Last weekend I went on assignment to Rose City Comic Con for Panda Mony Toys. We are releasing our first action figure line next year and we are looking for cool shows to visit. Rose City was pretty great! Here’s a video of my adventures:
If you like t-shirts, hoodies and coffee mugs I suggest you check out our merch in our SHOP.
I don’t think that this is any kind of real surprise to anyone who reads this blog or knows me, but it’s not something that I bring up that often for public consumption. Working in toys has really activated my geekery gene and since that is what I’ve been spending so much time on turning it into content for the internet seemed like the next natural choice. But as I’ve gotten back into my geekier pursuits I’ve noticed that I’m not feeling particularly connected to “geek” as a community – and I don’t know how I feel about that.
Why do we care?
In all likelihood you probably don’t, but it’s very possible that we are about to see a change to geek culture and since geek culture has been mainstreamed any changes that come are likely going to affect the entertainment industry in a massive way. I think my identity crisis is just a symptom of something bigger… maybe.
Being a geek is nothing new and we are somehow still in a geek culture golden age. If you were to tell me twenty-five years ago that some of the most popular things on YouTube, videos that were getting MILLIONS of views, were of people playing Dungeons and Dragons and other role playing games I’d laugh until I passed out. Put on top of that the fact that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the most popular, profitable and unstoppable franchise factories making household names out of characters that no one knew of merely a decade ago? And the fact that Star Wars as a universe is still chugging along in mainstream media? And that I can find Iron Man action figures in just about every single armor that he has ever worn both on screen and in the comics? I tell you my little teenage heart would burst.
But it was not always this way.
I like to frame myself as a “proud geek,” but if I’m being honest that hasn’t always been true. Even in times as geek popular as now I tend to hold that part back from the spotlight. In the past I have justified this hiding because of my “brand.” On this blog and on social media I preferred to be an actor first, focus on career related things… and every once in a while toss in an obscure movie reference, mention that I need to go play D&D, or talk about Iron Man. But that was not very authentic in how much of my private identity can be tied back to what are considered geeky (sometimes VERY geeky) things.
Although some of the geeky things have gained a hip status, the fact of the matter is that all the cool popular people playing or involved in this stuff are a very small, niche part of the people who play and participate in the core of geekery. The core audience still carries the stigma that was turned into stereotypes used in TV and movies, especially in the late 70’s through the 90’s. Hell, that was my bread and butter for most of my young acting career.
I think that Simon Pegg has presented the best definition of the modern geek:
As he points out, this doesn’t just apply to things like superhero fans and Warhammer 40,000 players but sports fanatics and people who love cars too. But the stigma doesn’t follow the latter the way it does the former. Jocks and nerds may be satisfying the same itch deep down, but society in general views them in very different ways and always at odds.
I was at Rose City Comic Con this year. It’s the first con that I’ve been to since San Diego ComiCon back in either 2012 or 2014 (I can’t remember) and even longer than that since I went to a convention of any size that wasn’t related to the entertainment industry in some way shape or form. This year felt different than what I remember.
Some of my favorite childhood memories are of my dad and I going to comic cons all over Southern California (mostly the Shrine Shows in L.A.) looking for old Iron Man back issues, checking out old toys and collectables, and doing our best to bargain down a price with the dealers. At these shows I built a very impressive collection of Yoda memorabilia, got my first Iron Man action figure from the defunct Secret Wars line, and completed a volume 1 collection of Iron Man comics.
I would spend my days reading comics and coming up with adventures for all my favorite characters in my head. The reading material came in handy for auditions as well since I was merely a passengers for nearly a decade. I was proud to know as much about the Marvel Universe as I did. I knew Doctor Who lore and stories that would surprise adult fans. I knew Star Wars down to the Tonnika sisters. But I had very few people that I could share all this with.
Junior High School, the worst of all the “schools” in my opinion, was when I met my core group of friends, people I still know and love to this day. Jeff Garvin was my entry point to the group. He and I met doing Annie with a community theater group (another thing that is generally considered pretty geeky, but that’s another blog post altogether). We shared mutual interests, Star Wars and comic books in a general sense, and he introduced me to his Dungeons and Dragons group. Jeff, Dan and Scott became my best friends through school.
In addition to D&D we shared other common interests in movies and music. Star Wars and Indiana Jones were big favorites and we spent way too much playing the original X-Wing and TIE Fighter computer games. We tried some other RPGs and Dan, Scott and I all started playing Warhammer 40k. We had each other’s backs. We were our own little community and we could run in the circles of other geek communities without effort.
At Rose City Comic Con I was the outsider. Even though I’m an over 40-bearded-beer-gut-guy (a description that has come to be the standard archetype for the stereotypical geek) I saw the distrustful looks that came from the cosplayers and gamers and comic book fans. I imagine I must’ve looked like a dad who was missing his kid, especially since I was there by myself. There was a part of me that wanted to say, “Don’t worry I’m totally one of you.” But even writing that seems condescending and pointless, especially since geekdom and fandom are plagued by toxic jerks right now. I can’t find fault with the suspicious looks. If you didn’t know any better I could be one of those entitled, angry and anonymous man-children screaming about The Last Jedi. Toxic Fandom is the culmination of people who felt powerless finding a voice and, in most circumstances, trying to claim ownership on a fictional world that should be open to everyone. When that kind of “fandom” finds other people who feel the same we get things like what we saw with recent Star Wars stars leaving social media.
But that’s not what I want to see. Sure there will always be jerks, but in general the community is at its best when it is supportive of each other and when people who want to learn about and participate in the geekery are welcomed. Even though I got a lot of side-eye yesterday, the folks at the convention we all very polite and super excited about what they were doing there. That’s the part I like. That’s what I’d like to see more of.
To that point I’m going to start talking about my geekier pursuits here on the blog more. I may not feel like I’m directly linked into the community like I used to be, but I still D&D like a boss, build and paint 40k armies competently, and can still throw down in Supernaturalcontinuity conversations with the best of them. The old saying goes “be the change you’d like to see” and I’d like to help put some positivity back into the geeky stuff that I love.
Please join me! Tell me about the geeky stuff you love in the comments. Introduce me to that thing you like that maybe you’re self conscious about. Let’s build a better community without entitlement and toxicity.
It’s only August, but just the other night I got a hint of a scent in the air that was unmistakable to me as Autumn. I don’t know how to describe it other than wet and earthy. It’s a smell that reminds me of October and all of the Americana that goes along with it: changing leaves, costumes, Halloween in a Normal Rockwell kind of way, and the best parts of my adolescence.
There are certain smells that just go with things. Football players talk about the smell of the field before a game. I remember that smell, there really is nothing else like it. It almost smells as if the field is sweating before the game begins. The other day at a rehearsal for “Rope” I caught the scent of a very specific hairspray in the dressing room, a hairspray that I’ve smelled in dressing rooms for decades and with that one contact I was suddenly reminded of all of those shows. The Autumn smell works the exact same way and triggers some of the strongest nostalgia I feel during any given year.
Every year, usually later than now, when the air starts to change and the nostalgia comes on I find myself searching though my music to make a playlist appropriate to the season. I started doing this back when I was a teenager, making mix tapes on my dual cassette/CD stereo system. There was more of an art to it back then. People had tape lengths that they liked to work in (I was a Memorex 90 minute man, myself) and you’d have to plan out your songs and hope that they would fit each side perfectly. I became very good with the Play/Pause button and mastered the length of the tape lead before it started recording. I could do it by feel, no counting required. Somewhere, deep in boxes that probably haven’t seen the light of day in at least a decade, there are dozens of mix tapes made from my music library circa 1990-1996. These tapes were with me during car rides with my friends when we first felt the “freedom” of being teenagers with cars. They were there for early relationships and the break-ups that went along with them. They were there for my first cigarette and for my first sips of Boones Farm Strawberry Hill. They were the soundtrack to my coming of age and represent all the songs that meant something to me at the time. They were also a pretty good representation of alternative hits and underground bands of the time.
My friends did it too, across the board. We’d listen to what each other made, finding new songs that we liked and new bands. My friend Jeff introduced to me to Oingo Boingo, Voice of the Beehive and October Project this way. I discovered that my friend Dan and I had a mutual love of The Cars and The Police this way. And my friend Scott exposed me to the power of Bad Religion and Pennywise this way. Entire backyard parties were powered by these tapes. They were teenage sorcery that could help bend the mood of entire rooms full of hormone fueled basket cases.
Technology changed and iTunes and iPods made it very easy to generate playlists based on whatever mood you were in at that second. Gone was the finesse of tape creation; instead you could just slam together song after song on a whim. I remember sitting at the computer for hours at a time, days in a row plugging songs into the playlists where I felt they belonged. I had the perfect list for whatever mood I was in. It was pretty awesome… until the crash of 2007 when iTunes and all of my playlists crashed and burned. That killed a lot of the fire I had for digital playlists. So much time was spent creating things that were wiped away in, literally, a moment. After that it took until I discovered Spotify before I felt that a digital playlist would be worth creating again. I haven’t created as many playlists as I did before 2007, but I do find that the ones I curate now get a lot more play.
I started a new playlist for autumn 2015 on Spotify. It’s the start of something that will probably get bigger as the days get shorter and the air gets crisper. I’m sharing this because I selfishly want you to share your playlists with me. Back in the day we would swap tapes and CD’s, but now we can toss entire playlists around digitally. This playlist is full of songs that take me back to being sixteen-and-angry, ready to rage against the world… as soon as I finish my journal entry about no one understanding me. It’s what I would want to listen to on a rainy day, hence the name. Check it out and let me know what you think, but more importantly share your playlists with me. Drop them in the comments and show me something new. I want to try and capture that feeling of sharing music again from back in the day. Whether it’s a favorite album from your favorite band or a playlist of your own creation, pop it in the comments and let’s hear something new.
There’s a phrase that I have been using since I was a kid. I heard it from an older actor in a waiting room, I have no idea who he was, and it has proven true over and over again:
Work begets more work.
I have no scientific evidence, but a lot of anecdotal evidence. As an actor you can track it. Next time you book a job, whether it’s a play, commercial, movie, musical, whatever; things just kind of blossom. You’ll get more auditions, or maybe direct calls to work. People talk about you, you’ve got the heat, and the next thing you know you’re booked for the next six months!
It might not last forever, and it may peter out quicker than you’d like (OK, it always peters out quicker than you’d like) but for a while all that nose-grinding, ass-kicking work you’ve done to get there pays off. And even if the dividends diminish, it takes a long time for them to go away completely.
And it comes in cycles. Sometimes you get so many offers it can be hard to fit it all in, and your brain will try to find a way to do it because you never know when a dry patch will come up. When you’re young it isn’t much of a problem, but as you get older and start to think about being away from your family suddenly being booked up can be a scary proposition.
The thing to remember when it comes to this is finding balance.
You just made a face and said, “Duh!” at the screen, didn’t you?
Yeah, I could hear it from here.
And the face palms.
I know this isn’t wildly original advice, but the reason why this advice gets brought up so much is because people, lots and lots of people, choose to regularly ignore it. Personally, I’m the king of over-booking. If it weren’t for Rene making an effort to keep my schedule sane I’d have to be in two different places right now and experiencing all of the embarrassment and stress that goes along with over-committing yourself.
And it’s REALLY easy to get caught up in that cycle when they’re paying you! I have hired, worked with and remember BEING the actor who would say yes to everything, no matter how much it overlapped. I think sometimes as performers, no matter what discipline you practice, we get so used to starving for work we over do it when people start offering it to us. Like starving yourself and then hitting a Vegas style buffet. It sounds like a good idea at the time, but you go home feeling sick and tired and everybody – you, the restaurant, everyone you know – is unhappy.
So, yes, this advice isn’t new or radical but do your work. When you work, more work will come. When the work comes remember it’s not the only thing. Keep it in balance.
Do you ever get that feeling that you just want to browse books? Ideally that would be what the library is for, but I tend to feel like a good Barnes & Noble can do the job better. Maybe it’s because I can buy the book there as opposed to just borrowing it.
I mentioned this to Rene and she asked me what I’d want to get and I told her, “Nothing, I just want to look at them. If I wanted to buy it I’d just get it on Amazon.” And it struck me that I didn’t even think about it, my brain just associates buying things like books with online purchasing.
I’m sure there’s a lesson here about the price of progress and convenience or maybe about the doom of the big box store in all of its forms, but it’s too late on a Sunday to really think about that. All I know for sure is that I wanted to go to a book store tonight for no good reason and that was a enough reason not to go.
There are a lot of things that I’m late to the party on: Jeff Buckley, Breaking Bad, not dropping the thundaduh, but the thing that I’m trying to catch up on right now is Friday Night Lights. Those familiar with the show are, I’m sure, yelling and laughing at me right now through the computer screen saying, “I told you so” and collecting money from imaginary bets that no one actually made but somehow still make sense in the reality of this analogy. It’s a great show.
Seriously, a great show.
One of the greatest things I’ve ever watched that was created for television.
Where Breaking Bad takes the idea of the criminal underworld, deconstructs it and then rebuilds it into something that resembles the “failing upward” comedies of the eighties combined with a hard-boiled drama, Friday Night Lights is all heart. ALL heart. Like so many people who didn’t catch onto this show originally, I didn’t give it a chance because I don’t care about football. Never have. I have teams (Geaux Saints!) but that’s mostly on pain of death from my in-laws. I also grew up with the Bears and Packers, not knowing that there was a huge rivalry between the two. My favorite football moment in history was The Superbowl Shuffle.
I think I’ve made my point.
As I was saying, my football bias got in the way of me giving this show a chance. People told me over and over again, “It’s good you should watch it!” Yet I did not. I heard programs like NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour rave about it. I still didn’t try it.
Finally I gave in. I was bored one day and scrolling through Netflix (how do I get a sponsorship through them?) and the show came up under popular TV shows.
I gave it a shot.
I touched the sun.
That phrase, I touched the sun, comes from my high school days. My friend, author Jeff Garvin, and I used to hang out with a guy named Ryan Moore. Ryan was (and I assume still is) a clever dude. He helped to introduce me to the magic of The Beatles, showed me how to use Video Toaster and was a good writer from what I remember. He also had a knack for delivering a turn of phrase when the moment called for it. One day he was explaining something and said, “I touched the sun, Jeff. You know how people can tell you that the sun is hot, but you don’t really know how hot until you actually touch it? I touched the sun.” Well, it was something really close to that. I don’t remember it verbatim. But the point should be clear. There are things that we go through all the time that you just can’t fully understand unless you actually experience them. Little things like a hot fudge sunday or what it feels like to pet a porcupine, all the way up to big things like falling in love or racism.
That was a harsh way to leave that sentence, but I stand by it. Friday Night Lights may not be the same as falling in love, but it’s a damn good show and if you want to know how good I truly advise you to touch the sun.
See you next time!
Also, in case you want to own the series you can purchase it here at Amazon.com
It is a skill that I make a great deal of effort at, but don’t always succeed with. This is evident with this blog. The goal is writing everyday but, with the exception of January, that just hasn’t happened. I can justify some of that away in that the bigger fires are being put out – and for the most part they are – but I refer you to my No Excuses, Only Results post and apply a bit of my own advice to myself.
Things don’t have to be hard. It’s easy to make them hard, sometimes it’s even fun. It can make you feel important to have your schedule full. When I was in my mid-twenties I prided myself on how busy I could be. Now in my mid-thirties I do my best to not be busy and regularly fail.
I don’t have answers but I do make efforts, mostly in the form of deadlines and schedules. Classes and events are easy, they have determined times, but loose things, creative things like editing and the blog tend to have fluctuating time tables. It feels hard to change that. I’m making a particular effort right now just to write this, but I’m itching to do something else, put out some other fire. It is an act of will to complete this.
I invite your solutions. How do you manage your time? Is it just disapline or do you have techniques?
I look forward to your comments, now onto other fires…
There are lots of things that can get in the way of what you really want to do and, unfortunately, a majority of those things disguise themselves as “life.” There’s the job, and laundry and grocery shopping and street sweeping day and pets and kids and a whole list of things that, while legitimate, end up taking time away from whatever it is you’d rather be doing.
Even a vacation can be a distraction.
To get specific, my vacation was a distraction. A WONDERFUL distraction and Rene and I hope to leave as soon as possible to rejoin the islands and start lives as kale farmers on a ranch with Frankie and Charlie. Frankie will look good in overalls.
After a week basking in the sun drinking (too many) Mai Tais and then a full week of playing catch-up I’m finally caught up. But being caught up and being inspired are very different things. So I’ve been struggling to get inspired, to get excited about things. Rene and I have a lot on our plate: movies and shows and live shows and jobs and…
And that’s where I hit the wall. We have things, but it’s the same stuff that we have been working on for a while. The documentary is in heavy post production where we are waiting on people outside of our production group. Pom Pom Massacre is in negotiation for funding (Yay!). Other projects have hit the back burner mostly due to a perceived lack of time. The only really active things going on are the mystery shows, Shmimprov and this blog. That definitely doesn’t seem like very much when you write it down and it definitively isn’t where I’d like to be activity wise.
Some may read this and think, “Why is he posting all this? Why would he point out his problems and when the hell is that cheerleader movie getting made?!?”
So what am I getting at? Finding the spark that gets you out of your routine! The motivation to start something new! The thing that got all these other projects started! I’m starting to feel it again and it only took a week off and dinner with my wife and good friend Jeff to get it going. What does that mean? Hopefully lots of new content and one particularly cool idea that is still being sketched out.
But what I really wanted to do was hear about you. I didn’t even know I was in a slump until I was out side of things enough to see it. So are you feeling inspired? What gets you inspired? What is inspiration anyway?
I’m looking forward to your thoughts. Maybe we can find a way to keep that feeling going because lord knows I’m definitely jazzed about everything more right now than I was a month ago and that’s a much better place to be.