----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: March 2005

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Audition

Pink Lemonade Diva kindly reminded me that I never posted an update about my audition. Unfortunately, I did not get the part. But the audition experience itself was fairly interesting.

When I got there, several other actors were clustered about, chatting and laughing as if they had known each other for years. The girls were all skinnier than me (and I'm fairly slim), and they all had longer, shinier hair. The boys were fresh-scrubbed and chipper and reminded me of the type that I used to date until I realized that I really needed someone who would let me be the dramatic one, and who could make me laugh on a regular basis.

Anyway, I handed over my headshot and then the photographer took a Polaroid of me and attached it to the back. I think Polaroids are specifically designed to be unflattering, but whatever. Then I sat in a little folding seat and listened to the chatter and waited my turn. The receptionist seemed to be getting quite flustered. I waited nearly half an hour, during which time I read the description of the role I was up for several times. It did not enlighten me.

People were being called in in pairs, one boy, one girl. Finally, it was my turn, and I was called in with someone who was my complete physical opposite. Me: petite, dark hair, pink sweater. Him: freakishly tall, golden blond, red t-shirt. I'm sure we looked great together on camera. Anyway, we slated our names and showed our profiles, just like I'd learned in class! Then we did our little bit. The casting director provided us with a blanket in a bag to serve as our tarp and with a folding table, to serve as the roof. First, tall guy carried the tarp and threw it over the table, with me as his faithful assistant. Then, the casting director asked us to do it again, more business-like. This time, it was my turn to take the lead. We did basically the same thing; we just smiled less.

That was about it. I was all worried that I hadn't been "creative" or "energetic" enough, but when I went to my acting class tonight and told my coach about it, he said that in a situation like that, they're just looking for two people who look good and are believable together. So this time they didn't choose my particular look. But it's good practice. And maybe next time will be my turn to shine!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Surreal Estate

Housing prices are out of control in California, but what's even more disturbing to me is the lengths that some people will go to to maximize the profit on their home, as evidenced by this article in the L.A. Times. Here's an excerpt:

Occasionally a buyer won't commit to a sale unless pets come with the house, which was the case with one buyer who insisted the sellers' dog be included, said Brent Bonine of Carlsbad-based Buffini & Co., a real estate training and coaching firm. After eschewing several suitable homes, the buyer finally jumped at one, offering full price. The main selling point was the owners' golden retriever. The sale was contingent upon it being included in the contract, which it was.

Now, granted, most of the article talks about odd requests by sellers, because it is a seller's market. But this just stuck in my head. Who are these people who would leave their dog behind in order to close a sale on their house? I mean, if the potential buyer had liked the look of one of the sellers' children, would they have said, "Hey, sure, take her. We've got a spare"? Poor dog.

My family has a golden retriever and he is the best dog ever. My husband want to get a puppy of our own, but we can't do that until we have a house with a yard. And we can't buy a house with a yard, because the median home price in our area is something like $750,000. Fantastic!

On Sunday, we looked at the only home in the entire county priced below $500,000. It was inhabitable. I mean, there were holes clear through the walls to the outside! It stank of animal urine! The walls that didn't have holes in them were stained and nicked and flyspecked! The rooms were tiny! The shower was growing mold! The entire thing really needed to be bulldozed and rebuilt from scratch.

So that's what a half-a-million dollars will buy you in my neighborhood. In some ways, I hope this real estate boom really is a bubble. Maybe if it pops, my husband and I will have a shot at a house of our own.


People are always surprised when they find out how tall I am. I'm 5-foot-1, barely, but everyone thinks I'm taller. This issue most recently came up when we were discussing a co-worker's new baby and how she would probably wind up being tall. I made a comment about how, since I'm 5'1" and my husband is 5'8" (barely), we'll probably have tiny kids. And that's when everyone looked at me in disbelief and said, "You're only 5'1"? I thought you were taller."

Why is this, I wonder? It's not like I wear super-high heels every day. My favorite boots probably do add a couple of inches, but I'm not teetering around on Manolos or anything. And when the weather warms up, I'm a big fan of flip-flops. Not the platform kind--the really flat kind.

I think I create the illusion of height because although I'm short, I'm not tiny. I'm not a little bird girl--I'm proportioned like a regular-sized person instead of like a small child. Even my feet are a fairly average size--6-and-a-half or 7. But I still have to shop in the petites section, and it infuriates me to no end that the Gap stores its smallest size jeans on the highest shelf. Doesn't that seem counterintuitive? Maybe they think they are catering to the tall, skinny supermodels.

Of course, I'd like to think that people assume I'm taller than I am because I have such a commanding presence. But then I'd just be flattering myself. I'm no shrinking violet, though--a co-worker recently accused me of being "combative," but the word around the office is that he's intimidated by me. Anyway, short women, join with me in projecting an aura of power and confidence. And remember...sometimes those really high heels just draw attention to your lack of God-given height.

For discussion: How tall are you? How tall do you say you are? How tall do you think you appear to others?

Friday, March 18, 2005

It's the Big One

I have my first official audition on Monday! It's for a SAG national commercial for E-Loan, so it's pretty big-time. The role I am auditioning for, however, is not. I will be going out for the role of "tarp carrier." Essentially, a group of people is on a roof, and "tarp carrier" pulls a tarp from her backpack, attaches one end to the roof, and throws the other end over the edge. I don't know how the story ends, though.

What's my motivation? Are we all going to slither down the tarp to safety? Do I save the day? Well, I guess I had better practice my pulling and throwing motions over the weekend. Those tarps can be awkward!

How's That Again?

I saw a strange posting on Craigslist the other day. Is that redundant? A strange posting on Craigslist? I mean, so many of them are strange. Anyway, it said, "Lose Weight for Free!" Actually, it said, "LOSE WEIGHT FOR FREE!", but that's kind of annoying, isn't it?

Here's my question: isn't it always free to lose weight? You can't exactly pay someone to lose weight for you, can you? I guess you could pay for the Zone Diet to be delivered to your doorstep every morning, but the basic principle of losing weight does not require you to spend any money. All it requires is that you burn more calories than you eat. When you think about it, you could actually save money by losing weight. You should be eating less food, so you should save money on your grocery bills, especially since fattening junk food is much more expensive than, say, fresh produce.

So, dear misguided Craigslist poster, you are not offering anyone a bargain. Losing weight is free. But thanks for playing.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Worst Employee

Even though I have not been at my new job for very long, I feel secure in the knowledge that I will not go down in the annals of company history as the worst employee ever. Yes, I spend a lot of time clicking around on the Internet (though not blogging--never again!), and yes, I am perhaps too forthright with my opinions about the direction our publications should be taking (c'mon, could you really imagine me as un-opinionated?), but those are really minor transgressions. I meet my deadlines and I turn in good work. And spending time on the Internet is actually a necessary component of my job. I am a writer, people! (Well, a writer/actress.) Sometimes I see news articles that provide me with new ideas for things to write about. Besides, my ideas need time to germinate and marinate in my head. I can't just sit down at my computer immediately upon completion of a phone interview and churn out crisp, compelling copy. These things take time!

Anyway, my peccadillos as an employee aside, someone else has already taken the "worst employee imaginable" crown at my place of business. She no longer works here, so I feel it is safe to relate this story. Apparently, this woman was hired to do some data entry. Well, two weeks after she was hired, she began to complain about carpal tunnel syndrome. Why take a data entry job if you have wrist problems? But the company, more chary of lawsuits than I, bought said woman a voice-recognition program so that she would no longer have to actually do any typing, even though that is what she was specifically hired to do. Anyway, all the employees used to work in one small room before--they didn't have the luxury of offices with doors, like we do now--and this bad employee would sit there all day long and shout at her computer, since you must speak VERY CLEARLY AND LOUDLY to have the software recognize your voice.

Annoying, no? But that was not the worst of it. This employee would also go sit in her car in the parking lot and smoke pot! Imagine the chutzpah! Using illegal substances while at work! Granted, I use drugs at work, too, but I have a legal prescription for all of mine, so that's different. Anyway, people at work quickly caught on to her pungent aroma and her penchant for wearing sunglasses indoors, so she was fired.

The moral of the story is that there's always someone who makes a bigger mistake than you did. And that can be comforting. Ah, yes, our dear friend Schadenfreude. It'll get you every time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


On Friday, much to my amazement, I learned that theGeorge Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic song that I had always thought of as "Last Night" was, in fact, titled "Flashlight." Odd. I had always thought it was about what went on with some nubile girl last night,and now I find out it's about a Maglite. I guess Ishould have listened to the lyrics more carefully...they do go on about spotlights and green lights and so forth. You think that might have tipped me off. This isn't a modegren on the level of "there's a bathroom on right" instead of "there's a bad moon on the rise," but it was amusing nonetheless. Do you have any mangled song lyrics to share?

Yesterday, I was slogging through traffic when I passed by a van from Spyrka Electric. Emblazoned upon it was the slogan, "For all your current needs!" I thought that was pretty clever...it's a play on words that hasn't been done to death, unlike "Curl Up and Dye Hair Salon," for example. And since it takes me 45 minutes to commute 14 miles, I am definitely in need of a smile in the mornings.

Also occuring yesterday: a woman dressed as a whore showed up at our place of business. We don't work at a particularly sexy business, so this was all the more disconcerting. And it was only 10 o'clock in themorning, which by any standard is a little too early for streetwalker gear. Doesn't anyone remember Mammy's admonition to Scarlett O'Hara about not showing one's shoulders before noon? And this woman was showing a lot more than her shoulders, believe me. She was wearing a tight orange halter neck top with no bra underneath (very obvious nipples), a short denim miniskirt that barely grazed her thighs, lots and lots of jewelry (including an anklet...not the kind Martha Stewart has to wear, though), heavily-applied makeup, and those spike-heeled, slip-on Lucite shoes, more commonly known as "stripper shoes." She also had long, bleached-blonde hair with dark roots that was desperately in need of a hot oil treatment. Perhaps worst of all, she was in her mid-40s, at least. But maybe she was younger and it was just all the sun damage that made her look so drawn and leathery. Anyway, she was old enough to know better. I don'te ven know why she was there, but she did bring us all some delicious coffee cake, so I guess that makes her a hooker with a heart of gold.

So, those are my random observations for the day. I am considering giving this blog more of a cohesive theme,b ut sometimes I just like to share whatever it is that catches my eye. And it's been very difficult to write on a consistent basis lately. Working full-time and taking classes and having a husband is very hard. In a good way. Usually. Oftentimes. Mostly. Frequently. Okay. The end.

Friday, March 11, 2005

My Twisted Career Path

Someone posted a question on the MediaBistro bulletin boards asking us journalists how we arrived at our present rung on the career ladder. I thought the question was a good one, so I decided to post my own tumultous journey here. Isn't there some study that says the average American will hold something like seven jobs in his or her lifetime? Ha! I held nearly seven part-time jobs at once! (See the "My Many Jobs" post, parts one and two.)

Anyway, I hope that my career path, twisted as it is with detours, gives hope to those who didn't start doing journalism internships from the moment they were eligible for a work permit. I mean, it's great to be focused, but you can succeed, even if you take the long way around. And besides, having a wide variety of jobs is so broadening!

The prequel: I wanted to take drama as my elective in my sophomore year of high school, but it conflicted with honors English, so I wound up in the yearbook class. And that knocked over the first domino...

1) As I was about to graduate from college withEnglish degree, I got tired of telling everyone tha tno, I didn't plan to teach. Had been admitted to Northwestern's undergrad j-school, so when they sent me a letter asking if I'd be interested in their graduate program, I figured I could tough out one winter in Chicago. Before being admitted, work as editorial assistant at weekly business newspaper.

2) Started j-school grad program. Loved it (partly because I just love being a student). Built up clips.

3) Graduated during tail end of dot.com boom, but did not take a dot.com job. Got an associate editor position at a start-up trade magazine in Malibu.

4) Start-up magazine didn't start. I was shifted to another title, but I decided to leave for the more"glamorous" world of entertainment PR.

5) Lasted exactly one week at PR job. Was naively unaware of the fact that "assistant" was code for fetching boss's lunch and FedExing packages. Actually believed HR when they told me that I was hired for my writing skills.

6) Since I was in L.A., decided to do somethingtotally original--become an actress!

7) Take acting class, get headshots, get extra work, get five simultaneous part-time jobs. Quickly run outof money and run up huge credit card debt.

8) Move home to NorCal and work as substitute teacher while attempting to pay off debt.

9) Move back to L.A. Freelance, work for crazy lady, and ultimately take a job tangential to journalism.

10) Get cancer. Move home AGAIN.

11) Finish treatment. Move back to L.A. Hired as copyeditor at national magazine, despite my quarter-inchbuzz cut.

12) After a year, magazine is in trouble and editor tells me there is no room for advancement. Sick of L.A., fiance and I move back to NorCal, where fiance has design job.

13) Decide to try acting again. Work as substitute teacher and freelance writer and copy editor while looking for acting work and/or real job. Get married--yay!--but planning a wedding is a job in itself.

14) Find real job, to start after honeymoon. Again,believe bosses when they tell me I have been hired to write. Again, it is a lie. When I vent my frustrations to blog, I am fired.

15) Concentrate on acting while looking for new job.

16) Interview for position as editor of trade magazine. Am hired, and finally will be making more than I did at my first job out of j-school!

17) After I accept full-time job offer, I get aninterview with a talent agent. O happy day! They want to represent me!

18) A happy ending? My "real" job is fairly interesting and pays well. And my acting career could start to take off now that I have representation.What's next? To be determined...

Hey, sometimes a career path that twists and turns is more interesting than a strictly linear one.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Acting Pursuits

I started my new acting class on Monday, and we've got an interesting mix of people this time, to say the least. There are three people who have worked with the coach before, myself included, but only two of those people have really made progress. And yes, I humbly include myself as one of the two. Now, I am not a casting director or an agent, so maybe I have no right to be judgmental, but nonetheless, I will give my impressions. Here are the other people in the class:

1. A man with an Irish accent so thick as to be nearly unintelligible. Would fit right in in an Irish Spring commercial. Can't seem to follow directions--maybe he can't hear very well.
2. A man who believes in possession and, as far as I can tell, believes that he is a psychic healer. Admires men who were known for bending spoons with their minds and stuff. Round and moist, with thick glasses.
3. A woman of indeterminate age who seems to be taking tips from the Diana Ross school of beauty. The eyeliner, though, harkens back to Cleopatra. Seems quiet, unemotional and unassuming.
4. A younger woman with feet that seem too small to support her body--sort of like a Weeble-Wobble. Is an uptalker, if you know what I mean? She ends every sentence like a question?
5. The other woman who has taken this class before. At least I can relate to her.

I think that it might be time for me to move on to a more advanced class. I really like the coach, but it seems as though he mostly works with beginners. It will be interesting to see how the class coalesces. Ah, well, I, too, was once a rank beginner. Not that I'm super-successful now or anything...I just think I'm a little bit further along the path to working professionally. And this group seems to be an extra odd assortment. We'll see what sort of wacky fun ensues!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Something Frightening

A day or two ago, I was behind a car driving erractically, and when I went to pass, I realized that it was nearly every stereotype of bad car driving come true! It was an elderly woman driving a gigantic boat of a car, wearing those huge dark sunglasses, slumped down in her seat, talking on a cell phone and drinking a soda! She was probably trying to fiddle with the radio, too, but I couldn't really tell. I was too intent on getting far, far away from her and her swerviness. Hey, I'm all for elders retaining their independence, but for some, there comes a time when they are a threat to themselves and others!

It's Been Awhile...

Hello, my little chickadees! Did you miss me? I have not written in some time because I have been immersed in my new job and/or drugged into oblivion.

I started my new job right after President's Day, but I only lasted one day before I had to make a surprise visit to the emergency room. I had a long-lasting headache and when I got weak and nearly passed out, my doctors finally decided it was serious enough to warrant immediate medical attention. So, I got to spend hours lying in a flimsy gown on an uncomfortable bed in a darkened hospital room. I went in for a CT scan, which came back clear, luckily. The doctor gave me an injection of Toredol to break up the pain cycle, but when that didn't work, I got Demerol, plus prescriptions for Percocet, Vicodin and Phenergan. What fun! When I relayed my saga to the people at work, they told me not to return until Monday.

So, this was my first full week of work. All I'll say is that my co-workers seem nice, I'm actually using my journalism education, and I'm making nearly $10,000 more than I was at the last horrible, hateful job I had. So, things are good.

I haven't had any auditions yet, but I just sent my agent a whole stack of voiceover CDs, so now she can start submitting me for voiceover work. I guess things have been slow, lately, though. RENT will soon begin shooting in San Francisco, though, but so far all they need are extras. And after my Memoirs of a Geisha experience, I am not eager to do film extra work again anytime soon.

So that's what I've been doing. And don't worry...I will do my best to post more frequently, for your reading pleasure.