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The McCloy Ball, An “Official” Viennese Ball in the States

Ever want to go to a ball? Like a real one? Well the most famous ones are in Vienna, they host about 400 every winter and have the strongest “ball culture”. But what if you didn’t want to make the trip to Europe? Well according to old tales of the internet there are two Viennese balls in the United States sponsored by the city of Vienna, about as legit as you can get. One of them is hosted right here at Harvard by the Kennedy School in conjunction with the Harvard Club of Vienna. It’s called the McCloy Viennese Ball and it’s hosted every year in the winter at the Harvard Club of Boston.

Actual Picture of McCloy Ball, featured image up top is not from this event.

Now I say old tales of the internet because this mention has since been deleted from the Wikipedia and from the McCloy Ball’s event pages. My guess would be that the city no longer sponsors this event and the connection was likely lost during the COVID pandemic. There are still some old google crawls thanking the City of Vienna for their support and an archived press release on the City of Vienna’s site reporting that a city councilor hosted the ball on behalf of Vienna’s mayor. So I think it’s safe to say this ball was at least an official Viennese ball at one point.

I’d be confident enough to call this a “real” Viennese ball, just a bit remote from the others in the city of Vienna. I’m not sure what other balls are officially sponsored by the city but I’m going to cross “go to a Viennese ball” off my bucket list with this technicality.

Becoming an English Anime Dubber

So my friend sent me a snapchat of the Boruto dub the other day and it was… pretty bad in some places. Of course I appreciate that dubbing is no easy feat, especially since they probably don’t get much rehearsal, the lines need to be translated in a way that matches what’s on screen, and the anime style just fits better with Japanese than English. If you’ve somehow stumbled here instead of a reputable source, note that this is a blog about stupid plans/ideas, not actual advice.

Well that got me thinking… I love anime and would love to contribute to a production in one way or another. How would I land a gig? Well… most voice actors would probably call their agent and ask them to get them on an anime but getting picked up by an agent is not trivial and doing this full time is probably a good way to destroy my finances.

Though a lot of voice acting gigs could be done remotely (I do have some pretty nice sound equipment), since anime is serialized I imagine it’s still done in person meaning you’d have to live near the studio. Dubbing is done in Texas and Los Angeles. (Amazing write up on why by Justin Sevakis linked here)

Texas Based:

  1. Funimation, probably the most well known
  2. Sentai

LA Based:

  1. Studiopolis (probably responsible for the Boruto dub that inspired this)
  2. Bang Zoom
  3. NYAV Post
  4. Dubbing Brothers
  5. SDI Media
  6. and other post production studios…

Well luckily for me I’m from LA and intend to return within a few years. So all I have to do is get together a good foundation in acting before then. So what job training do I need?

Going back to our largest dubbing company, Chris Rager and Sonny Strait from Funimation host classes. Bang Zoom hosts an official class directly associated with their company. Typically these classes are done in a recording studio but are available online right now from the pandemic.

Bang Zoom hosts their own classes called “Adventures in Voice Acting”. They have multiple levels ranging from $160 at the intro level to $400 at the intermediate level. Classes range from 2 to 4 hours and the length of instruction seems to have no bearing on the cost. This could possibly be due to some classes being more in demand due to a known teacher. The reason why these courses are first is their “Intro to Voice Acting” class is designed for those with “no prior training in acting or voice over”. Yep that sounds like me, a perfect first step.

Sonny Strait’s Class, “Basic Anime Dubbing” sounds like a perfect course for us by name. This class used to record lines and create a demo for you but I don’t think they’re currently doing this due to the pandemic. I hope to attend this class if they ever bring back the sound engineer to create demos. The online class is currently $450.

Chris Rager’s class, “The Sessions: Voice Acting in Anime and Video Games” is $600 for four classes. From comments online it seems they also bring in VA guests and directors. While this seems like an amazing experience, I would hate to make a bad impression to anyone in the industry as a total newbie. So this class is going on the backburner. Chris Rager also recommends other classes on his twitter.

So this is where my plan will likely come to an end and differ from those who actually want to become voice actors. If you want to become a real VA… why are you reading this? The next step is probably to find an agent and network. The entertainment industry is pretty much always about who you know. The Voice Actors Network offers a way to do this by attending their clinics, you can see a lot of the companies I listed above being represented there. They require “at least two years of basic acting classes, at least one year of VO specific training, and professional VO demos” before attending their clinics.

I on the other hand will probably just randomly throw my hat in the ring and call it a fun experiment. Do they companies even do public casting calls? Funimation randomly does open auditions and requests resume’s/demos at though they don’t exactly check this email often. Sentai has done open auditions in the past, limiting it to the first 200 in the door but the post I saw was from five years ago. Bang Zoom does open auditions at Anime Expo, Anime Central, and probably other conventions. Though from what I’m reading online, it get’s crowded so a spot is far from guaranteed. Well, this is just a fun side hobby anyways. If I ever even audition I’d count that as a win.

So to summarize the plan:

  1. There are 2 places that dub anime, LA or Texas, move there to be near the studios.
  2. Bang Zoom has an intro class for complete acting amateurs, I’d start here.
  3. Sonny Strait’s class is anime dubbing specific and will create a pro demo for you. Chris Rager’s class seems to have a solid guest list and is recommended by others.
  4. The next realistic step is finding an agent and getting your name out there and land an audition. The voice actor’s network hosts clinics to rub shoulders with industry professionals once you’ve had enough training.

As a casual attempt, I will probably get a demo together and send it off to Funimation or attend open auditions at an Anime Convention with Bang Zoom. Putting my best foot forward in an open audition will be the goal for my journey. Practically everyone with a voice thinks they can be a VA, I’m not so disillusioned that I think I can do better than those with a real passion for the art.

Caption: The featured image is Shizuka from Shirobako. The show is about making anime and follows the production staff while they interact with the rest of the process from animation and computer graphics to scripting and directors. (Spoilers Ahead) When everything starts looking up for the other characters, things still aren’t going her way. VA is probably the most difficult job to land and while all her friends end up on the same anime production out of luck, she fails the audition. She has a day job at a restaurant, embarrasses herself on jobs / auditions, and even hushes her friend Miyamori when she attempts to network her to others in the industry when they stumbled into her restaurant. I know she’ll land a job eventually cause it’s a cute anime but they really depict her struggle well.

Buying a Cheap Mansion

I’m in the market for a house this year and being from California I may have an odd view of how much a house is supposed to cost. So it got me thinking, what’s the worst housing market and how far could I stretch my money if I chose to live there? After all, I lived in a tiny town of one square mile for a year and that wasn’t so bad.

That’s when I found this 9000 square foot 7 bed 7.5 bath mansion in Dayton, Ohio for 300 grand. You couldn’t buy a shack in my hometown for 300 grand and here’s a literal mansion. That featured image is actually the back of the home, the front of the home is a roundabout driveway.

Now I don’t know much about Ohio except that people are anxious to leave. I’ve also heard that they don’t like California. Honestly, I couldn’t even point to Ohio on a map what’s with this one sided hatred?

Dayton is also home to a pretty famous Air Force base, Wright-Patterson and the Air Force’s graduate school, AFIT. It’s not so far out of the question that I could get a job on base and live in a place I could unironically call my “estate”. I could perhaps teach at the local university and spend my summers back in lovely California.

If I could live in a small farming town without issue, I’m sure I could make it here.

A Diploma from Oxford

Like Harvard, Oxford has a continuing education college that awards postgraduate certificates. However they also award postgraduate diplomas which are the same thing but with slightly longer courses. Although looking at the course lengths listed, they don’t look much longer. And a diploma sounds much better than some certificate.

I love the idea of academic regalia. You can see someone’s qualification right on there sleeve down to their degree level and field of study. In the states this is pretty much only worn on graduation day. At Oxford though, there are many more occasions. So can I weasel my way into Oxford reading for a diploma and spend my time in sub fusc or academic gowns? Well it depends…

For some reason not every diploma student is considered a “member of the university”. For example students studying for an organizational leadership diploma are not members but students studying for  the diplomacy diploma are members. Non-members of the college don’t wear sub fusc but according to wikipedia may wear the regalia of their former academic institution, which I would love to do since Harvard’s regalia heritage stems from Oxford but I doubt there would be any events for a non-member student to wear full academic dress. No diploma students attend graduation but member students do attend matriculation in academic dress. There are some accounts of  diploma students wearing academic dress but I’m not sure when they wear it: “It felt like I was living and breathing history. Walking through the hallowed corridors of learning towards lectures, your head held just a little bit higher in anticipation, it never disappointed. Put on the gown, and that Oxford thing becomes even more real.” -Gilke Eeckhoudt, Diploma in Global Business

Taking a close look at the programs I noticed the difference was that the cohort of the Post Graduate Diploma in Diplomatic Studies was combined with a cohort of Master’s students in Diplomatic Studies. They seem to be the same cohort with the same application competing for the same slots. The difference? The Master’s course is 3 months longer from 9 months to 12 months… At that point just go for the Masters degree.

Non-member students are also only associate members of their college. Colleges being like houses at Harvard or collages at Yale not like college departments at other US universities. Students of diplomacy get to choose their college being full member students, students of organizational leadership can apply for associate membership of only Pembroke college. I guess the question now is “what are the limitations of associate membership?” Are associate members allowed to compete on their college’s rowing team or live at the college? That’ll be something to ask when I have my GI bill in 6 years and hopefully finish an assignment as a military attaché for that diplomatic qualification.

The Aprila RS 50: My Dream Motorcycle

Here in Colorado, low powered scooters under 50cc pay almost no registration, no insurance, and can be parked on the sidewalk. Now I ride motorcycles so I couldn’t be caught dead in a 50cc scooter… except this one.

The Aprila RS 50 with a 49.7cc displacement and a top speed of 30 mph. Maybe with a sprocket change and full tuck it’ll hit my neighborhood speed limit of 35 mph. The RS50 looks like a “real” motorcycle and it’s also from a respected motorcycle brand unlike those Chinese scooters you see imitating motorcycles. It’s a motorcycle that I could park on my front porch and ride around downtown Denver without looking for parking. Just one problem, they’re rare. The RS50 in the featured image is modern and we don’t get that version in the states. They were only sold in the states from the late 90s to early 2000s. For $2500 one could probably snag a low mileage CBR that would be more reliable and more powerful than this thing but there’s something ridiculous about this motorcycle that makes me love it. If anyone sees one for sale, especially in Colorado, please let me know. I have a weird dream bike.

My Idol: Elizabeth Swaney

I’d like to tell you about someone who actually took one of these crazy ideas and did it, Elizabeth Swaney, freestyle skier at the Olympics. It has always been a dream of mine to be in the Olympics, despite only being semi-athletic. I guess Swaney had the same idea. Though not quite as talented as the other competitors in the event, Swaney is an Olympian. During the event she simply skied down the half pipe, no tricks, no nothing.

How did she even get there? She qualified by attending qualifying events and simply not falling, this way she would place ahead of those who fell on all of their runs. Secondly, she represented Hungary instead of the United States. Since countries are allocated a limited number of slots, only the top few from each country could attend. These factors combined gave her enough ranking to be invited. The last thing to consider is that she basically bankrolled this entire stunt. Attending events in far away countries and getting citizenship isn’t cheap.

I love this story, she is my favorite Olympian and a fellow Harvard alum. I’ve always dreamed that one day if I became rich enough I’d try to get in for equestrian, shooting, or karate kata. Realistically I won’t be rich for quite a bit of time so I chose events where older people could keep up. I’ll keep you all posted on these endeavors…

What’s the fastest way to get a scuba diving license?

I don’t dive, but my friends do. I thought it’d be fun to open this blog with a literal dive. Scuba divers need to be certified with the first being the open water certification. Usually one needs to spend about two weekends in the classroom and diving to get a certification. Becoming a diver has always been on my radar and as I moved from California to land locked Colorado I felt my time was running out to check that box. Why do I want to become a diver? Because everyone else that wears a dive watch may find out that I’m a fraud! So with less than a month before my move I looked up the fastest way to get a license.

Can anyone do it in one weekend? Seems like the answer is yes! South Beach Dive and Surf Center in Miami Beach, Florida knocks it out in two days. Seems they accomplish this by allowing you to study on your own before the course. Last time I was in Florida I did quite a bit of free diving at Dry Tortugas National Park but next time I’ll be taking this crash course in diving.

Also of note, I found a diving school here in Colorado, didn’t expect that.