Monday, September 30, 2013

Between Projects

It's the last day of September and unless the House and the Senate can come to a budget agreement by midnight tonight, our government will shut down. When I first heard this I was legitimately freaking out because I thought it meant like zombie-apocalypse-America-goes-crazy-looting-no-law shutdown. What actually happens is that offices and facilities that are deemed “non-essential”  shut down and millions of Federal workers will find themselves out of a job. The police will still exist, the military will still exist, whic means I dont need to start preparing for the Thunderdome (thank baby jesus). What surprised me further was that this had actually already happened in 1995. From November 14 through November 19, 1995 and from December 16, 1995 to January 6, 1996, for a total of 28 days. While this shutdown seems more and more likely, I wonder how long it will last, and what the millions of Federal workers who will be out of jobs will do for money…

My old friend... Raddy the radial arm saw.
Right now I am between projects, and it’s very weird. Since I landed hear a year and 2 months ago, I had always been working on a show or getting ready to work on a show. Now, having nothing to work on, I’m kinda tweaking out. Theatre is my drug and I inadvertently quit cold turkey.  So I’ve been finding other ways to occupy my creative-theatre needs. Yesterday I spent all day striking props, sets, and furniture for Rattlestick Theatre. A week or so ago I worked as a carpenter for a private school in the Upper West Side. I’ve also been doing lots of writing because it’s easy, stress relieving, and most importantly free.

I’m currently in the works on developing an adaptation of The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare that a producer is interested in work-shopping. I love The Winter’s Tale because it is just that: a tale. In Shakespeare's time  the phrase “winter’s tale” was not meant to be taken seriously and was known to be a fantastic story that didn’t focuses on details like continuity or credibility. If you wanted to draw a parallel with a modern day phrase, and I sincerely hope you do, it would be equitable to what an “old wives tale” means to us. Shakespeare takes random outrageous events like a man being chased off stage by a bear, or a dead woman coming to life after 16 years, or a young baby being abandoned in the woods and surviving with no explanation as to how, and weaves together a funny sort-of hyper pastoral play.
So rather than discount these oddities as bad writing I am, key word here, attempting to adapt a play that embrace these quirks as heightened and fantastical story elements to create a very theatrical play. I want to tell you all more about it, but I’m only halfway done. Plus, it would ruin all the surprises! Suffice it to say, I am having alot of fun writing it and I can't wait to start workshopping it. 
My entire being is trying to convince me that, because I’m not directing something, I am failing at life. My friends tell me that I am stupid for thinking that and I say to them “Hey, don’t call me stupid.” They are right though. We all go through lulls in our life where there just isn’t anything to work on creatively or otherwise.

It's all about perspective...
 I may be out of directoral oppertunites right now, but what puts in it perspective for me is this:  I live in New York City, I have a full time job in the theatre industry, I have a good apartment in a great neighborhood, a loving family, supportive friends, and food in my fridge. I could be worse off. If the House and the Senate can’t agree on a budget, millions of Americans will be out of work and struggling to make ends meet. Let’s all just hope that an agreement can be reached by midnight tonight because, at the end of the day, all anyone really wants it to be able to comfortably live their lives in peace and persue happinesses… Until next time!

"Well, that's easy for you to take that kind of physical risk – you've got government health care." –Jon Stewart on Ted Cruz speaking for 21 hours in opposition of Obamacare

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What We Were Promised

The Huffington Post recently published a an article promoting baseless assumptions about Gen Y and why some random person thinks we are unhappy. This is a Gen Y'er's response:
Key Points for those of you who skim:
·         World War II created a false economy.
·         Baby Boomers then created an America about the science of spending money and creating debt.
·         We, Gen Y, have inherited a terrible economy, with little to no expanding job market, and massive amounts of student loans, and are now being blamed.  Thanks.
Recently an article made the rounds on social media outlets entitled “Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy”.  It goes to great, condescending length to describe how my generation - everyone currently between the ages of 20 and 35 – is basically a bunch of entitled, spoiled, children who need to grow up and stop thinking they are special.  Supposedly, the reason we are all unhappy is because we think we deserve fulfilling jobs.  It’s not clear how the anonymous author Wait But Why - the blogger behind articles like “7 Asinine Things About Society” and “7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook” - reaches this conclusion because there’s nothing in the article about depression rates or job satisfaction or any other indicator of general welfare.  The article truly fails to explain the conclusions reached about why my generation feels the way it does, which I will attempt to do.
The Great Generation (World War II)
“War-time industry pulled us out of the great depression and helped re-establish America’s dominance as the world’s economic and military power.  Once the Greatest Generation came back from the war they fucked like rabbits and had tons of kids.  Thus the Baby Boomers were born.  They were told stories of how their parents had single-handedly won a better America and that it was their children’s responsibility to do the same:  To take what their parents had given them and make it better.
Who cares if America didn’t actually single-handedly win the war but rather was one participant in a joint effort of many other countries and that many other non-American battles helped turn the tide.  For example:  The Storming of Madagascar, The battle of Westerplatte, the Battle of Moscow, the Battle of Kursk, The badass Kokoda Track, The Piolis of the Underground State, the Details of El Alamein, the HMS Bulldog and - the true turning point of the war - The battle of Stalingrad fought and won by Russia.  To quote George S. Patton “Americans love a winner.”  And in our eyes, America won.
The Baby Boomers then trotted off to school and learned things.  They graduated high school and most went straight from there to the work force, where quality jobs with benefits and pensions awaited them.  Some went on to college, but a college degree was certainly not required to get a decent job.  Thus, the Boomers began building the foundation for the next generation.
America 2: Judgment Day
Then in the 1960’s, a thing called the credit card made debt widely available to all Americans.  This created a way for banks to put massive amounts of people into small, manageable, debt.  With telephone technology, even the most rural of gas stations could accept all major credit cards.  So now every American could partake in money they didn’t have to spend on things they didn’t earn.  The newest  TV, the newest Beatles album (or Monkees, if you were into that scene), a brand new GM automobile, anything they wanted they could get.
It was at this moment - the birth of the modern credit card - that industrial America died and neo-capitalist America was born.  As we approached the 1970’s America was no longer about creating and building things, it was about finding the cheapest labor, using the cheapest parts, convincing people to buy things, and maximizing profits.
Outsourcing work to China started to become a mainstay amongst savvy businessmen.  Why pay Americans a minimum wage when you could pay even less to some child in China to do the same job?  It made sense.  The Baby Boomers figured it out!  America became richer and prospered.  Minimize expenses, maximize profits.  Minimize expenses, maximize profits.   Sure it cost American’s jobs, but the Boomers made more money!  Go America!  Make the Greatest Generation proud.
What We Were Promised
Enter my generation.  I was born right at the turn of the decade, January 1990.  By the time I was 3 President Clinton started building one of the best economies America had Seen since the 1920’s.  We were told that we were great, that our generation was going to do well, that we could do anything because, well, why not?  The middle class was booming, we weren’t fighting any major wars, the job market looked great, everyone was paying their credit cards on time, mortgages for houses were plentiful, there wasn’t a thing to be worried about in the world.  So we trotted off to school to begin to build the foundation for our future generation. 
 “Oh but wait,” the job industry said to us.  “Sorry, but you need a college degree to get a job now.  Yes, we know, your parents could get away with just a high school degree, or at most a B.A.  But the job market has become too competitive and so you need a college degree.  You should probably get a Master’s, too.  Yeah it’s going to cost a lot, but hey we have these great things called student loans.  Guess what:   You qualify!  You can now go to college and do whatever you want to make your dreams come true.  You can be happy and fulfilled and get the job of your dreams.”
We took out a loan on our dreams.
Our generation is nearly entirely in debt, and in debt before we’ve even had the chance to find a job. Now, the Average American owes $24,301 in student loans and has $7,084 in debt on their credit card. For the most part, previous generations started with a clean slate and only incurred debt after they were employed, for a house or a second car.  Our generation was told that we had to go to college to get a job, even though the Boomers and the generation before didn’t have to.  We now have more debt than any generation before us strapped to our backs - over a trillion dollars’ worth of debt – and we’ve barely entered the job market. American industry had long been dead and the only thing we produce now is pop culture and debt. The Baby Boomers and their parents had it good because America was still booming in their time.  You could walk out of high school and get a good-paying job with benefits at a factory building cars or boats or tools or toys.  Few of these jobs exist today. 

Wrapping it up
In two weeks, the US government will shut down, and about a month from now, the US will run out of cash, unless a bipartisan deal can be struck on the debt ceiling. As of June, only 44% of us “Gen Y’ers”  had a full-time job, with 12% unemployed and 4% straight-up giving up. Over a third of 18-to-31-year-olds still live with their parents. We’re living through an insane employment market where we take unpaid internship after unpaid internship, only to have just 37% of them ending in actual employment. Even rock-solid yuppie fields like law are looking shakier by the day. No wonder less than a third of young people “actually feel that their job is part of their long-term career plan.” We’re just trying to survive.  We may be unhappy with our jobs, but it’s not because we expect to be CEOs by 30. It’s because at this rate, it’s nearly impossible to see ourselves becoming CEOs at all.
This is what our generation was given:  Massive debt, no industry, awful job market.  The generations before us created America, one nation, in debt, and we the United Generation Y now have to sort this mess out.  And we must do so while working in jobs that have no future and hardly pay enough to cover our student loans repayment schedule, assuming we can find a paying job at all.
Yes, we were told we could do anything.  We were told that we could get our dream job.  We were lied to about the possibilities of our future because no one accounted for the fact that maybe, just maybe, saddling the American people with tons of debt, while simultaneously getting rid of all the decent-paying jobs, was a bad idea.  This is what we were born into and it’s not our fault. But we will fix this problem because we are better educated than those before us.  We are the smartest.  We are well connected.  We have the ability to communicate on a global level and to us, race, creed, and religion aren’t dividing points anymore.  We will fix the problem our parents and grandparents handed us, even though it might cost us the future we dreamt of. 

Joey Stamp, originally from Iowa, is a 23 year old writer/director struggling in New York City. He has $60,000 dollars’ worth of student debt, and is very happy.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Life and some Change: Part 2. Hacking New York

Everyone knows that living in New York City is expensive. It can empty your bank account faster than you can say “Check, please.” BUT, if you know where to look, you can find affordable prices sprinkled all around New York. You just have to work to find them. For your reading pleasure I have compiled a list of some of the best ways I have found to live on a budget. With these "hacks and tips", you can now at least attempt to move to New York and probably not blow your life savings within the first week.

Cheap food comes in two categories: That which you make on your own, and that which you pay someone to make.

That which you make on your own- When it comes to saving money on food, the best way to do it is to make your own food. When you eat out you are paying a premium for labor and location. Buying a loaf of bread and making PB&J for the week can save you loads on your lunch bill. The more ways you can find to prepare your food yourself, the more you will save in the long run because eating out anywhere in New York will quickly add up. Here’s a quick breakdown of possible expenses:

Lunch eating out: 10 dollars a day x 5 days a week = 50 a week
Making PB&J: $2 (loaf of bread) $8 (PB & J)= 10 a week
The math says it all folks.  The More  you make your own food, the more money you save.

That which you pay someone to make THAT SAID. Finding affordable places to eat out is always a treat. Here is a list of restaurants I have found to be the best bang for your dwindling buck.

Punjabi Grocery & Deli - 114 E 1st St #3 - Don’t go in expecting to anyone to speak English. Instead be ready to point to a selection of freshly cooked Indian veggie dishes that they will take
Best bowl of who knows what on rice.
and throw on top of a bowl of rice for you, all for $3. It’s totally Vegan Friendly and totally affordable.

Vanessa's Dumpling House - 118A Eldridge St --Chinatown’s best kept secret. I frequented this place often when I lived down in Chi-Town. You can get 5 dumplings for a dollar, a big-as-your-face sesame pancake for another dollar, 3 pork buns for yet another dollar,  and half enough food leftover for lunch the next day.

Dollar Pizza – Various Locations – If you live in NYC and you've ever been out late drinking, or running between jobs, you know the glory that is dollar pizza. There are a dozens of dollar pizza deals all across the city from chain restaurants like Papa Johns and Domino's to local chains all serving a slice for a buck. Don’t expect any frills or protein though. You get exactly what you pay for: a single slice as thick as the paper plate it comes on.

Papaya Dog -- 333 Avenue of the Americas, 578 9th Ave – This magically unhealthy food establishment makes its business by frying up some of the cheapest comfort foods you can find in town. 5 bucks will get you a burger and fries. 3 bucks will get you 2 hot dogs. Their fried food tastes delicious and destroys your arteries, but the price is unbeatable. Oh and their corn dogs are to die for. Literally.

So you've filled up on the cheapest eats in Manhattan, now what? How about filling up your soul with culture? While Broadway tickets are insanely expensive (Book of Mormon tickets are around $200 dollars), you can still see shows and get culture without breaking the bank. Check out this website and sign-up for their will-call club. The way it works is that they get tickets from shows and offer them on their site, first come first serve, that you can reserve for five dollars. Sometimes they are big budget shows, sometimes they are tiny shows in a downtown theater. Either way you get an evening of entertainment for a fraction of the price.

Theatre on Film and Tape Archive- This is one of the biggest unknown gems in all of New York. Since the 70’s every Broadway, and some off Broadway shows, have been recorded on video. This organization, thanks to Lucille Lortel, has them all in one place free for you to view. There are a lot of restrictions, of course: You must make an appointment, you can only watch them there in the center, and on older films you cannot pause or rewind. But what you have access to is a high quality video recording of every Broadway show, entirely for free. All you have to do is ask.

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Arabs Crossing the Desert
MET Museum of ART and American Museum of Natural History-  Whether you have a passion for history, or a passion for art, you can get enlightenment and knowledge from either for next to nothing. Both museums tout massive collections of priceless artifacts from all across time. Like the full scale Egyptian tomb in the MET Museum of Art or a 94 feet long, the fiberglass replica of a blue whale at the Natural Museum of History. The best part? Both Museums offer Pay-What-You-Can tickets with a minimum payment of 1 cent. Go out and be enriched!   

I imagine you will want to spend your hard earned pennies on other frivolities  right? Well fear not, there is always a cheap place waiting for you with steep discounts. Here is a short list of everything else I have discovered that is secretly affordable in a not so affordable town:

Goodwill Store -- 512 W 181st St  -- Wearing old vintage clothes used to be a thing people did to save money, but now it has become a style of fashion all its own thus causing thrift stores to drive up their low prices! That said, you can still find cheap clothes if you know where to look. The Good Will store in Washington Heights is your answer. It has the prices you would expect from a regular good will store, but the clothes you’d expect old rich manhattans to discard. High End designer clothes are a common sight at this store. So if you are in the  market for clothes, make this place your first stop.

Heating and Cooling - Turn off the A/C and put a fan in the window blowing air out. It creates circulation, cooling your apartment.

Internet- Don’t pay for expensive internet if you don’t need it in your apartment. Starbucks, McDonald  and even certain parks give it out for free.

This glass of whisky cost $15. I only had one.
Umbrellas, chargers, and sunglasses- Lost and Found is your friend. Go into random hotels and ask them for a lost iPhone charger or umbrella or sunglasses. Odds are they will have one and give it to you without much question.

Transport- The subway will cost you 120 a month if you use it. I choose to bike to work, it saves money and burns calories all at the same time.

AlcoholDon’t Drink! Take it from a drinker. It’s expensive as hell. But if you do intend to partake, drink during happy hour or find the bar's specials. Bourbon Street on 46th has a magical drink called "Hurricane" that is filled with rum and happiness, and only costs you 5 bucks. Its a cheap way to get intoxicated on any evening of the week. 

Well there you have it folks. Some tips and tricks from yours truly, to you. Hopefully your next visit wont cost you an arm and a leg but, if it does, I guarantee you there is a store here that will sell you a new one. Until Next Time!

"When you draw, form is the important thing. But in painting the first thing is to look for the general impression of color….. Always paint a direct sketch from nature every day”.