Monday, April 15, 2019

The Graduate

About four months ago, I began shopping around an idea I had for a theater production that would be guaranteed to put a lot butts in the seats of whatever venue deigned to support me. Most theaters plan their seasons out about a year in advance, so I didn't expect immediate progress. However, the rinky dink little theater that I had walked out on in a huff over three years ago had heard about the project and enthusiastically called me in with an offer: They'd take up production of my proposed show if I would agree to help them get their current show, which had been mired in production hell for months, off the ground. How hard could it be? It was essentially project management. I didn't even need to act in the play. I'd just need to round the cast up, organize rehearsals, motivate the director and get enough people to buy tickets so that the theater could turn enough of a profit to finance my show. Easy, right? Wrong.

When I started calling the cast back to start rehearsals, I discovered that most of them had moved on to other projects and couldn't or wouldn't re-commit to the show. While I had most of the smaller roles covered, the actors who played Benjamin, Elaine, Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. Braddock had bailed. So, I started making calls. The director had suggested dropping the Mrs. Braddock role from the show, but the character adds such a unique comedic element that I felt it should be kept if possible. I rang a supporting actress whom I worked with before and sweet talked her into accepting the role. Elaine was a bit easier to cast, as I just rang the first actress I thought of and she readily accepted. Casting Benjamin was a bit tougher, but I solicited some suggestions from other actors and found someone who perfectly embodied the awkward shyness I was looking for. This just left Mrs. Robinson and I kept coming up empty.

The role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, while not the lead per se, is the most iconic role in the show. The line "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me" is arguably more famous than "No, Luke. I am your father!". Simon and Garfunkel even wrote a song about her.  I knew that I needed somebody who oozed sexuality on the surface that hid a degree of damage just below it. I was able to get some actresses to audition but couldn't find someone who had the right mix. I was about to go with a conventionally attractive actress until I found myself sitting down with one of my closest female friends describing the situation. She took a drag from her cigarette, shook her head as she exhaled the smoke and then popped off a sarcastic remark. And that's when it hit me. She'd be perfect. Sure, she had never acted before, and her life situation was crazy, but we could work through that. At first, she didn't want to do it. I told her that acting helps provide focus to one's life and that the role of Mrs. Robinson would be a catharsis for her. She'd also be a role model to those who were in her same situation who sought to find some way to rise above it. Then I told her that I was desperate and that she owed me. We had our Mrs. Robinson.

After a week of read-throughs, the actor playing Mr. Robinson dropped out. Rather than hit the pavement looking for another actor, I decided to step in. It would allow me to shore up any acting issues with Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson more directly. And then there was my own catharsis with the role. A week later, the actor playing Mr. Braddock dropped out. I hesitated to push the director into playing the role, as he was already burned out on the entire thing. However, we couldn't afford to delay any longer, so I convinced him to take yet another hit for the team.

Rehearsals weren't without issues. The director wasn't doing much actual directing. He offered very little in the way of motivation and Benjamin was coming off as way too nervous. And both Mrs. Robinson and Benjamin were having issues remembering their lines. In the scene where Mr. Robinson confronts Benjamin, I had to go from playing a lawyer-like interrogation and turn it into a loud barrage of accusations in order to pull Benjamin through the scene. I couldn't offer much help to Mrs. Robinson since we were not in many scenes together. The best I could do was try to help her memorize her lines as much as possible during our downtime. It was during one of these off-hours pizza and soda punctuated line-running sessions that I advised her: "Ignore what you've seen in the movie. Don't play Anne Bancroft playing Mrs. Robsinson. Play yourself playing Mrs. Robinson. Act how you would act as that character in that situation". Me giving acting advice to someone? High school me would want to have a very serious talk with adult me and possibly arrange an ass kicking.

Just before we all took the stage for the first time in front of a paying audience, Mrs. Robinson was stricken with the worst case of stage fear that I had ever seen. But, group hugs and words of encouragement got her through it. There's something very satisfying in watching someone who hasn't acted before come out and totally own a role. It's even more satisfying when it's one of your closest friends. And, as for me, I'm just glad that I was able to wield an actual axe during the climax and not cause an accident with it. The wedding scene in The Graduate is crowded and clunky and with Benjamin dropping lines all over the place, I decided that acting overly-aggressive and chewing the scenery would be a good distraction. It played really well and got a great audience reaction.

In the end, we pulled off a great show and even had a few sold-out nights. And that's how I saved the production and am the greatest. Now I can do my vanity project....as if my ego wasn't already big enough.

Monday, April 8, 2019

TP-LINK HS210 Kasa Smart 3-Way Kit WiFi Light Switch

I've reached the point in my Smart Home deployment where I've run out of regular switches to replace and am now replacing my three-way switches. A three-way switch is a setup where two switches control the same light. You typically find them in living rooms, hallways and staircases. I decided to replace my main hallway switches with the TP-LINK HS210 Kasa Smart 3-Way Kit WiFi Light Switch.

The 3-Way Kit comes with two switches, one for each end of the circuit. There are a number of reviews out there that say you only need one switch out of the kit in order for the circuit to work properly. I wouldn't know if that's truly the case, as I opted to install both switches, mainly because I wanted the switches in my hallway to match. But, to be honest, I'm not really convinced that you only have to use one of the 3-way switches and still get full functions from it. 

These switches were so easy to install, mainly because they have actual screw-in terminals for the hot and traveling wires. This means that you only have to use one twisting cap (for the neutral) rather than three, which means you've got more space in your switch box to accommodate the smart switch. I was able to get both of these switches installed in under 30 minutes which is about how long it usually takes for me to install a single one of the wire twist switches. If I have one complaint about the TP-LINK HS210 Smart 3-Way Switch Kit it's that the actually physical feel of the switch is weird. It's a rocker switch with the contact at the bottom which feels inverted to me. I can get past that, though. Eventually.

Overall, I liked the TP-LINK HS210 Smart 3-Way Switch Kit enough that I'm going to buy it again to install it in the 3-way switch circuit that resides in my home office.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Shaving With Harrys.com

I used to love shaving. There's something about the ritual of applying the shaving cream, preparing the blade and then calmly gliding the razor over your skin that's very soothing and relaxing. It's an act that we men do not only because it makes us look good, but because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Over the last year or so, shaving changed from a joyful task that I looked for ward to and turned into a daily chore that I wanted to get done as quick as possible. I had cheaped out on blades and shaving cream and from the moment I did, my joy of shaving started to decline until it fell into a black morass of razor burn, blade cuts and skin care despair.

The girlfriend had gotten it into her head that she wanted me to shave the goatee and see what I looked like clean-shaven. I told her that I wasn't willing to endure the constant skin irritation around my lips and chin, and having the goatee hid the blotchy skin around those areas. She doubled down on her request and followed up with a care package from Harrys.com. I was pretty surprised when I got this big box of stuff and opened it up. There was a lot of stuff in it and I made an effort to use all of it. Here's what I think:


The Shave Gel: This is something I've never put too much thought into. All shave gels are created equally, right? So, the store brand that runs you 99 cents for a big can should perform as well as Harry's which runs you $6. Is there $5 of extra value? For me, I think that there is, most especially because when I put Harry's shave gel on my face, it doesn't feel all "chemical-y". One of the reasons I've traditionally avoided shave gel in favor of shave soap is because of the chemical feeling that gels usually have. I don't know if it's thanks to Harry's shave gel being paraben-free and sulfate-free, but I know that the gel feels great and works wonders on my face.

The Truman Razor: It feels pretty slick and looks great. It's hard to make a razor exciting, but Harry's has done it. Or maybe I'm just a sucker for eye-popping colors and clever marketing (German engineering! For your face! Zounds!). Ultimately, it's the product that matters, right? So, how well does it work? Overall, it's lightweight, the grip feels good in my hand and shaving comes naturally. Plus, yeah, it looks cool. Not that anyone is actually watching me shave.

The Blades: Harrys.com blades feature a pivot head that conforms to the contours of your face very well. It also boasts a very cool trim tool which is great for edge trimming or removing hair from other unwanted places on your face. The most important part of a blade, of course, is how well it shaves. A bad blade can give you a piss-poor shave that will ruin your day. Thankfully, Harry's blades give a very close shave. The thing that I really noticed was how long it took for my five o'clock shadow to emerge after shaving at about 7am with Harry's blade. Usually, my five o'clock shadow gets noticeable after about 8 hours. My shave with a crisp, new Harry's blade has been pushing that up to about 12 hours. It's a little bit less after using the blade once, down to about 10 hours after using the blade twice which is still pretty good. I can get two great shaves and two acceptable shaves out of one blade set before having to throw it away. For comparison, the safety blades that I have been using over the past several months give me one good shave and one mediocre shave before I have to toss one.

The Post-Shave Balm: I did it. I got rid of the goatee. I trimmed it down with my electric and then shaved it off with a Harry's razor. And there it was - the skin blotch that comes with not shaving your facial hair for a good 12 months. Removing my facial hair after having it so long made me feel weird enough, but looking at the blotchy skin that remained undermined my confidence in my appearance. But, I had committed to this, so I applied the Harry's Post-Shave Balm to my face. It's after-shave, but better. After a few days of using the post-shave balm along with Harry's face wash cleared up my skin issues and made me feel pretty good about my appearance.

Body Wash: Okay, I admit it: I'm an Old Spice guy. Old Spice Fiji is my go-to body wash, deodorant and body spray. That habit is going to die hard and the girlfriend knows it. She put three different types of Harry's Body Wash into the care package in order to try and break me of the Old Spice habit.  Okay, yeah, I like the stuff just fine and I said I'd commit to using all of it until it runs out before making a final decision. I see what she's doing. She's trying to wean me off of Old Spice Fiji. It won't work, I tell you! I will not break!

So, let's talk about cost. The blades is where they get you, right? Wrong. If you buy direct from Harry's.com you can get blades for as little as 1.88 per blade depending on how many you buy. that's a pretty incredible deal. Best of all, if you don't want to deal with having to remember to buy your shaving supplies on a regular basis, you can purchase a subscription to Harrys.com and get a box of supplies every month (cancel at any time).

Overall, I'm digging the Harry's experience and if you're thinking that you're burned out with your shaving routine, then you should check them out yourself. Pick up a blade and some gel and maybe some face wash and see how you feel. You'll fall in love wish shaving again.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Shopping Shenanigans

It was time for a new leather jacket. The one I had been wearing had served me well ever since Jason slapped it on me early last year. "You need a better look and I'm too fat for this now", he said at the time. It was a good jacket and I got a lot of compliments on it. But, it started to fall apart and now it's in dire need of being retired. So, it was off to the local Wilson's Leather to pick up a new one.

I do most of my apparel purchases online these days. However, if I'm going to drop $300 on a jacket, I'm going to want to see what it looks like on me before I start counting out the cash. Of course, I brought Jason along just to confirm that my choice in jackets didn't make me look like a doofus. Not any more than usual, anyway. We walked into Wilson's and while I looked for a few jackets I liked, Jason skulked around the store looking for ways to annoy me. He spied one of the older sales ladies and brought her over to get her opinion on how the jacket I picked out looked on me.

"How does this jacket look on him?", Jason asked the sales lady while I stared daggers at him. The sales lady began putting her hands on my shoulders and shoulder blades to help gauge the fit of the jacket on me, which made my skin crawl because I hate being touched by strangers. I resisted my urge to scream "I need an adult....I NEED AN ADULT" while the lady checked the fit of my jacket. Satisfied that I didn't look like a goon, I decided to purchase the jacket.

"Do you want to buy some leather protector spay for $6.95?", the saleslady asked me while she rang up my purchase.

"Nah", I said. "I bought a leather sport coat not too long ago. I still have that stuff", I replied.

"Well, you're just amazing. But, I bet you hear that all the time". The sales lady was apparently working hard to hold any potential buyer's remorse in abeyance.

"I do. But it's still nice to hear", I grinned.

Jason's eyes rolled so hard that he nearly got whiplash. "Yeah, you're all pizza and pixie farts, aren't you?"

"Sarcasm is the lowest form of comedy, but, in your case, I'll allow it for this one instance. Just know that I expect more of you", I said in a mock-scolding tone.

The saleslady cut in with "Where did the two of you get your curly hair from?"

"Our mother!", Jason and I replied in unison. Even though we're not related, and I don't have curly hair at all, we're often mistaken for cousins or brothers because of how we interact with each other. The fact that we both replied the same thing quickly just shows how well we know each other.

"I'm sure that all the women love it", the sales-lady said. Geez, she was really working it.

"Well, they love it on ME", I quipped.

Jason rolled his eyes again as he ushered me out of the store.

We happened upon yet another closing retail place and picked through the boxes of random crap for sale. In one box, I found a winter glove that was merged with a windshield scraper.

"What an awesome time we live in", I said out loud. "We must keep this technological marvel from the serfs lest they rise up and dethrone the landed gentry!".

"It's great for when it's really cold out and you have ice on your windshield", the cashier said, having overheard me.

"That's what my daughter is for!", I shot back. And it's true. My daughter, who just got her own car a few months ago, currently finds scraping the windshield to be a novel thing, so she scrapes both her own car and mine.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" a large, well-fed old woman bellowed at me.

"Oh believe me, lady, I AM ashamed of myself. For MANY reasons. None of which have anything to do with my daughter scraping my windshield".

"Whatever. We both know you have no shame", Jason said.

"No....but I have un-iced windshields!".