Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Really Unreal Reality

By Pam

I don't want to see "stars" dancing. I'm sick of hearing "we'll find out after the break." On how many shows do I have to hear "and one of you will be going home."? I already know how to make a cupcake. Cupcakes are fun. The words cupcake and war shouldn't be in the same sentence. Watching chefs cook just makes me hungry...so I eat too much. Clothes designers having meltdowns makes me want to smack them. Rich bitches backstabbing each other may be real, but I'd rather not get wrapped up in all that drama. I've never voted for an American Idol or favorite dancer  (I do vote for President of the United States, though).  These are just a few examples of the “real” scenarios we can find on TV.
Ah...reality TV. It's at its peak at the moment and many networks want to get on board. We're inundated with high drama, including hair pulling and tears. Sometimes we're just bored to tears. I can't imagine sitting in judgment over someone who deserves a break, but production tells me to give the "prize" to someone else. They're just toying with people's lives for money. Sure, one person gets the glory in the end and that's a nice thing to happen for them, no doubt. The others are devastated, and some are just humiliated on national television.  Wow!  What fun!  My state, New Jersey, is particularly popular right now. I’m almost embarrassed to say I live here.
Should I ever want to be on a reality TV show, I'd like it to be one where I can be myself. I'm articulate, honest, funny, pragmatic and earthy. Sounds boring, huh? I guess being really real won't get me very far.  Dammit.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Bigger The Better!

by carol
Hi.  My name is carol.  And I'm a logophile.

Now before anyone swoons in horror at this self-revelation, logophile comes from two Greek roots--logos, meaning "speech, word, reason" and philos, meaning "dear, friendly."  At some point in my distant youth, I fell in love with words and I remain enamored of them to this day. 
It began simply enough.  See Dick. See Jane.  See Spot.  See Dick, Jane, and Spot.
More and more words became part of my vocabulary and I was proud to use words like pertinacious, antidisestablish- mentarianism and xenophobic.  I couldn’t use them every day, mind you, but I was ready when the conversational opportunity presented itself.
Words provide the opportunity for people to communicate.  They give structure to the abstract.  They provide meaning and clarity. 
As the range of my reading expanded geographically, I became enchanted with the great variety of ways a single word could differ in meaning, use, spelling, pronunciation and grammar.  I also came to believe that the nation which leads the world in its creativity and sheer joy in using words is Australia.  Which is probably why I am a now a “fan” of the Macquarie Dictionary. 
I found the Macquarie Dictionary when I had to look up words used by Australian actor Alex O’Loughlin in his interviews.  And what did I discover?  A dictionary of Australian and New Zealand English that not only has its own website but is on Twitter, Facebook, and even has an iPhone application. 
This is a logophile’s dream and I am happy to be part of it. No longer can “reading a dictionary” be denigrated as an egghead’s pastime.  It can be an exciting way to stay current with a world that moves faster and faster around us.
Trends in lifestyle and pop culture contributed new inclusions like "sexting", "skinny jeans" and "shwopping" to the 5,000 additional words in the Macquarie 2009 edition. Who doesn’t want to know that "BESTIES" are your best mates and "manscaping" has been replaced by the "boyzilian wax."
Find out what people are talking about…read a dictionary!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Real Cost of Being an Actor

by Pam

According to a recent study, the number of U.S. households with a net worth of $1 million or more grew 16% in 2009 from the year before, but when you think about it, a million dollars doesn’t go very far these days. 
Some of the highest paid people are actors, but the more they make the more they pay.  Take the average television actor.  He makes a nice salary but has to pay out in lots of taxes and fees.
For all intents and purposes, and for the sake of doing some easy math, let’s say our fictitious actor makes $100,000 per television episode. A full season of TV is 22 episodes. Our actor would gross $2,200,000.  That’s a lot of money!  But why isn’t he smiling?
At that level he pays the Federal Government 35% (after his standard deduction of $5,700) in income taxes.  The majority of TV actors live in California and that income tax rate is 10.3%. He pays his agent 10% and his manager 15%. He may have a publicist on a monthly retainer and that fee averages $30,000 per year.  He pays his personal assistant about $50,000 per year.  Don’t forget he has to pay his own health insurance.  Luckily, being a SAG member gets him a group rate which could average about $15,000 per year.  He lives in a rental or a mortgaged home and that could run in the vicinity of $6,000 per month, or $72,000 per year.  If he leases an average type luxury car, that could run about $6,000 a year. Lucky for him, he doesn’t have to insure it.  When all is said and done, our actor pockets about $416,395, if I calculated correctly.  Now he needs a financial advisor/CPA to handle the money, so he never has to write a check. He retains him for about 1% of his total portfolio. Since we don’t know that, let’s calculate the 1% on what he has left, or $4,164.  Now he has to eat, clothe himself, go on vacation and indulge in a personal luxury or two.
Alright, our fictitious actor still nets more in one year than most of us will ever save up in a life time. What we think he is worth is a far cry from his actual worth, but don’t think I feel in the least bit sorry for him.  He gets a lot of free stuff just because he is who he is…and that could mean Ebay.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Just Have A Back-Up Profession...

by carol
Was Alex O’Loughlin born to be an actor? Was it his destiny?  And how did he know?

Alex’s grandmother told him that when he was about 2 or 3, he said to her, “Gran, I want to be an actor when I grow up.  I did my first play when I was about 9, and to this day, I remember the feeling of first walking out on stage and feeling the lights and the presence of the audience. I remember being in this comedy play, and I had some spectacles on and two fish sticks coming out of my nose, and everyone was rolling around with laughter."

Being in a school play is certainly not uncommon for a child.  I wondered about other actors.  Was there a magic moment or unique experience in their childhoods that sparked the magic of acting in them?  What happened that led them to their acting destinies in theater, film or television? 

Robin Williams says when he told his father he wanted to be an actor, he said, 'Wonderful, just have a back-up profession like welding.' Robin revealed he was a very overweight child. As a result, nobody would play with him and he started talking in different voices to entertain himself.
At a barber shop with his mother when he was very young, Denzel Washington says a nice old lady sitting in the corner asked his mother to write his full name down. When his mother asked why she said ‘Because he's going to entertain millions one day.’ It wasn't until later that they found out she was rumored to be some kind of local fortune teller.
Hugo Weaving shares that one of the first things that made him want to be an actor was listening to Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. “I was intensely moved by it. I think I was about nine - I went to see the ballet. That's what made me interested in Shakespeare.”
Ryan Gosling says that he always wanted to entertain. “When I was 6, a scrawny, scrawny kid, I'd get in my red speedo and do muscle moves. I actually thought I was muscular. I didn't know everyone was laughing at me.”

As an 8-year-old in a play, Edward Norton remembers asking a surprised director, ‘What is my objective here?’  Needless to say, the director was startled by this precocious child.
When Clive Owen was 10 or 11, he played the Artful Dodger in a school production of 'Oliver.' From that point forward, he said he wanted to be an actor. “Nobody in my family took it seriously, but I saw no other path. I was a cocky little kid. This one teacher said: 'You're a working-class kid from Coventry. What do you know?'”
Growing up John Cusack and his siblings often put on plays at their home. He has mentioned that his older sister Ann once staged a production of Cinderella in their living room in which she played Cinderella, sister Joan played the Ugly Stepsister, brother Bill played Prince Charming and John played the dog.
Daniel Day-Lewis admits he was always quiet and introverted. He says he was not popular in school and was mocked as an outsider while growing up in England. The upside was that, instead of socializing, he developed a rich fantasy life that later helped him to delve so deeply into his characters.

So, no bolts of lightning, no great epiphanies. For some of these kids, it was a way to connect with people. For others, it was the best way to express their feelings. Perhaps destiny is simply feeling deep inside yourself that acting is what you were meant to do, it is knowing where you belong.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Helloooo From the Other New Jersey

By Pam
I just want to say that I'm not snookin' in any way, shape or form. The only situation I know is the one I'm in when the bills come due.   People call me by name...my real name, which isn't Theresa, Connie or Angie.
I was born and raised in New Jersey, in the same neighborhood as the Real Housewives of said state, and the same area where The Soprano's stories took place. I spent summers down the Jersey shore as a kid. For all intents and purposes, you'd think I am like the women you've seen on these shows. You'd be wrong, then.  I might be a little neurotic, but I'm no psychopath.
My heritage is Italian and I was taught respect and good manners.  I grew up in a middle class neighborhood in a very nice home. The fear of God was instilled in me at any early age, so if I ever did anything wrong I would pay in Hell.  No one in my family says "ain't" nor do any of the women flip tables. I was taught to be a lady at all times. Well, maybe I missed the lesson that day, but I do conduct myself with decorum in public. I've never gotten into a bitch fight...even in high school. I've never lived near the New Jersey Turnpike, so I couldn't give you directions using an exit number.  I don’t read The Star Ledger.  I DO love a good diner.
I still live in New Jersey, a bit further south than where I grew up. It's beautiful here. There are farmlands with luscious fields and Duke Estates is nearby. We even have a county 4H fair every summer.  With cows, goats and pigs and everything!  Honest!
My New Jersey would never make it to a TV show.  It’s too nice, too friendly; so not the kind of place that would make for good television drama slash chaos.  I’m open to a documentary, though.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Say Thank You Like Our Mothers Taught Us

by carol
“Celebrities got fame, money, and the good life, what do they have to complain about? They know what they signed up for. Paps, tabloids, and TMZ are part of the package. Get over it.”
“I’m his fan. I love him. I think about him all the time and write him letters every day and I would do anything for him. Why doesn’t he answer me?  I write about him on the internet too; why doesn’t he notice me? Oh, and I hate anyone who doesn’t love him like I do!”

The above two statements appear to be polar opposites. Yet, both make the same declaration: as a celebrity you belong to people, people you don’t know. You owe them and they want to collect. “It’s the price you pay for fame, for being a celebrity.” 
Yeah ... I’m sure THAT'S in the Celebrity Handbook.
Celebrities live their lives under a microscope, or rather, a telescopic lens. The public cannot see, read, or hear enough of them. Think of all the magazines, tv shows, websites, and blogs dedicated to providing the “scoop,” “the unvarnished truth,” “the real story.”
Society, especially American society, encourages us to idolize these people and as a result, we expect them to always be friendly, generous, and stand tall on those pedestals we put them on. If they don’t pose for every picture, don’t agree to every interview, don’t sign every autograph, don’t answer every question, they can be sure these blunders will be written about and commented on all over the internet.
There seems to be no immunity from judgment allowed for those times when a celebrity is exhausted, worried about their kids, or simply having a bad day like the rest of us are allowed. Do they have to be graded on a Pass-Fail standard?  Where's their bell curve?

Ultimately what do celebrities owe the public? Writers owe good writing. Actors owe good acting. Musicians and singers owe good music. Anything beyond that is a slice of cake for the fans.  Big or small, take whatever size they give you and say thank you, just like our mothers taught us.