Monday, August 31, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Thirty-Two: Sleep, or lack thereof

Despite working like a dog for all of last night, I wasn't able to fall asleep until 4 this morning. I got three-point-five hours of sleep! Yeah!!! I was actually doing pretty good all day until about 6:15, when suddenly a wave of "I feel like crap" hit me, and I've been just about useless since. As such, you won't get much good out of me this evening.

Which is to bad, because there is SOOOOO MUCH I could talk about today! Like the bizarre 10-hour-long meeting of the NHLPA players reps in which they ultimately decided to fire the guy in charge of their union (after keeping him waiting in the hallways for about three hours) and all the fallout of that, and what it means for the future of the NHL.

Or the story that made the Internet explode today, Disney is buying Marvel--not just the comics, but the toys, movies, animated series, EVERYTHING Marvel--for FOUR BILLION DOLLARS!!

Bottom line: I think this is probably great for Marvel, once the first couple years of awkward "this character is currently owned by that rival production company/ theme park" mess have passed. It's not like Mickey and Minnie started showing up behind the desk at Sports Center when Disney bought ESPN, so I'm not too worried about creative/content issues, and Disney's influence will give Marvel products a much broader base internationally than they currently have.

The frightening thing, however, is that Disney now owns ABC, ESPN, Broadway, the Muppets, Pixar, and Marvel. Up next: video games.

All right, I'ma go read Neverwhere till I fall asleep. G'nite.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Thirty-One: Strike

Whoa! I almost forgot about this for today! Like, almost completely forgot to post! Gotta be careful. My complacency could be my undoing!

This was the final day of Steel Magnolias, which means tonight was strike. And I volunteered to help with strike, because A) I knew the shop team has a major task ahead of them this week changing over in time for Myrtle tech on Friday, and B) I love strike. Strike/load-in/changeover is one of my favorite times in all of theatre. It always reminds me of summer-stock, and summer-stock was always good times for me. (Minus the emotional drama of my first summer stock, but we'll get to that soon)

It's good, hard work, lots of heavy lifting, lots of comradery, free pizza, and just generally good times all around.

Leaves you tired, though. Going to try to go to bed now; a long day tomorrow.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Thirty: In Which I Finally Get to the Camel Story, and it's Not That Amusing After All

My junior year of high school, I was completely out of involvement with Wellington Community Theater and Houston had just been chased from WHS. I wasn't taking any drama classes, either, because they hadn't fit in my busy junior year honors-laden schedule. So, I headed into the year looking at no performance opportunities. (But this was okay, because I always knew I would have to walk away from it someday, right?)

Suddenly, out of nowhere, I found an ad in the Wichita Eagle (which my grandma got every day before promptly giving it to my dad to take home with him) for an audition for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Music Theatre for Young People up in Wichita the following weekend. I loved the music from Joseph (still do, really) and saw that they were casting middle and high schoolers with a children's chorus and thought, "hey, no reason not to!" Sort of last second, but I can be a spontaneous guy when I want to, so that weekend I went to the audition.

MTYP is a great organization that gives students of all ages from the Wichita area the opportunity to participate in a professional-environment audition process in the hopes of performing a fully staged production at Century II's little theater. We worked with professional directors, choreographers, and music directors in what was easily the biggest deal of my theatrical career up to that point. I got cast in the teen chorus for Joseph and had an absolute blast working on the show. Most of the kids my age in the production had done MTYP before, so it was an accomplishment to break in at all, even if it was an ensemble role. (And really, I've never had a problem being a part of the ensemble)

MTYP's second show of the year was open only to former MTYP actors (it wasn't a public audition, but not exactly invitation-only, either), so I got to try out thanks to Joseph. The show was Here's Love, written by the same guy who did The Music Man.

Here's Love ain't The Music Man.

Imagine all the saccharine sweetness of the movie Miracle on 34th Street--either version--and then make it into a large-cast musical spectacular. I understand that people like cheese at Christmas, but o holy night! I kid you not when I say that the show-stopper in Act II had a chorus that went, "Thaaaaat man over there is Santa Claus, I know, I know, I know! I can tell by the crinkle in the end of his nose, the wink of his eye and the twinkle of his toes and the jooooooy wherever he goes; that man is he!"


Anyway, I auditioned for the show and actually played the lead, the lawyer guy. Now understand, a LOT of MTYP regulars did not audition for this show, and if they had I probably would have been the mailman or something (and a dang good mailman I would have been!), but this was still a fine accomplishment! It was a nice boost to my confidence, which had gone from "I should be a movie actor now" when I was a kid to "I pretty much suck" in high school.

Ah, the teenage years.

Anyway, MTYP kept feeding that buzz that live theatre brought me the first half of that year. Springtime was the forensics season (remember, speech-and-drama competition) and I finally got to work with the new drama teacher. What Houston did for me in music, Dan did in theatre. He let me try anything I wanted that forensics season and gave me some tough suggestions as well. I became highly, highly competitive, and while I did extremely well that season (I believe I qualified for state championships in duet acting, improvised duet acting, humorous solo performance, and dramatic solo performance) I was rarely satisfied.

I'm very glad Holly didn't kill me in this time. (Probably paying me back for finding ways to keep her from killing anybody else during our year-point-five in Dan's program. This is probably my greatest contribution to American theatre to this day, by the way)

Significant about this period of working with Dan and the forensics team is that the teacher and I became pretty good friends. Really, there was a core of us in the program who all got really tight. We inspired one another. We brainstormed together. We created things together. While a lot of this didn't pay off immediately, it definitely set the groundwork for the amazing things we were going to accomplish over the next two years.

But that's not part of this post.

Oh, right. Camel story. During Joseph with MTYP, one of my responsibilities was camel wrangling. It wasn't too hard, because the camel was made out of 3/4" plywood and was inanimate. "Inanimate," however, does not mean it didn't possess a mind of its own! (Yes, Tarvis, I do realize that that is exactly what "inanimate" means) See, the camel was mounted on a rolling steel platform, so I would pull it by a rope around its neck while another Ishmaelite would push from behind. The cue that he was ready to go on was pretty simple: he started pushing. Well, opening night, I felt the camel come forward exactly as it usually did when the other guy (Patrick, maybe?) pushed it, so I took off with camel in tow. Halfway across the stage, I realize that there is absolutely no added weight to this beast, and that I am the only one pulling. I turn and see the plywood camel bearing down on me, full speed. Since I'm wearing sandals, I'm not sure it's a good idea to try to kick out a food to stop it, so I brace myself to try to catch the thing and hope its forward momentum doesn't drive it into me, cracking my collar bone. (I also got a brief glimpse of the other Ishmaelites running after the camel, arms flailing. It probably looked awesome) Fortunately for me, the camel started to veer away from a collision course as it drew close. That's right, little camel, away from me...

...and straight toward the orchestra pit.

Now it was my turn to take off running after the beast. One wheel hopped off the lip of the stage and dangled menacingly over the drummer as I threw my arms around the monster's neck (the camel, that is, not the drummer) and pulled it back onstage. I shook my finger angrily in its face--it's all part of the show, folks!--and life went on.

Thanks to me, in the case of that drummer.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Twenty-Nine: New music

So I got the new Skillet CD, and while I like it, it's a bit disappointing because I feel like it's a step back from their last two awesome album. It sounds a LOT like Comatose, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but there area few points on the album where a song sounds almost EXACTLY like another song from Comatose, and that bugs me just a little. Also, there are times when it just seems kinda emo-breakup album, which they have every right to do if they want to, but I felt like there was some awesome depth to Comatose (with the exception of "You're Better Than Drugs") and, even more so, Collide, and it's a little disappointing to hear an angsty chorus of "It's not me it's you/ Always has been you/ All the lies and stupid things you make me do are you" or "You should've when you could've/ You're gonna miss my love, girl/ You should, it would have been so good/ You should've when I would've/ Now I know I've had enough/ Better luck next time girl/ You should, it would have been so good." Really, Skillet?

Don't get me wrong, there are definitely some great songs, and I still really dig the super-orchestrated rocking out. (Yesterday I was listening to this in my office and forgot I had my CD player while I was out, so I walked back in just as a song was starting. I open the door, a moment of silence, and kick-A guitar riffs as I step into the room. That's right, I had my own intro music) You just tend to feel a little let down when one of your favorite bands brings you less than they're capable of. Especially when it's a band that already lost you for a couple of years once in their career after following up some awesome with some...less awesome.

Regardless! All is not lost, because Switchfoot's new CD is due out in November, and YouTube has got the goods one a few of the new tunes. I am really stoked about this album. Perhaps you can see why:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Twenty-Eight: Captain Jerk

I guess, if I'm looking back on the events which formed me into the theater artist I am today, I have to make some mention of my earliest forays into script writing.

File this away under the previously-alluded-to "Don't Feel Embarrassed About the Dumb Stuff You Did In Middle School" file.

I was pretty good in my 8th grade typing class. That's not too much of an accomplishment, since 8th grade typing class was pretty easy. Regardless, I often finished the quarter's worth of lessons far before the quarter was over. Thus, I was generally bored, yet all I could do was type. One day, I decided to write a short science fiction script. It was sort of a spoof and sort of a parody, though it wasn't very good at either because I hadn't actually been exposed to much in the way of sci fi at that point in my life. (Writing a Star Trek ripoff when you don't know anything about Star Trek = awesome!) The three-page script was actually inspired more by a music video from Dakoda Motor Co. than it was any of the Sci-Fi standards of that age. (Remember DMC? They would have been huge if they'd come out a couple years later, when any Christian rock band with a female lead singer was an instant success) The song, I believe, was called "Railroad." At least I know the album was. It was DMC's last album, and their only recording with a lead singer who wasn't Davia. The new girl (Mel, I believe) was kinda scary. Regardless, the almighty Internet seems to have no proof of this video, so I can't post it for you. Synopsis: the band lands on an alien planet. Two of the guys are captured by gorillas in suits, and the other two are captured by girls wearing cardboard boxes covered in foil with long, tube-like arms. Mel rescues the entire crew, and they escape.

Yup. That's a great place for inspiration.

My characters, many once again poor ripoffs of the few sci fi guys and gals I knew at the time, were the courageous and brainless Captain Jerk, his first commander James "Ketchup" Waves (I have no idea why I thought that was funny), Dr. Frances Nathaniel Stein (that one actually is pretty funny), Mr. Speck, and Chewingumca. I remember a couple of crew members were originally attacked by a gorilla arm that lived in a bucket of water while Captain Jerk walked around the alien planet of Po and met a beautiful girl named Zael. That's all I remember at this time; I have that old script somewhere. Maybe I'll post it if anybody cares. My team was named the California Deepspace Exploration Team, or the CaDETs for short. They cruised around the galaxy on their ship the Newport, named after my favorite beach in southern Cal.

I shared the silly little thing with a couple of friends, who loved it, and more boredom prompted a sequel, which may have actually been called "Clone Wars." (At the time, I'd never heard of the Star Wars-related conflict known as the Great Clone War. How awesome is that?) This installment was twice as long--nearly six pages!!--and introduced the villainous Dr. Baddguy. I think he mutated into a squid monster at some point. No explanation was ever given.

At this point I decided I'd go ahead and make a trilogy in true Star Wars style and wrote Return of the Jerk, a massive, epic, 13-page script that chronicled the honeymoon of Captian and Zael Jerk as they battled Jibba the Hat and the Space Pirate Primates, the blandly devious La Erog back on the planet of Po, and finally the evil Dark Nozzle on his destructive Death Egg.

Words cannot express how big of a hit this script was. My gifted class in middle school actually ended up making a radio play out of it and recording it at Wellington's little radio station. I wonder if I still have that around here somewhere....

Anyway, the CaDETs became my new hobby. I continued the saga with The Umpire Strikes Out, Car Wars, The Journey to Rome, and The Final Root Beer before destroying the Newport and scattering her crew to their various walks of life.

That is, until I reunited the crew a couple of years later with CaDETs 2, the eighth installment in the series. At this point, however, I started actually trying to write stories and not just inside jokes and bad puns. They weren't very good stories, and they weren't terribly consistent characters, but they were a step up. Eventually we had the next generation of CaDETs. Then we had a reunion epic where a character named Sorac traveled through time and brought every single CaDET villain together, and new CaDETs and old CaDETs had to fight them together. I also wrote a musical CaDETs at one point. Then I wrote what may have been considered a legitimate screenplay. (Well, as written by an ADD 10th grade student, anyway) that ended with two characters getting married and crashing into the ocean on the way to their honeymoon. Which pretty much ended things. Until...

CaDETs 3099!!!

No, I'm not kidding.

Obviously, I did eventually walk away from the CaDETs mythology. I went back and started to re-write the first seven episodes as one while I was in college, and it ended up becoming a totally new story. That one I have to find somewhere. I'm going to say it was my first successful attempt at creating distinct characters and, at times, even developing them over the course of one story. Oh, and I managed to tell one story over seventy or so pages rather than seven little stories in the same amount of space.

And then I didn't write anything for about four years. The CaDETs were all I had written, and they were primarily intended to be random, silly distractions for my friends. Never anticipated writing anything for the stage, nor anything that anybody would really want to do. Sure, I kicked the idea around when I was a kid, but I never got past the halfway point of the first page, because it turned out writing took longer than four minutes and I quickly lost interest.

So there's that. A ridiculously fun hobby primarily to amuse myself. But I did grow through the practice of it, and even if it would be years before I started putting to practice the lessons I'd learned through the CaDET writing experience, they were there.

Man. Now I want to go write a CaDET adventure...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Twenty-Seven: Pugh and Houston

Yes, my blog plays "Song of the Year" every time you open it now. Don't worry, it'll be gone in a week. :-)

I've mentioned before that Wellington High School was not huge on the arts. In my freshman and sophomore years, however, there was one art that was very easily the biggest joke of them all. While our choir enjoyed an admirable amount of success and our band had a fairly strong reputation, our drama department was a terribly unfunny joke. There were no productions outside of the actual drama classes, and all the drama classes (along with the debate and forensics--that's basically speech and drama competition, minus the one-acts--which were run by the same teacher) were total pud classes. Three-quarters of the kids in those classes took them because they knew the teacher would let them do whatever they wanted most of the time.

Ah, Mr. Pugh.

Mr. Pugh was an oddball in every sense of the word. He was a small man, probably no more than five-seven, and bald with powerful thick-rimmed glasses. He usually wore tight, bright purple pants to class. When he tried to lay down the law in class--which was rarely--the upperclassmen would roll their eyes, "Oh, Pugh, come on!" and he'd usually drop it right then and there. I'm trying to remember if he ever actually directed the plays he directed. Searching my memory banks for an instance of direction he may have given me. Once, to see if he cared/was paying attention, I put a chair on my head--not, like, a school cafeteria chair, a piece of furniture--and chased the other characters off the stage shouting "I AM CHAIR-HEAD!" He didn't comment after the rehearsal. And that's a true story.

Mr. Pugh once put me in charge of finding a play script for us to produce. I dug through his big brown filing cabinet stuffed with partial and complete plays--few of them very good--and read. (Guess it was preparing me for my first taste of the Committee of Doom!) I'd report back to him with "This wasn't very good," or "This wasn't too bad," or "This was actually kind of funny." When I gave him the "kind of funny" script, he asked me, "Doesn't this one have boys dressing up as girls? Because that's pretty funny." Turns out, that had been his criteria for finding a winning play. If I had known that, I could have saved a ton of time. But then, I don't know what I would have done with the rest of those afternoons anyway. ;-)

Had Mr. Pugh been the final say in all things theatrical during my high school years, it's highly unlikely I'd have veered away from my previous convictions of "I'll never do theatre professionally." Fortunately, God saw fit to put another man in my life in the form of our new choir director, Mr. Houston.

If I ever compile an "I owe it to..." list of people who directly led to my life in theatre, Mr. Houston will be the second name on that list (after sweet Connie of my WCT days). Houston treated me like I had serious talent. "Stick with me, Ledesma," he said once after school, "and I'll make you a star." He had the cred to say that sort of thing, too. He came to education from a background in professional musical theatre, playing some roles I can probably only dream of playing. Houston's love of musical theatre spilled into virtually every choir concert we did, and for several years I became stuck on musicals.

Now, back in those days I was a pretty good singer. We had better singers at WHS, and we had at least one better actor, but I was the best singer-actor combination in the small school, and Houston pushed me to get better. I sort of regret that I had to abandon music to focus on theatre in college, but I really regret that Houston left WHS after only two years. I'd never been pushed to improve like that before, and really I haven't been pushed like that since. I am curious as to what I may have become.

Anyway, Houston started staging small-scale musicals through the choir department, completely independent of Mr. Pugh's drama classes. The first year we mounted Nunsense, which I obviously was not in, but he did let me be the spotlight operator. He brought in his brother, a real-life professional techie, to handle the production side of the show, and I learned a lot by following him around and watching. That show was probably my first taste of "real" theatre, at least as close as I'd come for another year or so.

The next year, our musical was You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. I played Charlie Brown. The chance to work with a director who knew how to direct was a novel thing and probably gave me a leg up on the next couple of years of my development. I remember opening night for the show for two reasons: first, there was a severe hailstorm moments before curtain and the power went out. When it came back, all our light cues had been erased, so the crew was scrambling to make it work as we went along. Second, I had a lot of friends in the audience that first night. As I came out for the final bow, the Little Theater (aptly named "Little," inaccurately christened a "Theater") erupted with cheers. One of those few mountaintop experiences that this field doesn't really offer you that often.

I know I promised an amusing story about a camel, but sadly I don't think we'll get to it tonight.

Mr. Houston's dismissal from WHS was messy. Houston had taken an oft-overlooked department and, in two years, made it a hub of excitement and achievement. We had straight I's at competition, we were staging not only musicals, but extravagant entertainments in the spring for our concert choir finales. He'd brought showmanship, professionalism, and a commitment to excellence to the arts in Wellington.

And then came the downsizing.

The school district cut a music director position or two and shuffled everybody around to fill the holes. That meant the high school choir director would now also be required to teach elementary school music. Not only did Houston not want to teach elementary school, he really wasn't equipped for it. Meanwhile, Mr. Pugh retired. Houston suggested he take the high school choir AND drama departments, thus allowing the school district to hire one part-time elementary music teacher rather than a full-time high school drama teacher. He was two classes away from having his drama teaching certification, and he was going to complete those credits over the summer.

No, said the superintendent, you'll teach the kids instead, because that was our idea. Then our assistant principal got involved, and that man was a real bully. And, as is always the case when you give a bully some power, the man was tripping. Heavily. So Houston tendered his resignation.

I won't recount everything that happened next here. My dad wrote a letter to the editor about what a shame it would be to lose such a fine, experienced teacher. The ass. principle found out and called the paper and threatened them not to print that letter. And more phone calls were made. People were threatened. I got called into the office numerous times. Students got angry. Parents got angry. The rest is details, but when the dust settled, scare tactics won out, and Houston moved on to Colorado.

I've got back in touch with Houston a couple years ago. It's good emailing with him from time to time. I've told him how much I owe him, how much I've learned from him, and how much he inspired me. Which is apparently the sort of thing teachers love hearing seven or so years later from former students.

I'm always going to wonder what might have been, though, had he been able to stay. Especially if he had ever got a chance to work with the magic man who took the reins of the drama department following Pugh's departure...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Twenty-Six: Discretion

I find it best not to write a reflective "How I Got Here" post on a night where "Why The Hell Am I Here?" is the prevalent thought, so we'll pick that up again tomorrow. Promise. And it will probably have something amusing about a camel. So be looking for that.

Tonight is rough. (And no, it doesn't have anything to do with Spotlighter Awards, or the outcomes of Spotlighter Awards. Congrats to all the winners, you all deserve it!!) And for some reason, I really don't want to talk about it, because I can't think of a way to say some of it without hurting some folks that really don't deserve to feel hurt, so I hope you'll excuse my lack of social activity this evening.

I don't know if this is the perfect time or a terrible time to be reading Cormack McCarthy's "The Road." I'll let you know, though ;-)

Never gonna stop, not a break in my stride,
Never let this cancer eat from inside.
Raise the flag high with fists to the sky;
I'll finish this, or this is good-bye.
Spies to the right set their claws to kill me,
Lies from the left clasp their jaws on the guilty.
I'll break free, I'll break free,
Just you watch me....

--Fortress of Solitude, BS2

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Twenty-Five: The Post of the Year

In honor of tomorrow night's Spotlighter Awards extravaganza:

Video #2: What the crap??? Is it any wonder nobody goes to Panthers games??? (Clearly, this guy is no Louie)

Come to think of it, why is the Panthers' mascot a cow???

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Twenty-Four: Fun-time

Taking another break from our ongoing series, partly because I need a bit more time to reflect on the next step of my life in the arts, and partly because it's fun time.

I got eight hours of sleep last night, and I have had so much energy all day long it's been unreal. I want to do something fun tonight, and I feel like I've actually got the energy to enjoy it. At this point, I don't know if "something fun" will involve watching a movie, pulling out Final Fantasy VI, reading, writing another Hero Squad play, or what, but I'm pretty sure it starts with a snack, because I'm hungry. And food always seems to accompany fun.

Advice to readers: do something fun tonight. Profound, huh?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Twenty-Three: The Sound of Music (or, The Rise of Uncle Max)

I think the year was 1997, so that would have put me at 15 years old when WCT pulled out all the stops and decided to go ahead and try our first full-scale musical in who knows how long. (The United Methodist Church in town had used to do large community musicals, but that too was before my time. This production was basically the first of its kind in Wellington in around ten years)

Now, keep in mind that we were a theatre troupe used to seeing anywhere from six to twenty people in auditions. The Sound of Music would require at least thirty, probably more. This was a pretty big risk on the part of our Board of Directors. However, it seems like big, famous musicals really bring people out in droves. Well, relatively speaking. We had enough people audition to cast the majority of the speaking roles and the nun's chorus. From there, it was simply a matter of the ladies on the board asking for favors from the men in their lives or their friends husbands, and we had a cast. A huge cast. Like, forty people or so of a cast.

We'd never dealt with that big of a cast, nor had we done a show that needed so many different locales or so large a set. We weren't all singers, either. By all rights, we probably shouldn't have been able to accomplish this show, but we didn't know that. We just worked our tails off together and did what it took to get it off the ground. (One of the highlights of the performance for many people was seeing some of the most respected men in the community run through the Memorial Auditorium with guns and Swastikas on their shoulders. Hm...reading that as I typed it, I'm actually a little weirded out by it. Why was that funny again???) Still, coming up to opening weekend (our only weekend, if I remember correctly), we had no idea what would happen. Our final dress rehearsal had lasted just about till midnight, and there were still hiccups left and right. As for an audience, we were still used to attracting 50 people and calling it a night. We knew we needed more than that to make back our cash on this one, and we'd hit the Wellington Daily News with a massive marketing campaign the week of the show (massive marketing campaign = one front-page story every day that week. Helps to live in a small town sometimes; we bumped things like "Cattle Births Steady This Year" and "Chamber OK's One Extra Day for Annual Wheat Festival" all the way to page four), so we were pretty confident that we had done all we could, but as to what would actually happen the next night, no one knew.

We drew over 100 for every performance that weekend. We were turning profit by the end of the first night. We didn't have enough chairs on the floor to seat everyone; people were actually sitting on the upper level. The show still had hiccups, sure, but the audiences--both our regulars and the many, many newcomers--were completely blown away by what we'd accomplished. Several said something along the lines of, "I didn't know we had this kind of talent in this little town!" For a lot of Wellingtonians, this had been the first arts-related event they'd probably ever been to in their own hometown.

For three nights, we were awesome.

I've found there are very few true "mountaintop" experiences in theatre. There are all kinds of good shows and great nights and adrenaline rushes, but there are not many moments where, twelve years later, you're still get a rush from an evening, a production, or a season of your career. I've had three, in 105 productions. This show, this event, this culmination of five years of learning and growing with WCT, was one of them.

The show was also significant to me, personally, for a couple of other reasons: First, it was my sister's last show with WCT before going off to college. Every show after The Nerd had been a Christa-and-William thing. From now on, anything I did with WCT I did on my own. That was significant. Also: this is the only show in my entire career that my entire family was involved with: My mom played a young nun, my dad played Captain Von Trapp, my sister played Liesl, and I played Rolf. And yes, that was awkward, thanks for asking, but we were serious actors. We managed to put it aside for the good of the theatre! ;-)

The next summer, we did it again with Fiddler on the Roof, though Fiddler was a different kind of experience. My family wasn't around for that one, so it was just me. Also, while SoM was still primarily WCT staples from my childhood, Fiddler brought in a lot of new folks. Like, a LOT of new folks. And that was very good, don't get me wrong. But it also signaled a change in the direction WCT would be headed. Again, not bad, but the influx of involvement, especially from other men in the community, meant roles that had been opened to someone my age were not necessarily there anymore. Further, the WCT Board of Directors was gradually taken over by the man who'd first appeared on the Memorial Auditorium stage as Uncle Max in SoM. Fitting. Also fitting, Uncle Max and my father started to have some serious personality conflicts, and while my dad never discouraged me from acting with WCT, it no doubt still made my time there slightly less comfortable than it had used to be. Finally, Uncle Max started taking WCT in a more exclusively adult direction and less of a family-production vein. Not, like, X-rated or anything, but not really stuff the kids would follow. I had joined our Board as the youth representative, and I stayed active doing things like running crew for The Odd Couple and props manager for Steel Magnolias, but two significant things were changing here: first, WCT no longer "needed" me. Second, I was going into high school, and quite honestly, there wasn't a whole lot more growth I could get out of WCT.

We never "broke up," but we both realized it was time to start seeing other people ;-)

Oh, you remember how the other day I mentioned that my early WCT years were the first point in my life I ever believed I would be a professional actor someday? Well, this was the first time where I decided I would never do theatre for a profession. I knew the odds. I knew most people never made it. I knew I was a big fish in a small pond, and I figured, while I'd always love being involved, I would never, ever, ever put all my eggs in that basket, because that's a dream that, realistically, just didn't come true. And I wasn't being depressed or cynical about it, it just made sense.

Look at young me! Wasn't I the mature, rational little teenager!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Twenty-Two: The suspense continues....

I'm taking a break tonight from our "where I've been" series because I've got more important things to write.

Well, thing, really. Singular.

Tonight's Robbie-ism:

"Robbie Man! Daddy Man! Mommy's not a man."
"That's right, Mommy's not a man."
"Mommy a big boy!"

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Twenty-One: Them Early Years

It will be helpful at this point, I think, to give you a brief sketch of the town I grew up in. I know I've mentioned it and talked a little about it before on this blog, but I think it'll help you get a better picture of Wellington Community Theater if you have a better understanding of Wellington, Kansas.

Wellington is not a large town by any standards, but it's a fairly average size for small-town Kansas, and much larger than those population-three-to-six-hundred towns that you find all over the state. The population seems to be pretty steady at somewhere between 9,000 and 10,500. It's exactly halfway between the Wichita metro area (Wichita the largest city in Kansas and the metro the 2nd largest behind Kansas City, I believe) and the Oklahoma border. Neighboring towns lie 15 minutes away in just about any direction. It's half an hour from Wichita, so when any of the Wellington kids want to go to the closest big city that's where they go. However, to the south, east, and west of Wellington lie a number of smaller communities, so Wellington is sort of the "big" city and gets a lot of visitors because it has a bigger grocery store, or a better WalMart, or (from time to time) a movie theater.

Wellington is a football town. And, to a lesser extent, a baseball town. But for the most part, basketball, wrestling, and track are only there to keep the football players in shape year-round. Many of Wellington's residents are WHS alumni, so the entire town generally revolves around the high school during the school year and the wheat harvest during the summer. (Wellington is the seat of Sumner County, which produces more wheat than any county in the world, thus the nickname "What Capital of the World.")

So, you've got a small-town dynamic--everybody knows everybody, and there are two or three big families that just about everybody belongs to in some way or another--and a high school sports town that does have arts classes (band, choir, drama, visual arts) but they're treated more like extracurricular activities than disciplines. Furthermore, a large portion of your adult population is a product of this school system. Consequently, the local community theatre is very much in the minority, and while there was no animosity toward our group that I was aware of, we were generally not the hot ticket in town.

I was active with just about every WCT show from 1992-1999, whether I was in the show, on the crew, or laying out the program. (In retrospect, that's a skill I wish I would have kept up on) When I jumped on as a nine-year-old, the Board of Directors was a very dedicated group that stuck together and did pretty much everything. It was quite a few years before new faces really started stepping up and taking some initiative. Every show had pretty much the same cast, for a couple of years Connie directed everything herself (more because no one else would than because she wanted to), we were a really tight-knit group. My sister and I were essentially the child stars of WCT during this time. If the play called for a boy and a girl, it was she and I. The grown-ups loved us, and my sister was eventually the youth representative on the Board, a position I filled once she moved away to college.

The first show I did after The Nerd was The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which of course featured a large cast of children and church ladies. This was one of the best things to happen to WCT in my time there, as the kids' moms all stayed for rehearsals, and a lot of them became friends, and rather than individuals, families started to become the core group for WCT. We tried to do shows that could get a lot of people involved, and for a couple of years just about everybody who auditioned got into the show. (At this point, large cast meant about 20, by the way. That would change eventually, too)

We did fun shows for small houses. There was usually one around Christmas and one in the summer, and after awhile they started doing a dinner theater in the late winter that was smaller cast and adult-only, so I have very few memories of those shows. We had a blast. I definitely had a blast. My dad even got in on the action, playing the villainous Ebeneezer Humbug in the melodrama The Plight Before Christmas, featuring my older sister as the heroine. (I was too young for any of the roles; however, we put in a vaudevillians oleo routine between each act so that, again, we could get a lot of other people involved, so I did that. I also ended up learning everyone else's lines, so when somebody couldn't be at a rehearsal, I jumped on stage and filled in for them. There's video of me playing both the sheriff and the villain at the same time. They were still talking about that one years later)

I've recently learned not to be embarrassed by any of the dumb things you once though or did as a kid. You were a kid, you were dumb then, it's no big deal. Well, when you're a kid who craves an audience, and you've got a decent amount of talent, and you always get cast, and you have grown-ups telling you how great you are all the can guess. I got a bit of a big head. I actually tried really hard not to be arrogant, and I think I managed that more often than not, but really, I went into pretty much every audition expecting to get the role. And why not? The roles were generally handed to me. I don't point this out to rag on myself, but it's important because this was really only one of two points in my life where I believed I could be an actor when I grew up. (Only the thing was, at this point I believed I could be an actor RIGHT NOW if I got the right breaks. There were kids in movies, right?) It's significant because this was the first time where I entertained the possibility of being in theatre for the rest of my life.

Again, this was a very fun time, and it's probably a contributing factor to my life's trend of wanting to spend time with people older than I am as opposed to my peers. (This has lessened since college, but is still there to a degree) I've got so many fantastic memories of shows and people. I used to get a buzz every time I'd walk into the Memorial Auditorium. I actually still get a slight buzz when I drive past it. Next time I go back to Wellington I really need to walk around that old building again.

We did Cinderella. We did Breath of Spring. We did The Mousetrap. We did No Time for Heaven (which holds the distinction of being the only show I've done where the actors were so embarrassed by the show that they talked about conspiring to cancel the show a couple of days before it opened while standing at the top of a staircase...while the director stood at the bottom of the same staircase, grinding her teeth in the shadows). We did nice shows to our small, friendly audiences, with the same ten or so people in just about everything.

And then we went crazy.

And then we did something we'd never tried before.

And then we decided to stake everything--our present, our reputations, our very future as an organization--on one insane experiment in Wellington Community Theatre.

We decided to do....A MUSICAL!!!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Twenty: The First Audition

I have a friend who, when asked "How long have you been acting," always replies with something along the lines of "All my life!" Well, that's technically true of me, too, at least in the sense that she's using, but I don't like to count things like church pageants or plays and skits made up with my friends and sisters for our parents or the kids around the apartment complex I grew up in. I figure most/all kids do that sort of thing, at least to some extent, so I just count those memories as part of my childhood rather than part of my theatrical career.

Nevertheless, as I'm sure my mother will attest to, I was almost always seeking an audience as a child. I always wanted someone to hear me sing or watch me dance or videotape me telling lame jokes, after which I would dance. (It's true, my parents have still got the tape) What was needed was a place to channel this innate entertainer that lived within me, a form of structure that was outside the realm of my everyday experience where I could strut my stuff and spread my wings in an environment where my energy, enthusiasm, and creativity could be challenged to grow.

That opportunity came when I was nine. The Wellington Community Theater was holding auditions for an upcoming production of Larry Shue's The Nerd. Apparently they had planned this show for earlier in the year, but had to cancel for some reason, and when they started things back up the boy who was playing the only child's part decided he'd rather use the month or so of rehearsal time to play baseball. (I know this little detail because I found out much later that this other kid was none other than my best friend David from church. Who knew?) Therefore, there was an audition for the role of Thor, the terribly bratty son of architect Willum's boss, the inexplicably-named Warnock Waldgrave ("Ticky" to his friends). In Willum's best friend Axel's words, Thor was the "poster child for planned parenthood."

The details are fuzzy as to how I got involved in the audition for the role. I'm pretty sure my mom asked me if I wanted to do it, and I thought it sounded like fun and said sure. She may have read about the audition in the good old Wellington Daily News. More likely, however, she may have gotten wind about it from our landlady. You see, our landlady, a wonderful older lady named Connie, lived directly across the street from our house in Wellington. She also happened to be the President of WCT's Board of Directors at the time, and the audition was at her house. So it's entirely possible she asked my mom if I'd want to read for the role.

So, to recap: the opportunity was only available because the other kid (my best friend) dropped out, and the play was cast by my landlady (also Ms. Wellington Community Theater herself). Natch.

I believe there were two other boys at the reading audition. I read better than both of them, and I got the part. So, when people ask me when I started acting, there's my answer: 1992. Wellington Community Theater. The Nerd, by Larry Shue (one of my favorite plays, to this day)

The Nerd was directed by a college student from Southwestern in Winfield, about half an hour east of Wellington. In truth, there weren't many Wellingtonians involved in WCT at that point. I believe only one other cast member (of the 7 total) was from the Wheat Capital of the World. I don't remember a ton of details about the production process. I remember having a lot of fun. I remember all of the adults loving me and thinking I was really smart and talented and funny for someone my age. I remember eating up that sort of talk. I also remember the director asking me if I knew what the fourth wall was, and even though I didn't I was able to figure it out on my own, so he thought I was a dramatic theory prodigy.

I don't remember what sort of audiences we had for that show. In my mind, there were over a hundred people at every performance. My history with WCT tells me there were more likely 30-50. I really can't say. I do, however, remember VERY clearly that they all laughed. Every one of them. To 10-year-old me (the show was right after my birthday), it didn't matter how many people were in the audience; the laughter drowned out any awareness of the numbers my mind may have had.

I also remember watching the show from the wings of the Memorial Auditorium. (I don't know what the auditorium was memorializing; but I know every nook and cranny of that place after the hours I spent there) Thor is only in the first scene, so the lady who played my mother (Clelia Waldgrave) and I climbed up the steps--all the way to the THIRD STORY--and watched the show from high above the action. The laughter reached my ears all the way up there as I saw the show from a vantage point no one in the world except the actor beside me would ever share. I lived in both worlds.

It was magic. And when the show ended, I knew somehow that the magic was far from over.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Nineteen: Where I Came From (Prologue)

Time for a retrospective.

I've been thinking a lot lately about where I've been and how it's made me what I am today. I'm speaking artistically at the moment. More specifically, I'm thinking in terms of theatre. My journey to twenty-seven-year-old professional actor/director/playwright for Young Audiences has been crazy and awesome. I look back at the hundreds of different actors, directors, and techies I've met at every level--volunteer, educational, professional--and I realize I wouldn't have traded this journey for anything. Not the people, not the places, not the shows. Not even the lousy ones. And there have been some lousy ones.

I want to write all this out. I want to be forced to remember people and anecdotes and rehearsals and audiences. (Holy crap, I'm getting excited about this project just thinking about it!!!) I want to trace my career from the bratty Thor Waldgrave in Wellington Community Theater's The Nerd in 1992 to the guy who wrote and directed Hero Squad last February. How did that happen? How am I so blessed that, seventeen years after a hyper, attention-seeking kid got bitten by the bug (not TaDaa, I'm pretty sure TaDaa wasn't around then), I'm still doing this every day. Over one hundred productions later, it's still magic.

Basically, how on earth did I get here???

And I know and have learned that life's seasons change. There's a good chance I won't be doing this for the rest of my life. And that's scary/heartbreaking to think about. But I'm here now.

And I'm going to reach back and remember as many of the steps that brought me here as I possibly can.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Eighteen: Official-Unofficial WannabeWordslinger endorsement

I had a very lengthy, thoughtful, "meaty" post planned for tonight, which would have been a very nice change of pace for some of my readers, I know, I dunno exactly what happened to it. I think I just decided now was not the right time. Maybe later will be the right time. But for some reason, it wasn't tonight.

Instead, I'm going to go work on my next story. That means this post has to be short, but I want to hereby promote The Afters' CD Never Going Back to Okay as the unofficial album of the second book in what I think I will call the Red Dragon Cycle. (Book I: The Dragon's Herald, Book II: The Dragon Hunter, Book III:...actually, I'ma keep that title under wraps for now) I love, love, love this album. I like every song individually (even, on a good day, MySpace Girl), but the disc as a whole is far better than the sum of its parts. Quite unintentionally, every song has made some connection to a character or scene I've got planned for the next book. It's helped me hammer out what will be the main themes and how they'll dictate the surviving characters' lives through the final two chapters of this story arc. The last couple of songs practically wrote parts of the book for me. I'm really excited to see where this one goes.

So, in case your interest is peaked, I've put together a playlist of the whole thing on YouTube, you can have a listen if you like.

This has been an unofficial WBW endorsement/recommendation.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Seventeen: Banks

Exchange from this afternoon:

(Robbie comes running into the bedroom, where I am lying down)

Robbie: I talk to my bank, Daddy!

Me: Huh?

Robbie: I talk to my bank, Daddy.

Me: You talked to your bank?

Robbie: Yeah.

Me: What did your bank say?

Robbie: ... Werr werr.

Me: Werr werr? Is your bank a penguin?

Robbie: ........ Yeah.


(expect something longish tomorrow)

(I'm a little surprised that the spell check accepts "longish")

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Sixteen: Keys to a Great Evening

1) Home-cooked pork chops with green beans and rice.

2) First pre-season football game of the year (a win, no less)

3) Old-school Switchfoot on the iTunes

4) A wave starts to topple to the shore.

As Die Fleldermaus would say: "Aces!"

Friday, August 14, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Fifteen: Disasters

Okay, so I didn't want to talk about this yesterday for fear of jinxing something, but clearly it didn't work, soooo...

Every year, our anniversary has featured some disaster or another. For your consideration:

2006--Trip to San Antonio. The "romantic atmosphere" restaurant we booked is full to capacity and sticks us on a corner table by the kitchen. At least ten times, waiters run into my elbow as they walk by. The shuttle to the Riverwalk from our hotel takes corners and pothole-filled backroads waaay too quickly, and it's no wonder the back seat (where we're seated) smells very strongly of air freshener and vomit. The next day, we leave Sea World early because Kim is getting heat exhaustion.

2007--Too exhausted with a three-week-old baby to do anything, we order a pizza and stay in. A transformer blows somewhere underground, and our entire building loses power. We end up spending the night with Kim, Robbie, and I sleeping on some friends' pullout bed.

2008--Kim gets pulled over for having an expired state inspection sticker, and she ends up allergic to whatever she had at the fancy restaurant for dinner, thoroughly ruining the rest of her night.

2009--A step in the right direction! Monsoon yesterday more than triples my commute time home (remember, no AC in my car!) and what should be a two-hour errand today becomes four hours due to traffic, and accident on the highway, bad directions, and a detour that spits you out in the middle of nowhere. Get home ninety minutes late for our anniversary date. Also, very stressful light out this afternoon at the intersection of a major highway and a busy street at lunchtime culminates with a guy actually leaning out of his window to yell at me. Awesome.

Maybe next year I'll have a contest to see who can get closest to predicting the anniversary calamity! Fun and prizes!!!

(We still had a lovely night out tonight, for the record, so don't worry. We're laughing about it all ready)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Fourteen: 8/13

Four years ago today, I was married in the church I grew up in. I don't think I can explain exactly how special that was. My father-in-law officiated the service, Kim and I's families provided all the food, and Patrick Roy was on the groom's cake. (If I have one bit of advice for those planning to get married ever, it's this: make a list of photos you want long before the big day arrives, and do NOT deviate from that list. Take your pics, and get down to the reception to see your peeps) My sister was the musician, my sisters-in-law were the bridesmaids, and all of my best friends were either groomsmen or ushers. It was small, simple, and sweet. For us, it was close to perfect.

I really can't describe the last four years in a way that would do them justice here. (Which is fine, because I think that's the sort of sentiment that is not suited for this kind of setting) However, I would be remiss if, in three-hundred sixty-five days of blogging on everything from the death of Batman to creepy windmills to Hurricane Katrina, I did not state that I love my wife deeply, truly, and fully. She's done more for me than anyone I've ever met, and she's been the one who's challenged me to become everything that I have become in the almost-eight years we've known each other.

That's all I'll say on the matter to you, blog. It's my anniversary. I love my wife. And that's all you need to know :-)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Thirteen: This Here Thing Done Catched On!

I just want to use today's blog space to welcome my dear friend and kid sis Holly (or possibly Helena) to the world of 365 blogging. This is exciting, folks, because Holly knows people, and there's a good chance this thing will totally take off now. Why, within three years, there may be as many as EIGHT 365 blogs in existence, and then I'll be the answer to a trivial question! (Not trivia, mind you, but trivial) "What famous American children's dramatist started the phenomenon known as '365 Blogging?'"

That answer? Me. (So long as you ignore everybody out there who's been blogging daily for years. And believe me, I will ignore them)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Twelve: Ocean waves

(I swear, this is not random trivia, I'm going somewhere with this)

The majority of larger breaking waves best known to surfers and beach-goers are born from winds blown far off the coast. Waves crash, or break, when they encounter anything that disrupts the water's ability to maintain its cyclical course of movement affected by the speed and duration of the wind and the volume of water that is churning. As the wind blows at open sea, there is generally plenty of depth to allow the water to cycle, or loop, without interference, so you don't see many waves forming and breaking too far out from shore unless the wind gets violent, but they're still quite active. As the looping currents travel to shallower areas, eventually the space needed for the water to loop evenly becomes compromised by the rising ocean floor, and while the loop continues it becomes skewed, more of an elliptical orbit than a circular one. Due to the disruption of the balance, you can then see a bit of a rise of an oncoming wave at this point. The water that would be cycling unseen below is being forced up and over the (relatively) static level of the sea.

Eventually, as the ocean floor continues to rise and the water gets shallower (and this is affected by the water receding from the shore as well), the wave rises higher and higher until it is unstable--that is, the cyclical orbit cannot sustain the weight or shape of the visible wave, and like a building without a sufficient foundation, the wave becomes top heavy--crests--and dissipates, sometimes gently, often quickly and violently. ("Violently" relative to its size, of course. A twelve-inch waves crashing "violently" is perfect for playing with nieces or nephews in at the beach)

This, I've found, is generally how I write. When an idea forms, I don't generally take a ton of visible activity on it--I don't really do outlines or brainstorming sessions or anything on that nature. However, the story is always moving forward, churning through different possibilities in my mind, taking form in my spare thoughts. Cycling. I'll go over the same sequence again and again with different what if's each time. I know there's great value to outlining and making extensive notes, but every time I try to do one of those things, for some reason or other it just doesn't work. So instead, the idea cycles, silently, invisibly, for who knows how long, until it finally encounters something that causes it to crest. Seemingly within an instant, it has shape, form, identity, and it's coming quickly. The last four plays I wrote took a combined total of seven days of actual writing, once the writing began, and very few rewrites. The first draft of my novel also came obscenely quickly, for my first time, anyway. Admittedly, I had a deadline imposed on me for that one. Nevertheless, the constant in my writing the past two years has been that I don't have much of a traceable system or followable process; the story just cycles until it encounters some trigger, some shallow water that makes the cycling impossible to continue, and it crashes definitively to the shore, terrorizing any and all sand crabs in its way.

The next play is approaching shallow water. I don't know when it'll hit. Hopefully tomorrow or Thursday, before I start touring rehearsals, but I'd say almost certainly before the end of the month. A couple of stories--one another book, the others I'm not sure about--have picked up some wind and are cycling past the initial "churning in the ocean" stage and into the "headed toward the shore, forming the orbit that will become the wave" stage.

I'm not that great a writer. I'm fully aware of that. I think I'm developing into a pretty darn good storyteller, though. I like my stories, but more importantly, a LOT of people like my stories. One thing my recent reading project has reinforced in me is how much I LOVE a good story. I would rather read a great story than a great book. If a book can be both, then even better! Maybe one day I'll get to that point. Maybe I'll have to pick a medium if I ever want to get to that point.

As a latecomer to this particular beach, I don't pretend to have this shore figured out. Not in the least. In a lot of ways, I'm basically still wading. But one thing I've always loved about the ocean has been its endlessness. Characterized by unknowns and possibilities, almost intimidating in its sheer awesomeness. You could stare at it forever and never really take it in. Sometimes, I find it helpful to stare and try to get a feel for what's out there. Makes it a little less frightening to know which way the wind's blowing, you know?

The winds are good right now, my friends. Very good. Should make for some most excellent waves.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Eleven: Blasphemy

My OBU peeps may get a kick out of this one.

Then again, my OBU peeps may have all heard this one before.

Side note: I hate Peeps.

Anyway, I had to take a class on natural sciences while at OBU. I really loved the prof, and I really loved the material, yet somehow I hated every minute of the class, the reading, and the tests. I thought the stuff I was learning was really awesome, yet the process of learning it was nearly Comm Theory-unbearable.

Hang on, I gotta take a second to shudder at the memory of Comm Theory. I mean, was that class really required? Seriously?? Part of me thinks I must have made it up in the same dark part of my imagination that gave us the Urkali (the wolf-people, for those who've read the first draft of my book).

All right, back on topic: since this class was required for just about every non-science major on campus at the time (this was changed, I believe, a year after I took it), it was a large class, and most of the students didn't care. Therefore getting the class to settle down and pay attention at the beginning of the period often took a great deal of effort. The prof had a lapel mic to help project his voice over the dull roar that filled the smallish lecture hall, and he'd open each session with a scripture and, through the course of the lecture, show how he saw faith and scripture working together rather than against one another, only he did this totally not in the Kirk-Cameron-televised-debate-youtube-video-banana way, but a way that showed that this guy knew what he was talking about and what he believed, and you had to respect that. Well, unless you were just there to make fun of everything because it was a required class, and then you just weren't very respectful at all. But again, I digress. The point is, he opened with scripture, and there was a dull roar, so he usually had to repeat the first couple of words a few times before the kids started simmering down.

Example: "The fool says in his heart there is no God," becomes "The fool....the fool...THE FOOL SAYS in his heart..."

Well, one day I take my seat in the theare row (no, not in the back; we were actually toward the middle) and am pulling out my notes for the day when his voice comes booming over the speaker: "I am the Lord! I am the Lord! I am the Lord, everybody listen to me, I am the Lord!"

I turned to my friend with a bit of a puzzled expression and say, "I do believe this is the textbook definition of blasphemy."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Ten: Windmills

On my drive to Lubbock, just past Eastland, I ran into a field of wind-energy windmills. Several fields, actually. I've always thought those things looked a little creepy. Not terrifying, but mildly unsettling in that sci-fi sorta way.

Driving BACK through these multiple fields of renewable energy, I could not see the structures themselves because it was late at night and out in the middle of nowhere. We're talking pitch-black. What I could see were the little red lights, one on top of each windmill, to keep planes from flying into them.

Literally hundreds of little red lights. All of them blinking. In unison. Stretching for miles in every direction.

They're out there.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Nine: Crazy Eights

August 8th. 08/08. The day my wife and I bought our first new (used) car. (A 2008, no less). After I woke up at 8 a.m.

But wait, there's more.

The car has four wheels, and Kim believes the engine is a 4-cylinder. 4 + 4 = 8.

Furthermore, this upcoming Thursday will be our fourth anniversary. That means I've been married four years and Kim's been married four years. Once again, 4 + 4 = 8.

We had a large pizza from Papa John's for dinner. How many slices? 8. We went to HEB Central Market to get some cookies Robbie could eat for snack time at school. Two packages cost how much? About eight bucks. And then what did we do? You guessed it, we ate.

Eights everywhere. It's craaaaazy.

(Side note: for some reason, I have it in my head that this is the 21st anniversary of my family's move from California to Kansas. That would make the date 8/8/88. Yup. The day before Wayne Gretzky was traded to the L.A. Kings)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Eight: QvQ

Ah, the old "quality vs. quantity" argument.

Clearly, blogging every day for 365 days is a victory in the "quantity" department. Really, though, that's always been one of my hang-ups: I have trouble committing to a long-term project and seeing it through, even something as simple (and, yes, silly) as a 365 blog. I can do short, strenuous things (like NaNoWriMo) but just a little discipline for an extended period...

Anyway, that's why we get some lame posts. I need to see this through for the sole reason that I need to see it through. Nothing else.

And for that reason alone, this post is a victory. Even if it isn't interesting.

What? I never said I'd be interesting, or that you had to read ;-)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Seven: J.R. and Teppo

This week, hockey is losing two of this generation's best: one of this generation's most electrifying players, and one of this generation's best hockey names. (Though I suppose it's about time to start calling the guys who're close to hitting 40 "last" generation as opposed to "this")

Jeremy Roenick is calling it quits tomorrow. Again. For real. He's one of the very best modern players to never win a Cup. Came pretty close a couple of times, but just never quite there. He's a loony tune, which means he'll probably go into broadcasting, though he's had a couple of bit parts on network television crime dramas before, so maybe he'll be an actor instead. Everybody thought him going to LA was going to be the perfect fit, like French fries with chicken mcnuggets. Instead, the only thing anyone remembers about that year is Dancin' Jeremy. Which, truth be told, is pretty awesome and worth remembering.

Nevertheless: early-to-mid-1990s Jeremy Roenick = awesome. Best of luck, J.R.

Hockey is also losing 40-year-old defensamen Teppo Numminen. Seriously. Teppo. Teppo!

Okay, I don't want to make fun of Teppo's name too much, because it's a perfectly common name overseas, and because he was a steady, serviceable NHL d-man for something like 20 years. The last player from the 1986 draft to retire from the NHL. Also noteworthy: the guy's courage. In 2007, Numminen went under the knife: open-heart surgery to repair a faulty valve. I remember when this happened, it was pretty scary. Numminen fought all the way back through rehab to play the last game of the year and one more complete season with Buffalo before calling it quits. All class, all heart, all work, all at once.

Stick taps to both JR and Teppo. (That sounds like a great children's series... JR and Teppo Go Exploring. JR and Teppo Go to the Circus. JR and Teppo's Bogus Journey. JR and Teppo Try Out for a Play. And for some reason, I'm seeing JR and Teppo as fish...meh. We'll look into this later)

*tap tap tap*

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Six: But it wasn't a rock...

Last night, a threat to feed Tarvis to Humboldt squids led to a Wikiquest that ended up with me learning an awful lot about globsters.

A globster is basically any blob of animal tissue that washes up on the beach with no distinguishable features or bone structure, making it difficult to identify. (There are, as of yet, no records of a live globster sighting, which is unfortunate) DNA tests later reveal that most globsters are decaying whale carcasses.

Yeah. Sure they are.

There is also a list of famous globsters. Um, I'd work on my definition of "famous," because I'll bet if I took a poll of the next 50 people I interact with, none of them will have heard of the infamous Hebrides Blob of 1990.

Disappointing: the Four Mile Globster. (Hint: it's nowhere near four miles long)

American researcher Charles Fort claimed that the truth about globsters has been covered up by popular science and world governments, and that their discovery is actually evidence of supernatural forces at work in our world. (You can read all about it in his cheerfully-named The Book of the Damned, which I'm tempted to add to my reading list, but as it's already sixty books long and I have fifty-eight to go, Fort may have to wait for the next go-round)

So now you know a little bit about globsters. (Who's up for writing an awesome Globster short story/novel/stage musical with me???)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Five: Smokescreen

So today, good friend and loyal WBW reader J-Hatch brought back some souvenirs from his trip to Alabama for me. Well, technically, he brought them back with him, like, yesterday or the day before, and he gave them to me today. It's a minor difference, but it's a difference.

Today's prize was three Marvel comic books from the year of my birth, two Transformers and one precursor to the modern day epic summer comic crossover event genre: a one-shot in which Spider-Man, Storm (of X-Men fame), and Power Man (now known simply as Luke Cage) team up to save a high school track star from making destructive life choices, as young Bret has started staying out late, neglecting his homework, and smoking! Little do Bret, Spidey, Luke, or Storm know, Bret's poor choices are being perpetuated by an illegal gambling ring that has a bet on the big state track meet and needs Bret to lose the big race. The mastermind of this scheme is none other than the villainous genius Smokescreen, a bad guy in black tights with gold armbands and a logo that features a silver "SS" interlocked in a Mario Bros.-esque cloud shape on his chest. Smokescreen captures Storm by suffocating her with harmful second hand smoke, but then she wakes up and escapes. Bret loses the race due to poor conditioning, and then the good guys beat up Smokescreen's gang, and the character Smokescreen is never heard from again.

Oops. Spoilers.

Oddly enough, there is a heroic character in the Transformers series named Smokescreen. See? It all comes around eventually.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Four: Families love you

As you're already aware, I spent a vast majority of this weekend out of town, having a fantastic time. My leaving town is not generally that big of a deal, BUT I did choose the one weekend when Robbie was going to become violently ill and cranky. When I talked to Kim around 5 p.m. on Saturday, the poor child had already thrown up four times that day. And he wasn't done, either!

Needless to say, I got home as quickly as I could Sunday, and everyone was glad to see one another, because as much as I enjoy most of my out-of-town trips, I will freely admit that I do not like leaving my family at home. I know, I know, big softie.

Anyway, this is one reason coming home to your family is awesome: you get to have exchanges like this:

W: I missed you.
K: I missed you, too.
W: Yeah, but I missed you while I was having a great time. You missed me while cleaning up a vomiting child.
K: ....I missed you before he started vomiting...

Anyway, good to be home, good to be back to work and to welcome a friend into the company, and I'm already a tad behind on the week, so I'd better go. (Coming soon: the awesomeness that is driving from Houston to Lubbock and back!)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Three: WikiQuest

Sometimes, when I get bored, I look up some passing curiosity on Wikipedia, and then just keep following links within the article that interest me as I delve deeper into trivial pursuit.

Try it sometime.

If you need someplace interesting to start, try the summer Olympics. Did you know that rope climbing used to be a part of the gymnastics competition? Did you know that the U.S. has only won one men's team handball match in Olympic history? Did you know that the only time the U.S. received a medal in lacrosse was in 1908 (a silver; there were only two teams competing)? The trivia never ends!

Also highly amusing/informative: "2012 doomsday prediction," and oh, the places you'll go! I tried this one night and ended up finding that Asylum Entertainment (makers of Megashark vs. Giant Octopus) apparently have a faith-related branch. (I eventually ended up on the page about Candace Cameron, incidentally)

If you're a fan of random trivia, this is your kind of time-killer.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Two: Festival Wrap

Mmmm....Festival Wrap. Sounds like a tasty Taco Bell treat...

(Side note: Eastland is a ghost town at 1:20 a.m. on a Saturday)

As promised, here's today's short recap of the Cordell Green New Plays Festival:

First off, I really like CATS Theatre. I like their mission, I liked the people that I met, I loved the passion and enthusiasm vibes I got all day while I was there. So, yay CATS.

Second, I think it's worth noting that mine was the only TYA selection in the top six. (And it's hard to compete with things like cancer and romantic comedy when you're writing a kids' fairy tale!)

Third, well, that's where I finished. Third. No cash prize, no production next season.

However, everybody that I talked to seemed to REALLY like the play. I loved getting to meet the kids in the cast (and a couple of the moms, too, who I hung out at Chik Fil A with for dinner). I was impressed by the number of admitted non-Christians who loved the show given it's decided Christian influence and language. (What's this? An example of blatantly Christian art finding acceptance based on its artistic merit? Somebody needs to get on this idea, stat!) I think I made some good contact/relationships up there, and hopefully it'll lead to come productions or other collaborations in the seasons to come.

The festival was a lot of fun. I got to catch three of the other five plays (and from what I heard, I didn't miss much in one of the two that I didn't catch, though I did miss the winning play, of course). Really, really, really had a blast and am glad I was able to come.

Okay, also really 1:40 a.m. now, and I really have to drive 6 hours to get home tomorrow, so I really have to cut this short. (In fairness, you can't really be that disappointed; I warned you yesterday this would probably happen)