glances as we both were given forms to fill out. As we began, she stated, "Now, there is a registration fee of $40..."
Really, I chirped. "Have you ever been with an agency, she asked. In fact I have; I'm registered with several temp agencies, and none of them charge, or are supposed to charge. "That's temp," she says with a hint of smug satisfaction, "we have permanent jobs and place people for permanent work." Oh well, I replied, handing her back the blank form, and both my roommate and I left. The exchange couldn't have taken place in more than ten seconds; we left as soon as we got there.
As we walked back to the car,, we laughed at the absurdity of the situation: an "agency" in a lower middle-class residential neighborhood, with the name of the agency scribbled on white poster board, taped to the side of the house. A man standing lookout in front of the entrance, justifiably in case someone in or out of the neighborhood decides to try to rob them. A run-down home that's converted for the occasion into a sparse office (as though it could have been a no-budget film's temporary holding location) and a forty dollar registration fee up front. On top of all that, trying to justify the whole operation by saying that it's a placement service for permanent jobs. I'm not making this up, but I will make a short film out of this, I promise.
As for Craigslist, they now have serious problems. They have been overrun with scam artists, to the point that they have lost serious credibility with the legitimate public. Yet, they refuse to police their web site, probably because that would involve a lot of capital they either don't have, or are unwilling to spend. Then there's the fiduciary and legal obligation to their investors, versus their responsibility to the public. Why else would Craigslist sue the South Carolina AG unless they felt that they need not be responsible for the people who frequent their site?
I don't get mad at things like this anymore, because this whole job search process has been one of the most absurd things I've ever experienced in my life. There are not enough jobs for people here, and yet employers invite as many people as they can to apply for work, then complain about the amount of applications they receive. What's worse, there are probably an equal number of scammers who pose as employers in order to obtain your information and either steal your identity or try to force you to pay for or buy garbage you neither need nor want. All I can do is point out the phonies and help people avoid falling into their traps. In the meantime, I will keep my head up, keep building my director reel and keep looking for legit work. >;)
Friday, May 15, 2009
Whenever you see posts like these, ladies and gentlemen, flag them and/or report them to whatever publisher is posting them. Times are hard, we don't need scammers perpetuating the same garbage that has brought on the current conditions, no matter the reason they do it.
In short - The Employment Hotline is the same company as The Career Line, including the same $195 guaranteed placement fee. I wonder if anyone who has paid the fee and has not gotten a guaranteed placement in 90 days has asked for and received their money back. Hit us up with some stories, folks...
And also, if you find similar postings from this company or companies like it, then post it here and we'll repost it on a Rouges' Gallery of Scam Artists. TTFN!
See Previous Scam Alert About Same Company and What To Do To Protect Yourself.
Friday, May 1, 2009
New York Daily News columnist Albor Ruiz reported this past April 2nd, stating:
"It took nearly 50 years. In the U.S. House/Senate have introduced legislation which would change U.S-Cuba policy and lift the embargo on the island. Democrats/Republicans have been putting together press conferences announcing the creation of the 'Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act', a bill which was introduced this past Feb 5th which would allow all Americans not just of Cuban origin to visit the island."This comes about a time when travel restrictions were put upon former President George Bush five years which put restrictions on Cuban-Americans to visit the island once every three years. In other words visits to uncles, aunts, cousins, godmothers/fathers were outlawed. No more than 300 dollars was the limited allowed to be sent to the island, and that was mainly for immediate family! Here is a little historical background on this situation.
USA citizens are aware they cannot visit the island nation. Yet they don’t how it all got started, not aware of the history behind it. Here is a brief history.
In October of 1960 under the presidential administration of Dwight Eisenhower the U.S. imposes a partial economic embargo on Cuba that excludes food and medicine. Then in the Presidential administration of John F Kennedy on March 23, 1961 he expanded the embargo to include imports of all goods made from or containing Cuban materials, even if made in other countries. One month later the failed “Bay of Pigs Invasion April, 1961.
Later in the year, the administration prohibits travel to Cuba to add: Commercial transactions with Cuba illegal for citizens of the United States.
Here are the facts about the embargo which many have called at terrorist act:
The book “Island Under Siege” which describes the embargo which written by Pedro Prada reported, “The blockade prohibits: Exporting all U.S. goods to Cuba, including medicines and foodstuffs and importing any Cuban goods to the United States, including food and medicines. All other types of commercial activity between the two countries travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens except for official, journalistic, special professional or family purposes. Third Country ships visiting Cuba from docking in U.S. ports and finally open trade between the Cuba/USA are subsidiaries.
Now here is the thing. What would happen if the embargo was lifted: Here are three main items to look at:
1-The U.S. could export up to 400 million to grain sales in Cuba.President Obama has been on a Latin American tour recently sitting down with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and this past weekend of April 17-19. With CBS news covering the event. He stated: “We’re heading in the right direction, we feel positive for good relations! Either way give this president some credit an end to this policy might create better relationships in Latin America. At the same time might lead to investigations on the terroristic activities that have occurred against Cuba, with this country involved! (That’s a future article) What’s interesting no one has heard from the hard-line Cuban elected officials in Congress, State Senators, why?
2-The U.S. could supply all Cuba’s fertilizer and pesticide requirements(totaling around $150 million)
3-Cuba would purchase about $90 million in U.S. medical supplies. U.S. tourism industry and cruise lines could benefit around 1 billion a year.
Let’s not forget Obama won the state of Florida, where Miami is and a Cuban Community that has always mainly been on the GOP side. At the sane broadcast Cuban Citizens expressed their feelings. One gentleman from Jersey City, New Jersey where there’s a Cuban Community stated: “Let’s end the embargo now, might not like the president of Cuba, but let’s have a dialogue finally.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
This is my tribute to the "typical" Yankee fan; the guys and girls who live, breathe, eat and... well. I intended this to be a web promo to coincide with the beginning of baseball season, but after shooting it, we had numerous scheduling and personal setbacks. I'm glad it's here now, but to be honest the setbacks only gave me more time to criticize myself for the choices we made.
The idea was based on an incident that occurred on a subway platform during the 2001 World Series. Derek Jeter had just hit his historic "Mr. November" home run to cap a beautiful comeback and I was waiting for the 6 train at 59th Street when this strange man, who resembled Rev. Jim Ignatowski from Taxi in every conceivable way, wobbled up to me and asked for change. When I told him I didn't have any, he asked me if I was following the World Series. Yeah, I watched it on the big TV at school. He crept up closer and leered at me with a glazed, yet crazed look on his face...
After a purely awkward moment of silence, he repeatedly yells GO YANKEES, GO YANKEES!! at the top of his lungs as he stalked off along the platform. I stared at him, slightly aghast and slightly amused as he pretty much went off the deep end. Unforgettable moment, obviously.
We shot this overnight in mid-March before the new Stadium opened. Surprisingly, it was rather quiet; we only had a few people come near our setup. Security didn't chase us off as I was afraid of, and the police didn't bother us at all. We were in and out of the location (Jerome Avenue under the 4 train on the east side of the new stadium) in two hours. Considering that it wasn't where we intended to shoot when I wrote it (we were supposed to shoot at an empty subway station), it turned out to be a blessing that we were able to get so close.
Our leads, Robert Youngren (Creepy Guy) and Trey Albright (Regular Guy) were a real pleasure to work with and eager to give their best. I was working with Eric Phelan, our DP, for the first time, but he brought to ACs and good guys whom I already knew (Jamal Khaldi and Irv Miller). Chris Allen returned as my AD and kept us in good working order, Kristofer Sharkey did the heavy administrative lifting and everything went down without a hitch.
What happened after that? Well, first I didn't get my dailies. They were burned on the wrong type of disk, and I couldn't see a thing. Then my DP was working on another project, so we had to wait for him to be available again. During this time, Chris tried to edit, but again became frustrated and we decided to turn the editing over to Eric for when he came back from his other project. Fortunately, Eric had already worked on a rough draft, so polishing it up would be a snap.
Then my uncle went into the hospital. With this on my hands, I postponed our next shoot and tended to him before and after his surgery, which turned out to be life-saving. Happily, he recently left the hospital and is recuperating at a nursing home doing some PT before he returns home. With that, I returned to the project with Eric and we made a polished edit, inserting the animation at the end that I created by playing around with Flash.
After some soul-searching among the producers (plus some final editing), we finally got it up on Youtube. I have to admit, I was ready to reshoot the whole thing after listening to the numerous complaints about the footage, but with Eric's skill with Final Cut, I think this makes at least a passable web promo, and something that I wouldn't mind having on the reel.
With things beginning to settle down personally, we're getting ready to shoot Part 2 of this string; a tribute to old and new Yankee Stadium and a subtle dig at our crosstown rivals. I'm hoping we can actually get some cooperation with the Yanks and the city for this one as we have a sort-of complicated set up that involves setting down some lights. Hopefully we won't have to course-correct as much as we did with this, and I can assure you'll get a belly laugh from it. By the way, if you should like to support our efforts to produce these shorts on a regular basis, send me an email with an inquiry about how you'd like to help; be it manpower, resources or even networking.
Lastly, I'd like to dedicate this and the sequel to this (coming soon) to all Yankee fans; in particular the fans at Bronx Banter. Leave comments, forward to people you know (or don't know, that's fine too) and enjoy the clip! >;)
Robert Youngren - Creepy Guy
Director - William Jackson
D.P. - Eric Phelan
A.C. - Jamal Khaldi
A.C. - Irv Miller
Assoc. Producer - Kristofer Sharkey
Producer - Chris Allen
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I'm posting this article as a plea or a point, if you will, on behalf of myself and my collegues who are crew members in the film and TV industry. Most of the PAs I know and have worked with in the past have been out of work for quite some time, or have been working a few short-term gigs here and there; maybe 1 or 2 days every other week or more. The gig I just came from was for two days, and before that I worked a two-day gig in the beginning of April. Needless to say, I am very underemployed, as are many other crew folks. And yet, when I do get work and speak to people I'm meeting for the first time; say a Key PA or a coordinator, they invariably say that they have been working steadily without any breaks. How can this be, other than the fact that they are very close with key executives, and in turn hire people they are close with? I suppose there is nothing wrong with establishing a good relationship with someone who can hire you consistently, but it seems right now there are either so many people with so few jobs available, or there is a lot of job hoarding going on. Several people have told me that there's a lot of work going on right now, but how can I find it if the work is not advertised?
That's why I'm setting up a network post in this article; I will from time-to-time post ads from various sources about upcoming gigs for PAs and maybe grips, art department or camera assistants; areas I intend to branch into when I'm not writing or directing my own productions. I'll tell you that at this writing, I am in line to direct a low-budget indie film, along with a few shorts that I've written. I'm certain that the directing gig, if the project is greenlit, will solve a lot of personal diffculties I'm experiencing, and from there I may have some say in getting my collegues more work. But without getting too far ahead, I'll start by posting a few links I found as of this date.
I invite you to forward via email or post in these comments any gigs you are aware of or discover in your daily doings; I will continue posting new gigs as they come. Networking has been the best way for us to find more work; as I had stated before, most new gigs are often not advertised, and we have to rely on the good faith of coordinators or keys who either remember our work from before, or who are willing to give us a chance based on someone else's word. Let's maximize this by spreading the word about each other, c'mon and network with us! >;)
(please note, I will only post paying gigs; no non-paying or intern gigs; we do this for a living, not for experience we already have. For those who have specialized skills or technical backgrounds, I will post gigs that call for this for you as well.)
From NYC Craigslist, week of April 19-25, 2009:
http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/tfr/1136249550.html - HBO Documentary Series
http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/tfr/1135721515.html - Freelance Broadcast News & Web Positions
http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/tfr/1133243107.html - MLB network seeking techincal assistants
http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/cwg/1135491212.html - Brooklyn Soundstage Assistant
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
All I ask is that you keep Uncle Woodrow in your prayers this week as he deals with this. He's in good spirits to say the least, so I think he'll be all right.
Oh, and today's my birthday, Happy Birthday to me. Plus, Happy Birthday to Call Me Ismael, April 4. Peace!
Uncle Woodrow had the surgery today after further tests revealed that the infected gall bladder was gangrenous and was leaking pus. The doctor actually came out and said that the procedure was "difficult" (how often do you hear a doctor with over fifteen years of specialized training say a procedure was "difficult"?), but he's a tough guy and pulled through. He's resting easy in the hospital now and will likely be there for the week while they administer fluids, antibiotics and monitor his condition.
None of this has hit me yet, honestly. One of the best birthday presents I can ever have is having helped save my uncle's life. But it won't hit me until he's home and healthy.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
“The most important thing for me," he says in between sips of coffee, "is that I’m a happily married man and father!"
His wife, Addie Diaz, is a dancer and choreographer; one will see pictures of him and his wife performing in various shows. Who knows, we might see them "Dancing with the Stars"!
Manny is also a well known writer whose articles have appeared in the website for Salsa New York and has contributed to various martial arts magazines; among them Black Belt Magazine and Karate Illustrated.
CALL ME ISMAEL: You’re a professional stuntman, how did you get into that area of work?
MANNY: I’ve always been physically active ever since childhood. I practiced doing fight scenes and filming it with my super 8 camera when I was 12-13 years old. I still have several of these “fight scenes” which I had quickly slapped together when I was a kid. When I later moved to NY I was trying to use my martial art background to get work. I finally got my first Non-Union job as a guy getting killed by this “creature” in this B-Movie, but I think I got my first union gig because they were looking for Hispanics that could box.
CALL ME ISMAEL: Any Latin American actors/actresses you have worked with. Were you ever a stunt double for anyone well known?
MANNY: I’ve doubled various people over the years ranging from John Leguizamo, Manny Perez and Michael DeLorenzo to name a few.
CALL ME ISMAEL: Can you tell us what is the difference between a daredevil and a stunt person?
MANNY: I think the best way to think about it is that a daredevil does it for the publicity (in other words for himself) and a stunt person does what he does and rarely gets recognized for his achievements or his work. A daredevil wants to be the headliner or main event in a show, whereas a stunt person is lost in the credits of a movie. The basic idea of the stuntman is not to stand out but to blend in and be a part of the movie.
CALL ME ISMAEL: Do you ever decide what stunt to do or not to do?
MANNY: The way a stunt is done or executed is decided or put together by a stunt coordinator. I usually coordinate so you can basically say that I decide how a gag is going to happen or going to be executed. Have I turned down a gag that has been offered to me in the past? At this point in my career I can honestly say that I’ve been able to tackle everything that has been thrown my way.
But on the other hand, there are things that I really don’t have any interest in doing any more, or even want to do anymore. For example car hits, high falls, etc. I’ve been there and done that. Not to say that I won’t do them if I had to, but it wouldn’t be one things that I would list on my stuntman’s top ten list. I rather let the younger people in the business do it. I have more fun putting it together, helping decide where the cameras go and putting the action together so that it best works for the storyline in the movie.
CALL ME ISMAEL: You’ve had your share of accidents, broken bones, any serious injuries?
Over the years I’ve injured myself in an assorted number of ways for example…. sprained ankle, bruised ribs, fractured toe, dislocated knuckle, concussion, hernia, broken nose, stitches.
CALL ME ISMAEL: In doing this kind of work does your family ever get scared what you do? Do they ever tell you, “Why did you pick this kind of work?"
MANNY: During my early years my extended family (mother, father, brother, sister) never really knew what I was doing until after I had worked on a job. Things have changed somewhat over the years since I got married and started raising a family. My wife is extremely happy that I’ve moved into coordinating more than actually working in front of the camera. I still occasionally get an opportunity to play in front of the camera and have gotten somewhat injured. On one occasion I picked up several stitches after going through glass on an episode of Third Watch. And while doing the opening fire burn scene in American Gangster I got some minor “hot spots” where some skin kind of peeled off on the bridge of my nose and the back edge of my ears. Needless to say my wife wasn’t exactly too thrilled by these results. But she more or less trusts me to know what I’m doing.
CALL ME ISMAEL: You’re a Martial Artists; which art form is your specialty Karate, Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do.
MANNY: I have a background in Tae Kwon Do, Boxing, Kick-Boxing, Kali, etc.
CALL ME ISMAEL: You both were in the hit “Latin Madness”(Great Show!) the show was put together by Latinos and the show got good reviews true?
MANNY: Its was a great show. It put together some awesome talent from the New York Mambo Community. It was both a pleasure and a honor to be a part of that show and to have shared the stage with so many talented performers. I loved the fact that we were supported in large part by the New York Hispanic community who came out to see the show in several of its limited runs. Its was a great showcase for various of the different dance companies active at the time as well for their choreographers. My wife Addie had several of her numbers featured which is a testament to her skills as a choreographer. Its a shame that the show wasn’t able to get the type of sponsorship it needed to make the move to a more permanent stage where it could be viewed by a wider audience.
CALL ME ISMAEL: Stunt man, Martial Arts, Dancer/Performer, we almost forgot your also a contributing writer to various magazines, Father/Husband. What has to be your main success?
MANNY: I would have to say that family is my greatest success. They give me the incentive to keep pushing forward. I’ve been pretty fortunate that all my hard work has paid off over the years, but it really wouldn’t be worth much without having my family there share my success with me.
CALL ME ISMAEL: If there’s stunt man/women performers hall of fame you, then get inducted what would you like to say in your acceptance speech.
MANNY: It would be the simplest thing. There would be three set of people who I would thank. First, I would thank all those people who I have worked for in the past. Since they were the ones who gave me my start and thus a career in this business. Second, I would also thank those who have spotted and watched over me when I was working in front of the camera. They were the ones safe guarding me from harm. And finally, I would thank all those who have worked for me throughout the years because without their hard work I would never have been able to develop the reputation that I have as a stunt coordinator today.
(Mr. Siviero recently coordinated stunts for a movie starring Andy Garcia that filmed in City Island in the Bronx.)
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Cyberspace accolades from hip-hop fans young and old have been building with his True Hip-Hop Stories series. Each episode is a mini-documentary showcasing an MC legend sharing their personal experiences within the rap game and insight on some of the genre's revered cuts from the so-called "Golden Age". Within this series, Kwame breaks down the making of "The Rhythm," Masta Ace talks about how he ended up on the classic posse cut "The Symphony," and Monie Love exposes the back story behind her hit, "Monie In The Middle."
However, this is not just a trip down memory lane. Many of the icons captured speak their piece on today's scene and their place in it, as well as the lives they currently lead. D-Nice is capturing hip-hop history for posterity and it is rich, vibrant, and very necessary. The series gets better with each episode released. If you're new to True Hip-Hop Stories, check out the installment below with Sadat X of Brand Nubian discussing the making of "Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down" and the unfortunate circumstances that landed him in Rikers Island for a period of time. Older, wiser, and definitely better as a result of his experiences, I personally was taken aback at the poignancy of this episode. Believe me, once you see one, you'll want to see them all...
True Hip-Hop Stories: Sadat X of Brand Nubian from D-Nice on Vimeo.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Hmm... I'll let this speak for itself. I can't think of anything to add to this except that there's absolutely no way that we don't hold much of the media accountable for this crap, as much as they want to hold the average middle-class citizen accountable for not only their houses being foreclosed on and their jobs disappearing into thin air, but also for financing the clearly undeserved bonuses of corporate executives who eagerly await their share of TARP funds.
But Stewart also makes an excellent point; it's not fair to blame one person in particular, as it may seem he's doing. If anything, we should all take the self-proclaimed experts to task for not reporting what they obviously knew. I had a felling too, but who's gonna believe me? But you'll believe a TV personality with experience in the markets, and he was among many who either dropped the ball, or hid it in the cellar. The same can go clearly to another area of the media that is clearly spurring a witch hunt against certain individuals to mask their own irrepsonisbilities (cough-cough-steroids-cough)... Breathe in, breathe out. Enjoy >;)
Monday, March 9, 2009
That's not true. Not entirely.
If stem cell research were truly motivated by science, more funds and resources would be funneled toward adult stem cell research -- stem cells that can be harvested harmlessly -- instead of embryonic cells, which destroy the days-old embryo. Adult cells have been proven many times over to be useful in treating some diseases.
In contrast, embryonic cells are largely unproven. There are great assumptions that these cell lines might lead to cures for debilitating diseases such as Parkinson's disease, or restoration of functions for paraplegics such as the late Christopher Reeve. However, that's all they are -- assumptions.
In fact, one very recent published study shows that embryonic cells might prove a titanic health hazard rather than a healer (here's a hopefully working link to the study: http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000029). Embryonic cells injected into a young male neuromuscular disease patient were found to have created several tumors in his spinal cord and brain four years later.
Indeed, this shouldn't come as a great surprise, since animal research on embryonic cells have also shown that the injected cells often go out of control. Let me rephrase all that plainly: the SCIENCE shows that embryonic cells are risky. Yet the Obama administration claims to be motivated BY science to pursue cures.
Obama advisers say that they're reversing the previous administration's adherence to dogma. They've got it half-right; this new president is instituting a reversal. Unfortunately, he's merely replaced one dogma for another: where Bush was following a dogma that regarded, at least to some degree, embryos as life to be protected and not harvested for ever-dimming hopes of miracle cures, Obama seems to be beholden to the pro-choice dogma that regards an unwanted, pre-born child as expendable.
It's a position no less dogmatic but far more destructive. Is it worth creating and disposing of millions of very young humans to try -- and, if the early research is any clue, likely fail -- to cure these diseases? ...Especially since they appear to have just as much potential to CREATE new diseases.
When one considers that some of these discarded kids may have been destined to truly discover safe and effective cures to the same diseases we may be vainly slaughtering them to find...well, it's a bitter irony. And one we really ought not be tasting.