Monday, December 3, 2012

NEW MUSIC MONDAY: White Christmas!

I love Christmas music. I love the classics, I love pop versions of the classics, I love new Christmas songs, I even dig the cheesy muzak versions you hear in department stores. I love it! I believe it comes from my birthday being in December. As a kid, if I couldn't save up for a new toy with my allowance, I was always told "wait for your birthday." So, by the time we get to Thanksgiving, it's ON.

I know most people are Christmas music purists - only Bing Crosby will do. But I tend to love the remakes the most. For some reason, they remind me of being a little kid and hearing that stuff on the radio. U2 singing "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)?" Fantastic! Mariah Carey's "O Holy Night?!" Are you kidding me?! Christina Aguilera's random-as-hell R&B tracks that are about Christmas? YASSS. Hell, Sarah McLachlan's "I'll Be Home For Christmas," was the first time I even considered the singer wasn't going home for Christmas. And it broke my little heart! In the best way.

So you know I was excited when I heard about a new rock version of the song "White Christmas." Now, we've heard all sorts of versions of that song, it's a CUH-LASSIC. It has to be up there with "The Christmas Song" as one of the most recorded songs ever. This version is by a band from New Hampshire, East is East. So you know they know all about snow!

I've heard some tracks by East is East, and they're quite good. Definitely some of the best music I've heard from an unsigned band lately. Their sound would be categorized by a record store (if those were still everywhere. Remember browsing record stores? I miss that.) they would be called "alternative." Except when you think "alternative," you normally think of cheesy 90s bands trying to capitalize on a "movement." East is East is not reminiscent of that at all, their music is coming from a real place. And even though it's rock music, it's got soul. You know what I mean?

Their version of "White Christmas" is warm and makes you want to cuddle with your sweetheart by the fire until the middle when it breaks loose and they bring it home in a real rollicking way. Like those nights when you're snowed in, sitting by the fire, reading a book on your ipad and all of a sudden that spiked hot chocolate kicks in and it is ON. Oi-oi-oi!

Check it out below, and if you want to purchase it, all proceeds go to UNICEF! (hooray for giving back! It is Christmas, after all - it is better to give than receive...) After you fall in love with that track, check out more of their tracks from their album, Provenance, either on soundcloud, iTunes, or their website. You won't be disappointed.

Find East is East online! Twitter. Facebook.

[© MMXII MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Monday, November 26, 2012

NEW MUSIC MONDAY: Shoshana Bean!

As a performer who sings, I always love to hear excellent singers. But it goes farther than that, I took piano lessons and played viola before I ever sang in a chorus. My mom, crazy person that she is, taught me to read music starting when I was five. Hell, the only thing that would calm me down when she was pregnant with me was music. Specifically, Stevie Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life." Specifically "Sir Duke."

Music is in my soul, yo.

I first heard about Shoshana Bean when she was the Elphaba standby for Broadway's "Wicked." Everyone was saying how great she was, everyone. As a standby! She came and did the show in LA, and I somehow missed it, even though it lived here for over a year. And the theater is down the street from my house. I know!

So my first real intro to her singing was in a Seth Rudetsky deconstruction of her in an Actor's Fund charity concert of the musical "Hair." [skip to the 3:50 to hear her go OFF] She's got this incredible belt voice AND a beautiful soprano voice. That's what we call an anomaly.

And then she released a solo album. Superwoman. And on this album, there is a cover of Aretha's "Ain't No Way." And she kills it.

What da fuck....? So her album is aptly titled. Okayyy!

Then I get to see her live. Blues music. While I had the blues. She was so amazing, that at one point in the concert I kinda blissed out listening to her sing. I was dumbfounded, staring off into space. And then the most amazing thing happened. Shoshana Bean recognized this, leaned down - while she was singing - and waved hello to me to snap me out of my trance... And it worked! When She leaned into my field of vision, I could see that she saw that I was enjoying her. And she brought me back to the present.

You know, where she was still singing.

Now, Ms. Bean has an album coming out soon. An Indie record that raised money on Kickstarter. Indie for real. And the first single has been released, "Runnin' Out of Days." It's that bluesy soul sound we all know from the 1960's, yet it also carries a strong modern feel and relevance. This girl is sangin my music, yo.

Those horns are tellin’ a story. You know she’s serious before she even starts singing. And she’s got a happy story to sing about - which is a great feel, especially for this time of year. Check it out below, the single is available on iTunes now!

OH, and Ms. Shoshana just happens to playing Friday nights at Rockwell Table and Stage. And she takes it to CHURCH. Check it:

[MMXII MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Sunday, November 25, 2012

N E W _ M U S I C !

So we're starting a new section of Soccerboy in LA today, and it's all about new music! Mostly it'll be some stuff I've found from new and/or indie artists [of all genres], plus new music from established artists, plus some random old stuff we've either forgotten or deserves a fresh listen. This is all about FUN.

But I won't be reviewing music; I'm an artist, not a critic. I'm just celebrating others in their artistic endeavors because I want to live in a world where artists support each other. So if you see it posted here, you know that I'm already digging it.

If you'd like your music to be considered to be featured, email me some links. My email isn't difficult to find.

I'll leave you with a quote by Martha Graham:

"Let's dispel with this idea that the theatre, that dance, that the arts, that humanity, the American people, all things are in desperate shape, sad mendicants of the evening. I reject this entirely, as should you. Those who should survive, will survive. We help those we can. We support those we can, at all times, but we do not wrap ourselves in hair shirts and strap cans in our hands and beg for our survival and seek sympathy for our puny rewards. Art--like life--is a majestic calling, a great adventure, a remarkable opportunity and gift. I resent very much these people who create for themselves artistic sinecures by advocating on behalf of the arts. They have no place in the arts. Create your art; support the art of others. Create a life; support the lives of others. Be a great artist; be a great human. The rewards arrive daily. Do not join clubs to support life and art. Simply live and be an artist."

- Martha Graham [1990]

I'll leave you with a fun little gym banger from Kylie back in 2004. Sweet. Music.

[MMXII MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Settle Down [part trois] : TRANSCENDENCE

This is the third part of a story that started just over three weeks ago, when I had a revelation while waiting in line to check out at the grocery store. Then I had wonderful surprise while working last week. It’s actually important to read that first two parts to understand the full scope of this story. G’head – it’ll only take a couple of minutes at most. You’ll enjoy it.

In which things get Bat Shit Crazy.

“See you later…”

That’s what Gwen Fucking Stefani said to me as she left the studio.

It had been a difficult day, and there would be more difficulty to come, but I was on a high. I was managing my energy. I didn’t eat enough lunch and instead drank copious amounts of water, Powerade and snacked on peanuts. And every once in a while, a cookie. I know, I know – refined sugar! Sue me. But it’s the only way to have enough fuel to keep your adrenal glands happy and also not be weighed down by a food coma. I also focused on how I was there to help. When I focus on helping, I tend to have more energy and deliver a better performance.

And I did. I felt good about my work, and I was happy with the energy I was getting from the crew when I was in front of the camera. A delightful experience. We were running late [as we often do on set] and I was worried that I wouldn’t get a chance for my second meditation that day, or the meditation that I’m doing as part of Deepak Chopra’s “21 Day Meditation Challenge.” But I got home just in time to do the short challenge. As I sat down and listened to Deepak’s voice, my brain became silent surprisingly fast. And then, something happened that hasn’t happened in a while in my meditation. As I repeated my mantra, I felt the familiar buzz in the space right above and between my eyes. My third eye awakened. I broke through. Now this buzz isn’t like anything else I’ve experienced. It’s not a feeling of lightheadedness, nor is it the buzz of inebriation. It’s a shimmering feeling of excitement.

Once that shimmering buzz appears, you sort of have to move your consciousness into it to break through. For some, it may be instantaneous. For me, as I slowly plug along in my practice, it’s literally like moving into that space. Making trips back and forth, moving box by box, slowly but steadily – and always focusing on that feeling - until my consciousness is feeling everything through my third eye.

It was beautiful, and I hadn’t had it happen in a while because I think I had gotten a little bit lazy. I had come to expect it to just be there, that it would happen on its own. That is not the case. You have to show up to your meditation every time you practice. So I tripled my efforts. Instead of twenty minutes twice a day, I made a decision to meditate for an hour twice a day. I immediately saw benefits, more presence, more patience [which was given to me as the first part of this story], but I was still looking for legit transcendence.

Mannnn… Did I ever get what I looking for.

I woke up a couple of hours after going to sleep that night. I drank some water, and laid back down. I fell back asleep, or so I thought. While I was sleeping, I felt my third eye open and felt that familiar buzz. I wasn’t sleeping; I was meditating! I focused on the buzz, and went into the silence. I took that train. Just as everything became silent, Gwen Stefani materialized in front of me. Materialized! She was here. I knew I wasn’t dreaming. She didn’t feel like a character in a dream, it was her – we could feel each other’s presence. The feeling was so strong that it was as if we both immediately knew everything about each other; that we were connected.

People who practice transcendental meditation often talk about having visions that are clear as day while they’re meditating. They talk about having people’s spirits appear to them, and talking with the person, and often having the person leave them with some life-altering wisdom. It’s very common for people who have a diligent practice. And I’ve always believed it was possible, it just hadn’t ever happened to me. Yet.

As Gwen Stefani recognized me, we both looked at each other like “This shit is absolutely fucking CRAZY.” Because it was! She and I reached for each other, intertwined our arms and looked out at the Universe as we broke through together. Our touch was electric. As we clasped hands and watched the Universe unfold before us, we both said “Whoa,” at the same time. We saw EVERYTHING. The stars, nebulas, love. As I write this, my forehead is getting that buzz, and my third eye is opening. Tears are flowing down my face. We held on to each other and basked in magnificent love. Words were useless; we had the same thoughts. same-same. And we both knew that as much as we were seeing – we were only being given a miniscule amount. Like something the size of a marble in comparison to the rest of the Universe. But in that marble…

Finally, I understand exactly what Ralph Waldo Emerson was talking about! From his essay Nature [1836]: “Standing on the bare ground – my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite spaces – all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.”

What was so mesmerizing was not only what we were seeing, but the way it all felt. While looking out at everything, we could also feel everything. We all know that everything is just made up of molecules, so what really is the difference between things? This is existence. With this, we could feel all the molecules – all the stars, all the fabric, all the light – all the things. Everything felt like love. We were one with all that is.

And all of this while Mercury is in retrograde…?!

It was just so much. So, so much. It was a lot, what we saw…

And then we danced together to the rhythm of the Cosmos, yes we did. Really. And you know what? Gwen was right; I did “see her later.” What’s even crazier is there’s a song on NO DOUBT’S new album [Push and Shove] called Dreaming the Same Dream. Whaaaaaaaaat?! I truly believe she did this on purpose; she shared her love right back at me. But if I wasn’t open to receive it, or aware of this abundance; none of this would have happened.

If this experience makes people think I’m crazy, then call me crazy. All I know for sure is that if this was a dream, then everything is a dream.

You guys. There is so much love out there for us. And inside of us. So. Much. Love. And it’s just waiting for us to connect to it and then ride it. I can’t make this shit up. And if I know one thing, if I can have this kind of experience, then everyone can. Believe me. We just have to be present. If we want to receive all that the Universe has to offer, then we have to be present for the gifts to be delivered. How can we receive anything, if we’re not legitimately here? Everything is possible.


Namasté Muthafuckas!

[© MMXII MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Shoutout to my sophomore American Studies in Literature teacher in high school, Catherine Tipton, for introducing me to Transcendentalism. New Romantics, yo.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Settle Down [part deux]

The first part of this story starts just over three weeks ago, when I had a revelation while waiting in line to check out at the grocery store. It’s actually important to read that first part to understand the full scope of this story. G’head – it’ll only take a couple of minutes at most. You’ll enjoy it.

So I’m sitting in the green room, eating lunch on break from shooting on a green screen all day. It’s already been a long day and it’s only lunch. And I woke up exhausted. There are ten of us in the green room, eating pizza and watching FLASHPOINT on TV. After I finish my slice, I get that itchy feeling that I’ve got to get out of there. For no apparent reason. I remember there being a couch down the hall and around the corner, so I grab my phone and head for it. But it’s not there. I completely remember there being a couch, where the hell am I gonna sit?! Since I’m in costume, sitting on the floor isn’t an option, but I see some equipment stacked against the wall a little further down. I worry that I’m moving a little too far away from the green room to hear when we’re called back to set. But I sit on it anyway.

I already know it was a good decision to go there. The interesting thing about shooting is that it really taxes your adrenaline. You have to be at a constant state of readiness, but then you also have to wait. Sometimes they say they’re ready for you and then you have to wait another hour. A big portion of the job is maintaining your energy and focus. I could chill out here alone and get myself back together.

After a few minutes, three men walk out of the door next to me and walk right past me. After they pass, I look up and I immediately recognize them from behind – they’re the guys from the band NO DOUBT. Holy Shit. I love NO DOUBT. Love. And not only have I loved their new song “Settle Down” since it was released, but I also just had a bit of an experience with it in the grocery store just over three weeks ago. Every day since then, I’ve heard that song differently.

I’ve interpreted the song as being about meditation, about being present and checking in with that silence throughout the day. “What’s your twenty, where’s your brain…?” I’ve been meditating every day this year, and I’ve experienced all sorts of abundance because of it. A pop song about meditation?! I mean, come ON! How can you not love that shit?

I immediately get up and run after the guys. I get their attention and they all turn around at the same time. It happened in slow motion. Very. Scorcese. And there they were, three legit rock stars looking at me, waiting for me to speak. “Your new album is dope. I love your music. I love your music,” I said. The second time I said that I love their music, I put my hand over my heart and did a little bow – and I swear on all that’s holy – I could see their spirits receive my gratefulness. And they lit up. Like a Christmas tree! I communicated to them that their work matters to me, that they are good at their jobs. To an artist, that shit is real.

And just like that, they were gone.

As I sat back down, two women came up and stood outside of the room where the guys came out of and I realized… I AM IN THE SAME ROOM WITH GWEN STEFANI. And I knew she would walk out soon. I just knew it. AND SHE DID. I stood up immediately. The two women asked for a photo. I got the camera on my phone ready. As they were thanking her for the picture, I felt the exact same as when I’m about to make an entrance onstage and I’ve just heard my cue. Go. Now. I walked right up to Gwen – who is almost as tall as me in heels – and asked her if she would take a pic with me as well. She is Gorgeous with a capital G, she has a great energy, and she has a generous spirit. You can feel it. She is everything you expect Gwen Stefani to be. She agreed to the pic. I had to ask one of the women to take the pic for me. I just asked two strangers for favors within five seconds. Gwen smiled at my moxie. “Your music has brought a lot of positivity to my life,” I told her. And I put all my love into saying it. While I said it, I crossed my heart. But not like the kids rhyme, I did it like a cross. Then I said, “I’m very grateful for your music.” And DAMN. We had serious eye contact while she listened – how have I always forgotten that she’s got brown eyes? She was listening with every cell in her body, and I saw her receive the information I was telling her like a download. We communicated. Hell, we communed.

And we took the picture. She put her hand on my shoulder! The woman who took the pic smiled really big and said “It’s great.” I thanked Gwen, and she went back into her green room.

I sat back down and just about exploded. I remembered the whole thing about how their song had been on my mind every day since the grocery store revelation, and how I had heard her song “What You Waiting For,” on radio several times since then as well. I was filled with an overwhelming sense of love and abundance that all the hairs on my body stood straight up.

Something is happening. Now.

The thing about meditation, and all thinking really, is that whatever you spend your time thinking about is what you will bring more of into your life. Thinking about success, then more success. Thinking about hope, then more hope. Thinking about love, then more love. Thinking about doubt, then more doubt. Our thoughts are material, everything’s just made up of molecules. And there they all were, right in front of me, after I had been contemplating the hell out of their song. I could not ignore the Universe’s magnificence and perfection.

Just then, she and a colleague walked out past me and down the hall. I didn’t want to demand any more attention from her, so I didn’t want to look up. But I had to. She’s gorgeous. She’s GWEN FUCKING STEFANI! As I looked up, she smiled at me and said “See you later…” With the ellipses. She said it the way you say it to a friend you randomly run into the afternoon of a surprise party for them. You can’t give anything away, but you can’t resist saying something. It was almost a tease. Was Gwen Fucking Stefani playing with me?! SWOON. LE GASP. I DIE.

And just like that, she was gone.

Here’s the pic. I think we look like we’re having a spiritual moment. And that was when Gwen Stefani’s spirit met Malcolm Devine’s spirit. same-same.

Interesting that the show that was on the TV was FLASHPOINT. The definition of a flashpoint is “the temperature at which a particular organic compound gives off sufficient vapor to ignite in air.”

Molecules, bitch!

Ready for this story to get BAT SHIT CRAZY? Click here for Part Trois!

[© MMXII MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Martha Graham Keeps It Moving.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open… No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

- Martha Graham

[© MMXII MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Street Art!

Here is some patriotic street art I was lucky enough to see on South La Brea. Street art is one of my favorite things about living in an urban environment. This one speaks for itself. [click to see full image]

[© MMXII MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Love from Louis C.K.

This is a transcript of what Louis C.K. just sent his mailing list from his dressing room at SNL, as he's about to host, in NYC, this week, of all weeks. Reprinted without permission, but shared with all the love Louis intended to spread. Please don't sue me.

Hello. Its louis here. I'm clacking this to you on my phone in my dressing room here at studio 8H, right in 30 rockefeller center, in Manhattan, new york city, new york, america, world, current snapshot of all existence everywhere.

Tonight I'm hosting Saturday Night Live, something I zero ever in my life saw happening to me. And yet here it is completely most probably happening (I mean, ANYTHING could NOT happen. So we'll see).

I've been working here all week with the cast, crew, producers and writers of SNL, and with Lorne Michaels. Such a great and talented group of people.

And here we are in the middle of New York City, which was just slammed by a hurricane, leaving behind so much trouble, so much difficulty and trauma, which everyone here is still dealing with every day.

Last night we shot some pre-tape segments in greenwich Village, which was pitch black dark for blocks and blocks, as it has been for a week now.

Its pretty impossible to describe walking through these city streets in total darkness. It can't even be called a trip through time, because as long as new york has lived, its been lit. By electricity, gas lamps, candlelight, kerosene. But this was pitch black, street after street, corner round corner. And for me, the village being the very place that made me into a comedian and a man, to walk through the heart of it and feel like, in a way, it was dead. I can't tell you how that felt. And you also had a palpable sense that inside each dark window was a family or a student or an artist or an old woman living alone, just being int he dark and waiting for the day to come back. Like we were all having one big sleep over, but not so much fun as that.

This is how a lot of the city is still. I know people in queens, brooklyn, Staten Island, new jersey, all over, are not normal yet. And not normal is hard.

And here at 30 rock, these folks are working so hard this week. There are kids in the studio every day, because members of the crew and staff had to bring them to work. Many people are sharing lodging. Everyone is tired. But there's this feeling here that we've got to put on a great show. I'm sure it feels like that here every week. But wow. I feel really lucky to be sharing this time with these particular good folks here at SNL.

In about 5 hours we'll be going on the air. I'll do a monologue. And we'll show you some sketches that we wrote and try to make you laugh. I'm gonna look really dumb in some of this stuff. But I don't care. Its awfully worth it. And I'm really excited.

Anyway. I just wanted to let you know. If you watch the show tonight, when Don Pardo says my name and you see me walking out, all the shit in this email is what ill be thinking. I'm a pretty lucky guy. I hope you enjoy the show.


Louis C.K.

Live. From new york. Its saturday night.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Too Angry to Be Eloquent

We’re getting to this point right now in the election where I just can’t believe what the hell is going on in this country. A War On Women? You have got to be kidding me! Yet I also am not surprised. If you remember way back in 2008 when I wrote this, I warned that if we were voting against gay rights, that Women’s rights would be next up on the chopping block. And they are.

I urge every person of voting age who doesn’t understand why this is important to think of this: your mother.

Let’s take my mother, for example. As an African-American woman from southwest Georgia, she was the first person in her family to go to college. Out of every single person I’m related to on her side of the family. And nothing was handed to her, ever. In fact, many things were taken away from her and she still “got out.” All thanks to hard work.

As a senior in college, my mom had decided to become an attorney, applied to Emory University and GOT IN. Now not only would she be the first person in my family to go to college, but she would also be the first to go to graduate school. Crazy. Craziness. Then, in late April of her senior year, the unthinkable happened. She got pregnant. As much as I love being here on the planet, and love my existence - even I can understand that the prevailing feeling had to be something like this: “FUCK. FUCK-FUCK-FUCK.” She had a very difficult decision to make, and she decided to keep me.

I have no idea what possessed her to do such a stupid thing.

But I’m glad she did, because this Earth place is pretty much paradise. But, without having any financial base to rely on, you kinda have to wonder what the fuck she was thinking, right? But she did it anyway. And the next September, there she was matriculating at Emory, with an eight month old baby on her hip. If that ain’t real, I just don’t know what is.

And that was just the beginning. For the next two decades, she moved mountains to raise me and make sure I was provided for. And it was in no shape or form easy. Not only provided for, but also fulfilled. I got an excellent education, played sports, made art, performed, did gymnastics, did diving, figure skating, we went to the theater, to movies, to museums, dance concerts and other cultural events to make sure I was exposed to the world at large. On top of that, she took me and picked me up from countless practices and rehearsals all while holding down a full time job as an attorney! Did I mention she was a single mother?

She moved mountains.

While my mother is amazing, she is not alone. Women move mountains all the time. How could we deny these women who quite legitimately pull off the impossible every day the rights to their own bodies? And some of these reproductive rights help prevent cancers! And you know what, when you look at the numbers objectively, men don’t look too good. Yes, I know this isn’t all men, but let’s get real: men fall asleep on the couch. Men don’t move mountains, MEN FUCKING LEAVE. And that’s just a casual, objective assessment of the numbers! And this has been happening for centuries.

A lot of conservatives tend to point out that I’m only here on this planet because my mother didn’t have an abortion. But that’s not completely true; I’m only here on this planet because my mother had a choice.

Women are amazing. If men had to be pregnant, let’s face it – the human race would die off. Period.

I urge you to think about this when you vote. Think about your mother, your sister, your wife and your daughters. Can you look them in the eye and tell them that they don’t deserve to be in control of their own bodies the same way you are? That they don’t deserve medical care that helps prevent cancers? If you are religious and having a difficult time with this, I urge you to get down on your knees and ask God to honestly tell you what to do. I don’t believe the response would be to treat any other of his creatures as less-than.

And we have to do this NOW, at this election. We have run out of time to be passive. Yes, it happens to be the right, moral thing to do. But most importantly, we should keep this in mind when voting for two reasons:

1. They deserve it.
2. We owe them.

[© MMXII MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Settle Down

It's a gorgeous October Sunday that feels like fall on the east coast, which is beyond rare in LA. I find myself staring into my full refrigerator trying to figure out what to make for lunch. It is full, though none of it is appealing. There's something about the weather that makes me want to drive. And just like that: soup! Perfect.

I hop in the car and am immediately annoyed, which is not rare in LA. People; drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists, seem to be making extra stupid, life-threatening decisions. I hear myself say "What the hell is going on," and realize it's the third time I've said that phrase in as many minutes.

At the store, I am astounded by how inconsiderate the other shoppers are. WHY would you leave your shopping cart in an aisle perpendicular-style? WHY would you back your cart out of an aisle without looking and into other shoppers, knocking them over? WHY would you bring toddlers into the store?!

But seriously, two guys completely shut down the self-checkout when they took the services of the employee when their incompetence put not one, but two - TWO of said terminals out of service.

I just don't think they understand the concept of self-checkout.

As I was waiting, listening to the other people in line making snide comments and giggling out of understanding, I was reminded of something that happened to me in the Wendy's drive thru a few weeks ago.

As I was turning into the parking lot, thinking about glorious melty cheese, the car in front of me wouldn't move. There was a truck stopped in front of the car, but there was more than plenty of room to move around. But the car wouldn't move. I sat there for a good thirty seconds with half my car in the street and half of it in the driveway, which was just enough to stop traffic in both directions. So I did the unthinkable: I honked.

Yet the car wouldn't move. So I honked again.

And just like that, the car finally moved and ordered. After I ordered and was waiting to pay, I noticed that the driver in front of me saw me in her mirror, unbuckled her seat belt, fully got out of her car and proceeded to yell at me.

"You are SO IMPATIENT!! Your life must be so miserable if you cannot wait a few seconds for me to move!!! Do you feel better by honking????!" There was such rage on her face and in her voice. For the first time in my life, I knew exactly what to say to her and I knew she had it coming. Instead I just listened; I waited her out. She paused then gave me the most peculiar look, turned around and got back into her car.

Just as I remembered that, the line at the self-checkout moved and things made sense. It seemed as if the more impatient I was, the more there was to be impatient about. I felt this overwhelming feeling, this presence, suggesting I be patient. And breathe. Even though that woman in the drive thru was being crazy, even though grocery shoppers are inconsiderate and seem to hate using their brains, even though screaming toddlers have meltdowns in the store, and some shoppers really have no business in the self-checkout EVEN THOUGH IT IS COMPLETELY SIMPLE IF YOU'VE EVER BEEN TO ANY STORE IN YOUR LIFE, JUST SCAN THE DAMN ITEMS AND PAY!

Even with the ridiculousness, just be patient. Maybe especially, even.

I wondered – have I ever actually been legitimately patient before? I’ve been silent, sure. I’ve definitely waited without whining. But patient…? Even waiting without aggression isn’t the same as patience.

As I drove home I felt a lightness that made flowers look brighter and an already beautiful sky more spectacular. And I understood that for me to get to where it is I'm going - which is for me to know and for you to find out - patience would have to win out. Otherwise, I might just be creating more to be impatient about.

But more than anything, I felt an overwhelming sense of love.

Ready to have your MIND BLOWD? Check out PART DEUX!

© MMXII MD TOTAL [all rights reserved]

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Way To Think.

"It's like football, really. You American actors refuse to run unless you have this 'ball of truth' tucked firmly within your arms, whereas we Brits run as fast as we can and hope to God someone throws us the ball."

- Laurence Olivier to Anthony Quinn during the stage version of BECKET.

[© MMXII MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Great EDM Tracks to start off your summer!

I don't know about you guys, but I LOVE electronic dance music - or EDM as we've been calling it lately. There's something about EDM in comparison to other types of dance music that just feels transcendant. And that feeling is exactly what we need on the dancefloor - and in life - I'm telling you. Now, there's a couple of things to say about EDM before we get to the tracks. Remember how Disco died? Well, it didn't. We just renamed it. And if you really look back, you can see how we've always brought it along since the 70s.

One of the coolest things about Donna Summer's music is that it was far more groundbreaking than most give credit for. Her hit "I Feel Love," is the beginning of EDM. You can hear immediately that it's different from other disco music of the time. Give it a spin while you read this to get your head in the right space. After disco "died," the same techniques and song structures were being used in other genres. Two of the best examples of this are David Bowie's "Let's Dance," (note the latin percussion, the horns and the bass line) and INXS' "New Sensation," (I mean that guitar riff is nothing if it ain't DISCO). As we moved through the 80s, a new genre called house music began to take over underground clubs. And it never left. Thank god.

Now, EDM is beginning to take over pop radio and with good reason. It feels AWESOME. It's also worth mentioning that the way the American mainstream is discovering EDM right now is the way it's been in Europe for quite some time. Rave culture started in Europe in the 80s and never really left. America has flirted with it here and there (Daft Punk, Kylie, and Madonna in general), but we've arrived at a tipping point. I can't say where we're going to go, but I hope America stays in love with EDM. Not as the only genre we listen to, but as something we always listen to. EDM deserves to be here because we will always need to DANCE.

I've made a list of some tracks that I'm feeling right now, and if you wanna hear me talk about the tracks, I go into further detail after that. Have fun. Eat candy. And for the love of all that's holy, play them LOUD. EDM is meant to be heard LOUD.

1. "Raise Your Weapon [Madeon Extended Remix]" Deadmau5, Raise Your Weapon Remixes
2. "I'm Addicted" Madonna, MDNA
3. "Where Have You Been?" Rihanna, Talk That Talk
4. "Titanium" David Guetta ft. Sia, Nothing But the Beat
5. "Levels" Avicii, Levels single
6. "Save the World" Swedish House Mafia, Save The World single
7. "Take Over Control" Afrojack ft. Eva Simons, Take Over Control single
8. "Timebomb" Kylie Minogue, Timebomb single
9. "In the Air" Mogan Page + Sultan + Ned Shepard + BT, In the Air single

"Raise Your Weapon [Madeon Extended remix]" Deadmau5, Raise Your Weapon single
It's important to recognize here this remix is very different from production of the original track, which is dubstep. Madeon's softened grooves are quite literally the opposite of dubstep's staccato. Madeon, being 17 years old and French, counts Daft Punk as serious influences, and it's audible. For some reason, it sounds they way I expected nightclubs to feel like when I was a little kid in the 80s. It's massively uplifting and extremely danceable. Listen to it and see if you immediately want to hear it again. Pay attention to the playoff. It's the producer saying "I know you're loving this song and you don't want it to end so I'm going to give you a minute of me killing it instrumentally to get you used to the idea that it's almost over."

Madeon deserves to be mentioned again here, just because of this live mashup he played, which is called Pop Culture. It's inspiring, to say the least. He plays that damn Launchpad like an instrument! I also love how so many other tracks I love are presented in high relief - there's 39 songs mashed up in three short minutes.

"I'm Addicted" Madonna, MDNA.
This song sounds like drugs. There's just no way around that - I swear it gets my brain to release dopamine, which is exactly what MDMA does. It nails what the beginning of a crush feels like; that period when you just can't stop thinking about that someone. From the aggressive opening riff, you just know you're about to throw down on the dance floor in a serious way. Madonna has said this was the most difficult song to write on the album, and it's no surprise. The song's structure isn't reinventing the wheel, but it is the rare pop song that continues to feel new as it develops yet you're still able to sing along. This song is something else. It should come as no surprise to anyone who's paid even the slightest attention to music in the last thirty years, electronic dance music is what Madonna has excelled at for her entire career. Yet - this happens to be one of the best dance tracks she's ever recorded. Period.

"Where Have You Been" Rihanna, Talk That Talk.
I'll admit to not loving this song when it was first released, but I feel it's a good example of a song that needed a context for it to find its way into my heart. In this case, it's the song's video. The way the guys kill the choreography stayed with me. A few days later, I heard it in the car and the last dance break kinda stuck out. It was that moment where you're driving and your mind is thinking about something then a portion of the song gets through and you hear it - really hear it - for the first time. And I've loved it ever since. This song has a serious journey - it's a workout. The opening chords are so sweet and soft, but Rihanna's vocal has an urgency that betrays where the song is really going to go. She's a siren; in heat. Then the beat drops in and you know she's serious. From then on, the song goes on like it's driving through a storm and does not let up until the cool down. For me, it's all about that last dance break, through the bridge and the outro. But it wouldn't feel so good if everything that preceded it wasn't awesome.

"Titanium" David Guetta ft. Sia, Nothing But The Beat
David Guetta. Talk about someone who's taken over the genre! I find this track to be more interesting than others of his, it also features vocals by Sia. Is there any artist she's worked with whose work wasn't elevated by her presence? I also love hearing her sing this kind of music, her voice has a quality that is exciting and really fits the drive of the track. It opens with just that guitar riff, similar to the Rihanna track I mentioned, and similarly, it betrays its real motive: a beat. Everything that follows is a throw down JAM OF CELEBRATION. And in case you missed the train during the first verse and chorus, it starts over before the second verse to catch any listeners who might have been lazy. Get on board, it says. Ride.

"Levels" Avicii, Levels single.
This was the first Avicii track I heard, and I first heard it in an episode of the underrated and now cancelled "How to Make it in America." The only lyrics happen to be the same sample that Flo Rida used in his track, "Good Feeling." It's used brilliantly here as well. I mean, in just two phrases you understand the entire song. It's about lifting yourself - whether it be your career or something more personal - to another level. See what I did there? At least that's what I think of. It's funny how just some hand claps can drive a beat, isn't it? It's definitely worth mentioning that Skrillex did a remix...

"Save the World" Swedish House Mafia, Save the World single
Any list that talks about EDM has to include Swedish House Mafia - they are HUGE. This song is actually from last summer, but it still rocks. I love this song's simplicity, there's not really a whole lot of instruments going on. That simplicity is what gives it such a soaring feeling - it's refreshing. Imagine hearing this at a music festival on a hot summer night and having the band use one of those fancy machines that spits tiny ice chips into the air! This song is just meant to be played for a huge crowd, you can feel it. There's also an awesome remix of this song that definitely deserves to be mentioned, but it's best understood once you already know the original.

"Take Over Control" Afrojack, ft. Eva Simons. Take Over Control Single
This track touches on a subject that EDM often touches upon - transcendance. It's easy to guess what the lyrics are referring to when they talk about "taking over control," but there's always what Nile Rodgers calls the deeper hidden meaning. For me, this song is about meditation, or connecting to the universe, or connecting to spirit. It's about taking control over your life, and not just waiting for things to happen to you. And by taking control, by connecting to something larger than yourself, you can finally be all of who you really are. Now, I can see how some would feel like that's a bit of a stretch if there weren't SO MANY dance songs that touch upon this subject. Then when you combine the transcendant chord progressions with the idea of actual transcendance, it's ecstatic. Plug it in and turn me on, indeed!

"Timebomb" Kylie Minogue, Timebomb Single
Now Kylie is just coming off an amazing EDM album, Aphrodite. And since she just finished touring that record last year, I was surprised to find out there was new music. Buit it's just a lead single for a greatest hits. We'll have to be patient, but it's okay - this will tide us over. This track is a POP SONG, and it lets you know it means business from the moment it starts, there's no "let's take it slow and then ramp up" thing goin on here. It gets going. I will admit that when I first heard it, I wasn't sold but I found it fun enough to download for my gym mix. After a couple of listens, I was bumping it ALL THE TIME. Part of that is because it's catchy, but hey - I ain't exactly playing the bad shit that's catchy, now am I? I said earlier that this is a pop song, and I mean it in the best way. It's the best piece of candy I've heard in a while, and it talks about everyone's favorite feeling: meeting someone and becoming interested in them. "It's not the end of the world, it's just the start of me and you." I mean, come ON! Just enjoy the ride, suck on a lollipop and dance around your living room to this tonight.

"In the Air" Mogan Page + Sultan + Ned Shepard + BT, In the Air
This is another track that as soon as it starts, you know they mean bizness. The breathy vocals seem to call to the listener as if they were across a long distance. This track is a great example of a staple of EDM - lyrics that speak of feeling that something is about to change, something so palpable you can feel it. And this gets to the heart of what dance music is about in general, to raise people up. That's what dance is about, letting go of all that's holding you back in your life so you can move forward. And on those magical nights at the club or even in your living room, as you're dancing you are physically getting that tension out of your body and it feels good. That feeling of change is so powerful that you can feel it, In The Air.

[© MMXII MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pilot Season? For Whom?

Pilot Season is that weird time in the beginning of every year where actors go crazy hoping they’ll get a shot at shooting a pilot, hopefully for a broadcast network. And there is a possibility, if only because networks are ordering pilots, and they will be shot and somebody will have to say those words out loud. But just like everything else in Showbiz, it isn’t necessarily as easy as it looks.

Recently I had the pleasure of working on a very successful sitcom, with very well regarded actors. During a break on tape day, I got into a conversation about pilot season with the show’s casting associate and one of the show’s other guest stars that week. The casting associate was talking about how it’s seemingly ridiculous at the beginning of pilot season. The names networks throw out at the first meetings are of such a level that you have to remind yourself not laugh out loud. Sentences such as “Does Brad Pitt want to do a series?” No he doesn’t. He was just nominated for two Oscars. “Clooney?” No. He’ll sell coffee in Japan before he returns to a series. Wait – he already does.

Now, the guest star may not have been a household name, but this actor has been a series regular on two different very successful series and you’d recognize him as “that guy from that show.” That’s nothing to sneeze at, by the way. But he would have to wait for networks to get past all of the movie stars they were courting for series regular roles in the pilots they were ordering before he’d get a chance.

As I stood there eating chocolate mochi and trying to be cool, I realized I’d have to wait even longer than he would before pilot season meant anything to me. But I was not discouraged. I have tools in place so I can be proactive. Actor's Access., Showfax, Casting About, IMDBpro, and the trades [including Deadline, for real] are all great sources of info about pilot orders and castings. But I often ran into a problem of access. There were several times I could know a CD was casting something, but not be able to find out the title from any of the sources. Because without a title, you have nothing. You can’t ask a friend for a copy of the pilot script, you can’t track down a breakdown, and if it’s not listed on Casting About, the casting address for the pilot isn’t available to you.

I know a lot of this sounds like throwing darts and hoping one sticks, but I figure that if I’ve already done work for the day where I know I can get results, what’s the harm of throwing a few darts while I’m watching reruns of 30 ROCK?

And then it hit me – the same advice we’re told ALL the time: Are you ready? If you magically got an audition for a lead in a pilot, are you sharp? When’s the last time you worked on a scene? Are your tools in place? Are your headshots current? Are your reel and your clips up to date with your most recent roles? Because it sure would suck if you did somehow get a chance at a phenomenal gig and you blew it because you haven’t even broken down a scene in weeks or your reel isn’t representative of what’s on your resume.

And we do know this - at some point, the powers that be will have run through all the movie stars, the Emmy winners, the Tony winners, the actors who have already been series regulars and are names around town and they will get to whatever stature you are. How do I know? The actor I was talking about earlier - he's not going to do a four line co-star role on a pilot, he's only looking for regular roles or at least recurring roles at this point in his career. Like I said earlier, somebody is going to have to say the rest of the words in that script. And some of those people will be developmental actors.

I can’t control what information is available to me, but what I can control; I’m making sure I’m getting better at. Today. Because one day, I’ll get the call. And that day, I’ll be READY. Until that day, I’m doing everything I can to make casting directors fans of my work every time I go to an audition. That way, when they do need an actor of my type, I’ll be on their list of who they’re gonna call. And I ain’t talking about Ghostbusters. Unless they’re casting a Ghostbusters pilot or reboot because in that case I’d be a great choice for the Ernie Hudson role. ;)

[© MMXII MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Then that's what the practice is about.

So I’ve been meditating daily since New Years’. Not really a resolution per se, but it just happened that around then is when I all of a sudden had time to meditate first thing in the AM. Or I created it. More on that later. I already had a daily practice of saying affirmations, which is somewhat meditative, but I hadn’t devoted time specifically to just meditating in silence before my affirmations. Every day is not easy; there are times when even just waking my mind is already full of ideas. Some days I feel too lazy to even want to devote just 15 minutes to sitting with my eyes closed in silence with no agenda. They say on days like those, that’s what the practice is about. I try to embrace those days as part of the journey, to not judge them.

It reminds me of working out daily. There are days when I don’t want to work out because my body is legitimately exhausted, that it needs to rest. Then there are the days when I’m just feeling lazy and would rather sit on the couch and watch TV. I used to always tell myself that workouts count twice on days I don’t want to be there, but since meditating daily I think differently.

I only came up with this about the gym while at the gym today. I had zero desire to be there. I didn’t go this morning. Then this afternoon I sat around on the internet – in my gym clothes – for an hour before I left. I even went to Trader Joe’s on the way to the gym to give myself an easy out. But I kept driving. I was waiting for the elevator in my gym's parking lot and almost turned around to go back to my car. Hell, after 25 minutes on the treadmill [out of 55 minutes] I almost turned it off and left. I really did not want to be there. Then the weirdest thing happened. The most beautiful woman got on the stairclimber in front of me. She was FIT. She clearly works out in a way her body responds to positively and eats the right kind of clean food that supports her physical regimen because her body looked like a physical representation of love. As I stared and realized how beautiful she was, I realized I would never have seen her had I never had gone to the gym. Hell, I would never have seen her if I had even gotten off the treadmill when I wanted. I felt lucky. The universe provided her for me to recognize, and just in time. I felt myself saying “thank you” out loud. For the next 30 minutes, I watched her climb those stairs. Not lasciviously mind you, but respectfully. In looking at her, she became more beautiful. But her body was not just beautiful, it was a work of art. She was inspiring.

Then I had a revelation: more than a physical triumph, working out on days I’d rather be lazy is a triumph over old thoughts; over the old way of doing things. Those thoughts that held me back in the past are just fighting for their existence. In fact, those old thoughts are only fighting so diligently because I’ve created new thoughts to take their place!

As I finished my workout I realized how sweaty I was, definitely more than normal. I chalk it up to the thoughts I was working out as well as the calories I burned. It was a fight, but if it is, it’s just what the practice is about that day.

[© MMXII MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Attempting the Joey-ness.

While in this interesting portion of my life where I apparently [sometimes] have time to do the things I want and need to get done I find myself in a sort of conundrum. Of sorts. As much as I’d like to get everything on my to-do list done as soon as possible, I also feel a need to stretch it out a little as to make sure I get up by 7AM every day. That’s a serious thing that has to be done when you work seven days a week slash every day is Saturday. Or Tuesday. As it were. I find myself going back and forth between days where I spend hours and hours running around being ultra productive and days where the gym and reading a play is all that got “done.”

Zen Joey would tell me that doing hours and hours of productivity really is a week’s worth of production; it’s not meant for one day. Otherwise you become sociopathically anxious on a day when you actually deserve to chill. I don’t know. All I do know is that coffee grinds won’t clear themselves from the kitchen counter, screenplays won’t write themselves, and my acting homework for damn sure won’t explore itself.

I close my eyes and breathe. Zen Joey’s face appears in my mind and smiles not unlike the Mona Lisa. “See. You’re in it. Keep it moving.”

At once I feel grateful and pretentious. Navel gazing 900 – not for non-majors.

[© MMXII MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]