Friday, December 31, 2010
Are we ready?
Are we ready to go now?
Please don’t wear me down to nothing
Please don’t let me down
So have we got what we need?
Do we even know what we need?
Please don’t placate me
Please don’t let me down
I hope this wasn’t taken too far
Because I don’t think you ever know until you know
I hope we didn’t set up to fall too far
Because we’ll never know until we’re ready to go
- Chris McGinty – 12-16-10 – 5:18 am
Thursday, December 30, 2010
A quick thought about New Year’s Resolutions, you know, since 2011 is fast approaching. The key to keeping a New Year’s Resolution is to plan for the whole year. One of the most common resolutions is to quit smoking. I’ve never smoked, so I’ve never had to quit. I’m not attempting to say that it is easy, hard, easier for some than others, or anything of that nature. I am simply wishing to discuss how one might go about keeping that resolution, or any other resolution, but using quitting smoking as an example.
1. You have to mean it. Any resolution you make that you might do, provided nothing goes wrong, provided your emotional support backs you up, provided any number of things, is an empty resolution. If you say, “I’m going to quit smoking,” but you don’t mean it, save your breath… you’ll need it to smoke with. (That sounded judgmental. I apologize. Even if it was funny.)
2. Don’t be all or nothing. Give yourself some breathing room… you’ll need it to smoke. (I’m sorry!) If you put out you “last cigarette” at 11:59 pm on December 31, 2010, and do well all the way up until 2:47 pm on January 3, 2011, when you find yourself outside freezing your ass off with your co-workers on just a quick smoke break; don’t decide that the whole resolution thing was a bad idea. Sit down. Remind yourself why you set your resolution. Start over. Rinse. Repeat. Your resolution was to quit smoking (or whatever, fill in the blank). Find it in your resolve not to be defeated by a slip up.
3. Perhaps take it in small steps. Reduce the amount you smoke, and the amount you buy over the course of the year rather than just quitting. You can always decide at any point to just go cold turkey if the slow reduction starts to work better for you, or you can move your deadline up to be finished with it.
4. You have to mean it. Nothing will work if you’re not serious. Humans are very good at finding excuses. If you don’t have a healthy hatred of your excuse making ability, you’ll instead congratulate yourself on realizing what went wrong, and for discovering sooner rather than later that you weren’t cut out for that resolution you foolishly chose. Resolution. Resolute. Resolve. Think about those words. If you’re not resolute, if you don’t have resolve, then you have no right to be making resolutions anyway. Go find some other dumb tradition to follow.
5. Make other resolutions throughout the year. Once a day. Once a week. Once a month. The first day of a new season. Every 100 days. It doesn’t matter. New Year’s Resolutions have a bad reputation because they are forgotten until the following year. Don’t take a whole year to remember them.
6. Some factoid that I can’t cite and hope that I’m remembering right. I read somewhere that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. I’m sure that’s not based on science, but it’s at least something to consider. I also know from experience that it takes far less time to slip back into old habits. I think this is because while it may take only 21 days to form a habit of intent, a lazy habit can sneak up on you.
7. My own little factoid. I realized something a while back, and I’m giving myself credit for saying it this way, because I’ve never heard it said this way: “It is said that if there was a formula for success then everyone would be successful. I say that there is a formula for success. The reason that not everyone is a success is because the formula for failure is easier to follow.” – Chris McGinty
8. You have to mean it. I mean that.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
At the point that I no longer had a daily responsibility to up to six children at a time, and I started working a job that allowed more freedom to do project work uninterrupted, I started moving toward actually working eight hours on list items each day, rather than setting out a list to mimic eight hours as closely as possible. But since my goal is to be accountable to the list, I need a way to be accountable to it without misestimating (what a weird looking word) too much more or less than eight hours. What I thought was to prioritize stuff so that after eight hours of work, if I don’t get to less important things then no big deal.
As a point of the organizing project, I plan to finish backing up all of my CDs to mp3. I also intend to listen through the mp3s I have for a quality check, and organize my music collection onto the second hard drive and properly back it up. I also intend to get back in the habit of listening to about one CD length worth of new music (or at least new to me) each week. I will do this probably using Pandora, You Tube, and Playlist. I’m just stating all this so you understand the way they fall into the priority on my list. They get a higher priority only because I will listen to them as I write and as I do other work where music can be used as background.
During the Eight Hours of Project Work
1. Choose CDs and mp3s to listen to as I write
2. Write 500 words for daily blog
3. Write 500 words for column #1
4. Write 500 words for column #2
5. Write 500 words for column #3
6. Write 500 words for novel or book project
7. Write 500 words for novel or short story project
8. Write 500 words for journaling, or novel or script project
9. Choose new or new to me music to listen to while doing computer work
10. Check in with newsgroup and email accounts (tend to archive projects)
11. Tend to posting to blog, editing drafts, scheduled posts, and ATW.com work
12. Work on organization of computer files and streamlining backups
13. Music: instrument practice, song composition, recording, lyric writing
14. Any video work for ATW or other projects or promotion of ATW
15. Organization project for stuff
16. Editing of daily writing
Beyond the Eight Hours
Household chores, bill paying and other errands, planning, note taking, social time with family and friends, check in with social network sites, TV/movie watching, video game playing, and etc. until I think of anything else important.
Actually planning and note taking is more of an ongoing activity, but my hope is that I have all my planning and notes prepared before I start on the eight hours, so I put it here.
The List above is a starting point. I may change priorities as I go along. I will list more specific activities each day signifying where I am on each List item.
A quick note about 13: I really wanted to prioritize music creation higher, and give it more items on the list, but with the organization project taking up a large part of my year, I had to cut somewhere. My three main goals for the year are: writing six pages a day, the group goal of posting to the daily blog each day, and the organization project. These aren’t my only three goals, but I had to choose priorities to keep myself from trying to do too much
Goals for the year, including but perhaps not limited to: write six pages a day, maintain daily blog, organize all of my stuff, listen to more music that I haven’t heard before than I did this year, publish book(s), complete Season Two and Season Three, figure out what to do about Season Zero (aka Sniffles (sniff)), write and record new music and shoot accompanying videos, teach my teenagers to drive, Net Runner, Net Runner, Net Runner, Magic, Net Runner, Net Runner VE, Cyberpunk, watch a movie or two TV episodes each day, read more Stephen King, post to newsgroup four or more times a week, accountability partnering with Nathan, and eBay. And probably etcetera (what a weird looking word).
A note about eBay: No, it’s not represented on the To Do List. The problem with eBay is that it could easily take up eight hours all on its own. My intent is to really treat it like my part time job, provided I don’t get a part time job. On my days off from the guard job, I can use the same hours I would be at my guard job to work on eBay, and perhaps a couple of nights I can work the hours I would be delivering pizza. It’ll be an unfortunate balancing act between To Do List and full time job and part time job no matter how I look at it, whether the part time job is delivering, eBay, or something else. I haven’t picked a date yet, but I would like to be paying my bills on my own by some time in the year. I’ve cut my expenses back almost as far as they can go, so it is going to require an increase in income more so than a decrease in expenses, unless my dad does sell the house, at which point I’d probably stay with him for awhile, which would lower my expenses considerably.
If I spend a full eight hours on all the list stuff, and get about a half hour in on each item, then I’ll consider myself to be on task and achieving my 2011 goal of a perfect year To Do List work (my true priority, but somewhat hollow without other priorities). As I realize that eight hours each and every day is glitchy at best, I am allowing that I can work more than eight hours some days and less than eight hours other days, as long as I can claim 56 hours of List work each week and keep up with the 16 items of priority (list priority as opposed to goal priority).
January, March, May, July, August, October, and December – 248 hours
April, June, September, and November – 240 hours
February – 224 hours
Each Ten-Weeks – 560 hours*
* checkpoints not cumulative. Just as a means of making sure that I don’t get really behind, I should make sure that I’m current for eight hours a day at each of these times. The eight hours a day will equal (365x8) 2920 hours for the entirety of 2011.
So I am very thought out on what my goals are and how to measure the completion of the goals. The real work will be keeping up with it though, and a good accountability partner will be a significant help. And a great scapegoat… I keed!
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The first book I ever read on time management was “How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life” by Alan Lakein. As a quick aside (I know I’m only on the second sentence so what the hell is with the aside?) I find it interesting that I live much of my life by some of the principles in this book, but I still feel like I have no time. I don’t think this is a flaw of the techniques, but rather a flaw in my personality. No matter how much I do, there is always another two or three or seventy-eight other things I’d like to do.
As if to give me something specifically to ignore, the book deals primarily in prioritizing your activities by the most important thing to you. About that flaw in my personality, to me, it’s all important. It all feels like an A priority eventually. Like right now, it seems reasonable to be typing this. Tomorrow, I’ll wish I’d spent my writing time more wisely.
One of the first things that he has you do to organize your thoughts and give you a snapshot (because he uses the photography analogy) of what your priorities are, is to have you write down three questions and answer them. I do this exercise from time to time to see where my priorities actually are at that moment. Here’s what you do (with me paraphrasing what he wrote):
1. What are my lifetime goals? Write for two minutes with abandon, as in, don’t worry about if what you write is possible or even if it’s really a goal. Just write. Then take two more minutes to refine what you wrote, and add to it if you missed anything.
2. How would I like to spend the next three years? Again two minutes of abandon, and two minutes of refining. He says to make it five years if you’re over thirty, but neglects to explain why he thinks you should do that.
3. If I knew I would be struck dead by lightning six months from today, how would I live until then? Treat this question same as the last two. But first, read what I have to say below, because this question is why I felt the need to even write this.
He says not to think about this, just write, and to presume that all arrangements like funeral and burial and whatever is all taken care of. That’s good, because my first thought was to find life insurance that pays out big for acts of God.
I do understand that this is a question that is designed to find what is important to you. That when you’re faced with only so many months left, your priorities will change. The thing is that mine would change drastically. I’m at work as I write this. I would call off right now and go home. I would make a list of people to assault 170 days from now, and I would buy a baseball bat. I’m kidding. But that’s just an extreme example of how one’s outlook might change if they knew they were going to die. I wouldn’t work anymore. No way. Moving back in with one of my parents for six months would be an acceptable course of action.
Let’s stop for a moment. This question is designed to get this kind of response. The idea is that likely nobody would say, “Oh, I’ll spend more time at my job over the next six months than I ever did.” And when you’re done, you’re supposed to look at it all realistically anyway. The assault list is suddenly not very practical, so it goes off the list. The question is designed in such a way as to make you think, “What would I get rid of from my life that isn’t important?” My job. Gone. So once I have no job, what is important? That’s what you should be working towards more often than you are. Sure, you have to keep your job, but if you say, “I would spend the last six months of my life hanging out with my children,” then it means that that’s what you should be doing as often as you can.
I’ve heard this question asked another way, which is, “If you had all the money you needed to live your life ideally, how would you live it?” It’s supposed to get the same kind of answer that says what you should be doing more often than you are now. But it would put me in a different frame of mind. I would go from “Cat’s in the Cradle” to “Shame of Life” very quickly… Cat Stevens to Butthole Surfers, in case you actually feel like looking the songs up to see what I mean.
The change in priority is this. Six months is not a whole lot of time to become a rock god, and even if I did, I’d get struck by lightning right as it got good, so I’d just want to hang out with my kids. Unlimited money resources and a normal non-lightning lifespan, and I can still hang out a lot with my kids in between being a rock god. Peter Gabriel’s daughter toured with him. And the number of rock star’s kids with a top 40 hit that they likely wouldn’t have had without mommy or daddy (no matter how talented they truly are) my kids wouldn’t complain… or they would be out of the daddy is the coolest club.
Again, please let me clarify, these questions are merely designed to get you thinking. I understand that. When the dust settles and you realize that you’re not Frank Sinatra (the rest of us just live in it) you’re supposed to make choices tempered by reality and get to it. And that’s the world where my two favourite shows that I’ve played were all ages shows so that my kids could watch their dad be a much lesser local rock god underling.
So what is my point? Well, I was thinking about this question and I realized something, well, something other than the fact that there is some song out there called live like you’re dying or something like that. I think the best way to ask this is: What if six months from now God (or fate or whatever you want to call it) was going to flip a coin (although saying God makes more sense here because fate doesn’t have imposable thumbs) that if it came up heads you would live on, and if it came up tails your life would end, how would you live your life until then?
I’m sure you want to know why I would ask it this way. I’m also sure that I’m going to tell you even if you don’t want to know. To me this phrasing cuts out any of the nonsense that you might try to throw in here. At this point, I’m throwing away my assault list in case it comes up heads, and in fact, it’s not even getting written, because I’m not calling off from my job until it’s time to go at 6 am. But if faced with the possibility of actually dying, even if I have four copies of Krark’s Thumb in play, what would I do to make sure I’m ready if I die and if I don’t?
I think when I take out a lot of the weird what ifs like certain death, endless money, or whatever limiter that is lifted from your thinking, I see what it is that I should be doing for the next six months. And if you ask this question frequently enough, the next six months of your life will gradually change.
I would literally spend my days off for the next couple of weeks getting boxes and sorting my mess of crap into two camps, stuff I can get to in the next six months, and stuff I can’t. I would tape up the stuff I can’t and get to the stuff I can. Most of what I would try to get to would be unfinished projects that are the closest to being finished, because they will take the least time to finish.
After about a month, if I was serious about doing this, I would have all of my stuff organized for sure. After all, I would be spending every free minute on getting that far. If I ask the question again, I now not only have until June rather than May (I wrote this in November, who knows when it’ll post) but the scope of what I would do has changed. My stuff is already organized. Now I could list projects with easy finishing times, like the two novels that are almost done. I could pick the one that would be easiest to finish and get to it, and then get to work on the other.
After about a month, if I remained serious, I could ask the question again, and not only have until July rather than June, but other harder to complete projects also start to open up to completion. And eventually, you can just ask it as though you won’t die if you lose the coin toss, but rather God will bitch slap you really hard. That way you stop fretting about dying, and just live as though you have a goal for the next six months rather than live as though you’re in a country song.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Nathan and I spoke recently about what the hell happened since he moved back to Rhome. Really what happened is that life caught up to both of us. We’re perhaps in a better place now. He’s got his house put back together, and has cleared out storage. I’ve gotten past the court thing for the child support with the help of my dad. So I guess we’re getting back to life as usual. That means it’s time to set goals and focus.
Perhaps the issue is how we set goals and focus and hold each other accountable. I don’t know. I’ve read a lot of self help mumbo jumbo in my life. And I have a basic idea of what works for me and what doesn’t, and unfortunately that’s going to vary from one person to the next.
I think there are three basic types of goals (actually, I don’t know how many, but three sounded good) and I think that like the time that I wrote about the definitions of types of stuff, I should attempt to define types of goals. That is my (ahem) goal for this post.
As a quick note before I get started, Alan Lakein says that you can’t do a goal, but rather you do activities to achieve a goal. A goal to be a published author would be achieved by doing such activities as writing and learning about the industry.
Mental Goals – These are the goals and activities that are just there. You don’t need written plans or affirmations to achieve these goals. You wake up in the morning and you eat breakfast and go to work; I don’t, I go to bed in the morning, but the example “you” does. You don’t have to write out waking up, eating and going to work in a plan to do it. You just do it. If you buy a movie that you’re very interested in seeing, you probably don’t have to set a goal to watch it. You’ll probably order pizza, pop it in the DVD player (the movie not the pizza), and watch it. Mental goals and activities are things that you just do without having to put much thought into it.
Generic Goals – I want to be rich, happy, and healthy. And now that you mention it most people want to be rich, happy, and healthy. There is probably nothing wrong with these kinds of goals, except that they’re vague. And vague goals are hard to achieve because they aren’t really defined. What is rich to you? What is happy to you? What is healthy to you (aside from not coughing up a lung)?
Defined Goals – I want to be a millionaire (well, billion sounds nice too). That’s defined. Defined goals can be non-written goals or written goals. I’m just saying that they can be measured. You could make seven figures a year and think that you’re not rich, but you can’t have a seven figure net worth and not think you’re a millionaire… unless you have a pretty sizable bet on the Dallas Cowboys this weekend.
Written Goals – Simply goals that are written down. They might not even be defined goals, but they are written down. The ideal, according to self help, is to have well defined, written goals. I guess that sounds reasonable.
Long-Term and Short-Term Goals – Goals that spread out well into the future and those that are to be done soon. One of our long-term goals for next year is to post everyday to the daily blog. A short-term goal for achieving that is to set up a reserve of blog posts so that we don’t get behind.
Now on to something that is a little less me talking from education and observation and just simply me taking something I’ve read and repeating it directly. There are seven goal categories that a lot of the self-helpers talk about. Financial, Career, Health, Family, Spiritual, Social, and Recreation. Certainly some of these overlap a bit, but while your career earns you money, it doesn’t dictate how you handle the money. And while you can socialize with your family, there are other responsibilities involved, as typically you spend more time with family than friends, your social circle changes but your family doesn’t aside from birth, death, marriage, and divorce. Recreation is basically fun goals, and while you can have fun with your family, friends, and even at work, the fun category focuses on one aspect of those things.
I do try out things when I’m reading through self help. Sometimes it works out for me and sometimes it doesn’t. To me looking at goal types and goal categories and them perhaps brainstorming as such might help to define things that you might not otherwise define. Here are some thoughts about approaching each.
Mental Goals – Turn to a blank page in a notebook and list as many things as you can think of that you automatically do without formal planning. If you feel like it, maybe you can even carry around the notebook with you and add to the list as you think of things. When you have enough things on the list ask yourself if anything could be done better if you planned a little. For me writing everyday is automatic. Sometimes it’s less than a page or a few pages, and sometimes it’s the six pages I’d like to do each day, or even more on occasion. I tend to do a better job when I have notes to work from or an intended project to work on. After looking for things that can be planned better, look for things that you need to cut out, or lower the priority on. For instance, I shower everyday… kidding, I don’t intend to lower the priority on that. Cleanliness is pretty important, and I hate when I get past 24 hours without a shower, so I try not to get past 24 hours. On the other hand, I will sometimes automatically turn on my computer without thinking about what I’m going to do, and all too often without a plan for what to do, I find myself not using my computer time wisely. Anything that isn’t something that needs to be planned better, cut out, or given lower priority can stay in the automatic zone. There is no need to plan absolutely everything. If you brush your teeth in the morning, the afternoon, and before bed without ever having to think about it then there is no reason to put it on your to do list for the day.
Generic Goals – List as many goals you can think of that are vague and undefined. Pick one, or maybe all, to define.
Defined Goals and Written Goals – Review these regularly, and make sure they are still defined the way your wants and needs dictate. Prioritize these from most important to least important, and change the priority order when your wants and needs change. Create lists of activities for the three most important and prioritize the activity lists as well.
Long and Short Term Goals – Create deadlines. Adjust deadlines when you have more information about the ease or difficulty of the goal.
Financial and Career – Like I said these are similar, but you should try to define them separately when you can. Really look at your situation. If your income is lower than your expenses figure out how to fix that. If you income is higher than your expenses still try to define your lifestyle. I’m always happy to point out to people what percentage of their income I could live comfortably on. I don’t mean to tell people to live impoverished when they have money that can be spent on luxury. I just mean to say that sometimes it’s interesting to question your purchasing habits by pretending you have less than you do.
Health – This one has always been an issue for me. It feels like the extent of my goals are to just not get sick. It means that when I try to find goals to put into this category, I find myself coming up with things that may not actually be necessary for me. I think the best list of goals for health is eating enough without overeating, sleeping enough without oversleeping, taking walks or going to a gym a few times a week, cleanliness, and relaxing frequently. I may have missed something like maybe taking vitamins and drinking more water than alcohol, but you see what I mean. With health goals it’s best to keep things pretty simple, so you don’t end up being unhealthy in the process of trying to be healthy. Consulting your doctor about your health goals is a great idea.
Family, Social, and Spiritual – Value your family as long as they aren’t assholes. Make friends and do your best to keep the good ones around while seeing less of the bad ones. Social networks and other online social stuff is a great media. I’m a huge fan. I do believe that you should have real world contact too though. If you have a family that lives with you or close by you should start there. If not, get out and meet people. Spiritually, I’ve always had trouble defining goals. Pray everyday? Perhaps. Go to church once a week. No thanks. Read The Bible? Well sure if that renews you spiritually. The trick here is to figure out what you believe and try to follow that as well as possible, and if you can find somewhat likeminded people, try to make part of your social goals overlap your spiritual goals. If your family is somewhat likeminded, all the better.
Recreation – This one is so hard to define too. Recreation is meant to be fun and relaxing. If it becomes a goal based activity like everything else then it can become not fun and not relaxing very fast. So what to do with this? I think it should be defined more in time off, like having an hour a day to simply relax or a particular day of the week to not concern yourself with responsibility. Sure you can list things you like to do with your recreation time, but don’t fret it. If you set aside some time to go bowling on Tuesday, but then feel like going to the park instead, then go to the park. For as goal driven as I am, I still find time to do something relaxing. Sometimes it’s just lying in bed and breathing slowly and methodically, and sometimes it’s skydiving. I’ve never been skydiving and likely if I ever do, it’ll be me pretending to skydive while lying in bed and breathing slowly and methodically.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
This is the 'business' side of the show According To Whim and all its business off shoots. Pretty much a gathering place for forward motion of our grand plan.
That's the description of our private newsgroup. Nathan may have written it just because it asked for a description of the group, but I want you to look at the last six words: forward motion of our grand plan.
That is what we tried to concentrate on in 2010, but without defining it as such. All told, we did pretty well, but we lost momentum somewhere along the way. I'm sure we can agree that one contributing factor was our inability to hold each other accountable. This year, accountability should really be job #1.
We've talked about accountability, and how it's hard to keep someone accountable without punishing them in some way, which is probably not going to help the "forward motion of our grand plan." So what's the answer to this problem? Strangely, it lies within the person being held accountable.
When Nathan says to Chris, "How are you coming along with your writing?" Chris needs to be realistic about his response, and not dodgy. Is the writing current? If so, then good. If not, then why? Is there enough time to do it all? If not, then how to fix the issue. And if so, then why is he not using it wisely. One of the trickiest things about changing your time management habits is to realize that you really can’t do it all. So when you start thinking about a new project while the old projects are still in the works, the question should be is the project you’re thinking about taking on really important enough to change your priorities around, or is it a distraction from your real priorities?
When Chris asks Nathan about his financial goals for the year, Nathan also has to be realistic about his response, and not dodgy. One of the trickiest things about financial goals is realizing that spending habits have to change. It's also realizing that the extra money you pay out to deplete your debt will eventually come back to you when you are paying less interest each month. So when you start to ask yourself if you can really afford to pay down credit cards at such an alarming rate, the question should really be do I not want to let go of the money because I'm seriously having trouble paying my bills, or is it because of an unwillingness to cut back in the luxury category?
What I mean to say, is that accountability starts with the self. Having an accountability partner is merely a way to remind yourself that you do have goals that you wish to achieve. Your partner can't help you if you are filling your own thoughts with bullshit excuses.
A good goal does not lean toward impossible to achieve, but a good goal also forces you a little bit out of your comfort zone. “Comfort zone” is one of those phrases that makes Nathan cringe when I use it. I think it’s because it is hard to think of “comfort” as a bad thing. Humans are creatures of habit, and when we start a bad habit, we still become comfortable with it. It may be harming us in the long term, but we’re comfortable with it. It’s who we are. We sometimes even define ourselves by it. We sometimes even go so far as to ask others to accept us as we are, when we don’t even accept ourselves as we are. Chris has become too comfortable in his role as the guy who will one day be hugely successful, but is just working on it now. Nathan has become comfortable as that guy who is just in debt because, well, everybody is, it’s just a fact of life, and I like having stuff. Neither of these things is good for them long term, but bad habits can make you comfortable.
In a blog post I wrote about self publishing, I pointed out that as a society, we are starting to move away from the act of getting a second job and moving toward starting a part time business from home. While I think this is a good concept, I fear that many people who enter that arena don’t do so with an end goal of making that much money. It’s supplemental, because if I can make more working for myself, then why am I still working a job? The truth is that when you have the entrepreneurial spirit, you will always be trying to move in that direction and you will always have a grand plan. It will sometimes be a hobby, sometimes a business, and sometimes both, but the plan will always be there. I think sometimes we fight it, because we feel like when we’ve achieved what we’ve set out to achieve, we will no longer have anything to achieve. I think sometimes we fight it, because we realize that once we’ve achieved what we’ve set out to achieve that it will create even more for us to do. Whether we achieve it or not, we will always have a plan, so why fight against it?
Tomorrow da big day. The start of the first ten-weeks of the year (because our ten-weeks always start on Monday). Forward motion of our grand plan. We should not let our doubts and excuses get to us. And when our accountability partner asks you wut’s up, we should be realistic about wut is up.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
I went to bed on Christmas Day
I had to be back at work by six that day
And I was determined not to be
Trying to nod off the whole twelve hour shift again
From about as far back as July, or August or something
But I do know it was 2010
Because it was in an appropriately named folder
On my computer, “Current Projects 2010”
I’d written a note in my poetry brainstorming
And it read something like this:
“Regardless of which DVD I’m playing
“That TV isn’t in my bedroom
“I wish I could talk like Ann Magnuson sometimes
“And I wish I could sing a well as she”
I thought to myself, when I wrote that
“I have to use that somewhere”
Flash back forward to Christmas Day
And I’m sleeping heavily
I’m dreaming about Suzanne
And we’re hanging out at the burger joint
That we hung out with Scott and Jonathan
Earlier that week
If I had time to think about it
I could have a long interview with Sigmund Freud
About the implications of just that one image
The restaurant had a much bigger outside patio
And we were walking around it
Talking about stuff when I noticed the music
That was playing over the speakers
Because I always notice the music
That is playing over the speakers
It was Bongwater, “Double Bummer”
But there were some odd changes
Made to the recording
I proceeded to explain to Suzanne
That this wasn’t how the songs normally sound
When my phone rang
There was someone on the other end
Wanting to interview me for the newspaper
It was Ann Magnuson
I wasn’t nervous at all
I may not have known what to say to such a huge star
But I do know how to talk uninterrupted
For long periods of time
I explained to her how
Sometimes people who are trying to hide the fact
That they’re sleeping with someone else
Will make very odd mistakes
And I recalled a conversation Suzanne and I
Had apparently had at some point
Though not earlier in the dream
About her younger cousin
Who probably doesn’t really exist
Like Santa Claus or God
At least so Magnuson’s
One time band mate, Mark Kramer would believe
Because he’s an atheist, or so I read
Suzanne’s cousin, who exists in my dream
Made the mistake of borrowing t-shirts from her boyfriend
Just like my ex-Jennifer
Because every Chris has an ex-Jennifer
Used to borrow my Butthole Surfers t-shirt
When we were dating
And I was rattling on much like this
As Ann, Miss Magnuson, if you’re nasty
Took it all in leisurely on the phone
And finally made my point that
Suzanne knew she was seeing that boy
Because she was wearing his t-shirt
Ann explained to me that she had enough for her article
And that I could go now if I wanted
I told her I was happy to talk as long as she wanted
And she said that she had a few things to tell me
She started out by trying to explain
That she wasn’t an accomplished guitarist
And since we were now sitting in a parking lot downtown
She showed me one of her lesser moves
On the guitar she had with her
She then proceeded to explain that her voice was so amazing
That all she had to do was wail like a banshee
And men would orgasm
All the while as she spoke
I was checking out some woman
Who was walking around in a revealing bikini
She noticed my fascination for this woman’s ass
And it seems that she thought
Two can play that game
She found a group of men
All hanging out in cars that were also hot tubs
She began to use her voice on them
And at least one of them orgasmed because of it
Just like that Lonely Island video
I saw the day before
She was really having quite a good time
Using the sonic qualities of her voice
Trying to make men orgasm
When suddenly the police arrived
They were arresting her for disturbing the peace
I thought real quick that I should follow
On a police motorcycle left on the street
And wondered if I was really good enough
To become part of this news story
I started to use my voice as she did
And the guys in the area took notice
I took off on the motorcycle
Following the police car Ann was in back of
Until I saw an opportunity to turn left into a dead end
The cop noticed me at this point
And I knew he would arrest me
As soon as he could catch me
As I posed ready by the street
To try to make my getaway
I thought of how cool it would be
If Ann said I was part of her band
And the publicity we would get from the headline
“Members of Bongwater Arrested Downtown”
This is when I woke
Warm under my electric blanket
I realized that I had my inspiration
All I had to do was describe my dream
In some sort of rough poetry form
And I had my opportunity
To use the line from my notes
Where I spoke of Ann Magnuson
It was like a Christmas present
From my subconscious
But I’d already written my poem for the day
And the more I pondered this
The less benevolent the gift became
But I wrote it anyway
And now that I think of it
The poem I wrote last night was for yesterday
This really was a Bongwater Christmas
But nonetheless I decided
That I was better off alone
And would never try to join
A band that I admired again
- Chris McGinty – 12-25-10 – 5:33 pm
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Nathan has been quite busy lately. I haven’t been so much, but I’ve been keeping busy. I wrote a four part script a couple of weeks back, and told Nathan he had three days to get his three day backlog of blog posts ready. He aid something very noncommittal, so I just went on with my bad self. I see that he posted a posted a yesterday (yes, that was n-tentional, and so was that).
He posted about the Halloween season as opposed to Halloween Day. I think what he was saying is that Halloween Day is a little more cooler for kids because that is the day that you go and do the candy thing, but there is a lead up that involves things like watching horror movies all month, going to haunted houses to get scared out of your wits if you have any left from the movies, and do the whole decorating thing, like carving pumpkins.
I’m notoriously not a holiday person. I have my reasons, and I have been let know many times that they’re all stupid, so go elsewhere if you’re starting to formulate your response to that. In spite of that, I do still rather enjoy Halloween. I think it’s because it’s one of the few times of the year that I see people actually break out of their shell, and have a bit of a good time. I think it’s the costumes. You have this opportunity to say, “I’m dressed as a banana, or a pirate, or a baby, or a superhero, I can’t take myself seriously when I’m dressed up stupid like this.”
I think sometimes people take things too seriously, and let me clarify that that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing to be serious. I’m being serious right now, for instance. What I’m saying is toooooooo (that was intentional) serious. I pointed out on a message thread somewhere that we have managed to dumb down awesome as a culture.
Dude 1: I got a 72 on my test, dude.
Dude 2: Dude, that’s awesome.
Same thing with “you take yourself too seriously.” I’ve heard people try to say, “Oh, so it’s all fun for you?” That’s why I wanted to clarify. I’m not saying ignore responsibility. I’m not saying to never get thoughtful. I am saying this:
Have fun in life. Smile more. Laugh more. Play more. Be responsible for yourself and how you treat others, but have fun. It’s odd to me that typically when I go out to clubs to have a good time that some people are too busy trying to fit into their social circle, some are too busy worrying about hooking up, and others are just too nervous to even enjoy themselves. But over Halloween, I went to a couple of local shows, and people were having a good time that I don’t normally notice them having. Halloween almost speaks like a paradox. There are some horrible, scary things in life, but there’s a lot of fun to be had in life too if you don’t take it too seriously.
And one last clarification; just because I used the club scene as an example, doesn’t mean that I’m saying you have to go out to have fun. If you have a family, laugh and have a good time with them at home. One of my biggest pet peeves about the holidays is that I’ve seen it too often where families get together, and all they can do is bicker, and make snide comments. I know that’s not the fault of the holidays, but it shows that there is a definite flaw to thinking that we can take everything too seriously all year long, and then every so often it’s ok, just because it’s a special day. I’m not opposed to holidays when they’re used for good. I’m opposed to holidays when they’re used for evil. Well except Halloween. Halloween can be a little evil, or we might be disappointed.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Well, Halloween is over. Let's enjoy it one last time. Ok, now we only have 364 days left until it rolls around again. You know, funny thing is... is that with a day like Halloween it's not really the actual day (unless you are a kid) it is the all the stuff that goes on (with Halloween being the end of it all). When you are an adult you probably go to a party on the actual day but the fun of Halloween is something that is enjoyed for a couple of weeks (or more) before the day.
ANYWAY what this blog is about is Hangman's House of Horrors. This Fort Worth based haunted house is the largest charity haunted house in the US. As you know I have been doing some video work for them but now that the season is over I have offered my services in helping with design and ideas for next year.
I have always wanted to do my own haunted house. When I was a kid me and my friends would make a haunted house in our garage. The walls were mostly sheets and we would use some clothes stuffed with clothes for a dummy and any other spooky type stuff I had around along with a black light bulb and some haunted house music. We would take turns 'building' the haunted house then making the other person go through it. One time I used my Masters of the Universe Castle Grayskull as a prop with my hand shooting out of the skull mouth at that particular friend. Once I got ambitious and gave my dummy red dyed spaghetti as my gory centerpiece (what a mess to clean up).
With all that said after doing the video stuff for them I offered my assistance in brainstorming some great ideas that can be done with basically a zero dollar budget. They have a group of people who already do this. They are called CORE member and they are volunteers who have forty or more house of time logged helping out. They might not appreciate my ideas since I am not a CORE member but I'd like to try.
I have been a fan of Disney's Imagineering stuff for a long time and love The Haunted Mansion and think they could use some cool effects I have seen there. They will require certain items that will have to be sought out as a donation but I think I could handle this too.
Either way I'd like to help out these guys and maybe make their haunted house even better.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
(In the bedroom, Nathan is watching the printer. It’s printing too slowly for his taste. His cell phone rings. He sees it is Miguel.)
(The screen goes to split with Nathan on one side and Miguel on the other.)
MIGUEL: I just had a disturbing visit from the Ghost of Public Access Past. Thanks to the Ghost of Public Access Present, Chris knows I sent you my script, but he has no proof. I’ve deleted all traces of it from my computer, and from my email. You must clear your email, and change the user information on the file to show that the file is yours, and was created today. Then he’ll have to accept it as your work.
(Nathan opens his email, by typing importantly. He hits some keys forcefully to clear all record of the email transaction. He then uses “Save As” to make the file new and originated on his computer. He deletes Miguel’s version and empties the recycle bin. He sighs as though he’s been through an ordeal.)
NATHAN: It’s done.
(The printer stops printing.)
NATHAN: And so is the printer.
MIGUEL: And with only five seconds to spare. Take it to Chris. Hurry!
(The screen shows the seconds counting down until 7:00. The screen cuts to Chris in the living room knocked out on the couch. His alarm clock on his cell phone goes off, and he comes to. Nathan walks into the room.)
NATHAN: It’s 7:00 and the script is done.
(Chris stands up from the couch.)
CHRIS: I know what you did.
NATHAN: But you can’t prove it.
(Chris walks away. He goes to put the groceries away. Nathan watches him for a moment.)
NATHAN: I don’t know why you have to be so opposed to this.
(Chris doesn’t say anything. He just keeps putting things away.)
NATHAN: Look at it this way, Miguel will definitely want to help out on this one. I know you can’t prove why, but you have to admit that it’s at least a good enough rationalization.
(Chris stops putting stuff away.)
CHRIS: Ok, fine. Let me see it.
(Nathan’s concerned look changes to a wary smile. He hands the script over to Chris. Chris takes it and half-heartedly looks at it a little bit.)
CHRIS: Mind if I make a few minor edits?
NATHAN: Of course not.
(Chris pulls out a cigarette lighter, which is odd because he doesn’t smoke, and starts moving the script towards it.)
CHRIS: I don’t like this part right here.
NATHAN: I can just reprint it, Chris.
CHRIS: And I can keep burning them until you run out of ink.
NATHAN: This is so pointless, this arguing. Don’t you see that?
(Suddenly, Chris from the Future phases in)
CHRIS FROM THE FUTURE: I’m going to have to ask you to put the lighter away.
CHRIS: You hit me over the head. I’m not happy with you.
CHRIS FROM THE FUTURE: If that sketch doesn’t get made the future is horrible: death; war; pestilence; bad pop music masquerading as art. I was sent back to stop you from catching it on fire.
CHRIS: Are things really that bad?
CHRIS FROM THE FUTURE: Yes.
(The three of them look at each other silently.)
CHRIS: Fine. I’ll stay home from the show tonight, and we’ll get this shaped up and storyboarded.
(Nathan exhales relieved. Chris from the Future stands down a bit. Chris sets the lighter down.)
CHRIS FROM THE FUTURE: I have authorization to help you with the opening shots if you’ll go get your camera. If I don’t ensure that there is progress toward the completion, I might return to my own time to find that things are still bad.
NATHAN (to Chris): You up for it?
(Nathan turns away smiling. He walks into the bedroom. He picks up the professional grade video camera that Chris has nicknamed “The Jedi Turret Cannon” because of its size. He checks the tape in it, and sees that it contains footage from a previous shoot. He looks to his desk where he sees a blank tape. He walks to it and picks it up. As he turns to leave the room the large camera swings around catching the edge of Nathan’s external hard drive. It falls over and makes a strange sizzling noise. His computer screen goes blank. He sets the camera on the floor and checks the connections on the hard drive. The time pops up on the screen showing 7:05:29. Seconds pass and there is a dawning realization on Nathan’s face.)
(In the living room, Chris from the Future is receiving a transmission in his earpiece.)
CHRIS FROM THE FUTURE: I just received confirmation from the future that all other copies of that infernal script are destroyed. That’s the last one.
CHRIS FROM THE FUTURE: You can’t allow that sketch to be made. I was lying to get Nathan too close to his hard drive.
NATHAN (entering the room): Chris, I need to see the script real quick.
(Chris moves quickly to grab the lighter. He flicks it a couple of times, and it doesn’t seem to want to start. Nathan moves to intercept, but it finally lights and the script burns quickly. Nathan has no time to get to it before it is ruined. The screen goes black and the last few seconds tick until the timer reads 7:06. Then the screen goes fully black, followed by the credits.)
(Split screen. Nathan is on one side still at his computer. Chris is on the other side knocked out on the floor. The digital time layout says 6:52.)
(Screen cuts to Miguel’s phone beeping again. We hear the toilet flush. Miguel comes out and picks up the phone. He looks at it, and dials out. Nathan answers it.)
MIGUEL: You called?
NATHAN: You get my message?
MIGUEL: No, couldn’t be bothered to listen. Just called you back. This will give you a chance to expound some exposition.
NATHAN: What are you talking about?
MIGUEL: In a narrative, when a character gives information that is necessary to back story. It’s called exposition. Just trying to be funny. What’s up? Has Chris gone rogue?
NATHAN: What? You’re very weird today. It’s like talking to Miguel if Chris was telling him what to say.
MIGUEL: Maybe he’s over here with a gun to my head telling me not to warn you that he’s coercing me.
NATHAN: I know he’s not, because he’s in the living room, probably delighting in the knowledge that I’ll never get this done in time. Besides, he wouldn’t threaten your life. He would threaten something that meant something to you.
MIGUEL (altering his voice to sound like Chris altering his voice to sound like Kiefer Sutherland altering his voice to sound menacing): Tell him what I told you tell him, or I’ll eBay your Star Wars action figures.
NATHAN: Ok, now I believe it.
MIGUEL: So what’s going on?
NATHAN: Chris gave me until 7:00 to write a spoof of “A Christmas Carol.” He said we’d shoot it if I was done by then. I called you hoping you could tell me something about the book. When you didn’t answer, I tried writing based on ideas Chris threw out earlier. That’s as far as I got. I found “A Christmas Carol” online, but I don’t have time to scour source material and write. It’s a lost cause.
MIGUEL: Maybe not.
NATHAN: Even if you told me some of the story specifics, I’d need to script out three ghost encounters in a little over five minutes…
MIGUEL: No, you don’t. I wrote a script for a spoof of “A Christmas Carol” back in the Sniffles (sniff) days. Let’s just say that Chris wasn’t interested in shooting it. I could email it to you and you could print it. Chris would never know it’s mine. He’d be obligated to finally make my spoof.
NATHAN: Send it.
MIGUEL: Ok. Give me a moment.
(Miguel sits in front of his computer and types importantly. His eyes grow wide and disbelieving.)
MIGUEL: It’s not here.
MIGUEL: It’s been erased. Whoever did this wants to ensure that the sketch never gets shown on public access.
(Nathan holds the phone away from his face and looks at it funny. He puts it back to his ear.)
NATHAN: Stop being dramatic. Are you looking in the right directory?
(Miguel types importantly.)
MIGUEL: Oh, there it is. Ok, I’ll email it. It should be there in a minute.
NATHAN: Ok, thanks. I take back anything I’ve said about you for at least a week.
(In the living room, Chris is coming too. He holds his head as though it hurts. Nathan is sitting there, but like Miguel Ghost, well, he’s Nathan Ghost.)
CHRIS: Are you going to hit me over the head with a bottle too?
NATHAN GHOST: No. I’m the Ghost of Public Access Present. I’m just here to talk to you about the script that my alter ego is working on.
NATHAN GHOST: Because in my Hell there is no Net Runner.
CHRIS: Ok, fine. I’ll listen. But be quick. I don’t think I’m going to be convinced to do this sketch even if he really did have time to write it. Are you going to show me another scene from my life?
NATHAN GHOST: Yes. A scene from the present.
CHRIS: Ok. I’m ready.
CHRIS: Um. Ok.
NATHAN GHOST: What?
CHRIS: You’re not funny.
NATHAN GHOST: I wasn’t aware I was being funny.
CHRIS: Right. That’s what I said. So why are you even here? You didn’t have to come here to show me what was going on right now. Shouldn’t you show me what everybody else is doing in the present that will teach me some sort of lesson about why I shouldn’t be so grouchy about doing a spoof of “A Christmas Carol?”
(Nathan Ghost snaps his fingers and we see the split screen with the time log. On one side Miguel is typing importantly. On the other side Nathan is staring at the computer importantly.)
CHRIS (voice over): That’s pretty cool.
NATHAN GHOST (voice over): Thanks. Unfortunately, they aren’t talking, so it’s a little dull.
CHRIS (voice over): Yeah. Did you do that with editing software?
NATHAN GHOST (voice over): Yeah, After(life) Effects.
CHRIS (voice over): Looks good.
(Miguel taps a button on his keyboard in a very important way that indicates that he just sent something. Nathan’s computer beeps indicating that he has email. Nathan looks pleased at something. The side of the screen that showed Miguel now shows Chris standing with Nathan Ghost. Nathan stands up and turns on his printer.)
CHRIS: Wait. Nathan didn’t write the script. He’s a traitor to the ATW. He contacted Miguel and got the script Miguel wrote years ago.
(Nathan starts to hit the printer lightly. He kneels down to see if it is plugged in. It’s not. He plugs it in and turns it on again.)
CHRIS: I have no proof that that’s Miguel’s script cos I never read it. If he prints that…
NATHAN GHOST: Wait, look at the screen. It says, “Super Funny Spoof that Chris, My God, Will Love; by Miguel McGinty/Cruz.” As long as he doesn’t clear that information, you have your proof.
CHRIS: He’s sitting down. He’s about to type importantly, and then print it as is. I won’t have to…
NATHAN GHOST: He’s stopping. He sees the authorship coding, uh, information.
(Chris starts to walk toward the bedroom.)
CHRIS: I have to stop him before he highlights the text and hits delete.
NATHAN GHOST: I can’t let you do that, Chris.
(Chris turns to see Nathan Ghost holding the empty 2-liter.)
CHRIS: Nathan Ghost… why?
NATHAN GHOST: It’s part of my orders for the community service. I can’t go back to an afterlife without Net Runner. And there are those in power that want this spoof made. This goes higher up the chain of command than you know. You saw more than you should have. I was supposed to come and just convince you that it was a good idea, but you’re so stubborn.
CHRIS (menacing action hero voice): I’ll show you stubborn!
(Chris runs to the refrigerator.)
NATHAN GHOST: I’ll show you stubborn? That’s your action hero one-liner? That’s sounds like something you’d say to a four year old before you put them in timeout.
(Chris pulls out a 2-liter of Diet Coke. Nathan Ghost gets a look of fear, and starts backing out the door onto the pool deck.)
NATHAN GHOST: What are you doing, Chris? It’s a desperate man who would betray his soda of choice just to best the enemy. You swore to protect your own personal constitution of life rules and self help mottos.
(Chris follows Nathan Ghost onto the pool deck.)
CHRIS: I don’t like having to take these actions, but there are some things that are more important, like public access freedom.
NATHAN GHOST: But you’ve made a mistake. The 2-liter is not an effective weapon unless it’s empty. You won’t drink the Diet Coke. And you don’t have time to pour it out before I’ll knock you out.
(Nathan Ghost smiles maniacally, and moves toward Chris raising the empty Dr. Pepper 2-liter. Chris suddenly spits out a capsule wrapped in plastic that he had under his tongue into his hand. He twists the cap off of the Diet Coke.)
(Chris breaks the plastic on the capsule and puts the Alka-Seltzer into the 2-liter.)
NATHAN GHOST: Nooooooo!
(Nathan Ghost tries to rush Chris, but the amazing power of Alka-Seltzer in Diet Coke empties the bottle quicker than anyone could on their own. Once it’s empty he twists the cap back on, and pops Nathan Ghost over the head. Nathan Ghost staggers backward, finally falling over into the pool. Chris pants, looking as though he’s just been through an ordeal, but suddenly he gets a look on his face as though he’s just remembered he must stop Nathan. He turns and walks into the house. He only gets a few feet into the house when he is hit over the head by an empty 2-liter. He staggers and falls back on the couch. He looks up to see himself in a ponytail. He recognizes Chris from the Future.)
CHRIS FROM THE FUTURE: I’m sorry, Chris. I can’t let you stop him from printing that script.
(Chris pulls his cell phone from his pocket and looks at the time. It’s 6:58. Then he passes out.)
(And we wait for Part Four)
INT – NATHAN’S
(Chris is staring at his phone. He hears a voice speak. It is Miguel sitting next to him on the couch in some sort of ghost like costume.)
MIGUEL GHOST: Do you really think he’s going to finish the script in time?
CHRIS: No. I’m thinking that I’m probably going to take a nap before going to the show anyway.
MIGUEL GHOST: So you’re torturing him?
CHRIS: Not at all. If it’s a good enough idea we can shoot it some other time. There’s just nothing like a deadline. And speaking of dead, you look an awful lot like a ghost. What’s up?
MIGUEL GHOST: I’m the Ghost of Public Access Past.
CHRIS: Are you?
(Chris gets up and goes to the refrigerator to get a soda. All that’s in there is a 2-liter of Dr. Pepper and a 2-liter of Diet Coke. He grabs the Dr. Pepper and a glass.)
CHRIS: I seem to remember having cans in there.
MIGUEL GHOST: Most people are scared when they meet a ghost. You’re being obstinate.
MIGUEL GHOST: And you’re asking derogatory questions.
CHRIS: Am I?
MIGUEL GHOST: Why are you acting this way?
(Chris pours some soda filling the tall glass. He returns the lid to the bottle.)
CHRIS: I’m irritated. I don’t want to do a stupid sketch spoofing “A Christmas Carol” so instead I have to live it. You know what I have to say about that?
MIGUEL GHOST: Bah Humbug?
CHRIS: No. You can take this 2-liter bottle and go…
INT – MIGUEL’S
(Miguel’s phone beeps its censor like indicator. The camera pans to the bathroom which is still occupied by Miguel. The shot cuts to Miguel in the bathroom. He is reading his book still. The screen splits, and we see Miguel reading on one half and Nathan typing on the other half. It holds for a little while, and then cuts to Chris in the living room.)
INT – NATHAN’S
(Chris is still sitting with Miguel Ghost. He is sulking. He finishes off the glass of soda, and goes about the task of refilling it.)
CHRIS: At least sing “Henry the Eighth” and entertain me.
MIGUEL GHOST: I don’t think so.
CHRIS: Then show me whatever it is that you need to show me, so you can get the hell out of here.
MIGUEL GHOST: Don’t say “Hell.’ I’m doing community service here so I don’t have to go back.
CHRIS: Is it really that bad there? I always presumed that it was custom fit to the person being punished.
MIGUEL GHOST: It is. In my Hell the only Star Wars movie is “The Phantom Menace.”
(Miguel Ghost shudders.)
MIGUEL GHOST: Somebody must have walked over my grave. What I have to show you is a scene from your life.
CHRIS: Does this have anything to do with pizza delivery?
MIGUEL GHOST: Strangely, no.
(The scene fades, and we see Chris without his goatee and Miguel in a wig of long black hair. Miguel is writing furiously in a notebook.)
MIGUEL GHOST (voice over): This is deep in your public access past when you were still working with Miguel on… um…
CHRIS (voice over): “Sniffles (sniff).”
MIGUEL GHOST (voice over): Really? What a dumb name.
(Miguel in the flashback finishes writing. He takes it to Chris who is changing cassettes out in the stereo.)
MIGUEL: Hey Chris.
(Chris doesn’t say anything. Miguel looks expectantly hoping that Chris will answer him.)
MIGUEL: Hey Chris.
(Chris puts away the tape he just removed.)
MIGUEL: Hey Chris.
(Chris pours some Dr. Pepper from a 2-liter bottle.)
MIGUEL: Hey Chris.
CHRIS: What is it Miguel?
MIGUEL: I thought that, you know. That um, because you know your idea…
CHRIS: Spit it out!
(Chris takes a sip of the soda, and then spits it in Miguel’s face.)
CHRIS: I said spit it out.
MIGUEL: Ok. Thank you for sharing your soda, Chris. I just really thought your idea about doing three minutes of usable footage a day was so good that I would, you know, write a script. I wrote this. It’s ten pages, so we can get three days of shooting out of it. It took me four hours to write, and I won’t be watching the Princess Leia in Jabba’s den scene tonight, but I believe that it will bring the public access glory you truly deserve.
(Chris looks at Miguel contemptuously. Miguel looks eagerly. Chris takes the notebook and Miguel jumps a little and whoops excitedly. Chris flips to the first page, and looks momentarily.)
CHRIS: A spoof of “A Christmas Carol”? Are you an idiot? I’m not shooting this.
(Miguel looks crestfallen.)
CHRIS: Get out of my sight. And forget about the three minutes a day thing. I can’t work with someone who lacks the talent to come up with an original idea.
MIGUEL: But Hollywood is filled with people who write unoriginal…
CHRIS: Professionals? You speak to me of professionals! I’ll go find someone else to do this with. Someone who understands me.
(The scene fades back to Chris and Miguel Ghost. Chris is pouring out the last of the Dr. Pepper 2-liter, and returns the cap to the bottle.)
CHRIS: That’s really not how I remember that happening.
MIGUEL GHOST: What would I have to gain by changing facts?
(Chris suddenly stands and lifts Miguel Ghost from the couch, throwing him across the room. Miguel Ghost tries to stand, only to be grabbed up by Chris and thrown against the wall. Chris has him by the throat.)
CHRIS: Who sent you!
MIGUEL GHOST: I told you. I’m doing community service…
CHRIS: You’re lying! Tell me the truth!
MIGUEL GHOST (whimpering): I’m not lying. Please. I’m not lying.
(Chris throws Miguel Ghost to the floor. Cut to a close up of Chris looking like he doesn’t know what came over him. He presses his elbow to the wall and leans his head against his arm, breathing heavily, looking a bit despondent. Behind him, Miguel Ghost looks at him maliciously. He moves slowly toward the empty 2-liter bottle. He picks it up and runs across the room to smack Chris on the head with it. Chris falls to the ground knocked out. Miguel Ghost leaves the house quickly. The camera pans away from his departure to Chris lying on the floor. The screen changes to the digital time layout. It says 6:51.)
(The Intermission starts. Self promotion of the website and other amazing things.)
(And we wait for Part Three)
CHRIS (voice over): The following takes place between 6:42 pm and 7:06 pm. Events occur in real time.
EXT – HOUSE IN RHOME – DRIVEWAY
(We see the truck pulling in. Chris and Nathan are inside. They seem to be having a conversation. After a couple of sentences Nathan starts to get out. The audio of the conversation can now be heard.)
NATHAN: …costumes would be fun to make, and I could use some of my goofy voices.
(Chris exits the vehicle as Nathan is pulling groceries from the back of the truck.)
CHRIS: What was that? I couldn’t hear you after the bit about costumes.
NATHAN: I could use some…
CHRIS: Eh. Doesn’t matter. Listen, I still hold pretty firm to the fact that too many shows do “A Christmas Carol” spoofs.
(Chris grabs the rest of the groceries. And they walk and talk.)
CHRIS: I mean what are we going to do that hasn’t been done before? It’s just going to be the same crap. I presume that you’ll be Jacob Marley…
NATHAN: The reggae singer?
CHRIS: Have you even read “A Christmas Carol”?
NATHAN: Oh like you have. You hate Christmas.
CHRIS: Actually, I have. It’s a good book. At least until he sells out at the end. Anyway, Jacob Marley is his dead business partner. I’m guessing you’d be dead because I pushed you too hard on eBay for Christmas sales. Miguel would have to be a ghost since he’s creatively dead anyway. It would be more fun to make fun of him on the show if he was actually involved.
(They’ve entered the house by now.)
NATHAN: This is my point though. Those aren’t bad ideas. We could do it, and even if it’s not an original idea, it would be unique because we did it using our jokes, and our inside bits.
CHRIS: Well, I’m not going to write it. I have more important things to do. And I really doubt you’d want to sit down and write it.
NATHAN: I’ll write it.
(Chris looks at Nathan speculatively. He sets the groceries he’s carrying down on the counter. He pulls his phone out at looks at the time.)
CHRIS: It’s 6:44 right now. It’ll take us an hour to shoot a sketch if we hurry. I gotta leave at 8:00 to go support the local music scene.
NATHAN: Yeah, more important things…
CHRIS: You listen here. I’m trying to tell you something, and you should pay attention. If you can get the sketch written by 7:00 we can shoot it before I leave. That will almost ensure that I don’t have time to reconsider my position on this.
CHRIS: Yes. So you need to hurry.
(Nathan gets a mildly panicked look over his face and runs out of the room, still holding the groceries. He runs back in the room and puts them on the counter.)
NATHAN: Put these away.
(Nathan runs back out of the room. Chris waves his hand dismissively at the groceries. He walks to the couch and sits down. He sets the alarm on his phone for 7:00 pm.)
CHRIS (yelling): Fifteen minutes!
(Nathan is at the computer, waiting for it to load.)
NATHAN (yelling): I know!
(Nathan motions impatiently at the monitor as though it’s going to make the computer load faster. He pulls his phone out and makes a phone call to Miguel. It rings and rings until finally the message picks up.)
MIGUEL (voice over): General Kenobi: Years ago, you served my father in the Clone Wars; now he begs you to help him in his struggle against the Empire. I regret that I am unable to take your call in person; but my ship has fallen under attack and I'm afraid my mission to answer your call has failed. I've placed information vital to the survival of the rebellion into this outgoing voicemail message. If I’m lucky I’ll figure out how to retrieve it. You must see that your message is safely delivered after the beep. This is our most desperate hour. Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; leaving your message is my only hope.
(The phone beeps.)
NATHAN: This must be why I don’t call you so much. You don’t answer your phone. Listen, Chris finally agreed to do a spoof of “A Christmas Carol” and I don’t really know anything about it. I know there are ghosts and he says “bah humbug” a lot, but I have very little time to write this… just call me back. I’m gonna go see if I have a copy in my collection. Help me, Obi Wan Miguel. This is my most desperate 15 minutes.
(Nathan hangs up. He checks the wires on his external hard drive, just as the computer finally starts booting. He walks away from the computer and walks to the bookcase, preferably in another room so we can follow him. He examines his books carefully, but doesn’t find “A Christmas Carol” there. He picks up a copy of the movie “Scrooged” and looks at it considering and then decides against it. He walks back to the computer and starts typing. The screen reads, “Brainstorm: Chris’s ideas” and so forth.)
INT – MIGUEL’S (for purposes of shooting this can be anywhere that looks like a house and has a bathroom.)
(Miguel’s phone is flashing that there is a voicemail, but Miguel is busy reading about Stephen Spielberg in a book called “Comparatively Scorsese Sucks.” The phone beeps at him, sounding similar to a bleep for cussing on TV, indicating that he has a message. He sighs. He takes his book and goes into the bathroom.)
Friday, October 15, 2010
Several months back we decided to clean out some equipment we weren't using at work. There were a couple of server racks and other stuff (which I can't remember). The taller of the two server racks was empty and I thought it would be funny to use that in some sort of sketch. Anyone can stand in there and 'peer' out while moving it around on it's wheels. I knew I would have to do whatever it was before we sold them so I got on the ball.
The sketch I came up with didn't 100% fit into the story line of Season 2 (since it is something that the Nathan character would do) but I could use it as a 'what if' or a dream segment. Basically Nathan would scheme to break back into the old job where he had been fired from and wreak havoc with the place.
One day I brought the script to work along with the camera and a couple of props including the Joe mask I made. I had my coworkers help me by being camera man here and there.
I will take you scene by scene so watch the video: Click here.
- I am 'sneaking' down the hall infront of my real office and the server room.
- My coworker Chris Noble is sitting at his desk in the help desk area and I AfterEffect'd a 'security screen' that he appears to be watching. I took several generic shots of different areas and put them onto this phony screen to make it look like Chris is a guard monitoring all these security cameras.
- The security system 'box' is actually the control box for the water alarm system for the big cooling unit in the server room. Nathan plugs a cable in (not really) and uses a laptop to alter the security camera system. The cable did not plug into anything. Also the 'room' I reached into was the server room and the room I sitting infront of the door of is my office.
- You might notice the footage is sped up in a lot of places. this was to cut down on time so the video would fit into the sketch.
- With the security guard distracted Nathan moves again.
- In the hall Nathan looks up at a camera (real) and then puts on the Joe mask (my boss).
- The far shot that looks like a security camera is my coworker up on a ladder at the end of the hall. I just made the footage black and white to make it look like security video. If you notice when I put the mask on and the scene switch to a long shot I am actually wayyy further back down the hall than I was a moment ago.
- The room I move into in the next scene is the little conference room infront of my office. You will see a piece of cardboard on the wall with pin back buttons on it. This is what was left over from what I was trying to sell at Comicon the that year.
- The picture behind me as I look at my old office is a photoshop is of my coworker Jonathan's head ontop of a female bodybuilder.
- The camera I approach with the handmade card is the card reader for the server room. I simply used Aftereffects to make that 'fish-eye' effect with the shot so it looks like some sort of security camera.
- After we see the guard still waiting for the porn I show up in the server rack and move it across the floor. It is very comical.
- The next shot of me walking behind the network patch panels was done by putting the camera on a cart and rolling it. The cables in that last rack were put there by me for this sketch.
- The Kaution sign is an in-joke about the time my shirt designs on CafePress were pulled because some company said it infringed on their copyright of the word Caution. I redesigned the shirts spelling it Kaushen. Well, it was sort of an inside joke.
The video seems to be well received by everyone who watches it. More so by those who work with me. I had fun doing it and I like the song so that's a bonus. I simply wrote in a sketch around it explaining that Nathan was mad enough to do something like this but in the end he just shrugs it off since he doesn't feel like doing it.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Steve Oedekerk (not to be confused with Bob Odenkirk) has my sense of humor. I think he must be my long lost dad or something.
When I was going through a somewhat rough patch I got ahold of a screener copy of Kung Pow from where I worked. I laughed so much I'd thought I'd die. I watched that movie three times in like two days. This movie was everything I love about comedy. There was an interesting review about the movie that sums up how I feel about it:
"An incredibly narrow in-joke targeted to the tiniest segment of an already obscure demographic."
-- Wade Major, BOX OFFICE MAGAZINE
I can only assume that since I found so much enjoyment in this movie that I must be this obscure, tiny demographic. From then on I became a Steve Oedekerk fan.
In 1999 Oedekerk released Thumbwars. A Star Wars spoof using thumbs with digitally inserted faces. I have always ragged on people who 'ride the coat tails of Lucas' but I seem to turn a blind eye when it comes to anyone who is already established in Hollywood. I guess I should be saying I hate 'nobodys who ride the coat tails of Lucas'. What I mean by this is doing stuff (like all the fan films and such) in an attempt to get a career in Hollywood.
Anyway the whole gag of the thumb movies is the freaky looking characters. Using technology that apparently was 'secret' (which I assumed they were trying to patent) they paste a face and eyes of actors onto the thumbs. I am guessing they didn't patent the technology since I have seen this technique used on YouTube in some one's attempt to ride the coat tails of Oedekerk by using it with various inanimate objects (I'm sure with all the hits they have a Hollywood contract is probably in the works). Losers.
Thumbwars is the retelling of Starwars (well, sort of). Steve plays several characters but most importantly Loke Groundrunner. The plot runs somewhat along the same lines at the first movie but skips over stuff (when its funny to do so). Elements of the other movies are blended in as well including Yoda (known as Puppet) in this version. There are some great lines in here including one Imperial Officer who asks Dark Helmet Man (ala Vader): 'Why do we all speak with British accents when we are in space and there is no Britain?' Dark Helmet Man promptly 'de-heads' the offending officer. The story (like all the thumb movies) is secondary to the jokes and visual gags. If you like this sort of silly nonsense then you will enjoy the thumb movies.
Batthumb is probably my favorite of the thumb movies (next to Thumbtanic). It's a retelling of the 1989 Batman movie with Woose Bain and Vicki Nail as the leads and the real story saving character of Blue Jay and extremely effeminate version of Robin. Once again Steve Oedekerk plays the lead character.
Thumbtanic is probably my favorite of the thumb movies because of two parts. The first is the the rich people making jokes about poor people and this part. I had a real hard time stopping laughing when that unexpected bit happened. The captain is the same effeminate character that plays Blue Jay in Bathumb. Flaming character are always fun to watch. Remember The Producers: 'Keep it gay! Keep it gay! Keep it gayyyyyyy!'
The Godthumb is the a take on The Godfather. At this point I am loosing interest since I was never a Godfather fan. Still, like I said earlier, the stories take a back seat to the jokes and visual gags so it still gets the job done.
Frankenthumb is... you guessed it Frankenstein. Like I said with the The Godthumb the story is really ignored for the most part for the jokes (which are still great). I couldn't find the full movie but here is 'part 2'.
The Blair Thumb Project is the last on my list. Of course it is a parody of The Blair Witch Project. Of course it was probably the easiest to make since there were not many sets to build but it still has it's moments... 'mallow!'
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Nathan called me earlier to check in, and I explained to him that we have been on vacation; we just had no knowledge of this until it was over.
The vacation started out of necessity, I think. We got behind a few weeks ago, and I went back and filled in the blanks with older writing we had. In my mind, it made the posts official enough, because it was material that could have been posted at anytime during that downtime. Then we fell behind again. This time I don’t have any material to fill in the blanks with, so I don’t think we should try. Getting caught up last time was partly the cause of getting behind this time. I posted up nine posts, and none of them were moving the blog forward, so we got behind.
The way that the ten weeks goals work is that the first ten weeks starts the Monday before January 1 of any given year. There are five ten week periods. Then there is a vacation until the Monday before January 1. This makes for about two weeks of vacation. Although I’m not sure that we would have stopped writing the daily blog during that time, as the ten weeks go, I’m claiming we took one week early.
Listen, I just need something to rationalize, and this seems good enough.
I’m not sure if we’re coming back reenergized, but I think that by declaring, “Game On!” that perhaps we can get back on task where we haven’t been. The first step is something I discussed before. Three is the new zero. We should each have three posts in the draft section ready to go, and consider it to be zero posts ready. We only use one in the draft section if we write one to replace it.
So what were we doing during our vacation? I’m not too sure either. I did something involving Magic cards and the TV show 24. I’ll discuss this later in the week. I’d like to discuss focus, and the good and bad of the concept. Nathan actually stayed pretty busy on Whim stuff, and wrote a few posts here and there about what he was doing.
I need to write my accounts of the haunted house and the garage sale. I need to finish up the “Some Thoughts” posts I was doing. I need to read more Stephen King stuff, and do a follow up there. I think I’m going to do a series of posts in the near future reviewing each of the a-ha albums. I recently discovered that their ninth album came out in 2009, and I missed the eighth in 2005. I have plenty to write about I guess, so no excuses.
Nathan is working on posts about Afghani cooking tips, population control, and zebras without stripes. Not really.
Anyway, I just wanted to welcome us back from the vacation we didn’t know we were on.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
So a week or so ago Chris, Miguel, and I took a trip to Hangman's House of Horrors (which you can read about here). Well, about three days later I get another email from Darla asking if I can do another video for them (with the stuff we already shot). The email was a little sketchy on details and I thought she was talking about making a training video of sorts that shows what how to act or not to act. After another day and some clearer emails I finally talked to D'Ann who works there too and she said that twice during the season they have a party after the house closes and she would like a video for light entertainment to play during the party.
When we shot the video of the actual walk of the haunted house I had a camera, Chris had one, and Miguel had one. My camera is the only one that had 'night vision'. Chris' and Miguel's shot in color with Chris' using some sort of low light feature. The video I shot is the only one that looks completely lit. As you would expect the camera had a hard time focusing since I was constantly moving and the smoke effects and strobing lights. For the most part it did well. I got most of the actors focused up and any cool looking props and sets.
Since all they wanted was a 'entertainment' version of the video I knew I could cut out all the shaking camera shots where I was wondering aimlessly around in there. I took the entire video I had shot and edited it down from thirty something minutes to about twelve. This edit cut out most walking bit and focused more on the actors. D'Ann wanted the volunteers to see themselves in the house in this party version. I cut out most of the unnecessary bits so the final video is more of a 'who's who' of the experience of the main house.
For the introduction at the beginning of the video I took what I had built for the 2010 Halloween Special Episode and worked in different titles and some different footage to make it unique. At the end of the video I placed the interview that we shot with Darla and added our website address to it as well (couldn't hurt).
I dropped it off and I haven't heard about it since. I am not sure how well it went over or if it went over at all. Maybe someone lost it or something. I will update you all when I hear something.
Darla and D'Ann are also wanting a short promotional video they can put on their website so I will need to get some more 'professional' footage of the inside of the house. The video will be more of a commercial type video. I am hoping to get the ball rolling soon on that as well.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Why o why (do you ask yourself) would a public access show want to write about garage sales...
- It involves Nathan and Chris (which IS According To Whim's team).
- It is about making money (which is something we talk about a lot here).
- This is a group/site/show/blog called... According To Whim.
This Saturday I held a garage sale in Fort Worth. I have this love/hate relationship with garage sales. I love them because you can unload of bunch of stuff you don't need or use anymore and make some cash but I hate them because you have to deal with people being cheap.
You may or may not know that the whole Fort Worth thing fell utterly apart. We are moving back so I thought we needed to dump a lot of stuff to make it easier to move back (make some cash, get rid of some unused stuff).
My plan was to open the garage sale at 8:30am. Chris would be there to help me haul the stuff up to the front yard. I was nervous of all the 'early bird' types so I placed a 'closed' sign up there and we did have some people come by then drive on (with one actually getting out for the vehicle before realizing what the deal was). We were at about 8:15 and when I came back up front with a load of stuff and there was someone shopping. Chris turns to me and says that she is a close personal friend and it was ok... he then asked her her name. By the time our official start time had arrived we had like six people rummaging.
Now let me just start by saying that I have good stuff. We are not talking about us selling a bunch of old cracked plates, nasty used stuffed animals, or old pantyhose. We had a lot of fairly new and fashionable clothes, many items still wrapped (like old Christmas presents we didn't use), my DVDs, and brand new Cyberpunk 2020 CCG cards. When I and my wife went through everything and priced it I got a good idea of the great stuff we had and just knew we were going to sell every bit of it.
Chris and I rotated between hanging outside and messing about watching videos on the computer (the videos I was working on for the 2010 Halloween Special and the Hangman's House of Horror's party video). Chris did most of the sitting outside. The house faces the sun and has no trees in the front yard so he did a lot of baking in the sun. People came and went and didn't appear to buy all that much. From what I remember we had only 2 big buyers. Some bought a crock pot and some clothes and kitchen utensils and someone else bought a whole slew of stuff.
Since I purchased all those Cyberpunk 2020 CCG cards a couple of years back Chris and I have been working at selling them. It's tough going. We posted auctions of them. We made an online store for them. We posted Craigs List ads for them. Apparently selling them at garage sales is far more effective since we sold more Cyberpunk 2020 CCG cards at the garage sale than in the last six months of selling elsewhere. Also a surprise was the fact that our Cyberpunk 2020 CCG clientele was of a Latino persuasion. True, it was cheaper than online and these people probably have kids and family that would like to play around with some stuff even if they know nothing about them.
Towards the end of the sale Chris and I did a little shopping of our own and Chris picked up the wife's old Sims 1 games we had bundled together and I picked up a book Chris brought called: Isaac Asimov's Mother's Day. I love short stories. I love sci-fi. It's like Reese's peanut butter cups: 'the two tastes that taste great together'. I love the cover of this book too:
Isn't that swell? Can you just imagine her saying: "Bzzzzt. Have a hot fresh ~ bzzzzt ~ cookie dears. Bzzzzzzzt".
Anyway at about 1pm we closed up shop. I didn't want to be out there all day so I made the end time earlier than most. As I was packing stuff back up people would drive by slow and realize we were closed. Chris would make an offhanded comment like: 'three hundred bucks for everything still here'. He kept doing this at slow passing cars but the further along I got packing up stuff the lower the price would go. This went on until the price for everything was like fifty bucks or something.
Chris was also convincing me to do the whole 'paying off debt' thing while I was packing stuff up. Chris' plan is to have me just let him run my life for three months while we focus on Ebay and paying off debt. I told him I just feel like it wasn't the right moment since I have been so busy i don't have much free time to myself even. He also felt he had this issue. I told him we could save all the garage sale extras and do some Ebaying with it when our schedules were more free.
In the end we made somewhere around three hundred dollars. Not nearly as much as I had envisioned. I guess it was good enough and we got rid of some stuff (which was more important to me). I didn't have too many haggling people to deal with and only one nut case (that went on and on about the government for no apparent reason what so ever).
Thursday, October 7, 2010
In 2005 I had a dream of making an all-Halloween episode of According To Whim. I liked the idea of doing one once a year. Each year there would be a According To Whim Halloween Special (brought to you by Tide, ok, maybe not). So in 2004 through 2006 I shot a few little things that could be used in a Halloween episode.
Dylan came over one day in 2005 and we shot a couple of horror themed items and even a Halloween episode intro and exit. Infact most of the stuff shot with Dylan (all together) could be put into a 'horror' themed show with the exception of 'Dylan and Cody try to get on the show' and 'the Munchie Shak'.
When I talk about horror themed stuff I am of course talking about horror/comedy stuff. I didn't want to do straight up horror. Later Miguel, Chris, and I would work on part of a sketch that was mostly horror and only a little funny at the end. If any of you have ever seen the Gun Sketch that Miguel and I did you can see how twisted Miguel's sense of horror and comedy mixed together is. My style is much more whimsical and must have a huge element of comedy and not so morbid. Did you go watch the Gun Sketch? I will give you time to go shower off and come back. If you haven't gone and scrubbed yourself clean after watching it, watch this one too. It's horror of a different kind that Miguel did.
Anyway... Dylan and I shot some sketches for the Halloween episode:
Afterwards things slowed down again and not much got done (the story of our lives). Halloween came and went and the episode did not get done.
We were approaching Episode 6 and I needed material. This was the last episode of Season 1 and time was pressing and I couldn't get Chris over to do much. The idea behind the 6th episode was that Chris and Nathan got mad at each other and split up. The problem was that both wanted the show so they agreed to split the episode into 2 halfs (one half would be Chris' and one half would be Nathan's). This split in episode worked well because at the time Chris hadn't been able to come over and do much and much of 'Chris' half' was normal sketches we did together. Since I needed to fill in this episode and I had an uncompleted Halloween episode floating about I simply put the sketches into Episode 6.
2006 came and went and I got back on the ball in 2007 and started working on a new Halloween special. It was somewhat half hearted because I only had one new sketch and new intros/exits, and intermissions. Everything else was old stuff that I reused. The big new sketch in the 2007 version was 'The Professor of Dirt's Halloween Special'. I did a new intro and exit as well as a website promo/intermission piece and threw in stuff like 'The Hair Bitch' sketch from Episode 1 of Season 1. Miguel, Chris, and I started a new sketch called 'let me sleep' but we didn't get much done before giving up. Maybe in the future we can finish it.
In 2010 I wanted to do another Halloween special. I started working weeks before on some nifty Adobe AfterEffects intro credit and exit credit sequences. I then had this great idea, why not contact Hangman's House of Horrors in Fort Worth and try to get an interview? It's good for them, it's good for me, its good for everyone! I did it and Chris, Miguel, and I went there and filmed it. That very weekend Chris was like 'finish a short version of the interview and make a complete episode for public access and have it done in 2 days'. I tried but couldn't. I got close but it was (and is) taking a full extra week to bring it together. I didn't want to do just a rehash of all old sketches I wanted something with a little freshness.
On Sunday I got up and set up a green screen in the garage and put a chair and table with skulls and such on it and draped a black fabric shower curtain over my shoulders for a cape and shot the episode intro, exit, and 'in between sketch making of' bits. I basically would insert older sketches into the 2010 Halloween Episode but have some new segments where I gave some insight into the sketches. All this adds some freshness to otherwise old sketches.
I hope to do another sketch or two to put into the 2010 Halloween Episode before it broadcasts so I don't have to use more of the old sketches to fill out the episode. Once done I need to get cracking on a 2011 Halloween Episode with all new sketches. That would be nice.