Taking the Moment

I’m not a creative person. Now typing that “out loud” might elicit some “of course you ares”, and that’s super sweet, but I’m ok with it. I promise no one is going to compel you into including that in my eulogy.  The truth is my brain is simply not wired that way or perhaps it’s that my muse is on a smoke break, who really ever knows.  (I would end that with a question mark, but it’s more rhetorical (unless of course you know what became of my muse, then do tell.))  I’m left brained.  Although, judging by my grades from school, it clearly does not convey any special adeptness in it’s left brainy specialties. (Why left brain? WHY?!? It’s just theoretical mathematics. Get that X girl, get it!)

Now, that doesn’t stop me from dabbling.  For example, I can draw some of the most adorable dust bunnies with these overly-large, super-solicitous eyes (if you anthropomorphize dust bunnies, you don’t have to sweep them up, because it’s like declaring war on an endangered (endangered because I just typed it) species – this is fact). Granted, I’m more likely to doodle a series of hash marks or cubes, but that’s beside the point.  When inspired, I’m a dust bunny drawing pro.  I’ve tried improv (you remember that brief foray into personal humiliation – the one where all of my classmates were approached to move forward and I was applauded for making regular payments – my pro skill) and then I tried sketch writing (where my teacher actually couldn’t remember my name after 8 months and everyone else was encouraged to go forward with sketch shows and videos).  Now some of this stems from me being a bit odd and squirrelly, but some of it is just genuinely me not being particularly good at it and people recognizing that, (which is always a tad awkward). However, I don’t let my awfulness stop me from trying!  Go me!  I’m content to spread my badness.  Make my videos. Take photographs.  Run up on a stage where they’ve invited two people to come up and then realizing a quick game of “short straw” is going on in the crowd before I get a partner.  Write my blog and ultimately just revel in my creative mediocrity. Go Meh-ness!

But here’s the rub. (No, I haven’t been drinking.) Anyway… the rub! Not everything I see others produce is always great art either, but that whole “treat your friends the way they want to be treated” thing usually compels me to offer them encouragement.  That’s especially true if they’re trying something new or challenging. If asked I offer up my “what if’s,” but mostly I tend to say “great job!”  I make an effort to acknowledge what people are sharing and recognize that a piece of their soul lives is in their art.  Apparently, “wow, that’s right shit!” is discouraging to some.

So, last week I did something that was hard for me and then I displayed it for a small world and got crickets in return, with a couple of exceptions. My soul laid a bit bare and the cool (sarcasm) sound of absolutely nothing. By comparison, I told Facebook I forgot my breakfast and immediately got 22 likes.  Maybe the takeaway is that this is where my real strength lies – not in creativity but my slow, public descent into dementia.  Great. My dreams realized.

Where we stand at this moment – I’m done.  I’m done applauding. I’m done helping. I’m done with “the favor”. I’m done encouraging.  That thing my friend did better meet MOMA standards. If they wouldn’t display it, then don’t think I want to see it as a .jpg in an email attachment.  If it’s not on “Funny or Die;” it’s clearly not worth viewing.  If it isn’t published; it’s not worth reading. If critics aren’t aware of it, and there’s not a blurb stating “Bold!” then you’re absolutely wasting my time.

Ok fine, I suppose that won’t actually be the case, but it really feels kind of liberating and also somewhat  compound sentence-y. I made many words!

Maybe I’ll offer some advice instead of declaratives. If you have friends who have chosen to share with you – whether it’s something completely new to them or it’s old hat, then take a moment to really look, listen and acknowledge.  That’s your one job as a friend; it’s actually your most important job. I guarantee they’ll reciprocate.

To my friends who always take those moments – thank you!

Who emptied the liquor cabinet?

Family Update: My Summer Vacation

It’s that special time of year when I use my blog to update my family and friends in a way that will bore the snot out of you if you don’t know me personally (and likely if you do, but you’ll feel forced to trudge through out of fear I might present you with a pop quiz at some happy hour).  Plus, let’s face it, at this moment I can’t think of a clever way to make my adventures seem all that interesting and I unfortunately feel the need to write. (That urge is being spurred on because if I move from this spot a certain beagle will race to the kitchen, convinced it’s actually dinner time when it’s not. So, I’m hyper-focused on not noticing that she’s desperately trying to get my attention right now.)

Usual Disclaimer

I can’t type.  I also can’t edit.  David can’t be expected to comb through the myriad of grammatical, typographical and some other -cal mistakes that I’m doubtlessly making every time I write.  Basically, you get what you get in all its flawed glory.  Just be thankful that I catch a ton of things before I hit post, so it could be worse for you – much, much, much worse.

The Show

The Awesome Cast of BatShyt Crazy’s: Live Rude Puppets Show

Over the summer I got to be the Assistant Director for a sketch show.  Hrmm… let me restate that – over the summer I got to hold the title of “Assistant Director” for a sketch show. As part of that title I did some standing, a ton of sitting, some thoughtful nodding and agreeable grunting. This is all very important when you’re putting on a production, or so I’ve told myself. I was the gal that when an actor said “line” I was “on book” and would say things like, “uhh hold on… ummm…”  My other duties seemed to include coaxing the director off the ledge. I kind of expected a big thank you card from the cast, since no one was injured in the production by said director.  I didn’t receive that.  I can’t guarantee what will happen at the next show when the next set of ledges present themselves. Guys, invest in football gear.  Just sayin’.

In truth, I met some wonderful, talented and genuinely fun actors. I loved that they were able to heighten the crazy from show to show (this was a show featuring hard-living, sassy-talking puppets) and they sincerely made me burst out laughing with each performance. This is saying something considering I’d heard the script numerous times over an eight week period.  At our own sketch show a couple of years ago, I couldn’t say the same thing.  In fact, had I heard one of the over-rehearsed sketches one more time, I was going to start screaming like a lunatic and running my head into the paneled walls.

I then stole some of those actors for…

A Commercial Shoot

Behind-the-scenes for my commercial featuring Taylor & Gene as detectives Wolfe & Ramsey

A couple of weeks ago we shot four low budget commercials for our friend Steve who has a new computer shop. Three of us wrote four sketches and each took a turn at directing ours.  In a short 10 hour day, we knocked out all four including one involving a fairly shy, but adorable three year old.  The bummer bit is that we learned at the shoot not all of them would be used, so hopefully you’ll get to see mine one day.  At the very least, I’m hopeful the cast for mine will be able to use their bits in their own personal reels – so when they’re famous they can say, “wow, I can’t believe I shamed myself like that”.  My kudos to Gene, Taylor, Jonathan and Mike who were great to work with as always.  Also, thanks to Topping, Mike and Jonathan for sticking around at the end and helping me with a project for my Video Sketch Class I’m currently in – a Blackout Sketch. My understanding of what that is – a very fast joke that leads with a misdirect.  It’s the best I could think of while trying to produce a commercial shoot.

As for that Video Sketch Class

What can I say? The people are extremely funny. The teacher has a nice take on things. I’m learning, but I hate every single solitary minute I’m in it and I absolutely dread going. I’ve been sitting on my own personal ledge for awhile while Jay and some friends try to talk me down.  I know it’s my crazy, but I can’t break out of it.  There may be a separate blog piece on it and my crazy later.  Three more classes (like years) – we’ll see if I survive that.  No guarantees.

An Awkward Segue to New Orleans

St. Louis Cemetery, No. 2 – New Orleans

Somewhere in all of this I went to New Orleans with April and had a grand time even if I’m not as plucky, fun or as fast moving as I’ve been on previous trips in years past.  April said I’m supposed to tell you she didn’t try to kill me.  All I’m saying is two of my toes are still black and its been 6 weeks since I’ve been there. Nosiree, didn’t try to kill me at all. That was all “me” mmm hmmm.

I did see and experience new things.  I rode a paddle boat down the Mississippi in a rain storm, which was lovely, explored the cemeteries, visited a former home of William Faulkner (a co-worker asked me later who that was, please don’t make me hyperlink it – I believe in you), ate some amazing food, and of course, then tried to order nachos in New Orleans, because well… I’m not a very seafood-y person and nachos really sounded fantastic in that moment. I later griped about them to my husband in a text, and got a very sympathetic, “and that’s what you get for ordering Tex-Mex in New Orleans”.  I also discovered Buc-ee’s a convenience store chain I had never heard of which I think I will make a blog post of its own.

That’s about it.  I have no other adventures planned at the moment.  No shoots.  No writing (other than that Buc-ee’s thing). No shows. No trips until Thanksgiving. It’s back to my normal waddle-y, self-deprecating routine.

How was your summer?

Because

Because my parents were divorced…

My Mother moved us to Austin when I was in 2nd grade.

And because she moved us to Austin when I was in second grade,

A little boy named Ernie was paired up with me on my first day of school.  His assignment was to make sure I got around ok and boarded the right bus at day’s end.  He didn’t realize it was a lifetime commitment.

He then grew up to mistake me for furniture (or maybe it was retaliation, since he’d been tricked).

When your friends become family.

And because a little boy named Ernie showed me around school,

I got a job at PBS.

And because I got a job at PBS,

I met a girl named April.

And because I met a girl named April,

I took an improv class.

Steve Rogers Photography

And because I took an improv class,

I took more improv classes.

Singing Improv!

And because I took more improv classes

I heard about sketch classes,

And because I heard about sketch classes, I wrote some sketches that we eventually turned into some short films.

And I also helped write a sketch show that had a sold out run three weekends in a row.

And because I did all of that, I met more people,

And because I met those people

I will be part of this year’s 48 Hour Film Project in Austin, which we’ll start on August 16th, finish on August 18th and have screened the following week at the Scottish Rite Theater.

48 Hour Filmmaker: Austin 2013

Thanks to my parents getting a divorce, I’m helping make a film!  Thanks, guys!

SHAMELESS PLUG: Interested in helping out, interested in acting or just merely want to keep track of what’s going on?  Follow Uncle Bob’s Dangerous Pants  (team name!) on FB for the latest details.

Golly Gee Whiz

I can swear.  It’s not nice or pretty or necessarily called for, but in the heat of the moment I can drop a truck load of locked up bile that would rouse disappointed looks from a long line of long dead ancestors followed by a heated debate on exactly whose side of the family was at fault.  Clean up the stream of unnecessary adjectives from one of my tirades and you’ll uncover a stream of insults tailored to point out every flaw, each one punctuated by a bit of spittle and ideally designed to send the victim scurrying for apologetic cover.  Not me at my best, but a throwback to a time when I was bullied and learned that if the quiet orchestra girl unlocked this vitriolic spray, especially under her breath, people would back up. For example, the kids who told me if I rode the bus again they would kill me.  In my defense, I needed to continue to ride the bus.  I liked school.

Thankfully, I’m a “happy” person for the most part.  The kind of person people drop by and say, “hey, I just needed to see that smile.”  And also thankfully, my Mother taught me both manners and restraint (and how to sit up straight and chew with my mouth closed among many other useful party tricks).  This keeps me in check and allows me to say “golly” and “good grief” in polite company (polite company being family, children and overly sensitive pets of the toy variety – let’s face it, a Mastiff isn’t going to blush at a misplaced f-bomb).

Where I’m Going With This

Saturday rolls around and I’m with a sketch writing gang, sitting around a table and doing table reads in a very public location.  The first sketch out of the gate is a dream letter to a horrible parent written from the point of view of a very dignified school teacher who has finally reached her wits end.  The letter was sprinkled with all the things you should never write in a letter from a teacher to a student’s parent unless your intent was to embark on a career of living off the good will of others.  It really needed more, though.  It needed to go to the proverbial “there” to heighten the humor. You see, the writer was a little restrained because she really works in this field and for the most part isn’t the sort that will go for the jugular.  This is not to imply that she doesn’t get mad at times, I’m sure she does, but it’s framed in a more constructive light.  She’s not the type to level relationships with a wrecking ball of rage filled contempt.  That’s when I jokingly offered to help.

“Would you like me to teach you how to swear?”

“Yes, please.”

She looked up hopefully and I swear the sun framed her with a little halo as the part of me that is my Mother whispered, “Yes, darling.  Please regale us with that infamous mouth of yours. ” My throat became dry and my eyes darted around.  There were children.  They had balloons (I’m not kidding, they were handing out balloons).  We were near a playscape.  Lovely people surrounded us who were enjoying a beautiful day chatting with their equally lovely friends.  “Go on, Beth. Let out that angry 14 year old.”  I sputtered, “you could say uhhhh…” I blinked and stared as my mouth moved wordlessly up and down.  Finally, another sketch writer came to the rescue and she offered up, “call the parent a c@#7”.  OH MY! You can’t say the “c” word.  That’s a no-no word.  I looked around nervously to see if anyone else had heard.  I was sure parents were fainting around us. Children were being grabbed up to begin what would turn into years of therapy. Of all the words, that’s a forbidden word – the word only the raciest of women say when they’re in one of those places I don’t frequent – like a gym or a wine bar (I kid, I’m sure they say much worse there).

Her eagerness to learn stunned me into actual silence and my well honed abilities were temporarily (and thankfully) castrated by the idea of unlocking a bit of my ugliness and sharing it. “Look at that face. Look at the halo. She’s an innocent.  You can’t just swear at her. Why not go out and kill goodness while you’re at it, Potty Princess?” It occurred to me then that while swearing is one of my many skills that can never be formally listed on my résumé, it’s not something I can (nor should) pass along.   So, I’m here to tell you that I will not be offering up a Swearing 101 class any time soon.  You’ll just have to hang out at a gym or wine bar.

Hotspots

As promised –  my short film that was shown during our recent sketch review: The Moral Compass Rumpus

Huge thanks go to the cast, to all of my friends and family who I managed to wrangle at the last minute and to my outstanding crew who made it happen on a very tight schedule.  I couldn’t have done this without you.

See my earlier post: Hot Spots: Behind the Scenes if you’re not sure what’s going on.

Hot Spots: Behind the Scenes

Next week, after the run of our show has come to an end,  I plan to upload my short film onto something like YouTube, Vimeo, or Funny or Die. I haven’t decided which, but people with bigger thoughts than mine are being asked for their opinions and suggestions.  All those sites play videos, right? BUT before that even happens, I thought I’d give you some background on the short I created since it’s a little Austin inside-jokey. You see, there’s a rumor going around that some of you may not be from Austin.  It’s ok, your cities are good, too.  I bet they even have their own inside jokes.  They’re probably even funny, too.

Every year around March Austin hosts a film, music and media festival called South by Southwest (or SXSW)   It’s a festival that draws people from all over the world and showcases great talent.  Movies are premiered.  Favorite bands perform. Panels on a variety of topics are held.  From the mainstream to the off-beat, you can see it all (with a wristband and a great deal of luck).

This past year a clever ad agency had an idea to employ some of Austin’s homeless and turn them into Wi-Fi hotspots.  How it worked: Let’s say you were a hipster in need of internet access and Starbucks was packed, all you had to do was consult your trusty hotspot map, locate a homeless guy, pay them a recommended $2/15 minutes and log in.  It was a way to create needed hotspots during the festival, directly benefit the homeless involved and, as the ad agency argued, help make those individuals visible.

Needless to say, Austin earned a certain amount of attention over this creative use of the homeless.  We were even mentioned in The Daily Show.  (I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear Texas is getting any kind of national, or even worse, international (or Daily Show) attention I tend to cringe.  It’s usually for a good reason. One that  makes me want to point east and say, “Hey guys, look over there.  I think Alabama is doing something crazy!  Did you hear that guy in Missouri?  Insane, right? RIGHT?”)

When all of this was happening, I was starting one of my sketch classes and in need of material.  This topic looked perfect. Plus, I reckoned everyone else had taken their shot at it.  It was only fair that I got my turn.

That’s how Hot Spots came to be.

If you’re new to this controversy, I encourage you to read a bit more about it and watch the testimonials from the homeless involved.  You’ll then be armed and ready for my short. You see, I don’t want you blinking confusedly at your monitor and wandering aimlessly throughout your house. That would make me sad… especially if you bumped into things.

The Atlantic
Wi-Fi Hotspots Made of Homeless People: Not As Horrible as They Seem

The New York Times
Use of Homeless as Internet Hot Spots Backfires on Marketer