Big News for Me, Inc.

I have big, and good, news: As of Feb. 21, I am employed.

Assuming it works out, it’s fantastic. It means an obvious means of self-support, and stability, and blah blah blah. You know what a job means.

This post really isn’t about that. I’m hoping for this to serve as a promise to myself to do what else I need to do.

As good as having a job is—and it is, I think—it’s not everything. I want to make sure that I’m not in as powerless a situation as I have been for a while.

The last full-time job I had really did a number on me. I knew it was a dead end, for some fairly frustrating reasons. It wasn’t paying enough to let me build much in the way of financial reserves, and it frankly sucked so much life out of me that it was hurting my efforts to get much of anything else going.

I finally did take the leap and get out, which was scary but wise. I’ve built a couple of good things since then: The citizen science book is a big one (and hey, how about that link to subtly point out that I’m on Amazon!), and I’ve also finished a first draft of another book, Dad’s Little Book of Rage. (I have several things to figure out on that one, including illustrations and publication options.) A few other things are in the hopper as well.

When I start my new job, I’ll be giving it my all. But I also want to make sure that I’ve got other things going so that if it doesn’t work out, I have options.

This site will be part of that. Soon, I’ll begin posting some of the citizen science information that I collected for the book here. Until then, though here’s a teaser from Rage. It’s an illustration that I did to accompany the first chapter. They childish crayon style is intentional. I have no idea if this is the direction that I’m going to go, but it’s certainly under consideration.

Hospital

Watch for more!

 

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What I Made This Week

This was the third and final week of having reduced creation time; this time because my brother and his girlfriend visited over the weekend to see the play. A good time was had by all. Nevertheless, here’s what I accomplished this week:

* Performance 4 of Unicorn City.

* An important and painful lesson in Final Cut. Namely, how to work with HD video. (You have to set the dimensions before you import the video.) This will make my video better in the future, but it also means that I’m going to have to re-do my half of the editing of Three Legged Race‘s webseries Weathered Adolescents altogether. That sucks a lot. North Pond Nature, however, shouldn’t be too affected, because I’ve only worked on the sound so far.

* Edited “Strange Things in the Photo Booth,” which was actually less rough than I thought.

* Started composition of “Bob,” which is a song that I wrote lyrics for quite a long time ago for Three Legged Race but abandoned due to my lack of confidence in my ability to write music for. Only way to get better is to do, right? I hope that it’s the only song in the universe that has the words “geosynchronous satellite,” although that’s probably too much to expect, right?

* Finished writing lyrics for “This is a Galaxy”

* And the next big big big project: I have some 10,000 words of background information on the world where Unicorn City is set that I’m quite proud of. This week I started a book set in the world. It’s not particularly related to the events of the play, although some of the characters will no doubt make appearances. Progress so far is about 1,500 words, plus a bunch of brainstorming.

The Glorious History of Aathenaar

In support of Unicorn City, one of the projects I’ve been working on is The Glorious History of Aathenaar. It technically falls under the marketing that we’ve been doing although really it’s more the equivalent of a DVD extra.

It tells the history of Aathenaar, the village where Unicorn City is set. Or at least, a sort of history. It was commissioned by the Baron, you see, so it’s more a mix of history and propaganda, with some mythology thrown in.

I’m pleased to report that it’s something I’m quite proud of. On one hand, I think it succeeds as a piece of entertainment in its own right—there are plenty of passages that made me giggle as I wrote them, at least, which is the best standard I currently have. Most of the characters from the play show up in the history as well, and I’m pleased with the insight that you get into them, despite the filter of propaganda.

It was also a big project, much bigger than I realized when I started (18 parts totaling almost 10,000 words) that came off pretty much as planned, which is nice. It has 18 parts because that’s how many rehearsals were originally planned; my thinking was that I would write and post a new section before each rehearsal. That’s reasonably close to what happened.

I started with a pretty clear outline of what era of history would be included in each section, which worked well. I only had to abandon a few at the last minute because they weren’t working, and for each of them I found another idea without too much problem.

I’m pleased enough with it that I’ve got it in my mind to use the background and mythology as a base for another project.

Of course, there is the small matter of finishing the current one first. Unicorn City opens tomorrow! Apollo Theater Studio, 2540 N. Lincoln, Chicago, 10:30 p.m. Fridays through November 19.  Hope you can come, and regardless, hope you find The Glorious History of Aathenaar entertaining.

The Naked Flagpole

My first prose fiction in a while — I’ve been spending my time on scripts and music (and preparing for After, Life) lately. And while it’s time to get cracking back on Exile Issues, this isn’t from it. Instead, it’s a completely hypothetical unnamed young adult novel. We’ll see how that goes. But it has Terry Pratchettian footnotes, so that’s something.

The feel of the wind was the first thing I noticed when I woke up. It’s weird, looking back, that that would be the case. The wind wasn’t really all that important in the grand scheme of things. It was just a symptom of the real issue, as my mom would say. She’s a doctor and probably the reason I’m such a nerd, but you’ll meet her later. Back to the important things.

Well, not really. The next thing I noticed was the sound of the wind. It wasn’t loud, really. More concave. Like something that isn’t really there was pushing out the static quiet that should have been. That’s not a great explanation, is it? Try walking sideways with a glass over your ear and you’ll get what I mean.

Of course, that’s just another symptom too. The real issue only hit me in third place: That I was falling.

“Fjord,” I muttered inwardly.*

I technically felt the softness of the grass next, but since the grass was only about an inch above the hardness of the ground, that’s what wound up dominating my senses.

I looked up and saw the flagpole from which I’d been hanging, and felt that the wind had died down (or, more accurately, that I had stopped moving through the air–thanks, Mom). The eerie lack of sound disappeared too, as cheering wooshed in to replace it.

It was only then that I discovered my complete nudity**.

*1 Let me make something clear. I didn’t say “Fjord.” I screamed something, and it was the kind of thing that makes old southern ladies fan themselves. But I’m also entirely willing to sacrifice factualness in the pursuit of fame and wealth. You see, I want this book in every school, library, and day care center in the known universe. But there are parents out there whose hobbies include going through the books in schools, libraries, and day care centers looking for so-called naughty words, and making a big fuss about how they have to protect the children by removing them. I don’t want that to happen, so whenever there’s some cursing, I’ll use a whimsical, understated alternative. It’ll be our secret, eh?

**Okay, we’ll have to give up on the day care centers.

Measure of a Man

If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals. — attributed to J.K. Rowling (although I can’t believe that the subject never came up earlier in the whole of human history.)

As wonderful as the improv community is, and it genuinely is, it’s not so inspiring to watch how differently people in it behave, depending on the status of who is watching.

I’ve been to several auditions recently. Most recently today, at Second City. Not one of the professional revues, or the Touring Company, and not something that anyone will be making a living off of, but something with, I think, some official support and certainly some prestige. It was after work, so I went directly there, and arrived about half an hour early. And I wasn’t the first one there. Nobody showed up late, or even terribly close to it, and as near as I can tell, everyone who signed up showed up.

Contrast that to some of the other auditions I’ve been to recently. I arrived early (I’m like that), but not nearly that early, and I was still first. One had ten scheduled, and only half of us showed. Another had “several” (the auditor didn’t specify) and I was the only one who came. He even waited for fifteen minutes, and called the people who had signed up, to no response.

Needless to say, these weren’t shows that had the cachet of a Second City production.

I understand the human nature, that “important” people get treated better. Improvisors tend to pride themselves on the wonderfulness of the community, though, so I wonder why they aren’t more fastidious about extending this wonderfulness, no matter how high the status of the potential recipient.

It’s late, this isn’t well thought-out. But at some point, this will make it into Unnamed Hypothetical Improv-set Novel.

My Sister’s Exes

The name that appeared on Kyle’s phone didn’t belong to someone he wanted to talk to. So he ignored the call, and the ghastly tone that alerted him to a new voice mail. All simple enough.

His phone rang again twenty minutes later. Then, fifteen minutes after that, and ten minutes after that, and five after—

“Hi, Michelle,” he grumbled.

“Hi-hi,” she bubbled back. Michelle always bubbled. It drove Kyle crazy. “Howya doin’?”

“I’m great. What’s up?” No extraneous words, no extraneous emotion.

“Oh, nothing. Just wanted to chat.”

Kyle hadn’t expected that, but when the words came out he knew he should have. It was just the kind of thing that Michelle would do. Most people in her situation would have only redialed so insistently if, say, Lisa had been in a horrible accident, or needed a blood transfusion, or maybe if she wanted to create some convoluted scenario in which they’d get back together. That last one, incidentally, dwelled far beyond the realm of fantasy. Lisa only made decisions after thorough consideration so she had no need to ever change her mind, and she had decided to dump him.

“Oh,” Kyle said.

“So I was at the mall today and I saw—“

“I don’t actually want to talk to you, Michelle,” Kyle interjected through her yammering. “I mean, not because of anything you did. Just that, you know, I’m not with your sister anymore so… There’s kind of a break, okay?”

Michelle giggled, high-pitched and delicate. “No there isn’t. I maintain really good relationships with all of Lisa’s ex-boyfriends.”

“You maybe shouldn’t, kid.”

“Well, I can’t have any boyfriends of my own yet, so I have to live vi-… vih-… what’s the word?”

“Vicariously.”

“Yeah, vicariously.” Michelle continued with the exuberance of someone even younger than she. “See, you knew exactly what I was thinking. It’s like we’re soul-mates, but for in-laws. What’s the word for that?”

“I hope there isn’t one, Michelle. We’re not soul-mates, or in-laws, and we never were.”

“You’re just saying that because you never got married, but everyone thought you should have, so—“

In that moment, Kyle realized that if he had to suffer the indignity of being dumped, he might as well take some benefit from it. He pulled the phone away from his ear.

In the muffled distance to the end of his arm, Lisa’s wails of “Kyle? Kyle?” grew more frantic.

He stretched his other arm, and with a ceremoniously deliberate pace extended his pointer to the hang-up button.

Naturally, Kyle broke down twenty minutes later, frantically calling Lisa to apologize and beg her not to tell Michelle any of what happened and maybe casually hint what an amazing person he was and that she could do a lot worse and all that, but for the first eight minutes or so of radio silence he felt absolutely righteous.

*****

No commentary on this one, except to say that I have no specific plans for this one, but it could wind up lots of places.

Public Bathrooms

Public bathrooms are a surprisingly dangerous thing. You could ask Letitia Baling, except that she sadly is no longer with us, because parts of her drowned in a shiny toilet bowl. She was not, at the time, large enough to successfully use a toilet seat.

The automatic hand dryer must be blamed for this particular unfortunate circumstance. Even the simplest of such devices have quite a large number of moving parts, and this one was a spectacularly deluxe model. While normally these parts would be safely covered by a metal shield, there are many ways for this protection to be breached. Rust, for example. Hungry mice gnawing through the bolts. Clever sabotage, or even terrorism. Or, as in this case, an explosion, caused by water that made its way into the dryer’s electrics, which caused the wires to short out and spark a fire that ignited a pocket of pure oxygen trapped in the blower by a serious manufacturing flaw.

The explosion caused all of these unusually sharp parts to shoot out at a truly stunning speed, sadly just as poor Letitia was walking in for a pee. They chopped through her like a warm Minnesota spoon through a lime Jell-o mold.

How did all of this debris hit her? Letitia was known as a woman of exceptional grace and nimbleness. She had once drawn a hail of more than 12,000 rocks catapulted from a castle outside of Lyon when its master, a thoroughly insane older man, ordered the action when he became convinced that Letitia was a horde of invading Mongols. (Needless to say, the old man’s belief regarding Letitia was incorrect on a large number of levels.) In this attack, Letitia managed to position herself in the one spot in a 60-foot radius not to be struck by a single stone.

So how was she hit now? It wasn’t the smoke, of which copious amounts filled the room. Letitia had spectacular hearing, and had even learned a rudimentary but effective form of echolocation. She could dodge in the darkest night, and have enough energy left over to dodge the night itself.

It wasn’t even precisely the water on the floor, which was enough to slip up most mortals, although that came closer.

The true culprit was Letitia’s weakness for shows. She owned hundreds of pairs of gloriously dubious quality. The hot pink high heels she wore today were so shoddy that they leached oils when they got wet. This was enough to make Letitia lose the flawless body control to which she was so accustomed.

As she felt her body open up to receive any kind of incoming missile, it occurred to Letitia to wonder where all the water came from. Because her sonar was otherwise occupied, she failed to notice the garden hose connected to one of the faucets. This hose was delivering copious quantities of liquid into the tube that directs the air. A brand-new janitor, in her enthusiasm to make everything perfectly clean inside and out, had put it there and turned the water on to its maximum level.

This custodian was also responsible for Letitia making her way to her final resting place. She came into the bathroom to find Letitia lying in pieces on the floor, and considered it a great tragedy that such an obviously great woman should be struck down so close to her goal. So this worthy custodian took the initiative to move what once was Letitia, bit by bit, to the throne where she obviously deserved to meet her reward.

Many of these bits were small enough to slide into the bowl, and when the custodian left the stall, the toilet’s sensors flushed them into the sewers and ultimately the Earth herself. Perhaps owing to the diligence with which the custodian maintained the plumbing, at no point did Letitia create any sort of a clog.

There have, in the days since Letitia’s passing, been some rumors claiming that it was the force of impact that delivered Letitia’s limbs to their final resting place. This is patently untrue; our heroic if unnamed custodian is solely responsible for Letitia’s peaceful repose. Upon my honor as a storyteller, to claim anything else would be absurd.

*****

This lunchtime post is just a bit of absurdity inspired by some overzealous warning sign that I saw on my holiday travels. Have no real plans for it—might be adaptable as a 3LR sketch, but maybe not—but I enjoyed writing it.