Sunday, July 29, 2012

Let's Make a Ghost

I've been meaning to write this one up for weeks, but I've got a legitimate excuse for why I didn't this time: I had to wait until it was cleared with the legal department of a cable TV network.

This is one of the weird things about blogging as an actor. Once you get to a certain point, there are things that it's really difficult to disclose online, and even those things that are okay to disclose, you usually have to wait a long time before you do.

I guess technically it's only been 13 days, but it feels like it's been much longer. Heck, when this happened, I was technically single and didn't know what I was going to do with myself in August. Now I just met my new girlfriend's mother, confirmed a subletter for my apartment for the next month, and booked with multiple couchsurfing hosts across the west coast. So I feel like it's been a while.

Thirteen days ago, I was on the set of my first TV show (ignoring the online show with NBC Universal, anyway). Ever since I did it, I've told lots of my friends and family about it, and I don't think I've yet managed to say what show it was and what I was doing while keeping a straight face. So consider this an early warning about what my very first IMDB credit is going to be (once the production team comes around to registering my page):

Appeared in "Celebrity Ghost Stories" (2012) as "The Murderer"

I was shipped up to a small town just north of New Jersey with about a half a dozen other people for a small "reenactment" of a legend that ends with somebody dying at my character's hands. It involved some very tense scenes in period costume, and a couple stunts with a dummy in a bridal gown. Interesting day's work. I had a great time with everyone involved, especially the director and the rest of the cast of 1930s wedding guests. To say more I think might get me in trouble.

So for the the full story, you're just going to have to watch the Biography Channel for the episode of Celebrity Ghost stories featuring Kevin Sorbo this fall. once I get an exact date, I'll let everyone know.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Recession Project

I'm turning 26 in three days.

I sometimes joke about signs of the times, especially the economy. Back when I was in high school, I would go to the bakery and the people working behind the counter would be about my age, sometimes a little older. Now, I'm in my twenties, I go to that bakery... and the people working the counter are about my age, sometimes a little older.

I meet and hang out with 35 and 40-year-olds who are doing basically the same thing they did when they were teenagers. Which is fine, only you can't lead an adult lifestyle on a teenager's wage. Everyone's broke. One of these friends came to me recently and admitted that he was about to get kicked out of his apartment. He said he was behind on his rent and was going to have to go to one of those quick loan places. I asked him how far behind he was. He said "not that much, just five months."

Multiple friends of mine are talking about their credit card debt and how they just can't pay it off. They're trying, but it keeps growing. I ask people what they're doing about health insurance, most of them say they don't have it.

I used to think these people had chosen this lifestyle for their art. But a lot of them haven't. A lot of them aren't artists of any kind. They just live this way because it's the only way they can.

I had drinks with a couple friends from college I hadn't seen in years. One of them used to be on the football team. All of his teammates were Economics majors, one of them now works in oil futures. Whatever that means. He makes US $4 million a year. He's two years older than I am.

Now I know a lot of people can and do argue that that guy is probably not as happy as my friends making less. But forget happiness-- how about the money that could have been used to make it so that if one of my uninsured friends suffers a medical condition, they can get the care they need to live? If oil future man was making, say, $400k (still a huge salary), how many of my uninsured friends could be employed with liveable wages and health benefits with the other $3.6 million?

So forget my tutoring rich kids about the Gilded Age this past spring for a moment, and look at something a little more visceral:

In 2006 I filmed my first episode of a show about my study abroad experiences in India. And there's a 45 second clip near the end where I talk about something I'd never experienced firsthand before. I'd just arrived in the country. And the thing that smacked me in the face was the divide between the "haves" and the "have nots." And I just remember feeling grateful to be going home to a place where the disparity in income wasn't nearly so high.

Well. There's a measure of the disparity in income between countries. It's called the Gini Coefficient. It's measured from 0.0 to 1.0. A gini coefficient of 0.0 means perfect equality, 1.0 means one person in the country has literally all of the income.

India has a Gini coefficient of .37. The United States has one of .41.

In other words, I went on a show with NBC Universal and openly lamented how unequal one country was, only to come home to country that is now even more unequal.

As I said, I'll be turning 26 soon. I have this feeling that I should be doing something more adult and responsible with my life now.

Right now meaning I'm paid on an hourly basis for a job that mostly works in the evenings and has no real opportunities for advancement. I live alone in a not-that-nice-but-livable neighborhood in an apartment furnished mostly with hand-me-downs and free pieces from Craigslist or the curb. I have no debt (thanks to parents who could both pay for my education and taught me to always pay my bills in full on the date they're due). I started a Roth IRA a few months back, and I'm searching for individual health insurance plans I can afford that will actually pay for hospital care (surprisingly not a given).

In other words by the standards of my childhood, I'm kind of a bum. But by the standards of today, I'm doing very well. Perversely, I feel there's something wrong with that.

And I have a good amount of free time and energy.

I've been watching a lot of TED talks about how people work, what's going wrong with our world, how people are working to fix it. Thanks to my travel, I wanted to work in international development or international relations. Saving the world. But I'm starting to realize that the world that I should work to save may be a lot closer to home.

I don't believe in a conspiracy that causes income inequality. One of my favorite shirts from the Occupy movement was a short young man wearing a T-shirt saying on the front "I'm part of the 1%" and on the back "Tax me. I'm good for it." I believe in a system that needs a little tweaking, and people who, if they can separate themselves from partisan politics for a bit, really want to help.

And the first place I'm thinking of starting is making it simpler to hire people. I've got some interesting ideas related to using this theory to implement some ideas from this book  and this other book to make people want to hire more, possibly in conjunction with this campaign as well as lobbying this group to take action among its members.

But first I need to talk to more small business owners. This could get interesting.