What I Made This Week

An odd little amalgam of stuff happened this week. Not shocking, I suppose, considering the imminent holidayness, but… Here’s what it included:

* The Democracy Burlesque Holiday Radio Show, which I recorded bits for on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

* Wrote what I hope will be the next installment of Sciencey Vids, “A Field Guide to Physical Phenomena.” It will be, as you might gather, a field guide to some of the physics phenomena that you might find in the Western Hemisphere. (And funny, too.)

* Wrote a bunch of bits for possible inclusion in the next season of Three Legged Race‘s Weathered Adolescents web series, the first season of which will be released starting in late February, 2011. Topics include all-male acapella singing, hat sales, and pregnancy (as one of the actors from the first season is pregnant, and that’s just too joyous an experience to not use for our own purposes.)


Fragile Things

I’m spending bits of this weekend recording scenes for the Democracy Burlesque holiday radio show. DB is a political sketch comedy [more or less] group that I performed with regularly for two years, and they’ve invited me back to join them for this performance.

My association with the group ended for a number of reasons, but it also ended amicably, which I think is relatively rare for a theater group. I’ve left groups before angry and burned bridges (none of which I regret, incidentally), and I’ve been in groups that collapsed because we collectively decided we weren’t getting anywhere (not that we had any clue where “anywhere” was). But there have only been a couple of instances where my departure from a group wasn’t because my frustration with the group made not leaving impossible.

Independent theater troupes in Chicago are fragile things. Very rarely do people get involved without passion—which is a good thing, on the whole, but it also means that tensions get high quickly over things that often don’t deserve it. (As well as some things that do, as with my aforementioned burned bridges.) There’s also a really-not-that-compatible problem in Chicago comedy (improv particularly, but comedy generally): People have too many opportunities, so each one means less. One of the worst things to happen to an improv troupe is when a couple of people reach the conclusion that rehearsal is optional.

These issues operate on different scales. On a micro, whatever-you-happen-to-be-looking-at-at-the-time scale, everything means everything, and any point you may lose is a serious threat to your dignity, future, and well-being. On a macro scale, the next thing is right around the corner, and every corner.

I don’t really mean to rant about the state of Chicago comedy; I don’t have any new to add to that discussion, and I’m more interested in practical implications anyhow. So instead I’ll offer advice. Care, appropriately. Find others to work with who also care, so that you can assume that they care.  Accept losing once in a while, especially if you’re wrong. Focus, and demand a base level of focus from your colleagues. Avoid jerks. Don’t try to burn bridges, but don’t be paralyzed by the prospect of burning bridges.

And if you should travel over one of those unburned bridges, enjoy it.


This has been a long time coming.

I originally wrote this song for a Three Legged Race show last year. But we didn’t have anyone who could provide instrumentation for it, so it didn’t go anywhere.

A year and a half later, and I’ve done the piano myself.

It’s a sad, mournful song from the point of view of an evil genius, who has just made a wonderful (he thinks) present to his evil companion. But she’s, well, distracted. By Bob. Bob, the evil supergenius down the street.

Poor evil genius.

Anyhow, this will hopefully be something that we film and release early next year. Which means that I should, well, plan the video.

Until then, though, enjoy the song:

Bob” at the Internet Archive.

What I Made This Week

It was a busy and yet not productive week for me, at least by some metrics. I’ve been very diligent about exercise and eating right, which is great–but it takes time from things that might show up here. Much of the rest of my productive time was spent trying to work my way through some video issues — I’ve been dealing with a few different aspect ratio issues. I haven’t resolved them necessarily, but I’ve at least got a plan of attack.

Other accomplishments:

* Week 6 of Unicorn City. AKA, closing night. This show that has been the focus of so much of my time for the past 15 months is done. It is, I think, my biggest single act of creation to date.

* “Bob” is a song that I wrote lyrics for quite a while ago, but it sort of languished because I didn’t have the wherewithal to write the music. I’ve done so and am working on being able to play it well enough to record.

Dreamland Day

Yesterday we closed Unicorn City, and today I am relaxed as I haven’t felt in a month.

This show has drained me, and the other producers, as none have before. There are a couple factors in this-the show was a more involved production than any we’ve done before, and there were a certain number of persistent issues (yes, that’s the most detail I plan to give) that enhanced the stress. We learned a lot from the show, and learning is often tough.

For me there’s another reason I’m tired, one concurrent rather than directly related to the show: today is the first day in more than a month that I’ve not had significant contact with other people.

I am decidedly not the prototypical extrovert that feeds on human contact. I can deal with people, and well even, under many circumstances, but there are limits. I need my non-other-people time, and it’s best if it’s more than once a month.

So today was it. And it’s been, well, dreamlike.

I woke late, but less late than ideal. (the post-show celebration went a decent way into the morning, after all.) So there’s sort of a haze of tiredness. But it’s not fatigue. It’s more like there’s a really
comfortable pillow that my head is sinking into, even as I’m moving around. I’m alert and can see and all, but if I choose not to, there’s not much wrong with that.

Other people. They’re around, generally, but there is no demand they can make of me.

My responsibilities, they are around generally too, but distant and hazy and gentle. They are perhaps the tiny currents in a still pond. A ball bobbing up and down in the middle will eventually reach the edge, but there will be no great thrust that causes it and you won’t even really see it happening.

Which isn’t to say that it’s been a lazy day. Since rising I’ve been productive almost constantly, with the exception of lunch and dinner, and I will be for at least another hour or so. The to-do list for today has 22 items on it. I might finish half of them, and that’s okay. There is no pressure; the rest will be waiting tomorrow.

It has been almost twelve hours. I am still on the edge of awareness; it is probably closer than it has been all day, but that’s okay. I will leave dreamland before long. I have, after all, a volunteer shift tomorrow, and then work, and so on. My stay here has done a lot, though. I feel more able to deal with people now than I have in a long, long time.

But that is tomorrow. Tonight, dreamland continues.

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.

Strange Things in the Photo Booth

So, here’s the comedy video that I drafted for Three Legged Race. It’s unusual in that it’s the first video I’ve written that’s intended explicitly as video and that really couldn’t be done in some other format. It’s also completely wordless, although that’s really not that radical.

Also it will need some special effects work that I think I know how to do, at least in theory, but that I haven’t ever actually done. And I need to find one of those photo booths, the kind where you put in a couple bucks and get out a strip of a couple pictures.

I’m definitely planning to rewrite, because I think it’s incomplete. That’s more a quirk of the writing process than a failure of it. I started writing with just the goal of having a bunch of strange stuff in a photo booth. The story developed only about halfway through, and I’d like to make more of the strange stuff support it, or else strengthen some subplots.


Strange Things in the Photo Booth

MAN1 turns on the camera. He’s in the photo booth when WOMAN1 enters. MAN1 smiles for the camera. WOMAN1 goes to kiss him. MAN1 does not notice. He climbs over WOMAN1 to leave. A hand pats WOMAN1 on the head; she perks up and leaves.

MAN2 enters. He’s wearing a beanie and eating a hot dog. With the weiner in his mouth, he starts joyously headbanging, whipping the hot dog around. A camera flashes. This brings him back to reality. He feels dumb and leaves.

WOMAN2 enters. She’s holding a little hand-held bowling game. But it’s haunted. Almost immediately it starts shaking, and then it attacks her, closing around her neck. After a brief struggle, she collapses.

MAN3 enters. He looks down to see WOMAN2 on the ground and gives a sympathetic expression, but then it’s business time. He gives three distinct poses as the camera flashes, and then leaves.

Wispy ghosts fade in and wave around. WOMAN2, with a vacant expression, rises and waves around with them. Then, still zombified, she exits, hands in front of her. The ghosts fade out.

MAN4 enters, drinking from a plastic cup (or better, plastic pitchers). He sets it down. He is handed another cup from outside the booth, which he drains and stacks on top of it. This happens a lot of times until there’s a nice stack. He gives a thumbs up to the camera and departs.

WOMAN1 enters, lips first, and tries to kiss the stack… before realizing that they’re inanimate. She leaves, dejected.

MAN2 enters with two slices of American cheese. He puts them over his ears joyously. A camera flashes; he feels dumb and leaves.

The ghosts return. They knock over the cups and leave.

MAN4 enters. He looks down at the cups, grabbing them from the ground and desperately trying to drain any alcohol from them. WOMAN1 enters, trying to kiss him, but when she gets close she smells how drunk he is and leaves.

WOMAN2 enters, trying to eat MAN4’s brains. MAN4 reacts by trying to eat WOMAN2’s brains. They exit, canoodling.

MAN3 enters, posing once again. There is no flash this time. He pounds the photo booth a couple times. MAN1 enters to try to help. MAN3 is amazingly attracted to MAN1, who is completely ignorant to this; while MAN3 tries to kiss him MAN1 fixes the photobooth. The camera flashes as MAN3 lusts after an ignorant MAN1; then again as MAN1 offers MAN3 a handshake/high 5; and then again as MAN1 is exiting, triumphant while MAN3 is depressed.

The ghosts fade in, but almost immediately they stop waving, noticing MAN3, and flee in terror.

WOMAN2 enters, looking for brains, but runs away upon seeing MAN3. MAN3 chases after her.

MAN2 enters with some wet noodles that he uses to start slapping himself in the face, joyously. A camera flashes; he feels dumb and leaves.

MAN1 enters and sits perfectly normally for the camera. MAN4 and WOMAN2 enter and begin chowing on MAN1’s brains. MAN1 doesn’t notice. When three camera flashes have gone off, he puts some more money in for another round. MAN4 and WOMAN2 realize the futility and leave.

As the flashes start up again, MAN3 enters. But seeing MAN1, it’s awkward. Before the third flash, MAN3 has left, all without MAN1 noticing.

WOMAN1 enters, depressed. She sees MAN1 and pulls him out before sitting, supreme pain on her face.

MAN3 enters, and WOMAN1 gives an “oh, what now” look, and then buries her face in her hands. MAN3 takes out a carrot and mimes using it as a drill to drill into WOMAN1’s forehead, joyfully. WOMAN1 looks up and, after an instant of shock breaks into a bemused smile. Then she pulls out a couple of pieces of bacon and starts slapping MAN3 with them. Their eyes lock. The ghosts fade in, dancing jubilantly, and the zombies, or at least their hands, walk in offering flower bouquets. As they go in for a kiss, the music swells and the picture fades out.