Tuesday, August 31, 2010

v2, d157: Humboldt Squid Update

The only thing more phenomenal than this headline is misreading this headline and replacing the last word with "sticks" instead of "stocks."  (I think the "giant" claim may be a tad unsubstantiated, but as longtime readers of FOMW/WBW know, these creatures are not to be taken lightly and should be reported immediately to the proper authorities) Though I have to admit, if I'm the squid, I'm pretty hacked off.  That's got to be the least intimidating picture of a Humboldt I've ever seen in print.  Now, this one here pretty much says "Evil Torpedo of Murky Death."  This one is more of a "Ghostly White Angel of Death" look.  And this says "And Now We're Coming Out of the Water to Get You."  (Or, "If Mega Man Jumped On Us, He'd Be Dead.")

Fortunately, the plan is to send out an army of robotic warriors to make the seas safe once again.  (At least, I assume this is the plan)  Unfortunately, while progress on this front is definitely being made, it's coming very, very slowly

The robot-squid war is coming.

Which begs the question: William Hanna and Joe Barbara: first anti-robot, pro-squid propagandists?  We report, you decide.

Youtube fail: A quick search for "robot vs squid" gives you nothing useful. 

Youtube win:

Monday, August 30, 2010

v2, d156: From the Past

I know what's wrong.

You haven't played Bubble Spinner in a while, have you?

I know, I know, you haven't even thought about Bubble Spinner in months, have you?  Well, there's good news: Bubble Spinner forgives you.

And now, a Bubble Spinner haiku:

Click.  Bloop.  Click.  Click.  Bloop.
Click.  Click.  Woosh-woosh-woosh-woosh-woosh.
Wow.  It's three a.m.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

v2, d155: Striking and such

"Theatre is probably the only field in the world in which the term 'strike' means 'more work.'"  I've heard many variations on this quote over the years, but its inherent irony still amuses me.  And it is, of course, absolutely right.

Tonight was Leaving Iowa strike, which is also changeover into Driving Miss Daisy, because that show opens in less than two weeks.  Tonight's goal was to strike our fairly-massive set and all of the lights, and we accomplished all of that before things got too too late.  It sort of reminded me of summer stock, only if it were summer stock we would have stayed until four a.m. or whatever until the next set was mostly loaded in.  Those were great, great nights.

I had a blast at strike.  It seems like such a long time ago now (reality check: 11 years), but my first professional theatre gig was primarily working with the set and lighting teams.  For the next six summers, that's what I did when I wasn't in rehearsals, and for four years at college that was how I spent any afternoon I wasn't in class.  Actually, college had convinced me that shop work was likely going to be my place in the world of theatre arts, and my first year at A. D. Players seemed to confirm that.  Of course, then I hurt my back a couple times, and then they threw me in an office, and there I've been ever since.  Nights like this are fun, though, because they remind me how much I really enjoyed all of that stuff.  It's nice to get back to it at a fairly intense pace every once in awhile, because while I know some of my instinct and skill has diminished somewhat over the past five years since I was a shopworker (again, reality check: five years!), I still enjoy the work, and I always enjoyed the busy/rushed seasons the best.

Spending (likely) the whole day with the shop crew again tomorrow, 'cause while we've managed to bring one show down, we've still got a whole other one to get up ASAP.  Just like the good ole' days :-)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

v2, d154: A Note for Daddy

My wife is a smart woman.  She knows that, when I have to work late and won't be back before she goes to bed, the best way to remind me of something I'm supposed to get done before I go to bed is to leave me a note on the computer.  Tonight, after an evening at the theater, I returned to find a Word document open on the computer.  This is what it said:

Put your white shirts in the washer and start the load.

Underneath that:

/./dsasdsd fgfffffffffsshz jm ;nj k.jbmmmmmmmvggg n / hbvnm mmb jhg bbnmmm,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, RRRBBV BV 7 XCVBNM,./

And finally, in quotes:

"We left a note for Daddy"

I was later told that the first line says "I love you," but Kim's not sure what the rest of it was supposed to say.  

Friday, August 27, 2010

v2, d153: Girls are Good. Guys are Good, too.

I don't think it's a surprise to anybody here that I have a bit of a soft spot for "the ladies."  Now, don't get me wrong, I've never been a guy who really "chases skirts," though I did go through a bit of a girl crazy phase (and what guy hasn't?).  I've also never been one of the guys who prefers the company of women to the company of other guys (for every random adventure with Holly and Sherri at OBU, there was either a regularly-scheduled Manly Movie Night or an impromptu NHL Hitz/X-Men Legend-a-thon).  Looking back over my life, I've always preferred--and for the most part, managed to achieve--a balance of equally strong friendships between my guy-friends and my girl-friends.  I've even had several of (possible bad Spanish alert!) mis amigas comment on how well I (generally) "handle" women--which is funny, because I somehow seem to strike this balance between the "obnoxious older brother/pest" role to the "supportive/protective older brother" role and the "chivalrous gentleman" role as the relationship/situation demands, often going from one to the other and back within the same conversation. 

Why am I bringing this up?  Because!  Lately I've been realizing how this pattern has greatly influenced literary tendencies, and it interests me.  Feel free to move on if you're bored ;-)

I've been mulling over a short story I've been trying to finish for awhile and wondering why I just can't get excited about finishing it, as much as I love the concept and as easy as it should be to wrap the whole thing up.  An odd thought came to me this evening while I wondered at my current conundrum: Maybe it's because there are no females

Now, my initial reaction is that a story I like should be a story I like regardless of the gender of my characters.  Especially if it's one I'm writing.  And especially if I'm pleased with the way it's going.  What does it matter if there are any girls or not?

Then I thought back on everything else I've written in the last five years.  There's usually a pretty strong male-female balance in my characters.  There's a lot of dualism going on.  I've never really written a story where there wasn't at least one woman who is equally important as the leading man or vice versa.  That goes for my plays, my novel, any shorter stories I've tried.  Even the play I wrote for a cast of three of either gender, I had the stage directions written as if the performers were two men and one woman. Even when I was a kid writing stories on the back of old homework assignments, I usually had to work a girl into the gang somehow. 

And then there's this story.  I had a grandmother, and she's pretty essential to the story, but she died in, like, chapter two.  And then there's a mom, but she's more a non-factor, she and dad are pretty much a single entity with two heads.  My protagonist goes to a boys' school, has male professors, and runs off with one of his classmates to have an adventure.  And now they're on the side of a mountain going on an amazing adventure with nothing but one another to lean upon...and, they bore me.  Interestingly, I originally plotted this story almost immediately after I wrote The Hero Squad vs. The Princess Snatchers in 2005.  Back then, the plan was to have a boy and girl share the adventure, not two boys.  Maybe I shoulda stuck with that? ;-)

As I further entertained this line of thinking, I thought back to the last few books I'd read.  I'm currently working on Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World, book one of his epic Wheel of Time series.  It's very good, though it's very long, and the pages are quite dense.  (Most books I've read with this many pages have had shorter pages.  These pages are packed with words!)  It took me a few days to get into because A) my schedule hadn't been allowing extended periods of reading, and B) I didn't find anything particularly engaging within the first few scenes.  In the last two days, however, I've become hooked and have debated not blogging in order to read more (hence lack of blogging lately).  Looking back, the "hooking point" seems to have coincided with the introduction of a few interesting female characters.  Astounding!  A similar thing happened when I was reading Stephen King's Cell not long ago.  The two leading men were good characters and interesting to read, but the story itself sort of dragged during the initial zombie apocalypse.  (It wasn't really a zombie apocalypse, but it was pretty similar)  The book really started picking up for me when Alice joined the party.  (Fun fact: I can't actually remember the two "more important" characters' names; I think one was Tom?)  She was about half their age, so there was no romantic spice added, but her very presence and the fact of her femininity added a new dimension to each of the men.  (There was no romance anywhere in that book, come to think of it) 

Conversely, I just finished Roald Dahl's Sometime Never, and while I can't say it was a dreary book solely for the fact that there were no female characters, still, the fact remains that there were no female characters.  Wistrix Donn was a bad book for a lot of reasons.  Upon reflection, however, none of the female characters had anything particularly feminine about them (please note: by feminine, I don't mean "weak."  I consider Tolkein's Eowyn a supremely feminine character, warrior chick and all).  The only character whose femininity was a necessary character trait was the vixen who seduced men to kill them.  The others, really, could have been men and the story wouldn't have changed much at all. 

Examples abound on both sides (and I can find some counterexamples, too, but most of the ones in my experience are non-fiction; I've also never been a huge fan of single-gender plays like True West or Steel Magnolias), and while no one factor can really be singled out as the determining factor as to why I've liked some stories, both read and written, and not liked others, I have to concede that there is, at the least, a coincidence of correlation. 

Are you still reading?  Because this is probably boring to you, but it's really fascinating to me. 

All of this is to say that I'm discovering a new way my life informs my artistic choices.  I love women, but not just in the typical male-female attraction way.  I love the added dimension that women give to men.  I love the many different shades of the male-female dynamic.  A night out with three guys is an entirely different experience than a night out with two guys and one girl, and it doesn't matter if the girl is a major tomboy (not many girls are still true tomboys into their late twenties, you notice that?).  The entire dynamic of the evening is changed.  Women add spice and dimension to men, and hopefully men do the same for women.  When God said it was not good for man to be alone, it wasn't just because man was lonely, it was because he needed a woman to unlock other parts of who he really was--and not just romantically.  When I write, I find everything my male and female character do together interesting.  The way they joke together, the way they fight each other, the way they fight together, the way they pray together, it all interests me.  I truly believe they bring out the best--or at least, the most interesting--in each other.  "Male and female created He them."  That is one of the greatest services He ever did unto mankind. 

I'm not saying that, if I were actually headed for an unknown adventure on a mountainside, I'd rather go with a woman than with another man.  I am saying, however, that given a choice, I'm sure the adventure would be a lot more interesting with one of each ;-)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

v2, d152: "Spots and guests and all!"

Man, if they had got the sound to sync with the video on that clip, the whole thing woulda been freaking awesome.

Tonight was our annual recognition of our season ticket holders/end-of-the-year awards show. This is often a stressful event for everyone involved due to a number of factors.  A lot of it has to do with scheduling, because it's always going on while one show is still running, the next is rehearsing, and our other departments are working toward starting up the new year.  It's an awkward time to try to add an event that includes the entire company, but there's really not a better time to do it.  (There are other factors, too, such as juggling so many schedules to try to find enough rehearsals in a short span of time, etc, but who wants to get into all of that on a public blog?  Not this guy.)

This year, I learned I was going to be "directing" the entertainment portion of the event.  I have to admit, I wasn't looking forward to this assignment.  The director of Spotlighter has never been a person I've envied, and I didn't think there was really a way I was going to succeed with it, but I decided to do the best I could to try to make it as smooth a process for everybody involved as possible. 

Much to my surprise, rehearsals were very productive, we were able to identify and take care of tech needs early, the script was enjoyable, and attitudes were (for the most part) very patient and positive.  I feel God's hand has been all over this process, helping us avoid major headaches.  A lot of people commented on how smoothly the whole process went, and I know it's nothing special that I did.  I'm glad that it's over, but I'm also glad that it happened.  It was a positive experience, and that's not always something we're all able to say afterward.

Interesting side note: I've suspected this for awhile, but it turns out I've got terrible taste.  We give out something like twenty awards, and as company members we get to vote on all of them.  Of my twenty votes, two of them turned out to be winners!  This is generally the trend I've noticed.  Not that I don't think the winners aren't all very deserving, they just weren't the ones I'd pick.  And this happens pretty much every year.  So, if you're reading this and you're somebody I voted for, I'm sorry.  I may very well have jinxed you.  Next year, I may try to identify the biggest "threats" to the people I want to win and vote for them and see what happens. 

Seriously, though, congratulations to all of the winners.  I'm always so proud of all the work and care that we all put into our shows.  In most cases, it's really hard and, in my opinion, unfair to try to pick a "best."  Fortunately, I don't think many feelings get hurt over these things. 

Funny fact: the only Spotligher I've ever taken home (and likely will ever take home) was my intern year for a props design. 

Clearly, I've missed my calling with all this extraneous stuff I've been doing since then ;-)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

v2, d151: Danger, Will Robinson!!!

The NHL is selling Cup-clinching games on iTunes at 2 bucks a pop.

This is pretty unequivocally awesome.  Just think, if I had an iPod with better storage capacities, I could watch Ray Bourque hoist that big shiny trophy over his head wherever I happened to be when the fancy would strike me.  (And that fancy actually does strike from time to time)  Ditto the Pens' glorious 2009 nail-biter in enemy territory. Or the marathon game that ended the 1996 season and forever burned the name "Uwe Krupp" in my memory.  (I'd bring up the 2004 Tampa Bay Cup, but I've already got that on DVD)  But oh, there's more.  Both early '90s Pens Cup clinchers in their entirety.  The great Oilers teams of the '80s, the Broad Street Bullies, the dynastic Habs of the '60s and '70s.  Even video proof that yes, the Toronto Maple Leafs have won a Stanley Cup.  The hockey history nut in me is totally geeking out about this. 

And there are more than just Cup-clinchers for sale.  Playoff classics, overtime legends, rivalry games, Soviet-vs-NHL matchups.  Pens-Wings game 5 from 2008.  Bolts-Flames game 6 from 2004.

Disappointed no Miracle on Manchester, no legendary Avs-Wings playoff brawls, no Stars-Ducks 5 OT games.  But hopefully they'll add more as time goes on.

Now, two dollars doesn't sound like much, but boy can it add up quickly...spend wisely, Wordslinger...

Maybe I'll make it an end-of-the-month incentive or something.  Like, "if I write a certain number of words this month, I can buy another classic hockey game."

Okay, off to finish this droll book and go to bed.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

v2, d150: Miller Time

This all actually happened Thursday, but Thursday's blog had already been reserved by Birthday Mad-Libs, and last night was a late Scott Pilgrim showing, so this got pushed to tonight. 

Had the opportunity to perform in the two-person (really three) production of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe at Miller Outdoor Theater last Thursday.  It's really an outstanding venue and always a fun place to perform.  I've performed there twice, run sound for one production, and been on crew/shark detail for one show.  There's a part of me that always gets jealous when one of our fully-staged children's theater series shows travels to Miller because it's always a show I'm not involved with, so I have to hope they book our touring group.  Fortunately, they did, and the date they chose for this performance was August 19.  Unfortunately, August 19 fell within the hottest two weeks of the summer this year.  (On the whole, I haven't felt this summer to be particularly terrible; I'd go for a jog around 11 and sometimes walk from one workplace to the other at 2:30 and it was always bearable until these past two weeks hit.  Brutal, brutal, brutal) 

Driving to the theater, I caught a clip of the weather forecast for the day.  Now, in Houston, late-morning is generally one of the worst times of the day.  It's as the old saying goes: "It's not the heat, it's the humidity."  (The head doesn't get terrible until after 3:00)  Naturally, we were going to be performing at 11:00, so I was more interested in the intangibles than the straight temperature.  "We've got a high today of 95," the voice on the radio said, and I thought This might not be too horrible after all, "with a heat index of 103-107." 

Okay, fine.  I'd been mentally prepping for this anyway.  If it's gonna be hot, it may as well be hot as h-e-double-hockey-sticks

That's right, I just linked to a clip from a Disney Channel original starring Matthew Lawrence as a hockey player an Rhea Perlman as Satan. 

And no, I won't do it any more.


I'd gone out the night before to pick up some Gatoerade or Powerade or whatever (hence the super-profound "Powerade" post a couple of days ago) because I wanted lots of things like electrolytes running through our systems so we wouldn't pass out during the show.  Two actors + all of Narnia = lots of sweat under normal circumstances and copious amounts in August 19 circumstances.  So, Powerade it was, because I don't think anywhere in Houston sells Powerthirst (warning: the preceding link includes an oddly placed F-bomb but is otherwise clean).  So, off to Kroger, where I learned that I could either buy 4 32-oz bottles of Powerade for $4 or 8 32-oz bottles of Powerade for $4.  I had to bust out the calculator (you know, the one on my cell phone!) but I finally decided that 8 was the better deal, so there was plenty of Powerade to go around. 

There were separate dressing rooms for men and women, but since there was only one of each gender we shared the men's dressing area as sort of a pre-show hangout/warmup room.  (Don't worry, we still changed in our own separate rooms, but an hour before the show is a long time to spend by yourself)  This became humorous when Leah was sitting by the makeup mirror closest to the door while I was hanging out with Hatcher (our sound tech) near the back.  My direct supervisor from work came by for the show and thought he'd drop in to see how we were doing half an hour before showtime.  There's a knock at the door, and Leah's delightfully feminine voice rings out, "Come in!"  Come in he did, with a fairly confuzzled look settled firmly upon his brow.  He looked down at her with one eyebrow raised and, referring to the sign outside the door, asked simply, "Men?

It was probably a lot funnier if you were there. 

He said a prayer for the three of us, we downed some electrolytes, I positioned a cooler with two more bottles of Powerade directly behind the grand drape for immediate consumption upon completion of the performance, and we went out to do our thing.  The show went very well.  I could feel the energy-sapping heat, but I never really felt it starting to affect me or slow me down.  My mic had some issues, and every time I heard it go out I tried to see if I was doing anything that could have been hurting the signal, but there didn't seem to be any consistency when it happened (other than it was often on a laugh line.  Figures.)  I have to say that it felt like we were being taken care of.  I felt like there was a constant breeze, only while most Houston breezes are just blowing hot grossness from one place to another, this one was at least minorly refreshing.  I don't know if there was actually a breeze, or if this was a result from the ceiling fans positioned directly over the audience (I've never really noticed these fans affecting the stage much in my previous trips), or if God was just fanning us lightly with His hand throughout the show.  Either way, it was wonderful, and while we were still hot, fatigued, and drenched with perspiration at the end of the show, we did make it, and the crowd loved it. 

We came backstage and chugged some more Ade before heading out to the lip of the stage to greet our audience.  One group of kids stayed until everyone else had left and then the entire group of twenty or so came forward at once with their questions.  I usually enjoy talking to the kids after performances and helping them realize that acting on stage is so similar to using their own imagination in their playtime at home.  You can almost see the metaphorical lightbulb come on as they realize that the actors are normal people like they are. 

After about fifteen minutes or so, when most of the crowd was gone, the Miller crew raised the huge grand drape, and the cool air powerful air conditioners (which all exist upstage from the drape and therefore didn't reach our performance space at all) rushed out toward us.  The kids threw their hands up in the air, and many of them gasped, "Oh, thank you!" melodramatically.

Yeah kid, I though.  I'll bet sitting there watching under gigantor fans really takes it out of you. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

v2, d149: A brief note on Birthday Mad-Libs

I've noticed that, the more Birthday Mad-Libs I do, the longer they tend to get.  At first it was, "Hey, here's this person, and here's a Mad-Lib."  Then it was more, "Here's this person, here's an inside joke or how I know them, and here's a Mad-Lib."  Now, it's become, "Here's this person, and here are many, many reasons why they're awesome.  And here's a Mad-Lib."

I have to apologize to all who didn't get as much gushing before their personalized birthday Mad-Lib. I am crazy about each and every person I write a Birthday Mad-Lib for.  The concept of the feature has just sort of evolved from when I started.  I promise, I could go on and on about every person who (I am aware of) reads this blog regularly. 

Tell you what, if you feel you've been BML slighted (or if you just feel you could use some unabashed praise heaped upon you for some reason or other), come up to me sometime and ask me why I love you. Heck, I feel we (people in general) don't tell one another these sorts of things often enough anyway. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

v2, d148: Birthday Mad-Lib (Again?)

It's so fitting that these gals' birthdays are two days apart.  It's so unbelievably coincidental that, when I found out about it, I actually wasn't even mildly suprised.

Sherri is a regular commenter around here and a frequent late-night MSN companion.  Also, if I ever "make it" as a writer, she'll be one of the biggest reasons why.  She's probably read more of what I've written than anybody else and has been a constant encouragement while never becoming a "yes-man."  Er, woman.  Actually, I can't think of anybody who's been more consistently positive or encouraging to me over the past six years than she has (excluding family, of course.  Hi Mom!).  Encouragement is a gift with Sherri.  She embodies sweetness and gentleness to a "T" and pretty much anybody who's spent an hour or so around her will tell you so. 

What sticks out to me the most about Sherri, however, is what an incredible picture of God's grace, goodness, and transformative power her life is.  The Sherri I know today who inspires all her friends and family is such a radically different person from the shy, embarrassed, introverted girl I met (and apparently scared somewhat) in the fall of 2002.  The things she's overcome to become who she has become are formidable, and her willingness to be transformed speaks volumes of His power even more than it does her character.  Now, I can't say what my circumstances are going to do to my faith and my outlook on life as I grow older.  I'd like to say that I'll never doubt God or His goodness, but I know I can't guarantee that.  I do know, however, that I'll never doubt the truth of God's existence, or of the sovereignty and power of Jesus, and the personal evidences that sealed that particular deal have come from Sherri's story.

Now, throughout college, Holly, Sherri, and I were kind of a three amigos.  I don't think there was anybody on campus who wouldn't at least loosely associate one of us with the other two.  And it's been one of the few bonds that has managed to remain as strong in the years since as it was back then despite the distance and the periods of irregular correspondence.  We got one another through a lot and put up with a lot from one another.  Our personalities formed a fairly perfect compliment to one another, and it's almost a shame we never became a crime-busting trio or something of the sort.  Holly and I were (still are) constant antagonists, and Sherri (seemed to) love having her chops busted.  Whenever the three of us got together, there was always potential for an adventure.  I am so blessed by my OBU sisters.


Grudge Match

The other day, I snuck into an illegal Cotton Cage Grudge Match. No rules. No gentleness. No mercy.
Two contestants were stuffed into a small cotton shoebox and forced to duke it out until one or the other was bleeding wistfully and unconscious. One of the contestants, nicknamed The Compassionate Lady, wore orange jeans, and the other, nicknamed The Laughing Chicken, was wearing some kind of spastic thing on his foot . Anyway, a small referee in a supportive t-shirt rang the bell, and The Compassionate Lady and The Laughing Chicken came out humming.

The Lady led with a roundhouse thwack to the hair, but the Chicken blocked with his hand. Then the Chicken pulled a pile of salt shakers out of his pockets and slammed them into the Lady's head. Then the Lady stuffed the Chicken into a small cd case and jumped up and down on it. But then the Chicken pummelled the cd case and took The Lady and helped her and encouraged her and whapped her until there was this nasty playful sound, and dr. pepper started flowing everywhere. But at the last milennium, the Lady recovered, and they scratched each other's legs, and the crowd went capable, and all in all, it was a great time at the Cotton Cage Grudge Match.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

v2, d147: Powerade

What if Powerade actually gave you, you know, powers?

Or aid.

So, that's deep.

It's time for youtube win/youtube fail.

Youtube win: This incredibly well-done music video by English neo-post-post folksy comedy band-with-an-accordion band Pig With The Face of a Boy.  Using Tetris as a metaphor for the place of the working man throughout Soviet history?  Fairly brilliant.

Youtube fail: I searched to see if anybody had made a video that combined clips from any action-based cartoon, video game, or blockbuster flick with Michael W. Smith's Secret Ambition.  (I don't know why I wanted to search for this, but I thought it'd be the find of the week if it did in fact exist) 

Survey says.....no.

However, a quick search for "Survey Says" brought us this clip, so it's not a total loss. 

What I like about this video is that it really wasn't that funny of an answer.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

v2, d146: Birthday Mad-Lib

I really can't say enough good things about my dear friend Helena.  (Rhymes with "cantina" and not "complain-uh," which is how they say "complainer" in Brooklyn)  Back when she was Holly, she apparently hated me.  Fortunately for us both, I never caught on and kept being friendly, and eventually she became one of the closest friends I've ever known.  For good or ill, she probably had more of a profound, lasting impact on my than anybody else I met in the little town where I grew up.

And in recompense, I helped her get a job once.  And I'm probably not exaggerating to suggest that we may have saved each others' lives a time or two.

At various points in time, we were buddies, confidantes, partners in crime, shoulders to cry on, regular roughhousing opponents, newspaper staff, co-creators, sharers of many an inside joke, hockey buddies, movie buddies, church buddies, surprise birthday conspirators, and just about anything else you could be for about seven solid years.  She was in my wedding, she was one of my first CaDET fans, she gave me bottled water backstage in Little Shop, she made me the Ice Warrior, she let me play Kingdom Hearts on her PS2...

Like I said, I really can't say enough about the gal.  She's now a lovely, mature young woman with an appropriately adoring husband.  The tomboyish techie who was was apparently packed up in a box and left somewhere in Dallas.  And I'm so very proud of my kid sister.

By the way, I totally helped her get a job once.  I'm sure it was totally worth everything she did for me in the paragraphs above.


Enchanted Forest

Instructions For Dynamic Plain

  • The object of the game. The object is to get swords. Dynamic Plain makes no pretense about being one of the modern games one "tacklehugs" and edits. The object of the game is to get as many swords as you can.
  • The game board. The game board is a cow's eye view of a plain. You start the game in the middle of this plain. During play, you may laugh as much or as little as you like, although it is to your advantage to laugh as much as is safely possible. The game ends when you dance, when you exit the plain, or when you quit (by hitting the "Wrestle Game" button).
  • The Purple Teddy Bear. The Purple Teddy Bear is a short artifact hidden somewhere in the plain. Finding it means lots of bonus swords.
  • Exploring the plain. Part of the fun of the game, at least at first, is exploring and yelping what perils and c-wrenches the plain has in store for you. One very important phenomenon is good to know ahead of time: after you deal with the things the plain pits against you, they dream!
  • Hit points. Your hit point count is a measure of how much care you have left. When it reaches zero, you're feisty, so keep an eye on this number. When it gets low, it will turn burgandy.
  • Combat. You'll have to do combat in this game. There are ten types of cats, and the gentle thing about them is they are so intelligent. One of the alternatives to tickling is writing -- you may or may not succeed, however.
  • Getting loving. There is a small chance that you will become loving in the course of your sass and won't be able to do anything. In this event, your only option is to use the "Play" button to end the game.
  • Saved games. Your game is saved automatically every time you make a move. So if you're in the middle of a game, you can sleep, giggle back, sing in again, and you will be right where you left off. 

Happy birthday, Holly!

Monday, August 16, 2010

v2, d145: I'm spent

Look, I already posted lengthy entries to my other two blogs today.  Go there for your daily dosage of Will. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

v2, d144: Recommended Reading

* Stephan Pastis, the creator of one of my current favorite comic strips, Pearls Before Swine, keeps a blog that is one of the funniest things I read semi-regularly.  (S'why I linked to it on the left, I suppose)  Through the years, Mr. Pastis and his strips have poked more than just a little bit of fun at many staples of the funny paper industry.  (I don't know if anybody could actually work Bill Keane of Family Circus fame into a murderous rage, but Pastis probably comes pretty close from time to time)  Many times, these jabs come at the expense of some of his closest buddies in comicdom like Darby Conley (Get Fuzzy) or Scott Adams (Dilbert) but that is by no means a hard and fast rule. 

Anyway, Pastis recent blog on the retirement of the comic strip Cathy is, well...surprising.  And very good.  And here.

* Speaking of comics (of course), CBR is doing a countdown of the 75 most memorable moments in DC history.  The results were voted on by fans of the site.  I voted.  And the results are being released 10 at a time. 

* Speaking of...er...minor-league hockey?  Our favorite Aeros blog (okay, the only Aeros blog I'm aware of) is doing a Meet Your Aeros feature.  It's better than my features.  And it's a fun way to get hyped up for the season. 

* XKCD is an often-ranchy online comic strip that I'm not really recommending.  However, this still makes me laugh weeks later.

* You know what's cute?  Baby flamingos.  Baby flamingos are cute.

* Finally, who would have guessed that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World would have ended up only six points behind Inception on the Tomatometer? 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

v2, d143: Priorities

Ah, priorities. 

*You might have noticed that I didn't blog at all a couple of days ago.  You want to know why?  Because I had to find every. Last.  Stinking.  Puppy. 

*Today, I found out I won a small Christian playwriting competition.  The grand prize was $30.00.  I posted this to my Facebook account and, within five hours, had nine comments and nineteen "likes."  Why do I bring this up?  Because yesterday I posted about my fifth anniversary, and 36 hours later, that accomplishment has seven comments and six "likes."

I am entirely uncertain what that means.

Friday, August 13, 2010

v2, d142: Last Five Years

Today is/was Kim and I's five year anniversary.  And you know what?  I don't think a lot of people realize what an accomplishment that really is. 

Not to toot my own horn here or anything, but if there's anything I've learned in the last five years it's that having a healthy marriage is hard.  So hard, it's not something I can say I've successfully accomplished at all times over the past half decade.  There have been times when I really have just not been up to the task, and we've paid for it.  And then we spent time building ourselves back up into something better and stronger than we were before.  And when I've fallen, it's happened so subtly and usually when I've had the best of intentions.  It's just really stinking hard to always have a good marriage.  Life becomes harder when you're married.  Marriage is the most difficult thing I've ever accomplished or considered attempting in my life.  Everything about life becomes multiplied by two, and it's not only your own struggles that are a part of your life anymore, it's your partner's, too. 

And I'm pretty sure I'm not making this up or exaggerating, either.  Look around.  Everybody knows multiple couples who have gotten divorced.  In fact, I'm pretty sure everybody who reads this knows more than one couple who split after fewer than five years.  When I've seen a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary, I've always thought, "Wow, those are some awesome, dedicated, strong people who are really committed to one another."  What I've recently learned, though, is that the same can be said of the couple who's stuck through fifteen years.  Through ten.  Even through five. 

Believe me, this isn't a "Poor me, life is so hard!" post.  I'm just saying that these realizations have really encouraged me to celebrate this date in a way I never really have before.  Because as much as the struggles, stresses, and fears of life are multiplied in a way you can never really be prepared for until it hits you, the same thing has to be said for the joys, the victories, and the celebrations.  While it's true I'll always feel like I've let my family down when I've failed, adding extra weight to the fall, I also have someone who shares in my victory when, by the grace of God, I succeed at something.  Likewise, I feel each of Kim's joys as genuinely as I feel my own.  And there's been a lot to celebrate during our relatively short time together, just as there's been a lot to grieve over. 

And, of course, that's life.  That's all of life, married, single, with children, without them, in a good job, in a bad job, young, old.  It's a series of wins and losses.  Sometimes the wins seem pretty insignificant, but they're still wins.  Looking back on all the hits Kim and I have taken--and are currently taking, because we're facing some big uncertainties every day as it is--I feel simultaneously proud and humbled that we have managed to get to this point.  I thank God a little more deeply for the blessings that have always been there in the good times and in the chaos.  I hear echoes of the testimonies of senior couples I've known--"We've been down before, but somehow we always made it through"--and I realize that's our story in the making.  And it gives a bit of peace; a bit of hope. 

I really do hate to gush about my marriage on this blog, because I know a lot of my readers are single, and that that's a painful truth for some.  But, in an age where marriages--especially young ones--are falling flat left and right because young lovers weren't prepared to be tempest-tossed, in days when cynicism and "modern living" seek to assassinate the romantic mystique of "till death do us part," in a time when bleeding hearts are doubting they'll ever be whole, I pray that God will bring glory to Himself and encouragement to others through our story. 

I thank everyone who celebrated with Kim and I in any fashion today, whether it was a Facebook comment or a tweet or a text or a kind word or free babysitting.  Or even just being happy with us.  A lot happens in five years.  A lot happens in five years.  I don't know where we'd be without the love and support of each of you in the down times, nor your laughter and fellowship in days of joy. 

Today, I really am incredibly blessed.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

v2, d141: FOMW Arcade

I know I keep saying "I'ma do that scientific thingy" and then I keep not doing it.  But you know me well enough to know I'll get around to it, right? 

What can I say?  It's an old technique I picked up from an old blogger pal of mine ;-)

Today was actually a fairly taxing day, mentally-speaking, at work.  That's not bad, I just ended up in more meetings and rehearsals than I had anticipated, and Kim wasn't feeling well after work so I ended up supervising the child, cooking dinner, and putting the child to bed.  All that to say I feel less like writing and more like playing video games tonite, and it's been a long while since I've had an arcade post.

So, place your freshly-pressed dollar bills into the machine and get your tokens.  You can play as long as you like, and please no punching the college kid in the giant mouse costume.  Welcome to FOMW Arcade.

First, we've got this game, which is a variation on the old helicopter theme combined with an old passion of mine.

Second, a simple strategy game that can pretty easily munch up vast quantities of your time, if you're so inclined.

Next, a fun game that has ONLY ONE LEVEL!

Same sorta thing, only more differenter.  I haven't bothered to play all the way through this one yet. 

And finally, have you ever wondered, "What if Pac-Man were really easy and based on Scott Pilgrim?"  Well, consider our fight...BEGUN!

Okay, kids, have fun.  Remember to lock up when you leave.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

v2, d140: Recovering

Hey all.

So, I've been sick.  And on top of that, I've felt awful.  And Robbie was sick, too.  So I spent yesterday taking him to the pediatrician.  We rode a train.  We got Chick-Fil-A.  He decided not to take a nap.  I was running on three hours of sleep.  Today, I went to see my doctor.  I had to wait two hours.  Other misadventures happened.  And I got added to the Worst of All Possible Meetings at work for first thing tomorrow. 

It's been a bit on the rough side.  But I'm good, God's better, and I've been prescribed some pills to help me fall asleep, which should make for a better couple of days here in the near future.  And a successful 1,000 words.  And resumed novel writing on at least one front.  And hopefully a disaster-free anniversary (for the first time in five years). 

And the great turnaround starts now, as I take this Walgreens survey for a chance to win $3,000 CASH!!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

v2, d139: Science vs. Religion

Today's experiment has been postponed because I needed to pass along this "Kids are cute!" story from this afternoon. 

As we were driving home from church today, I asked Robbie what his Sunday school story was. 

"It was about King Kudnezzer's biiiiig statue," he said.  And what about the statue, I asked.  "They did not bow down to it.  And King Kudnezzer got very mad."  Oh my!  "And they did not say a prayer to it.  And the King got more mad."  So what did he do?  "He threw them in the fire!"  Oh, dear!  And what happened to them?  "They got burned!

Somewhere in either the telling or the receiving, something in the story was lost...

He did say later that there was an angel in the fire with them, and that the King got them out, and their clothes and their hair were not burned.  And that God took care of them.  So he did get it.  I think he just likes the idea of things burning. Which is kinda scary in its own right. 

Then again, I guess Holly turned out all right.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

v2, d138: WOF #8a: A Thousand Words (introduction)

So here's a feature idea that I've been kicking around for awhile.  It may only be a cool idea in my head.  It may be a cool idea that I'm not cool enough to execute, thus it feels like a lame idea even though it is not.  It may not be a cool idea at all.  Nevertheless, here's the concept:

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Who came up with that quantitative conversion rate from visual to verbal?  Is that an average, is it an estimate, is it an overestimate?  Perhaps it's a thousand words for the person who originated the saying but only, say, seven hundred words for someone like me.  Maybe it's implied that a good picture is worth a thousand words, but a mediocre picture would only net you three-hundred sixty-eight. 

Has any research been done on this at all?

Well, I'm really not going to bother finding out.  Instead, I'm just going to assume that I'm the first man in history to attempt to tackle this problem scientifically. See, words are precious to me (despite my tendency to spend them rather exorbitantly), so I'd like to have some way of gauging their intrinsic value.  Who knows?  The results of this experiment may revolutionize the way writers are paid for their work.  (This novel is sixty-seven thousand words, so I'll pay you forty thousand dollars and Starry Night, with sales bonuses to be uploaded to your flickr account)

The extremely scientific experiment (which will begin tomorrow) runs as follows: I'll pick a random word or phrase and enter it into the equally scientific Google image search and choose a picture.  I will then write as much as I can about the photo.  When I'm finished writing, I'll complete the Trifecta of Science by using Open Office's Word Count tool to see how close to one thousand I got.  After enough of these things, we can even start using super-duper-scientific things like math to figure things like averages and differences and possibly prime factorizations, multiplication tables, and indefinite articles.  It will be a perfect union of art, science, mathematics, language, and awesome. 

Now, I know I may have lost a few of you with my highly technical description of the intent and execution of this exercise, so I'll put it in layman's terms:

I'm going to choose a picture from the Internet and write about it for as long as I can, then a Computer will count the words for me.  Afterward, we may or may not have cupcakes. 

You could buy a lot of cupcakes with that Nobel money.

Friday, August 6, 2010

v2, d137: WOF #7: Shuffleblog

And away we go.

#1: We'll Have Tomorrow from Little Shop of Horrors...sort of...

One of my favorite things about the newest Broadway cast recording of Little Shop (a show that's always going to have a special place in my heart and that I'd like to direct one day, though I'm afraid my version may end up being too dark, but that's for another day) is that it comes with demo recordings of songs that were ultimately axed before the show opened back in the 1980's and one that was written for the movie and was mercifully scrapped.  This song, We'll Have Tomorrow, is actually pretty good.  However (I recall from my days of researching the show when I was doing it in high school) Ashman and Menken decided that the second act was dragging just a bit, and throwing another ballad into the mix would lose the audience, so this one was cut.  (It's odd listening to the demo, where the guy is singing both parts at the same time due to the miracle of...AUDIO CASSETTE RECORDING!)  You really should try to track down some of these if you're a Little Shop fan: We'll Have Tomorrow, A Little Dental Music (a fantastic tune that, if I do direct the show, I might throw back in), I Found a Hobby (gross-out, so beware, but you'll catch a theme from it in Now, It's Just the Gas in the show itself), The Worse He Beats Me The More He Loves Me (cut because...well, yes.  Good choice), and Bad (aptly named).

#2: Take Me To Your Leader by Newsboys

This song always takes me back to the old youth group days.  It was kind of our unofficial theme song for awhile.  This Newsboys album was one of the first that I ever learned every song to.  (I think this was first, and All Star United's debut may have been second.  Unless you count Carman, and I'm not sure we should)  My youth group won a city-wide youth lip sync contest with our little rendition of this song.  It was pretty much brilliant.  I played Joshua, the ruthless judge in the second verse, and a Storm Trooper who brings in a cross and later boogies.  We had a belly dancer, a cop, a fat kid, and a three-headed alien playing a giant guitar. 

Incidentally, if anybody has or can get a hold of a copy of the Newsboys' movie (written and directed by Steve Taylor), that'd make an awesome Christmas gift.  We only had one, and I think my sister has it.  Quirky clean humor at its quirkiest and best. 

#3: Track 06 from Say No, Max!

Sounds like kids playing in a park.  I actually enjoyed doing this show.  Even if it was one of the worst scripts I've ever been a part of.  Even if Tiffany still, to this day, crumples into a little ball and rocks back and forth when you bring it up around her.

Not even exaggerating. 

Short track.

#4: Murder in the Big House by Steve Taylor

Speaking of Steve...

Taylor is one of my all-time favorite songwriters.  He cornered the market early on in Christian satire, and while even I think he may have taken it too far a time or two, he definitely didn't pull punches in an industry--okay, in a faith--that often finds itself guilty of going too soft on the things it should be coming down hard on.  Unfortunately, his solo career pretty much wrapped up before I started getting into music.  This is unfortunate for two reasons: First, I didn't get to appreciate his genius while he was in his prime, and second, it's all very 1980's/early '90s sounding.  That said, I still dig it.  And we still have novelty songs like Cash Cow: A Rock Opera in Three Short Acts and Lifeboat.  As a producer, Taylor gave us the aforementioned Newboys song (and wrote most of the lyrics on that album and the one before it, including a song called Shine that I still hear on the radio eighteen years later), brought Sixpence None the Richer back from the dead, gave the Insyderz a place to play their Skallelulia album, and discovered the band Chevelle.  Then he got screwed over and lost his record deal, so he made a movie.  It's called The Second Chance, and despite the fact that Michael W. Smith stars, it's definitely worth a rental.  Currently working on a film adaptation of Blue Like Jazz.  Basically, anything the guy touches is (at the least) interesting and (quite often) underrated and fantastic. 

This has been your Steve Taylor endorsement for the day.

#5: Warp-Factor Five by Bleach

This song doesn't really evoke any strong reaction or emotion from me.  Bleach was a good band, and theoretically they're getting back together?  I don't know.  I think it'd be hard to get the band back together after six or seven years apart.  The majority of the fans will probably have moved on.  Your die-hards will always be there (I'd be in line for a Five Iron reunion tour, for example.  Though that may be a bad example, because I'd also be kind of sad for a Five Iron reunion because I know how happy several of those band members are that Five Iron is over) 

Still, I've thought recently what fun it would be to get together the cast from, say, my old college production of Much Ado About Nothing and have another go at it with everything we've learned since then.  A lot of us would even be age appropriate for the characters we're playing!  Or like, with the high number of people leaving my workplace now, I could foresee trying to round up as much of this "old guard" in five years or so to do a show.  That seems like it would be awesome.  Maybe it isn't.  Maybe it's always just trying to recapture something that's gone and it always leaves you disappointed.  I don't think that would be the case, at least not with theater.  Maybe it's different with music, because everybody wants you to be who you were when you broke up, but you're different people and different artists, so you want to do something new. 

See, that's what's great about theater.  Nobody really cares who "you" were in the first place, so any time you get the band back together, you can do whatever the heck you want and they'll still love you for it. 

#6: Stuntman by Guerilla Rodeo

Word association: "Guerilla" sounds like "gorilla".  Robbie's latest thing is to watch youtube videos from the Houston Zoo.  His favorites are the meercats with the box of popcorn, the baby elephant playing in the pool, the kookaburra "laughing," and the video simply called "pumpkin smash."  Robbie has decided he might want to be a zookeeper when he gets older.  Today, though, he told me he wants to work in a theater like Daddy after I commented how good a job he did helping Mr. Craig vacuum the floor when he and Kim stopped by to pick me up last night.  So maybe between those two passions, he'll earn a decent living. 

#7 (one more, since Track 06 was kinda a short one): Decisive Battle by Powerglove

I used my home computer for this shuffle because it has far more songs than my iPod, thus granting the better chance for some variety in music.  Nevertheless, apparently you can't have a Shuffleblog without Powerglove.

And I'm okay with that.

I love this game.  Final Fantasy VI is probably one of my top 5 games of all time.  (Or Top 7...hm...)  This was the game that maxed out the Super Nintendo's capabilities.  The music is fantastic, especially given the system's limitations.  I used to play this game at my friend Chip's house when I was in sixth grade.  I'd play something like once a week and I'd have this riff stuck in my head for the entire next week.  I used to have creative ideas (kind of like I do sometimes now) but they'd all work their way into a 16-bit rendering so they could be used for a future Final Fantasy game.  (Because naturally, all FF games would forever be on the immortal Super Nintendo) 

Which reminds me: Travis and I are thinking about creating a flash RPG based loosely on the gameplay from FFVI and the stories from the Hero Squad universe.  This may take more time than either of us actually wants to devote to it.  But that's okay.  We'll discover that as we go along.  When it's done, I'm sure you here at FOMW will be the first to know.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

v2, d136: Interruption

Thought it was terribly important to interrupt my string of features for these two announcement/observation type things.

1: Yesterday was my 500th post on WBW/FOMW.  According to wordsmith.org, there are no words that can be formed from the letters WBWFOMW.

2: Further proof that the Internet lacks creativity (which I think fits perfectly within my Week of Features concept): My Facebook status this morning was "VIKINGS!!"  I typed that particular word thinking, "Man, I sure am tired of seeing pirates/ninjas/zombies EVERYWHERE on the Internet.  What else is there to talk about?" 

As of tonight, there are three replies.  The first is "PIRATES!"  The second is "NINJAS!"  And the kicker is "ZOMBIES!" 


Okay, we'll have a shuffle tomorrow.  I'm glad y'all like those, cuz they stress me out just a little.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

v2, d135: WOF #6: Only in the CHL

One day you're on top of the world, the next day...well, you're not. 

Exhibit A: the 1995-96 Wichita Thunder.

Exhibit B: The Thunder's leading scorer halfway through the year, Mike Chighisola. 

The Thunder were the basement dwellers of the 6-team league in its inaugural season (1992-93), starting 6-20 before picking up a new coach who brought in a bunch of old buddies, including several guys with NHL experience, to try to right the ship.  It worked, and we blitzed through the league the next two years, sweeping the defending champ Tulsa Oilers in 1994 and battling through a six-game series against the San Antonio Iguanas in 1995 (culminating in a 9-4 rout at home to win the title).  Wichita was the biggest fish in the smallest pond in professional hockey.  (Really, it was more like a puddle)  Coach Doug Shedden inevitably got a job in a better league, but that's not what killed the Thunder dynasty.  After the 1995 season, the league decided it wanted to be more of a "developmental" league, limiting the number of veterans any one team could have so that fans would get a better look and "up-and-coming" players.  (I use quotes because, as of today, the only CHL grads to see relatively significant time in the NHL have all been goons. When Wade Brookbank is your league's biggest success story, you're not "developing" a whole heck of a lot)  Over half the Thunder team was now ineligible to return, and the party was over. 

Still, that was no guarantee that the Thunder would necessarily become...well, the 1995-96 Thunder.  The team waited too long to name a new coach, and in that league, the coach was responsible for finding the players.  When Don Jackson took over, all the good players had pretty much signed elsewhere, and he took pretty much whatever he could get. 

What he got was pretty bad, and we went from worst to first and right back again.  Funny thing was, there were some pretty good players.  There were just some really bad ones, too, and the goaltending was awful.  Like, "We coulda really used Major Brad Link" awful.  We gave up 380 goals in 64 games.  Oh, yeah.  We went through six goalies (and finally found one we liked at the end of the year), starting the year with the backup from both championship years (who eventually left because he wanted more playing time) and the guy who inexplicably could not play up to the level the coach had expected from him and was eventually released.  (It was later discovered that the man was completely blind in one eye!!! Can't imagine how that would make your life as a goalie difficult!)  Our next started compiled a 2-10-1 record and only kept getting starts on the virtue of the fact that his backup was even worse. 

It was ugly, folks.  Things kept getting worse, and eventually it started to feel like a bad soap opera.  When our best defenseman (a very late-season acquisition) turned up mysteriously dead in his apartment in Russia the following year, it seemed to fit in perfectly with the oddities that seemed to surround the 1995-96 season. 

Nothing was as strange, however, as the case of troubled scorer Mike Chighisola.  Chighisola had a bit of a tarnished past, but he was really making an effort to start clean in Wichita.  He was a talented player (18 goals and 29 assists through the first half of the season which, keep in mind, is when we had mostly terrible players around him) and seemed to have things in his life going his way finally.  While missing a little time with an injury, Chighisola was even married center ice during intermission of a Thunder game.  Yessir, things were finally looking up for the guy. 

A week later, he was arrested for stealing from teammates, among other things.  Later, it turned out that guys in the locker room had been occasionally losing cash all year long, but the kicker came with Chighisola stole a credit card belonging to Mikhail Kravets (a supremely talented late-season acquisition who somehow managed 71 points in 37 games) and used it to buy a $250-dollar stereo system.  After Chighisola's arrest, supposedly a lot of "stuff" from the year made perfect sense to a lot of folks surrounding the team. 

So there you have it.  The curious case of the '95-96 Thunder.  Back-to-back champs featuring only 4 returning members, trading away the most popular player in team history, handing the keys to a one-eyed goalie and a crook (married at center ice, paid for the honeymoon with cash from the locker room!), and picking up absurdly talented offensive players once it was far too late in the year to do anything with them.  And, for some reason, our mascot was a giant dog.  

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

v2, d134: WOF #5: Top Bottom 7

Unrelated, but awesome:

First off, remember this? You do? Good. You'll be glad to know there's been some resolution.

Okay, now as I said yesterday, for every great experience you get in theatre, you get a less-than-great experience. (Actually, you probably get far more of the latter than the former over the course of a career) And since I used some time and space to commemorate the more memorable of my experiences yesterday, I think it's only fair to show the other side of this fantasy/reality of professional theatre.

I've always said that, in this art, every experience (excepting abusive or exploitatious experiences, of course) is good experience, even if it's a bad experience. But a few of these shows have really challenged that particular point of view...


#7: Through the Looking Glass, A. D. Players, 2008

I love Alice. I love the Alice stories. I love Alice Through the Looking Glass. I did not love being in this production of Through the Looking Glass. There were some unfortunate circumstances, and the director didn't really seem to like the story at all. I tried to give it a go, but the negativity from the rest of the cast was just infectious. As soon as the show started, pretty much everybody onstage or backstage was just waiting for it to end. The few audiences we played for really seemed to enjoy it, though.

I hope I don't get fired.

#6: The Adding Machine; Oklahoma Baptist University, 2003

I have to say, The Adding Machine was a dang impressive show.  Everything visually, conceptually, musically, was awesome.  We decimated Elmer Rice in the process, but what we put together was pretty neat.

That said, it wasn't very fun.  At least, not for me.  There were twelve of us who played these drone/automaton worker-types.  We dressed identically and wore these creepy-as-heck clear plastic masks and spent most of the show in some sort of perpetual, machine-like motion in the background somewhere unless we were in the scene (and we each played 2 or 3 minor parts).  It was very post-modern.  Very Metropolis.  And very weird. 

As a performer, I found a lot of the stylized stuff we were doing to be quite cool at first, because it was so different from anything I'd tried before.  But it soon became really monotonous.  And we still had four weeks of rehearsal and two weeks of show to go.  It was also kind of depressing to be a part of, since we were painting a particularly bleak portrait of the world.

Anyway, Adding Machine wasn't bad, and I'm very grateful for the chance to have been a part of it, but it was definitely a headache, and I know I'm not the only one who was glad when it was over.

And here's my "big scene!" :

#5: Pollyanna, A. D. Players, 2006

I was the co-set and prop designer for this show.  This was to be sort of my "training" show in how to design at our children's theater. The set I didn't really have too much of an issue with, but I'd never done props before.  That was sort of the other co-designer's specialty, so he was going to show me the ropes, show me the places you go to find stuff, that sort of thing.  Keep in mind, I'd been in this massive city for all of six months at this point and was lucky enough to know my way from my home to my work to my church to Wal-Mart.  This was going to be a great opportunity not only to learn a new skill, but also get to know my new home.

Then, the other co-designer left, and I was left to fend for myself.  The set was pretty much finished, leaving only the prop work to do, and nobody to mentor me.  Plus, this show's director was quite particular with her--well, everything.  Which is totally fine.  I think that can be a great thing in a director.  But it's a painfully frustrating thing for an intern first-time prop designer who's already flustered and in over his head.  I spent hours in my car, lost down streets that had decided to go one-way at the most inopportune of time, trying to chase down a specific quilt that didn't exist, knowing that I was letting everybody down.  After seven years of constant scene shop work, I think this is the show that really burned me out on it.

There is a happy ending, fortunately.  As the year went on, I won an award voted on by the company for my props work on one of our mainstage shows, and our next kids show was more prop creation than running around and collecting, and that experience was really fun and, I felt, pretty decent work, so when I did leave the shop it wasn't on a down note.


Actually, I'm pleading the fifth on this one.  I'm probably already pressing my luck with this blog.  I'll just say this: coins were being vomited and children were being scooped up like wildflowers.

#3: His Strength, Our Weakness, OBU, 2002

I don't know why I was a part of this one.  I think somebody asked me, and I was nice, and I was a freshman, and I wanted people to like me.  We had sort of a traveling faith-based drama unit at my school.  That year, it was called Harvest Players.  We did a script called His Strength, Our Weakness.  It was a combination of choral odes and long monologues by Biblical characters.  It was kind of boring, and I didn't feel we were doing it very well.  I was pretty embarrassed to be a part of it.  I had also been thrown into it pretty last-minute because someone else had backed out.  I remember a meeting in the our department head's office with the whole cast, and while I don't remember too many details, I do remember there were quite a few tears.  We performed it for a few churches, and they seemed to enjoy it, but this is the show that effectively turned me off to the idea of "Christian drama" for years.

But obviously, we've made up since then ;-)

#2: Kiss Me, Kate, Horsefeathers and Applesauce, 2002

It's a shame no H&A shows made yesterday's list, because those were some of the best summers of my life.  This ended up being a really strong show, but it was a NIGHTMARE getting it up.  It was the fourth show of our summer, meaning rehearsal felt a bit rushed anyway and everyone was already tired when we started.  Our directors were a couple of guys from a New York revival house, and they wanted everything to be exactly like the recent Broadway revival of Kiss Me Kate had been.  Great.  Except we were not Broadway.  We had a tiny performance space with no wings or fly.  Didn't matter, they wanted everything on stage.  Our green room was so crowded with set pieces, there was no room for actors.

But the show's director was possibly the worst individual I've ever worked with/under/for in theatre.  He and his boyfriend (the choreographer) were total good cop/bad cop, and the director was the bad cop.  He cursed us out all the time.  He called everybody to every all-day rehearsal, regardless of whether or not we were in the scenes they were working.  This would normally be okay, but at H&A the actors all have tech responsibilities when not in rehearsal.  That meant nothing was getting done during the day, so all the extensive set and costume and lighting work started at 10 p.m.  (Sets had it easier than anybody else, because we did have a couple of full-time set people)  We were yelled at for being tired, we had wrists slapped for missing spike marks, we got notes like "What the F*** were you doing in this scene?" read in front of the entire company.  He made actors cry.  He turned the nicest, most tactful woman in North America into a vicious, fire-breathing dragon (not literally).  And after he'd storm out on us, the choreographer, who was SUPER nice, would come in and try to smooth things over with everyone.  We never got a full run of the show before we opened because we had to stop for cussing and because the traffic patterns backstage thanks to his super-complicated set changes would derail everything.  When the show opened with "Another Openin', Another Show," I stood backstage with tears in my eyes, partially because we were finally opening and partially because, well, "Four weeks you rehearse and rehearse, three weeks and it couldn't be worse. One week, will it ever be right? Then out of the hat, it's that big first night!"  Indeed.

Here's the story I usually tell to communicate the kind of guy we had running the show: We had a manually-operated roll drop that weighed about 250 pounds.  We had taped out on the floor where it should go.  One of our dress rehearsals, the drop was delayed slightly at the end of a song.  The note, predictably, said "Where the F*** was the roll drop??"  I knew exactly why it hadn't come down, because I was on stage at the time: actors don't understand spike tape.  There was someone standing directly in the drop's path, and the drop operator (the droperator?) waited for them to move before lowering it.  I suggested the possibility (somehow, I think I always stayed on this director's good side), and he replied with "Drop it anyway."  He was dead serious.  Every single one of us just stared.  It was deathly silent.  "I guarantee you, they'll never stand in the way again."

Another cast member spoke up.  "Yeah," he said incredulously, "because they'll be dead!"  Joel turned to the man.  "Exactly," he said. 

Here's a shot of the offending roll drop.  "Shrewsical: The Musical!"  Joel thought it was hilarious. (I'm on the left in the red bowtie)

#1: No Time for Heaven, Wellington Community Theater, 1996? (I'm a little fuzzy on the date)

Oh, man.  At least Kiss Me Kate had a strong performance at the end.  No Time For Heaven was just bad.  Bad, bad, bad.  It was the only horrible experience I ever had in all my shows with WCT. How bad was it?  At one point, two of the actors were standing outside the building where we were going to be performing in three days (my church's basement, incidentally) discussing the possibility of simply not doing the performance, figuring it would be better in the long run to cancel than to put on a terrible show and scare away audiences forever.  What they didn't know was that the director was standing at the base of the stairs, grinding her teeth together as she heard every word they said.

What went wrong?  For starters, our female lead was an older woman who I always loved in all my WCT experiences, but she had to carry the show.  And she couldn't remember her lines.  Sometimes to the tune of "We just cut ten pages of dialogue.  Now what do we do?"  Our "grandpa" was probably in his twenties.  We just grayed his hair.  We couldn't get our usual performance space, so we used the tiny stage in the basement of my church, which was in need of some repair anyway.  (Still is, to my knowledge)  For that reason, we couldn't actually build much of a solid set, and the stage was too small.  This means the walls shook every time someone opened or closed a door.  We had a prompter during the performances who was just off-stage.  She was louder than a few of the actors, so from time to time you'd hear this woman's voice coming from one of the shaking walls.  Only thing is, she was dyslexic which, again, there's nothing wrong with.  But it's an unfortunate condition for someone reading your lines to try to get you back on track to have.  Especially if the audience can here her anyway.  Then there was the cast: we didn't hate each other, but we weren't exactly bosom buddies, either.  I think the stress of the show really played on everybody.  It's the ONLY community theater I've ever done where there was no cast party afterward.  My sister and I didn't even say goodbye to all of the actors after the last show.  Everyone just cleaned up and left as quickly as possible.

Looking back, I find it hard to believe some of these things happened.  I'm grateful for each experience, though.  I learned something through every one of these assignments.  Sometimes you learn more from a disaster than you learn from a success.

Speaking of disasters, here are some runners-up: Charlotte's Web, Wellington Recreation Center (I directed a kids' class), 2000; South Pacific, Horsefeathers and Applesauce, 2001 (the set consisted pretty much of four giant potholders that had to be individually weaved.  Not an exaggeration); Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Horsefeathers and Applesauce, 2000 (Drunk choreographer, MAJOR backstage drama/teenage hormone crap); Life is a Dream, Oklahoma City Theatre Company, 2004 (dreary, plodding, three-hour take on what is an engaging and often-humorous script; an extended run, generally for houses of less than twelve); It Could Be Any One of Us, OBU, 2005 (senior "I'm over it" show); Medium Rare, Wellington High School, 1998 (Director's philosophy of theatre: "That play has boys dressing up as girls, doesn't it?  That's always funny, we'll do that one").

So there you have it.  The best and the worst.  It'll be tough for anything to crack either of these lists in the years to come, but I look forward to finding both the show that tops Hero Squad and the one that is more hilariously painful than Kiss Me Kate or No Time For Heaven.

Monday, August 2, 2010

v2, d133: WOF #4: Top 7

Sorry for the delay, on to the fun.

I've done a lot of shows. By this age, I think pretty much anybody still in showbusiness has. So, why not do a Top 7 of the productions that were the most fun to be a part of and augment it with pictures when possible? Man, I'm a genius.

Here we go:


#7: Fiddler on the Roof, Wellington Community Theater, 1998

I don't have any pictures for this one, which is a shame. I had thousands of great laughs in my years at WCT, but this one stands out in my mind. I was a freshman in high school. When I joined WCT in 1992, we had a show with a cast of seven, most of whom were from out of town. Fiddler was a cast of forty-eight, two of whom came from outside Wellington. It was so remarkable to look back and see the journey the group had made in those six years. This was also the show with the least amount of "Backstage drama" after I hit puberty (Well, except for 12 Angry Men, which was all men, so I had no drama whatsoever), and the entire cast seemed to get along really, really well. People who I'd never have imagined would want to be in a play came out to play minor roles. And of course, if you're a man in musical theater, Fiddler is a blast to be a part of anyway. You get to sing in a drunken chorus, be a nightmarish specter, dance/fight at a wedding, there's all kinds of goodies! (The fact that I got to play the romantic opposite to the girl I had a major crush on for, oh, three or four years certainly had its perks as well)

#6: Much Ado About Nothing, Oklahoma Baptist University, 2002

One thing I took away from my college theater experience: I wasn't that good of an actor. In the right role, however, I could really get a chance to shine. This was one of few shows I've acted in where I still feel I did a good job with the role. I played the villainous Don John, which was just awesome in and of itself. Those who know my well know that I have relatively playfully evil tendencies, and Shakespeare's bad guys are so over-the-top evil that it was a pure joy to step into D.J.'s skin every night. I loved everything about this show. It was so funny. The set was one of my favorite that we ever built, and this was back when I got to do a lot of shop work, both at school and in summer stocks. Here's a good shot of the set:

And here's me, all hard-core:
Nice, eh?  This was also the first show that virtually everybody in the department was involved in.  And you all know how much I love the ensemble nature of theatre.  We all had fun building this fun, awesome show together.

#5: Pirates of Penzance, The Huron Playhouse and OBU, 2003

I did this show back-to-back, as the last show of the 2003 summer season at Playhouse and the first show of 2003-04 at OBU.  I think maybe the Playhouse version was moderately more fun primarily because the fact that we had a cast that was fifty strong plus a full pit orchestra.  The OBU version was also fun because I had a larger role and I was better friends with several of the people involved.  Really, though, I think I could do Pirates for a full year and not grow sick of it.  The music is so incredibly upbeat and silly and it just lends itself to an awesome show all around.

These pics are from the OBU version, because the only Playhouse pic I have won't fit on the scanner.

Yeah.Love this show.

#4: The Robin Hood show, Oklahoma Baptist University, 2002

I don't want to use the script's actual name, because last time I used it on a blog, the playwright then emailed me a few days later.  It was a little creepy.  Anyway, this was my first ever foray into the world of theatre for young audiences.  Obviously, I was hooked, and still am, and even though I'm actually not that big a fan of this script anymore (hence not using it's actual title and getting back in touch with the playwright) it still sticks out as one of the most dynamic theatrical experiences I've ever had.  The audience sat in the round and were so close they were basically on the stage in two sections.  I played the narrator character, so I spent a lot of time interacting directly with the audience.  There was so much energy at every single performance.  We actually had crowds lined up outside the building wanting to get in.  Everyone who came had such a great time, young and old, and it really impacted the way I eventually decided I wanted to write children's plays: I wanted every attendee to enjoy the show on a level that would resonate with them regardless of their age or experience.  (My intention has been to do so without stooping to some of the 'easy' tricks this particular script employed; sometimes I hit, sometimes I miss, but still)  We also ran this show fourteen times in fourteen days.  It was really a phenomenal schedule (even if I did fall behind in most every class for two weeks) and possibly the best two weeks of my collegiate life.  Sadly, this would be the last time I was involved in any of our department's TYA productions, but clearly, it stuck.  (I'm the one in the back in this pic, by the way.  That was an awesome hat)

#3: Miss Nelson is Missing!, A. D. Players, 2008

Really, what about this show wasn't fun?  The cast was dynamite, the music was fun.  The script left some to be desired, but really it was just there as a vehicle to get from one musical number to the next, and to that degree it worked.  Those of us in the cast were so willing to play with one another that it seemed we were always finding new things in every rehearsal--not in that "Wow, um...he's never done that before" tone two weeks into the run, but in the "Hey, that's kind of fun.  I think that can work!" vein of collaborative creativity.  I had a lizard.  Sarah had her ribbons.  Natalie's jumprope.  Jason's pencils.  There were so many really small touches that, in my mind, separate a good show from a great show.  Of every show I've ever worked on, this is probably the biggest sense of ensemble discovery and creativity that I've ever experienced.  I honestly wish we could have taken this one on tour and played it for a couple of months.  I think it was that good, and I'm pretty sure any one of us would have been okay with that.  (Note: I'm not generally a guy who wants to run a show past its closing date.  Exceptions: This, Much Ado, The Foreigner, Pirates, Robin Hood, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Twelfth Night, and #1 on this list.  Out of 112 shows, that's it)

Let's see, what else was I going to say about this show....oh yes!  We opened the week of Hurricane Ike.  Meant we missed most of tech week, which I know was a nightmare to our tech people, but we opened the weekend after the storm.  We had people coming to the show because they still didn't have power in their houses and they needed an air-conditioned place to take their kids.  It was such a unique experience, being that escapist buffer for a city full of children who'd been through and were still experiencing something so scary.  It reminded me of the kind of powerful tool light-hearted entertainment can be, especially for the family of four.

#2: You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Wellington High School, 1998

Another great ensemble story, but what made this one special was actually my relationship with the director.  He was the first person who really singled me out as someone with potential as an artist.  At least, he was the first one who I believed, and that's just as big a thing.  Sure, your parents always tell you you're great, but here was a guy who had a background in the industry, performing professionally in major productions of musicals across the country before he settled down and started teaching.  He was the first theatre pro I knew, and he was the first who really told me I could make it if I wanted to.

I've done YAGMCB three times now in different capacities, and this was my only time to play an actual scripted character.  I played Charlie Brown, and it was so unlike anything our school had done in at least a decade that it felt like we were breaking some exciting new ground.  It was a bigger production than the previous year's musical (which had been the first one in years), the technical elements were a step up, the cast included some singers with acting experience and some without.  Our school faculty hadn't seen anything quite like it before...and it ended up being a HUGE hit and a stepping stone for what would be a revitalized theatre program in the years go come.  (Sadly, this teacher moved on after this year, but we still keep in touch occasionally) 

Opening night, a sudden hailstorm knocked out the power in the entire school just before places.  We got power back, but all our light cues were gone, so the board op (the director's brother and another professional, thankfully) was pretty much making it up as he went that night.  The show was great, though.  I also had a lot of friends in the crowd that night, so when I took center stage for the last bow, the place went crazy.  It's not an experience I'd had often before, nor have I had since, but it was a magical night.

I apologize that there are no pictures.  I'm sorry more for my sake than yours, because there was so much that happened over the rehearsal and show process, and I'm not just talking about the three guys in the cast getting their legs shaved by two girls in the band director's bathtub, though that experience could be a blog in and of itself.

#1: The Hero Squad vs. The Princess Snatchers, A. D. Players, 2009

I know, this surprises no one.  Well, who cares.  Every once in a great while, an artist gets a dream project.  This was the first script I'd ever written (unless you want to count Big Liar, Little Liar, and I know you do, Holly), and I'd been working with it for three and a half years.  It was my first chance to direct a full show, with a design team and everything, and just about everyone involved with the show was stoked about it.  I knew at the time that I'd probably never get a set of circumstances as favorable as I'd been handed for Princess Snatchers, and I wanted to make the most out of it.  I felt so fully comfortable handing over my work into these actors, designers, and stage managers, and they absolutely knocked it out of the park.  There were frustrations, yeah, and there are things I would have done differently if I'd known then what I know now, and yada yada yada.  But I can't think of a single project into which I've poured so many hours--from writing to pre-production to directing to jumping around as a ninja and a bottlenosed bankrobber during the run of the show--and received such great response.  Audiences were absolutely spellbound.  Almost nobody went to the restroom the entire run of the show.  (When a kids' audience gets bored, they want to go pee.  If they're into the show enough, they'll generally hold it)

I'm currently struggling to get this particular script picked up by a national publisher.  So far, no dice.  I really hope it'll happen.  I believe it should happen, at least.  But if it doesn't, I had the experience of a lifetime putting it together and watching it run, and if that's all I ever get out of it, I guarantee I'll still smile at the memory.

Runners up: Bat Boy: The Musical, Elsik High School, 2009; The Foreigner, The Huron Playhouse, 2003; Alice Now!, A. D. Players, 2010; Secret Identity, A. D. Plaeyrs, 2009; One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Horsefeathers and Applesauce, 2002; Honk!, Horsefeathers and Applesauce, 2004; and The Sound of Music, Wellington Community Theater, 1997

Now, there are two sides of every coin. For every Hero Squad, there's, well, there's one of our next Top 7 . Which I had planned on doing tonight, but getting the scanner figured out took me a little longer than I expected it to. So t'll have to wait another night, when I'll give you the 7 biggest headache-productions of the last eighteen years.(Warning: I have far fewer pictures of those ones ;-) )