April 2009 issue

Pay To Play?

Along with the growth of the internet came the growth of electronic talent agencies who ostensibly serve both advertisers looking for performers, and performers looking for jobs. In reality, many of these "services" do little more than collect membership fees, leaving the matchmaking to some software and user-defined data entry.

I've not paid a membership fee to any of these services but, after hearing my demos and reading my credentials, one of them offered me a two month free trial of their premium membership. Without premium membership, the only way you'll ever get to audition is if an advertiser finds your demo among thousands, and then contacts you directly. Not likely! But, with a premium membership, you are notified of available jobs that fit your profile, and invited to audition. Auditions close when a pre-determined number have been submitted. Premium membership costs a few hundred dollars per year.

Mom always told me;"For free? Take!" So I've been trying "Voice 123" for a few weeks now. I immediately landed a job that could pay for a couple years' membership fees! I thought, "Wow, this is great!"

But, as time has gone by, it's obvious to me that the majority of the players on this field are rookies... both the advertisers and the talent. To be sure, there are many top-notch members on both sides. But the majority seem to be entry-level.

The scripts are incredibly bad! ...Sophomoric and juvinile, the work of ESL dropouts, or so short it's impossible for either advertisers or talent to accurately get a sense of what the other side can do. There have been cases of businesses, who obviously have no creative ideas at all, asking talent to "come up with something" in the demo! The offered rates are usually embarrassingly low, although you are permitted to indicate what you would charage for your services, if different. The audition process is complex and time consuming. Frequently,when I'd finish the process, I would be met with a notice that the audition had already closed!

Then there is the professional talent on a blog that I visit who, during a very busy period, didn't have time to go through the on line audition process. She was told her membership might be revoked if she didn't participate more! She paid for that membership to have the option of auditioning for available jobs, not a responsibility. Needless to say, she and many other full-time talent pros are dumping these online talent services as their renewal dates occur.

Personally, I doubt if I'll pay to renew the free membership. It just doesn't feel like a good fit for me.

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How's Your Breeding?

I don'd know about you, bud I can barely breed wid all da pollen in da air!

Dana Satterfield at Sunspots Productions in Orlando started polling talent on how they get through allergy season and came up with a long list of OTC medications, plus one gross-sounding remedy involving a "Netti Pot"!

In short, what you do is pour a lukewarm stream of mild saline solution (similar to tears) in one nostril while holding your head to the side, alowing the stream to flow out the other nostril... then repeat in the other direction! The neti pot is a little gizmo designed for this application.

If just thinking about this doesn't damn near gag you, maybe you should try it. Supposedly, it is a life-changing procedure that so vastly improves upper respiratory function that many people do it daily as part of their health regimen.

I, for one, would rather wear an aqualung all day than sluce my sinuses with a neti pot. I just know I'd hiccup or something and end up squirting snot out of my ears!

Give me a Zi-Cam Nasal Swab and I'll be able to breathe normally long enough to get through that eight page industrial narration. Netti pot? Not!

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T-Shirt Slogan of the Month

I spotted this on a young black fellow at an upscale market. It took a while to be able read it all, and I hope I didn't freak him out by staring, but it was worth it. One of the better anti-war slogans I've seen....

"The next war will not determine who is right,
only who is left!"
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Leaves of Three...
Let It Be!!

When spring weather poked it's sunny head into my yard, I put on the gloves, long sleeves, hat, jeans, and hiking boots to tackle cleaning up our landscape!

That was two weeks ago, and I'm still slathering ointments all over myself and trying not to rip my skin off with my fingernails. Yes, poison ivy found some patch of skin that was still exposed and nailed me but good! Damn, this stuff is wicked!! I'll spare you the gross photos of swollen, red, open patches of skin. You might want to eat later today.

Just in case you're the putter-in-the-yard type, let me try to save you from a similar fate. First, some facts...

* Poison ivy contains urushiol oil.
* It only takes 1 billionth of a gram of urushiol to cause a rash.
* Urushiol can stay active up to five years on any surface, including dead plants, yard tools and garden gloves.
* Dogs and cats can transfer it to us.
* Some studies suggest, in the future, poison ivy will become bigger and even more poisonous, causing worse rashes. Swell!

This stuff even changes it's appearance through the year, starting in spring (like, now) with a bronzish, metalic hue, then turning a lush green in summer, and a brilliant rust color in the autumn. It can be a vine climbing a tree or pole, it can be ground cover, or it can be a shrub. And, for goodness sake, do NOT try to burn it out! Inhaling the smoke could be fatal.

Just Remember... "Leaves of three, let it be!" Trust me on this one!

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eBay Protects You From Me!

I’ve been a member of eBay for over ten years as both a buyer and a seller. Most of my studio gear came from eBay listings, and a lot of older stuff got cleared out my closets in their online auctions. Around 60 transactions, in all.

So when Irene decided she’d like to sell her classic Louis Vuitton Alma Monogram handbag, I created a listing from my account on eBay. About three hours later I received a notice from eBay that they had cancelled the listing and put me on sales restrictions for violating eBay policies! Huh?!?

It took me nearly three days to get an answer as to what policies I violated, and even then it was so obfuscated in generalizations that I still had to guess at what they meant. It appeared they thought I was trying to palm off a counterfeit Louis Vuitton!

I responded with a scanned copy of my sales receipt from the Vuitton store where I had bought it a few years ago, but was still blocked from listing it on line! I asked why, and got several more vague quotes from the “Customer Service Handbook of Blow-offs” if I pressed for specifics. I even tried a couple of simple yes-or-no questions: Did I do something wrong? If not, may I please list the authenticated item?

In all, I got the same responses over and over, using identical phrases, from no less than a half-dozen different Customer Service representatives! One guy sent me the same email three different times...word for word. None of the responses contained a "yes" or "no".

I understand eBay is having problems now. One boondoggle acquisition (Skype) is dragging their profits down, auction sales actually dropped recently, and there’ve been employee layoffs. But apparently not in Customer Service.

But, as tough as they’ve been with me (an innocent lamb of a member,) you’d think they’d really have the site all cleaned up and safe for everyone to use. Think scammers are blocked from eBay? ‘Fraid not! I lost over $1300.00 to a scammer a few years ago, and got no help from eBay in recovering any of it. …And a few minutes online, readin about hjackers on eBay, will terrify you! So I’m now seriously re-thinking my opinion of eBay and how effectively it’s being run.

Anybody want to buy a gently used Louis Vuitton Alma Monogram handbag? It ain’t cheap, but it IS authentic!

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Humor is something we seldom take seriously. But the cartoonist who created this graphic, Chris Madden, has studied it like a scholar. In fact, I found this cartoon at the top of an article he wrote last September for a British trade magazine. He has posted the article on his website. If you ever wondered why people sometimes laugh at what seems to be the most inappropriate times, this may give you some insight.

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In Honor of 2009 Tax Day....

Wall Street's bailout, Bernie Madoff, AIG, golden parachutes, stimulus packages, Big Bank rescues, home foreclosures, General Motors, executive bonuses, etc.

Guess who's paying for it all!

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Beet It!

I am an avid amateur chef, always looking for health-conscious ways to bring good stuff to the table. Lately I've been playing with fresh beets. I don't know why... as a kid, the only way I liked them was sweetened! But I saw some in the store and wondered if I could make something of them.

So here's my improvised take on sugar free, low fat, sweet 'n legal Harvard Beets:

Ingredients

2 cups raw beets, diced
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup Splenda

1/4 cup beet juice
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp prune pablum
Pare & dice raw beets, cook in covered pan with 3/4" water until tender. Reserve beet juice. Mix cornstarch & Splenda (the blue and pink stuff break down chemically when cooked.) Add beet juice slowly, stirring into a smooth paste, Cook over low heat until slightly thickened. Add vinegar and butter, stir to blend, and pour over beets.

Yeah, substituting prune pablum for butter is weird, but it works, and it keeps the color looking right. Tastes like the real thing, too.You can change the name to "Beechnut Beets".

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