All posts by aaffleck

A Modest Rant

For me, the joy of any theatrical experience, be it a play, tv show, or movie, is immersing myself in what is being presented. Acting works because the audience willfully suspends their disbelief and says, “OK, we will buy that you are trapped in a submarine with your ex-wife” or whatever the scenario is. And in that one act of mutual agreement between actor and audience, magic is created. That’s how I approach all such entertainment. And it is very rare that a movie is so bad that I cannot suspend any disbelief at all and enjoy the movie (Kenneth Brannagh’s Frankenstein was one such movie. Yeesh!)

So, I have grow ever more frustrated with audiences in recent years. And before you roll your eyes and say that this is another one of those, “Damn these kids today!” old man posts, stay with me a moment. It’s not the damn kids (well, it sometimes is, but they are not the only problem.) It is people in general. People are far more selfish today than they were in the past. I remember movie experiences where the loud moron in the theater was the exception, not the rule. People generally enjoyed a production and respected the wishes of their fellow audience members to enjoy it as well. Collectively, we laughed, cried, cheered, booed, and otherwise enjoyed something together. When we needed to ask a question, we whispered so as to not disturb others.

But more and more people have become more selfish and self-centered. They don’t care about anyone else in the theater just their own selves. If they want to talk, they talk. They make no effort to be quiet about it. They use their phones or even throw popcorn at each other. Even parents of kids make no effort to teach their kids to whisper and be quiet in movies. If the kids ask a question or make a comment, the parents don’t quiet them and often answer just as loudly as their kids.

And it frustrates me to no end. Suspension of disbelief needs immersion. And while I can ignore a lot of things (popcorn chewing, wrapper crlnkling, coughing, etc. A conversation between people or other such behavior is too much. And that ruins the experience for me.

I go to movies far more rarely than I used to. It’s just too expensive to be that tense waiting for some inconsiderate jerk to ruin it. And when I go, I am generally not let down. Usually if the problem people are not near me, I can tune them out and enjoy myself. But if they are close by, I either have to move or do the one thing I hate doing: shush them. I’m non-confrontational by nature. I don’t like getting in people’s faces about anything. So, shushing someone is something I rarely ever do and is saved for the most obnoxious of cases.

Twice in recent memory, I have had incredible experiences. The first was in Traverse City, MI at the gorgeous movie theater there in town where I saw The Artist. The audience was silent through the whole movie and we all had an amazing time watching a gorgeous movie. The other was tonight when we went to see The Martian.The audience was quiet and really into the movie. All except one person. And she just happened to be sitting next to me.

She sat to my left and was older than I am by at least a decade if not two. She and the man she was with came in during the previews and plopped down right next to me in the only open two seats left in our row. I politely let her have the arm rest and leaned a bit closer to Ann. Throughout the whole movie, she kept a running dialog with the man next to her. Generally in the form of questions. It was clear to me that she did not really understand a lot of what was going on. In one scene, something really bad happens to Matt Damon’s character and when he is upset and having a bit of a tantrum about it, she asked aloud, “What’s the matter with him?” Twice during the movie (both after the half-way mark when I just couldn’t take it anymore) I shushed her. The first time was a quiet “Shh.” The second time was a more annoyed, “SHHH.” Followed either by a “Please” or a “C’mon” or something similar. Neither time worked. She kept right on asking her inane questions. I never heard what the guy she was with said in reply. He clearly knew how to whisper. But it was enough to pull me out of a fantastic movie (and it was a fantastic movie) and be annoyed at her.

Ultimately, the movie won out and I put her out of my mind as best I could. But the kicker is what happened when the movie ended. She got up and I could see out of the corner of my eye while I read the cast list that she was staring daggers at me. I began saying something to Ann about the movie when I heard her say (while still looking at me), “…piece of shit.” I had to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. So I turned partially to Ann and said loud enough for her to hear, “She talks through the whole movie and I’m the bad guy.” She walked out of the row, down the stairs, and then across the front of the section to the exit, never taking her eyes off of me. I made a point of ignoring her until finally I acted like I just noticed her, pointed, and laughed because it was so inane.

What did we learn from this? Too many people today are just too selfish. She did not care for anyone around her and spoke loud enough to be heard by everyone nearby and was offended when I called her out on it. It’s like when someone runs a stop sign, you honk at them, and they flip you off for honking at them.

I have no solutions except to wish that people could be more considerate of one another. I think things would be considerably better in virtually every aspect of life if we could collectively do that. But instead, I save my trips to the movies only for the movies I cannot wait to hit iTunes (or whatever) or that are loud enough that I can’t hear anything nearby anyway. As for that woman, I wish that there was some way she could see herself from another perspective; that she could see that her disruptive behavior was the problem, not my asking her to be quiet. But seeing ourselves from another’s perspective is hard work and our too-fragile egos make that far too difficult much of the time. Oh well. Hopefully the audience at Star Wars VII this December will be fans and we can all have fun together.

Something is Wrong with This…

In August, I ordered my son’s books for school. His school uses an online bookstore and he wanted digital versions where possible so he didn’t have to carry around a heavy bag. So, I ordered what I could digitally and the rest on paper. After about the first week of school was over, he came to me and said that his history teacher said that he really needed the current textbook (he had been using a loaner of last year’s version). I told him that I’d ordered it and thought the teacher would have the online license code to grant him access because I had gotten an email to that effect. Turns out, that was for his science book.

So, I checked the online bookstore (Follett) and found the order was incomplete and that one item was backordered and would ship when available. You guessed it, the license code for his history book from Pearson. I wrote to Follett and said that I’d never heard of license codes being back ordered. It takes a second to generate a new code and email it to someone. They gave me a polite brush-off reply that, indeed, codes can be backordered and they would ship when available.

Last week I got an email that his license codes had shipped. Via FedEx. And would arrive late the following week. Again, I boggled that license codes had to be shipped.

2014-09-18 10.38.25

Then they arrived yesterday. They came in a ridiculously large, flat package. Inside where two sets of codes (for two years of access). I felt like redirecting the package to the school just to complete the absurdity of the whole thing but texted him the code for the first year instead.

In 2014 unlock codes for digital books have to be mailed in a package via conventional shipping. The mind boggles.

MyMac Book Review of Take Control of Podcasting

Elisa Pacelli over at MyMac.com writes a very nice review of Take Control of Podcasting On The Mac.

Robin Williams

Reality+What+A+ConceptWhere do I begin? How do I attempt to capture (let alone encompass) what I am feeling right now? I’m currently running sound for Swamp Meadow’s Children’s Theatre production of Annie Jr. During the big song and dance number, NYC, someone shouts “Keep it down out there” (or something to that effect) and all I can think of every time I hear it is Robin Williams from, Reality, What a Concept, and his bit:

And Now, a New York Echo:

“Hello!!!”

“Shut the fuck up!”

We were just about to start the penultimate run through (the show  opens Wednesday) when my wife texted me the news.  My heart sank. I sat there staring at the mixing board trying to form thoughts in my head. All I could think was, “No. No. No. NO! Do NOT let this be true!”

I was about 9 when Mork first showed up in an episode of Happy Days. I remember loving that episode and the character and was overjoyed when I heard they were spinning him out into his own show. I watched every episode of Mork and Mindy and loved every minute of it. When I was in fourth grade, probably a year or two into Mork and Mindy’s run on TV, I did my first play. It was because of Robin. He showed me that I could take this crazy energy I had, this need to entertain my mother’s and sisters’ friends, my friends, my teachers (ok, maybe more drive my teachers crazy) and I could get onto a stage and harness that power for good. I act today because of Robin. In fact, so much of who I am comes from the influence of Robin, Steve Martin, Firesign Theater, Monty Python and more. But Robin was there first. And he was a blazing star to me.

MV5BMTkwMjQ3ODY2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzMwOTc0NA@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_I don’t generally get upset at celebrity deaths. But a few have really hit me hard. Carl Sagan and Jimmy Stewart, to name two, did hit me hard. But this is the cruelest cut of all.  I will always love Robin for the laughs and also for his more heartfelt moments. The Fisher King has always been one of my favorite movies for his inspired performance. And I haven’t seen Good Morning, Vietnam recently enough and need to watch it again.

I wanted to write this last night when it was fresh in my mind but I was just unable to get the words out. Even now, it is hard and I find myself tearing up. I’ll leave this here and just say that the world is a far better place because Robin was in it and rather than be sad he is gone, I will focus on celebrating what he has left us to enjoy and that I am very much the person I am today because of him. Thank you, Robin and rest in peace.

Positive Comments Make My Day

Louis Trapani wrote a wonderful blog post about my book, Take Control of Podcasting on the Mac, 3rd Edition. The reception the book has received has been very gratifying and I am thankful to everyone who has bought it and gotten back to me.

I have taken a bit of a hiatus from podcasting as I have been busy starting a new job but am planning on resuming my podcast for Swamp Meadow Community Theatre and possibly starting one or two other projects I’ve been thinking about, as time permits.

In the meantime, please drop me a line if you’ve read the book and have questions, comments, or even just want to say hi!

Subtle Humor

There was a post recently on [insert name of geeky blog site I forget here] with one of those link-bait titles like, “The Best Joke in Back to the Future you Never Noticed!” I read it and was amused. Mainly because I did notice it. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I tend to pick up on those jokes in movies that most people don’t notice outright. The Back to the Future joke in question is the fact that the mall at the start of the movie is called Twin Pines. When Marty goes back in time to 1953, he crashes into one of two pine trees. At the end of the movie when he returns to the mall, it is called Lone Pine.

Another good example is Airplane. In a movie filled with jokes (just this morning I was thinking about the soldier who thought he was Ethel Merman who was played by Ethel Merman singing Everything’s Coming up Roses) my favorite joke of all is the fact that through the entire movie (a movie that takes place on a jet plane) the sound effect you hear constantly is that of propellers.

What are other good examples of this kind of thing? Drop me a line on [insert social media thing here].

Take Control of Podcasting on the Mac is out!

TCoP CoverThe 3rd edition of my book, Take Control of Podcasting on the Mac, is now out! If you have ever wanted to start a podcast, or take your current podcast to the next level, then my book will help! I had a lot of fun writing this over the last few months and hope you find it useful.

A Podcast is Born

Swamp Meadow Community Theatre LogoI am in the midst of revising Take Control of Podcasting (a fascinating venture given that Apple has gutted GarageBand of all the useful podcasting features) and in order to actually be able to speak from knowledge (rather than from memory) I needed to start podcasting again. It so happens that Swamp Meadow Community Theatre, where I have been acting, directing, and doing tech these last four years, is in some need of social media marketing. So, I proposed starting a new podcast to promote theater activities.

A few weeks later, I have produced two shows with another two planned. I may only do this in the run up to actual shows but we’ll see how much content there is to be had in the quiet times between productions. At any rate, it’s great to be back to podcasting. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed it in the last few years. I doubt I will start a new one up for just myself. But I enjoy producing one for others and may even look to expand on that.

Blogging & Social Networking… Too Many Tools!

I am having social network fatigue. First, there are the long-form posting sites — my main blog, Posterous and Tumblr (though the latter may be argued as a short-form site too). Then there’s the quick snippet land of Facebook and Twitter. Then there’s the GPS-aware side of things like Foursquare, Loopt, MyTown, and Yelp! (I have since given up on Gowalla and Brightkite as not being particularly interesting to me).

The GPS group are getting a long form post from me soon enough as I have been evaluating them with an eye towards a blog post for some time now. At least that’s how I justify to my wife my continued use of them…

What I’m trying to figure out now is how I should talk to the world without having to worry about where I am writing. I am not a power blogger. I don’t really feel the need to blast 20 posts a day out there and I am not trying to set myself up as an expert in any particular field to make my site a destination for those in that field and resume fodder. I could just do things in my WordPress site and have my Posterous and Tumblr sites auto-carry the posts or at least links back to them and have links auto-posted to Twitter and Facebook. But I also like the ultra-simplicity offered by Tumblr and Posterous. It is just easier to pull a post together.

And then there’s the fact that I like posting pictures from my iPhone (not so much text — while I don’t hate the iPhone keyboard, I am just not interested in trying to type a lot on it) and I feel that it is much easier to go directly to Facebook or Tumblr than it is my WP site (yes, I have the app, I still find it a longer process than these other methods).

Maybe my problem is that I can’t commit to just one program and stick to that. I like so much of each of them that I want the freedom to use all of them whenever I feel like it.

I wonder what the rest of the world does. Where do you post and where do you ignore? How important is it to you to get your stuff out to as many sites as possible versus using just one and trusting that your audience (friends, family, whoever) can and will find it?

Fantastic

The Fantasticks Rehearsals

We’ve completed the first of two weekends of The Fantasticks and the show has been going very well! I was worried in the middle of last week — our Wednesday rehearsal wasn’t confidence building — but by Thursday it all fell together and the subsequent three performances were really good! Come on out and see us this weekend, our final weekend!