Thursday, September 11, 2008

Foreign View of The Choice of Sarah Palin as Vice-Presidential Candidate: Englishmen Discuss

The choice of Sarah Palin as a vice-presidential candidate of the United States of America has baffled many Americans for various reasons. Despite the fact that Mrs. Palin has never been formally interviewed as a vice-presidential candidate, the McCain campaign is enjoying a slight lead in the polls. But how might foreigners interpret the choice of Palin? Below is a transcript of one conversation overheard at Doonesbury's Pub outside London, England on September 10th, 2008.

Charles: Terrance, did you see this article suggesting that John McCain is leading the polls for the United States presidency? Did you find that a bit odd?

Terrance: Oh, I did brush over that Charles. Well, it’s no surprise. Don’t they have different political parties over there? I’m sure he’s with the one in opposition of the one that imbecile Bush heads up. Not all that puzzling really.

Charles: No, no Terrance. He’s a Republican! He’s a member of the same party as George Bush, the man you just called an imbecile!

Terrance: Is that so? Well, I’m quite sure there’s a very logical explanation for the surge in Mr. McCain's election numbers. The man obviously has a lot of.. oh I don’t know… pizzazz. He’s probably very young Olivier-isk looking man with a lot of energy and gives dazzling speeches. I told you there were people in this world with a lot more charisma than that Obama fellow! He’s probably very appealing to those “union” blokes, you know, one of the working fellows. You know how the Americans love their.... um, oh, what is it they always say..??? It's beneath the dogs..???

Charles: I believe the term is under-dog. Actually old chap, he’s 72 years of age, not exactly a tiddler. And it says here he owns seven homes! I’m not sure that would make him one of the working fellows you just mentioned either.

Terrance: Good gracious, Charles! 72 years old? That’s impossible. Why, that’s a year older than me and I can hardly make it up the stairs of my flat?!! Don’t they stay in office for 3 years at time? Why that would make him 75 when he’d be up for re-election!! No one’s going to vote for a 75 year old man!!???... And seven homes? I don’t think Prince Charles owns seven homes! Good Gracious! How lucky his wife must be to marry a man with such wealth! Well, it’s a good thing they have those “vice-presidents.” Sounds like this old chap will be using his quite abundantly. For Heaven’s sake, he’s 12 years past retirement! But I suppose in America they have all those wonderful drugs.... And don’t those vice-presidents essentially run the country anyway? I mean, doesn't that Cheney pull the strings while Bush smiles for the camera with his rugged good looks and James Wayne swaggger. Surely, he has a competent running mate who is undoubtedly supremely qualified to take office should something happen to the old chap.

Charles: I believe it's John Wayne, the American western actor you're referring to, and I'm not sure where you got that one.. Ummm...But.. Yes, um, he doeszzz have a running mate, only the papers seem to indicate that many Americans feel that they aren’t qualified or ready to step in should something happen to Mr. McCain.

Terrance: Oh, Charles, don’t be a bloody fool. What kind of tabloids are you reading? You don’t understand Charles, in America the other side is always printing papers that suggest that someone is incompetent. They’ve been doing it for years and years! I’d be willing to bet he has had executive experience that's being undermined by the opposing side.

Charles: (Scanning the paper) Well SHE (Terrance’s eyebrows raise in perfect unison after hearing this) has had some sort of executive experience, but I can’t seem to find what is she was doing – very attractive lady, hmm, beauty pageant....right you are...(mumbling) only in America... Mayor...uh-hu.... hmm….. PTA – not sure what the bloody hell that is..?

Terrance: I believe PTA stands for Pan Trans-Atlantic Airlines. She’s probably a former chief executive officer. Those chaps are typically quite clever with the old finances. I’m certain she’s some sort of Wall street financial wizard given all the complaining the Americans are doing about their bumbling economy.

Charles: You’re probably right. Well, it says here, Alaska - governor for 2 years.

Terrance: Alaska? Do you mean to tell me John McCain’s running mate’s name is Alaska and she has been a “governess” for 2 years? Poor girl. Was probably made fun of constantly for having been given a name like Alaska.. (Charles finds this quite humorous and can’t bring himself to interject; Terrance continues) I suppose it is a bit odd that the Americans believe a governess is qualified to be president..? Oh don’t get me wrong, I once knew a governess who had to take care of 4 children after their mother had all but abandoned them and run off to fulfill her own ambitions. If I'm not mistaken one of the children had some sort of social problem... I can't remember what it was but I remember thinking this woman should locked up and they should throw away the key for such treatment! It turned out that she was attracted to another ambitious old chap -much older and quite possibly senile - who was known for telling heroic war stories and promising some sort of world-altering change to all his "followers"... I know, quite silly and foolish, BUT he did have a loyal following. Well everyone -that is everyone who was sane and sober - knew this bloke and his snobby friends weren't going to change a bloody thing! Those blokes didn't give a pence about anyone, or TO anyone if you know what I mean! Eventually they were all ruined - emotionally, spiritually, and after four years of absolute despicable verbal abuse filled with empty promises by the old man, the mother finally answered her children’s prayers and returned home.

Charles: Touching story Charles. What in bloody hell does that have to do with anything? We’re not talking about a mother abandoning her children for her own ambition and following some senile old man to depths of hell, we’re talking about politics! And for Heaven’s sake Alaska – you bloody fool - is the state in which she governs, not her name! They don’t have governesses!! It says here that Alaska is largest state in size but the second smallest in population. It’s located close to Russia and looks as though it’s attached to Canada.

Terrance: Charles, my dear friend, surely you know a misprint when you see one! I’m quite sure they meant to say that it is largest state in size the second largest population! (Terrance has a discovery) It really makes perfect sense Charles don’t you see? This McCain chap is quite brilliant. Given her geographical location, as well as her geo-POLITICAL position, there is no doubt this woman is probably a seasoned traveler and been all over the world 20 times over. Who in bloody hell would wants to live in what’s presumably a frozen tundra near Russia? In Alaska, passports are probably handed out to children during that spooky holiday! Good Heaven’s - she’s America’s secret weapon when it comes to foreign diplomacy! Brilliant! Not qualified, come now Charles! You really need to read between the lines and stop being so na├»ve. The image of being such a strong, powerful nation is much too important to the Americans. By choosing someone who might be under qualified there’s a chance they might seem weak in the eyes of other nations, or even the world. They’re much more clever. And I will be the first to caution you that your hop-scotch to conclusions might one day prove to be problematic if you aren’t careful. But since you brought up this issue of winning the election, what a brilliant move choosing a woman! Wasn’t that Hilary Clinton quite popular?

Charles: Yes, Terrance, I believe she was. But she was part of same party as the Obama fellow.

Terrance: Yes, but Charles, don’t you think this woman running with McCain has the same types of views as Mrs. Clinton? I mean think about it. The Americans are not happy with their current administration, and Mrs. Clinton was immensely popular and a rival of Mr. Obama. They hated each other! It makes perfect sense!

Charles: (scanning the paper again) Well, you might be on to something there Terrence. It does say something here about Mr. McCain going across party lines…

Terrance: Of course it says that you bloody fool! McCain is genius! It’s really very brilliant. He has chosen woman who is a brilliant foreign diplomat with expertise in Russian relations who can neutralize foreign conflicts faster than you can boil a pot of tea. Doesn’t she also have C.E.O. on his resume if I’m not mistaken? Not that I give a wish-wash about the US economy. But I do believe if this McCain fellow is successful it will be the best thing ever for the citizens of the U.K., and I don’t give a wish-wash if Gordon Brown IS supporting Mr. Obama! Ms. Alaska will..

Charles: For Heaven’s sake Terrance, her name is Palin, Sarah Palin.

Terrance: Any relation to Sarah Ferguson?

Charles: No Terrance, I don’t believe so.

Terrance: Well, I happen to know a lot of Sarahs and I know that she will undoubtedly put an end to the war in Iraq. Mrs. Clinton was going to put an end to war in Iraq! And I’m certain Ms. Palin is Mr. McCain’s Mrs. Clinton! Mr. Obama is probably in much great danger than we thought! Did you see the way Mrs. Clinton disarmed journalists during interviews as if she had a bazooka and they a water pistol? Politicians absolutely love interviews but I'm sure the press is having the utmost difficulty keeping up with global-economic expertise she is dispensing at a relentless rate! And my good friend - didn't Mrs. Clinton have a lot rubbage from her past??! There’s no way that’s the case with Ms. Palin. She’s from Alaska, the frozen tundra, how much trouble could she have possibly gotten herself into? Oh it’s not looking good at all for Mr. Obama. Perhaps he should have sought out a running mate who might fill the chinks in his armor the way Ms. Palin is a virtual force field for Mr. McCain! Poor Mr. Obama and all his new-age, enviro-centric, honesty is the best policy, rubbish he’s been spewing for months. He could really learn something from this McCain fellow. 72 you say..?? Perhaps there’s still time for…

Charles: Oh shut-up Terrance!! And Enviro-centric? Where the bloody hell did you hear that term?

Terrance: Oh, Charles, I don’t know… Probably the BBC – I simply don’t recall and all this excitement has exhausted me. I'm 71 years old- you act as though I'm 46 with all the energy of spark plug! And you know Charles, I can't teach you everything about contemporary American politics. Perhaps you should turn on your telly - the advertisements between programming will give you ample information...

Terrance limps out of his chair and stumbles to the door. Charles is left shaking his head and resumes reading the paper.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Pay to Play

We all know them - these ridiculous companies that "specialize" in helping actors network. They charge ~$35.00 to meet with with a casting director or agent. The actual time you spend with the casting director or agent is ~5 minutes, give or take. You either prepare a monologue or they provide you a scene which they've heard 1000 times. After you do your monologue or scene, they will ask you just enough questions (in most cases) to make you think that you have a chance to be seen again, and then you'll be sent on your way. Conveniently, most of these companies do not screen the actors at all before signing them up. To them, if you have background credits and know absolutely no one in the industry, meeting with someone at the Gersh agency is the obvious next step - hey, you never know, right? Actually, some of us do. Unless you have a face which truly makes the angels in heaven sing when you walk in room you don't have a chance at being seen again. However, if you have 3 legs, and they're casting a movie, which you already know about, that is looking for someone with 3 legs you might want to keep your cell phone on the rest of the day.

However, the acting world can be frustrating and sometimes we get desperate. So one day you find yourself up in arms about your acting career and you decide that "proactive" is your word of the day. You hop online and find a zillion emails in your SPAM box from Actor XYZ Networking Organization and decide to call to meet with an agent or casting director. PLEASE, before you dust off that monologue from Scarface and pick up the phone, read the 1st paragraph again! However, if you're hell bent on busting into this acting business ass first, then might I offer a few suggestions.

An acting coach once told me that "An audition is your time. You have the power when you walk in the room. If you don't, you're in trouble." First off, if you're adamant about ignoring my advice in paragraph one, then you have absolutely nothing to lose so you might as well just give it to the cd or agent with both barrels!! As I stated above, you're paying for it, so have some fun and take control of your destiny.

Let's say you've decided to meet with an agent. Casting directors can have legitimate reasons for using networking companies (they might be looking for that rare 3-legged person, and as it turns out, the only 3-legged actor in the world does not know about the post office and has never heard of email). But agents, who don't have the time to open the mail or read all their emails, do have the time to meet with Johnny-background-actor and take his $35 so let's discuss ways to maximize your investment. One way to guarantee that you have the power is to bring your own reader - preferably someone quite large and intimidating for reasons which will be apparent later. If the building allows dogs, bring them too, they will help you relax the nerves. Walk in the room like you own the place and say, either to yourself or out loud, "This is how this is gonna go" coupled by a confident strut and consistent nodding of the head. As you feel your energy surge, use a very authoritarian tone and tell the agent to keep quiet, explain to them this is your time (an imitation of Al Pacino's 'my time' speech in "The Devil's Advocate" might work nicely here) and when you're finished you'll let them know. Explain that there will be no talking or writing during your audition and if there is, raise your voice and tell them that this is unacceptable. I suggest using something along the lines of "As God is my witness..." when making your point. When you're finished don't ask for any feedback and don't take any either, you're an experienced actor and you know damn well how good it was, and let the agent know it. Feel free to explain the brilliant choices you've made, the agent should feel privileged to be given access to mind of such talent. At this point, there's a chance you might give yourself a pat on the back for bringing that large, surly reader with you. But in the case you don't need their assistance, then walk out of the audition knowing you took command and that you definitely got your money's worth. Don't feel badly at all if you've offended them or perhaps scared the hell out them, after all, they're the ones who are charging you $6 a minute for your time.

Audition Expert

Finally I get the call to audition for a popular daytime drama (aka a soap) for a huge role - a background player. It's hotter than hell on a July morning when I approach the the casting office, getting annoyed at the fact that I cannot contain my perspiration. As I open the door, I am surprised that the office is like any other office - full of cubicles, telephones ringing, computer dorks, and interns racing around while attempting to look composed. As I turn to my left I notice several actors sitting around a coffee table doing their acting thing - reading magazines, looking over scripts, meditating (I love these guys!) and one guy who has his cowboy boots perched prominently on the table while he is literally shouting into his cell phone. He says "What time's the shoot? Oh, sh*t, I don't know if I can make that - can they move the time back? What? Oh, I'm at some soap audition and I have no idea how long it's going to take. What?? I can't hear you (as he raises his voice). Oh, I've been here for at least 20 minutes and I think there might be a couple of dudes in front me. OK, let me see what I can do." He slams his cell phone shut and begins asking everyone how long they've been there, attempting to let everyone in the office know he has been waiting for some time. None of the actors want anyone in the office to see them talking to this guy so their answers are very short. Finally, the casting director walks out and says "William, we're ready for you." Just then the guy (who thinks no one can hear him) says "F**k, I can't believe this..." Astounded, everyone turns and looks at him. This is a guy who could care less about being put on the spot and says to "William" (and the casting director) "Hey bro, don't take too long there cause I got sh*t to do.." Hell yeah he does, but I highly doubt anything to do with this soap will affect his calendar.

That's how it's done! Only in New York..

A beautiful morning in New York City. I'm on my way to acting class when I notice a guy (a Bryant Gumble type with a brief case) casually crossing the street when he is almost struck by a cab sprinting recklessly from the opposite direction. "Whoaa" he shouts and stumbles back to curb, almost losing his carefully guarded briefcase. Just then, a confident self-assured gentleman identically matching "Flava Flave" in the height of Run DMC (bling, white leisure suit, sunglasses, and sparkled hat) walks past me, toward the same street, chuckling "Tah, heh heh" at the guy who was almost struck. His confident bop suggests he is saying to himself, "What a fool - this guy don't have the presence to make traffic stop like I do.. watch this!" As he attempts to cross the street, a van is coming directly at him with no sign of slowing down. The speed somewhat startles "Flave" and the van slows as the man finally stops in the street. Flave looks around a bit as the van slowly approaches. At that moment I say to myself, it isn't a matter of whether or not "f**k you's" will be exchanged, it is only a matter of how they will be said. As the van approaches, the driver, a huge burly man with a thick Russian accent says to Flave, "You'd better vatch vhere you're going..." Flave guys gives him a quick wave and a glance around, then hollers in a fairly high-pitched voice "Maaannnn, F**k you, and F**k your mammie!!!" With an "Ahhh" and a hand wave the Russian speeds off in the van. The guy then turns to me -knowing I am glued to the activity- and says with a chuckle "See, that's how it's done!.. Tahh heh heh.." and walks off. You certainly can't learn these lessons in class!