Posts Tagged ‘Personal’

A Few Thoughts on Hamilton

July 13, 2020

Selling Out

I heard a lot of rumbling and grumbling from Hamilton fans when it was announced that the show would be released on Disney Plus. The thing I heard was that people were accusing Hamilton of selling out to Disney. People jumped to that judgment because of Disney’s status as a content and intellectual property juggernaut. Disney is also a large corporation which are historically ethically neutral at best. I am not here to defend Disney but Hamilton was going to be distributed by one company or another. While we still have capitalism, that is the way it is going to be. Disney+ being a new platform makes it not a bad idea for both sides. Miranda gets plenty of eyes on his show while Disney gets yet another exclusive to dangle for subscriptions.

On top of all of that, Miranda already has an established relationship with Disney having worked on several projects with the company (Moana, Mary Poppins Returns, Ducktales, Star Wars, and the upcoming Encanto). With an established relationship, Miranda probably had an easier time arguing for creative control of the edit. Disney cares a lot about presentation so they would be able to display the production as well as anybody. Disney has also started to care more about diversity and representation and if this pushes them further in that direction, great!

Miranda had been sitting on a recording of the show for years presumably for a theatrical release that had been scheduled for October 2021. A theatrical release would have been great but we are in the middle of a pandemic which likely will still be lingering next year. Miranda is very smart and compassionate and probably did not want people rushing out to theaters and getting sick. Additionally, a Disney Plus subscription is about seven dollars which beats a fifteen dollar ticket any day. So for half the price, you can have a month of access to a lot of great Disney content instead of paying more for one shot (pun intended). Also, at one time a Hamilton ticket was considered a bargain at over $800. This is a steal. Of course, not everybody has Internet access but I think Miranda did the best he could.

In short, “selling out” means to compromise your moral code in exchange for money. Miranda’s goal was to get as many people to see his show as possible because he is an artist. He has accomplished that goal and continues to accomplish that goal.

F-Bombs

Before the show was released on Disney+, Miranda was asked on Twitter about whether the show would be censored. Disney has a historically clean image to maintain and, among other things, Hamilton has three usages of the word “fuck”. The problem was that Disney+ has a rating cap of PG-13. In order to maintain a PG-13 rating, a movie has to keep to only one F-Bomb (and context matters). Miranda agreed to edit out two out of three F-bombs in order to get under the wire. He did not have to sacrifice any sexual innuendos and most of the show survived intact. Yet, some people are angry.

The arguments seem to be varied. Some people are mad that Miranda may have been pressured to sacrifice artistic vision. This is the anti-censorship argument. While I usually think that censorship is wrong, I do not think that is what happened here. Miranda has been vocal about his willingness to lose those two words in order to get the show aired. Another argument that I have heard is that the word “fuck” is not even that offensive. It is just a word. I agree with this. There is no such thing as dirty language, only dirty speech. However, that argument can go both ways. If it is just a word, then why not cut it out to accomplish a goal? The two usages that were cut added very little to the lines they were in and the one they kept (which is more of a Fuuuu). I say it is a pointless thing to complain about.

What Was Left Out

This is a much more valid complaint that was absolutely good to be asked. Hamilton does not do much to address the issue of slavery in the Colonies and the fledgling United States. There are a few lines that point out the conflict of fighting for freedom while slavery still exists but there are no slave characters and the issue is not pushed. Miranda has agreed that this is an issue. He agonized for a long time on what he could include and still maintain a cohesive story in an amount of time that an audience could sit through. He had a lot of tough decisions and frankly, I feel like he made the right ones.

I do not feel qualified to argue this point because I am a White Male Southerner. Miranda has addressed criticisms and has agreed with many of them. However, he has pointed out that the music of the show is a celebration of music that was only possible because of contributions by Black artists and culture. The show also does not paint any of the historical characters as paragons of virtue. Every single person (slave owner or merely complicit) is portrayed as deeply flawed.

I think the biggest point in the show’s favor in this matter is that it is a positive show that has sparked discussion about American History. The show talks about “Who Tells Your Story” and Miranda told a story but it is up to everybody to tell all of the stories. We need to continue to tell Black stories, immigrant stories, and so many other important stories. Hamilton is a great show but it may end up being more important because of what it brought to the table. I think vilifying Hamilton misses a lot of points and we could approach the problem in a more positive way.

Blood Pressure

March 23, 2020

I have refrained from writing about the following because of anxiety and embarrassment. However, I realize that I have nothing to be embarrassed about. I have been struggling with my mental health and my physical health for a long time. I do not like to talk about it but, now that things are getting better, I feel strong enough to talk about it. I have long suffered from anxiety which often overlapped with depression. This led me to me binging on bad food and hiding in my room when I lived in New Jersey. I did not really take care of myself but anytime that I got a little sick, I panicked. Homesick and depressed, my mental state deteriorated. I gained weight. When I got bronchitis, I panicked and thought that the problems from when I was 12 had returned and I was dying.

When I returned back to Baltimore from New Jersey, my mood lightened and I worked at a job that was very physically demanding so I lost weight and got stronger. After that was over, I got a desk job where I was once again not getting exercise. This job started out alright and I was happy to have found work. However, it was social work for the government and my generalized anxiety and social anxiety made it very difficult. I did not know how to deal with the phone and piles of work. I felt stressed all the time and I had migraines all the time. One day, I had a full-on panic attack and I rushed from the office to the urgent care center half a block away. I could barely breathe and my blood pressure was so high that they called an ambulance.

After a hospital visit and during a period of time away from work, I visited a doctor and was told that I had high blood pressure and anxiety. Something got stuck in my head and I was afraid that I had developed diabetes and that I would be blamed. Worse, I would have to deal with needles every day of my life. I started going to the gym but stopped going to the doctor. I did not want to know what was wrong with me. The medications my doctor gave me ran out but I did not go back to renew. I did no further tests.

I lived more or less normally, my weight fluctuating as I gave up on the gym and then went back. After my family went through a particularly rough encounter with alcoholism, my brother pushed me to get therapy. I went but got little out of it. My therapist left town to attend to her granddaughter and I did not find another. However, eventually, my brother suggested I visit a psychiatric nurse practitioner. He pushed the issue and I eventually gave in. This was the first time in my life that I was diagnosed with generalized and social anxiety. She took me seriously and I took her seriously.

She prescribed me Xanax and, once I adjusted to it, it was like night and day. The fear and anxiety I felt every day lifted. I felt more confident and I felt happier. I went back to the gym, realizing that I would stop going because I was anxious in public places. I would go back because I had heard that you could work off diabetes. I was told by my new nurse that I had troublingly high blood pressure and that, although I felt fine, I was definitely not. I found another doctor and they started to do tests on me. They could not figure things out so they ordered bigger scarier tests. I quit and walked away.

Recently, I switched my insurance to Kaiser Permanente and went in for a visit again. I was finally ready to accept whatever was coming to me. I immediately fell in love with the new set up. I was not visiting with a doctor who was a resident in med school who cared but did not seem to have time for me. Instead, I now have a doctor who speaks plainly with me and is super approachable. I can message him through an app with questions and he answers the same day. The big thing is that the laboratory is inhouse so I can just walk over and do bloodwork or whatever. It makes it harder to make excuses and avoid things.

I am now also on blood pressure and cholesterol medications and I am working with my doctor and the nurses to get my numbers down. I am starting to see improvement and I am sticking to the gym. (Historical note: My gym was closed due to Covid-19 last week). I have a blood pressure monitor at home which automatically sends my numbers to the nurses. I am doing a lot better and I am feeling a lot better and clearer. Best of all, my doctor finally shot down my old fear that I had developed or was developing diabetes. No diabetes. I’m doing pretty great, actually. I am also doing a job that I love and that leaves me with a lot more energy at the end of most days. So that’s how I’m doing.

Blue Bloods Must End

January 27, 2020

It is pretty clear that most cop shows often show an idealized world where the police are always right and the criminals are always wrong. The only cops who are villains are the police who go rogue and they are treated as an anomaly. They are detested and immediately caught or killed by their fellow cops. However, since I was born in Baltimore City and I keep my eyes open, I know that this is a fantasy. Law enforcement has not and never will deserve blanket respect or trust. There will always be “bad apples” on the force and administrations and the brass will always cover up for them. There will be no reform because the system works for the government. They can blame the problem on the people of color instead of fixing economic and racial disparity in order to repair society.

Anyway, there is one cop show that I keep watching that is actually fairly accurate to the reality of law enforcement in our world. That show is Blue Bloods. The show follows a family that has dedicated their lives to law enforcement. Fittingly, the family’s name is Reagan because most of them do not care about citizen’s rights or about being good people. They constantly espouse an “us versus them” mentality. This mentality does not just encompass the police department’s relationship with the criminals but also with the public at large. Every single cop automatically assumes the guilt of people they are dealing with and act like complete assholes most of the time.

The most obvious offender is the character that even fans of the show love to hate. Detective Danny Reagan is played by Donnie Wahlberg. He is a stereotypical rogue cop with anger issues who often bends or breaks the rules in order to “get his guy”. He even has an inexplicable Brooklyn accent even though the rest of his family does not. This is how “blue-collar” he is supposed to be. However, he is consistently a dirty cop and is constantly under investigation but is constantly cleared. He has real psychological problems and in the latest season, I feel like he might be a sociopath. For example, in one episode he rolls up on a hostage situation that has nothing to do with him. He waits until everybody has their backs turned and he walks in and shoots the unstable criminal. He never shows any remorse that he shot a human being who may or may not have had psychological issues. This is pretty indicative of his behavior on the show.

The actual worse offender is patriarch Frank Reagan, the New York City commissioner played by Tom Selleck. Frank is an old school cop who basically hates anybody who is not in law enforcement. To him, a cop is a shining example in the world and is to be given every chance to make up for horrendous behavior. In one episode, a bunch of cops are verbally harassed outside of a housing project so his response is to send in three precincts, SWAT, and everything else he can throw at the project. He directs cops to round up every single person who lives there and question them and detain them in search of criminals. No probable cause, no logical reasoning. He felt police had been insulted so he sends in the troopers to shock and awe civilians. He is rightfully blasted in the press for it until the search randomly produces a serial killer they did not know about and he is exonerated. He is a hero because he stumbled into a win.

More recently, he revisited something good he actually did and ruined it. In an earlier season, he fired a young cop because she stopped somebody for being brown and media backlash forced him to let her go. He later stumbles on her working a waitressing job. He feels guilty and reverses his decision. He hires back a known racist because he thinks that waitressing (a noble profession) is beneath her and he thinks that she should be a cop. Not only that but he gives her a get out of jail card by telling her that he personally has her back. So when she once again commits some racist act, he will get her out of it instead of firing her this time. Awesome.

There are some exceptions. Erin Reagan is an Assistant District Attorney played by Bridget Moynihan. She actually has compassion despite basically being a cop herself. She often fights against her brothers and father to get leniency for people actually damaged by the system. Her daughter, Nicky, played by Sami Gayle, is even more compassionate and is often the one voice futilely fighting against her family. Vanessa Ray plays Officer Eddie Janko and, as somebody who has experienced both upper class and lower class life, she displays a little more perspective but not much. Her fiance, Jamie Regan (played by Will Estes) often toes the line too much but is at least a little nicer than his family. Garrett Moore (played by Gregory Jbara) is Frank’s PR commissioner. He absolutely views things as the rest of us would and often preaches restraint and understanding if only to make the police look good. His voice is often lost and lately, he is often straight-up ridiculed for his views.

While the show always held this kind of darkness, it feels like it has gotten worse and worse over the seasons. I would not even mind the show as much if the Reagans were not treated as the show’s heroes instead of rightfully being depicted as the villains. They often make situations worse than they found them and rarely feel too bad about them. So, why do I keep watching the show? Honestly, I do not know. The acting is really good and I love a handful of really good characters. Still, every so often I will hit an episode that will make me furious and I will stop watching for a while. I may be hoping for the show to get canceled soon so some of those good actors can be on a project with more merit.

Big Bird

December 9, 2019

Obviously, I am a huge Muppets fan and I wholeheartedly love everything they have ever done pre-Disney and post-Disney. The Muppets will always be a part of myself and definitely part of the font of creativity in my soul. I have spoken at length about how Jim Henson was a personal hero of mine. I know his personal life was not perfect but his creativity and willingness to collaborate have definitely carried me through difficult parts of my creative, personal, and professional lives. One of the early things that Henson created while he was struggling creatively and financially was Sesame Street. While I was more of a fan of The Muppets and Fraggle Rock, when I was little I definitely watched some Sesame Street. It, along with Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, definitely encouraged my little imagination.

I think my favorite back in the day was actually Bert. As an introvert, I definitely felt a kinship with a guy who wanted things just right and was always trying to counter his introvert roommate’s energy. He was intelligent and underappreciated. However, through my teen and college years, I identified most with was Oscar the Grouch. I definitely went through a cynical period where I struggled with my anger and I have only recently begun to come out from under that cloud. Still, even during those darker days, I had a lot of love for those who I was loyal to. Of course, Oscar the Grouch was voiced by the most iconic character of Sesame Street. Of course, I am talking about Big Bird, the one character who never really had a name of his own. He was a shining symbol of childlike wonder and often seemed to embody that awkwardness we all feel in our own bodies.

Most of you must know that I am talking about this because the man behind Oscar and Big Bird (and others), Carroll Spinney, has died. It is indeed very sad but we had so many years and three generations got to enjoy Big Bird and all of his friends. I have been thinking back to some of his best moments. One that was not very televised was Carroll’s appearance at Jim Henson’s funeral in character as Big Bird. It was a beautiful moment that felt more beautiful to me since Henson had parted ways with Sesame Street long before. They were still all friends. I remember when Big Bird finally proved the existence of Mr. Snuffleupagus. It was a moment that showed kids that they should be believed when they are telling adults the truth. The moment was intended to give power to kids suffering from sexual and physical abuse.

In a moment from the year of my birth (and in fact 37 years and two days ago) Mr. Hooper died and Sesame Street used that to teach kids about death through Big Bird. It was such an interesting and meaningful moment that they could have explained away or covered for but they wanted to use it to teach. They confronted the hard truth. That moment makes me wonder how they are going to proceed with Sesame Street. Will they mention or acknowledge Carroll’s death on screen. I think it is obvious that Big Bird will not die. Jim Henson died and Kermit did not follow suit. Muppets cannot die. Humans can and do. Mr. Hooper was a different case but I wonder if they might do something subtle or outside of the show to honor Spinney.

The beauty of all creative endeavors is that the show will go on because it must go on. Carroll’s spirit will not be forgotten just as everybody who ever contributed will not be forgotten. Big Bird will continue to be that childlike influence on the kids (and their parents). Oscar will still grumble and gripe from his trash can. They have been so good at casting in the past years that you can barely tell when a new performer takes over. All of the Muppets feel like living characters and, honestly, I feel that they really are in their own way. The muppeteers have often said as much. I am interested to see where the story goes next. I wish that Sesame Street could break free from the corporate paywall it is now behind but if people are still benefitting from it, it is what it is. Hopefully, they can continue to make Jim and Carroll and everyone proud and make us learn and laugh.

A Familiar Nightmare

December 2, 2019

I had a nightmare recently. This, in itself, is not very surprising. I have nightmares all of the time like normal people do. Normal people have nightmares, right? I’m fairly normal. We’re all crazy. Anyway, this nightmare stuck with me instead of fading away with the sunrise. It was a dream about my old life, a life I left nearly a decade ago. It was definitely an anxiety dream. I have anxiety in my waking life, why should my dream life be different?

In the dream, I was visiting an old friend at a theater just before showtime. I was just planning to stop by and visit briefly but she was not there. That was concerning because my friend was a stage manager and was running the lighting board. (Of course, “she” was some vague stand-in for the multitudes of female stage managers I’ve known). The way stage management works anybody should be able to run the show based on what is called a “prompt book”. The show must go on so I volunteered to step into her shoes and run things for the night.

I was completely unfamiliar with the show but I tried to decipher the prompt book anyway. For those who do not know, a prompt book is the show’s script with an overlay of cues and notes needed to run the show and ‘prompt’ people to do their jobs. It is the show “bible” and should allow you any knowledge you need to put on the show. In the dream, the notes were not easy to understand or follow. I struggled to keep up with the show.

Meanwhile, I kept getting pulled away from the booth and the theater for multiple reasons. I was constantly trying to get back to my spot. When I got there, I struggled to figure out what I was doing. It should have been completely harrowing but it was kind of exhilarating. It was also flattering that I could still command respect in my own field. The dream had no resolution. Dreams rarely do. I woke with an uneasy feeling and went about my day.

(Sorry this was late)

OK Boomer

November 11, 2019

Image result for ok boomer graphic

I wanted to take a little time to talk about the “OK Boomer” catchphrase that is going around. If you are wondering what my opinion is, I definitely support it. Although, my feelings of support are somewhat complicated. I have talked before about how it ticks me off when people are dismissive. I have to bite my tongue when friends put down rap music, video games, pro-wrestling, or other things I and other people like. Being dismissive is one of the clearest paths to me ignoring you in the future. I have embraced positivity in my life in recent years and I want to rave about things and I have little desire to crap on things I do not like or understand. So normally I might hate this phrase but its dismissiveness is actually what is so attractive in this case.

I am a Millenial, a box that I did not immediately embrace. I was born in the last week of 1982, a baby born between Christmas and New Years Day which puts me very close to the line between Millenials and Generation X. My generation used to annoy me and I clearly identified with the stuff that Gen X grew up with. However, as I got older and got over myself, I grew to like stuff from all generations. However, the moment I embraced my generation was when the Boomers started to attack it. The Baby Boomers are the generation that was created when the United States military came home from World War II and had boatloads of babies. They are also the generation most responsible for ruining the environment, keeping the evils of capitalism alive, and holding back social evolution.

As I said, the moment that I embraced Millenials was when the Boomers started to attack it. They started blaming my generation for being self-centered, killing old businesses, and not falling in line with the establishment. What they objected to was evolution. I see the so-called “self-centered” attitude as us learning to love ourselves. Our generation is also way more interested in saving the world and all of the people in it for very little benefit for ourselves. As for the rest of it, we are just so angry about where Boomers have put us. The establishment is not helping and we have lived through an increasingly uncertain economy. I will probably never retire because of what has been done to the economy. Likewise, the environment is in critical condition and will likely never fully recover thanks to generations who prized profit over future generations. It makes us angry.

So what better way to get back at a generation that has dismissed us and our concerns? Cutting them off with a stinging and condescending “OK Boomer” hopefully will make them rethink their strategy for life. If nothing else, it is a rallying cry to continue on without them. To work toward a world we can be proud of instead of what they have given us. However, “OK Boomer” is not directed toward all the people in that generation. I and many of my generation recognize that there have been Boomers (and GenXers) fighting for the cause longer than we have been alive. I would invite them to chuckle along with us when somebody says “OK Boomer”. They earned their ally status and are not our enemy. Not my enemy at least. The rest of them better mind their Ps and Qs going forward, though.

Snow White’s (Scary) Adventures

August 5, 2019

Recently, I have been watching shows like Defunctland and Yesterworld and I am starting to branch out from there to like-minded shows. All of these shows delve into the history of theme parks and their rides and attractions. They mostly explore those attractions that have been removed from theme parks. As I explained in my review of Defunctland, they explore things through business decisions, tactical decisions, and creative decisions. All of these decisions effect each other, obviously. It has been endlessly fascinating and has inspired me a lot in my own creative choices. However, it has also served another purpose. It has let me know in great detail that my memory was correct when I was scared by rides.

I have spoken before on a particular nemesis of mine when I was a little child but let us set the scene a little more. There was a time before my brothers when I spent a lot more time taking joint vacations with my mom, my uncle, and my cousin, Brantley. Brantley is the oldest of the cousins on my mom’s side and over time she became a sort of leader when there were eventually six of us. Early on, there were just the two of us though and she and I were fast friends. I remember in particular a visit to New York City together and a visit to Walt Disney World. The visit to the Magic Kingdom (aka the real happiest place on Earth) had a lasting effect on me even though I cannot remember a lot of it now.

Disney parks are an experience as many of the good theme parks are. When you enter, you are entering another world, a self-contained city of pure entertainment. There is so much to do that you could spend a week there and not finish doing absolutely everything. It has always been this other world that I have been interested in and not exactly the actual thrill rides. I do not remember riding Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, or any of the particularly big rides. I know we went on some of the more sedate rides for sure. I vividly remember It’s A Small World and I am strangely not very annoyed by the song now because I was inoculated to it young. I think I almost remember going on the Jungle Cruise which seems like it would be a fun time. Journey Into Imagination is an attraction that has really stuck with me. I remember going on Pirates of the Carribean and getting scared while in line but once the ride started, I was enamored by the fun scenes unfolding in front of me.

When Disney created the Fantasyland section of the park, they wanted to adapt their movies based on popular fairytales. That is why the icons of Disneyland and Disney World are both storybook castles (Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella respectively). They ended up creating a bunch of rides based on Disney animated movies where the riders took the place of the main character of the movie. (Which ended up flooding the park with complaints). When I visited in the early nineties, one of those rides is the focus of this post: Snow White’s Adventure. While on the trip, at some point my mother and my uncle went off to do something. In order to occupy we children, we were put on one of the dark rides. How scary could Snow White be? Well, there is a reason why they changed the name of the ride to The Scary Adventures of Snow White in 1994.

The ride would not be so bad if they had simply followed the movie. Instead, they made it into a straight horror movie. Instead of only showing up once, the Wicked Witch (the Evil Queen in disguise) shows up tons of times. Her animatronic jumps out at the riders over and over, cackling with murderous glee. Among other things, she tries to offer the riders the iconic poison apple, tries to ram them with a minecart, tries to attack them head-on, and finally tries to smash them with a giant boulder. She is more like Wile E. Coyote than the sneaky witch she is in the movie. My little heart could not take it. The relentless witch and the ominous darkness of the ride sent me into full-on panic mode. I ended up covering my eyes and crouching down into the vehicle to make myself as small as possible. If I had even thought of coming back up for air, I swear I heard the witch cackle and call out “Don’t Cover Your Eyes, Sweetie!”

I swear that last part happened even though I cannot find it anywhere on the Internet. In fact, the first results in google are my own blog from a previous claim I made. Still, I have irrefutable and well-researched evidence that proves that the ride was scary. Many people have backed up those words and I have now seen plenty of footage. The witch was relentless and hilariously and needlessly aggressive. I look back and laugh now but I was pee-my-pants scared during that ride. I really believe that it was one of the formative moments that led to me being a fan of the Horror genre. Which is not to say that I was scarred by the experience but maybe somewhat inspired.

I do not blame the Imagineers who made the ride for making it scary. In fact, that was kind of a theme in Fantasyland. The rides there were scarier than the Haunted Mansion ever was. Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan’s Flight were originally also pretty scary. It is alright to scare children a bit. A little darkness shows them about the world in a safe way. I also don’t blame my mother as she had no idea and was there to hug me afterward and assure me that it was going to be alright. I was in the sunshine and everything was safe. At least, safe from the Evil Queen and all the imaginary horrors that would become an obsession later in life.

Advice

June 17, 2019

I have been mainlining a lot of the My Brother, My Brother, and Me podcast episodes lately. The show is a comedic advice show where the three McElroy brothers answer listener’s questions and random questions from the Yahoo Answers service. Their disclaimer is as such: “The McElroy brothers are not experts, and their advice should never be followed. Travis insists he’s a sexpert, but if there’s a degree on his wall, I haven’t seen it. Also, this show isn’t for kids, which I mention only so the babies out there will know how cool they are for listening. What’s up, you cool baby?” Which is to say they do hand out some good advice but they also do a lot of comedy riffs where they dispense purposefully terrible advice. They never make it clear which is which but common sense makes it fairly easy to figure out. Also, there is less snickering and giggling during the good advice.

The thought I had yesterday was why anyone would ever seek advice from strangers and why would strangers dispense advice? The McElroy brothers treat it as a comedy routine and are not super serious about it even if they do end up helping people. And yet there are plenty of people who try to legitimately give advice. Writers like Dear Abby and Ann Landers (both nom de plumes) write advice columns with impunity. How did they get the confidence to try and give other people advice? Then there are even trickier outlets like Loveline and Dr. Ruth who dealt heavily with sexual topics. To say nothing of Dr. Spock who tried to tell parents how to raise their babies. Some of these people have degrees which would seem to confer on them the bonafides to allow them to give advice. Others are just newspaper employees who are doing their best. What qualifies one to give advice? Common sense? Some degree of emotional empathy and/or intelligence? I am not sure.

I know that I do not really like giving advice unless it is advice on what movies or tv shows people should watch. Watching the wrong pop culture rarely irreparably damages anyone’s life. I also offer some advice on writing but that is the basic “Just Write.” that I read in many books on writing. However, when it comes to people’s lives, I hesitate to tell them what to do. I can tell people what works for me but if I was never in a certain situation, I am hard pressed to think of the right thing to say. How do I even know what the right thing to say is? I am always nervous that I will say the wrong advice and ruin the situation. For example, if I am not gay, how do I give advice on somebody coming out? I can’t. I just can’t.

I also have an interesting thing in that I am a paralegal in my day job. I have spent over a year doing formal training in the law in general and specifically Maryland law. I also research the law just about every day at work (unless it is a filing day). With all of that general legal knowledge, of course, there are people who ask me for advice usually over the phone at work. The problem is that I legally cannot give legal advice. It is literally against the law. Doing so would be unauthorized practice of law. Only a lawyer is licensed to give legal advice and doing so behind my attorney’s back could get both of us in trouble. For me, it’s a relief because I do not want that pressure. However, I also sometimes have to pass on advice from my boss to clients and I have to be very careful about how I do that. I just do not know how people do it naturally.

Pride 2019

June 10, 2019

A lot of cities had their pride parades this past weekend but my hometown and current home Baltimore is having Pride this coming weekend. I have always been an ally to everyone under the banner of “Other” and this includes everybody under the banner of LGBTQ+. That was how I was raised, to be kind and think well of other people especially if they are not trying to hurt anybody. My mother came from a tolerant family in the American South that shunned racism. I went to school for twelve years at a Quaker school which taught love and acceptance for all. In high school, I entered the world of theater which was generally more open-minded than the rest of the world. I met the first gay people I knew of here. Of course, I may have met many gay people previously but it was the nineties and people were heavily closeted.

When I went to college, I met even more people from the beautiful spectrum of humanity. I was introduced to gay culture and my mind was opened even more. I worked professionally in theater for five more years and I met more gay people. I met so many different people over the years. I also read a lot of books and watched a lot of content. It all helped form my feelings on the whole LGBTQ+ community. It just goes to my further my constant argument that exposure helps breed love and peace. Ignorance breeds hate. If you listen to the message that Pride sends out, it is a message of equality, happiness, fun, and fighting back against the darkness. How anybody could interpret it as anything else is a mystery to me.

A long while ago I sort of came out as aromantic. I have never once felt a romantic feeling. I have never longed for the companionship of another human being regardless of gender, sex, or orientation. A lot of people need that sort of thing to make their lives complete but I am happy to have my friends and family. Obviously, over the years the makeup of the LGBTQ+ banner has had some changes. There is too much bickering over who should and should not be at Pride and this year I am seeing a lot of people being fed up with it. This is the first year that I have seen clear statements accepting aromantics at Pride. When I saw it, I felt something break free inside of me and I smiled. We are a small subsection so specific support was not something I was expecting. So, this year will be the first year I attend Pride as an aromantic and not just an ally.

Oh, and the only people who should not be at Pride are cops and hatemongers. Hatemongers are obviously not welcome at Pride. These include the Christian Right, the Nazis, the Klansmen, and all of the raving lunatics who would rather burn it all down than let people be free to be different. However, it also includes silent partners. The corporations who sell rainbow flags but turn their backs on actual gay people, the forces of Capitalism who decided that gay people don’t make them enough money, the well-meaning ‘middle of the road’ types who do not want to make waves even when it means defending people’s rights to be happy. This also brings us to the cops. Yes, the cops. The cops who protect armed nazis in Detroit who chose to march through Pride, sending people who were celebrating indoors and fearing for their lives. The cops who have a history of breaking up gatherings of gay people and almost never side with ‘the Other’ over ‘good’ white men and women. The same cops who have a history of beating the crap out of minorities when they feel like it. No cops at pride, only love and true allies. Please.

Quality Control

April 19, 2019

Nearly ten years ago, I worked in live theater. I worked at a small regional theater in upstate New Jersey for five long years. When I left the theater, I had worked my way up from board technician to Assistant Technical Director to Technical Director. That title basically made me in charge of almost everything besides the acting. As a carpenter, I helped build the sets. As an electrician, I hung and focused the lights and did all of the wiring. As sound board operator, I played music and sound effects in time with the show. I was also a professional designer. I did the lighting design which meant that I picked colors and helped shape the look of the show. However, my all-time favorite job was as a sound designer. That meant that I spent long hours listening to music and sound effects, trying to figure out what would add to the soundscape of the show without taking away from it.


This is here because my teacher was a roadie for Steely Dan (among other bands)

To get to that position, I actually majored in theater. I majored in Stage Management at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. For those who can do the math, that means I spent nearly a decade living in New Jersey away from my beloved Maryland. When I got out of school, I decided I did not really want to be a stage manager. It had been all I wanted when I entered college but, as with most people, going off to university had changed me. It all came from taking Sound Design 101 early in my time there. I started to hang around the designers more and especially with the sound crew. I sat under the learning tree with the sound teacher, an old ex-roadie who was not technically a professor because he never got the appropriate degrees. When I got out, I wanted to create. I wanted to use my hands.

That teacher taught me a lot about music in ways that I never thought about it before. We sat and listened to records which is something I had rarely done before. With that crew, I did it almost every day. More than listening to music, we talked a lot about music and how we listen to it. This is when I truly learned how subjective music is. My teacher, my sensei, my mentor, he hated ABBA with a passion. I am not a huge fan but I like some of their upbeat tunes. He had a cleansing ceremony that had to be done to speakers that had played Abba. We listened to cheesy, goofy music and laughed our butts off. Our favorites were a recording of a kazoo orchestra and the legendary album Golden Throats. I actually later used Golden Throats as pre-show music to torture the audience. I got a compliment on it. I shuddered. Music truly is subjective.

But on to the story that I actually originally wanted to write about since everything above is a prelude to. When you do sound design, the most boring thing you have to do is quality control. It is tedious because it takes time and you really want to get the fun parts of adjusting levels and mixing sound and music. Now I understand that quality control is the most zen part of the job. To explain, quality control means listening to every sound effect and music track all the way through in order to make sure there is nothing in there that will be embarrassing later. My teacher called it “Checking for Sheep”. The story he told us to express the importance of this activity was interesting. He had once done a show with a long scene in the rain and so he had found the perfect ambient track of rain noises. Except he did not check the whole thing. So late in that scene, there was suddenly the plaintive cries of a herd of sheep standing in the rain. He was embarrassed.

So, remember to take your time. Remember to check your work because you do not want to blow it down the line. It may be tedious and it may be boring but it can save you. Also, in those zen moments of just sitting and taking things in, inspiration might strike. You may come up with brand new ideas to add to what you are doing. Patience is key.

(Written on 4/15/19)


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