Month: September 2006

the communicatrix elsewhere: talky mctalk-talk

toastmasters logoIf you’ve never been to a Toastmasters meeting and have always been curious, I’ll be representing the Del Rey club in the Area A1 level of the Humorous Speech Contest tomorrow night.

My topic? The One Thing Worse Than Public Speaking. I’ve already given it once to some acclaim at my local meeting, a couple of weeks ago. But I’ve lived the subject matter for some time. (Don’t you hate it when I get all Woman Of Mystery on you?)

And while I plan to release all of my speeches as MP3s eventually, this one will probably be a live-only experience. Unless, of course, I get shitcanned tomorrow night, in which case I might just release it first, out of pique.


Saturday, Sept. 30
Santa Monica Place Mall, Colorado & 4th Street, Community Room
Registration: 5:30 (I have no idea what this means, but I’ve been told to be there by then)
Call to Order: 6pm (if you have no idea what this means, see Robert’s Rules of Order‘)
Contest: 6-8pm

Admission is $9. There is some dinner included in that, probably from one of the food court establisments. You pays yer money, you takes yer chances.

There’s parking for $3 in the mall, but I’ve been warned to get there EARLY (yes, in all caps) so as to make it on time.

The Toastmasters, unlike me, are very big on starting promptly…


the communicatrix elsewhere: bonus GBSBS

GBSBS contributorsThere’s a new bonus episode of the Great Big Small Business Podcast up featuring yours truly on online resources.

Only I’m calling it a bonehead episode, since a major reason it happened is because I (drumroll, please) emailed my original MP3 contribution to myself.

Clearly, I have no business advising anyone else about business. Other than that, it’s all good…



What’s your mantra?

einstein/focus graffiti

If I were Carly, surely the title of this post would have been, I forgot my mantra (and the subhead, And stop calling me ‘Shirley’).

If I were Neil, it might have been, “Mantra, schmantra.”

If I were Brandon…hell, I dunno. He’s got about 40 IQ points on me. Maybe “/mantra”?

But I am me, and my mantra is this:

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

Now I know it’s not a mantra in the traditional, Buddhic sense: a set of words used during meditation to provide a point of focus. I mean it in the more Westernized sense of a credo or motto, something I feel sums up who I am, what I’m working on and what I believe in.

But it is a half-assed mantra of sorts, in that I tend to use it, to actually say it aloud, or ‘aloud’ in my head, when I get into a tight place. And yeah, to complete the circle of craziness, 9 times out of 10 I find myself in that tight place because of my adherence to the credo/motto/mantra.

It’s also more like a mantra in that it was cosmically gifted to me, not because I was hunting it down in Bartlett’s. In fact, it came up so organically, I was pretty sure I thought it up myself, and was mighty proud of myself for being such a smarty.

Of course, I didn’t. Via the magic of Google, I discovered that opera singer Beverly Sills had coined the phrase, which means I probably stumbled upon it first sometime in the ’70s or ’80s, when my mantra would have been something exactly the opposite, if my head were far enough out of my ass at that point to even have a mantra.

To seal the deal, my ersatz mantra was a natural progression from something I laid full claim to. For as long as I can remember anyone asking, which probably was sometime around the beginning of my sophomore year in college (a.k.a. that time in your life when you officially begin Pompous Ass-hood), my ready answer to the question “what is your pet peeve?” was “wasted potential”.

(I think this is where Brandon and his 40 extra IQ points would type “/barfs”.)

I have no idea if this will remain my mantra to my dying day, unless of course, that day comes way earlier than I’m planning on. But it’s a good enough one to hold me: short, strong and sensible. Easy to follow, too. Except, of course, when it isn’t.

Then again, that’s the whole point of a mantra…


More great pearls from Beverly, here.

Photo by Dave Gorman via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

The dreaded dread, redux

Just when I thought it had been forever vanquished, I felt a bout of the Dreaded Dread coming on again. You know the drill:

  • I can’t open this bill.
  • I can’t bring up how I want to change the blog: I’ll get fired.
  • I know I’m going to get screwed by this online vendor.
  • Sweet baby Jeebus, not a rollerskating party.
  • I’ll never get rid of this damned cold.

Whatever the reason, age, experience, a super-clean apartment, I felt the dread and did it anyway. And lo, a series of amazing results:

  • The bill was high…but not as bad as the dread.
  • I brought it up…and was thanked for doing so.
  • I emailed (politely) anyway…and got a full credit.
  • It was horrible; it was magical.
  • I’m still sick.

Well, four out of five ain’t bad.

Hell, the fifth ain’t that bad, either.

Hell’s-bells-Little-Nell! Maybe it was the cold that brought on this can-do, Calvinist/Pollyanna attitude.

Nah. It’s the clean apartment…


If anyone knows who took the awesome photo above and (I think) posted it to Flickr, please let me know so I can give credit. I somehow forgot to the first time, too. Groan…dread…groan…

The Black Dahlia, L.A. noir and a not-so-brief musing on period acting

luminous dahlia

I’m a huge fan of period L.A.

Doesn’t really matter what the period is: turn of the century, ’20s, Depression era, Dragnet era, I love looking at how this crazy city-that’s-not-really-a-city came together because to me (and hang on, Easterners), Los Angeles is the quintessentially American city. There has always been an element of frontier thinking here, an anything-goes, Wild West, winner-take-all mentality. It’s a new place (like America), it’s a brash, commercial place (like America), it’s a wildly creative place (like America) with little-to-no sense of perspective or respect for history (like America), and it’s filled with an insane variety of people from somewhere else (like…oh, hell, you get the picture).

I’m also a huge fan of Brian De Palma, whom I think is a killer (no pun intended) reteller of stories: Phantom of the Paradise; Carrie; Blow Out; Dressed to Kill.

So it stood to reason The Black Dahlia would kick ass, right? De Palma + post-war L.A. + James Ellroy noir-a-liciousness = tasty treat for eyes, ears and brain.

Unfortunately (or not, for those of us without a bajillion dollars to tell stories), a show is ultimately only as good as its storytelling, and the storytelling in this case was hugely hampered by, well, the story, which (in all fairness to De Palma) had to be hell to unsnarl and bring to the screen, and the acting, which was dreadfully out of context.

I never understood acting and context until I started taking acting classes myself. I always thought it was ridiculous when people defended the typically British, outside-in school of acting over the typically American, inside-out, un-school. And the value of stage training seemed lost on me as well: what the hell good was stage training when most of the theatrically-trained actors you saw in movies from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and even 60’s seemed hammy & over the top? It seemed to me their training made them less believable, not more.

But film actors in earlier days hadn’t figured out the technical skillset that film acting required. They were as lazy or arrogant about learning the new medium as modern, mostly young and exclusively film actors are about learning the fundamentals of craft.

Film acting, the good kind anyway, requires both. It demands presence, which is incredibly difficult to teach (some would say impossible), and, on a sliding scale, technical skill, which is relatively easy to teach to a willing student.

Now, there are plenty of minimally skilled actors who can blow you away onscreen because of their ability to let their insides be seen…if nothing else is required of them. But the value of stage work (and outside-in work in general) is that it increases the vocabulary of the body exponentially and, when you throw in the presence thing, results in the kinds of performances that can both live in the world that the film is creating and rise above it. (Think Ellen Burstyn in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore or Meryl Streep in just about anything.)

Period work in film (or on stage, really) has its own set of challenges. Because of course, our idea of what is period-appropriate is shaped largely by the movies themselves, not too many of us were around for the original thing if it happened much before the 1950s. But morés were different, language (both high and low) was different, If nothing else, garments and furnishings and food and noise levels were different. Yes, people are people and feelings are feelings, but the actions of the people and expression of the feelings is shaped by the era (and sometimes the foundation garment…or sudden lack thereof).

I realized why I was so disappointed within the first five minutes of The Black Dahlia: I had expectations of greatness based on the trailer, which was fantastic. But you can cut around an awful lot in a trailer, and just show the good stuff, highly photogenic people, made up to look just right in period clothing; stunning backdrops and design; evocative music.

Unfortunately, when the tricks are stripped away, you’re left with a bunch of rookie players who, in this case, were not up to the game. I hope they see this film and either go back to school or to playing within their comfort zone.

Of course, what I really hope is that someone in power will get a fresh look at one of the go-to players and put her in the opening lineup…


Photo by *YourGuide via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

New design/portfolio site up!

communicatrix DESIGNS logoWell, a mere five months later, we have launch!

With the able coding assistance of master (or is that ‘meister’?) programmer, Michael Grosch, my new friend from Germany (by way of Austin, TX and SXSW), I’ve finally got the communicatrix | designs site up and running.

It’s brand new, so there may be a missing link or two, but overall, I couldn’t be happier with the results. Please do drop by and take a peek…and if you would, drop back here and let me know what you think.

Next up? The communicatrix | presents site, along with a complete overhaul (or at least, a serious retooling) of my presentation design portfolio. Four days at Son of NerdFest (a.k.a. PowerPoint Live 2006) and the underwhelmed reaction of one of the rockstars in the presentation design business made it painfully clear that I’ve gotten waaaaay too lazy about keeping my output updated.

But that’s an electronic story for another day…


LINK: communicatrix | designs