Squirrelpocalypse

I live with a big walnut tree. It’s kind of like living with a large, incontinent dog. It’s big, imposing, majestic, and it drops its waste all over my yard. I do have grass in my yard, it’s just hard to notice under all the twigs and leaves. And the walnuts.

Oh, the walnuts. Walnuts are a fine thing to eat, but I’ve never been able to figure out if mine are edible, because they never make it that far. Because of the squirrels. The squirrels of Minneapolis all got together in some smoke-filled squirrel room and decided my tree would be the Old Country Buffet of Squirreldonia. They are everywhere. And gosh darn are they hungry.

Walnut husks litter my yard, my porch, my life. They rain down on my roof like… well, like rain. Many is the time I heard pitter-patter, and thought “hey, when did it start raining?” And I look outside and realize it’s just squirrels pelting my domicile with walnut fragments. It really can be that heavy. There have been times where some parts of my yard were ankle deep in walnut husks.

One time, it was a nice late summer evening, cool yet warm enough to sleep with the windows open. I was awakened at dawn by an odd grinding noise, faint but enough to wake someone up earlier than they would want. I couldn’t identify it. My best guess was a chainsaw, way off in the distance. “What assmunch is running a chainsaw at this hour?” I grumbled. So I went to the window, parted the curtain, and startled a couple of squirrels. It was just squirrels, chewing walnuts.

Okay, I was groggy, I hadn’t had my coffee yet, but I must stress this point: I confused squirrels having breakfast with a chainsaw cutting logs. That’s the level of squirrel pig out activity that goes on in my yard.

Every year it’s the same thing. I get an early start on autumn yard work, because the squirrels have been goin’ to town. I need to rake up a good ten to twelve leaf bags worth of walnut husks before the leaves fall, otherwise regular leaf raking becomes unworkable. And my yard ain’t that big. Do you know how heavy a leaf bag full of walnut husks is? I haven’t done any scientific measurements, but the mass seems to exceed the tensile strength of a biodegradable leaf bag by several factors. I go through a lot of biodegradable leaf bags.

Squirrels eat the walnuts on any flat surface. My car is a flat surface. For two months out of the year, my car is a mess of dried walnut juice, wood bits, and what I assume would be squirrel droppings and urine. It’s hideous, but there’s no point in washing it. The next day it’ll be back to subnormal. Walnut waste is an odd-looking mess to have on your car. People don’t know what it is, and I have to explain it. No, I didn’t get mad at my car and pelt it with eggs and coffee grounds. Those are green walnuts that have been ripped apart and feasted by ravenous gangs of gluttonous squirrels. When I got back from Maine, the mess was so heavy my car looked furry. You can’t really prepare yourself for your car looking furry. That ain’t natural.

Squirrels are cute, but I’m getting a little tired of their table manners.

I’m starting a new temp job tomorrow. Hallelujah! They want me to come in a bit later, and the Roman walnut orgy seems to be tapering off, so I may risk getting the car washed. I don’t remember car washes having a setting for “the shattered and bloody corpses of walnuts,” but maybe things have changed in recent months.

 

Power Outage

The Press Conference At The End Of The World may have been the highlight of my acting and writing semi-career. Big crowds, enthusiastic response, actual profit. All the things I worried about proved to be non-things. And To Mars With Tesla won the encore slot at it’s venue, for having the most attendance. It’s really impossible to figure out how I could have had a better Minnesota Fringe Festival than I did.

So why did I take so long to mention this? Well, right after the Fringe, I went on a family vacation to Maine. It was something my parents and my brother had planned for quite a while. So I was unplugged in Maine for about a week. If you haven’t been to Maine, just imagine a trip to northern Minnesota, and swap out all the walleye with lobster. But I jest. The scenery around Acadia National Park is just astounding. If big rocks and waves and forests excite you, and yes seafood, you should hustle your butt over there sometime.

But I tend to be one of those people who needs a vacation from a vacation. I came home and did aggressive amounts of nothing. It was like nothing squared. After the marathons of CONvergence, the Fringe Festival, an upcoming birthday/middle age crisis, and vacationing with small children and elderly parents, the sudden nothingness kind of swamped me. The temp job I had petered out, so I didn’t even have day job drudgery to occupy my mind. It wasn’t the good kind of nothing, like a revitalizing nothing or a peaceful nothing. My power supply was cut. I just shut down.

Anyway, I’m sort of waking up again. If nothing else, there’s this whole thing of employment I need to address. So I’ve been posting resumes, deleting spam about really terrific insurance agent franchising opportunities, and wondering how much longer I can survive on microwave burritos.

I’ll be funny again. I just haven’t been able to summon the energy for a few weeks.

Speaking of funny again, I’ll be a voice actor in Fearless Comedy Productions’ Big Fun Radio Funtime , at the Bryant Lake Bowl September 12th at 10:00 PM with audio sketches by people such as Tim Wick and Courtney McLean. And I’ll be in the Fearless Lab show at Honey on September 10th at 7:00 PM. Thank you, Fearless, for giving me something to do in September.

The Writing “Process”

It’s been an odd couple of months of too much and too little. I became unemployed around mid-June, and used my new free time to devote myself to writing my show for the Minnesota Fringe Festival. For said writing, I used an unusual method called “sitting on my ass and goofing off.” It hasn’t resulted in a lot of word count.

Procrastination is hard work! Worrying about a project, then worrying about various real world and personal problems as a way to avoid worrying about said project, and then worrying about all the worrying you’ve been doing can really take it out of you. I have felt extremely tired and overworked doing jack shit.

A lot of the worry comes from not having a clear idea of this thing called a “plot.” I had no sense of a plot at all when I did Death Perception in 2011. It was pretty much just stream of consciousness kvetching, saved by the structural conceit of being stuck with Death in a sort of “trapped in an elevator” scenario, and the ending was just what I had at the end with no time to spare. But it worked! The process with Someone Is Wrong On The Internet was almost the opposite. I had the end in mind from the get-go, and the problem was how to get there. I wrote a bunch of little vignettes and strung them together in the most logical manner I could. And it also worked! I was on a roll. A roll that I did not feel I was consciously controlling, but a roll nevertheless.

My 2013 show is called The Press Conference At The End Of The World, and the writing process is falling somewhere between Death and Internet. I have kind of a beginning, and kind of a middle, and kind of and end, but nothing firm. It is proving to be a much more plot-oriented sort of piece. I feel I need to have the beats planned out in advance, rather than the zen-like “just let it happen and we’ll fix it in post” semi-approach I used in the past. And it’s murder. Slow, unrelenting murder. I’ve never written like this before, and it’s kind of terrifying.

Ah well. I have done this to myself, and I shall have to sprint to the finish line in a more teen drama sort of way than is usual. Hard to picture, but true.

It occurs to me this has been a terrible piece of self-promotion. I think in Self-Promotion 101, whining about how hard it is to write is the second thing they tell you not to do, right after standing behind a cow.

Oh! Just because I like to complicate things, I’m also in a second Fringe show: To Mars With Tesla!, a remount of the English Scrimshaw Theatrical Novelties production from last year. Bad timing and bad luck kept our initial run from getting much of an audience, so I’m glad to be doing it again. It’s everything you want in a show. Tesla versus Edison! Silent movie comedy! Steampunk! Inappropriate grabbing of boobs!

Here are links to my two Fringe Festival shows. Click on links. Forward links. Stick links in one of those My Fringe 5 thingies. Promote the arts and shit.

http://www.fringefestival.org/2013/show/?id=2530

http://www.fringefestival.org/2013/show/?id=2504

A Quickie Before I Nod Off

Someday. Someday this blog will contain fun stuff. Comedy pieces, entertaining photographs, glib reviews of terrible movies no one remembers. I’ve been saying that for a year, and doggone it, I mean it. But not yet, because tired.

Here’s a few highlights, which may or may not explain the lack of interesting material:

I have a temp job that involves building spreadsheets in a sort of assembly line set-up. There’s about a dozen people on the project. Lots of copy and pasting of quote meaningless numbers unquote. I hit ctrl-c and ctrl-v so many times I couldn’t grip anything with my left hand. I’m better now, but it’s left me a little fried and comedy impaired.

I auditioned for Vilification Tennis, and got in! An incredibly hard fought competition that led to four new Vilifiers. Insults ahoy! I’m already scheduled for their June show, which goes up the 28th and 29th at the Bryant Lake Bowl.

My next show, What Happened To The Dollar?, goes up this week, also at the Bryant Lake Bowl. Cripes almighty, I spend a lot of time at the Bryant Lake Bowl these days. I’m playing the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, which in a weird way is kind of a dream role. It’s hard to explain briefly. There’s a lot of things about the part I can geek out about. It’s not often you get a part that lends itself to actor geeking. Dollar? is a production of Box Wine Theatre, and that goes up May 12th through May 26th, Thursdays and Sundays at 7 PM.

And after a long and snowy April, my squills finally bloomed. They were planted aeons ago, and have spread all over my yard. Half my yard is blue. The other half is full of wild onion, but we don’t talk about that half. It’s not spring until the squills bloom.

Let’s not mention the acre and a half of writing I’ve not done. Oh shit, I mentioned it. C’est la vie.

So anyway: theater, lots. Day job, stupefying. Yard, flowery. Bed, now.

Unironic

Zzzzzzzz… *snort* Whuh?! Whazzat? Oh, right. My blog.

It’s been kind of a whirlwind. Right when my spring got planned within an inch of its life, I got sick. Nothing serious, just a head cold whose primary symptoms were grumpiness and lethargy. But as a result, I did nothing for a couple of weeks except replay Mass Effect, this time with a Femshep and with more Renegade options. I could devote a plethora of posts to Mass Effect, but I’m not up for that now. It’s really crazy how I always get sick at the end of February. I guess it’s my equivalent of hibernation, some cyclical thing my body insists I do.

Hardcover Theater’s production of Pollyanna opens tomorrow. I’m still a little amazed I’m in this. Admittedly, it’s not an entertainment I would seek out on my own, but acting in it has been great fun. The challenge of taking one of literature’s most notoriously sappy and syrupy efforts, and presenting it as honestly and sincerely as possible, is one of those things that excites the actor in me. Hard to explain. It’s actually sort of radical, in a perverse way. Hardcover’s marketing is billing this as “a defiantly unironic production,” and in today’s artistic climate, that’s almost avant-garde. Suck it, hipsters!

(Bonus: if you scroll down a bit in that Hardcover link, you get to see me in old lady drag. You know you want to.)

And while preparing for Pollyanna, I’ve been writing material for The Vilification Games, the Vilification Tennis amateur show. So I’ve been working on two of the most polar opposite shows conceivable simultaneously. Somehow, my brain has handled the dichotomy without undue stress. Beer helps. I had been ambivalent about trying out for Vil for years, but now that I’ve committed, I really want to nail this. Maybe I’m more goal-oriented than I previously thought.

In things non-theatrical (yes, I do have an outside life, constrained though it may be), I will be working at Target as a temp, for about three months. Starting Monday. This brings my long, messy divorce with my current employer to a final, anti-climactic end. Looking forward to starting anew, and to a shorter commute, but also a little sad. The people at Globe University were good to me. The company a bit less so, but I’m not relishing walking away from the people. I hope the Target people are half as nice.

Otherwise… I don’t know. Just tired. Tired tired tired. And spending a heck of a lot of time at the Bryant Lake Bowl. I wonder if the Bryant Lake Bowl will let me set up a cot in their basement?

And Lo! The Trickle Became A Flood

Jeepers. All my life needed was the Minnesota Fringe Festival lottery, I guess. Things went from not-so-much to too-goddamn-much pretty much overnight.

My number was drawn again, for the third year in a row, so I will be in the Fringe again. And English Scrimshaw Theatrical Novelties was also drawn, so I will also be in the remount of To Mars, With Tesla! with me as steampunk Thomas Edison. For those of you who can’t count that high, that’s two Fringe shows I’m in. Which I’ve done before, so no need to panic.

Also, I’ve elected to try out for Vilification Tennis as a part of their amateur show. Refereed insult comedy, often of an offensive and inexcusable nature. I’ve done stuff with the Vilification people before, sketches and other additional material, but I’d always shied away from the actual act. Didn’t seem to be in my end of the comedy pool. Too aggressive. Too exposed. Too this. Too that. But I’ve gotten over those nagging doubts, so I’m giving it a whirl. This means I need to come up with 50-100 one-liner insults in the next couple of months, which means I need to write 500-1000 one-liner insults and chuck the 90% that will inevitably suck. That a not inconsiderable chunk of writing there, but doable. Edging a bit up on the panic meter now.

But! I’m also doing Vilification Tennis’ Game Show Show in March. Which is the show before the amateur show. I’ve been a part of the Game Show show for a few years now, and it’s one of the best times I have on stage. So I’ll need to write some wacky game show questions for that. Not 50-100 of them, but a few. And I’ll probably need to write questions for the GPS Trivia Contest, which will be somewhere betwixt the two Vilification shows. Okay, a bit more panicky now.

And! I’ll be contributing a script or two for Big Fun Radio Funtime. Sometime in early Summer or so. Panic rising…

Oh! And I’m job hunting. I will be almost certainly unemployed in a couple weeks. And the likelihood of me landing another job that would let me have copious time off in the summer to hammer out a show of some kind is roughly nil. Ah. There it is. Full-blown panic.

I may be over-dramatizing this a bit. (Me?! Over-dramatizing?! As God as my witness… Never!! Cue thunder and lightning.) We’ve done Tesla before. I knocked off a couple dozen Vilification insults last night. And there’s no problem with me doing another one-man show for the Fringe. (I’d like to do something with other people sometime, but I hinted about it after the lottery, and people left so fast there was a red shift.) So I can probably squeeze this all in, with a little bear grease and a giant shoehorn.

It was President’s Day today, so I had it off. Signed up with another temp agency downtown, walked through Uptown, watched some Ken Burns documentaries. A good breath-catching day before all this shit comes down.

Long Time, No Blog

Jeepers. It’s been a while. Why the long digital silence? Uh… stuff. Yeah. Stuff.

Without going into gory details, I got rehired by my place of work as a temp, to do the exact same job from which they laid me off. See, they laid me off right before the busiest time of year for my job. The temp agency called them up for a reference, and they said (paraphrased) “um, er, ah, could we get Kelvin back for a while? We’re kind of screwed.” So that happened.

Then the backlog got cleared up, and the incoming work slowed down to a trickle, and now I’m working part time. And looking for a real job. Resumes were posted online and whatnot. You know who loves me? Guys from India who want me to start my own insurance agent franchise. That seems an oddly specific type for me to attract, but whatever je ne sais quoi I’m projecting there, I’m seriously working it.

As weird as this whole situation has been, it has paradoxically left me pretty well off. The lay off severance, the paid out vacation, overtime temp work, and the lack of benefit deductions have made me as cash-on-hand rich as I’ve ever been. Of course, I can’t spend any of it on anything cool. It’s dwindling away on such luxuries as food and heat, possibly for several months, but it’s nice to know I’m not in any immediate emergency.

So… yeah. Overtime work, worries about Christmas, Thanksgiving, and employment, plus the occasional non-noteworthy crappy movie have left me without much bloggable material. And there you go.

One thing to note: my remount of Someone Is Wrong On The Internet is a go! Contracts have been signed and shit. A co-production with Shadow Horse Productions, it’ll go up at the Bryant-Lake Bowl on February 1st and 2nd, at 7:00. If you missed it at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, you’ve got another shot. Ticket discount with a Fringe Festival button available! Now to re-memorize the bastard, mull over adding a couple extra bits, etc.

Oh! And the swede of Die Hard I starred in finally got edited together. Man, that was a fun day. Featuring C. Robert Cargill (screenwriter of the recent horror hit Sinister) in a supporting role, plus Joseph Scrimshaw and plenty of other local notables. And some doofus named Jeremy Messersmith provided the music. I guess he’s popular or something. Go ahead and see why I should never, ever be allowed to wear a wifebeater!

Get A Job

Things have screeched to a standstill. Why? I got laid off.

Happened at the end of September. I had the choice of getting laid off, or staying on in a part time capacity, depending on available work. Long story short, I couldn’t accept the uncertainty, so I took the lay off.

But don’t cry for me, Argentina. As hard as this may be to picture, it was the nicest lay off you could possibly imagine. I’ve been laid off before, and trust me, this was the gold standard of lay offs. With the severance and paid out unused vacation, I should be okay for a couple of months. I’ve already talked to a temp agency, and I’m pretty confident I’ll get something soon.

It just means that creative and social stuff, like blogging for example, became a low priority. I’m probably over adjusting. Just because I’m unemployed doesn’t mean I have to become a hermit and eat tree bark. But I don’t want to get comfortable with sloth either. And believe me, I can get pretty comfortable with sloth.

More positively, I’m still doing improv. I wound up back in Friday Night Stage Match at the Brave New Workshop Student Union, and I’ve been doing sets there. I just wish I got back into it in a less whiny fashion, but there you go. Sometimes pointless Internet bitching isn’t so pointless. I’ll be up again on October 12, October 26, and November 2. That’s at 8:00 for $5.00, folks.

Also, I’ll be in the Drinking Game show for December, by Shadow Horse Productions. The movie will be Scrooged and I’m slated to play the Bobcat Goldthwait part. That’ll be at the Bryant-Lake Bowl, date and time TBA, as they say.

Also, it looks likely that Someone Is Wrong On The Internet will be remounted sometime in late winter/early spring. But there are a fair number of ifs involved. Stay tuned.

What else?

  1. I learned not to drink mead at the Renaissance Festival, because bees will drown themselves in your drink, and your bee sting allergic companion will freak.
  2. I also learned not to brag about all these people you know who work the Renaissance Festival, because they will hide and you will look like a putz.
  3. I found out Crossfit will keep you active and in shape, providing you don’t define “active and in shape” by your ability to climb stairs or sit on a toilet, as you won’t be able to do those things because Crossfit will fill your thighs with lava.
  4. And being jobless is a good time to do laundry and cook. Just made a huge-ass pot of chili that will feed me for a week. If only I could be so productive when employed.

Toodles.

Whither Improv?

Once again, I’m orphaned from the world of improv. I elected not to put in for the lottery, for the Friday Night Stage Match at the Brave New Workshop Student Union, because I wanted to audition for some improv shows coming up at HUGE Theater. And I did audition for those shows. Well, technically I did. In actuality, I got up on stage and stunk up the place. Pretty much every bad improv habit I have reared its ugly head and belched. Overthinking. Trying to fix scenes. Going for the joke. So no, I didn’t get cast. I wouldn’t have cast me either based on what I did that day. So I won’t be in any improv for the foreseeable future.

Why the heck do I keep doing lousy improv at HUGE? I don’t get it. Get me up on stage at the Student Union, and I’m fine. But at HUGE I’m Lame-O McStifferson. Maybe I feel more pressure at HUGE, because I’m more likely to know most of the audience. Or it could simply be bad luck. I don’t know.

I am without an improv team again. HUGE held an improv mixer, in which a ton of people got together to do improv and find other people with whom to form a team. A great idea and a marvelous service. However, the lottery for Improv-A-Go-Go was held August 1st, and contact info for mixer participants wasn’t forwarded to me until August 2nd. Argh! Efforts on my own haven’t been too successful either. I have this bizarre knack to ask people to form an improv team right after they’ve decided to commit to a different team, or move out of town, or go back to school, or quit improv completely.

Lots of improv teams form sort of spontaneously. A bunch of people take a class or a workshop, they all dig each other, et voilα! Improv team! Alas, class and workshops tend to be offered right when I have no time or money. Many is the time I’ve gnashed my teeth in frustration as I watched yet another workshop go on to do great work and get a regular gig.

I’m sure not having a concrete idea of what to do doesn’t help. Do I want to do Harolds? Some genre riff? A whole new structure? Well, yeah, I want to do all of those things. But it seems like that is the sort of thing that needs to be decided on as a group. But I can’t get a group without an idea, and I can get an idea without a group.

This has happened long enough and often enough that I can’t help being a little paranoid about it. After all, I’m the common thread in all of this. But I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I never get helpful feedback, unless statements like “try harder” and “keep trying” are something you’d consider helpful. I need a bit more than that.

I don’t see how someone can be any good at any creative pursuit if they’re not doing something creative on a regular basis. My go-to creative activity has always been improv. I don’t have the eye-hand coordination for visual art, my singing resembles an elk on ‘ludes, and with joints as flexible as carbon rods dancing is out of the question too. How am I going to progress as a writer or an actor without improv?

Well, another Stage Match lottery will come up in a few months. I guess I’ll just play Skyrim until then. But hey, if you’re up for any Deconstructions, La Rondes, or Armamdos, let me know, okay?

Aprés le Fringe

Holy wow, the Minnesota Fringe Festival was a good time. So why so long to write about it? The biggest reason is simple exhaustion. Man, I was tired. Staying up until bar close every night, even with no job the next day, really takes it out of you. There were some movies to catch up on. There was Valley Meadows’ CD release party (one heck of a night of musical comedy). But mostly, there was Skyrim. After denying myself video games for weeks, I finally dove head first into Skyrim. Ah, Bethesda Software. Not the most compelling games I’ve ever experienced, but their unique, mysterious combination of graphic prettiness and game play make time vanish like little else. “Well, I’ve got an hour. I’ll just collect the bounty on this one bandit chieftan, and then go see this show.” Boom! Suddenly, it’s past midnight. That happened the odd dozen times or so.

Those were the time sucks, but there were also some slipperier factors as well. The feedback I got from Someone Is Wrong On The Internet was quite frankly stunning. Well in excess of the feedback I got from Death Perception the previous year. I made a creative decision to mitigate my geek tendencies and tell a story solidly set in the real world, mostly just to prove to myself I could do that, and I succeeded way beyond what I expected. I couldn’t really process it, and it led to a certain inertia. Hugely positive feedback can be overwhelming. Any thanks I could express verbally or through writing just seemed inadequate. People have been very kind, and I am very grateful.

So what’s next? Shit, I don’t know. I definitely want to remount Internet at some point, but new work? That could be anything. Where could I put it up? Should I do something realistic again? What if I wanted to go back and do something weirder and sillier again? Will the people who liked Internet reject a wackier, less structured piece? These are unanswerable questions. Well, unanswerable until I actually do something and get people’s reactions to it. But while I’m sitting here on my butt, blogging into the ether? Unaswerable.

Also, I need to figure out what to do with this here blog thing. I coughed up the dough for the URL, I should probably do something with it. I don’t want it to be a big dumb plug machine. That’s what Facebook is for. I don’t really want to review stuff. I don’t want to rant about the state of the world. But now that the Fringe Festival is over, I can slap something up here without feeling guilty. We’ll see.

Anyway, I need not to do anything for a bit. My day job has started back up, and that will soon swamp my mind for the rest of autumn. Something will take shape. At least it will once I get a few more missions completed in Skyrim. You hear that, you undead Nord kings? You’re goin’ down.