Monday, January 23, 2006

Spork Cinema: The Early Years

I am truly off schedule this week, but it is partially intentional. Since last week's entry went up a day late, and since I will not be posting this week while away on vacation, posting this entry later seemed to balance things out a bit.

Part of my problem is that I wanted to make this entry about the building of my new PC, but I need to get some good photos for that to be fully appreciated. Mostly, though, I am really busy and tired, and I'd like to address that for a moment, because it has been weighing on my mind.

I just had a birthday, and normally when that comes around, I like to plan a few well-chosen activities and really celebrate to the hilt. I won't say that I draw it out into a week of festivities, but there should at least be three or four days with things happening. I haven't really had a satisfying birthday since I started my current position, despite wonderful friends and family doing their best.

The first year I started in January, and I was busy interviewing, hiring, training, and doing everything to make sure that we could successfully make our launch date, despite the fact that the office was also moving. Fine, there was no way I was going to have spare time there, or have that time period not be stressful. I can accept that.

The second year, we were completely backordered on some very popular items, their slip in manufacturing schedule having been exacerbated by an earthquake in Taiwan. We got so many phone calls there was no time to answer email. In fact, we did not get email completely caught up until February. Again, that was clearly an anomaly. That was the year that the American Express flyer came advertising travel to Mexico. My exhausted, dispirited self longed for those sunny beaches, a dream I am finally on the verge of realizing.

Anyway, the next three years have all just been really busy, but without any identifiable crisis. Yes, I am going on vacation in two days, and I took some time off last year (without going anywhere), but there is so much work to do before going, and so much potential backlog to be accumulated while gone, that it puts a bit of a damper on the joy. And I can't tell myself that this year is an anomaly anymore; this is just the way January is going to be.

So I'm thinking of moving my birthday. I might go for May 17th. May would be the first month with no sibling birthdays, and I could keep the day the same. I wouldn't do it this year, as I have already celebrated, and this vacation is part of it, but yeah, maybe next year.

Maybe I just need to throw a party again. The last one I threw was the Great Irish Potato Feast, and couples who were together then have broken up, met and married other people, and had children. It's been awhile, is all I'm saying.

Anyway, enough on that. One goal for this blog is to document my movie making aspirations, from now with an incomplete script to finished product, bringing you irregular updates. I thought it could be helpful to have some background before we start.

I doubt many of you know this, but I made two animated shorts in elementary school. No, I wasn't that much of a prodigy, or that ambitious. It was mostly luck.

The first one happened in fourth grade, as a project we did in the Talented and Gifted Program. That was my first year in it, and maybe the first year the district even had such a thing. In fifth and sixth grade they combined several schools and it was much more organized, but the first year they just took a handful of us over to the junior high a few hours a week, and we tried different things.

When starting the film unit we watched some Vinton Studios films, and most of us ended up using clay figures as our subjects. Claymation* is a trademarked term, so that's not what we were doing. I made a little man, some trees, a bear, and a picnic basket. Basically, the bear came, stole the food, killed the man, and squished him up. I had never seen a Mr. Bill segment, but I guess it was something like that. I think Yogi may have been more of an influence, if he was more competent and sadistic.

My friend Jennie was probably the most original in the bunch. She animated a fireworks display, starting with construction paper rockets going up, then marker on transparency film for the fireworks themselves. If I recall, she used a Sousa march for soundtrack that really worked well (I had a hard time finding appropriate music for mine). There was an issue with the pen not showing up well on the dark blue background representing the sky, but it was still pretty innovative, and probably an influence on my second feature.

The second one came because I was in Ms. Steele's class for sixth grade, and that was something she did every year. I was basically solo on "The Picnic", but in this class we worked in groups, so "The Garden Tragedy" was more of a collaborative effort.

I think we had five groups, but I only remember two others. They showed us short films before we started again, including one called "Toolbox Ballet" that had stop-motion animation of tool dancing around. One group did a highly derivative "Schoolbox Ballet".

Another group, whom I suppose you could refer to as the popular girls, had a bunch of Barbie* dolls going to a concert. I seem to recall it as being pretty dumb, but I could be wrong. It was a long time ago.

Our effort was to tell the tale of some hard luck vegetables-- tomatoes, corn, you know the type-- who had to suffer the predations of crows, farm neglect, and finally the construction of a road where the exhaust killed those who were left. We used construction paper figures and sets. The best sequence was probably when the crow swooped in and stole the corn, but the exhaust was pretty well executed. The themes were helplessness against fate, and abandonment by society. I think it was too colorful to be described as Bergmanesque though, and no one played chess.

So, you might be thinking now, based on her oeuvre, this spork is one pretty twisted individual. Well, maybe, but not because of that. The garden issue may have come from the increasing truck traffic past a blueberry field that is close to my heart, but I can't vouch for it.

No, I think somehow the format of short fiction encourages twisted plots. It is more commonly known that my favorite authors are Jane Austen and L.M. Montgomery. Their novels are generally pretty positive, and the main characters end up happily, but they each have a few short stories that would surprise you. Maybe you just don't get as emotionally invested in the short form, so it's okay for bad things to happen.

Anyway, I think there's a limit to how much you can analyze the artist by the art. According to most sources he had a pretty tranquil domestic life, but his books are full of people whose fatal flaws lead them to die miserable and lone, no matter how hard they tried to make things right. The counterarguments to that would be Woody Allen (whose films seem to be very biographical) and Quentin Tarantino (who probably really is a scary freak as opposed to just seeming like one). But the opposites may just go to prove the rule. Therefore, those who know me expect me to be working on a comedy, but the project is actually a downbeat but ultimately life affirming film about vampires.

But there is a funny scene in it!

Friday, January 13, 2006

In sporkness and health

Sorry this is late. I have about three major reports to write for work, and in my personal life we keep throwing bridal showers.

First of all, allow me to answer a question from last week. You can find Brevity at I was able to find a copy I had saved of the hippo picture, which I am including here:

Now, on to the promised expose! Warning, there are parts that some people may find gross.

In general I am a pretty tough cookie, but I do have a weakness. If you have seen Disney’s version of The Sword in the Stone, you may remember Merlin defeating Mad Madame Mim by becoming a microbe and getting her sick. My story might begin with a tiny speck of dirty metal.

We don’t know that this is the actual cause, but it seems like a good guess because every time the infection flares up it centers around the scar. Basically, I was taking down a dilapidated above-ground pool and deck. You know, just because something looks like it could fall down at any moment does not mean that it actually will when you want it to. And don’t get too impressed with me. Taking things down is a lot easier than putting them up. I am good grunt labor, but if it requires any know-how or finesse, I’m not your girl. Maybe that’s why I got injured.

Basically, when I was working one of the girders out I jerked too hard and it ricocheted back, cutting my leg slightly. I did not see any rust, but I got a tetanus booster anyway and figured I was good until a few years later I suddenly became ill and ended up in the hospital for four days.

The cause was a condition called cellulitis. I know, it sounds like cellulite, but it is not directly related to cottage cheese thighs. Instead, it is an infection of the skin cells, where the flare up. So while I felt like I had the flu, what differentiated from that is that from ankle to knee my right leg was swollen, burning to the touch, and bright red. Also, it hurt really badly.

It often starts with a spider bite, cut, or burn that lets the infection in. It can be treated fairly easily with antibiotics geared towards skin conditions. There are two problems. One is that, at least in my case, the leg was left scarred, so I have this blotchy red patch on my leg. This is one reason I don’t go barelegged. The others are that I don’t think my legs are very shapely and I don’t shave very much (actually, the not shaving is as much a result of the covered legs as a cause).

The second problem is that it tends to never really go away, and just lie dormant until your immune system dips low enough for it to take over again. This is what happened on the last day of my vacation.

I woke up fairly early and felt fine. I packed up everything except for what I would need that day and the next morning, showered and dressed, and (feeling really ahead of the game), sat down to read for a bit. I was feeling cold, though, despite putting on my coat and wrapping up in a blanket. My teeth started chattering.

It’s not just that it wasn’t a cold day. It is also that I do not get cold very easily. It was a joke between us because Tara was always getting cold and I would give her my coat, which she would put on over her own coat, and I would be fine. It didn’t seem like a good sign.

I started to get a little better, but then was overtaken with extreme drowsiness. Unfortunately, this hit right as we got to church. I could focus for a moment here and there to do what I needed to do, but I kept dropping off. It was embarrassing but also completely out of my power. You can kind of get away with sleeping through sacrament meeting, but not in Sunday School, so I was going to see if I could find a cry room with a couch or something, until our hero, Brian appeared, and offered us a ride back to his place.

Finally I could sleep, which was really the only thing I was capable of right then. I did manage to wake up and stay coherent through dinner, but it was so much effort and everything tasted really bland. I probably could have slept more. My main concern was holding it together until we got home, so I could go to my doctor and be at home. On Sundays the only option is an emergency room, and I just knew I would end up checked in and missing my flight, with out of network hospital charges followed by the cost of a new plane ticket. Nope, I just wasn’t going there.

Still, it can be hard navigating airports in a feverish haze. The worst moment was when my boarding pass disappeared. They issued a new one, but later on when I was unpacking I found both together. I have no idea how that happened.

I don’t think we can ever consider the death of a human being, especially a good one, fortunate, but it did sort of work out well that while I was gone a family friend died, and my family had all arranged time off for the funeral Monday, the day I came home. This left Little Sister M available to take me to the doctor.

I was able to go over my issues pretty well with her, but somehow the minute I got back into the car, all capability deserted me again. Perhaps it was the lack of food or sleep or that I had just used up everything I had. She asked what the doctor said, and the answer was that I had some prescriptions I needed to fill and then come back tomorrow to see that the injection already administered was working. I knew that, but all I could say was "Scrip...scrip...scrip." It just didn't sound right, and so I couldn't finish. Well of course it didn't sound right; I was leaving off the first syllable, but I couldn't figure out how to fix it. She just shook her head and started driving.

At home I pretty much just threw myself face down on the bed and kept sleeping for three-hour intervals. I would then wake up, look at the clock (that's how I know they were three-hour intervals), and go back to sleep. At one point I handed off my prescriptions so they could be filled.

The next day I was supposed to return to work, but was not really up to it, so I called in. I thought I was sounding lucid again, but when I returned to work on Thursday, well, my manager was surprised to find out that I had ever been less lucid than when I spoke to him on Tuesday.

The recovery went okay. Monday and Tuesday I slept a lot, Wednesday I slept and watched television, and Thursday, even though my world was still moving in slow motion, almost like being underwater (when everyone else is above water), I got a lot of work done.

It's a bad thing, actually. As I worked away in diminished capacity but still outperforming many other, strange feelings of grandeur and euphoria came and went. This would have been a bad time for someone to approach me with plans for taking over the world, because I probably would have said yes and that would have led to awkwardness when I came to my senses.

After that I was fairly normal. There were a few days of only doing work and sleep, because there was no energy left after the work, but eventually your strength comes back until the next round.

That occurred about a month ago. This time I started feeling very cold and achy on the way to church, and it just kept getting worse. Again, it was a Sunday night, and I had the early shift the next day so all I wanted to do was sleep and then go to the doctor tomorrow, but my family kept bugging me. They laugh about it now, but Mama Spork was really panicked when she was saying we should go to the doctor and I told her I was focusing on my education. I think I was shooting for recuperation, but I just couldn't get it out.

I knew what the message I wanted to deliver was: "Please shut up and leave me alone so I can sleep!" Maybe I should develop a gesture. The one that comes to mind is already taken, and it's so out of character for me that it would only make matters worse. I wonder if I would be able to write or type, but when staying awake is torture, it's hard to feel motivated to experiment. I'm not going to go over to the computer, and if I tried asking for pen and paper I would probably just scare them worse by asking for a tractor or sock or something.

That's the whole problem really. I am aware and comprehending of what is going on, I just can't prove it. It's not delirium, it's febrile aphasia. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Despite this, I was able to arise early, get to work, and be completely functional there, leaving at noon to go to the doctor. Once there, I was discovered to have a fever of 104. Back to the old regime, but with a much faster recovery time. Those direct injections really work.

The most interesting thing last time around is that I started thinking about how the onsets have been so different, with many milder outbreaks consisting of me just feeling tired and my leg going somewhat red. I believe the first day is just some other disease starting, and then the cellulitis acting up. So maybe the mild outbreaks were starting with colds, and the worse ones with flu. If that is the case, I should basically try to never get sick. You would think I'd be more consistent about taking my vitamins, but I just forget. And I can't resist helping out sick people when they ask. At least I wash my hands a lot.

My real concern is that, on that first day, I appear so sick that medical staff might overreact. The fever would probably be enough to keep them from automatically sending me to the psych ward, but you never know.

So here's the nutshell: If we are together and I start shivering (out of proportion to the current temperature) and saying strange things (that don't appear to be jokes)...

Taking my temperature: Good
Taking my blood sugar (to rule out hypoglycemia): Good

Asking me questions: Bad
Taking me to emergency room: Bad

If you can take me to my doctor, okay. Otherwise, please let me sleep.

Friday, January 06, 2006

VH1: Behind the Spork

As promised, here is the story of how your weekly sporkful came to be.

I hinted in the 2005 Christmas letter that it started with the response to my 2004 Christmas letter. There were some requests that I would start a blog because it might be fun to read about me more than once a year. These requests were repeated several times.

I liked the idea. I enjoy writing, I have plenty of opinions, and it would probably be good for me to have the discipline of regularly scheduled output. And, I know that no matter how much I care about some people and enjoy their company, keeping track of everyone is hard, and something like this can help. It is amazing to me how time can pass without diminishing a relationship. When the reunion comes, you are just as happy to see the person and feel just as close, unless they dropped you like a hot potato because they finally got a boyfriend and completely forgot your birthday at a time when you were really vulnerable. I mean, if that ever happened.

There were also some concerns about blogging, the first one being my fear of becoming an insufferable twit. I have an acquaintance that sends out regular email updates about her life. She is self-absorbed in person, so it was not a total surprise, but she comes off as really annoying and I don’t think it is good to share some of the things that she shares. Since this will be a blog, where people can choose to visit instead of just being sent updates, that should help. I will just have to hope that I don’t suck.

There were also logistical concerns. I had a domain with my name, but I had never put anything up on it. That would have been a reasonable place to put it, yet I knew that at some point I would probably want to grouse about people I work with, or work itself, and people get fired for that nowadays. I decided that maintaining some anonymity would be best. It’s not that you can’t know who I am or forward things to other people. I would really like the more practical ones like DC Travel Tips to reach people. But if I ever call anyone a stupidhead I want to maintain plausible deniability.

The last issue was basically a procrastination one, which, I have to say, has affected pretty much every aspect of my life at some point. Months rolled by, until I finally decided to introduce it in my Christmas card, and then I needed to put off sending cards because I hadn’t done the blog yet.

I finally set up my account and created my first post the Tuesday before Christmas, around midnight. I knew pretty well what I wanted to say, but not whom I wanted to be. Yes, I am a fairly creative person, but I am horrible at creating titles. Of the projects that I currently have open, the documents are titled things like “screenplay”, “novella”, and “ghost story”. When I have created usernames in the past they have usually involved some combination of my names and initials and maybe my birth date if numbers were required.

I have never picked up many nicknames, either, so could not draw upon that. Usually when people want to embellish, they add “Miss” to my first name, or put my middle name after.

My first try was Easy Reader because I have been thinking a lot about Morgan Freeman lately, and I hope that the reading will be easy, but that was not available.

There is a comic strip I like, “Brevity”, that is fairly new. When it was being introduced, there were a couple of banner ads rotating on The first, and most adorable, was four gorged, multi-colored hippos lying around, with one saying, “You know, I’m not even that hungry but when I see those marbles I just lose it.” The second was a picture of a spork and the word, sporktastic. Sporktastic was available.

So that is my new identity. Your username does not automatically become the subdomain, so that ended up being sporkful, like your sporkful of news, and then I can just be spork as well. It is appropriate because both sporks themselves and adding –tastic to words other than fan is inherently funny. Also, did I mention it was midnight?

Anyway, as spork, whether I am dishing out frothy fluff or meatier items, you have, well, pretty much a useless eating device. I mean, really, you can’t pierce anything with those short plastic tines, yet their presence there gives an escape route to any liquids for which you would use a spoon, making them only appropriate for KFC mashed potatoes. But it’s fun to say, so I’m keeping it. Also, I like mashed potatoes.

Family members were referred to by code names last week. Mama Spork and Big Sister Spork work for me. I can probably shorten Big Brother Spork to just Brother Spork, because he’s the only one. Sister in Law Spork is not great, because I feel that it emphasizes her relationship through my brother, when I have my own relationship with her. I may just use Spork in Law. Little Sister J and Little Sister M are again, a bit on the long side, even without putting in a spork. I toyed with Spark and Sperk or Spirk or something like that, but they don’t feel right. The Sporkfather will probably not get mentioned much.

I think it would be too complicated to nickname friends and pets, so they will just go by their own names, unless something seems to identifiable. I am totally not one to kiss and tell, but if I start dating someone seriously, they will probably come up sometimes. When the need arises I will choose a descriptive nickname, like Cute Cafeteria Guy, Mr. Intimacy Issues, or Gerard.

Now, I know that no biography special would be complete without a story about drug use, so here’s mine.

When I was going to have my wisdom teeth extracted, the oral surgeon prescribed a valium to take before I went in. I could feel myself losing control on the way over. I made a joke and could not stop laughing at it, even though I knew it wasn’t that funny.

I would like to take a moment to point out that they give you the valium so that you are kind of out of it when they stick a giant needle into your jaw. Despite this, and the numbing substance that they apply to the area, I still totally felt it and it really hurt.

Anyway, I was out of it for the rest of the day. Sadly, this was the day that my coworkers confronted our contracting company about the fact that they were cheating us and we knew it, and I couldn’t be there for them. I was loopy and I had big wads of cotton in my mouth. You just can’t live that way. Maybe if you are really rich and you have someone to do math for you and stand you upright when necessary, but it’s important for me to be present for people. I threw away the empty bottle, and never took Valium again. I’ve never told that to anyone before. It feels good to get it off my chest.

Actually, I did take a two-week course of Ambien a few months ago to regulate my sleep patterns. I did not find it at all habit forming or dependency inducing, so I wouldn’t mention it, but the word is that’s what Colin Farrell is currently in rehab for. I’m kind of assuming he was taking it for longer or at a higher dosage or mixing it with other things. I would sometimes get the effect of a mild hallucinogen, but it’s really mild and then you fall asleep so it’s not really an effective trip.

But wait, you say, tell us more about this mild hallucinogen thing!

Well, it can take up to an hour to kick in, so taking it and then hopping right into bed can be kind of pointless, but you wouldn’t want to start anything that takes close attention. I would usually be on the computer, surfing the internet, playing games, or reading documents. If I stayed on too long, I don’t know if it was that my eyes started to lose focus or my brain started to enter the dream state, but things would go kind of 3-D. The jewels in Jewel Quest would project out a bit and shimmy, and Word documents would sort of warp. Imagine that you typed on shrinky dink material, then cut it into irregular pieces and baked it. It was something like that.

Okay, my drug stories are pretty boring, but I think we can agree that my anti-drug policy is for the best. Can you imagine me on Angel Dust?

But just because I’ve never been in rehab does not mean that I have never had health issues or been hospitalized or severely incapacitated. We will cover that next week in the sequel to DC Travel Tips: My Last Day in DC.