Monday, June 30, 2014

In Praise of Others: Blog Hop 2014

It is 2:47 pm

  Its a hot and humid day here in SE Michigan,the rain is coming in both showers and downpours.
I have my ceiling fan on for the first time and am enjoying a cup of iced coffee ( dedicated to Debbie Rochon) while I am typing this entry.
  So I got a message from a fellow blogger,Paula,who just recently found my blog through a very supportive blogging group on Facebook called Awesome Bloggers. In her message,she asked me to partake in my first blog hop.
 While I had seen the term before,I didn't know what it was until Paula explained it to me. Then I was quite honored because what it is....its a invitation to not only share your blog but other writers who have touched or inspired you in some way.
   So I decided to do the blog hop and I hope you enjoy it and please,please support the writers I am highlighting,they are much better at this then I am.....

My deepest thanks to Paula Parker and her cool blog Poems & Quotes Finder.


1. What am I working on?

Right now I am working on my next "8 Questions with....." interview. This was a series I started when I blogged on MySpace. I ask random people to be interviewed,send them 8-10 questions and let them answer in their own voices.
The interview I am working on now is my biggest one so far and I am pretty excited to get it up and share it with folks.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My blog is a personal one and I tend to write about a lot of different topics. I don't post everyday and I am starting to have guest bloggers come visit when adds depth and a fresh POV for my regular readers. Plus I am the only blogger I know who has had a panther and now a cheetah as a mascot.


3. Why do I write/create what I do?

I started The Inner Circle blog on Facebook but since FB doesn't really support blogging,I moved it here. I started writing as a way to cope with my wife Lori's cancer and if you go back and start from the beginning,you can how our journey went...with its highs and lows. I never really shared my blog for the first couple of years,it was just my way to release the pain I was going through as Lori got more ill.



4. How does your writing/creating process work?

Good question and one I ask writers such as Jan Romes whom I interviewed here.
I don't have a set agenda,I write when I feel the urge to,when my emotions and sadness start to really invade my safe area,I need to write to release that. I am somewhat self isolated now so I write about my new favorite section of my blog,Dollar Tree Theater,which seems to have tickled a lot of folks.
I write in my den,often with music playing and a glass of green tea or iced coffee. Once in a while the cheetah will come in for a minute of playtime and then off back into writing.



The three blogs I picked to write about mean a lot to me,the writers are friends and have walked with me through my journey with Lori. They have comforted me,talked with and supported me in many ways and I love them all....









http://sanctuaryofstyle.net/ Tiffany Hendra is one very special woman. She was a hard working actress in Hollywood when she decided to change course and start helping women to empower themselves by creating the Sanctuary of Style. Tiffany films webisodes from her home highlighting the best in fashion tips,smart shopping tips and encouraging women to believe in themselves. 
So how does this apply to me I can hear you asking....
When Lori had to go into chemotherapy,she lost her hair and had to wear a wig. I noticed a lot of women cancer patients struggled with looking cute and fashionable,they didn't want to seen as a sick person.
I emailed Tiffany and asked her if she could address this and sure enough,she produced a webisode of the Sanctuary of Style that covered how women could still rock it out despite their illness. 
Her blog is full of fun,positive,uplifting topics and she also runs several fun giveaways as well (I know,I won a book for Lori).


http://lisabadams.com/ I am drawn to Lisa Adams because of her spirit. While making my way around some cancer webpages,I came across her blog. I started reading it and I was moved very deeply by Lisa's courage and her frankness. Lisa is dying of breast cancer. And while she keeps fighting for life,she is candidly writing how her journey is going. Its a journey that is extremely personal for me as many of my long time readers know and many of my newer ones will eventually find out about.
  Lisa doesn't ask for pity,she is merely sharing what she is going through...I don't know how long she will be able to write her blog but I encourage you all to stop by and read her story.





http://www.brushbackpitch.com/author/brad-beneke/ While on the surface you may think Brad Beneke writes just a baseball blog but you wouldn't be more wrong. Brad is a superb poet,essayist and a modern day raconteur. I have known Brad for many a years as we have many common interests such as family,music,that Derek Jeter is the best shortshop to ever play the game..
What I enjoy about Brad's writing is the seamless way he combine passion and compassion in describing the human condition that we are living today.
We both have been touched by different levels of tragedy but have overcome (Brad a LOT better then me) and are looking for the good in people and in life. Brad writes from the heart and his poems are blistering in both heat and tempered by a good sense of humor.




Thanks for dropping by for my first blog hop. 


If you are on Twitter,follow me @Jinzo_2400

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What Would You Do?

Its 11:13 am

I saw this article online and originally posted it on my Facebook Notes on 28 April 11.





 A new study sheds additional light on the issue of "strategic defaults" in America, offering further insights into homeowners who are statistically more likely to make a calculated decision to stop paying their mortgages.

Currently, about 25% of homeowners nationwide are underwater – meaning they owe more on their homes than the properties are worth. A strategic default occurs when a homeowner decides to stop paying his or her mortgage, even while that individual generally keeps up with other payments, such as credit card bills or an auto loan.

This latest study on strategic defaults comes from Fair Isaac Corp., creator of the FICO credit score. It adds to a growing body of research that aims to help banks and other lenders predict which consumers are most likely to walk away from homes that are underwater.

According to Fair Isaac's study, called Predicting Strategic Default, some key characteristics of strategic defaulters include:

• Better FICO Scores
FICO credit scores range from 300 to 850 points. Fair Isaac's research shows that nearly all strategic defaulters previously had a "good" credit rating and a score of 620 or higher. Many strategic defaulters even have scores in the high 700s or 800s.

• Less credit card debt and lower retail balances
Surprisingly, those who strategically default on a mortgage tend to manage their credit card debt well, spending money carefully and generally keeping their credit card and retail balances lower than that of the general population.

• Shorter length of residence in the property
Because strategic defaulters typically haven't lived in their homes for very long periods of time, Fair Isaac officials suggest this translates into less emotional "attachment" to a home.

• More recently opened credit in the past six months
Strategic defaulters are more likely to have opened credit card accounts in recent months, perhaps, according to Fair Isaac, as a way to prepare for life after a strategic default – when credit will become much harder to obtain.

Fair Isaac's research into strategic defaulters follows other recent studies on the topic, including data from VantageScore Solutions LLC, developer of the VantageScore. The VantageScore is a credit score that was developed by the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. VantageScores range from 501 to 990 points.

During a recent webinar on the topic of improving risk prediction, VantageScore Solutions Senior Vice President Analytics, Product Management & Research, Sarah Davies, highlighted what lenders and credit risk managers should be focused on when trying to spot people who are more likely to be strategic defaulters.

"We're all aware of a great deterioration in credit quality. Default levels are increasing across the board in all industries, but what we're also seeing are shifts in the way consumers are thinking about their debts," said Davies. "Historically, we've known that mortgage payments were the most important payment for the average consumer, but with the recent phenomenon of strategic defaults, we're seeing people prioritize their debts in different ways."

For instance, consumers with at least one late payment on their credit reports are increasingly choosing to pay their credit card debts and auto loans before their mortgage, she said.

But defaulting on a mortgage, whether by choice or by economic circumstance, obviously has several negative ramifications. The two biggest penalties for consumers: taking a hit to your credit rating and being locked out of a big segment of the mortgage market for several years.

"Making the decision to willfully default on a mortgage is not only ethically questionable but it will take its toll on a credit score," says VantageScore Solutions CEO Barrett Burns. "If a consumer with a starting VantageScore of 862, which is considered 'prime plus,' can lose up to 140 points from a foreclosure, someone with a slightly higher score should be prepared for a major reduction."

In studying strategic defaults, VantageScore has found that:

• Individuals with ultra-high credit scores – those consumers boasting so-called "super prime" VantageScores of 901 to 990 points – became strategic defaulters at a rate 50% higher than the overall delinquent population.

• Borrowers with multiple first mortgages (i.e., real estate investors) had higher levels of strategic default.

• Consumers with bigger mortgage balances were also more likely to be strategic defaulters. This was true even when researchers controlled for variables like geography, number of first mortgages and the borrower's VantageScore

Despite Penalties, Strategic Defaults Gain In Popularity

Beyond the toll on a person's credit, there's also the prospect that a strategic default will make it much tougher to jump back into home ownership. In 2010, Fannie Mae announced that strategic defaulters would be banned from getting Fannie Mae home loans for seven years from the date of the foreclosure.

Despite the threat of a damaged credit rating and diminished access to home loans in the future, it's clear that defaulting on a mortgage is nonetheless gaining ground with consumers as a viable option for dealing with their financial predicaments.

In a December 2010 survey published by RealtyTrac, nearly half of all homeowners polled (48%) said they would consider walking away if their mortgage was underwater. That 48% figure shot up from 41% in May 2010, suggesting that a growing number of Americans think it would be acceptable, at least under certain circumstances, to abandon their mortgages.

Also noteworthy, RealtyTrac's data found that men were far more likely to consider strategic default than women, by a margin of 57% to 40%.

So the real challenge for banks and credit reporting agencies shouldn't be about simply trying to predict who's likely to default, but figuring out how to deal with the core problems facing these borrowers. But no one seems to be studying what's driving these desperate borrowers into making such a drastic decision.

And herein lies the problem with the research thus far into strategic defaults.

First, the research begins with the enormous assumption that strategic defaulters do – in fact – have the financial means to pay their mortgages but simply opt not to.

I think this is a huge – and faulty – assumption.

The Fair Isaac study states: "Where the key driver for the behavior of traditional defaulters is affordability, the key driver for strategic defaulters is incentive. Strategic defaulters can afford to continue making mortgage payments, but they believe that it is not in their financial best interest, generally because they are 'underwater,' owing more on their mortgage than their house is currently worth."

While it may be true that strategic defaulters are a more financially savvy bunch - and more likely to view their homes as an investment - it's a major leap for researchers to assume that strategic defaulters definitely have the ability to repay their home loans.

Says who?

Neither FICO scores nor VantageScores track or calculate a person's income. So while these agencies can make guesstimates about a consumer's income, they really don't know how much money a borrower earns and whether or not there's been a decline in a family's economic standing.

Besides, even if researchers had the exact income of a borrower in question, those researchers have no way to know – and don't appear to be interested in – whether the person has other liabilities impacting the borrower's willingness or ability to repay a mortgage.

For instance, is the homeowner also paying for private school for their children or a kid who just entered college? Is the borrower financially supporting aging parents or a family member with big medical bills? Or has a two-income couple just gone through a separation or divorce, or has one party in the relationship lost a job?

None of this is reflected in the research. So if the only criterion being used is a belief that "well, these people are somehow paying all their other bills, so they must be able to afford their mortgage, too," that's a poor way to gauge affordability.

On paper, it might appear that strategic defaulters can "afford" their existing mortgages, but what if they truly can't? What about the scores of people who've sought out help with their mortgages - to no avail – before making the decision to walk away from a home?

Struggling homeowners nationwide have lamented for more than three years about limited options when they reach out for help in restructuring unaffordable mortgages. They tell stories of banks that repeatedly lose paperwork; about being rejected for forbearances and loan modifications after making reduced, trial repayments as agreed; and of course, about getting the door slammed in their faces when they try to refinance homes that are underwater.

In short, U.S. homeowners have dealt with a lot of headaches, hassles and heartbreak when it comes to fixing their mortgage woes. So why should we think that strategic defaulters are any different? Simply because they have higher incomes and better credit?

What's more likely is that strategic defaulters are simply better able to mask their financial difficulties. They have more options (like family members they can borrower money from, lines of credit they can tap, or 401(k) plans they can dip into) to help them ride out a financial storm. Consequently, the cracks in the financial fa├žade simply aren't as visible.

But just because their financial pain isn't showing up in the research on strategic default doesn't make it any less real.

So until researchers from FICO, VantageScore and elsewhere delve into the human side of strategic defaults, they're really just guessing about who's a strategic defaulter – not to mention who's likely to default and why.






If you are on Twitter, follow me @Jinzo_2400

Friday, June 20, 2014

From the Ashes,comes a Pink Hat Mission

12:45 am

     It's been a loud and rainy day here in SE Michigan as a wave of thunderstorms have rolled across our area since 4:00 am this morning.


   I have discovered that Paladin is immune to these storms. I got home this morning and as I was drinking a glass of green tea and watching "Annie Oakley" on DVD,the storm was kicking off in a big way...the sky was filled with lightening and the cracks of thunder were some of the loudest I have ever heard. It sound like the storm had set up camp right over the house and started tapping on the roof.
  While the mighty Derek Jeter would have sat there and watched this event,it wasn't til he was 11 years old that he was able to this. Paladin is doing it now,he was camped out in his window sill and watching the rain fall. His tail was curled up tightly and his front paws  folded in,a sign that he was relaxed.
  Watched a couple of episodes of Annie Oakley and then retreated upstairs to get some sleep.


A couple of years ago I blogged about a incident involving our neighbors across the street. Simon and Cyndi are a hard working couple with two very sweet kids,Alan and Jason.
  I have had to help out once before when the little one,Alan,had a allergic reaction to peanuts as I stayed with him until his parents could get home and take him in to his doctor.
Even today,its the first thing that crosses my mind when my doorbell rings,Alan is in trouble and he needs help.
   But a couple of years ago,the boys were very careless with their bicycles,leaving them unattended despite the parents asking them to put them away. Now we live in a nice sub with very little crime that I know of so while the bikes were most likely safe,its still a good idea to leave them lying about about.
  One night when we had returned from somewhere,we saw the bikes had once again been left outside. So I decided to see what would happen if the bikes went missing....I put them in my garage and in the morning called Cyndi and told her what I had done...she was pretty amused by it and agreed that the boys needed a lesson....six weeks later,she finally told them I had the bikes. They came over with Simon,got a small lecture from Lori and myself and then got their bikes back.

   Flash forward to 2 weeks ago....I came home from work at 2:40 am and what do I see? A bike sitting on the sidewalk with a helmet on the grass. I walk over,get the bike and helmet and back to the garage again,a call to Cyndi in the morning and getting the story.
  Seems like the older son,Jason, had wanted to play with his friends and ignored his mom's request to put his brand new (6 days old) bike away in the garage and everyone had forgotten about it.
  Cyndi asked that I hold on to the bike for a week,the kids were going to be off for summer vacation and she wanted Jason to want to miss the bike.
  Our plan almost crashed as Simon came over to ask about the bike but since he was alone,I quickly brought him up to speed and he agreed with it.
   Two days later,Jason knocked on my door and asking if I had the bike again...it was very hard to look him in the eye and say "no,I don"t" but then again,it was very hard to watch him not tell me the truth as well. Not that he had forgotten to put his bike away but that he ignored his mom's request to do so before he played with his friends.

   A bit of a stalemate...but I let him know I knew the truth,I was very gentle and explained that his folks worked very hard to buy that bike,over 100.00 went into it and to be so careless....
I advised him that he needed to write his mother a letter stating how sorry he was and he was going to learn from this. I told him I would keep a eye out for the bike,which by now had been moved into the house.
  Today,on my anniversary,it was time for my Pink Hat Mission....to make sure Jason learned his lesson (his mom talked with me for a hour about this) and know why his parents were strict with him.

  I spent three hours with the boys today,we talked while we shot a basketball and then I hired them to help me clean the side of the house,which gave me another couple of hours. Those boys are sharp,we talked computers,hacking,Minecraft,schoolwork,girls as Jason is becoming aware of them now while Alan is still in the "girls have cooties" phase.
   As we wrapped things up and the boys headed for home and lunch,I gently reminded Jason that I wanted to see that letter. He agreed and I shall see it by tomorrow I believe.
  I called Cyndi and told her what was going on....and that I hired them to help,they worked hard and stayed with it til the end.
  When I get my copy of the letter,I will update you all with what happens. Helping this young man follow the right path is a Pink Hat worthy mission,don't you think?


Like to thank the amazing bloggers of the Facebook page "Awesome Bloggers"for coming by and reading my blog. I am touched by the wonderful comments they have left. And I am really impressed by some of the blogs I have read as well.  There are some seriously talented writers out there..and who knew you could make money doing it? But I like my theme here,this is a personal blog and it showcases what my life is...some days are good,some are not so good. But we all experience up and downs,don't we?

   And speaking of writers,I have added a few more blogs that I follow on my right side of my page.
The Projection Booth is now up with its new episode, "The King of Marvin Gardens". Just heard from Mike White that his podcast will be covering "Logan's Run" in an upcoming show. This is one of my favorite movies,while the film looks very outdated by today's standards,the story and the cast are the real reason to watch. Well yes,the cats at the end are also a huge reason to watch it!
   And it seems on of my oldest followers and friends online,Patrick aka Stone,is now writing a cool happenings blog down in Orlando. I added his link as well so you can catch his fun adventures covering what is hip in the big O.
  I also blogged about winning a DVD from the podcast Charred Remains and I got that in the mail today.
I have chatted with Char a few times since winning and think she is a pretty cool young lady. I took a couple of pictures as a way of saying I did indeed win and Char indeed sent the prize!



The cheetah wanted to check it out first......




Thanks Charred Remains!


So I guess I will wrap this up for now as its time for bed. I am happy I made it through another day,although its a very sad one.  Just have to keep moving forward,one step at a time...

If you are on Twitter,please give me a follow @Jinzo_2400


Shout outs

Monte - Thanks for the call today. Felt good to get my mind off the day,even if its for a little while.
Char - Thanks again for the prize! I am not sure exactly when I will get to it but I will soon!
Chris Alexander - After watching "The Gingerdead Man 3",I emailed Uwe Boll your home address and the route you drive to work....my God,you could have warned me!
Awesome Bloggers - Wow! Just beyond grateful....so glad I found this group,so many great writers as well
Scorpion - The Evil Empire isn't quite dead yet! Go Yankees!
Debbie Rochon - Thanks for waking up with me this week.  Annie Oakley,Monster Hunter...make it happen!
Stone - Glad I found your blog/column....tossed a link for it as well.
Brad Ausmus - Opem mouth,insert both feet,swallow
Jared Leaf - Out of the hospital,ready for action....even if its in 2015! Spartan Strong!















Thursday, June 19, 2014

On this,our 10th Anniversary....

Its 5:02


My dearest Lori,
 
     It is our anniversary today.

     It would (is) have been 10 years and I know we would have been together having so much fun doing anything we wanted.
   
     I miss you,I have no words to express how much,only my tears and memories. And wedding hands.
Always the wedding hands.

   In this past year as I try to slowly adjust (and no,time has not "healed" anything) to the weight of not having you here,I am dwelling on what I do have in regards of I was blessed with you for 15 years.

   We made a great couple,you and I. Still do in my eyes. My love for you burns as brightly today as it always has and it will always be that way until God allows us to be reunited again. I live for that day,its my sole drive in life. But I know our journey here still has to go on.

I am trying to make you proud by helping others,of always remembering that kindness matters more then ever. That your sweet gentle spirit will always live through me and I need to keep my heart tender,to keep it as one as we vowed to do 10 years ago.

  I know I am a flawed man,with many mistakes and imperfections in my life. I think God he allowed me at least one moment of perfection when he joined us together.

I love you very much,Cat.  I love you now,tomorrow,forever and beyond (+1)

Happy anniversary my love.


Your loving husband,
   Michael

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Randomness (aka a update)

Its 6:38 pm

   52 minutes before I leave for work and its a gloomy day outside,hot and humid. Summer is creeping into SE Michigan. Another restless night as the melatonin is helping me sleep but I need a new CPAP mask as my current one is slowly fading into the sunset. I still am waking up with me looking for Lori sleeping besides me and still jarred when she isn't.
  You would think after a year a person would know better but as I told someone today,my brain does better but my heart does not and so every day starts off on a sad note...


Its 3:21 am

    Home in the den,drinking  cold green tea and listening to ESPN Radio on our area's new sports radio station (which sucks,the Ticket is so much better) talk about the NBA Finals.
  This will be sort of a rambling kind of blog,my thoughts are disjointed despite the quiet in the house. Paladin keeps darting in the room,meows once then flies down the stairs, I have opened the window and he is very happy about that,add in some treats and he is one spoiled cheetah.



  I like to thank all of you for supporting my interview with Brian Remo. It has become my second most viewed "8 Questions with...." interview and I am noticing my interviews do pretty well on here. I think that is more the people I talk with...there are a lot of interesting folks out here in the world.
  And you are still supporting my interview with Tim Teets of o73 Films which since the interview,has started a website and is filming a documentary about Elmira,New York. I will list the website at the bottom of the entry.


   Caught a listen to Mike White and Robert St. Mary's podcast,"The Projection Booth" this past week. The Projection Booth podcast takes a closer look at past films and features in-depth interviews with folks involved in the movie. The movie they covered this week was Michael Mann's "Manhunter" which was adopted from Thomas Harris's "Red Dragon".
   Red Dragon was our introduction to Hannibal Lector and 33 years later the character is imprinted in American culture. A new series is now on NBC which is exploring Lector's slow decline into madness and mayhem. Lector is no anti-hero,he could be looked at as a modern day boogeyman.
  Now while I think Mann naming his film Manhunter was ill advised,it was a good,tight suspenseful effort. It was very well cast with William Petersen as Will Graham,the FBI profiler who while catching Lector,was nearly killed by him. The late Dennis Farina played Jack Crawford,his boss,whose attention is torn between catching The Tooth Fairy,a killer who is wiping out whole families,keeping a eye on Graham,who is on the edge on this,his first case back since almost being killed. To make matters worse,Crawford's wife is dying..
The great Brian Cox is Hannibal Lector,who played him in a very restrained way,watching Graham and Lector play mental chess was the real hook of the book despite Lector being a minor character in the book.
  I really enjoyed listening to the podcast and learned quite a bit about the movie. I recommend listening to the Projection Booth but be aware,these podcasts do run long.
  Now while my suggestion for a podcast of "Godzilla vs. Megalon" was denied...I did plant a suggestion in Mike's head about doing a episode about a classic Gene Hackman movie called "The Conversation" which is one of the best films Hackman made.

 
   Decided I am going to go on a diet,I have gained 15 pounds since Lori passed away and I am really feeling very sluggish these days. During the final weeks I developed a series of two warts on each foot in the same exact spots. I think these were stressed related and despite trying OTC methods,they persisted and grew. They became very painful and it was all I could do to complete my shifts....now a year later,I still have them but they have callused over and don't really hurt unless they are directly touched.
  Basically I can now walk again...and so I am going to restart my walking. program. Started already to quit drinking soda and limiting the coffee to just special times. My good friend Sue,who hung out with me while I did some light shopping,said that coffee prices are going to start going up because of a illness in the crops in South America.
   I wonder if its the same illness that is causing the gas prices to go back over 4.00 just as summer is going to kick off.
  I just looked at this as a incentive to quit a little sooner. I am getting rather hooked on the green tea anyways.

  As I am typing this,I am reading that former Pittsburgh Steeler head coach Chuck Noll has passed away at 82. Coach Noll led the Steelers to four Super Bowl titles while coaching the best team in NFL history. Many times the Super Bowl wins were almost secondary compared to the bitter rivalry that was the Raiders-Steelers.
   Watching Noll led teams,you were assured of two things.....a pounding running game and the best hitting defense alive. Later on,Noll adapted to the passing game and allowed Terry Bradshaw to showcase that great arm of his. Chuck retired in 1991 and handed the reins to Bill Cowher and quietly withdrew from public life.



 To listen to the The Projection Booth Podcast just click on the link or look to the right side of my blog
under the "Blogs I Follow" list. I have recently updated it by adding fresh voices as some of the folks I had been following have quit writing.

To get updates from Tim Teets and o73 Films again,just click on the link.


If you are on Twitter,please give me a follow @Jinzo_2400


Well that is it for now,I don't have a lot to say this entry but as soon as I post this,I am going out for a walk.

Shout outs


John and Lakeisha - Congratulations again and my one piece of wisdom to you both is,always hold hands wherever you are!
Chuck Noll - always the classiest coach. Never will be forgotten.
Monte- Thanks for adding Snowball into the Rat Pack.
Roxanna - Let me know when you watch the movie I recommended.
Char - Thanks again for the DVD prize! Hope you continue to get stronger
Mike and Robert - awesome job,looking forward to "American Mary"
Anyone who is reading this....would love to trade for a copy of the Neverwhere mini-series,I have movies/books to trade.
The Fluffy Sisters - just because.
Sue - glad to see the Cooking Channel still features COOKING!!




















Sunday, June 8, 2014

8 Questions with.........director/producer Brian Remo of Fearless Productions


Its 7:56 pm

      Welcome to an another edition of my ongoing interview series,"8 Questions with.....". I started this waaaay back when on another social media site and have re-started it here. The series features people from all over who in one or another have perked my interest. So I ask to do a interview where they answer the questions themselves,in their own words.

  It was almost a year ago that I first interviewed actor/playwright Stephen Foster for my blog. The interview was a lot of fun and as of today,is the second best viewed one in my series. Stephen and I have remained friends and he is one of my blog's biggest supporters. 
  Picking subjects to be interviewed is a random inexact science for me. I don't have a list or leads,I just ask someone if they want to be interviewed,explain my format and away we go...
  Recently I posted that if anyone knew someone who would be a good person to talk to to suggest their name to me,Stephen sent me Brian Remo's name right away. Brian is a stage director and producer of Fearless Productions based in Rahway,New Jersey.
  I was fortunate that I was able to attend a lot of plays when I was in San Jose and I really enjoy a good production. I always wonder what does it take to put a play or a musical. I know that movie making is done in pieces and out of order with tons of editing and effects work. But a live stage production is organic and raw and in the now, As a former talent buyer,I know about putting on a live show,working the logistics,securing the talent and promoting it. But doing it on a daily basis (or nightly) and making sure the show is PERFECT,that takes a supreme talent and Brian Remo clearly has that and more. 
   
From Brian's bio on the Fearless website

" I wanted to be an actor. So I cropped a candid photo off my computer, printed a make-shift head shot out at the local Target, and started knocking on doors of major Broadway theaters asking for a shot. "I would start at the bottom!!" I explained. The bottom, I soon learned was nowhere near the Midtown Theater District, and I sneaked into an audition at a West Village 40-seat theater for a show entitled "Sex, Relationships and Sometimes...Love" I had no credits, no experience, and no IDEA what I was doing, but I had a SICK ability to memorize written word so I got off book for a three minute monologue in fifteen minutes and got cast in a show that was 30 blocks south of where I wanted to be. Seven years, twenty plus community theater productions and a few doses of life showing up later, I sit here today looking at a poster that has my picture, my name and the title of that SAME show with an address that resides 36 blocks north of day one: The Jerry Orbach Theater located on the corner of 50th and BROADWAY. I find myself surrounded by a cast of 24 and a company of over 70 actors and actresses that have got to be the most valuable assets a man could dream of... We came together in friendship, in love and in the name of our passion for the craft that was fueled by a collaborative spirit that can only be referred to as Fearless........"



 With such dedication and drive,is it no wonder that Brian can do it all? Of course what really warms my heart is his insightfulness on taking chances on NEW VOICES. To be bold enough to challenge his audiences with fresh works from relatively unknown playwrights. Remember,when you see "Legends and Bridge" get nominated for Tony Awards and hit Broadway by storm,just recall this most hard working and fearless director.


And now........its time for 8 Questions with.........director Brian Remo of Fearless Productions.






    Take a minute to introduce yourself to us.

Hey there... My name is Brian Remo. I'm currently CEO and Artistic Director of Fearless Productions. Among the many hats this corporation allows me to rack, I am currently engaged in a career in acting. I am a theatrical producer, director, instructor, promoter, manager, writer, advocate and philanthropist. These may seem like a lot of words to describe one I prefer which is "opportunist." I live in New Jersey and am the lucky dad to three amazing children: Justin (13), Jack (10) and Kali Peyton (1)...




  What was your early years like? What one moment led you into becoming a actor?



I spent most of my life doing what I thought others wanted me to do. I did these things in order to be liked or appreciated. Truth is I acted most my life away. If I wanted someone to accept me, or appreciate me, I would quickly adapt to fit in or conform. My first exposure with theater was in the St. Alphonsus sixth grade production of 'The Stations of the Cross'... The critics seemed to miss the boat on this one but I assure you it was riveting. Not being classically popular I was cast as a shepherd which was Catholic School for "Spear bearer #3" when Pontius Pilate got chicken pox on opening night, the nuns had an open freak session on what to do. Sister Maureen asked if any of the smaller roles would care to play the role while reading the script, I raised my hand. So with fifteen minutes to go, I got into costume, and as I waited in the wings the director handed me the script and said break a leg. I looked at her and said "Thank you", and preceded to go on without the script. After the play was over, everyone asked me how I knew all the lines and blocking and I remember replying,"Well I saw the play like ten times, you know, in rehearsal...." I never saw a stage again till 2007,.. but man oh man do I try to make up for it. I figure if I do twice as much in half the time then maybe I'll catch up to my happily ever after. I spent the better part of my life...afraid. Afraid of not being good enough, not having enough, or not knowing what the hell enough was. Self centered fear drove me to the least likely of places: The furthest away from my true self's center possible. It wasn't until New Year's Eve, 2007 that a simple resolution changed everything. I wanted to be an actor...




   
Was there one person or performer who influenced you to explore your creative side? If it was a person,who was it and how did they influence you?

 My uncle Jim and I were very close I was a child. He was always the life of the party doing impressions making jokes and constantly doing physical comedy... I loved the way the eyes of the people in the room would light up when he would do these things. He told me a story once about how his dream was to be a standup comedian. And he never got that chance except for one night at an open mic night while on vacation. He spoke of that night like all of his dreams came true at that very moment. I remember thinking of that story when I made my decision to turn my life around.


    You had your first role in a 40 seat theater,what do you remember from that first night and share with us what emotions you felt.

*LOL*... Well the theater held 40, but I only held the attention of the one person who showed up that night... Her name was Ingrid... And she drove three hours in the snow to see her friend in the show who coincidentally did NOT show... So I learned really early the adage "play to a full house every night"... Someone asked me what I was so happy about, I told them "I'm a working actor in NYC and it's an all female audience!!! Don't know bout you but I'm already planning on what drink I'm gonna let her buy me..." FYI the following night there were so many people in the audience that they sat them on the stage itself. (Ingrid was my comp for that show).... It was a gin and tonic by the way.



    What does it take to take a new play such as "Legends and Bridge" to the stage? Does a director have any influence in tweaking the material?

L&B is a triumph before it ever hits the stage... The truth is, that's kind of how I look at all the projects I become involved with. I don't rate the material before I gage the potential for the greatness that is possible surrounding the people involved with the project. Because of this wonderful piece of written word, i've had the pleasure to meet Stephen Foster, and to cast three amazing women to portray three iconic figures. Not to mention two immensely overqualified supporting actors. Sometimes I get thought of as a pre-caster, but it's just that combination of knowing what I want and holding auditions in day to day life when I meet people and play them out in my head. A person only has to spend five minutes on Facebook to know the fire and intensity with which Stephen lives his life and has transcribed that into the words on the page. I would sooner explain how a cheetah manages to run 70 miles an hour, it's just potential ability and basic instinct that made the play what it is...all I get to do is set it loose.


  What is a difference between directing a play and producing it?

Although I enjoy acting a bit more than directing, and directing a bit more than producing, the differences between the positions has to do with the ability to relinquish control and the number of decisions you have to make in comparison to their importance. As actors we make 1000 decisions on stage and one wrong decision can easily be fixed by the other 999. As a director we make a couple hundred decisions all fixable but much more heavily weighted as there are less but far more powerful ones to make. And as a producer we make key decisions like what play to choose or who is going to direct it. The decisions a producer makes are few and early, but ultimately those three or four decisions set the tone for the entirety of the project.


  Why are the same plays like "Cats" and "Phantom" constantly "revived" on Broadway instead of new plays and new playwrights? Every year at the Tony Awards ,it seems we see the same roles nominated just new faces in them.

I'm probably not the best person to answer this question but I'll give it a shot. I think every once in a while a play or musical is written that just plain old deserves to be immortal... Les Mis, Wicked, Menagerie.... I think some of these plays ultimately set the tone and establish a new set of standards for future works. Frankly I can see every generation wanting their opportunity to perform such great pieces. And every generation of viewer to appreciate these works in presentation by the actors of their time. A comparable question might be why do people fly halfway around the world to see structures and artworks built by man when computer generation can fabricate replicate and dominate them in far less time. When something great happens you celebrate the discovery no matter how much time passes... I'm just saying.


   What is the more difficult to create for the stage...a drama,a comedy or a original musical and why?

I personally find drama to be the most difficult yet the most rewarding. I feel musicals bring with it an instant gratification to the audience.. Everyone loves a good song and dance. Comedy is of course designed to provide enjoyment through laughter and ridicule of the human instrument,but in the drama it is so much more difficult to embrace and attempt to tackle the audiences ability to appreciate much deeper and richer emotions such as remorse, resentment, denial, addiction, heart ache, betrayal, desolation, sacrifice,.. And without resorting to easier tactics such as comedic influence and special-effects that is a challenge that I respect and relish the opportunity for.





   Tell us about your stage company,Fearless. Between acting,directing and producing,how did you find time to start a stage company?

To tell you the truth Fearless essentially formed itself. As I became more and more involved in theater I looked around me and I saw not only a collection of associates, but this immensely talented group of friends that acted more like family. After shows we would all sit in the bar or coffeehouses and the conversations usually ended up in "we should do this show" or "you'd be great in that show" and I guess I just said to myself if somebody doesn't start making these dreams come true for people they may never get the opportunity to do it at all. I wish I would've pursued mine earlier. And that's what Fearless Productions is about,... fearlessly pursuing our hopes and dreams through the art of theater.
Currently Fearless Productions has five regional shows slated for 2014, six regional shows slated for 2015, a featured production in 'Legends and Bridge', an open ended New York City cult juggernaut in 'sex relationships and sometimes love'and is producing a statewide musical theater competition called Fearless Icon... The company was formed in January 2014 and what started out as about 30 members has tripled in size in five short months. And God willing it will continue to make dreams come true.


  Exactly how does one represent a actor? Do you decide based on stage/film credits/SAG-AFTRA standing?

Fearless management was actually Kristin Barber's idea. And I usually follow her lead, but to me it comes down to work ethic... There are 1 million markets out there and millions of different types. Everyone can find their niche if they work hard enough at it. It seems we may spend our whole life for that five-minute moment when we feel that feeling we've been searching for. Most people would give anything to feel that.


 You are extremely busy,so what do you do on your down time? (I had to seriously press Brian to answer..a testament to his drive)

Down time...I read... I ride my motorcycle... I catch up on game of thrones. I try not to miss any of my son's baseball games. I usually make it a point to have movie night with my sons once a week. Laundry sneaks its way I there somewhere. Truth is I kinda live my life a moment at a time and when a spare moment creeps in I kinda do what falls in front of me... I'm just not the "I enjoy Sundays in my herb garden" kinda guy, ya know? I don't read the paper, I don't watch the news, I don't hike or bike or shop unless I need a new pair of jeans or a black t shirt. Theater is what makes me happy... And I'll take happy, with or without the ever after..









I like to say thank you to both Brian Remo for taking the time to answer my 8 Questions and to Stephen Foster for suggesting him! 

To learn more about Fearless Productions just click the link. 

My next interview will be with actress/activist Monique Parent. She is one of the sweetest people I know and this should be a fun interview.

  Also have reached across the pond again for my next guest blogger who I know you will enjoy reading. 

If you are on Twitter,follow me @Jinzo_2400

Shout outs

Happy birthday to both Sue and Dominic
Joan L. - Mary Steenbergen! 
Robert and Heather - There can't be a Pacific Rim 2 without Cherno Alpha!
Susan - glad the tire was reasonable
Debbie Rochon - thanks for the fun
Chris B. - Thank you for knowing about Torpedo-8 and John Waldron. Sad that Midway is so badly forgotten by this country and without that victory maybe D-DAY would have never happened.
Josh - thank you so much for the new music...its like water to a thirsty man.
Amy Lange and Gary Avila - all my love and gratefulness this past weekend
Donald - next year.