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Category Archives: Acting Class

I’m a little torn by this.

The only problem i have with this, on its face, is that it smells a little too much like a anti-tech solution, where someone would be teaching kids that technology is bad/worse than doing something “in real life”. That type of attitude will ultimately hurt a kid just as much, because you’re not exposing them to, essentially, a serious reality of society: Much of the work we do now is computer based.

Something like programming is a wonderful skill to have, and it’s applications lend itself perfectly to teaching a topic like math and even story telling (at the same time!). It shouldn’t be seen as a black-magic activity, when you can teach kids to create something like a game (which needs a story, artwork, and programming).

I mostly agree that there’s no reason for kids to have iphones, ipads, or completely unfettered internet access. If they’re using it to actually *do* something, then fine, but dicking around on the computer for hours on end reading reddit is worthless (I say this having spent most of my free time online in high school).

But, all that said, I also think there’s a major generational gap here. I grew up talking to and conversing with people on the internet. Actively participating in forums (which are more like facebook comment streams than email) is a wonderful way to express your own opinions, become exposed to the opinions of others, and have the freedom to explore and develop a curiosity for many things.

I spent countless hours writing stories, drawing art, developing games, playing games with other people, learning about how economies work in online games, learning to write programs and solve problems. Shit, i learned more about economics from a video game than I ever did in school (SAD). None of this was limited by my parents, and they would probably have been terrified to know I was actively working with other people online (we’ll call it “Everyone online is actually a 40 year old dude who wants to rape you” syndrome).

But, the fact of the matter is, while I was hurt by it in some regard (social development), it also allowed me to flourish and develop my own form of creativity. It provided me a safe haven from being a social outcast/bullying, and when all you have on the internet to look at is words you really start to understand how equal everyone really is.

I think there’s something to this, but it casts technology in a somewhat evil light, which I find to be silly. Every child’s needs are different, and every child’s interests are going to be different. For some kids waldorf may be excellent. For others, maybe not.

If a kid immediately takes to computers, and has a passion for it, and you take that away saying it’s bad… how is that any different than recognizing your child has an innate passion for music and taking away their flute?

In 2008, a pair of internet journalists had an interesting disagreement about how the internet has changed the way our minds work. In “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, Nicholas Carr suggests that an over-abundance of information is transforming our society into a cohort of shallow information skimmers. In a rebuttal titled “Why Abundance is Good: A Reply to Nick Carr”, Clay Shirky disagrees, discrediting Carr by pointing out his nostalgia and Luddism. As a recovering internet addict myself, I take exception with Carr’s characterization of the problem. While I identify with Shirky’s overall stance, I believe he didn’t say what needed to be said: Carr sounds like an alcoholic blaming the drink for his problems.

Carr tries to frame his loss of concentration as a symptom of extensive net usage, blaming the medium for turning him into a husk of the reader he once was. He laments his new inability to sit and read long articles and books, even saddened by missing out on the infamous War and Peace. He recalls colleagues telling him of changed reading habits, and even quotes Plato’s argument against the use of written word. Despite blaming the internet for this change in brain mechanics, the only clear fact he presents is a longing for the “good ol’ days” of reading, and Shirkey takes exception to this.

Shirkey, however, spends a majority of his article criticizing Carr’s opinion personally, stopping just shy of calling him a grumpy old man telling kids how it was “in my day…”. He does take a moment to say, on the more progressive side of the issue, he rejects the idea that the medium itself is at fault. He rebukes Carr’s usage of War and Peace as an example of the public’s inability to ingest long texts by claiming “the reading public has increasingly decided… [it] isn’t actually worth the time it takes to read”. He closes by saying the internet (as a medium) needs time to show us its true genius, in much the same way the printing press changed the world over the course of decades and centuries.

Shirkey, apparently too offended by Carr’s condescension to fully articulate what he believes, suggests we simply have to learn to use it better. He notes the difficulty of the issue because the medium has yet to reach maturity. Building on Shirkey’s opinion, I suggest that society has failed to assess itself and teach appropriate net usage. Hindering Carr’s ability to concentrate is a symptom, but Carr is ultimately responsible for no longer being able to read his beloved War and Peace.

Carr certainly has a point in suggesting the structure of online text affects the way we ingest information, but he misappropriates blame onto the medium itself. He claims hyperlinks, placed mid-article, propel readers toward other sources. In doing so, he says, they also rob the subject of their concentration. Consequently, this line of reasoning also absolves the reader of any responsibility for their own habits (which is clearly Carr’s way of saying “it’s not my fault!”).

It’s easy to suggest that the net itself is reshaping the way we think and read; everything we do changes us. Carr points out a study by British Library1 that shows internet readers have a tendency to exhibit skimming-like behaviors. Still undecided, however, is what the overall cause is, or what we can do to counteract that tendency and teach ourselves how to harness such a powerful corpus. To clarify this, let’s explore the problem within a new context: alcohol use and alcoholism.

As we all know, alcoholism is a real problem with a long, long list of causes, problems, and potential treatments. One thing we’re sure of is that prevention is infinitely more effective than treatment at improving any given person’s life. If we prevent an alcohol user from crossing the line into a problem, then we never have to treat anything. To frame how this relates to our conversation about net usage, we only have to ask one simple question: if Carr’s symptoms are indicative of irresponsible internet use, then is the solution to treat people who have the problem or to educate society before it becomes pandemic? (Trick question, we should do both!)

To elaborate, as research has shown2, educating children about the consequences (symptoms) of alcohol abuse at an age when they are at highest risk has proven effective in preventing abuse from occurring later in life (to some extent). Likewise, educating recovering alcoholics on the signs of relapse can help prevent a relapse. In both cases, success hinges on how well we can teach these people to self-assess their situation and how well they can make changes to correct it. If we, as a society, can recognize that abundant net usage has negative consequences, as Carr suggests, then the solution is education, not abstinence (or worse, prohibition).

Howard Rheingold suggests just that in his book Net Smart, asserting that doing something as simple as introducing a modicum of mindfulness into our net-use habits can go a long way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Rheingold spends nearly a fifth of his book talking about attention and how the net (and always-on media) has changed our daily lives. He recalls an interaction with his daughter, wherein she hardly looks away from her phone to greet him as he picked her up at the airport. In this case he points out how our focus of attention has changed dramatically, but he also asserts that our browsing habits also have an effect on how well we can formulate deep meaningful thought. He, like Shirkey, also believes it is not the medium itself that has forced this change upon us, but our own self-indulgence that has created an atmosphere of acceptable shallowness.

At this point you may be asking yourself, “If this is so prevalent, why do I feel relatively unaffected by this so-called pandemic?” Well, it very likely differs depending on what generation you belong to. To put it simply, the average 15-27 year old has nothing to compare their behavior to. Unlike those born before the age of the all-powerful internet, always-on media has always been there. For the generations before us, it’s probably surprising to find research online turned into an everyman-everyday activity. Interestingly, however, the symptoms of over-exposure to the net are relatively similar regardless of generation.

I can relate to Carr, I’m the shining example of a recovering net-addict. Since the peak of my “Internetism”, how I interact with the net has changed drastically over the past half-decade. At 20 years old, I was about as motivated to read a book as a 13 year old boy being told to read A Tale of Two Cities while staring at an XBOX (actually that’s not too far off). I would agree with Carr, asserting the problem was caused by over-exposure to internet media, online forums, and attention grabbers like facebook. My habits began to turn around while studying at an acting studio. Scott Rogers3, my coach, suggested a simple attention adjustment exercise: no TV for one month. During that month (unsurprisingly), my concentration, attention to detail, and all-around personal accomplishment skyrocketed. Since that exercise, I have cut cable service, started reading books regularly, and most importantly started metering how (and how much) I use the internet. I’m unsure that it’s purely a result of less net usage, but it was certainly part of my solution.

If the “No TV” approach sounds drastic to you, there are small steps you can take right now to adjust your concentration. When facing an article filled with mid-text URLs (usually citations), open the URL in a separate tab and return to it after reading the article. Two things might surprise you. First, authors often take the time to summarize the article anyway, and you will (usually) decide not to read it. Secondly, you will have obtained a better grasp of the author’s opinion, and potentially formulated an opinion or your own, prior to reading further. That’s what Carr suggests is disappearing.

Although I easily identify with Carr’s experience, it’s likely that Shirkey’s analysis of the overall situation is correct. I was able to reverse the process of diminished attention through years of study in areas that require ingesting long texts, analyzing complex information, and formulating opinions through sustained deep thought. These are all abilities Carr laments losing. If it was simply exposure to the medium itself that caused issues, I would still be an addict.

Varying types and severities of net-addiction have cultivated Carr’s society of skimmers. This isn’t the internet’s fault for merely existing. This doesn’t mean the internet is bad for us, or that being on the computer 8 hours a day is a problem. If we teach our society responsible net usage, maybe we’ll see less “Internetism” in the future. At the very least we’ll be a little more conscientious of our use.


I don’t have a date for these entries, but I remember doing all the prep and imagination work about a full year and a half before I ever did the scene.  Things fell through will my partner and I never got to do it originally.  It resurfaced a year later when I wanted to do a scene with Julia Levanne.  She was magnificent in it, and we had quite a blast.  If I remember correctly, the only note Scott gave me was “I wish you would have just sat down and stayed there”.

Background:  Chris Keller returns from World War II (after seeing some real shit, let me tell you), and calls for his (dead) brother Larry’s girlfriend to the house to ask for her hand in marriage.  Long story short: it’s been years since Larry died, Ann moved on, fell for Chris.  In this specific scene, Chris finally grows a pair an kisses Ann, but not before recalling a particularly sad story about the men he served with.

For my imagination work, I wrote up a bunch of backstories to the people he served with, and a short passage regarding how the firefight started.  I’ll probably post them (with revisions) over the course of the next few weeks or so.


Private Martin

I took my family for granted.  They were as much my brothers as they were soldiers.  They sacrificed everything for me.  ME.  Now I’m here, living, reaping the benefits, living a day to day life earning a paycheck.  That paycheck is nothing but blood money to me.  I’d give it all back for any one of them.

Martin gave me his last pair of dry socks.  The skies had been drenching us for the past 72 hours, at least, and there wasn’t a patch of solid earth around us.  Our tents offered little protection, every morning we dug them 3 inches out of the mud.  Somehow this Private managed to keep a single pair of socks dry.  This 18 year old kid from Boston, never camped a day in his life, had given me a god-sent relief to what was quickly becoming trench foot.  

Happiness is a dry pair of socks.

I was always partial to Martin.  Maybe it was because he tried to suck up to me, or maybe it was that he was the little brother I never had.  Having been in Larry’s shadow most of my life, I saw myself in Martin.  People picked on him, played pranks, and he usually just kept quiet and took it.  He never started trouble.

That day, as I ran back to camp, he ran toward me.  Hellfire raining around him, he called for doc.  He was more worried about my hand than shooting back.  We hadn’t made it more than 6 steps back into camp before his neck exploded, spraying my face with blood.  He collapsed to the ground in a heap, nothing but terror and pain on his face.

I picked him up, bleeding everywhere, and rushed him 15 paces further to where doc had bunkered down.  I had to slap him and point at Martin, yelling at him to stop worrying about my hand and fix him.  He stared me dead in the eye and shook his head.

I looked down at Martin, as he gasped for air over and over, each time weaker than the last.  With his last words he said “tell her…”, as he handed me a necklace.  Her name was on the back.  I knew who she was.

We all knew who she was.

Learning to understand people and rationalize their decisions as if you were them will not only help you become a better actor, it will motivate you to do what’s right in your every day life.

Or it might make you really cynical.  Depends on the company you keep.

Life is an unbroken flow of emotions.  Even when we believe we are feeling nothing, we are simply detached from ourselves.  It is then important to recognize these moments and delve inward to discover and understand the person within.

The secret behind the fantasy of TV, Movie, and Video Games is to provide the people with believable life, no matter how improbable or extraordinary.  This is the reason WoW and FFXI continue to draw large crowds.  It provides people an escape to a world of complete freedom and control, despite the notable lack of these 2 key components in their real life.

A world of fantasy will always be more enticing than selling burgers at a McDonald’s.

The observation of life provides external stimulus for us to change ourselves.

When it comes to the imagination, nothing you imagine is ever wrong.

Get into the head of someone who doesn’t need control.

Try everything once.


Now, this is an interesting entry.  At first, it says a whole lot of nothing.  As an acting note, knowing life is an unbroken flow of emotions is important, because at no point on stage should you ever not feel something.  Then I tried to be profound and explain how feeling nothing is just some strange existential experience.  Huh.

The interesting thing here is the very accurate description of what makes media so enticing.  I would have known though, because at this point I had been playing Final Fantasy XI for nearly 7-8 years, and had spent a majority of my life parked in front of a computer/tv consuming massive amounts of media.  I believe I unhooked my TV from cable shortly after this.  I haven’t hooked it back up since.

Cutting the cord is highly recommended. 

Mambooko:  The native guide for adventurers, indigenous to the Amazon rain forest, his tribe protects the land.  He is a tall skinny white man with glasses.


Why am I here?

The animal has ravaged my lands?

Took my brother?

At first, it was my tribe that slowly killed the cattle.  The Brazilians were killing the land, and we took back what we could, but we full well knew it wouldn’t stop them.

The shaman went up the mountain, to the highest ridges, seeking for an answer.  He had been gone for 2 years, and we had lost hope.

We had all but accepted our fate when he walked out from the wilderness carrying a child.  He found the answer to our problem.

He never said where she came from, but we knew this was no ordinary child.  We had to feed her whole sides of beef as she grew, until we could teach her to hunt.  That was our mistake.

We did not know the power granted to this child, but we trained her to hunt like the panther, the tiger, the snake… then she killed a Brazilian rancher.  She devoured him down to the bones.

When we awoke that morning to a pungent smell of death, and found her lying asleep in a pool of blood, sucking on the thum of a meatless hand, we knew it was too late.

We tried to restrain her, but she killed four men before we were able to bind her legs.  As my brother tied her hands, she managed to lunge at this neck.  He died several hours later.

We sealed her in a cave with two sides of beef.  When we returned to feed her the next day, she had escaped.

I discovered her lair one day while hunting wild bore.  My tribe dared not go back to finish the job.

Every step I take back toward the monsters hiding place is a fearful one.