Trish and Harold's Weblog

News, information, and random thoughts from the busy lives of Trish Egan and Harold Phillips.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Comics, News & Assorted Jibba Jabba

Howdy all

Gonna have to run to a hair appointment before my Wild Bills Murder Mystery tonight (The Case of the Maltese Monkey - a send-up of Humphry Bogart/ Film Noir movies. Kooky stuff!). Before I go, though, I just thought I'd share the news that

>>Randall Milholland is a big fat jerk face. Many of you know that I read his web comic, Something Positive. Well, he just dropped a MAJOR bombshell on one of his recurring characters... Check this strip, then this one and this one, then jump ahead two months to this, this, this, this, and this.

Oh... ouch. See why I use to notify me when he posts new comics?

>>Speaking of comics, I thought that this week's This Modern World is a good picture of those who blindly swallow everything Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and the rest of the Bush administration toadies are feeding them. I mean, at this point, anyone who uses their grey matter can see that Bush is a power-hungry fascist who's taking this country down the road to Camp Musolini. When confronted with the facts that he's spying on American citizens without court approval, he's hiring and supporting incompetent cronies for important jobs like the Federal Emergency Management Administration, and he has engaged in illegal propaganda aimed at promoting his agenda, their response is always that "We're at war and he's the only one who can per-tekt us."

I've always thought that blind followers have daddy issues... they're more than happy to abdicate their responsibility to make informed decisions and live with the consequenses to those strong "father figures." It's good to know that Tom Tomorrow agrees.

>> Big doin's on the PDXBackstage listserv... local actor Matt Haynes wrote a letter to the Portland Mercury's editor asking why there was such a disparity between the paper's coverage of film and of local theatre. This prompted a fairly nasty letter in response from one of the Mercury's readers. As you might expect, there's been much talk about on that thar inter-web. I'm sure the Mercury's editors are quaking with the thought that no one will pick up next week's paper to see if there's a shot back from the theatre supporters. Things like this are sooooo bad for "edgy" weekly newspapers' business.

>> Portland is the #3 town in the nation for filmmakers. No lie, it's 'struth... really fer sher! At least according to Moviemaker Magazine. Click here to read the press release from the Oregon Film and Video office... you'll have to scroll down past the announcement that we're best cycling city. Uh... uh huh. Ok, so even at number three the film industry isn't taken as seriously as maybe it should be...

>> We got our copies of Actor Track yesterday and installed them on our computers... I have only one word to say about it: WOW!

This software is an invaluable tool for any professonal actor in any sized market. It allows you track not only your appointments and industry contacts, but also details about your auditions like what you wore, who you met with, who referred you, and more. When you get the job after the audition, Actor Track helps you to track your expenses related that individual project, helps you schedule your rehearsals and performances (or shoot dates), and lets you track the kind of income you get paid. It will track all your expenses, so when tax-time comes around you can just print out a report of your business related expenses. There's also a section called "The Breakdowns" which shows you statistics for the auditions and jobs you've been on, how your headshots and wardrobe are working for you, what kind of results your agent is getting you... this is primo stuff! Take a product tour at the Actor Track web site to see the various elements of the software. It'll even interface with your PDA if you have one (and really, you should... they're another invaluable resource for working actors).

The user's manual is also a valuable resource - aside from telling you how to use the software, it provides career-building tips on keeping contacts, following up, audition tactics, etc.

The software isn't cheap. It's about $100 ($99.95, to be exact), but that's a tax-deductible expense for professional actors (remember what I said in my post about Taxes - as a professional, you run your own business, and the expenses involved in running that business are deductible just as the expenses in running a gas station would be). A carpenter has to have the right tools to build his business; actors are no different. We have many tools at our disposal for the "show" part of "show business (Our voice, our bodies, what classes we may or may not have taken), but very few for the "business" part of that equation. I'm planning on making Actor Track a major tool in my box.

End of promtional-mode. Engage whiney-actor-mode. The down side is that it's going to tell me just how many auditions I've gone out for that I didn't get. Waah! Waaaah!

>> Speaking of auditions, I'm auditioning for Stumptown Stages new production, Rapture, tomorrow. I don't know much more about it than what's on the company's home page... but the tease is interesting enough. I just hope they don't want me to sing - I wouldn't put their ears through that :)

Gotta go... keep the faith, y'all


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Happy Winter-een-mas!

Hey folks!

Winter-een-mas starts tomorrow. Is it a "real" holiday? Well, it depends on how "real" you make it. I'm certainly planning on celebrating my own way in between rehearsals.

I'm doing another murder mystery gig for Wild Bills this weekend - "The Case of the Maltese Monkey." It's an old script that hasn't been done much in recent years, so we'll all be learning it fresh over the next couple of days. Kind of a take-off on film noir and the tough-guy private detectives championed by Raymond Chandler, Dashell Hammet and the like.

I'm also getting ready for a series of Standardized Patient sessions at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine and OHSU. Frequent visitors to the 'blog have seen descriptions of these sessions in the past - essentially I memorize a "case" and play a patient suffering from condition or another. Medical students interview and examine me as part of their final exams.

Still searching for the right project... I joked to Trish last night that if I don't get cast in a play or film soon, I'll be home on Superbowl Sunday for the first time in years (I can't remember the last Superbowl Sunday that didn't involve me sitting in a theatre rehearsing something or another. Since I'm not that into football, I don't really care... but there are always other people around me complaining about it).

I auditioned Sunday for a film trailer... not a film, mind you. Just the trailer for the film which hasn't been produced yet. The producers are going to shoot a trailer first, then use that as a marketing tool to try and get financial backing to shoot the whole feature. It's actually not that uncommon a practice in the industry... trying to get people to buy into your film project is a dicey proposition, and it's always good to have a visual aid to help you "make the pitch."

So... that's what's going on at this point in my life. Hope you're all doing well...


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Don't Be A BBBP!

Hi Everybody!

So, Trish and I went to a "Taxes for Performing Artists" seminar yesterday.

Yeah, that's right... It's only January, but these little seminars are starting to pop up all over. They're usually FREE (a very good price) because they're presented by tax preparers who are trying to get your business. I'd seriously recommend to any of you that you go to one of these presentations - you won't generally get the "hard sell" from the preparer, and you can get a TON of good information that you can use if you prepare your own taxes or use a TurboTax-type software package.

This seminar was hosted by our agent at Murphy Management, and the presenter was David K. Rogers from Actors Tax Prep in Burbank, CA. David is an actor himself (he had a recurring role on homicide), and his company specializes in the "special circumstances" that we show-biz types find ourselves in when tax time comes around.

Some items of interest from the presentation I thought I'd share with you actor-types (with the standard disclaimer that I'm not a tax professional, so don't take my word for things - if you have questions spend a little cash to ask a tax preparer like David or Trish and my tax preparer, Sandra Vincent , about your specifics. It's worth the money):
  • First and Foremost The title of this post comes from his name for a certain type of client that David sees every year... the Big Brown Box People. Don't be one of these guys, folks - the type who just carries in a big box full of receipts during tax time and dumps it on your accounant's desk. Do yourself a favor and come up with a record-keeping system so that when April comes around you can actually find and prove all those expenses deductible from your taxes. Trish and I track all our expenses in Quickbooks (though any financial management software works, like Quicken or Microsoft Money... best of all, the data you put into these programs will often automatically interface with tax software like TurboTax or TaxCut), and we use an A-Z accordian file to save our receipts in categories so we can easily find them later. Write EVERYTHING on a calendar that you save for at least 7 years (the magic number of years they can go back in an audit) - Trish and I keep palm pilots, but even a wall calendar with your information will help. David mentioned a software program called ActorTrack which not only tracks expenses and tax information, but other aspects of an actor's career... we're looking into buying that ourselves.
  • Acting income usually comes in two flavors - wage or "w-2" income, and independent contractor or "schedule C / 1099" income. You can tell which category you fall into on a given job by the paperwork they have you fill out - did they ask you to fill out a form w-4? Then you're a wage-income employee of that production company, and the government will withhold some taxes, social security, etc from your pay check (which means you'll pay less at the end of the year). You'll receive a W-2 form at the end of the year listing how much you were paid, what was withheld, etc. You report this income on your usual tax form (Form 1040), and you treat it like the income you get from your day-job in a restaurant or office or whatever.
  • If you DIDN'T fill out a w-4 when you went to work for a company, and they just gave you a check at the end of the performance, you've got to report that as Schedule C / 1099 income (You get a form 1099 at the end of the year reporting what you were paid - hence the name). This is the majority of income that we, as actors, tend to get. 1099 income has an up-side and a down-side. The Up-side is that nothing is withheld from our pay check for the government, so we get the whole amount of our contract fee. The down-side is that nothing is withheld from our checks by the government, so we have to pay the tax on that income at the end of the year (remember what Twain said about Death and Taxes? You can't get around that). This means that you'd better have saved what you're going to owe in tax, or you're going to be in a big hurt. One way to ease the pain is to pay quarterly estimates to the IRS - if you use TurboTax or have a tax preparer, they'll usually prepare quarterly invoices for you so you know how much in estimated taxes to pay every three months. It hurts to pay your taxes four times a year, but let me tell you... it hurts a lot MORE if you don't and have to pay the full amount you owe in tax on April 15 - do yourself a favor and pay your quarterly estimates!

Breaking out of the bullet-points for a moment, this distinction is very important. When you receive w-2 income, you're an employee of another company. When you receive 1099 income, however, you are a business who is subcontracting to another business. That means that YOU, Joe or Jane actor, are the CEO of that business, and all your legitimate expenses to run that business are deductible.

David said something very pertinent to this in his presentation: "remember that in 'SHOW BUSINESS,' 'Business' is the bigger of the two words." We as artists tend to pooh-pooh business-oriented thinking - we worry that "business" thinking will corrupt our integrity as artists. It's important for everyone to remember, however, that we live in a capitalist society. No matter how important or deep our art is, we have to make and use money to survive. That means that we, as professionals in our chosen field, need to pay attention to the business of acting. Otherwise the IRS (and many other people) will consider what we do a "hobby," with all the negative tax and social connotations inherent in that label.

  • Actors can deduct many many MANY expenses from their taxes. Click here for a list from David's site. A lot of the expenses listed on that page are things that everyone spends money on... because of the special circumstances of our work, however, we can deduct those costs in most circumstances. The reason for that caveat is fairly simple - the IRS hates to give special treatment to one profession over another (unless you're a CEO, but we won't go into that). Because of this, certain rules apply. For instance, you can deduct the cost of costumes, but not if you could wear them on the street (whether you would wear them is irrelevant - if you can wear that bright sea foam green jacket, it's not deductible). You can deduct hair cuts and styling If it's for a specific role. You can't, however, deduct your regular appointment at the barber. There's several more caveats like this that a tax preparer would know about... that's why it's worth the money to ask specific questions (see the email links above).
  • As you know, homeowners can deduct the interest on their mortgage. You can also deduct business-related interest on your credit card. That means that if you have a credit card that you only buy acting-related items with, you can deduct that interest.
  • Yes, you can deduct film and theatre tickets from your taxes as a "research" expense. As I said above, however, the IRS doesn't like you doing this, and if you get audited they'll try like hell to deny that deduction. Always keep a copy of the ticket stub and write the legitimate business reason for seeing that film or movie (and if you're just seeing it for fun, don't deduct it. It's really that simple).
  • Mileage for business purposes is deductible, and you should log every mile you drive for theatrical purposes (as well as the total miles driven on the car for the whole year). Most people know this. However, there are special rules governing what you can claim and what you can't. Essentially, you can't claim "commuting miles" (ie miles from your house to your place of work), but you can claim mileage between work-places. If you're working a W-2 job (see above) your mileage from home and to home is not deductible - that's "commuting mileage" to and from your place of work. If, however, you go from home to another place of business (like your post office box, or your Agent's office), then go to your set or rehearsal hall, that mileage is deductible. If you're working a 1099 job and you have a home office (see below), then all mileage from home to another place of work is deductible, because every time you leave home you leave one work-place (your home office) and go to another.
  • Other automobile expenses may be deductible (gas, repairs, etc), but it's an either/or formula: You can either take a percentage of your total vehicle cost (the percentage is based on how many miles you drove for business out of the total mileage for the year), or the number of miles you've driven for business purposes X the mileage deduction allowed (for miles driven 1/1/05 - 8/31/05 that's 40.5 cents per mile. For miles driven 9/1/05 - 12/31/05 that's 48.5 cents per mile - they raised the allowance to offset the gas price spike we went through last year. For miles driven in 2006, it's 44.5 cents per mile). In David's experience, the mileage deduction is usually better... but it depends on how many miles you've driven for business purposes.
  • Sorry, your gym membership is not deductible unless you can prove you were told to go to the gym for a specific role. Get it in writing.
  • Per Diem is a term you've probably heard a lot over the years... I never really understood it myself until yesterday. Basically, when you travel to another city for work (you have to be there specifically for work-related purposes), you can deduct a specific amount per day (per diem, in Latin), depending on where you're at, for "Meals and Incidental Expenses." You can find the specific per diem rates at the IRS web site. You have to be in this other city specifically for business (no going off to visit your sister and seeing a show while you're there, then trying to claim the whole trip. They'll get you for that), and the Per Diem rate doesn't include lodging and transportation costs.
  • Home Office Ok, this is a biggie, and kind of a murky area for us actors. Essentially a home office is an area in your home set aside, in square feet, exclusively for your business work (no, your guest room doesn't count. The square footage of your desk in the guest room might count, though). If you have a home office, you get to claim the mileage to and from job sites (see above), as well as a percentage of all your home-based costs. That percentage is based on the number of square feet your home office occupies... your home office is x percent of the total square footage of the entire home. A very big deduction, but the catch is that you have to use that space exclusively for business. If you do anything personal in there, the IRS won't allow it.
  • Here's news for all you folks who have traded in your land-line for a cell phone: The IRS won't allow you to deduct the cost of your primary phone line (i.e. your "home phone number") from your taxes. They will, however, allow you to deduct your second "business" line. If you don't have a home phone number, and instead use your cell phone exclusively, they won't let you deduct that cost. If, however, you DO have a primary residence phone line and a cell phone, you can deduct a portion of your cell phone bill. That portion is, of course, based on the percentage of your cell phone used for business purposes.

So, that's the nutshell (nutshell hell! I wrote a full page!). Again, I really strongly advise all of you to go to these free tax seminars... you won't usually be made to pay for someone to do your taxes, and they're full of lots of good information.

Off to an audition... hope you're all doing well!


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Who's That At The Top Of The Yard And Garden Show Site?

Hey guys!

Check this out: The Portland Yard and Garden Show. Do you recognize that lady at the top of the page?

Trish just got copies of the posters that are going up in area nurseries and home improvement stores, too... it's a big 14" x 22" horizontal piece with her face firmly displayed.

She says they could have used the same face to sell Depends or bladder control medicine. I dunno... I think she should relax and savor the moment, myself :)

In other news, check THIS out: Supreme Court Upholds Oregon's Assisted Suicide Law. We really got this one in under the wire... if Alito had been on the bench, he, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas might have been able to gang up on Breyer and changed his mind. There's still time to let your senators know how you feel about Alito getting on the Supreme Court - Find their number and call them, send them an email, sign petitions... do what you need to do to make your voice heard and keep this guy off the court. If he gets in, he's in for LIFE - that's probably another 30 years or so that he and these NeoCon wack-jobs can continue to shift the United States into fascism.

We had our first Readers Theatre performance of 2006 last night... Rashomon by Fay and Michael Kanin, directed by Deb Lund and performed by most of the original cast from Theatre Vertigo's 2001 production. It was a great reading... Deb did some wonderful stuff to isolate the scenes in the play in diferent areas on the stage, and there was even a sword fight :)

Katie, Frank, Bostin, Doug & Russ... I haven't forgotten about your emails, and I'm not ignoring you... really! I promise I'll write to you all!

Gotta run!


Friday, January 13, 2006

Every Little Bit Helps (And Cel Phone Long Distance Is Free!)

So I'm headed to a call-back for an Oregon Lottery commercial in about an hour (Woo hoo! No guarantee that I'm going to get the job... actually, a fairly slim chance of it, as with all commercial auditions. Still, it's incredibly validating to be called back after an audition!), a nd I thought I'd swing by my favorite cyber-cafe on the East side (the Fireside Coffee Lodge at 12th and Powell - check it out!) to talk about something that's been worrying me all week.

Alito's America: It's Not Our America.His name is Judge Sam Alito, and he's one scary guy. That's why I took the time today to look up my state's senators and call them in Washington. I know there are those of you out there who might disagree with me, but I truly believe that if Alito gets onto the Supreme Court the we'll be one giant step closer to United States of America, as we know it today, coming to an end.

Forget the fact that he doesn't believe that women have a constitutional right to decide whether or not they should have an abortion. Forget the fact that the National Bar Association could not support his nomination. Forget the fact that his record shows a consistant disregard for the rights of individuals over those of corporations or the government. Forget the fact that he smugly refused to answer questions during his confirmation hearing, and in many cases gave answers completely at odds with his record.

The truly scary aspect of of Sam Alito joining the Supreme Court is his his hardened belief in what he and the Federalist Society call the "Unitary Executive." Duke University Law Professor Erwin Chemerinsky explained this concept yesterday to the Judiciary Committee:

The key question for this committee is whether Samuel Alito will
continue this tradition of enforcing checks and balances, or whether he'll be a
rubber stamp for presidential power.

I have carefully read the writings, the speeches and the decisions of Samuel
Alito in this area, and they all point in one direction: a very troubling
pattern of great deference to executive authority. I've closely followed the
hearings this week, and I know you're familiar with the examples.

To mention just a few: In 1984, while in the solicitor general's office,
Samuel Alito wrote a memo saying that he believed that the attorney general
should have absolute immunity to civil suits for money damages of engaging in
illegal wiretapping, a position the Supreme Court rejected in language that
seems so appropriate now and saying there would be too great a danger of
violation of rights from executive officials, who, in the zeal to protect
national security, would go too far.

The next year, he said there should be increased use of presidential signing
statements. He said, quote: The president should have the last word as to the
meaning of statutes. There should be an increase in executive power.

As you know, in a number of writings and speeches, he said he believed in the
unitary executive theory. Now, there's a good deal of discussion this week as to
what that means. But if you look at the literature of constitutional law, those
who believe in a unitary executive truly want a radical change in American
government. They believe that independent regulatory agencies like the
Securities Exchange Commission or the Federal Communication Commission are
unconstitutional. They believe the special prosecutor's unconstitutional. They
reject the ability of Congress to limit the executive.

This is NOT the principal that this country was founded on! The United States does not have a king, nor do we need one! The idea behind the three branches of government our founders laid out in the consitution is the simplest idea in the world: no one branch of government should have all the power, and the other branches can and should overrule a branch they see as overstepping its bounds (like, say, if one branch should spy on American Citizens?).

Congress is the people's voice in this three-way governing style... our elected officials in congress are meant to have the power to hold the executive accountable for breaches in the law, as they did with Nixon. This "Unitary Executive" theory that Alito holds to would invalidate that, and give the President unequal power in the equation.

I can certainly see why a president who doesn't believe in following the law would want this man on the court... but I can't see why the rest of us should. Give it some thought, and please do call your senators. Let your voice be heard, while you still can.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Mixed Day

Well, yesterday was kind of a mixed bag for me... on the UP side, I had a commercial audition that I thought went pretty well (that is to say, I don't know that I'm going to get the job... I'm probably not the right age/ look/ whatever for the part. I DID, however, feel a lot more relaxed in front of the camera than in auditions past, and I felt like I internalized the part better - something I've had problems with).

The DOWN side was that Trish's sister Mary Lou had a minor surgical procedure yesterday (fixing a deviated septum in the back of her nose that was causing sinus infections and "cleaning up" after a tonsilectomy a number of years ago that left some tissue in the back of her throat) "that went a little caca" (for your Dean Stockwell fans out there). The surgery went fine, but after she got home she started to bleed huge amounts of blood. She ended up going to the Emergency room, and Trish and I drove down to Salem to help out.

They finally got the bleeding stopped around 11pm and moved her up to a ward for observation. I ended up coming home last night at about 1am so that I could be in town for another commercial audition this morning, leaving Trish at the hospital. I'll head back down after my audition to pick her up (she got maybe 1 hour of sleep last night) so she can be in town for her Fiddle on the Roof rehearsal at 4 this afternoon.

Ah... life keeps things interesting, don't it? :)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Just A Few Fun Things

Howdy everbody

Nothing too exciting to report this week... 2006 is steadily coming into its own with (thankfully) nothing too surprising in store.

Of course, the big news this week is Pat Robertson saying that Ariel Sharon's stroke is God's judgement against him for "splitting God's land in two."

Why is this big news, exactly? As I've said before, I can't understand why people in the media pay attention to what Pat Robertson says... the things flying out of his mouth sound more and more like a urine-soaked street-corner schizophrenic's rantings against the global conspiracy being beamed into his fillings. The Randi Rhodes Show on Air America Radio (check here to find your local chanel, or listen live from the Air America web site) finally clued me into how news rooms deal with Robertson's latest plunge into mental illness... click here to listen (requires Windows Media Player).

I know, I know... Pat Robertson talks directly to God. Remember when "God told him to run for President" in 1988? I wonder if God told him to team up with with brutal Liberian dictator Charles Taylor so he could get rich off of a gold mine there?

Of course, it's obivious why the tv networks are spending so much time talking about Pat Roberston... it's a wonderful distraction from the news that Bush is spying on us using Illegal Wiretaps, and that he's running as fast as he can from all the money he took from Jack Abrahmoff.

Anyway... the title says "Just a Few Fun Things," so lets leave our regularly scheduled example of why we have to elect Democrats in 2006 (Bush needs adult supervision, people... even if you're a Republican, you've got to see what one-party rule has done to us over the past 5 years).

I found this nifty little shockwave game on a City of Heroes comic strip site called The PJ Chronicles (check the strip out if you're into City of Heroes or other online games... if you're not, it might not interest you too much). The "Falling Sand Game" is deceptively simple, but fiendishly addictive! It's easy to waste a LOT of time with it :)

Finally, Scott Kurtz posted this on PVP (another funny online comic strip... go back a few months and check out the archive. Great human-based comedy, even if the strip is set in the offices of a gaming magazine). Yeah, yeah, I know Gay marriage was Last Year's news... but it's still pretty funny:

My wife sent me this email today and as much as I usually hate forwarded email fare, this one was both funny and true. Seeing as how the country is currently being driven by the Pat Robertson's of the world, I thought this was very funny and insightful.

10 reasons Gay Marriage is wrong:

1. Being gay is not natural. And as you know Americans have always rejected unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

2. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

3. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because, as you know, a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

4. Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

5. Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed. The sanctity of Britany Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.

6. Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.

7. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

8. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in America.

9. Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

10. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven't adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

So, that's my Saturday laziness... hope you're all doing well!


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The ULTIMATE Streaming Internet Radio Site!!!!

Hey guys

I've been meaning to share this site with you for over a month now... I first heard about it while Rachel Maddow was filling in for Al Franken on Air America while Franken was off in Iraq doing a USO tour.

Do yourselves a favor and check out This amazing site asks you to put in an artist or song that you really like, and then builds a customized streaming radio station based around the musical components contained in the song or artist's repetoir. As the songs play on the audio stream, you can tell the site if you like the song or not, and you can further refine the "station" by adding songs or artists (the site will then add even more music based on the musical components of those artists or songs). What you get is a streaming radio station full of music you like AND new music you may not have heard which has similar qualities. I've found out about a lot of new bands through this service.

Check out the Progressive Rock/ Electronica station I put together by suggesting Yes, David Lanz, Morcheeba, and Queensryche... and then try it yourself. It's a blast!

Speaking of a blast (across Tom Delay's bow, anyway), check this out: Abramoff Makes Plea Deal.
I guess Tom Delay's reelection campaign in Texas might be cut short after all... nah, who am I kidding? He'll just do what the Republican Party has been doing for the past ten years: he'll swear it didn't happen and call anyone who points out the news stories a liar.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Goodbye 2005

Howdy everybody! Hope you all had a great New Year's eve last night. As you probably saw on the news (or experienced, if you live here in Portland), we've been dealing with a lot of rain over the last few days. Fireworks weren't exactly in fashion here in PDX, so Trish and I just stayed home and bundled up by the fire.

So, it's been almost the entire month since I posted... sorry about that. "Holiday stress" takes on a new meaning at our house... aside from the usual what-present-will-we-get-aunt-Martha and where-are-we-going-Christmas-Eve running around, we've got shows to put on. It's just the nature of a life in show biz - Christmas-time almost always means work-time. The only Christmas I haven't been involved in some kind of performance was last year when Trish and I went to Europe... and that year felt really "off" because I wasn't doing some show somewhere.

Our holiday murder mysteries with Wild Bills went well... we did about four of them for various organizations who'd hired the company to do their annual holiday parties. One show was especially fun, at the Grey Gables in Milwaukie. The people we did the show for had a blast (it was for a Harley Davidson dealership, so you can imagine how uptight and staid the audience was... not!) and the venue was INCREDIBLE! Not only did the management at the Grey Gables treat us really well (they even fed us after the show - a rarity with Wild Bills Murder Mystery shows), but the place is totally beautiful. I'd certainly recommend the place to anyone who's got a wedding or some other event coming up... it's a rich, pastoral setting that feels both elegant and comfortable at the same time.

Once we were done with Murder Mysteries, it was time to get crackin' on Mt. Hood Rep's holiday show, Christmas Shorts. We decided that rather than do a play for our Christmas show we'd put on a program of dramatic readings (sort of a modified version of National Public Radio's "Selected Shorts"). Once we'd picked the pieces we just needed to get together with the cast, read through them, and put on the show. Easy, huh?

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans of dice and hens... lots of things went wrong. Our keyboard player Marty Gallagher caught the flu and couldn't be part of the show (thankfully cast member Nancy Sievert could play the piano and took over for him). The rehearsal with the cast pointed out (rather painfully) that one of the stories we were planning to read was too long for the program and had to be cut. Another piece we were planning to do (a sketch about Martha Stewart doing a cooking show in prison) was left out of the final script and had to be added at the last minute. Then we had the ice storm the Sunday before the first performance and had to cancel the show.

Finally, on the afternoon of Christmas eve, we all bustled into the Reynolds Middle School theatre and put on our little show to a small-ish crowd... and it turned out great. How did on earth did it all come together after the huge mess I mentioned above? It's a mystery...

Because we had a show on Christmas eve, holiday travel had to be postponed until after the holidays. We had a nice Christmas day at home (with Trish's son Jesse, his girlfriend Jessie, and a Honeybaked Ham) and then hit the road on Monday the 26th to go see my family up in Washington.

We pulled into my parents house in Custer, WA at around 4pm and had a nice couple of days with them... we got to hang out with my brother James, his fiancee and her two girls, play lots of mahjong, see the new Harry Potter movie (fun, but didn't begin to dramatize all that was in the book... they should have "Kill Billed" it and broken the film into two parts), and enjoy a nice long visit.

Then we headed down to Seattle to see our friends Walter Baker and Beth Cooper. Had a wonderful day and evening with them, as well: went shopping at Ikea (a first for Trish and I... what an experience!), had dinner at an OUTSTANDING southern restaurant in Columbia City called The Wellington (pork chops you could cut with a spoon, cheesy grits, buttermilk fried chicken... mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm) and played even MORE mahjong.

By the 30th we were back in town for the Murphy Management holiday party at Aura (a lovely suare' with a lot of people in a very small space... but we had a lot to celebrate. Kaili's been very very good to us, and we're sure hoping we'll continue to be good for each other in 2006 :) ).

That brings us to yesterday, New Year's Eve... we spent most of the day in The Rogue Isles and Paragon City (after a week away, we started to miss those familiar vistas and our super-suits. Ok, I guess our dual-citizenship in these locations is starting to become like an addiction... so what's your point?) Like I said above, the wind and rain kept us inside, so most of our traveling was virtual. We did, however, take a moment to kiss at midnight and toast the new year.

And here we are today... wrapping up our 2005 stuff in preparation for Tax season (and tallying up the bills for our holiday spending... eouch!!!), and looking forward to what 2006 has in store for us. Hope you're all recovering from last night, and that you've got positive things ahead in the coming year. I'll be here... however infrequently :).