Saturday, May 31, 2008

The End.

I know I neglected to mention the passing of Harvey Korman, but there were already a lot of beautiful tributes out there, including the one on Lisa's blog.

Had Raechelle over for movies last night. We walked around Westwood to look at shoes for her "ensemble" and a gift for the bridal shower she's going to. Got some pizza from Giannoni's, came back and watched Star Wars, which, until last night, she'd never seen. Followed it up with So I Married an Axe Murderer (strangely enough, not a bad date movie), and more discussion until late.

The kids and I are off to Bellingham today for our May Birthday celebration. Because so many of us have birthdays in May, my family gets together to celebrate on one day. I kick off the month, followed by Tyler, my stepdad Bob, then sister Sara and grandmother Dorothy (both on the same day). Caleb is going to hang out with us (since he's still in Bellingham for another couple months). Looking forward to some family time.

More plans tonight... and that's about it for Rhymes With Drowning. It's been a good experience for me, a healing and educational experience, and I hope my journey has touched others in a positive way.

Thanks to everybody for your readership, your support, your wonderful comments and emails. Not everybody processes externally, but I have found that when I do, it keeps me honest - with myself and others. Hopefully the first post over at Life 2.0 will be interesting, and not just "walked to the store for milk... prices high..." But I've learned not to rush to the destination, no matter where and what it is. There are lessons to be learned and great joy to be shared along the journey.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Dear Pop

Here we are, three years to the day since I last heard your voice. Three years since I called you in UW Hospital to tell you about our canine acquisition, Wiley. Three years since I told you I loved you without having to say it to an empty room.

A lot has happened in those three years, Dad. Much of it is documented here. The end result is that the firstborn son that you once carried around Europe in a backpack, the kid you did Cub Scouts and YMCA Indian Guides with, the boy you taught to be a man, is doing just fine. You would love that I'm back to working in my chosen field, which you once invested in by helping me finish my first film. You would be amazed at the growth and maturity in your grandchildren. You would celebrate the huge leaps ahead in my own emotional evolution.

You would be proud of me, Dad.

You ARE proud of me.

I think about you every day, and although you're not here physically to share my joys and my darkness, I can feel your presence in those quieter moments. After all, energy never dies; it just changes form.

Now as I'm about to close, I have my '70s playlist going (as it reminds me most of growing up with you). And wouldn't you know it, Three Dog Night's "One" just came on. You're a funny guy, Pop.

Be well.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A State of Mind

So in reading Raechelle's post about Free Ballard Day ("Uff da!"), I learned a lot about our Nordic immigrant cousins across Elliott Bay. It also led me to the West Seattle entry at the same site, and what I found made me laugh. The opening sentence reads:

West Seattle -- the oldest and the biggest of Seattle’s neighborhoods -- is both a peninsula and a state of mind.

Heh heh. Yeah. Yeah, I'd have to agree with that.

STIFF Reminder

If you are in the Seattle area and want to come check out some bleeding edge films, you can buy tickets online for certain features and film blocks. Ordinary Angels plays with the feature Sullen, and the descriptively titled Jack the Vomiter. Should be interesting!

A Respectful Request

It's always been my opinion that life tends to throw enough drama at you that you're better off not creating your own. Of course, when two active bloggers with established readerships find themselves in a dating situation, it is inevitable that there will be crossover. One blogger's posse will go check out the other blogger, out of voyeuristic thrill, protective instinct or just simple curiosity. And while that's all fine and dandy, there is also the potential for misunderstanding or inappropriate commentary. And that can put pressure on a situation that certainly doesn't benefit from more pressure.

So I would just like to acknowledge the wonderful and loving support of my readers - and ask them not to make overly familiar or inappropriate comments on Raechelle's blog (or mine). My email address is easily obtained, and I'd love to hear from you in that medium.

Edit: This is not directed at the moms. :-)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Grace is Gone

Wow. I would not have been able to handle this film a year or two ago. Wow.

Can I just say, John Cusack is the MAN. I've seen him do romantic comedy. I've seen him do madcap. I've seen him do film noir and historicals and action and even thriller/horror. But I've really never seen him do a small, personal, heavy drama. And man, does he ever pull it off. There is nothing he can't do!

It's an incredibly simple premise: an ex-Army father of two girls (8 and 12) receives the news that his wife has been killed serving in Iraq. And that's where the film starts. I won't say any more of the plot, only to say that the film is an amazing portrait of grief, denial, and family dynamics. The one thing that got to me was the father's character quirk of constantly calling the home answering machine, just to hear the wife's voice.

I used to do that. Sam's voice was on our cell phone's outgoing greeting for a couple months, until I "accidentally" erased it and forced myself to step up and record my own.

And, interestingly enough, as I was watching Cusack run through the gamut of painful emotion, and although it did resonate with my own experience, I felt more pity for the character than any pain in myself. More a sense of "Oh yeah... I remember that. Poor guy."

Yeah, this shift is a REALLY good thing.

Speaking of which, I had lunch with Raechelle today. Took some sandwiches by her office and we walked down to Lake Union and sat on some park benches, had ourselves a Cameron Crowe/Nora Ephron scene. Joked about collaborating on a screenplay someday. Hmmmm.

Chores and work are both piling up. I feel like I was productive overall, but even with so many projects crossed off the list, more gets added to the bottom. It's always the way.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Well Crap.

Sydney Pollack just died.


Like we have enough good directors to spare.


Fated to Make It

That's the actual title of my horoscope today. Fated to Make It. Awesome.

In other news, something major has shaken loose in my life. As can be surmised by my last few posts, I'm no longer in the thick fog of grief. I'm no longer acutely feeling the pangs of separation from Sam & my dad. And although it would be foolish to think I would never feel a wave now and then, it is very obvious to me that I've learned how to stay afloat and even swim.

I'm no longer drowning.

It's not just the potential in a new relationship. It's not just a hand-wave and "time heals all wounds". It's not that. Something major has shifted, and that's the best I can describe it. An old door has closed and a new one opened, and my second life lies ahead. Personally and professionally - it's all ahead now.

I know a lot of my readership comes from links from various locations in the widowed community, and my comment forms and email inbox is a testament to how useful this blog has been to them (as well as therapy for me), and I want to thank everyone for their love and support and occasional indulgence while I very publicly navigated three years of intense grief and trauma. Some would never keep such a public account of so personal an experience, but I believe in helping others by example whenever possible.

I am not leaving the blogosphere, but neither am I defined by my losses or my grief. To do so would yield too much power to unworthy influences. But Rhymes With Drowning has clearly arrived at its final destination. I will update through the end of May.

Starting in June (after the three-year marker of my dad's death), I'm launching the Life 2.0 blog to document this new existence and keep family and friends up to date. Thank you all for supporting Rhymes With Drowning, and feel free to link to Life 2.0 when it goes live in June.

And if any publishers want to talk to me regarding the grief experiences of a young widower and the string of events that followed, I'm at todd(at)deep7(dot)com.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day


Deep subject.

Took the kids to see Indy 4 on Sunday afternoon. Meh. I don't even have the energy to point out everything that was lacking, so I'll just leave it at "meh".

Raechelle came out to dinner on Sunday evening with the kids, and was a big hit all around. I showed her the DVD from the Deathtrap production, and she enjoyed seeing Trish and Raff, people she knows in casual company, on stage doing what they do. She'd never seen Young Frankenstein, so that was a must. She was all over it. Plus a bottle of wine and much conversation equals a great evening.

This morning I took Kayleigh to get a swimsuit and picked up a few T-shirts in XL, as my clothes are starting to get baggy on me. Tyler went to Gavin's to hang out some more (by choice), and I took Kayleigh up to hang with Katherine in Ballard which, luckily, is where Raechelle lives. So we were able to have lunch at Jai Thai in the Fremont, followed by a quick trip into the local PCC, followed by hanging out and conversing until mid-afternoon.

Got to meet Raechelle's good friend Jamie (a total sweetheart, unsurprisingly). I think I made a good impression - always good to get the best friends in one's corner, ya know. Because she's going into oncology radiology, we had some technical stuff to talk about, as well as general pop culture. It was too brief, but a good start. Picked up Kayleigh, and Raechelle joined us for dinner at the Hi-Life (the Ballard sister restaurant to Endolyne Joe's in West Seattle). Picked up Tyler at Gavin's and settled into school night mellowness.

I had a GREAT weekend. (many smileys)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Great Weekend So Far...

It didn't start out so nice, however. Tyler and I had a marathon argument on Friday that escalated to the point that I had to take him to Gavin's again, so the two of us could cool off. He spent the night at Gavin's while I made a huge pot of spaghetti, garlic bread, and garden salad for Dan, Trish, Raff, Kayleigh and Raechelle (the artist formerly known as RM). There may have been wine involved as well. A screening of The Specials and Free Enterprise later, and everybody went home happy.

Saturday began with lovely sunny weather. I haven't been sleeping much past 6AM recently (regardless of what time I go to bed), so I came up and watched Gone Baby Gone, which I've had sitting around in its Netflix envelope for two weeks. I found the cast to be top-notch, the story compelling, the script strong (in my opinion, where Ben Affleck excels), and the direction (Affleck again) steady and controlled.

Once Kayleigh was up and I'd grabbed a shower, we took a change of clothes over to Tyler, and I offered to pick him up. He wanted to hang out at Gavin's some more, so K and I went down to Alki for lunch. We hung out on the cement wall and watched people flirt with the water at low tide. Folklife is happening this weekend, so it was a rare sunny Saturday with low traffic at Alki. And I found the perfect parking spot right in front of Tully's. The perfect base camp for all your Alki journeys.

Lunch at The Celtic Swell, and back home to drop Wiley off for a playdate with Darlene's pair of fuzzy children, Luna and Blue. Came home and crashed for an hour, picked up Wiley, played some guitar, crashed again for another quick nap (don't start with the "old man" thing - I'm not sleeping at night, so I have to make it up somehow).

Had plans to meet Raechelle on Cap Hill for a movie and dinner. Threw on a freshly washed pair of Levis from the dryer (usually I have to skin them on and wiggle around to stretch them out), and found them hanging off me. Did up my belt to the last notch and they still were hanging. All my XXL T-shirts I used to fill out are now tents. Maybe quitting the gym was the best thing I could have done, because it's kicked my ass into being more active in general. I sense a summer clothing excursion coming up.

Anyway, met up with Raechelle, had a lovely dinner at the grill around the corner from the Harvard Exit. Went and saw The Visitor. Fantastic film. Go see it now.

And here's where it gets interesting for you, the reader. She's a blogger. I'm a blogger. We haven't set down the guidelines yet, but I'm sure you're in for a fascinating read.

At this point, I will just say I feel hopeful. Truly hopeful, on an emotional level. More than I have in a long time. And although the armor is nowhere near 100% shed at this point... well... I feel hopeful. 'Nuff said.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Robert Asprin, RIP

Just found out last night that Robert Asprin, author of the Myth Adventures comedy-fantasy novels and creator of Thieves World, has gone to the Great Writer's Group in the Sky. I only knew him from the Myth Adventures books, but his work was a staple in sci-fi/fantasy circles. He was a gifted author with a razor-sharp wit.

As was said on my industry email list, "he will be mythed."

Script Doctor

Busted my butt yesterday to crank out a draft of the short we're doing with Gigi, handed it off feeling pretty good about where it stood. There's always a balancing act between the notes which contain the full spectrum of emotional experience and a script, which should only convey that which is visible or audible. I'm finding my college Screenwriting 101 coming in very handy right now.

Went up to Ballard, dropped the kids off at Katherine's to get some early season swimming in, and went to dinner at Señor Moose, a little authentic Mexican café that features a gluten-free menu. The food was amazing, and I must say the scenery was exquisite. Had some sangria and enchiladas de la plaza. Took home half for lunch today.

Came home to an inbox full of script notes, which I'm sorting through today, between sorting out some financials and cleaning my house for movie night. I think Life of Brian is on tap.

Memorial Day Weekend is here. Plan to catch a couple of movies in release: The Visitor (which Dan Heinrich raved about) and of course, taking the kids to Indy. Karen Allen is back, which is a big reason I'm going - Marion Ravenswood is a great character and easily the best Indy girl ever. And THAT'S not hyperbole. She was the only female character in the series to equal Indiana Jones in courage and, dare I say, moxie.

Have a great long weekend! I'll leave you with this...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I reiterate my previous offer to sell my children to any marauding Visigoth war bands. Or Vikings. Gypsies are so last year.

It started the moment Kayleigh got home from school (2-hour early dismissal), when she and Tyler just locked horns out of nowhere and would not stop baiting and provoking each other. It ended with Kayleigh sobbing on the couch and Tyler doing his emo fuming thing. Then off to counseling, then still more drama with Tyler, which resulted in his removal to Uncle Gavin's house. A quiet evening with Kayleigh doing her school report on Helen Keller and me venting to a few friends on the phone. Just before bedtime, a very contrite Tyler was delivered home.

I was supposed to work on the Gigi script yesterday, but with early dismissal for Kayleigh paving the way for early chaos at home, it didn't get touched. Today, I swear. And I'm gonna reward myself by letting a friend take me to dinner and let the kids have some grandma time with Katherine.

So there.

* * *

And from the "hmmmm" pile:

Ever notice how the opening riff from Nirvana's "Come As You Are" is exactly the same as Killing Joke's "Eighties"? Apparently there was litigation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Skin that Smokewagon

"Skin that smokewagon and see what happens..." - Kurt Russell, Tombstone

If you read the comments about two posts down, you'll see a friendly jousting match between myself and Dan Heinrich. Apparently my hyperbolic comment about the film Tombstone as "one of the best American movies ever made" tripped something in his brain, and he brought some cinema fu on my ass. He thinks he won by getting a qualifier, I think I won by proving my superior westernology - in reality, it's probably a draw. Get it? A draw. Because they're cowboys. With guns.

The exchange is an entertaining capsule of what film geeks do. Given what I know of other circles of geekery (whether it be football, NASCAR or knitting), it's really no different.

And although I will concede my original hyperbole (having qualified it as "one of the best American WESTERNS"), I will still say this: Kane, Waterfront, Godfather... they may be technically superior films - and I love them, but I'm a lot more likely to pop Tombstone in the DVD player on a given night. And its production design belongs up there with the greats.

Where we seem to agree is on the gem that is Silverado, but that's tons of fun because of a great cast doing a witty (and completely anachronistic) script, written and directed by Larry Kasdan. For popcorn western fun, Silverado, hands down. For historically accurate western drama, it's still Tombstone.

Don't get me started on film noir or swashbucklers...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Proud Pop

Kayleigh performed in her spring concert tonight. She's in advanced band after only a year and a summer of prior instruction, a consummate clarinetist. The program was all over the road, from the beginning students doing the requisite Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to the advanced string ensemble doing some really nice arrangements.

Ooh, and look what we saw in the Subway parking lot on our way to school... sweet ride, no? I hate to think how much the owner is paying for gas right now, but it's beautiful nonetheless. I thought it was funny that the license plate says TRUBL, and I was wearing my TROUBLE FINDS ME T-shirt.

More drama with Tyler. I'm so tired of it.

Another Monday

And I've got Traspassers William cranked in the office. They're like Mazzy Star on Quaaludes. Good waking up music when you're not quite sure how to approach the day.

Yesterday began as most Sundays do: with a great coffee chat at the Westwood Barnes & Noble with photographer buddy (and former business partner twice over) Ron. We usually cover movies & other media first, then get into the meaty topics of politics & religion. On the political front, Ron is the moderate conservative to my moderate liberal, the Adams to my Jefferson. Every week is an amazing conversation filled with witty banter and earnest debate, and it never devolves into name-calling or poo-flinging. It's like the 21st Century version of the old pre-Revolution pub debates. Interestingly, maybe 8 times out of 10 we come to a consensus, and have repeatedly solved the world's problems over coffee and a bagel. Alas, nobody from the federal government has called to consult with us. More's the pity; we'd be out of the Middle East and driving electric cars by now if they did.

That's right. I just used a semicolon.

Got home in time to say hi to Mike Berg (the bass player on the Requiem CD) as he arrived to pick up his daughter. Found my guitar tuner, which had gone missing for several weeks. Maybe on holiday in Aruba. Looked for my capo, but now that's gone missing. I think maybe the capo and the tuner are in cahoots. I don't know what cahoots are, but I think they are in them. Or they are in fact the same piece of equipment and morph at will. That's pretty disturbing. Played guitar for half an hour until Trish and Dan showed up. Trish cooked a seafood stew with Kayleigh while Dan and I went up to Northgate for a very long but productive Duo budget meeting. Outside. With beer.

Came home and Made sure Miles got picked up, chatted with his mom for a minute. Talked with RM on the phone, then called my stepdad to wish him a happy birthday. Nobody home. Sang off-key and left a lovely voicemail. Cooked up pasta and Caesar salad with the kids.

When the kids were in bed and all was quiet (and I should have retired to my own room), instead I opened Photoshop and started working on the new Duo poster. The original file died on one of the melted hard drives in the fire, so I have to completely reconstruct it from visual reference of the old version. Next weekend, Ron is coming over to shoot stills of Eric Riedmann and Devielle Johnson, which I will insert in place of the real Steve & JD.

Collapsed in bed about midnight, wide awake at 6.


And now Tyler's back to fighting about school. Sigh.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Prolific AND Handy

What's up with the multiple posts?? My friends will have a hell of a time catching up. Well, at least it's better than too few posts, and that will happen when Duo goes into production. For the time being, I can afford to be a bit prolific in my blogging, especially since so much seems to be happening.

While Tyler and his buds were playing videogames on the big screen, I finished the job I started yesterday by attacking the yard with the mower. West Seattle is really the only neighborhood left with these big lots, a selling point when we originally bought the house. But as I've found, you pay for a large yard in sweat. There was a time when I hated to do yardwork. Now I don't mind so much. Gets me outdoors for a bit, works up an honest sweat, and greatly improves the look and functionality of my property.

Our lot is about 9200sf, and the house footprint only takes up 1100sf of that. Most of the rest, dear readers, is yard. Front, back, side. Muchas grassy-ass. Fortunately, I had the testosterone-laden soundtrack of the workout playlist on my phone, which sure as hell beats the drone of the mower. Kayleigh also came outside with her mp3 device, so we were at least somewhat present in the same space, if not on the same aural bandwidth.

When I was done, I grabbed a mandatory shower and did cake with the birthday boy (good Lord, I'm now the father of a 14 year old), his friends Miles & Philip, and Kayleigh. I should really say they did cake and I was present for it. I haven't been eating much the past few days, and what I have eaten has found a way to rebel against my GI tract. I don't think it's a bug. Might be stress induced.

Anyway, the party disbanded and I was able to grab a quick nap (after being awakened at 4:30 AM by another dream and killing time until I had to take Gavin & Michelle to the airport at 6:30). Got up, played some guitar. Kayleigh wants to record some more, and has requested to do a cover of "Forest of Dreams", our first ATF single. While that's all very well and good, the song was originally composed on the piano, and I'd never really arranged a guitar version. So once that was sorted out, it sounded smooth. When she was done practicing "Forest of Dreams", I strummed out a few covers of euro-folk favorites, including this, and this. Which reminds me, I need to replace this CD which died a horrible fiery death back in February 2006, and is in fact one of my Desert Island Discs. The arrangement of "Forbidden Colours" on this album is far more emotionally intense than the original, composed as the theme for the film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.

Sent a ping out to a couple local musicians to gauge interest in composing some original music for the Duo soundtrack. Both responded very favorably. I love the stuff Brian Chase has already composed, and will definitely use it, but I want to replace some of the older, non-Brian tracks with some new stuff specifically written for the film. That way, most everything will be Duo-specific (which is this close to being an oxymoron). One of the two musicians approached was the one and only Kyle Stevens, who much impressed me during his live acoustic set with Gigi Edgley at ECC.

* * *

Just got back from Tyler's birthday dinner at Elliott Bay Brew Pub. I managed a salad and half a chicken gyro, but barely touched the fries (and even that is making me a bit crampy). Tyler and Miles went nuts with the seafood, and Kayleigh stuck with her old standby, chicken tenders. Came home to find a seedless watermelon from Darlene & James, and Mike Berg called in a childcare favor, so I'm gonna have four kids here tonight. I have meetings all day tomorrow. I think a screening of Tombstone is in order. Only one of the best American films ever made. But then I really don't have an opinion or anything.

A Toucan? Really?

See, this is what it's come to.

I don't often remember my dreams, so when I do, it's usually for a reason, and the subject matter is usually pretty relevant in my life.

So a couple nights ago, I dreamed I was in my kitchen, cutting fresh strawberries for the kids. The front door was open, but the screen was closed. Suddenly I caught a flutter of movement out of the corner of my eye and looked toward the screen to see a toucan hopping around the front porch, trying to get at the door handle.

Now, of all the things I've dreamed about in my entire life, I have honestly never once dreamed of a toucan (at least that I recall). Seems pretty random at first blush, so I filed it away for future reference. I've seen toucans live and up close before, and this one was a beautiful specimen. Deep black body with a white breast and green around the eyes (which I've seen on parrots, but never toucans). The bill was a bit faded - not the vibrant orange, lemon, cherry and other natural flavors (ugh - curse you, Fruit Loops!). I mean, the normally orange and yellow bill was a bit faded with age or malnourishment. And man, this little thing wanted IN.

So I opened the door, and it hopped in, looking very much like it owned the place. I'm all, "Uh, hello... come on in, won't you?" Because apparently even in my dreams I'm a sarcastic ass. I tossed a strawberry, which it caught in midair, and immediately its bill flushed with color. More strawberries, more color. Then it hopped up onto my shoulder, and I went back into the kitchen to finish puttering like it was the most natural thing in the world. With my toucan. Let me repeat, for effect. With. My. Toucan. I gotta say, it's a bit bizarre for me to be saying that, as aside from giving my dad his Amazon bluefront parrot, Admiral Nelson, I'm not a real bird guy. And certainly not avid enough to be a tropical bird guy on top of that.

The vibe of the dream was extremely positive. Like more positive than I've had in recent memory. It was a mood of happy discovery, of letting in the new. And the best part is when I was poking around the dream analysis sites and actually found a reference to toucans! And I quote:

"To dream of a toucan foretells a period of good luck. If the dream focused on the toucan's beak, you may soon have a change of residence."

And while I wouldn't say the dream focused on the beak, it was certainly a factor. The overriding sensation was definitely happy, fun, positive and new.

Pretty wacky, huh?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Stand or Fall

I wanna thank my high school broadbuddy (that's a "girlfriend" like chicks have "girlfriends", literally a platonic friend who is a girl) Beth for the wonderful guffaw that is the icanhascheezburger pic right here. Probably only history geeks like me get the humor in that, but I don't care. That is teh funneh, as the kids say...

True to my word, I've been playing my massive '80s music collection at work this morning. And when this came up in the playlist, I decided to go check out the music video on YouTube, as I'd never seen it back in the day (which, as Dane Cook is quick to point out, was a Wednesday).

Well bugger me with a fish fork. It's a perfect specimen of early '80s MTV concept videos, complete with Cy Curnin sporting the same hairstyle I had in about '83, wearing the white pants (oh GAWD, the white pants), featuring a white peace flag, a white horse, and a tank.

'Cause you know, if I ever went into combat, the first guys I'd call for backup would be an '80s new wave band.


My Face is Crimson

[embarrassed chuckle]

After all the whining I did last night, I got to sleep as my head hit the pillow at 11:15, and I slept like a teenager until 6:40AM. That's more than 7 hours, almost twice what I've been getting. I guess the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

I feel great.

Plus, the sun is out, and it's supposed to hit the 80s today. Maybe I should celebrate with '80s music while I work. That's clever. I was hoping to join a friend down at Alki for lunch, but that's not going to happen today, so I'll just open the blinds, crack all the windows for a nice crossbreeze, and check off the to-do list. Maybe even mow the BACK yard.

Whoa there, cowboy. You still have to get the kids to school and take the garbage to the curb. If you're not all tuckered out after that, well then go nuts with the mower.

Movies tonight - huzzah!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Purely Mundane Blog Post

I'm exhausted.

My days consist of trying to get Deep7 products released and preproduction done on the major film projects on my radar, taxi service for my kids, truant officer for my son, while trying to maintain a semblance of social order here at home (I can hear those of you with adolescents laughing at me). Yesterday it included opening up the panel on the washer to drain and dismantle the water pump, removing half a chewed up pencil and a kid's paintbrush.

By the time I've driven all over town, paid bills, edited manuscripts, designed ads, burned DVDs, posted the mail, washed dishes and cycled laundry, and picked up those little messes that seem to appear all over my house, there's precious little time or energy for me. It's getting just a little old.

Today is a perfect example. While my posts on Emerald City Comicon may have sounded glamorous, it's really just a case of 12 straight hours of face-to-face marketing. You aren't there to relax, you're there to sell. It's fun enough that I don't want to shoot myself afterward, but it's not a cushy job. It's draining. One of the old arguments Sam & I used to have was over her assumption that I was having the time of my life working in the videogame biz. Yes, I was making a good living doing art, but it wasn't my art - it was someone else's. It was soul-sucking, technical, tedious, and once again, draining work, being "creative" on a 9 to 5 schedule (and it was far more than 9 to 5, as most folks in the videogame biz are salaried, aka "exempt", aka 60+ hours on a regular basis with no OT). And of course the whole reason we started a traditional game publishing company was so that we could be drained and exhausted working on our own products.

So today was all about getting the RADZ virtual product up for sale and scheduling done for the next couple weeks. Add in some financial/retirement planning for added chuckles. Then the sun broke, and revealed that my yard once again resembled the Mekong Delta. So I hauled out the lawnmower and got to work on the front. Tyler had mowed the back yard over a two-day span a couple weeks ago for extra cash, but the funny thing about grass is that it tends to grow in rainy conditions.

Stepmom came over with a watering timer for the garden and some chicken to grill, and so after I was done mowing and edging in front, I hauled out my big table and set up the new 'q'. Tyler didn't like either the chicken or the fish stepmom had brought, and he started campaigning for me to give him money so that he could go buy hamburger to grill. I told him this is what was for dinner, and if he didn't want it, he didn't have to eat it. He went off to sulk. We ate outside - it was nice. Then I cleaned up after dinner. Meanwhile the kids were starting to campaign for letting them run around with the hose. For some reason, that little thing was the straw that broke the camel's back. I denied them access to the hose for what would have ended up in muddy puddles throughout the house, much to their bewilderment and indignation. And then I called a family meeting.

It was more of a Come-to-Jesus meeting. We've all had those at work, when a project is in trouble. Where you totally strip the issues down to their bare components. I told them how exhausted I was, constantly cleaning up after their little messes and piles and projects left half-done around the house. I praised Kayleigh for her assistance in setting up for dinner, but overall had to reassert the rules. The basic message I kept hammering home was a very simple premise: If you help out, Dad won't get exhausted and cranky cleaning up after you, and is more likely to reward you with more flexibility and privileges. If you don't help out, Dad is cranky and tired, and puts the kibosh on fun. They seemed to get it, but I don't expect it will have been a useful exercise in a week when I'm collecting glasses of moldy orange juice from Tyler's room.

And to put the perfect cap on the evening, Tyler just came upstairs, holding his broken alarm clock. The alarm clock he broke by severing the power cord (or pulling it apart). And he spent a whopping 15 minutes trying to talk me into replacing his alarm clock. Now. This very minute. At quarter to eleven at night. The same boy who either forgets to set his alarm or ignores it outright. Sigh.

I know this reads like a vent, and I guess it basically is. Sometimes it feels really rewarding, single-handedly raising a couple of terrifically bright and talented kids. Other times, I just feel tired. This is one of those times.

And now, to bed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Kayleigh has never been subtle about coming into my room at night when she's had a nightmare. This morning it went something like this:

BOOM! [sound of Kayleigh bursting through the door like Kramer]

Dad: (sitting bolt upright, heart racing) WHAT! Penguins! Who's on fire? Call the Air Force!

K: I had a bad dream.

Dad: (remembering what planet he's on) I'm sorry you had a bad dream, sweetie. Can you NOT come bursting into my room like some crazed ROOM-BURSTER?

K: Sorry.

Dad: In the future, can you please knock?

K: OK (goes out into the hallway, closes door)

[knock knock]

Dad: (at this point, barely stifling a laugh) Come in.

K: I had a bad dream.

Dad: Have you gone to the bathroom?

K: No.

Dad: Go use my potty. I'll bet you have to go.

K: I don't have to go.

Dad: I'll bet you do. Go try.

[sound of Kayleigh lifting the toilet lid and sitting down, followed by a tinkly, watery sound for about thirty seconds]

Dad: So, remember when I said you should go potty before I tucked you in? And you said you didn't have to go?

K: Yes.

Dad: What are you going to do next time?

K: Go potty.

Dad: Good. Gimme hugs and get back to bed, OK?

K: OK.

[enter Tyler]

T: What's going on?

Dad: Hi Tyler. Join us. We're having a convention for Kayleigh's trip to the bathroom.

T: I'm going back to bed.

Dad: Thanks for letting me know. Carry on.

[exit both kids to their respective rooms]

Dad: (looking at bedside clock) FOUR?? Four in the bloody morning?

I love my children. I love my children. I love my children. I love my children...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Brilliant Kids and Exes

I swear, one day a month, my kids conspire to give me a heart attack by getting up on time and being fully ready to go to school. Tyler even packed a lunch. Of course his reason for going to school on time today is that he wants his game console cords back. But hey, if it gets him in school...

While standing at the bus stop with Kayleigh this morning, it began to piddle a bit. She immediately coined a new word: rainyish. I think we need to add that to the Seattle lexicon.

Went to a meeting with Tyler's new school counselor. She's really good and on the ball, and he seems to respond to her. We need to figure out what needs to happen to get him to pass 8th grade. He's got an A in Literature and is near failing everything else, which sure as heck points to a deeper issue and not lack of ability.

Had a nice visit from Jamie last night. Just a friendly sit-down, catch-up over a mug o' tea kind of thing. It was nice to see how we're each doing (i.e really well). As little as I felt I needed closure on that relationship (having ended back in August last year), it was really great to get the blessing and validation of an ex. And really, "ex" carries a certain negative connotation. I don't think of Jamie as an ex so much as a friend with whom I was once romantically involved. Semantics, I know. But there's a remnant of some spiritual love there, an inherent goodwill for each other that I hope will never go away.

Come to think of it, after the initial damage of my parents' divorce and their respective remarriages, the four developed and maintained a really miraculous relationship that surpassed "civil". To the point that my stepdad acted as MC at my dad's memorial service and delivered an amazing eulogy to the man who had sired children he counted as his own. Beautiful. Somewhere there's a photograph of my dad and stepdad playing chess. No politics, no bitching, just a couple guys lost in the game. And out of a whopping four relationships in the last three years (the longest of which lasted all of three months), I'm still on good terms with two of the women. Not a bad average. Anyone who says you can't be friends with an ex is clearly lacking the skill to do so (or at least the desire to try).

I feel really free now. After this amazing show last weekend, new professional avenues and associates popping up all over, I feel for the first time in over three years like I can truly spread my wings and soar into the future. A lot of it has been fulfilling commitments and checking off old projects, putting the past to bed.

And to that end, I'm excited about going out to dinner with my new friend RM tonight.

Regardless of the school issues and the kid issues and the state of one's house, what makes it worthwhile is the connections one makes and the focus one puts on the positive. Hear that, Universe? Bring me some positive.

Monday, May 12, 2008


My bro Steve sent me the original, uncut 1-minute version of the old Tootsie Pop commercial. Wow...

5:30 AGAIN??

I don't know what it is about five-friggin'-thirty in the A-M, but once again, I found myself awakened a full two hours before the alarm. Could have been the earlier sunlight. Could have been the fact that at some point during the night Kayleigh and a stuffed buddy had crawled into bed with me (not sure when, exactly) and was breathing away in that sleeping-kid mode that makes it impossible to sleep next to after, say, 5:30AM.

There was a time when I would have just put K back in her bed and crawled into mine to eke out another hour or two. But now all I can think about is a poem by Jalaluddin Rumi, the Sufi poet:

The breeze at dawn has things to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.

So I head upstairs, grab a bowl of cereal (I choose Life... get it?), catch up on some email, make a pot of green tea, open the shade in the family room and watch my little corner of West Seattle come to life.

And I think. I ponder. It's the only time when the whole house is completely quiet and still. I muse about how vastly different life was, three years ago, or one year ago, or even a month ago. I'm amazed at the way the universe works.

And that's my deep thought for the day.

K and I went out for Mother's Day dinner last night (she gives me props on M-Day, which I've never asked for, but sincerely appreciate). Tyler decided to stay home. I could have forced the issue, but being alone on M-Day is one way of grieving, and he has done so little of that. I called my grandmother in Bellingham, talked to my mom and left a voicemail for my stepmom. Didn't get a chance to talk to my sister, but I'll take care of that when we go up to Bellingham for May Birthdays on the 31st. Got an invite from the aforementioned Kris Straub to join him for dinner, but I wasn't about to go back downtown.

Oh and the best part: When K and I were getting back into the car to go home, she let out the biggest, longest belch I've ever heard come out of a 10yo girl. We were both shocked. We just sat there staring at each other with raised eyebrows. Then we cracked up in giggles. Well, giggles and chortles. There may have been a guffaw or two. And an "excuse me". And a high five.

Had a hard time keeping up on the housework this week. As if being a single guy didn't doom me to begin with (I'm not a slob, but neither am I a neat freak), having two adolescents and a full "away-game" schedule this last weekend didn't help. I have, however, figured out a terrific trick that keeps my sanity in check: I have chosen two small things I can have a lot of control over, and keep clean - which gives me a set of little victories each day.

Trick #1: I always (and I mean always) make my bed the moment I slide out of it in the morning. Nevermind the fact that I still have a few stacks of fire salvage boxes in the corners - having the centerpiece of the room neat and tidy eliminates a bunch of potential stress right there. It also gives me a flat surface on which to fold laundry.

Trick #2: The kitchen. I cruise through my galley kitchen several times a day, and with each pass I do a small amount of cleaning - wiping down countertops, throwing away trash, rinsing dishes for the big dishwasher load, putting away pots... it goes back to a very primal thing. Hearth area clean = less stress, cleaner food prep area, less chance of getting sick. Plus, it's the first thing visitors see after they walk into the front room.

I should probably think about getting my spawn to school. It's been a nice, peaceful morning. I may even get in a nap today to make up for five-friggin'-thirty in the A-M.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Emerald City, Day 2

Well I gotta say, hats off to my bro, JD Green. Dude was a friggin' rock star this weekend. By far his best ECC, and this time had the added distinction of really flying on his own, without the safety net of fellow bro and mentor Steve Hartley. Steve was booked with gigs this weekend, and although he was sorely missed, it made JD have to spread his wings. And he did, in spades. I'm proud of JD for the work he did and the fans he made, and I'm proud of Brian M. and the brothers Demonakos for making ECC into the show it is today (and will be in years to come).

Some quotes in review of RADZ:
"This is so kick ass!"
"This is darling." (said of the brute on the cover)

On my way in, I was accosted (in the best way) by Quentin Shaw, who had all sorts of gushing to do about OA. That's not only good to hear, it makes me know I'm on the right track. When you can make something that people respond to like OA has, it's the universe talking to you. We must have had a sort of up-and-coming vibe happening at the Dead Man Press table, because the word was out, and we were never short of interest, both in the OA DVDs and in the RADZ book. One young fan (big shout out to Lucas!) not only hung out by the table for a long time both days, he ended up getting a RADZ book and two commissioned pieces from JD.

So, back to JD: He did 11 commissions yesterday, and several more today in the short time I was around, and one fan who'd been collecting original art all weekend long was showing off some pieces by some heavy hitters - and then saying how JD's was better! It's gonna take weeks for his head to be able to fit through a normal doorway. But he earned it. He did a couple pieces that are going up in a comic shop in Tacoma, far from our normal haunt at The Comic Stop. It ain't just a homegrown thing anymore.

Oh yeah. And then there was the part where JD went for a rematch of the arm wrestling match he lost at last year's show, and this time beat Oeming. Talk about the capper on a perfect weekend for our boy.

I didn't get to talk to Brian B. afterward, so I don't know how he did. But I'm pretty sure our neighbor Jason Metcalf did some booming business. We might actually collaborate on something in the future. He and his wife were really great, real folks.

Got a Starslip Crisis book from Kris Straub, signed with a sketch of Chex from Checkerboard Nightmare (shown here in a cameo from my own Zingo webcomic, circa 2001) and a word balloon saying "I'm nowhere in this book!" Thanks Kris - we'll be working together soon!

There was a general murmur of relief that Duo was back on the front burner. We'd created some buzz three years ago when it was first in production, and folks still remember. And for what it's worth, nobody in the industry has ever given me their pity regarding Sam. They quietly shared condolences, but never pity. And now that I'm back up to speed and working again, it's party time. I got many pats on the back for rebounding in a big way (as if the alternative would ever be acceptable - but hey, I'll take it).

And the most surreal moment of the entire dreamscape of a weekend: Signing a copy of the REQUIEM CD for Gigi Edgley in front of a group of Gigi Edgley fans. Just crazy. She's psyched about the short film, and I'm psyched to do it.

Great show this year. Can't wait to host a film festival next year. In fact, what a premiere venue for Duo!

Surreal. No, really.

Brian B. showed up at my door at 7:30AM yesterday, and we drove over half of West Seattle trying to find miniDV tapes for my camcorder. Finally found some at the Jefferson Square Safeway. Then we ducked into Easy Street Cafe (part of Easy Street Records) for some brekkies before shuttling off to the convention (aka "How you say, ah yes... THE SHOW!").

There was some kids race sponsored by Nike that was just wrapping up downtown, so the cops had a lot of the streets cordoned off, making the search for a viable parking garage problematic to say the least. We ended up 2 blocks away, not too bad.

It's a really cool feeling to be able to walk up to the VIP booth to pick up the badges. After locating JD's table inside, we began setting up. JD loved the RADZ books, and we sold a handful (signed, of course). Jason S., one of our co-authors was there, shmoozing and lining up work. So we got to have a mini-game developers party. At one point, Dennis Kleinsmith (aka Lucifer in Ordinary Angels) showed up, and helped make a DVD sale. JD began to take sketch orders. Dan & Trish showed up to check out the con and do some research for Duo. Introduced Dan, Trish and Dennis to Gigi Edgley, the heretofore unnamed actress with whom we are working on the top-secret film project, which I got permission to de-secretify. She's a big fan of OA, which is great, because I'm a big fan of hers. So, moving beyond the mutual geek-fest, Gi, Dan, Trish and I took a lunch meeting to chat about some film project particulars. I got back to the table to find JD with a sketch roster about 8 long. Dude was WORKING IT.

After lunch, I introduced Trish to Quentin Shaw, maverick comics publisher and writer (and all around icon), so that she could quiz him on some of the finer points of the biz for her character in Duo. Gavin had brought the kids to check out the convention, and they were already tired and bored, so after a short while they all went back to his house. Later, Marcio Catalano (aka Ornias in Ordinary Angels) stopped by our table. So we had JD, who played Afriel's galierii in OA, across the table from Lucifer and Ornias. JD actually made the reference that it was feeling a bit uncomfortable with two of the baddies so close at hand, to which Marcio replied, "yeah, but you've got the writer over there, and he always kills me." I thought that was funny.

So the convention formally ended at 6PM, and we ambled over to one of the panel rooms to watch the results of the costume contest, after which Gigi and local folk/rock singer-songwriter Kyle Stevens played a short acoustic set of the material on Gigi's new CD. I was introduced to a young videographer named Heather, who has a close cousin to my camera. She got the lockdown, and I went over to stage left and caught more of the closeups and stuff. Heather will edit the set. After all was said and done, Brian B. and I threw our gear back in my car and walked over to the Grand Hyatt, where the convention guests stay. While waiting for Gi to change clothes, I happened to notice Scott Kurtz (author of PVP) sitting with his homeys in the lobby. And just as I was turning around, I saw Kris Straub (author of the classic web strip Checkerboard Nightmare and Starslip Crisis) walking in, so I went and, after 8 years of email exchanges, collaborations and whatnot, finally met him face to face. We'd been talking about getting together at ECC for a couple years, and of course the way it happened was a random meeting in a hotel lobby.

After a brief conversation and plans to get together today, Kris went with his peeps and I went with mine, and we shuffled over to Pacific Place to Gordon Biersch. Brian B., Brian M., Brian M.'s wife and sister, Heather, Ian, Kyle, Kyle's wife and Gigi all unwound over beers and good food. It was a happy and somewhat surreal end to a surreal day.

And now comes day 2. I must be off.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Congrats, Old Friend

I just want to take a moment to congratulate my buddy Konrad on his wedding tomorrow. He waited a long time, and found the right girl for him, and I wish them much happiness in their new life together. I would be there, but for an earlier commitment to release the RADZ book at ECC and otherwise lack of airfare funds. All my love, respect and joy on your special day. Watch the mail, bro. And yeah, I still think you look like a young Toshiro Mifune. Take it!

In other news, the RADZ books came back from the printer yesterday. The covers look great, the guts could be better, but they're salable. JD is happy, and I feel like I've redeemed myself in some fashion for the earlier shelving of the game when Sam died. It's now a tangible property and can fly on its own. Can I get an "amen"?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Happy Birthday, a day later... Traci Lords, who went from an abusive home to the porn industry (as an underage starlet) to legitimacy as a film and TV actress and techno-dance vocalist (I still love her 1000 Fires collaboration with Juno Reactor) and sci-fi action icon (with roles in Blade and on the SciFi series Invisible Man).

Have a good one, Traci! Apparently 40 is the new number other than 40, so enjoy.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Placeholder Birthday Post

I was going to post something from my now sage vantage point in the temporal stream, but I'm a bit exhausted. Pulled an almost all-nighter last night getting RADZ to press (which included a complete re-layout), and after a lot of running around today with classic Van Halen blasting from the car, I took the kids to Pegasus for my birthday dinner. When we got home, Tyler put his foot in it, big time. I won't go into detail, but we're talking lying, dissociative behavior, and complete lockdown of privileges (including removal of computer from bedroom) until further notice. He's spending the night at my brother's, as is the result of these confrontations.

Counseling tomorrow - which is damn fortunate.

I don't like to go into too much detail with this stuff for obvious reasons. Suffice to say I'm not feeling as great about parenting now as I was just this morning.

A big thank you to all my wonderful friends and family who sent such amazing birthday wishes! With the aforementioned exception, it was a pretty good day.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

I got my STIFFY

Get your head out of the gutter, you gutter head. I'm talking about the award presented to all official selections at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival. Apparently Ordinary Angels had the "Best Use of Lincoln Park". I guess not a whole lot of movies shot in West Seattle include Mexican standoffs between angels and fallen, break the fourth wall with in-character testimonials and feature celestial executions. Go figure. And the fact that the festival has a policy of "every film chosen wins something", somewhat like the Special Olympics, is strangely appropriate.

Anyhoo, they are screening OA at the Jewel Box Theater (one of the first moving picture screening halls in Seattle), which is part of the Rendezvous restaurant in the Belltown neighborhood. It's also where The Addict, Behind Closed Doors and Rectify will screen. Here's the schedule:

  • The Addict (Friend of Bill Award) - Sat, 6/7 @ 6:15PM
  • Rectify (Best Dialogue) - Sat, 6/7 @ 6:15PM (looks like they're running Dan's films in a block together)
  • Ordinary Angels (Best Use of Lincoln Park) - Sun, 6/8 @ 1:30PM (after church, come see angels using profanity and killing each other!)
  • Behind Closed Doors (Law and Order Award) - Wed, 6/11 @ 6:15PM

If you're in the greater Puget Sound area and want to see some great independent cinema, you gotta come check out this festival!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Iron Man

It's been awhile since I've reviewed a film here, and what better subject than the first blockbuster of the season: Iron Man?

Let me begin by saying that I have always been somewhat ambivalent toward the character, was never a huge fan, take him or leave him, etc. I remember having the Mego action figure in the mid-'70s (as part of a massive collection of Mego action figures), but the '60s animated series was a bit before my time and wasn't nearly as well-syndicated as was Star Trek, Batman and Lost in Space. In my early teens, I was all about Daredevil and the X-Men. Iron Man and The Avengers were off my radar to a great extent. The main gist of this disclaimer is that I'm not a ravening Iron Man fanboy to start with... at least I didn't walk into the theater with my kids this morning as a ravening Iron Man fanboy.

But I sure as hell came out one.

It's not only as good as the reviews, it's better. It is at this point worthy of sharing with Batman Begins the distinction of being the benchmark, the gold standard if you will, of how comic book screen adaptations should be made. An origin story, updated without straying too far from the source material, not too over the heads of the casual audience yet not dumbed down either. A perfect cast for their comic book counterparts, and a director whose strength is getting relaxed, natural and often funny performances from said cast. The film is paced well, has excellent action sequences, drama, a bit of romance and a timely message.

What's even more exciting than the film itself is that it's the first to be produced in-house at Marvel Studios, to be followed next month with The Incredible Hulk, and you can see some serious groundwork being laid for an inclusive continuity - a coherent setting, like the comics, where crossovers are commonplace... [minor spoiler alert] as evidenced by Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr. reprising is Tony Stark in the upcoming Incredible Hulk. There is talk of an Avengers film somewhere down the line, and if Marvel Studios continues to pump out quality summer blockbusters like Iron Man (and from first blush, Incredible Hulk), I can totally see it happening.

There are two metric assloads of comic book/fantasy/scifi adaptations coming out this year, including the aforementioned Marvel properties, The Dark Knight, Hellboy II, Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull, Narnia: Prince Caspian, and more. It's a great time to be a geek.

Anyway, even if you don't know Iron Man, his 40+ year history in the world of comics and animation, or care about a superbly talented director and cast, if you like a good summer adventure, go check it out on the big screen. You won't be disappointed. It really is as good as they say.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Oh, and Stuff...

Yesterday was Beltaine, the ancient fertility festival of my people. So it was appropriate that my stepmom came over to work in the garden, planting a variety of vegetables, flowers and various seeds. At dinner, she related that she'd talked to her friend who runs a farm in Oregon, and one of the ewes had given birth to twin lambs (both ewes). Since she breeds the females, that's an auspicious omen of plenty for the coming seasons.

I just got an email from Samantha's mom, telling us that her paternal grandmother just died. She was the last in Sam's family of that generation.

And the cycle continues...

I'm Such a Chick.

I must really cut a surreal figure, this 6'4" Scots-Irish linebacker weeping his eyes out in the car. Decided it was time to introduce Kayleigh to the music of Tori Amos, and started on the drive to school with the first album, Little Earthquakes. I haven't listened to it in years, and it brought back a whole wave of memory, especially when the song "Winter" came on. It speaks to childhood and fathers and I just felt this really strong gesture from my own dad, just for a moment. True, the lyrics are from the perspective of a little girl, but the themes are universal.

Hair is grey
And the fires are burning
So many dreams
On the shelf
You say I wanted you to be proud of me
I always wanted that myself

What brought the Tori Amos thing on (and don't ask me how this makes sense at all) was that Kayleigh is learning some older songs to sing with me (and by "older" I mean '80s), and we were practicing "If There's a Heaven Above" by Love and Rockets this morning before leaving for school. The song is the opening track on Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven, L&R's first album from 1985. Hey, first album... you know what's another great debut album? Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos. You'll like her, Kayleigh. Very reminiscent of Kate Bush or Regina Spektor, blah blah blah. So that's how that works...

Speaking of daughters and music, we just made our first recording together. I was putting some acoustic covers on the computer, and when assembling Peter Murphy's "A Strange Kind of Love" I realized I had nothing to go in place of the oboe piece in the original. Right then, K walked into the office and asked if she could pitch in, and that led to her playing a very haunting Carlos Nakai-esque "wood flute" piece on Samantha's old recorder. I have only passed it along to friends and family. Because it's a cover, you will never see it available to the general public. But it was a pretty friggin' cool experience, and I'm as proud as can be.