Read A.J. Reboot

Because I can.

After a long break readaj.com is being resurrected.  A few months ago WordPress sent a renewal email and the choice was renewing a project neglected for a myriad of reasons or just walking away.   Mulling it over, I decided on the latter.

I also decided to keep my old posts.  While I consider this a fresh start I have to acknowledge what came before and I enjoy reading my past thoughts.  It’s like a time machine!   And some were fairly coherent, too.

Above all this blog is about two things, the first being my enjoyment.  Specifically about writing.  More specifically writing about those things I (repeat: I) feel matter.  From the trivial to the serious (mostly in middle).  There will be no rants.  I’m an adult and not mad as hell about anything in particular.  That and I know how to use paragraph breaks.  And don’t expect me to share my life here, that’s what Facebook for.

This blog is about practice too.  Like most things practice, practice, and more practice make perfect.  Or least better, so they say.

With the obligatory “hello world” out-of-the-way, I hereby consider readaj.com rebooted.

HUZZAH!

Play this song: K-OS, “Rise like the Sun”

For more of A.J.’s writing go here: Austinist

//A.J.


Running Man With No Music

My friend, the things that do attain
The happy life be these, I find:
The riches left, not got with pain;
The fruitful ground; the quiet mind…
-Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

Last week tragedy struck my iPod shuffle.  What started out as a low battery issue morphed into a complete FUBAR of my trusted gym and running buddy.

In the past when I got the blinking red dot letting me know it was time for a recharge, such an event brought my run or workout to a stop (more so with the latter, and didn’t matter if I was in the middle of the run).

I thought the matter would be easily resolved.  Plug it in for a few hours, done and done.  Nope.  Red blinking light turned into yellow-yellow-green blinking light.

I thought for a second about just using my iPhone music playlists, but I try to get my technology separate for Murphy’s law reasons.  And as a long-term solution, of course, I could just buy a new one.  But no.

The day my shuffle died I bit the bullet and just worked out, and ran the next day–without music.  And then the next, and on.

The experience (and it was because for at least the past six years, physical exercise was accompanied by music) was very interesting from an introspective standpoint.

Running outside, of course I heard cars passing by, the wind, bird, insects, and so on; but what I found most enjoyable was hearing the even rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement, and my breathing as I pushed forward.  Sounds that are hard to hear over 50 Cent or the Black Keys.

I’m a big fan of active mediation, taking an activity like shining your shoes, sweeping the floor, or running in my case, and tuning out everything but the present situation, the task at hand.  The practice relaxes me, and gives my mind “quiet time” to process the information and thoughts that accumulate over the day.

Sometimes it’s good to sit still, but for if I can get the same benefits while accomplishing another task, why not.

Don’t get me wrong, I will definitely get another iPod shuffle (if I can’t deduce the issue with my current one)… Just decreasing my use a bit.

//A.J.


How Mom Became Mayor.

Last week my mom informed me she had become mayor of our gym.

At first, for a quick second, I thought she was referring to becoming “mayor” on Foursquare.  And no, I’m not talking about the old grade school game with a large red rubber ball and four players.

Foursquare is a social-media game, played in real-time, on the smart-phone of your choice.  When you go to your favorite restaurant (or any restaurant), the local coffee shop, etc., you “check-in” on your phone.  Using your phone’s GPS, Foursquare finds locations around you, and then you make the selection of where you wish to check-in.

Frequent a place enough times, well more than anyone else, and you become “mayor”.

So back to my mom, the “mayor” of Life Time Fitness.  While she had developed proficiency with her iPhone 3G, I would be supremely shocked to find a Foursquare app on her main screen.  And I was right.  Mom had become mayor without the use of Foursquare.

This was interesting to me because mom attained the title in reality doing what she does best, being her social self.  It was not self-proclaimed as I had thought.  Certainly it involved her frequenting the gym enough to be noticed, but it also required something more.  Being known.

Mom’s claim to fame at our gym is that no one invades her personal space in a group fitness class.  If one does, you will get a tap on the shoulder asking you to move.  This isn’t to say my mom thinks she runs the floor, but she will call you out.

She is also a talker, and being from the South, knows no stranger (both traits which I inherited from her).  According to her, one person started calling her mayor, and it just spread.  And then one day (the same day she informed me of her title), she walked in door and the gym manager was calling her that.

For me the take away was this.  While Foursquare does require you to get out in the world, there’s no requirement for interaction.  You could go to the same coffee shop everyday, ears plugged listening to Pandora, eyes intently focused on your laptop screen or–maybe–a book.

While you may become mayor, who would know?  Only people who use Foursquare.  The social part of the game comes in adding “friends” and developing communities based on mutual likings for a particular location.  But again, this is not a requirement, just hopeful thinking.

Note: I use Foursquare and will become mayor of Santa Rita Cantina, again.

//A.J.


    The Best Kind of Luck…

    Is the kind you make for yourself.

    This was my fortune after a business lunch at P.F. Chang’s Friday:

    The word ‘apropos’ came to mind.  So true.

    //A.J.


    Currently playing in my head…

    Three of my favorite U.K. artists: rapper Kano and the Dub-step duo, Chase & Status. Dig the 70’s vibe.//A.J.

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    Interview Series: Chris Hayes

    “L.A. is one of the most opportunistic cultures in the world.”- Chris Hayes

    Chris Hayes is a fellow Wake Forest alum, fraternity brother of TANY Sports, and actor on the verge out in L.A.  While our paths never crossed at school, I had the pleasure of meeting him at SXSW last month.

    During a long night of bar hopping in and around W.6th street, I took the opportunity to discuss with Chris his experiences breaking into the acting world.

    Here’s his official rundown:

    Combine a quarter cup Bradley Cooper, a few tablespoons Sean William Scott and a dash of Christian Bale and you have Chris Hayes. An aspiring actor, writer and entrepreneur, Chris constantly has projects percolating. He is in two films coming out this year, a lead role in the independent feature “The Loneliest Road in America”, and a role in the upcoming Jamie-Lynn Sigler/Josh Stewart film “Wake.”

    The Interview

    First off, what got you interested in acting?

    This is a point of contention between my family and I. They say I wanted to be an actor as soon as I saw “Top Gun.” I think I just wanted to fly planes. More likely it was in 8th grade when I wanted to be the lead in our middle school’s production of Romeo and Juliet purely so I could kiss the girl who was playing Juliet. However, there was one snag: I was a chubby little troll. Not exactly “Romeo” material.  So I got Mercutio instead. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. He’s the best role in the play, really hilarious writing. I had a lot of fun, got tons of praise and decided I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing it.

    L.A. is the logical choice for an aspiring actor.  What kind of feelings went through your head about that move?

    I was always going to move there. It was inevitable in my mind. Luckily, I was brought up by two amazing parents who instilled a need for education so college came first. I went to a phenomenal liberal arts school called Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, NC where I majored in Economics, Spanish and Theatre. Not to mention, I joined a fraternity and got to study abroad in Australia and Spain for several months. All of these elements helped mold who I am today and gave me the proper knowledge and time to get a game-plan together for my inevitable move west.

    From what I’ve read and heard, the film industry can be brutal.  Did you have a plan in mind once you got there?

    I moved to L.A. with the mindset that my career is a marathon, not a sprint. So there was never any need to rush anything. I figured, I have one go-around with this thing, better not make any rash moves. So getting a job was first and foremost. I already had opportunities percolating because I knew, even at Wake Forest, that I had neither the desire nor the patience to be a waiter or a bartender. I had gotten certified and started working as a personal trainer in school, so when I came out here I interviewed at Equinox and was hired on the spot.

    I had a job, a house in Beverly Hills with three of my best friends from back in New Jersey, and a hunger to make big things happen out here. I knew I needed to learn a lot more before I dove in, so I started taking acting classes. Scene Study, Technique, Improvisation, Commercial, as many as I could. I found my way into a phenomenal acting community, The Brad Henke Studio, with some of the most talented actors I have ever seen. I’ve been there since I moved out.

    Can you tell us about the ambition ratio?

    L.A. is one of the most opportunistic cultures in the world. The ambition is palpable. People move here from every part of the world to realize their dreams, and not just in the film industry. I have good friends who are architects, graphic designers, personal trainers, and lawyers who all have grand expectations for their careers and their ambition is directly proportional to their talent. You realize quickly who is worth their weight and you surround yourself with those kinds of people. They’re an inspiration to me. Their ambition reflects off your own and motivates you to not just wait and “expect results,” but to actively pursue them and fight for what you want.

    Switching gears, was this your first time in Austin?

    I came to Austin 2 years ago for the music portion of SXSW.

    What did you think of our city then?

    I thought it was incredible! I stepped off the plane and there’s a band playing. It’s this cosmopolitan cityscape that feels really intimate. The people, in all their eclectic varieties, have a common pleasantness; it’s really welcoming. Sixth street, The Drag, Lake Austin, the Alamo Drafthouse, any movie theater where I can get a pizza and a beer is high on my list!

    Tell us about your new movie, Wake“?

    It’s a really cool psychological thriller about a couple driving from Texas to Los Angeles for a wedding. They stop at an eerie motel where the peculiar residents know a little bit too much about the protagonists.

    How did you get involved with the movie?

    I started out as a “reader” for the casting sessions; I would read sides with the actors when they came to audition for their respective roles. That’s how I met Chad (the director), Amanda and Lea-Beth (producers), and Deanna (casting director). They were really sweet to me and I learned so much about the casting process.

    Near the end of casting, they had a couple roles to fill for Paul’s fraternity brothers. They thought I was too nice to play one of these unsavory characters, so I just started shoving the office intern into a locker every morning until they gave me a part. But no, seriously, it was just persistence. I just kept begging for an audition, hoping they found my desperate willingness charming. I auditioned and booked the job and got to travel to the middle of the desert to film one of the coolest segments in the whole movie.

    Who inspires your professionally?

    It’s hard to answer without sounding pretentious. I’m intrigued by actors with versatility. They can transition from comedy to more serious roles seamlessly: Tom Hanks, Michael J. Fox, Edward Norton, Annette Benning, and Julianne Moore. Also actors who choose challenging projects that go against the grain. Leonardo DiCaprio comes to mind.  He had this path laid out for him to be a cutesy teen superstar, but chose projects like “Basketball Diaries” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” instead.

    Lastly, if you could go back to when you first arrived in L.A., what advice would you give yourself?

    You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. You can be the most ambitious, motivated hustler and never realize your potential when apathetic people surround you. Be persistent. Don’t rely on others to do it for you These qualities will attract the right types of people into your life. You will feed off their energy and they yours. Be kind to those you meet, this is an incredibly small town teeming with talent ready to break out. And always remember, you’re here to do what you love, and not just ostensibly so. So…do what you love! There’s so much diversity and energy. I love being insulated and protected by a huge city.

    In the end, the life you live is yours and no one else’s, so treat it as such!

    Thanks, Chris!


    Chris was born in San Antonio, TX, raised in 8 different states, mostly New Jersey and currently resides in Santa Monica, CA.

    Contact him at:

    Chris Hayes on IMDB

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    Golfing

    Photo Credit

    [Meant for Friday, but I got caught up in Easter Weekend Festivities]

    Since returning to Austin, I’ve gotten in the habit of confronting the anxieties that sometimes creep up in the face of the unknown and untried.  Ignoring such feelings is impossible, and only builds them up like water behind a dam.  It will break at some point.

    No.  What I practice (because I slip here and there) is focusing on the opportunity whatever the experience will bring.  Opportunities for new knowledge, or contacts, and sometimes, like yesterday to refresh a past resolution.  That was, to golf.  Not just swing on the driving range, but play a full 18 holes.

    I had my chance  Friday and it was glorious.  Not so far as my game was concerned, but in my attempt.  I learned to important keys to my success in the game: (1) KEEP my head down; and (2) Don’t think about hitting the ball.  Number two was easier said that done, like a Zen exercise.  There was a particular satisfaction when I got some significant air on the ball, or even if I got it traveling along the ground in the direction intended.  My main goal that day was to make contact.

    After that, I figured, the rest would take care of itself.  And for the most part, it did.

    Barring some frustration, the day was a success.  I played attempted all 18 holes on this awesome course, on a spectacular Austin day.  More over, I have a renewed desire to learn the game.

    Now I’m off for a run.  Gotta work off the Easter dinner.

    //A.J.