Monday, February 20, 2012

Another Aspect of The Keystone Oil Pipeline

"And now, of course, Obama had to go kill that pipeline deal," said my friend, warming her fingers around the cup of weak, small town restaurant coffee.  I looked at her,  startled. We had been having a non-political discussion revolving around her life. Suddenly my friend, a woman I have known since our early teens, looked older, the gray just starting in her hair. She had just spoken of her out-of-work husband, a man who had rarely had a hammer out of his hand in the thirty-two years he had been a carpenter.  For the first time ever, she had gotten reprimanded at work for too many mistakes in her copy, for not getting everything done in the time constraints given by her boss, even though flexibility had always been afforded her before, even though she covered for the secretary for several days, too. For the first time ever, she was feeling the heat from work.

So her comment about something political took me by surprise. "Huh?" I said.

She went on with her grumbling about the killing of the pipeline project, how it was all because trains that haul fuel are owned by Buffet, who is Obama's friend.  How angry she was that when so much unemployment was all around us with new jobs that would deliver our nation a huge paycheck.

'Hold it," I interrupted.


"Should we let some crazy guy shoot a hole in it like that guy did up in Alaska?"

"What?" she shrugged her shoulders. "I never heard about that."

So I told her how some moron was hanging out with his brother and said, "Bet I can shoot a hole in that!"  The pressure on the inside of the pipeline sent oil spraying over the land and trees. While the news cameras rolled, the oil company sent people to clean up. But what happened when the cameras were gone? It's so remote that no one would know if the land were ever cleaned for sure.

"Oh," she said.  Then after a pause, she continued,  "Well, they can make the metal bullet-proof."

"Yeah, but will they?" I asked.  With the cost of bullet-proofing the pipeline, I doubt the company will want to put the money into it."

She nodded in agreement.

"And for sure I don't want the beautiful land in Colorado or Nebraska to be covered in the back, goopy oil," I said. 

"No, no, not cool," she agreed. 

When I related this conversation to The Man who Puts Up With Me, he piped up, "But they could put it underground!"

"And promptly let any holes in the pipeline send oil into the drinking water," I retorted. He had to admit that I was right about that.

It's not an easy project to talk about, no doubt.  And when ads are running condemning our President's decision, it might be a great time to remind everyone about realistic sabotage threats. It might be time to consider that there's more at stake than jobs. Yes, we probably do need to run that line somehow. After all, Canada can certainly reroute the pipe and sell their oil to China. We don't want that.  But it's imperative we be careful. It's essential we get agreements to keep the area around the line clean, provide the proper security. It's time we think about keeping away terrorists, not just a couple of hard-drinking rabble-rousers.   A little more time to think about something this big is not only critical, it's smart. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mediaed to Death

During the Disney movie at home here tonight, Oldest's phone rang every minute or so with a text message. After the tenth time of us being interrupted, I had images in my head from that commercial where people throw their computer out the window, one right after the other, after the other. 

"That's me!" I shouted to The Man Who Puts Up With Me the first time I saw that commercial. He's the one who fixes it when it's broken. I'm the one who wants to find a lake and drop it in.  I feel the same way about cars, but I digress.

"Who's texting you?" I asked, after my exasperation began to outweigh my patience. 

It was the girl who had taken to square dancing with him (another story sometime perhaps).  "I think she likes me," he said.  But I know him: the look on his face is almost apologetic, like having petted a stray cat that has followed him home. He hadn't meant for anything serious besides dancing, and now she likes him more than he's comfortable with.

Twenty minutes later, he tossed the phone across the room. "Hey!" I exclaimed.

"Don't worry, I tossed it lightly so it wouldn't get broken," he said. "It's just that now there are five girls texting me!" 

And I know what this is all about. One thinks her boyfriend is going to break up with her, and Oldest is trying to remind the boy that he'd be making a big mistake. Another girl is bored and texting him entertaining. Another girl is lonely, twenty minutes away and just wants to see what he's been doing lately. His girl cousin is touching base. The last girl is probably caught up in the soap opera that the first couple is going through.

It's not just the phone. It's the computer. He hits it every spare minute to play Diablo or some other role playing game. It's the television, which he would always have on if he had his way.  It's the MP3, which keeps his mind abuzz with music.

I'm starting to see Littlest One have the same problems, and I'll admit, I'm getting overrun by a desire to Facebook more than I ever used to. I write on a blog istead of a journal. To unwind, I watch TV instead of read a good book. Or watch a movie. Or listen to music.

I'm starting to understand why people take media-free vacations. For one thing, the electricity in their own space would be greatly reduced!  For another thing, it's great to just have peace and quiet. The withdrawls might be unpleasant, but the end result would probably be worth it. Until I get home and have to sift through several hundred emails!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Modeling: A New Side Job

Some people know that we went to Florida during December to attend a special event for a selected group of young people who competed in acting, music, and dance.  Oldest Son had auditioned in Fargo with 550 other families and was invited because he could sing, a talent he never did use down there.  A couple of other contestants from New Jersey told us that 1400 families competed there, and they only chose 20 kids, so the competition to attend was fierce. 

The excitement to go was intense all of December. I finally had a conversation with him to explain that winning this event was probably unlikely, and that we needed to judge success by whether or not he got a callback. I think the boy had visions of suddenly getting picked up by some talent agent, working in Hollywood the next week, and I knew that was pretty much a dream. But getting a callback meant you had been noticed, and not everyone gets a callback there.

Sure enough, he got one, and what for? Modeling. This from the boy who had snorted when I asked him to consider whether he wanted to get work doing that. When he found out people weren't standing in line to lure him to the bright lights of a Hollywood backlot, that millions weren't going to come his way overnight, modeling sounded better than pushing a lawn mower.

On a lark, we sent in his headshot and resume to a modeling agent in Minneapolis. The resume never even opened up; she called him just because he looked good on the picture.  Four hundred people responded to her ad, but she only chose fourteen to call back.  Meeting with her, and from the question and answer session we had in Florida is giving me quite an education in a field I know absolutely nothing about!

First, for every five girls featured in the modeling agency's book, there is only one boy.  Adolescent boys who go into modeling aren't exactly rare, but the competition has definitely thinned out.  We were fortunate to know that Oldest's cousin had made money for a while in modeling as well, until his attitude about the work changed and he was dropped. It was  a great lesson on professionalism for our boys, who still would rather pose for photos than push around a lawn mower on a hot day. 

Another thing is that regional modeling agents barely make it on commission. There are upfront costs that models absolutely must absorb, whereas bigger agencies out east upfront the money to models.  Researching it online leaves you with conflicting information, so it's important for anyone interested in the profession should know this. 

Finally, commissions for agents are now at 20%.  Again, that is different from what you might read on the internet. The fact is, even big agencies take that, as we found out in the Q & A session in Florida.  This is a big difference from acting agents which only command 15%. 

The modeling company is just getting into animals, so we ended up signing on with our cat and dog, which is much nicer than working with people. First, animals don't have to tryout; and the payment is sometimes in the thousands. I suddenly have a new job: taking animals on a three hour drive if they are needed for a photoshoot. I never in my wildest dreams thought that would happen.  When I tell other people about it, they suddenly start telling me about their animals and how cute they are. It's an interesting way to get your pets to fund their own vet bills!

This new adventure is just one I would like to share with other people, which is why I'm writing about it here. It's quite fascinating to look into a world which is often closed to other people, a learning experience for all of us.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Making of An Actor

Oldest brushed the sweat off his face one hot summer day last July. "This mowing lawn is too much like work,' he grumped.

I almost laughed. Poor kid! He should have been out picking rock at 5 a.m, like I had to do when I was young., trudging through mud that stuck to my dew soaked shoes or getting halfway into a sea of thistles, while finding rocks that needed to be hauled to a rock pile. I'm certain this is what makes hell, so I have no sympathy for my son. He's got it easy, pushing around a lawn mower.

"Well, what do you want to do?" I asked. We had hauled a mower to a property we owned, then caught a lunch at a nearby town. 

"Well," he said, between bites of food. "I want to be an actor."

Now my parents would have laughed at me if I had said such a thing. They might have told me to get real, to forget it, that it was a hopeless fantasy. Certainly they would have told me that they wouldn't drive me town to attend any after school activity. "  But I knew that if I crushed his dream, he would spend the rest of his life wondering, 'What if..." 

"How are you going to do that?' I asked.

"I don't know," he admitted.

Now the story goes hyperspeed. Moments later he heard a radio advertisement looking for kids to try out for a special conference/talents show in Florida. With my blessing he tried out. They called back, and he attended an interview and screentest.  Thirty-two kids out of 550 families called back, and they didn't care if you couldn't afford the entrance fee. Oldest had the money, entered, rehearsed, and went. The experience was incredible, informative because of the industry executives who served on a Q & A panel, elegant because of a red carpet night, tense because of the competition. 

In the two weeks we were in Florida, a change came over him.  "He walks differently," commented The Man Who Puts Up With Me.  And Oldest had. There was more confidence, maybe because of all the pretty girls that had flocked around him at the Florida event. Maybe it was because he found ot he was neither the big fish in the ocean, nor the littlest.

 He signed up to take a summer theater academy in a nearby city to learn more about theater, perhaps even join in the the mainstage musical, a professional performance directed by a New York director.  To fund it, he wrote grant, and has to perform for a review board for the money.  Sunday he auditions for the musical.

Valentine's evening, he soloed the song, "Save the Last Dance for Me" with a jazz band behind him at a large concert at our hometown gym. I watched as our son went from a kid who used to sing while standing stock still, to walking, smiling, gesturing, entertaining, performing! The transformation in his talents in several short months was simply amazing.

As if that weren't enough, on a lark, we sent his headshot to a modeling agent in Minneapolis,  and a couple of weeks later, signed both boys on with her. We head out soon to do photoshoots for the agency, then respond to casting calls as they happen. The money is much better than mowing lawns, so Oldest, who had initially snubbed the idea of modeling, is now anxious to try out for commercials of any kind. 

Consider that all of this has happened in less than eight months. Eight!  I feel somedays that I'm standing by the breeze off a train engine. Whoosh! The kid mentions his dreams, now he's about to embark on living them. This boy isn't even old enough to drive!  There are moments I feel that this whole pathway is a dream, and that because he has believed it could all happen, it just might. 

These next few months he will grow, and I get the privilege of watching that take place.  Where these adventures take us might be worth writing about in the future.  Until them, think of us these next couple of days as we can use just a ton of positive energy coming our way!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Gaggling Goosey Groupies

"Mom!" called Youngest as he burst through the door.  "Brother's coming home with three girls."

There are many things a mother would like to hear someone say about her son. Things like, "He's on the A honor role!" or "He's been accepted into a great college!" or "He's won the Pulitzer Prize." All of those statements would make a heart beat with pride. But what do you make of, "He's coming home with three girls?" I suppose it's better than, "He's coming home with three stray cats!"

"Aha!" I said.  Minutes earlier I had considered how nice it would be to make a few cupcakes for anyone dropping by.  I frantically scraped the batter into cupcake paper holders. 

They entered into the door behind my son, giggling and talking.  He hung up his heavier jacket, grabbed a Cary Grant style hat, and a lighter leather coat. No doubt, he looked sharp.

I finished and walked over to where they were standing in the dining room. "Hi!"  Then I felt an odd panic coming over me.   I should recognize these girls. All of them, I would bet, have been in our house before. The problem is that the girls look alike.  Skinny.  Two have blond hair that hangs down, in a flowing style with a part on the side. Those same two wear makeup. 

I took a deep breath as if to jump into a swimming pool. "Okay, I should know you. But I'm old and my mind is going. Let's see if I can remember your name."

"I'm Jenna!" said the first one.

Ah yes. The girl who had the same name as Oldest's former girlfriend.  She's got bad acne and actually natural hair color than the ones with bleached out hair.

The next one looked at me as though I were a worm.  "Victoria," she said, as if I should have know.

Inwardly I groaned. Oldest's former girlfriend. I should have known.  But after a second I found myself secretly glad I hadn't remembered. She broke up with him twice by text. What happened to the days when boys and girls broke up and never talked again?

The third introduced herself again with a gesture toward her heart.  "I'm Barb." The tone of her voice somehow assured me that she was used to memory-challenged adults. I felt reassured that the younger generation was just fine with those of us who are innundated with teens who look alike.

"It's just that so many girls come here!" quipped Youngest, who had been somewhat hopping around, chewing an apple. 

I caught Oldest shoot his little brother a poision-dart glance.  Part of me wondered how karma would address the inequity of the time when Youngest would bring home a girl and his older brother would not be here to say, "Gee, he brings home lots of girls."

Then, the most incredible two things happened. First, the girls didn't stay around for warm cupcakes.  All of the teens decided to take off . Second, my Oldest son picked up their backpacks and carried them for the girls. This from the boy that acts like the vaacuum cleaner is too heavy, grumbles when we ask him to open doors when our hands are full, or protests if directed to help with any other menial labor intensive task.  He happily went down the street, his groupies around him,  shouldering a million pounds of homework, with a grin like a ten-year-old with a new puppy. 

I haven't figured out whether it's a good thing or not for our son to have groupies.  A part of me wishes that the girls were interested in books, theater or even farming!  But giggly girls?  It goes against my very feminist core. I realize it's a teenage boy thing, a mating dance thing, a thing.  God forbid he bring one of these girls home for marriage approval.  But most of all, I hope I can better remember their names, that I can find something distinctive about each so their name information doesn't go into my "garbage in, garbage out" file in my brain. For no matter what, they deserve at least that.