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10:50 am - Sun 11/30/03
Raise Your Hand If You're Sure

Raise Your Hand If You're Sure
Sat 11/29/03 (11:31 a.m.)

Still thinking a lot about auditions and my future and all that, but today, I actually woke up thinking about Iraq.

Iraq is on a perpetual "back burner" in my mind. It's there, and like 9/11, it changes the underlying terrain of my life (My country is in a war I don't agree with, initiated by a president I didn't vote for, against a country that, so far as I know, never did anything to me). But it doesn't really effect my day-to-day existence–at least not at this point--so I put it aside. I spend most of my time worrying about things "closer to home", and hope this Iraq mess doesn't get "closer to home" anytime soon (That's a concern of mine; far from feeling safer because of Bush's "War on Terrorism", I'm more worried than ever that large-scale retaliation on the home front is "coming soon to a neighborhood near me").

Last nite, I read a column by Tom Shales–It was in one of the trades. I forget which one–bemoaning the fact that Michael Jackson is front page news, pushing aside more meaningful stories like what's going on in Iraq.

While I get what Shales is saying, I have to admit that I am more interested in Michael Jackson than I am in Iraq. That's an embarrassing confession for me to make, but there it is.

Both stories have things in common for me–They both involve pain and suffering, they both center around a main character that needs to be stopped before they hurt more people, and they both feel "out of my hands"–but unlike Iraq, which is a confusing mass of information about people I don't know and a place I don't understand, the Michael Jackson child molesting story seems, in a way, like it's happening to someone I know, because I've "known" Michael Jackson for most of my life. And it hits on particular "hot button issues"–the legacy of child abuse, parental neglect (On the part of the parents who handed their kids over to Jackson), the corrosive effects of fame, and how you get the justice you can afford in America (If Jackson hadn't been able to pay off the last kid that accused him, we probably wouldn't be experiencing "deja vu all over again" now)–that aren't there for me with the Iraq situation.

Oddly enough, I feel guilty when I think about Iraq. I feel bad that I don't feel bad enough. And I feel like I should be doing something, but by the same token, I feel powerless to affect what's happening; I voted against this guy once already, and will again when the time comes, but basically, I feel like I fired my big gun...and nothing happened.


(1:25 p.m.)

Just got back from shopping. Spent a lot and didn't even get everything I wanted, but I didn't have anything in the house.

I may keep going to this grocery store on 3rd, even after the current grocery worker strike is over. It's a block closer to me than the Ralphs on Vermont, and even though it doesn't have half the selection, or maybe because it doesn't have half the selection, if feels more like "the corner grocer" (Actually, since it's independently owned and operated, I guess it is "the corner grocer". But anyway...).

I did something recently that I think bears mentioning in here...

There was a flyer in my mailbox at work a couple weeks ago, an "easy signup" for the company 401K. Just name, employee number, and signature, and you're signed up for a 3% payroll deduction at a "moderate" risk level.

Realizing that they couldn't make things much easier for me, and that the only way I'm going to put anything aside is if someone does it for me, I filled out the form and popped it in the mail.

It isn't a lot–at my age, with a year of deductions, they project earnings of $110,000 in 20 years–but right now, it's more about the "sybolism of the gesture" than anything; doing something to address my fears, no matter how small that "something" may be, beats just sitting on my hands, hoping things will magically work out somehow.

Along similar lines– of trying to address some of the "issues" in my life instead of just pissing and moaning about them but doing nothing–I checked out a website called last night, to see if there was anything pertinent to my own "sleep issues" there.

They do the "somnoplasty" procedure I've read about before, which involves kind of "microwaving" part of the soft palette with this little "wand". It apparently has a good rate of efficacy for curing snoring.

But in their "FAQ" section, they said it has not been approved as a cure for sleep apnea, and thus insurance companies won't pay for it (It's considered an "elective" procedure). And that's $1400 I don't have. So for now, so much for somnoplasty.

But again, the "symbolism of the gesture" is important. Of course, I'd like to get beyond "sybolism" at some point, but I think it's important to establish that I'm willing to take steps to deal with my problems. Maybe it would help me put my worries "on the back burner" if I knew I was doing the best I could to address the cause of those worries.

I'm willing to do something about my problems. I think it's important to establish that in my own mind, and as long as I'm putting myself on public display, I think it's important to establish that in your mind as well. I'm not comfortable thinking that people might be reading my journal and saying, "Man, he's always crying about this or that, but never seems to do anything about it".

That's not the guy I want to be.

Sun 11/30/03 (8:45 a.m.)

I've auditioned for enough commercials now that if I'm watching tv for any length of time, I'm likely to see something I auditioned for but didn't get. It's been something of a novelty (Though not an entirely pleasant one, as novelties go).

But anyway...

A few days ago, I saw a commercial Bryan K. had mentioned auditioning for. I don't remember what the product was–which suggests that it wasn't a particularly effective spot–but it had three guys in a public restroom, with one guy overhearing two guys at the urinals, seemingly talking about their dicks (But turns out they're actually talking about...whatever product was being sold in the spot).

I think my reaction to this spot–first when I heard Bryan talk about auditioning for it, then when I saw the finished commercial–is interesting; I thought it was vulgar, but was embarrassed to admit it.

I don't think my discomfort with the spot has anything to do with the material, per se–I was listening to Richard Pryor back in the 70s, so I'm not a prude about raunchy material–but the fact that it was airing on network tv, in prime time (And in terms of a commercial "pitch", it seemed like that scenario would turn off at least as many people as would find it amusing).

But I think what really troubles me is that that's the sort of thing that makes me feel old and out-of-it. It made me feel like my "standards", whatever they are, are no longer the dominant standards of the society I live in. And when you hear yourself say "That doesn't seem ‘appropriate' for a commercial on national tv", you start feeling like the world is moving past you and whatever your outmoded "standards" might be (Some young ad guy obviously thought the spot was ‘appropriate', the client approved it, and there are probably any number of people who laughed at the spot and thought it was perfectly fine. And I didn't exactly see it as the decline of western civilization myself...but it did seem like another step down that road).

I remember, years back, a commercial for Sure deodorant. The line they were using was "Raise your hand if you're sure", and the spot ended with the Statue of Liberty (Implying she was comfortable "raising her hand" because she used Sure).

That's the first time I remember thinking a commercial was "tacky". Not just badly-done or ineffective, but actually a little bit offensive; the Statue of Liberty stands for something, and I'm pretty sure it doesn't have anything to do with using the right deodorant.

And I think I've mentioned it in here before, but I remember thinking it was something of a tacky milestone when toilet paper commercials started referencing what one actually uses toilet paper for (One of them had an off-camera female reciting a little poem, the last line of which was something about "...a gentle touch on your posterior"; the other was basically a montage of butt-shots).

I think the examples I've cited are something of a mixed bag; I do think it's wrong to use a national icon to sell deodorant (or disposable douches, or anything else), but am less sure about the two guys at the urinal, or whether it's appropriate or inappropriate to suggest in a commercial that the main use of toilet paper is for wiping one's ass. I just don't know whether that leaves us any better or worse off than we were before, but I do know this much; no one's waiting around for me to make pronouncements about what is or isn't "appropriate" when selling soap.

Speaking of "selling soap"...

I've been thinking about what commercials I do like on tv.

1. I like the Jack-In-The-Box commercials. They just seem fun to me (I wonder if the guy who does Jack's "voice" is the same guy wearing the big styrofoam head?). They're a good contrast to McDonald's current ad campaign–"I'm lovin' it"–which feels like it's trying way too hard to be young and hip (And my sense of things is that "trying way too hard" is the antithesis of "young and hip").

2. I like that "hemi" series of commercials (Are those for Dodge trucks?). I don't really know what a "hemi" is, but those commercials make me want to get one.

3. I think the Citi "identity theft" commercials are really effective (The ones where people are speaking with the voice of the person who just stole their identity).

4. I think the Target commercials have done a great job of making a discount chain seem kind of stylish and cool. They don't look like any other commercials on tv.

5. I don't know if they "work" or not, but I like those Ebay commercials where people break into a song and dance (Maybe just because I'd like to do one of them).

But I'm struck, now that I'm "in the biz", with how many commercials are either completely forgettable, or actively bad.

It reminds me that I'm trying to make the commercial thing happen as a "means to an end". I'd rather spend the rest of my life selling hamburgers and toilet paper than working at the bookstore, but ultimately, it's not where I want to be. Commercials would be a way of making money, gaining exposure, and hopefully, freeing up my time to pursue what I really want to do. If there's some "artistic satisfaction" in there somewhere, that would be nice, but it's almost kind of not the point.

Talking with Bryan about the commercials we've auditioned for that we're now watching on television, it struck me; If the three things I've booked this year (The HBO spot, the "Godzilla's Revenge" spec, and the Incubus video) had been national commercials, I'd be out of the bookstore right now.

That's a very exciting thing for me to consider, and somehow sobering as well; Two or three nationals, and my life could change a great deal in a fairly short period of time. That's where I want to be, but it will be very much unchartered territory, and that's scary.

But I'm up for it.

Hoping to get a call about Velveeta tomorrow. I'm trying not to have things be all about the waiting right now, but with a number of potential opportunities "outstanding", it's really hard.

I'm very anxious to move onto the next phase of my life and career out here. I pretty much want it yesterday.

Anyway, wish me luck...


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