RSS & the meaning of life

In myself, my relationships, the organizations I'm involved with, there's probably nothing I value more than growth. To me this means striving relentlessly to improve what I do & how I do it. I believe that the craft / the job / the very act of being an actor & tending to the stuff of acting offers an extraordinary way to grow as a human being.

 Not just to do this, but to attempt to do this very, very well is the way I understand how to contribute to the growth of our culture, our community & maybe our world. I want -- need -- must -- find any & all ways to spend as much time as I can in the "workroom" with the people / processes / materials / that helps me grow my most authentic, alive self.   

& the same time, I experience my “mission” as a fight against the mediocre, the status quo, the pretentious, the politic; the half-assed / egoistic / narcissistic masquerading as creative work. You know it when you see it: the plays that turn people off to theater, actors “showcasing", directors decked out in the emperor’s new clothes. The mindless sit-coms, the films you leave feeling that you've been dead for two hours, and...

...Oh & strip malls, over-the-top plastic surgery, elevator music, inane chit-chat at parties, teachers who don’t know their subjects...the list goes on & on. It’s not the truly bad that’s so bad, it’s the semi-okay, it's the stuff that almost passes that is the real enemy. It’s every time someone does it for all the wrong reasons. Taking aim at the run-of-the-mill, the second-rate, the conventional, is part of the joy of fighting the good fight.

//// Hmmm... how's she going to get off the soapbox of her manifesto & morph into how & why to use an RSS feed?

//// Hang on, soon it will all make sense.

I launched The Workroom to advance the cause of growing the artist in myself & others. To champion the purist over the pedestrian. But unlike all my other creative work til now, this thing depends on technology. On me being able to use it & you being able to use it. I believe that to keep our edge as grow...we really, really need to know how this new-fangled stuff works.

The Workroom has been live for about two months & I’m incredibly gratified that so many people I know & don’t know have come in. At the same time I’ve come to realize that a lot of people have no idea how to participate in what I’m doing because the tech stuff scares them. I hear talented, smart, chicly dressed actors say things like: "How is tweeting different from texting?" Or, "I can't subscribe to your site, because I'm not on Facebook." Yikes. If you build it they will come, but only if they know how. For my Workroom to work for you, you have to be able to meet me halfway.

On my end: a new kind of web platform gives me hands-on ability to grow my virtual space in all different ways, whenever/however I want. (&btw anyone can do this with a couple hours of study. This is not rocket science...or HTML code.) & with facebook & twitter I have formidable tools to find my tribe: people who share what I believe in who, by interacting with me, can help me grow.

On your end: the ability to regularly access my creative space & all its current & future content for your own growth depends on your ability to understand how to use an RSS feed.   

Hopefully by now you’ve already figured out that this isn’t just about me. There are hundreds of things out there you want to keep current with -- about acting, research for the next role you play, people involved in upcoming projects, productions at other theaters -- not to mention, oh, recipes, travel, astrology & yoga! A wealth of information just waiting to enhance your talent & your life, IF you know how to organize it all for easy access when you need it.  

So let’s slog thru a little mud. I am going to be stupidly simple about this, and focus on one thing only: RSS feeds -- what they are & why you should know & care how to use them. Disclaimer: because I’m no expert in these things I will not be using complicated language.

RSS is a way of organizing web content you like & want to keep track of so that you can easily & quickly access it. You organized getting a newspaper delivered, didn’t you? This is the same -- except we’re talking about a whole lot of subscriptions all bound together in one place, at your online doorstep. 

RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication." Actors, we all know what syndication is: a way of distributing content, right? RSS is a way you can receive content (news, pictures, videos, blog posts) without having to scuttle around to different web addresses to pick them all up.

Lots of different sites that you are particularly interested in offer continually updated content. Lots of people are blogging: people you already know, like me + your favorite New York Times op-ed writers + well, you name it, they’re putting stuff out there. How many times have you found a great website, wanted to remember it, maybe even bookmarked it, but in practice, never came back to it? Once you find a blog you want to keep up with -- let’s say “The Workroom” --  how do you keep track of it? How do you know know when I’ve put up a new post? Do you just keep checking back in hope? 

//// Here’s how: you subscribe, in one of two ways. #1. ask to receive an email from the site you want to follow to alert you when new content is up. If you click right now on this link: subscribe by email & enter your email address, you will automatically get an email from The Workroom every time we put up new content. 

But what if you want to subscribe to 20 or 30 different sites & you don’t want a lot of emails clogging up your in-box?  

//// #2. Subscribe via RSS. That button you see on every site that looks like the pic, above? That’s what you click on. Think of your RSS feeds as a content chute to your own personal newspaper or magazine that only carries the articles you want. (no ads, no plastic handbag stories, just the stuff that matters to you!) Using programs known as "aggregators", you can see many "feeds" at the same time, all in one place.

//// #3. Get Google Reader. So where is this magazine? Where does it all live? You access your RSS feeds through a simple thing called a “Reader” (easy enough, no?) There’s a lot of different ones, for my money the simplest is Google Reader. If you have a gmail account, it takes just seconds to set up. If you don’t have a gmail account, it takes minutes. Here's a YouTube video re: How to Set Up Google Reader, or step by step GR set-up instructions from Oh, and, it's free.

Once you’ve put this in place & once you’ve subscribed to all your favorite sites, then you can go to your Google Reader & find headlines & short summaries of what's new on all the sites you want quick & easy access to.

So why am I writing about this? Why am I using precious ART time to slog thru luddite mud? Partly because I want you to know how to subscribe to The Workroom! But really because I believe that this new technology = formidable tools for creatives. From project inspiration, to what’s going on in our field, to connecting to our tribe, to working cheaper & faster, this stuff belongs not only to business, but to us. With daily use they help our artistic sensibilities, not to mention our careers, grow by leaps & bounds. 

My raison d’etre involves spending as much time as I can, every day, actively immersed in creative work. Acting, directing, teaching, writing or even running a theater for me = connecting to & staying in touch with the reasons I chose this path in the first place. It’s what I need to do to feel whole & at peace & in my place to the universe. Part of my evolution as an artist has been to see that it doesn't much matter which of these activities I engage in -- they all serve to put me touch with my higher purpose. For all of these activities, to access what I need to stay immersed & of the most advantageous tools at my disposal is the use of RSS. I hope it will be one of yours, too!

QUESTION: What cool stuff is in your reader? Give us a list here...or a screen shot!