New Video: Eco-Comedy

A bit of non-job-related, non-citizen science productivity that I finished this week: This is my entry for the Eco-Comedy Video Competition, sponsored by the Sierra Club and American University’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking.

This was a bit of an unusual project for me… it coincided with a big life change [see: new job] so my work on it was a bit fragmented. On the happier side, it’s the first time I’ve done any kind of mouth-animation, so it’s nice to be able to learn new techniques.


New Year Plans: Citizen Science, Communications Business, Another Book, Videos, and Fitness

2012 is gone now, and good riddance. Well, maybe that’s a bit too harsh. 2012 was a year of building foundations that will hopefully pay off in 2013 and beyond. So while there was plenty that was frustrating, it added up to a year of building hope.

What for?

* The book. Or perhaps I should spell that out: The book on citizen science that I wrote and that will be published this year. (I’m accustomed to calling it “the book,” since it’s been such a dominating part of the last year that it doesn’t need any more description for me, but other people probably aren’t in that boat.) Of course, even though the book is done, it’s not really done: I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me to promote it, so that will be one of my focuses this year.

* The business. Ultimately, everyone’s in business for themselves, and since I’ve been doing some freelancing, I think it’s time to think that way. In fact, I’m even in the process of formalizing it; this site will soon be home to Landgraf Communications, a communications consultant offering writing, editing, videography, social media, Drupal, and special project services. (Don’t worry; I’ll still generally be a person, rather than a corporation.)

* Other projects. Currently on the docket is another book, one that I’m writing independently, but that I’m really excited about. It’s a comedy consisting of vignettes from the life of a very angry person and those who have enabled him, narrated by someone who’s been affected in a pretty strange way by the behavior. It’s pretty twisted, but I’m really pleased with what I’ve written so far. Especially the bit about Mark Russell with a Taser. I’ve also got some independent video projects that I’m working on.

* Fitness. In 2011, I lost about 60 pounds. I was hoping to continue that in 2012, but it didn’t happen. I kept the weight off, so 2012 wasn’t a failure on that front, but I still have some work to do, and I’m hopeful that 2013 will be the year for it.

I’ve stopped making resolutions, but I have a bunch of plans. I hope that whatever resolutions or plans you’re preparing for the new year, they bring happiness and success.

What I Made This Week

Not much. It was the holiday, and I was visiting relatives. While I had great intentions, my actual output didn’t amount to much. Basically just a bunch of tiny bits that will hopefully develop into stuff:

“For When Your Soul is Dying” and “For Duke” — these are a pair of song fragments that I’m going to save to work any more on for February and FAWM. What I did on them might technically be cheating, but the earth will continue to spin, I think.

“Esther Jenkins, Senior Ninja” — a silly little comedy song that’s currently in my sights to finish quickly. There’s really nothing too deep about it.

“Whiffenpoofs”, “Hats”, and “Pregnant” — potential bits for season 2 of Three Legged Race‘s Weathered Adolescents. That’s a long way off, though.

“Moose Hunt” — this was originally intended to be a Weathered Adolescent bit, but I’m going to propose it instead as a standalone video. Mainly because I want to play a character different than the one that I would be playing if it is a WA scene.


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.

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.

Brand-New Song: “Katherine Heigl”

I’ve been playing ukulele for about six months now. So I’m obviously still a beginner, but at the same time, the improvement is also clearly showing. Case in point: I recorded this new song in four takes. Yeah, you can hear a couple glitches here and there, or at least I can, but it isn’t bad. By comparison, the last original song that I put on YouTube, “Mayan Apocalypse Chord“… well, I don’t remember how many takes, but I know that it took more than 45 minutes of tape.

Audio-only version at the Internet Archive.

The story of this one is pretty straight-forward. It’s a reaction to celebrity overexposure in general, and hers in particular. I actually wrote the lyrics some time ago, I think when The Ugly Truth came out, and out, and out, and out, and out. But it took until now for me to be emboldened enough to try writing music for it. That is, I suppose, a logical and quite nice effect of FAWM.

New Music: Mayan Apocalypse Chord

Lunchtime post that I’m all excited about because I get to use my “Songs” category for the first time. This is the first song that I’ve ever written for ukulele, and the first full song that I’ve recorded on the uke.

I can’t claim credit for the phrase “Mayan Apocalypse Chord,” however. I first saw it on the Ukulele Underground forum used by  Ukulele JJ in a discussion about the chord that is notated 2012. So credit for that goes to him.

I’ve now been playing uke for 2 months. I won’t tell how many times I had to record to get as close to a clean version as this is. Mainly because I didn’t want to count that high.