Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Closing Night For The Hallelujah Girls

Saturday night was closing night for our local production of The Hallelujah Girls. If stage acting has taught me anything over the last year, it's that the craziest things happen on closing night. In advance of the curtain going up, I knew that several of my friends and fellow actors would be in the audience, so it was not much of a surprise to walk out onto stage and see the audience filled with familiar faces. I had heard talk of someone sleeping in the audience but was unable to locate that person.

At intermission, one of the board members of the theater approached me and wondered how my parents were enjoying the show.

"I don't see how they could enjoy it when they're not here. I told them I'd send them a DVD", I remarked.

"No, I'm pretty sure they're in the audience", the board member insisted.

My father is having health issues and would not be able to attend a play. And my mother is not the type of person who would surprise me by showing up to the play unannounced. I chalked the whole thing up to a big misunderstanding. The couple were probably the parents of someone else in the play.

When I went out for the last big scene, I head it. Snoring. And not just soft snoring. This was the snoring of a person in a deep sleep. I glanced around the audience and found that the source was an older woman in a wheelchair. The lady sounded like she was sawing logs with a rusty saw and it was disrupting the play, throwing all of us off of our lines. I didn't recognize her, though.

After the final curtain call, I worked my way through the crowd and absorbed all the accolades. The woman in the wheelchair was nowhere to be seen. As I grabbed my coat, one of the other board members asked how my parents liked the play.

"They couldn't make it", I said.

"You mean, that lady in the wheelchair and her husband aren't your parents?"

"No. Why do people keep saying that?"

"We were about to close the door when they walked in. I told them we were sold out, but they said their son was in the play and they pointed to your picture. I thought they were your parents, so I let them in".

Obviously, they were not my parents. And, judging by the way the woman was sleeping, probably not people who had an overwhelming desire to see the show. Whatever their reasoning for telling the front house that I was their son, they left without revealing it to me.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Barstool Economics Fallacy

With the election coming up, Facebook is littered with politically slanted postings. I've put a ton of my friends from both sides of the aisle on silent simply because I don't go to Facebook to read about someone's political leanings. There's one post that pops up a lot that I feel the need to address, though. It's often referred to as "Barstool Economics".

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. The fifth would pay $1. The sixth would pay $3. The seventh would pay $7. The eighth would pay $12. The ninth would pay $18. The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. 'Since you are all such good customers, he said, 'I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20. Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?' They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings). The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings). The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28%savings). The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings). The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings). The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

'I only got a dollar out of the $20', declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,' but he got $10!'

'Yeah, that's right', exclaimed the fifth man. 'I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!'

'That's true!!' shouted the seventh man. 'Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!'

'Wait a minute,' yelled the first four men in unison. 'We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!'

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

The most egregious error with the analogy is that it shows a deep misunderstanding of how our tax system works. The nation doesn't get a bill at the end of the year that we then divide up based upon some arbitrary setting. We have a known percentage per tax bracket that we owe, regardless of what the nation spends. There are also other methods of taxation in play that this analogy doesn't consider, such as sales tax, social security, medicare, property tax, capital gains tax, etc. The closest thing that this barstool economics analogy fits is a graduated flat tax system, which is completely different from progressive taxation.

We also need to consider that the payment ratios in this bar stool economics post are quite inaccurate.  The very wealthy pay, at most a 39% tax, so 59/100 of the bill is very far off. And 39/100 is the maximum, although, in practice, no wealthy person pays the maximum percentage. Things like capitol gains taxes, offshore banking and corporate detectible losses allow for an effective tax rate of around 18% while many lower-middle-class people end up with a 30% effective rate.  

Of course, all of this also assumes that the ten people cited in the barstool economics post would actually go to the same bar, would drink the same type of beer, and would drink the same amount of it. That's essentially saying that everyone involved has the same opportunities, the same economic advantages and all equally benefit from the system. And we all know, that's simply not the case.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ice Cream Sandwich Comes To The Bionic

It has been more than a year since it was first introduced, but as of this morning, my Motorola Droid Bionic has finally gotten the official upgrade to Android 4.04, Ice Cream Sandwich. Had ICS been released for the Bionic when I bought it a year ago, it would have been a truly amazing phone. Imagine, the first dual core Android phone to have both 4G LTE support as well as Ice Cream Sandwich. It would have been glorious. But, it was not to be. Instead, the Droid Bionic was released with Gingerbread which made for a shoddy connection to Verizon's 4G LTE network. The Droid Bionic was so buggy with Gingerbread, I rooted my phone and put Android 4.1 Jellybean on it. I went back to stock this week in order to get the scheduled OTA update.

There is a long list of improvements, so here are just some of the cool things about Ice Cream Sandwich on the Bionic:
  • The buggy 4G LTE connection issues seem to have been fixed. Under Gingerbread, the connection dropped a lot. However, you no longer have the ability to turn 4G LTE off in favor of 3G CDMA.
  • Face Unlock, a feature that allows users to unlock handsets using facial recognition software. This takes some training and isn't a fool proof security feature, but it'll keep your friends from jacking your phone and playing pranks on you. 
  • The ability to disable apps, which helps when dealing with the bloatware that Verizon makes you deal with. No more will you have to contend with the Slingbox, Blockbuster and GoToMeeting app. 
  • An improved camera app with zero shutter lag, time lapse settings, panorama mode, and the ability to zoom while recording 
  • Integrated screen capture. Just push down the Volume Down and Power buttons.  
  • Auto syncing with your Chrome bookmarks. 
Motorola has announced its intention to upgrade the Bionic to Jellybean at some point, but no release date has been announced.  If you're not up for rooting your Bionic in order to get it now, then Ice Cream Sandwich will certainly tide you over for now.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Call From Futurecareers.com

Got a call recently from an English-challenged woman claiming to be from an education website called futurecareers.com. Don't bother going there. It's just a parked page. The caller ID says that the call was from 877-299-0775 but a call back to the number only got a busy signal. Anyway, the rep went right in with the script asking me if I wanted to further my education. I told her that I needed to be an executive with a big desk and a secretary because, for now, I'm working at the car wash. She took that to mean that I wasn't interested in college, so I had to correct her. She mentioned that the call was being recorded for training, so I asked her what I was going to be trained for. She soon hung up on me.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Glo Balls

These are basically Hostess Sno-Balls colored orange for Halloween. As much as I love Hostess for all of their snacky goodness, I have to admit that I'm not a fan of the Sno-Ball line, not because of the pr0n connotations, but because I hate coconut. Although, admittedly, there's something so unwholesome about shoving a set big glowing orange balls into one's mouth.

The Hostess Sno-Ball line also includes other colors for various different holidays. I seem to recall seeing a green version for St. Patrick's Day called Lucky Puffs.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Well, Hallelujah!

The cast and crew of the local production of The Hallelujah Girls have been working hard over this past week to make the show a success. This has been a week of full costume and tech rehearsals and I feel that I've finally started to approach the level of talent that the rest of the cast has brought to the show. It has been tough being a rank amateur among this group of accomplished actors, but I think I absolutely nailed my role as of last night. That being said, I do have a few issues I need to work on before opening night.

  • I'm somewhere around 15 years younger than the actress playing Sugar Lee, which means that attempts have been made to age me a little bit. One night, I sprayed white colored hairspray all over my hair. It looked fine up close, but, under the lights, it looked like a nuke went off on my scalp. I'm going to stick to a light spraying around my temples. 
  • Every time I run in to say "Ladies, we've got trouble!", I end up doing it in a Scottish accent for some reason.  
  • My short shorts have been getting progressively shorter with each costume fitting. Last night, they were so short that the bottoms of my boxers were starting to show.  And, seeing as I have really fair skin, I have been trying to darken the tone of my legs so that I don't blind the audience when I come out. I've been using bronzer cream to do this. I don't know if it's working on my legs, but the palms of my hands are noticeably darker.
  • I decided to try something when I come out after the wall collapses. Normally, I just brush the dust off of my shoulders. Last night, I added a move where I seemingly cough up dust. The dust-filled cough got huge laughs from our small test audience, but ends up making too much of a mess. And it's murder on my lungs. 
  • During one of the scene changes, "This Kiss" by Faith Hill plays in the background. I am often back stage doing the chicken dance to the chorus, which cracks up the rest of the cast. 
  • I order to believably drop the gasket, I've had to bring a little of the TommyMac goofiness to Bobby Dwayne. I'm not sure it works. 
  • I have written an acceptable biography for the program complete with a few personal shout outs of thanks to a few people who lent me some priceless support. 
Opening night is tomorrow, and, as I have been accustomed to saying, I will not only break a leg, I will break both legs and lose my way to the stage. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Argos University Calls Again

Argos University called me again last week. This particular rep was a little less aggressive than the one who called me earlier, but, as we haggled over her ability to turn off the call center recording, she kept trying to re-direct me. Eventually, the phone call deteriorated into me trying to get her to sing me a Michael Jackson song. When that didn't work, I tried for Conway Twitty. Still no dice. At about 5 minutes in, the rep got frustrated and hung up on me.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Horlicks

The imported food section can always be counted on to yield some food pr0n. Today's find comes to you courtesy of the United Kingdom. Our crazy cousins from across the pond use this malted milk beverage to promote better sleep. Supposedly, malted milk helps you sleep better by staving off late night hunger.

When I first encountered this stuff, I was sure that its name was a derivative of horehound. But, that's not the case. Horlicks gets its name from James and William Horelicks, two brothers who created the beverage in 1873 as an artificial infant food. In recent years, the term horlicks has somehow become part of British slang. It's often used in place of the word "bollocks". It has also been used to describe something that is very disorganized.

Horlicks is roughly comparable to Ovaltine in the United States. There are even those who claim that Ovaltine helps you sleep. All things considered, I would be more more comfortable asking someone for some Ovaltine than I would be asking someone for some horlicks. 


Is It Any Wonder Why Little Orphan Annie Preferred Ovaltine?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Generating A Bio

I've been putting off writing my bio for the program for The Hallelujah Girls. It's not something I've ever done for a play before. No production company had ever been interested in listing anything but my name, so I was at a bit of a loss to come up with something to say. I decided to go with something funny:


Thomas Mac is really a twelve-armed alien being from the planet Xeralamaph. He enjoys drinking fine glaxanar and playing the occasional round of frazzbarg. He has assumed human form so that he can better study the strange rituals of humanity. Thomas says that becoming an actor while disguised as a human has not only given him unique insights into the human condition, but has been a mentally rewarding experience as well. "An alien pretending to be a human pretending to be a middle-aged Southern gentleman? How meta!".  

 That bio was quickly rejected. It's something TommyMac would come up with, and, as much as everyone loves TommyMac, the production company wants people to know about Thomas Mac instead. That's a taller order, so, aside from listing the bland details about my personal life, I'm at a loss for what to write.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Argos University Calls Me

I got a call from Argos University last week. The rep actually asked for me by name rather than Clovis or Otto or any of the other characters that usually tend to be attached to the number that they call me on. Anyway, the conversation started out normal enough, but devolved into a contest of who could talk louder over whom.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Closer Look At The Fox

I live just a few blocks away from the car dealership where I bought my Mustang. I head over there once a week to get to take advantage of the free car washes the offer to customers. While waiting in line for my turn, I spied my pal, the fox lurking among the construction site where they are building a new addition to the dealership. I had been worried that I hadn't seen the fox running around my neighborhood in a few weeks. With the rabbit population rebounding, I thought perhaps animal control had gotten to him. I'm glad he's okay and has made some new friends. Turns out the auto dealership has adopted him as an unoffical mascot. The CarFox.

Show Me The CarFox!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fixing Up My Spare Room

I made so many trips to Home Depot this past weekend that I ended up being on a first name basis with most of the staff. I felt like I deserved my own name tag.

It was finally time to fix up one of the spare rooms in my house. This room had been used by the previous owner as a place in which to run his kidney dialysis machine. Water damage from the machine caused part of one of the hardwood planks to rot, which resulted in the previous owner covering it with plywood. I was aware of this when I bought the house, and had the room carpeted and painted before I moved in. The contractor who handled job also outfitted the walls with cheap, mismatched ceiling trim. He did the job so poorly that he only put up three planks rather than four. I used the room for various things over the years, but, over the last two years, I just stopped using it for anything other than storage.

I tore up the carpet to find that the underlying hardwood floor had been covered with four different types of tile. No problem. I'd just have a loose-lay vinyl floor installed over it, and, thankfully, Jason just happens to be the best flooring guy around. Before he could get the floor in, I'd have to paint the room and re-do the trim. I pulled down the first trim board without a problem. The second one, however, was stuck fast to the wall. In my fervor to pull it down, I ended up putting a 4 inch hole into my ceiling. I filed that problem away for later and began painting my room in a bold blue, one suited for doing blue-screen movie work.

After the painting was done, Jason and I attacked the ceiling hole problem. A 4 inch crown molding board would come pretty close to covering up the hole, so we made quick trip to Home Depot to get the materials we needed to put the molding up. Not only did it cover up the hole very well, but it also looks great. We had a few issues with one of the boards bowing slightly, so we called in Jim to help us fit the plank in between the flair pieces. Now, all that's left to do is to paint the closet doors and the floor trim and we can finally get this floor installed and declare this room "done".

Even though I had a ton of help putting this room back together, I do feel pretty good about having had a hand in doing it. I feel like I have triumphed, at the very least, because a contractor would have charged me much more to do all of this. Although, a contractor probably wouldn't have put a 4 inch hole in the ceiling either. So, maybe it's a draw. Either way, I'm happy to have this room in a usable state again and I chalk the experience up as a personal success.