Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

In July of 2007 I went up to see Xanadu on Broadway with Aaron during the show’s preview period. The jukebox musical was clever and the music was great, as expected. It featured Cheyenne Jackson, who had been the understudy until the main male lead had a tragic rollerskating accident during rehearsals. 30 Rock’s other star Jane Krakowski was in the workshop productions in its early stages.

After the show a Bear in a trenchcoat approached me just outside the theater doors and asked, “So, what did you think of the show?” His question was so pointed it was clear he wasn’t hitting on me. This guy was looking for feedback. I wished I had a more eloquent response, but all I could say on the spot was, “It was a lot of fun, I liked it.” It turns out the Bear was a producer of the show and was surveying the crowd for feedback.

That encounter stuck with me years later. My only musical theater experience was in high school with time-tested scripts like Annie and Oklahoma. It seems obvious now, but I had no idea the production of a new show was an evolving thing. The script, musical numbers and blocking change over time. You long-time musical fans may say “well duh” but I thought the fact that a producer might change a show based on feedback on the street fascinated me.

Then came “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” on Broadway. Before it was even in production comic book nerds were hysterical with rage, including myself. Spider-Man doesn’t sing for one thing. He cracks jokes, but never exhibited any penchant for song in the comics. But the musical wasn’t for comic fans, it was designed to sell very expensive tickets.

It turned out to be the most expensive musical ever produced, with the longest running preview period due to excessive technical difficulties and numerous stunt-related injuries. There’s a fascinating book written by one of the co-writers of the show that is a page-turner and documents the hubris involved with the show. I didn’t see it, but learned that the writers created a new villainess that was never in the comics. Totally unnecessary in a universe rich with existing options. Plus it was just too ambitious. When the stunts worked, they were fantastic. But when they didn’t, it was awkward at best, but too often dangerous to for the cast.

Dazzler

Art by Chris A. Tsuda

Between Xanadu and Spider-Man, I was like, why didn’t they do a musical about Marvel’s answer to disco in the 1980s, the Dazzler? She is a some-time X-Man with the mutant ability to convert sound energy into light. She is still featured in comics today, and was one of the first to publicly come out as a mutant. Stories were one of the first to focus on the personal life of the hero, and the comics were also the first to be released exclusively in comic shops rather than on the magazine racks at the local convenience store. As you might imagine, the character has a gay fan base and is a popular subject for cosplay.

Dazzler wasn’t always a hero. Her first dream was to be a star, but villains and thugs kept interrupting her big breaks. Eventually she had to make a choice – one that we all face on a daily basis: am I a hero or a star?

Now isn’t that a compelling story? Wouldn’t theater gays go nuts over such a theme, that also involves disco and flashy lights? I think so.

So I did some research. One superfan recently did a Dazzler music video. Back in the 80s, Bo Derek was set to play her, with an insane script idea starring Cher as the Witch Queen, Donna Summer as the Queen of Fire, KISS, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, and The Village People. I applaud their creativity, but I think we gotta scale it back a bit.

So I started writing a script. Yeah I know I’m not a script writer. The most I do are these here blog posts and achingly dry press releases for the federal government. But I had two years of un- and under-employment and looking for jobs only takes up so much time. Plus I had this idea in my head, an idea that was like a pustulent zit that had to be popped desperately, or else it would just sit there and fester. And the idea wouldn’t go away.

The idea is based on the earliest Dazzler comics where the simple theme was her trying to make it big in spite of interruptions by supervillains. It’s about expectations, or the failure to reach them. It was a theme I was – and am – very familiar with. Perhaps this script is therapy. But I’d also like to see it work, if only on a small stage.

In the fall I learned about a theatrical reading of a Batman graphic novel. A reading is when you read from a script without a lot of props or blocking. They did a great job, and I got in touch with the director. Sadly we haven’t gotten together about it yet, but I think he’s one guy who could help me out, if only for suggestions.

I met with a producer friend of mine for some advice. His main tip was that unless this show is satire, I definitely had to get in touch with Marvel for permission, or it is all for nothing. His other advice was that NYC is filled with aspiring writers, and what was I thinking that I could also do such a thing? That was disappointing from a person I had initially introduced to showbiz. But I had asked for advice and for him to read my script, which I’m not sure he’s done yet. Not many have, although one theater critic and Dazzler fan has and gave me some constructive advice that I plan to implement.

I reached out to Marvel Comics’ licensing team, which was surprisingly easy to do. I got a swift response: “Hi Mr. B: We are not interested in licensing out our character for this musical. Thank you.” At least they got back to me quickly. Not sure what to do about that just yet. The show is definitely not satire, and is in fact is heavily based on the early Dazzler comics. Dazzler wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dazzler was an aspiring disco star, and a show without music wouldn’t be right. So I delved into the music from the year the comic was conceived. Much of that music was played at the roller rink where I spent a lot of time when I was nine years old, and I have an eidedic memory for lyrics, especially from when I was a kid. 1979 was a fantastic year for music, many of the songs having to do with light. Perfect for a musical about a person who can transform sound into light. Many cringe at the thought of a jukebox musical, but these songs are appropriately woven into the plot. I’ve even written one original song for The Eleven O’clock Number.

I’ve done a lot of research into script writing, and plan on taking a class once I get my finances back in order. DC has a remarkably thriving theater scene, and there are opportunities for small stage productions. I even have a local 80s cover band I’m in touch with to perform the music. “Glitterlust” seems an appropriate name for a house band doing music for Dazzler.

For the most part I’ve kept this idea to myself for many years. It’s a crazy idea, and putting it out there has been interesting. I’m mostly met with bewilderment and sometimes doubt even from close friends, which has been a little hurtful. But from what I understand rejection and roadblocks are part of the business and I’m going to keep trying. Is it a hobby or a dream? I’m not sure yet. But just like Dazzler it is yet to be determined whether I’m going to be a hero or a star.

The anti-vaccine movement – and other similar questionings of authority and science for that matter – fascinate me as they seem to be a culmination of a number of modern advancements and current issues. Plus it bugs the shit out of me because it’s so stupid.

A Very Concerned ParentWe seem to be in an age where we need to re-learn or re-discover why we have certain nice things. Like public health programs, unions, and consumer advocacy. If there hasn’t been an outreach campaign about something that the public forgets about things in about a generation. Sadly, with the anti-vaxxers, we will apparently have to experience a rash of preventable, tragic deaths before people bother to understand why we have vaccines in the first place.

The last major plague we’ve experienced – AIDS – only affected “those people”: those dirty gays and IV drug users (and they probably deserved it!). It didn’t directly affect the general population, so they don’t understand the impact of public health programs (or lack thereof). It took decades to get definitive research and treatment for AIDS patients after decades of screaming for help. That’s the thing that’s ironic – a group of people had to work hard to get treatment for a new disease, while a population today completely eschews tested and effective treatment for a known set of diseases. They will have to experience the tragedies of what happens when you go without.

I think the Internet is part of the problem too. Anyone can find something on the Internet to bolster their beliefs, and most don’t know how to vet research from an accredited institution versus someone’s “deeply held concerns” and opinions. I do know of one anti-vaxxer friend of mine on Facebook who worked at a university and should know better. But she’s constantly citing blog posts from “concerned parents” and links to science that has been discredited. She seems determined to stick to her beliefs despite nearly a century of medical research and advancements in public health. I don’t know how to convince her otherwise.

This anti-science set of beliefs is linked to an anti-authority movement. I’ll go out on a limb here to say that it’s rooted in anti-Obama. Perhaps since they can’t deal with a black president, and he’s in charge of the government and ultimately public health, therefore everything in authority is untrustworthy. I would go so far as to say that some parents are terrified to vaccinate their children because they are essentially injecting black in their children. Or that sneaky Obama is up to something and it’s probably forced autism.

All of the above makes me very concerned about the next new disease that hits the U.S. We didn’t handle Ebola very well. There was just as much confusion, accusing and fear about ebola as there was about HIV. Include mistrust of public health and the government and we will have a perfect storm of tragedy and death when the next new disease comes around. And most likely it will be preventable.

There seems to be two camps of anti-vaccine kooks: those who are Libertarian (or something) and dislike being “told what to do,” and hippy-dippy naturopathic enthusiasts who distrust western medicine. The latter may be convinced to vaccinate their children if you accuse them of racism. It might work.

Oh, and about autism: I don’t doubt it exists, but I think it’s overly diagnosed in an age where parents are working too much and can’t (or don’t want to) deal with the typical problems children go through. It’s the modern-day boogeyman, today’s Communist that puts the fear of god in mothers. Mothers who will click on anything with mention of it. It’s part of the hook that makes “concerned mothers” so willing to believe in the discredited threats of vaccination. They would much rather dope up their children with behavior-modifying medication than vaccinate their children. It’s easier that way and you don’t have to think about science.

I also wonder if there are parents who just can’t handle the thought of their children experiencing any kind of pain or hardship, like getting a shot in the arm. Seeing their children cry during what was once a rite of passage when I was a kid. Maybe these parents just can’t let their precious snowflakes experience the agony of a vaccination.

I suppose I could back up all of this conjecture with research from accredited institutions, but I’m too busy reading about the Kardashians.

Lucas wasn’t at practice last week and no one had heard from him. He was supposed to play a forward position in the scrum. We practiced lineouts and he was supposed to be in the second pod of lifters. When Saturday match day came around he was still a no-show, and we improvised with who we had rather than sticking to what we practiced. We won the game, but still needed Lucas.

Last night the team president shared the sad news: Lucas had passed on, probably by suicide. It must have happened last weekend, or early in the week, thus his absence from practice.

It’s hard to get into the mind of a suicidal person to understand what drove them to do the deed. You really can’t understand the spiral downward that’s kicked off by a bad thought here or difficult interaction there. All you can do is hope you were there to stop the descent.

I have been going to rugby to get my mind off my situation. For two hours twice a week I can forget that I’ve been sidetracked from my career path, and not think about paying bills next month on my paltry temp salary. Even though a grave injury might put me in deeper financial crisis, I feel it’s worth it for the couple hours of mental respite from otherwise dwelling on my problems. It’s those breaks that help a lot.

Something as simple as “we need you in the lineout on Saturday” may have helped Lucas. We need you here for this one little thing may have sent a shaft of light into the darkness. I don’t know. You can’t know what they were thinking, but you also can’t blame yourself for what happened. I’ve dealt with that before and won’t again. It may sound cold but we have to move on with the living.

I don’t know what it is about spring that makes me remember things, particular things so clearly. Maybe it’s because the fog from the winter blahs lifts, or maybe it’s some chemical change in my head. But I always remember things in spring and often catch myself staring off while I reminisce.

Even though Portland is already having its spring and we aren’t (we just had 48 hours of rain/sleet snow – I do not exaggerate this) I remember riding my bike to my volunteer job in Portland last spring, and looking at that one house with all the beautiful tulips and grape hyacinths near Vancouver Avenue. I think an exceptionally shitty winter here in DC has not helped my state of mind thinking the grass was greener over there. It literally was greener over there, but I’m still not sure from the figurative sense. It was exciting to meet new people there and explore new places, but the job instability I was experiencing there made me crave familiarity. From it all I know I gained an appreciation for DC and my friends here.

Anyway enough navel-gazing. My job is going well and it’s good to have income. I get along with my coworkers. I’m a manager of four associates there. This is funny because despite having an M.S. in management, I’ve never actually managed people before. I think I’m doing all right at it, but it feels very awkward having me as the one assigning tasks to others. The idea of me as a manger seems odd. But so far it’s not been a bad experience. Other thoughts on managing:

– It takes time to consider and assign tasks to people. This may cut in on time you need to finish your work.
– People will ask you for guidance. Make a confident decision or otherwise have the balls to say “I don’t know but I will look it up and get back to you.” Then follow up with that promise.
– Every worker has different needs. Some need more work, others may need reassurance.
– Every worker has their strengths. So far I have identified my four associates as The Workhorse, Eagle Eye, Troubleshooter and Meticulous.
– A manager needs a level of self-awareness to watch what he says and how he says it. I have to remind myself that people can be sensitive and may be in a state of anxiety.

Testing…does the BLINK tag still work in HTML 5?

I guess not. Those were the good ‘ol days…

The job is going well so far. Just training in the new content management system we’ll be using to migrate the site.

Interesting observation: when you wear a tie, people open the doors for you. Not just at work but elsewhere as well. Since I have to wear a tie I’ve noticed people treat you differently while out and about. And this change in behavior cannot be attributed to the possibility that people in downtown DC happen to be overly polite. Because that can’t be possible.

It has been a while since I’ve worked downtown. I’d previously been working out in Maryland for over 8 years. I’d forgotten how downtown DC gets lousy with tourists milling about. I will have to learn patience…and by the way Shake Shack is a ripoff! $6 for a milkshake? I will avoid it in the future – it’s a tourist trap.

The recent ugly flurry of proposed laws that could allow businesses to deny service to gays (and many others) based on their religious convictions got me thinking of the time such a denial happened to me. It’s something I haven’t written about yet on this blog, but perhaps it’s time to share.

I think it was the summer of 1992 when I was notified I would work in an intern position as a park ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Rock Island, Illinois. I was just finishing up a summer as a naturalist at a bible camp in southwest Wisconsin. One of the counselors was going to college in Rock Island, and had room in their house I could live in while I interned. There was another roommate who I would be sharing the house with as well, and would meet her the next summer.

The bible camp I worked at was primarily ELCA Lutheran, one of the more progressive “synods” within the Lutheran church. I was confirmed as ELCA Lutheran, and never heard a bad word spoken about gays then nor at the bible camp where I worked and also went as a camper when I was younger. The other synods – usually named after a state like Missouri or Wisconsin – aren’t so progressive. Maybe things have changed with those last two synods. I don’t know though, I haven’t been a practicing Lutheran in a long time. But saying you’re “Lutheran” could mean you’re progressive or quite the opposite. I would learn about these differences later.

I was out of the closet by 1992, and the fellow counselor knew I was gay. The other roommate – whose name was Bridget – did not know I was gay. I think I discussed the issue with my fellow counselor and we may have decided to keep it on the down-low at first. I can’t recall those details, but Bridget would eventually find out.

Park Ranger Jimbo

Lock and Dam #15 on the Mississippi River in Rock Island, IL. I worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers interpretive park ranger.

The next summer came around and I moved in the house and started the internship. I mostly worked at a visitor center that overlooked Lock & Dam #15 on the Mississippi River. I often sat at the front desk answering visitor’s questions, giving talks about why there are dams on the river, and led nature programs. In the winter bald eagles would gather around the base of the dam which made for good birdwatching. And things got pretty exciting there during the Flood of ’93 when I got deployed to Des Moines to ensure emergency sources of water were potable after their water treatment plant got flooded.

The roommate situation seemed to be going all right at first. Bridget was tidy, if not a bit icy. Back then we didn’t have the Internet or cell phones, and communicating with potential dates was done with the shared house phone. I think Bridget must have overheard a conversation I was having with a potential date or something, and talked to the other roommate about it. She brought it up and said that Bridget didn’t want to have me as a housemate because I was gay. As I recall the basis for her problem with me was her religion.

I was 23 at the time, didn’t know my rights, or whether or not I even had any. Plus the icy silence in the house was becoming uncomfortable. I think I tried to talk to Bridget about it, and she started crying. So I moved out, mostly to keep good relations with my original counselor friend. And I didn’t want to live where I wasn’t liked. The first place I moved to was a stark and lonely apartment complex with noisy neighbors where I didn’t get a lot of sleep. Then I moved to a somewhat better shared housing situation with a friend of the (nicer) roommate until the end of my internship.

Throughout my time in Rock Island I didn’t meet many other people and I think it was an overall lonely time in my life. And the experience of getting iced out of my first housing situation for being gay gave me some lasting anxiety about living where there are few other gays. It’s probably a basis of my initial evaluation for moving to DC – a larger city with a sizable gay population where people are more tolerant of gays. My experience wasn’t unique, which is a big reason why most gays flock to larger cities. Things are changing fast, but in some parts of the country attitudes haven’t changed much.

Getting kicked out of a house, losing a job, or being denied any kind of service for who you are is a shitty feeling. There are all kinds of religions, and even more types of convictions depending on what branch of religion you’re involved with. So these laws being proposed in several states open the door for legally denying many kinds of people for many reasons. I’m aware that they probably won’t be successful, but for those who could be turned away in these states I know from experience that it’s an unpleasant feeling at best.

I hit the ground running when I got to DC. Watch this video, and replace the drag queen’s rollerbag with a moving truck and you’ll get the idea:

I moved in fairly easily, unloaded the truck with the help of a few friends, and returned the thing the next day. It was good to be free of it. I’ve been running around the past couple of days buying housewares at IKEA and hardware stores and such, and am mostly settled in. Now to find a roommate (still looking!) and explore temp jobs. I was schmoozing for jobs before I got here, but the shutdown has frozen a lot of opportunities. My timing couldn’t have been worse.

I know a lot of government workers who are exploring the idea of temp work right now to make ends meet. DC is an expensive city and many of them are in a little bit of trouble not being paid for a few pay periods. I feel for them and hope things clear up soon. The whole shutdown is ridiculous on a lot of levels.

But that means the temp job scene is now flooded, making things challenging. I haven’t been worrying about it much due to getting things settled, but hopefully I will be able to score something in the short term, and a better paying job in the long term. Until then I’ve been networking and all that.

Hello from Holmen, Wisconsin! This time it only took three days to get here from Portland because I was a cruel slave driver, waking up at 7 every day and covering far more than I did on the way to Portland. We didn’t stop much for anything, and drove like the devil was at our backs. Well, that storm in Portland was behind us and turns out it was pretty bad. Anyway, here are some travel pics in no particular order:
Prairie Dog
The prairie dogs near the Badlands were unaffected by the government shutdown. Begging for handouts like the entitled Americans they are.

When we crossed the continental divide, it had already snowed quite a bit. Winter Is Coming:
Winter Is Coming
These black angus cattle near Sheridan, Wyoming were lowing in the fields:
Black Angus Cattle
Here’s me being an anti-Obama, deregulatin’, rootin’-tootin’ Ummerican Live Free Or Die Tebagger near the Black Hills around Sturgis, South Dakota the day the government shut down on October 1st:
guvurnmint shutdown!
The windmills of southern Minnesota are a socialist plot to take away your freedoms and put you in FEMA death camps:

My landlord in DC tells me my place is ready. I’m eager to get there.

By the time I got close to my hiking destination, I was seeing Smurfs walking around these amanita mushrooms:
Amanita
I should have paid closer attention to the “difficult” rating of the Cool Creek trail. As it was I didn’t even make it to the lookout tower at Devil’s peak even though the trail was a mere 3+ miles. I quit hiking out of sheer exhaustion about 400m before the endpoint:
Devil's Peak Lookout
I took the above photo of the Devil’s Peak fire lookout the next day when I was able to hike a little bit more without a backpack. The incline never quit, and it worked muscles I haven’t used in a long time both going up and going down. I’m still sore as hell today but glad I quit a day early, as it got very hot the next couple of days. But the view the morning I left was unbeatable (click to embiggen):
Cascade Panorama
If you look closely you can see (from left to right) Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams and the big one is Mt. Hood.

Today three of my toenails are purple, and expected to die in a few days. Next time I will make sure upcoming hikes are rated “easy” or “moderate.”

Once I felt settled in the new place it was back on the job hunt. I have been wrestling with the idea of temping but if you’re doing a job search for a professional level job that can be its own full-time job. I’d also be worried a soul-draining temp job would sap my time and energy for networking and those painful “informational interviews” that they say you have to do. On the other hand temp jobs can get your foot in the door, as can volunteer opportunities. So far I don’t need to work for money just yet but my time is running out in that department.

My friend Gurl back in DC is a career counselor, and I’ve kept in touch with my former career coach and a friend who has one too. They all say I’m doing a good job so far doing everything from networking, being shameless about my situation, and following contacts as best as I can. But it’s a grim market here in Portland despite job markets improving in nearby cities. Portland just isn’t catching up with the rest of the nation yet, so please don’t move here without a job. I couldn’t have picked a worse time to move here that’s for sure. For example, I did get one email rejection response from a job I applied to that mentioned 350 people applied for the same position. It confirmed what I suspected about the volume of applicants applying for the same jobs I am.

And other suspicions have been confirmed with a recent flurry of “informational interviews” I’ve had lately. While there have been government job openings, one source did confirm that a lot of these are filled internally, or by people in similar positions in adjacent agencies. And I’m just not plugged into that scene as well as I need to be. But these sources did clue me in to other agencies and organizations I can keep an eye on to apply to jobs when they do open. Knowing of a position opening before it’s posted on job lists like Indeed.com is a leg up in this competition. It seems like Indeed.com is better for knowing what agencies are hiring, but hundreds of other people are applying to those positions too.

My rate of applying for open positions I’m interested in and qualified for seems to be about 2-3 a week, but the interview rate is still too low, and the hiring rate for jobs I’ve applied to is currently unacceptable. That said, I do have an interview with the Oregon Department of Forestry next week in Salem. Hopefully the job is not called for internally already.

In other news, I finished planting my garden plot with peppers, tomatoes, BEETS, sunflowers, cabbage and lettuce to add to the acorn squash. We’ll see how they grow despite my late start.

I saw this lovely window last week near downtown Portland. It was precious:
Precious Window