Sunday, September 30, 2007

Happy Birthday, K!

My little girl turned 10 years old today. Wow. She's an amazing girl, full of talent and promise. I'm very proud to have her as a daughter, and love to watch her continue to evolve.

Oh, it's pretty much official: I'm directing Deathtrap for the TNP spring show.

The TNP Cabaret is this Friday - I'm doing my usual pirate shtick.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Happy Anniversary

Dear Sam,

Here we are again. This would have been our 17th wedding anniversary.

It's hard to believe that so much has happened in the last two and a half years. The kids are growing... both are so much stronger and more mature. I'm definitely a different man than the one who held you as you left on that quiet April morning. Even the house we made a home has been rebuilt; a different version of the former thing.

Things are happening for me professionally, creatively... I have rediscovered my heart, and the capacity to feel deeply enough to have it broken. That's just fine, because it all adds up to closure and completeness.

I still think about you a little every day (some days, like today, more than a little). I look back on our almost 15 years of marriage, just over 20 years together, as one would perceive an old slide show. While the images may still be clear, time and distance seem so much greater now. Before you died, I was always able to maintain a very strong temporal continuity; past experiences seemed close and accessible. Since then, even recent events sink into the distant past so much more rapidly.

I wish you were here to share what I've learned and what I've become, but a big part of that was gained from losing you - so it is an equation without a solution. Solve for X, but X no longer exists in the alphabet.

I could say more, but really, nothing more need be said, since if your spirit persists as I believe it does, you already know all of this anyway. It's just a way for this corporeally-bound human being to order his thoughts on a pretty somber occasion.

Raise a glass beyond the veil tonight - I will do the same.

Love always,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

TMBG, You Suck.

Dear They Might Be Giants,

It was with much excitement that I purchased tickets to your September 26th concert at the Moore Theatre in Seattle, looking forward to taking my kids, 10 and 13, to your live show (having introduced them to your music since they were toddlers and could dance along to "Particle Man"). I have been a longtime fan of your music, since your first album and earliest videos on 120 Minutes. My kids were thinking I was the coolest dad ever.

So imagine our disappointment when we arrived at the entrance to the Moore (having paid $10.00 in event parking) to find out that, at the band's request, no one under 14 was to be admitted. I mean, I understand playing an 18+ show, or a 21+ show in a club where alcohol is served. But nowhere on the tickets or the Moore website did it forewarn me that my kids would not be able to see your show. Ticketmaster lists the show as "recommended for ages 14+", but as their parent, I should be able to determine their ability to see a rock concert - and "recommended for ages 14+" is not the same as "absolutely no one under 14 will be admitted, period". It's not like they're babes in arms - they're worldly, music-savvy tween/teens who have great taste and have been looking forward to this show for more than a month.

Luckily I was able to get a box office refund from Ticketmaster, but I'm still out 10 bucks for parking and have a couple kids who are disappointed in the policy, disappointed in the lack of notice, and soured on They Might Be Giants in general (and I don't blame them). They were really looking forward to seeing you perform, and we all feel like you let them down. In the future, you might do your younger fans (and their parents) the courtesy of stating your age policy somewhere more visible than at the venue box office in sharpie, and in clearer, more concise language than "recommended for ages 14+".

Thanks, Johns.

Todd, Tyler & Kayleigh Downing, Seattle

Saturday, September 22, 2007

It's a Bird! It's a Plane!


Sorry about the lack of posts this week. Been going full tilt on the homefront, getting some contract projects finished, blah blah blah.

Got back into a gym schedule. That's good of course. It's interesting to go back through my posts over the last couple years and see how many times I say "I gotta get back to the gym", and I do, but 4 months later I'm back to "I gotta get back to the gym". Oh well. It may be two steps forward, one step back, but at least it's generally forward motion.

Been developing a new film project which I'm not going to elaborate on until it's much farther along. It's the emotional opposite of Ordinary Angels.

Kayleigh's blue is almost completely gone. Alyssa said she would find a different, more long-lasting product and re-do it for free. So that's today. I'm also heading up to the Comic Stop this afternoon to say hi to Brian and be introduced to Gigi Edgley. There's collaboration, comic books and indie film projects involved, and that's all I can say at this point.

Tyler has TWO math classes this semester, his regular class plus MESA math. His class went to the Puyallup Fair yesterday, and he ended up walking home from school, which is a big step for us. He is maturing and growing at an alarming rate, and my grocery bill has skyrocketed. But that's what *I* was like at 13 (sorry Mom), and it means he should hit his initially estimated height of 6'2". I think he might even surpass that.

Anyway... I'll get caught up today and tomorrow and begin to elaborate more next week.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Well, those of you who were waiting with baited breath for the release of Ordinary Angels on DVD have no longer to wait. It's available. So get that bait out of your mouth and go buy one already. Heh.

The new OA site is also just about live. You can go there now, but the CONTACT page is still being worked on. I'm actually just the media/director contact. Sally is the development contact.

Oh, and those of you who received an email from me regarding this: on the first three groups (everyone from A to N, I think), I included the wrong URL for my own film - how lame is that?

It's Please make a note of it - there will be a quiz later.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Creeping Into Fall

Sunny weekend in Seattle, but some breezes started coming in. You live in a place long enough and you can start to recognize the signs. Fall is just around the corner. The kids are back in school. Kayleigh is taller than her 5th grade teacher. Tyler has made a friend. I have high hopes for them this year.

Saturday was dominated by a rare and wonderful meeting of the D Constructed partners at my place for a combo festival postmortem/DVD release company party. Watched Forged and Zombie Love. Had lunch. After Sally & Justin left, Dan & I hammered out a basic site design for a whole new OA website. Should be done pretty soon. And the DVDs will be available from FilmBaby soon too! And Andrew Kenrick continues to make strides on the RPG.

Met my friend Mike for coffee this morning, then headed over to Staples to run some copies of the Ruby Slippers script. Got back in time to have a visit from Dennis Kleinsmith (aka Lucifer) from the OA cast. He picked up his copy of the DVD and a poster, and we chatted about projects. Dennis is all kinds of cool.

One of our leads for the play reading (the aforementioned Damn These Ruby Slippers) got stuck in Portland and was unable to get here. So thanks to Raff, we got a sweet and accommodating friend of his to read in her stead. In all honesty, the last time I'd heard it read aloud was in October 2004, when Sam organized and cast the reading. It's a lot more verbose and intellectual than the OA script, not that one can truly compare subject matter. Ruby Slippers was originally written in 1999, and I can see where I've really evolved as a playwright. Honestly, although I enjoyed the reading, hearing it aloud again kind of left me sour on it. I think it might be too dated... like the window for that particular play has passed. I dunno. Maybe it's because the play comes from a different place and time, a totally different guy - jeez, it's been almost a decade, y'know? A lot has happened since I first sat down with my friend Jordan and bounced ideas off each other. In fact, Jordan has pretty much exited our circle completely. And it seems kind of... un-epic... in comparison to my life the last few years. But there's ninja in it, and dream sequences, chair throwing and bondage gear. So it may not be a complete loss.

When it comes to original stage plays, there is currently little opportunity within Twelfth Night. They need to get specific grant funding for original works for it to make any sense financially. I'm supposed to direct something for them this season, and Deathtrap has been tossed around. Muriel is directing The Foreigner this fall, so I'm off the directorial hook until the spring (at least). In terms of original works in my own arsenal (when the time comes), I have a couple projects aside from Ruby Slippers.

I began writing Tragic Heroes shortly after Sam's cancer diagnosis, under the guise of putting a comedy out there to kind of do my part to lighten the mood. In reality, I just thought there was (and is) a shocking lack of costumed superheroes on the modern stage. Unfortunately by the time I'd gotten to finishing act I, Pixar's The Incredibles came out, so I had to go back to the drawing board on a lot of elements, and ended up shelving it indefinitely. Too bad - there's some decent shtick, and my favorite way to portray Aquaman (without it being the real Aquaman of course): as a drunk.

Vampyre Genesis is about the "haunted summer" of 1816, when Lord Byron, Percy & Mary Shelley, Claire Claremont and Dr. John Polidori congregated at a Swiss villa, took lots of opiates and held their famous contest to see which of them could write the scariest story. It was the summer that produced Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. But the lesser-known work to emerge was Polidori's The Vampyre, arguably the first of the modern, romantic vampire tales, which Bram Stoker would raid liberally for his Dracula a generation later. I used a lot of contemporary literature and Polidori's own journals, which seem to indicate a lot more competition with Bryon than Byron would have ever acknowledged. There is also some question as to whether or not Byron's child by Claire was actually his and not possibly Polidori's. In pouring over all of the writings and histories, it became clear to me that the major inspiration for Polidori's character of Lord Ruthven (pronounced "RIV-ven") was Lord Byron himself, so the concept of the stage play formed around act I being the historical set-up, the actual "haunted summer" (or rather a liberally dramatized and condensed version), and act II would be an adaptation of The Vampyre, with Byron, Shelly, Mary, Claire and Polidori portraying the roles that were inspired by them. Sort of a play-within-a-play, kinda... maybe.

In any case, the technical requirements are somewhat beyond Twelfth Night's abilities in terms of an off-season show, and I'd need actors who were REALLY good at accents and could pull off Regency-era dialogue and make reciting Coleridge sound interesting.

Anyway... there's always improv.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Okay So A Few Things...

The kids are back to school finally. I think Tyler is going to do well at his new middle school this year - next year he's off to HIGH SCHOOL! Yikes! He's been doing fairly well without his meds, sleeping and growing like a weed. Kayleigh is now taller than her 5th grade teacher... and there's something else different about her - read on.

So here are a few bits and pieces of catch-up from the last week or so...

The marble entry of the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead (Atlanta, GA).

Nicholas Cage and me - we're like THAT. (Photo by Todd Lubitsch)

We have a new family-operated pizzaria here in Westwood - they do custom slices.

Oh yeah - Kayleigh had her hair dyed blue in front. Alyssa, who did hair and makeup on Ordinary Angels, works at Salon Fauntleroy in West Seattle, and does the family hairs. This was her work, and I must say it looks cool. Having been a teenager in the '80s, I'm no stranger to brightly colored hair, so this is really low on my list of parental battles. She wanted streaks throughout, but we compromised (with Alyssa's help) on the front streaks. The strong blue really makes her eyes pop. So far everyone at school loves it. Her teacher says she will probably start a trend.

Sam used to have a blonde streak in front when she was 18 or 19.

OA got a nice nod from this film connoisseur, who saw the premiere in Atlanta. Scroll down to his writeups and look for 'O'. Thanks, man!

DVDs will be available in a few days from FilmBaby. Watch this space!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New Angels Trailer

I finally did a new (shorter) OA trailer...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Hey Laughing Boy - No Mo Buwwets!

  • I've now been awake for almost 20 hours. Had a quiet breakfast pastry, banana and OJ in the cafe at the Hilton where the main con entrance is, killed some time until the local Starbucks opened at 8:30AM (that's right, on Sunday the Starbucks opens at 8:30).
  • It appears that Atlanta's indigent, transient and mentally-ill-but-released-and-still-wearing-the-hospital-bracelet population all come out in the mornings. I saw guys combing through garbage cans for their breakfasts, all the while holding very intense conversations with nobody in particular. It was just a bit freaky.
  • I did slip a couple Washingtons to the dude setting out the chairs and sweeping in front of the Starbucks - apparently he's had cancer treatment, and is trying to work his way out of medical debt. Whether that's true or not, the fact was that he was working, and I wanted to encourage that. Besides, he let me in the SB before they were technically open.
  • With some caffeine in me and a sandwich procured for later (thinking ahead), I went to the sci-fi film block in the screening room. A lot of them had to do with toxic environments and folks wearing gas masks or environmental helmets.
  • Ambassadors Day was very unique and I thought well done.
  • The German film Deus-in-Machina blew me AWAY. Incredible effects work and a really original and intelligent plot.
  • Sat in on a panel on legal issues in independent film. It focused mostly on copyright, trademark, product placement, music licensing and the fair use defense. Valuable stuff there (although I was already well ahead of the curve on most of it).
  • Sat with Kely McClung of Blood Ties and the previously mentioned David No for most of the blocks. What a great couple of guys. Kely's girlfriend (?) Amanda is super nice and really funny.
  • The comedy block that followed had some pretty great material.
  • Enter the Grasshopper runs like a fantasy sequence out of Ned's Declassified, with great production value and a fun premise.
  • Monster Job Hunter - funny and gross and cathartic. Especially if you play 1st person shooters.
  • 07, once again, hilarious parody of 24.
  • Todd Lubitsch's Blood of the Cross was shown in its official capacity in this block. That was fun to see again.
  • Had to stick around for another screening of Zombie Love. I managed to get a copy from director Yfke (pronounced EEF-kuh, as I understand). Gave her a copy of OA.
  • I will definitely be showing all of these film trades to my cronies back in Seattle.
  • Went to dinner with David, Kely & Amanda. Todd L. showed up and the two of us went for drinks while the other three went to David's millionth screening of Forged - that was a huge hit at the con. It played on the Indie Film Festival track, the Apocalyptic cinema track and the Silk Road (Asian cinema) track. Nice reception for David in the States.
  • I had several people come up to me today and say how much they enjoyed Ordinary Angels from it's premiere screening. Wow!
  • Now I'm making the truly last post before I return home tomorrow.
  • It was a really great festival/convention. I made some good contacts, not just in a professional capacity, but in a way which I think is rooted in mutual respect and admiration for one another's work - perhaps even friendship. People who are in visual media for the right reasons and who are just plain Good Folks (TM).

Bullets Over Atlanta, part III

This may be my last post from Dragon*Con. I fly home tomorrow.
  • It's 4:12AM Atlanta time, 1:12AM Seattle time. I don't know why I can't sleep, seeing as how I'm finally used to the hotel bed.
  • Ordinary Angels had it's official premiere at Dragon*Con yesterday, closing out the afternoon fantasy block. It was well-received, and if the screening block hadn't been delayed and run long due to some small technical issues, there would have been more time for Q&A. The interest was definitely there.
  • The fantasy block was ideally timed to coincide with the exodus from the main ballroom across the hall, ensuring we had a packed house of walk-in traffic.
  • I got interest from some roleplayers, which could bode well for Andrew Kenrick's licensed OA RPG.
  • Talked at length with Ron Lehman, director of Jakob and the Angels, a darkly funny short about a man who must call exterminators because his attic has become infested with angels and their constant singing of celestial hosannas are driving him nuts.
  • Vanished Acres, Blue Dreams Downtown, Alien For Christmas, Art's Desire, Tunnel Vision, Whale, and Clicker Clatter all stood out to me in some way.
  • Talked more with David No, writer-director of Forged. Got a copy of his film. Watched a panel on international filmmaking with David, another Aussie and two Canadians. It was the Commonwealth Show.
  • Watched a block of very good animated shorts. Talked with the animators. Some guys who'd worked on Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Squidbilly (and had this short and this short to offer), and Randall Christopher, a cartoonist from San Diego whose comic book and short film, Kleeman and Mike, is very entertaining.
  • When the World Goes Dark, a student animated short, also stood out.
  • I saw a wookiee walking down the street in Peachtree Center. To even ponder putting on a 50lb fur suit and full head mask in Atlanta in high summer... zoinks, Scoob. That's dedication to one's hobby.
  • Oh yeah. Some guy actually donned a top-notch C-3PO costume and had a buddy running a full-scale remote-controlled R2-D2. Check it.
  • Stormtrooper Elvis was funny. Use your imagination. Better yet, here's a pic.
  • Saw classic Aquaman sitting in the hotel bar. I wish I thought to get a photo, because I've always taken great delight in lampooning the King of Atlantis by placing him in tavern-ish settings.
  • Had a good dinner at the same brew pub as when I first arrived. This time had the brown ale - that was better than their stout. I still like Northwest micros better overall. Just about every food is either really sweet or really salty.
  • Atlanta smells like pee. Seriously. Maybe I'm so used to living in cities with decent offshore breezes. Not only downtown Atlanta, but upscale Buckhead, where they are building a friggin' arcology of $1,000,000.00+ condos a block from my hotel. I kid you not. Smells of urine. The folks are plenty friendly, but between the climate and the pee smell, I could never live here.
  • Wind came in and cooled everything off late yesterday. Unfortunately it just moved the pee smell around.
  • This morning I'm going to go see the Sci-Fi film block at 9AM, then figure out the rest of my day. What could there possibly be to do at the largest sci-fi/fantasy convention in the US?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bullets Over Atlanta, part II

  • Dragon*Con really does have 30,000 people. Crazy. Many of them are in costume. Many of THOSE are really really GOOD costumes. I was so tired and in such a surreal state yesterday that I didn't shoot any phone pics - no matter, because next week the Interwebs will be full of pics of better quality than my phone can take.
  • There were many Star Wars stormtroopers. Apparently last year they had over 300 in the street parade. That's 300 stormtroopers, not counting all the other costumed folks. Oddly enough I didn't start seeing ANY until after I'd seen a dozen or more Jedi and even some A New Hope era Rebel Navy soldiers (the guys in the original 1977 Star Wars movie who get all shot up by stormtroopers at the beginning of the film).
  • A whole lot of pirates too.
  • Some great obscure comic book and literary characters. A couple came as Zan & Jayna, the Wonder Twins - great purple lycra costumes. Saw Alice and the Mad Hatter separately. Roman soldiers and Spartans galore - thanks to Rome and 300. Also many many Resident Evil characters and Stargate soldiers. Go figure.
  • I made it through registration in about half an hour, with the only hiccup that the film festival registrations weren't showing up in the printed label books, but were in the computer. A few minutes in a short fix-it line was all it took.
  • Most of the film blocks are being shown in the Education Center right across from the main ballroom(s) where the big attractions are, which means we're getting LOTS of traffic into the festival.
  • At the orientation/introduction meeting, I met several of the other filmmakers. We were given a ribbon to attach to our registration badge that designated us part of the film track.
  • The ribbon is pink.
  • Saw some really good animation and some really good comedy shorts. The parody of 24 was especially good, and Todd Lubitsch's Blood of the Cross (a comedy) is a skewering of both bad filmmaking and pretentious art all at once.
  • Gordon Michael Wolvett from Andromeda showed his directorial debut in the form of Fracture, a pretty tightly executed psychodrama using production resources and personnel from the Andromeda show.
  • Zombie Love is hilarious and well done. I haven't seen the stage production of Evil Dead: The Musical, but the concept is somewhat similar. Zombie Love, you might assume, is a zombie movie with musical numbers, in this case straight up Andrew Lloyd Weber. Brilliantly executed by some CalArts students (who were also a lot of fun to talk to).
  • Befriended the aforementioned Todd Lubitsch (we Todds have to stick together - I'm one of THREE at this festival). We hung out and grabbed some dinner at the food court. I was going to head back to the hotel as I was really tired, but he mentioned there was a panel on indie film with guest speaker the legendary Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Entertainment. Most folks I say that to scratch their heads, but then I say, "the company that made The Toxic Avenger," and there is the light of recognition. Troma really became a champion of indie film in the 1980s during all the corporate media consolidation, but they've actually been around since the 1960s, quietly cranking out low-budget films from sci-fi to horror to soft-core jiggle comedy.
  • Lloyd Kaufman is a character. He was very entertaining, held no opinions back, and had a lot of inspiring things to say about being a filmmaker in the age of media conglomerates.
  • We were about to leave, when I realized I had an opportunity here. I went and shook Lloyd's hand, complimenting his "performance" at the panel, and handed him a copy of OA, which he genuinely accepted with pleasure. He asked if I was looking for distribution, and I mentioned wanting to do a feature version. He then asked if I would consider submitting OA to Tromadance '08, to which I replied, "hell yes."
  • Tromadance is Lloyd's answer to the commercialization of the Sundance festival, and aforementioned media conglomerates' usurpation of same. It takes place in Park City, Utah (the location of Sundance) exactly DURING the Sundance festival. The point is to shame the major festival into actually walking its talk, instead of remaining an elitist, corporately-controlled culture factory. It's all sorts of old skool subversive. There is no entry fee, and no fee to screen the films. I'm so going there if OA gets in. And heck, Lloyd's got a copy of the DVD to preview.
  • Rode the MARTA train back to Buckhead and chatted with Todd. Odd coincidence that we were both staying in the same out-of-town two-block area. Slept well.
  • Ordinary Angels premieres today, closing out the the 1PM film block of fantasy.
  • Here we go.