Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Book review: Shanghai Girls: a novel by Lisa See

Synopsis: In 1937 Shanghai—the Paris of Asia—twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree—until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth. To repay his debts, he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides. As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, from the Chinese countryside to the shores of America. Though inseparable best friends, the sisters also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. Along the way they make terrible sacrifices, face impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are—Shanghai Girls.

The first chapter of Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls introduces us to the family of our protagonist and narrator, Pearl. She and her sister, May, are beautiful girls in 1937 Shanghai, and they’re socialites. Similar to our Hiltons or Kardashians, they live a life of leisure, party at night, and pose provocatively for artists; and although the first chapter is filled with details of what it is like to be a rich, beautiful young girl in Shanghai, their bourgeois existence is shallow and uninteresting. Luckily, Lisa See’s purpose for this portrayal is to set up a huge contrast to what happened to the girls’ lives later, and that is when the novel truly comes alive.

The inciting incident is when Pearl and May learn that their supposedly modern father has arranged marriages for them with the sons of a merchant in the United States. Avoiding clich├ęs, the marriages are not where the conflicts arise. The conflicts arise for the women because of all of the political turmoil that happens to the Chinese in the novel’s time frame of twenty tears. From the Japanese occupation of China to life in Los Angeles during the Communist scare, See’s novel covers some of the most tumultuous moments of Chinese and Chinese-American history, and she gives her readers an insight to those eras while equally engrossing them with a tale of two sisters whose lives ended up nothing like what they had expected when they were young and carefree.

This novel is thought-provoking on so many levels. On a human level, it tells a story about what it would feel like to have everything and then nothing. What a humbling experience that would be and how scary it is that in a moment everything could be taken from you. On a historical level, it reminds its readers how in times of fear those in power can easily terrorize minority groups. During one period of time, it was the Japanese that were put in internment camps, and the Chinese felt safe. Years later, people were coming after the Chinese, accusing them of communist ties. In the present, we can see this same time of fear, and we can see certain groups being profiled. This novel is a powerful reminder to never accept this type of treatment to any group because one day, your group can be targeted.

Overall, I would highly recommend this novel. It appeals to those who love history or political science, and it appeals to anyone who enjoys stories about family and overcoming adversity.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Comic Jeff Baldinger's list of 3 Books Everyone Should Read

I'm happy to announce that Los Angeles-based stand up comic, Jeffrey Baldinger, has returned to T.Lo Club to share his list of 3 books everyone should read. 

"3 Books Everyone Should Read" by Jeffrey Baldinger

2Br02B by Kurt Vonnegut
2Br02B is a great story about a dystopian future where death is a choice. And because of population control, if you have a child, someone has to choose to die. If you have twins, you have to get 2 people to agree to die. if you can't find someone willing to die, one of the babies will have to be killed. It's a really great read, and it's the type of story that I love thinking about.

The Overcoat by Nikolai GogolThe Overcoat, it's been a while since I read it, but it definitely left an impact on me, it's a book that deals with obsession, delusions of power, and lack thereof, and remarkable circumstances. And I guess I relate to that stuff.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor DostoevskyThe Brothers Karamazov--If you liked Crime and Punishment, you're probably burnt out on Dostoyevsky and never want to see one of his books again. But, if you have to choose a book written by this guy, I would recommend TBK. it's a bit longer, but for me, it hit closer to my sensibilities than C&P. I read both, liked TBK better.

Jeff has performed all around Los Angeles in clubs such as the Hollywood Improv, The Ice House, UCB, and the Laugh Factory; and he currently produces the comedy show, Flyover Comedy, at the Hollywood Improv. He has written a previous post for T.Lo Club about the top 3 books every aspiring comic should read. Check it out here! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Spunky Bean's EJ Feddes talks about the best things on TV right now

Today EJ Feddes, a writer for the pop culture website, Spunky Bean, stopped by to talk about writing, pop culture, and what to watch this season.

TL: Tell me more about the site http://www.spunkybean.comEJF: Spunkybean.com used to be described as “a zesty pop-culture stew”, but I think we’ve sort of dropped that. Years ago, I was writing analyses of LOST episodes and sending them to my friends every week. One of them sent it to a co-worker who sent it to her cousin who sent it to his college roommate, and I ended up making friends with some other TV-obsessed bloggers and we ended up launching a site together. It went live in late 2007, just as the Writers’ Strike started. Let the record show that this is the worst possible time to launch a website covering television.

Six years later, we’re still chugging along. We still focus mostly on TV, but we get into other fields too. We’ve got recaps, analysis, comedy pieces, basically celebration of things we like. I’ve been working on a book idea that’s an autobiography of a fictitious TV producer, and I’m going to be serializing that on the site, probably starting next year. The site lets me do a lot of different kinds of writing, and it’s been a lot of fun.

TL: What's the best advice you've ever received about writing?EJF: My buddy Larry Young (He's a writer that I had been a fan of for years, and then I ended up becoming real-life friends with him through spunkybean and the power of LOST), always says "Write the thing that only you can write". Whenever I don't follow this dictum, I always feel a little bit guilty.

TL: What TV shows are you excited about this season and why?EJF: Since I spend most of my available time talking about TV shows that excite me, I’ll just limit my choices to things that are currently in season rather than doing a wide-ranging look at everything I’ve seen this year. And I'll stick to three because otherwise we'll be here all day.

Parks and Recreation is, I think, the best comedy on TV. It is a legitimate delight, and what really impresses me now is that it’s reached the point when most great sitcoms start to fall apart. This is Season Six, and it’s rare for a network comedy to keep up a level of quality for that long. Even Parks’ spiritual predecessor, The Office, had started to lose its way by Season Five. It’s still the show I look most forward to every week.

Sons of Anarchy is not for everybody. If somebody doesn’t watch Mad Men or Breaking Bad, I think it’s OK to tell them that they’re wrong. If they don’t watch Sons of Anarchy, that’s a valid life choice. It can be overwrought and sometimes shocking for the sake of being shocking. But every year I’m in awe of how Kurt Sutter structures a season. This year there was a character that had been built up to be the major threat for the season and he had these long-running schemes. Four episodes in, he gets killed and it doesn’t seem like there’s any way for all these disparate plot threats to come together. And then you hit the two-thirds mark of the season and suddenly you can see the road map and it makes perfect sense, but you never would have thought of it yourself. There’s this moment every season when you see it coming together, and it’s really exciting.

Then there’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, which is a fake talk show (spun off from the podcast of the same name) on IFC. The thing I love about it is the way it seems to come from a place where there are no bad ideas. I’m in an Improv group, and the first thing you learn is “Yes, and…”, and it feels like CBB is built entirely on that principle. There are bits that are wonderful, and it seems like the only way they come to fruition is if somebody in the writers’ room says “What if Scott talks to a ladder” and then they try to make that idea work instead of dismissing it as silly. It makes for a very weird show, but it’s so much fun to watch.

Spunkybean is on Facebook and Twitter @spunkybean, and Ej can be found @ejfeddes. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

EJ Feddes Guest Post: 3 Books Everyone Should Read

EJ Feddes, a comedian and writer for the pop culture website Spunky Bean, lists the top 3 books that everyone should read.

"3 books that everyone should read" by EJ Feddes 

John Knowles’ A Separate Peace
This only applies to young people, but John Knowles’ A Separate Peace. If you've made it through high school without reading it, there's not much point. But for a young person interesting in writing, it's perfect because it has this really obvious symbolism and foreshadowing that are just ideal for illustrating what those concepts are. You don't feel dumb for not noticing the metaphors because you can't miss them. You won't take much away from the actual substance of the book, but I think it makes you a better reader.

Philip Roth's American Pastoral
I am a huge Roth fan, and I'd recommend almost anything of his. Granted, if you pick a book at random, there's like a 20% chance that it's about him being upset over getting too old to have sex, but most of those books are fairly engaging at least. But Pastoral is Roth using Nathan Zuckerman, his frequent stand-in, to extrapolate the life of a former classmate. It's this great, wide-ranging look at the major events of the 20th Century all the way through Watergate, with the added idea that the narrator is recreating the life of his boyhood hero. It's Philip Roth at the top of his game and it's amazing.

David Simon's Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets
Simon is the guy who created The Wire, and the TV show that was directly based on this book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. As a crime reporter, he spent a year with the Baltimore Homicide Department, and this book just chronicles what he saw. (If you ever watched Homicide, you'll recognize where those characters came from when you read this.) It's the only true crime book you'll ever need to read, and Simon does such a great job of finding the heroism in flawed people without having to do any airbrushing. (A skill be put to good use in his TV work.) I re-read it every couple of years, and there are passages that still chill me.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dateline NBC Correspondent Josh Mankiewicz lists 4 Books Every Journalist Should Read

Dateline NBC Correspondent Josh Mankiewicz returns to the T.Lo Club for our continuing series of book recommendations from respected writers. Today, he gives us his list of books that every journalist should read and why.

"4 Books Every Journalist Should Read" by Josh Mankiewicz   

**Josh Mankiewicz is a Dateline correspondent based in Los Angeles. He began reporting for Dateline in February 1995, and since then, he has contributed a mix of breaking news stories, news analysis, investigative reports and clever features to the broadcast. (Bio courtesy of NBC) To connect with Josh, you can find him on Twitter.     

Monday, November 18, 2013

Experience and Observation, the Keys to Writing Comedy: An Interview with @jeffbaldinger

Today, my fellow Jayhawk, Jeffrey Baldinger, stopped by the blog to chat about his career as a comedian in Los Angeles. He has been performing for almost four years, and for the past year, he has produced a show at the Hollywood Improv called Flyover Comedy, which showcases big names in comedy with a Midwest connection. His credits also include performances at the Hollywood Improv, The Comedy Store. UCB, The Hayworth Theatre, Hyperion Theatre, Laugh Factory, and The Ice House.

TL: Thanks for stopping by. I think it's amazing that you are living your dream of being a comic. For those who would also like to be a professional comedian one day, can you tell us what your typical day is like?
JB: I usually wake up around 9am, write for a few hours, or go hiking, meet some friends for lunch… if I don’t go hiking or have plans to meet someone for lunch, I don’t really eat during the day. It’s how I maintain my figure. But at around 5pm, I start going out to do open mics around the city, and I’ll typically be out doing comedy for the rest of the night (booked shows and/or open mics) and I’ll get back between 2am-4am.

TL: How did you get started writing comedy? 
JB: I started writing stand-up after seeing Jim Gaffigan’s “Beyond The Pale” special; he really inspired me to put my thoughts down on paper.

TL: What was your first big break as a comic, and how did it happen? 
Past poster from Flyover Comedy
JB: My first big break as a comic was when I got the Playboy Comedy Tour. A friend of mine was dating a playboy model…yeah, fuck him…but he brought her to a show I was on, she really liked what I did, and told me that she helped book the Playboy tour and wanted me on the show. That was a big deal because it was my first actual credit. And I finally got to perform with comedy legend Carrot Topless. So that was fun.

TL: What’s your process for writing jokes? 
JB: I mostly write from experience and observations. I have a lot of stories that I draw from, goofy things I’ve done or like to do, and then if something strikes me as odd or weird, I’ll talk about that too. I’ll write the concept or premise in my notebook or phone, and then flush it out on stage. For the joke to work, it has to come from a real place. My philosophy is that the joke doesn’t necessarily need to be true, but it has to be honest.

TL: You mentioned that your material draws from a lot of your personal experiences or observations on life. So I'm curious, what did you do before you were a comedian? 
Jeff performing in Los Angeles.
JB: I’ve had a lot of jobs… I was a life guard, factory worker, Development intern at Sony Pictures Television, Production Assistant and Editor at a Christian Movie Company, Editor’s Assistant for the Real Housewives of New York…that was only for a day though. And I also gave drum lessons and am currently a Hebrew schoolteacher. 

TL: What advice do you have for anyone wanting to break into the comedy scene in LA? 
JB: Advice for people wanting to break into the scene…that’s a very loaded question; its hard, hard work and determination. There are no shortcuts and there is a lot of rejection. Hell, I’m still trying to break into the scene. You have to be unique and have a specific point of view, because the market is so saturated with amazingly talented people that you can very easily be lost. What makes you stand out? You can’t be afraid to take risks, and you need to commit yourself to what you truly want. If you’re not putting forth the effort, the results won’t happen. I know that’s a lot of motivational rhetoric, which is very easy to just say, but it is very hard to put in to action. You have to be undeniable. And until you are, you will be denied. A LOT. But, if you’re asking how someone might want to start doing stand-up in general…go to an open mic. Watch people go up and do their thing. Then you have to actually do an open mic. Open mics are low risk, high reward. They are amazing and awful. Doing open mics will let you know if you actually want to be a comedian. Jeff Garlin once said to me, “You wanna be a director? Direct. Don’t try to be a director. Be a fucking director.” It’s a good philosophy on life in general, and it’s something I always think about. Bill Burr once said, “keep your head down, don’t be a dick” He didn’t say that to me, but he said it to Pete Holmes who said it on a web video for his new talk show recently, and I think that’s pretty cool.

If you'd like to connect with Jeff, you can find him on Twitter: @jeffbaldinger

Thursday, November 14, 2013

3 Books Every Aspiring Comic Should Read

Comic Jeffrey Baldinger has been doing stand up comedy all around Los Angeles for 4 years, and he has produced the show Flyover Comedy at the Hollywood Improv for one year. He took time out of his busy schedule to write this guest post for anyone who was interested in breaking into comedy.

"3 Books Every Aspiring Comic Should Read" by Jeff Baldinger

It's Not Easy Bein' Me: A Lifetime of No Respect but Plenty of Sex and Drugs by Rodney Dangerfield

The reason you should read Rodney's book is because he was the epitome of what a comic was and should be. Reading his book legitimately motivated me to do my first show. He lead such an amazing life, and struggled for the majority of it, and when he finally "made it", he actively gave breaks and shots to the younger comics like Sam Kinison, Jim Carey, and Roseanne, three people that when they were trying to do their thing, nobody else was giving them a chance. Rodney did, and changed their lives. Jim Carey and Roseanne Barr do the Foreword and Afterward. I can't say enough how amazing the book is, and how important Rodney was.

The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts by Tom Farley Jr

You should read The Chris Farley show, not so much from a stand-up perspective, but for an amazing look into the life of one of the biggest comedic performers of our time. It's written in an interview format with people from his life, and it just lets you see the darker side of someone who thought the only thing he could offer people was to make them laugh AT him. It's an important read, and I think anyone who wants to be in this industry should read it.

I'm Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Stand-Up Comedy's Golden Era by William Knoedelseder

I'm Dying Up Here is a book, like Rodney's book, that every comic should read multiple times. I'd go to say that everyone should read this whether they're a comic or not, so that people can understand what our profession went through and is still going through to this day.

To connect with Jeff, you can find him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jeffbaldinger

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"3 Books Everyone Should Read" by Brianna Soloski

Girl Seeks Place book blogger Brianna Soloski shares her list of 3 books everyone should read. If you'd like to connect with her, you can find her on Facebook or Twitter:

3 books everyone should read by Brianna Soloski
The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak – it’s narrated by Death and is such a moving perspective on life during WW2 that isn’t centered on the Holocaust.
Night  by Elie Weisel – the best first person account of a concentration camp I’ve ever read.
The Great Gatsby  by F. Scott Fitzgerald – because, hello, the 1920s. After you read it, watch Baz Luhrman’s film version. It’s utterly bold and brilliant and brings the book to life.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Just Shut Up and Write, an interview with comic Nicholas Anthony

Breaking into the comedy world isn't easy, and it takes dedication to writing and performing to truly perfect the craft. For anyone aspiring to become a comedy writer or stand up comedian, professional comedian, Nicholas Anthony, was nice enough to share his process and writing tips.

Nick has headlined shows all over the country, and in Los Angeles, he has performed at legendary venues such as The Improv, The Comedy Store, UCB, Ha Ha Cafe, Jon Lovitz, Flapper's and The Icehouse in Pasadena. He also produces The Secret Show at The Blind Barber. For tickets, please email: BarberSecretShow@Gmail.com

TL: Thanks so much for the interview. I think it's awesome that you make a living doing standup. What was your first big break as a comic, and how did it happen?
NA: I won the Las Vegas Comedy Festival when I was 22. That was a pretty big deal for me, and it was all based an opportunity that I gave myself by driving 7 hours from Minnesota to Chicago for a 5 minute audition. I took a chance and it paid off.

Nicholas Anthony
TL: Since you're an artist, you don't have a 9 to 5 kind of day. What is your typical day like?
NA: I try to get up early and work out. The key word is try. After that my biggest obstacle is getting into a rhythm. If I can get finished with all my e-mails and other errands then it's time to write. If I can get 4-5 hours of writing in it's a good day. My goals are changing a lot recently though. I hope to start allocating more time for my writing.

TL: What's your process for writing jokes?
NA: I gather material and then I sit in my room by myself and try to organize it as best as I can. The next step is to take it on stage. I record everything on my iPhone and then back to my room for my critique. I repeat that process over and over until I have a polished bit. Lately, I've also been writing out jokes in long form on my computer, that seems to be helping with specific wording.

TL: You’ve written produced scripts. What advice do you have for aspiring screenwriters?
NA: Write. Write. Write. My biggest problem is that I just don't write enough. The more I write the better I feel. For me expressing myself creatively is the only thing that truly makes me feel alive. So just shut-up and write.

TL: Thanks so much for stopping by. To end our interview, can you tell me 3 books that you think every aspiring comedian should read?
NA: Comic Insights: The Art of Stand-Up Comedy by Franklyn Ajaye, Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin, and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dateline NBC's Josh Mankiewicz lists 4 Books Everyone Should Read

Continuing with T.Lo Club's series of book recommendations from respected writers, Dateline NBC Correspondent Josh Mankiewicz provides his list of 4 books everyone should read.

"4 Books Everyone Should Read" by Josh Mankiewicz 
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
"Great novel about America, our fears, our laws, and our worst impulses."

1984 by George Orwell
"He was a little off on the year but otherwise remarkably prescient."  

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
"Truly wonderful writing that stands up across the years."

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
"A children's book that first got me interested in words."

To connect with Josh, find him on Twitter.

**Josh Mankiewicz is a Dateline correspondent based in Los Angeles. He began reporting for Dateline in February 1995, and since then, he has contributed a mix of breaking news stories, news analysis, investigative reports and clever features to the broadcast. (Bio courtesy of NBC.)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"3 Books Every Writer Should Read" by Julien Decorin

Julien Decorin (Twitter @jdecorin) lists the 3 books she thinks every writer should read.

Ready, Set, Novel!: A Workbook by Lindsey Grant
"It was written by the wonderful folks who run NaNoWriMo."

Violin by Anne Rice. 
"Anne Rice's descriptions of her scenes, surroundings and characters are so vivid that they make love to your mind."

Any Anita Blake Novel by Laurel K. Hamilton. 
"Laurel K. Hamilton's combination of horror, sexuality & the love she shows for her own imaginary friends is something I think any writer up and coming should take their tips from. It's almost as if she writes guide books for future novelists."

If you want to connect with Julien through social media, here are her websites:

Monday, October 28, 2013

3 Books that will help students be better writers

If a person is looking to improve his writing skills, then who would be a better resource for advice than an English teacher with over 36 years of experience?

Retired English teacher Darrel Harbaugh of Coffeyville, Kansas, returns to the T.Lo Club to give us his list of 3 books that will help students be better writers. Like always, if you have your own suggestion, please let us know in the comments. Plus, if you like what you read, share this post with your friends!

"3 Books that will help students be better writers" by Darrel Harbaugh

Plain English Handbook  by J. Martyn Walsh and Anna Kathleen Walsh

"For my entire teaching career I depended upon the Plain English Handbook by J. Martyn Walsh and Anna Kathleen Walsh. I was required to buy it for a class during my freshman year of college in 1971. The book is worn from use and has a copyright date of 1966 - as the fifth edition. The copyright page actually says it was first published in 1939. The book sat on my desk for over thirty-six years and was a valuable resource in helping students improve their writing skills. Yes, the book is dated and I am sure that there are more modern versions by different titles and different authors, yet people who want to become better writers should know how to write a coherent sentence. Finding a book that deals with punctuation, sentence construction and composition is the first step."

The Elements of Style  by E. B. White and William Strunk, Jr.
"Another book that is a staple for writers is The Elements of Style by E. B. White and William Strunk, Jr. Again, this book is recommended reading in college writing courses and will help budding authors learn that there is more to the English Language than one exhibits through texting. We all love shortcuts, but what is acceptable through an email or text should not be acceptable in writing a blog, news release, novel, or especially a term paper."

 MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
"Speaking of term papers. A must reference is the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Of course there are handbooks for APA (American Psychological Association) for those in the social sciences, but the MLA (Modern Language Association) is the most accepted format for the liberal arts and humanities."

Friday, October 25, 2013

What is it like to be an Asian-American actor? An interview with Jason R. Sol

Finding positive Asian-American representation in the media is an ongoing concern for the Asian-American community. Guy Aoki, the founding president of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, summed up the Asian-American plight perfectly in August of 2013 when he stated, "We are the one group that can get picked on and people think they can get away with it. People are afraid of offending black people, but they aren't afraid of angry Asian people. And that's why this stuff happens."

"This stuff" he was referring to was the controversial Asian jokes and stereotypes featured in the pilot of Fox's new sitcom Dads. The pilot featured lead actress Brenda Song in a fetishized schoolgirl costume, had characters refer to Asians as "Orientals," and of course featured the obvious tired "small dick" jokes. Now that the controversy has seemingly died down because most attribute the offensive content to lazy writing, the underlying issue still remains: How long will it take for the mainstream media to portray Asian-Americans as real people and stop with the stereotypes? Do we really need more Long Duk Dongs or Mr. Chows?

Luckily, some Asian-American actors break through the glass ceiling. For instance, Steven Yeun's character Glenn on The Walking Dead is not defined by his race, and he is a masculine character who gets the girl. However, characters such as Glenn are still not commonplace, and oftentimes, Asian-American male actors have to fight over limited "geek" or "guy with accent" roles. No one can blame those who do take these roles, because after all, everyone needs to eat; but it is disheartening that finding an Asian leading male is a rarity in Hollywood.

Jason R. Sol
Thankfully that doesn't mean that Asian actors have quit the fight for positive representation. One such actor is Jason R. Sol. We connected through social media, and I'm very impressed with his story. He was successful in the corporate world, but after several years, he followed his passion to become an actor. He was recently cast in a new Korean drama series called "This Love Song" and the first episode will air October 9th. He has also appeared in short films and the TV show Royal Pains.

Jason stopped by the T.Lo Club, and we discussed defying cultural expectations to pursue one's dreams, breaking into entertainment, and what it's like to be an Asian man in Hollywood.

TL: I find it very inspiring that you chose to leave a career you were unhappy with to pursue your dreams of working in the entertainment industry. What was the moment that you knew you had to leave the corporate world?

JRS: I wanted to become an actor since I was young but always thought it was just a fantasy. Around December 2011, I was sitting at work and I had an epiphany. At that time I always heard the term “YOLO” which means “You Only Live Once.” I was also watching the HBO show “How to Make It in America” and that sparked the idea of moving to New York City (unfortunately, by the time I made the move the show was canceled). I just pictured myself 20-30 years from now, and I didn’t want to live a life of regret. Long story short: After 8 years in the corporate world, I quit my job. In a matter of a couple weeks, I pretty much sold everything that I had worked so hard for and moved to New York to pursue acting.

TL: How did your loved ones react?

JRS: I think my family always knew I wanted to get into the industry but never really took me serious because I didn’t do any theater in school. I was always involved in sports year-round. At first, they were very stunned and concerned about my wellbeing. My family was probably looking forward to the next chapter of my life—marriage, starting a family, etc. I just had to ignore the criticism and keep pushing forward. As the months went by and they could see I was working to make a name for myself, they became a lot more supportive. I remember my father saying that he’s happy for me and no matter what happens just try your best!

TL: What would you say to someone else who is in a similar situation where they are unhappy with their career but scared to make the switch?

JRS: You have to weigh your options and consider your personal situation. Since I wasn’t married and didn’t have kids, I was only responsible for feeding myself so I was content with going hungry some nights if I had to budget a little bit. Many people are working in industries they hadn’t planned to be in when they finished school. Even though I don’t make the money I used to, I’m in a much happier place in life. I wouldn’t recommend anyone just to quit their job and go into acting. I do think if you have the work ethic where you want and need this like your lungs need air, then go for it. I moved to New York with just a dream and a prayer. I told myself if I have to drum on buckets in the subway for some money then I would.

TL: What are some of the struggles you've encountered working in entertainment? How have you overcome those obstacles?

JRS: Being an Asian-American male is pretty hard in the entertainment industry. We get a lot of stereotypical roles. I would love to change those stereotypes or inspire others to do the same. The market is definitely growing for the better for Asian actors though.

TL: How did you break into the entertainment field?

JRS: When I first moved to New York, I had no idea what I got myself into. I literally started from scratch and had to find ways to get myself out there. The most important thing is to do your due diligence and research everything… and network, network, network! Networking and meeting people is the most crucial key—especially for someone like me who didn’t come from a theater background. I have been so blessed with the all the people I’ve met who have helped me along the way.

TL: Thank you so much for sharing your story. Is there anything you would like to add?

JRS: I have to acknowledge all those who have been so supportive with my career. Even though I am fairly new to acting and slowly building my credentials, the support has been overwhelming! I always make an attempt to get back to everyone that corresponds with me on all social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). It’s very humbling to hear that I’ve inspired people to pursue something that they have always been afraid of. Some people aren’t able to pursue their dreams and they live their lives vicariously through me. When I hear these stories, it motivates me to work that much harder and make sure that I don’t let my supporters down.
To connect with Jason R Sol
  1. Instagram: JasonRSoL (http://instagram.com/jasonrsol/)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"3 Books Everyone Should Read" by Joseph Nardone

Writer Joseph Nardone shares the 3 books that he thinks everyone should read. If you would like to connect with him, you can find him on Twitter @JosephNardone

 On the Road by Jack Kerouac: 
"This is the first book I ever loved. I have probably read this thing about 30 times. For me at least, it was about self discovery and the journey of a group of friends. I have never read a book where the actions of the people resulted in the most realistic outcomes without making the story worse." 

Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac 
"If I am telling you to read On The Road, well, you have to read Visions of Cody. You can experience them separate  but if you want to really appreciate Kerouac's work I think it is best you take both in (I am also clearly a fan of the "Beat" generation)."

Kareem by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Mignon McCarthy: 
"This is a bio of one of the best centers in NBA history. This might not be a "must read" for folks outside of the sports realm, but it has great insight from the everyday going-ons from a player's perspective. He first couple of chapters, primarily when discussing Magic Johnson's enthusiasm is as funny as it gets. Really, I would recommend this for anyone who has to deal with an every day grind situation."

Monday, October 21, 2013

3 Books Your English Teacher Thinks You Should Read (10/21/13)

Continuing with our series, "3 Books Your Teacher Thinks You Should Read," the T.Lo Club is hosting retired educator, Darrel Harbaugh. Mr. Harbaugh taught for over 36 years in high schools in Kansas, and 34 of those years were at Coffeyville's Field Kindley Memorial High School. He taught a variety of subjects including English, Oral Communications, and Debate and Forensics; and today, he graciously gives us his list of 3 fiction books everyone should read.

"3 Fiction Books Everyone Should Read" by Darrel Harbaugh

To Kill a Mockingbird  by Harper Lee
"Now I assume that since many high schools across the country teach To Kill a Mockingbird most people have already “read” it. If you have not read it, then do so. My mother who is 86 just read the book for the first time a couple of years ago. She knew that the book was required reading in my English classes and basically wanted to know why. She loved the book! After reading it, she asked me to give her a test. Suffice it to say, I did not “test” my mother, but we did have some very enlightening discussion. She was alive during the 1930s when the book is set. I was not. If you read it in high school, read it again without a teacher telling you that you have to read it because it is in the curriculum. This book has been credited with helping start the civil rights movement, but just as important, the story is told through the eyes of an innocent child. The book is as much about life lessons such as “consider things from someone else’s point of view” as it is about racism. The first half of the book is about growing up in what appeared to be a “more innocent” time. The antics of Scout (the narrator who is five are the beginning of the book), Jem (Scout’s older brother who is nine) and Dill (Scout and Jem’s friend who is six) are fun. The fact that many say the character Dill is based upon Harper Lee’s childhood friend, author Truman Capote, has always been intriguing to me. The best reason I was ever given for reading/teaching this novel was when a close friend of mine told me, “To Kill a Mockingbird is a manual on how to raise children.” Every father should strive to be Atticus Finch, and children should be as imaginative and creative as Scout, Jem and Dill.

Fahrenheit 451: A Novel  by Ray Bradbury and Animal Farm by George Orwell
"I enjoy science fiction, and I would recommend Fahrenheit 451  and Animal Farm by George Orwell. Both teach us about society and pose the question of what sort of world in which we want live? Again, common high school text, but what can I say? I am a high school teacher.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Confessions of a book blogger, an interview with Brianna Soloski

Today, book blogger Brianna Soloski of Girl Seeks Place stopped by The T.Lo Club to share tips for writers on how to get read by book bloggers. In addition to reviewing books on her blog, she is also an editorial assistant at DAVID Magazine, a Las Vegas city lifestyle magazine, and a freelance writer and editor.

TL: Besides blogging, what do you like to do for fun?
BS: I love to read and can usually be found with my nose in a book. I also enjoy writing and traveling.

TL: What do you look for when deciding what to review for your blog?
BS: I’m not too picky about what I review, which usually results in being overwhelmed by the stack of books I need to review. I like historical fiction, especially Regency Romance, literary fiction, chick lit, YA, and new adult.

TL: What is your advice for writers who want to be noticed by book bloggers?
BS: Do your research. Don’t blindly email a blogger without spending some time on their site. Get a feel for what they like to read and pitch accordingly.

TL: What are some of the challenges you've encountered as a book blogger and how have you overcome it?
BS: People assuming that just because I’m a book blogger, I’m willing to review whatever lands in my inbox or mailbox. I’m not. I’m involved with tour sites and get quite a few blind pitches each month.

TL: Anything you would like to add?
BS: Be patient. If you send me a book for review, don’t assume it’ll get done tomorrow. I have a massive back log and am really behind. It’s not that reviewing isn’t a priority, it is. It’s just that I have another job and will be returning to school in January. My time is very limited.

To connect with Brianna, check out her  sites:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"3 Books Every Aspiring Journalist Should Read" by Joseph Nardone

Joseph Nardone, the Managing Editor of Storm the Paint, shares his list of 3 Books Every Aspiring Journalist Should. Tweet him @JosephNardone

Anything and everything written by Dan Wetzel
 "If you are a person who follows sports you know who Wetzel is. If you don't you are doing it wrong. He is probably one of (if not) the best sports writers of our generation and has some really good work out there. His ability to put his content ahead of him is rare in the age of "look at me" sports writing."

Sports Journalism at its Best: Pulitzer Prize-Winning Articles, Cartoons, and Photographs by Heinz-Dietrich Fischer 
"Great sports related content in the book. It's a good way to see how sports used to be covered. It's just done in a different way today, but some of the articles in the book romanticize sports to the point you would want to date an inanimate object."

Drunk on Sports by Tim Cowlishaw 
"A lot of folks only know of Tim as the guy from ESPN's Around The Horn, but he has been around and in the newspaper business for a few decades now. This book has as much to do with Tim's struggles with the bottle as it does with his writing career. It rang a bell with me and it might do the same for folks who don't realize how much work and shenanigans are involved in this kind of career." 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Advice to Aspiring Journalists from Dateline NBC's Josh Mankiewicz

Josh Mankiewicz (Photo courtesy of NBC)
Dateline NBC Correspondent Josh Mankiewicz was kind enough to stop by T.Lo Club and give us an exclusive interview about what it's like to be a broadcast journalist, how to get interview subjects to answer the tough questions, and how aspiring journalists can break into the field today. If you'd like to connect with Josh, you can find him on Twitter @JoshMankiewicz 

TL: You have been a correspondent for Dateline NBC since 1995. What has been the biggest challenge of being a television journalist? What are the best parts of it?  
JM: The best part is that I've been able to be a working reporter since 1975, and I wouldn't trade that life for anything. The biggest challenges on a newsmagazine are a little different than the ones I faced as a political or general assignment reporter: We don't air daily, so concerns about the details of day to day reporting are less immediate. I'm more concerned with whether our interviews are good enough, whether the writing is something other than bland and forgettable, whether we challenge every character in the story --especially the sympathetic ones. Does the story have an edge? Is there some velocity to it? Have you invested your audience in the details and the outcome, or did all that go by in a blur?

TL: You've covered a wide range of topics from the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray to the terrorist takeover of the Japanese embassy in Peru. What advice would you give to young journalists who also want to cover these types of in-depth stories?   
JM: Start by covering the police beat, City Hall, and the schools. Reporting is reporting, writing is writing, and there's no short-cut to getting good at either except to do them, a lot. You can't do in-depth work until you're good at the day to day deadline reporting. Every good journalist you admire started this way.

TL: What methods do you use to get shy interview subjects to talk? 
JM: We tell people that we can't possibly tell their story as well as they can, and that they're sure to like the finished product a lot more if they're in it. Sometimes that works. Sometimes not. But it's 100% true. 

TL: How did you break into television journalism?  
JM: I started as a part-time, summer-relief desk assistant on the ABC News Washington assignment desk when I was still in college.  I became full-time after I graduated.

TL: Do you think aspiring journalists need to get degrees in journalism to break into the field now? Or are there other avenues they can use to get their foot in the door, and if so, what are they?  
JM: I don't think it's necessary anymore -but I think it's still very good training to get a graduate degree. An undergraduate degree in journalism/PR/communications is pretty much worthless --maybe less than worthless because it means you didn't take history or literature courses.   Clearly there are doors open now that weren't before; plenty of ways to start writing & reporting via the internet.I would urge all aspiring journalists to learn how to shoot and video-edit their own stories, as well as becoming proficient in computer-assisted reporting. Those are the skills that managers will be looking for in the years ahead.

TL: If you had not become a journalist, what other career could you see yourself doing? 
JM: I often wish I'd gone to law school and then gotten into Federal prosecution somewhere. But then I still wish I'd gone into journalism after that. It would have been good background. And many of the same skills come into play.

TL: What's the best advice you've ever received? 
JM: "An interview isn't a true success unless you learned something you didn't know when you went in, and something your subject didn't want to tell you." -Peter Davis, documentarian and Academy Award-winning director of 'Hearts and Minds' and 'The Selling of the Pentagon'.

TL: Anything you would like to add? 
JM: The news business, particularly at the local level, has been taken over in the last two decades by people who see themselves not as journalists but as programmers, whose job it is to attract and hold an audience, not to tell people what's important or vital to their lives. That alone is a huge reason why main-stream journalism has suffered so much in recent years: because we're not telling people anything they need to know, anything they can't get anywhere else. We're just giving them what we think they want.