State of the Quarter Centenarian

Oh, I have a website, don’t I? I should talk to it!

Yes, folks, yesterday was my 25th birthday, and like all birthdays, it made me reflect on things. Last year, I listed a few goals I had for the month of July, and now, one year later, I completed one and three-fourths of them. That would be discouraging if I hadn’t been accomplishing so many other things, things I hadn’t even dreamed of at the time.

Sure, Dave Does Disney still isn’t QUITE finished, but despite being busy with a lot of other things, I’m almost done editing the Resorts episode and the Beauty and the Beast bonusode. The Fantasmic bonusode has been pushed back a bit, but it’s going to be awesome.

I was also invited to join GeekVision, a new site that showcases a lot of fun and talented reviewers and videomakers. The site now features Dave Does Disney, as well as some of my other reviews, sketches, and convention videos right here. I have tremendous respect and admiration for the other GeekVisionaries, so I’m quite excited to be part of the team.

I’m also in YET ANOTHER standup comedy showcase coming up at the Orlando Improv on Wednesday, July 11. These classes have been tremendous fun to take, and I really enjoy these performances.

I’m also nearing the end of preproduction on a short film, and I’m in a long-distance relationship that I’m very happy about. (The relationship part, not the distance part. The distance part sucks, but we make do.)

Sure, on a day to day basis I don’t feel very productive, partly due to focusing so much energy on my low-paying job. My move to Los Angeles will be postponed for a while due to financial reasons. I’m not crazy about the state of Florida as a whole, and I’d rather live somewhere closer to my girlfriend. But despite all these setbacks, I’m pretty happy with my life’s direction right now.

But I’m also aware there’s room for improvement. I’m trying a few different techniques to help myself focus on my projects. I’m trying to make myself write every day, even if most days said writing only produces unusable garbage. I want to get Dave Does Disney all completed and released. As happy as I am with the series and as much as I’ve enjoyed working on it, it HAS been taking up my creative energy (and my hard drive space) for over two years now. I’m sure I’ll do videos about Universal and SeaWorld/Busch Gardens before I leave this state, but I don’t ONLY want to be “The Theme Park Guy”. (Certainly not when I’m not even the best or the funniest theme park reviewer on Geekvision!) I’ve got other webseries ideas I want to pursue, some of which I’ve toyed around with for years but still haven’t so much as formally outlined. I want to stop just dreaming about projects and actually take action to get them done. But hey, one step at a time, and I’m not going to launch headfirst into another ambitious internet release without wrapping things up for the Dave Does Disney fans.

What a surprise, this post got a little rambly. Short version: I’m halfway to fifty and I’m surprisingly okay with it, but I’m not complacent.

I should blog more often so I don’t have to cover so many emotions in a single post.

General Post-2011 Life Update

While I generally scoff at the emphasis society places on arbitrarily-defined breaks between periods of planetary revolution, I can’t help but feel a bit reflective as 2012 begins.

I didn’t accomplish most of the specific goals I had in 2011. Dave Does Disney is STILL incomplete (which isn’t ENTIRELY my fault), and I haven’t finished most of the scripts I wanted to have done by now. And yet, I still had a fun and productive year. I raised the money I needed to continue working with Broken Phonebooth. I was a line producer on one short, and a first AC on another. I reconnected with old friends and made new ones.

And so far, this year is shaping up to be something interesting. I started taking a standup comedy class at the Orlando Improv. Broken Phonebooth’s sending me and a few other people to Kenya for a week at the end of the month. After that? The next phase in my life will begin.

My internship at Phonebooth officially ends this next month. I’ll probably do a little bit of freelance work for them afterward, but I will no longer have a regular salaried position. And it’s the first time in my life that I’m not waiting for something specific to happen–when I graduated high school, I was waiting for college. When I graduated college, I was waiting for the job at Phonebooth. And now that I’m done with that, the next step hasn’t been clearly and specifically laid out before me.

So that’s why I’m planning on officially moving to Los Angeles in August or September.

LA has always been in the back of my mind as an “in the future” thing, but like so many other “in the future” things, I didn’t know when it would actually happen. Well, why not this year?

Right now, my plan is to finish up my time here, stick around for one or two more months to wrap up my life (and maaaaaaybe find work here), head home for a little bit to scrounge up some savings and spend time with friends, and then make my way out west. Now, like all my plans, this one COULD change in an event such as famine or disease or California breaking off of the rest of the country and floating away aimlessly until it runs over Hawaii. But for now, this seems like a reasonable goal.

In the meantime, I’ll be begging people to help me pay off my student loans.

Remembering Steve Jobs

It’s been kind of an emotional roller coaster week in the geek world. The cautious optimism of the “Arrested Development” return and my own personal excitement about seeing Weird Al last night (which I’ll get to in its own post soon) were suddenly overshadowed by the loss of one of the most influential geeks in history, Steve Jobs.

And yes, I see the irony in jumping on the very trendy bandwagon of eulogizing a man whose motto was “Think Different”. But hey, sometimes you have to think the same, for just a moment, to see the value of thinking different. Continue reading

Post-July Check-In

Last month, I made a few resolutions for the month of July. Then things came up, and I got distracted, and didn’t exactly follow through on each goal to the extent I had hoped. But the whole reason I announced my goals publicly was to have accountability as a motivator, so I must tell you exactly where I am in each process.

1. Money raised for Florida – COMPLETED. – *cue Zelda “Item Get” music!* I got it raised in time to go to the conference in Colorado (which took up a lot of my time and prevented me from getting as far as I wanted on other projects, but I’m not complaining). I’m now home in Connecticut, getting ready to begin the drive to Florida on Friday. Bring it on!

2. Outlines for webshows – CONSIDERABLY LESS COMPLETED. Nick and I have taken notes on several of the subjects for the review show, and I’ve begun an actual draft of one of the reviews (which will probably be the season finale). As for the college club sitcom, I’ve been filling out the Storyfix worksheet for the season’s arc, but I still have a lot left to flesh out.

3. The Disney World Vlogs – Stay tuned…

24 Years, Little Motivation

WARNING: The post that follows is somewhat more personal in nature than those usually found in this blog, and contains very few obscure movie or television quotes. Sorry if this bores you.

As of this past Saturday, July 2, I am now 24 years old. Yes, the mid-twenties are here, and I celebrated the old fashioned way: by being a groomsman in my oldest friend’s wedding. It was an exhausting weekend, full of driving all over the state and forgetting how to sleep, but at least there were fireworks basically every night.

I got some great gifts, including a couple of seasons of The Dick Van Dyke Show from the family, and a retweet from one of my comedy idols of my review of his latest release. (I doubt he knew it was my birthday weekend when he retweeted, but I choose to categorize it as a gift anyway.)

In the two years since I graduated from college, I’m sad to say I’ve spent a lot of my time waiting around instead of doing things. Partially due to the nature of my job (raising money takes a long time), and partially out of laziness. Now, fortunately, my fundraising is almost done and I’ll be returning to Florida soon to work until the end of the year. But what about after that, when I’m left to my own devices again? I don’t want to just go back to waiting around. I’m sick of waiting. I need to actually get in the habit of creating. Continue reading

Two Fond Farewells

I’m about to say something that may get me banned from the geek community: The Empire Strikes Back is not my favorite Star Wars film.

Don’t get me wrong; I love Empire, and looking at it objectively as a cinematic achievement, I would say it probably is the best film in the series. I just don’t get as much fun or enjoyment out of it as I do from A New Hope–and neither did most critics when it was first released.

But then, that was kind of the point. It was the dark second act of the story, ending on the “All is Lost” moment that so many screenwriting texts are fond of mentioning. And while it doesn’t feature much of the swashbuckling fun of the original, it features deeper characterizations, more dramatic tension, and a plot twist that was considered the gold standard until The Sixth Sense came along. And while there are a lot of people who helped make this movie what it is–including, yes, George Lucas–it definitely needed a strong director to make it work.

That director was Irvin Kershner.

Kershner had a long career, and he’d probably pick another of his many films as his personal favorite, but Star Wars has a way of overshadowing all that. To most of the world, he will always be the man who made the best Star Wars film. Even though I’d rather watch A New Hope for fun, it was Kershner’s entry in the series that taught me that even a fun, goofy adventure story needs dark, serious moments and dramatic stakes for us to care.

We lost Kershner last night, alongside another man involved in films that influenced me at an early age, Leslie Nielsen.

One of the reasons the films of Seltzer and Friedberg infuriate me so much is that I have a genuine love for good spoof films, and Nielsen was in some of the best. If Kershner taught me that serious moments help make a fun story work, Nielsen taught me that a serious tone helps make a silly comedy work.

Nielsen knew how to deliver the most ridiculous lines absolutely convincingly, because for years he was a dramatic actor. He had a very specific serious image for most of his life, and managed to spin it into a new image as an oblivious deadpan in a world of absurdity. He was able to be a silly comic when playing against a straight man like George Kennedy, and able to be a straight man when playing against an already-ridiculous situation. His comedy helped a young me learn how to take silliness seriously.

Everyone’s watching Airplane, Police Squad/Naked Gun, and (for Sci-Fi fans) Forbidden Planet in his honor today, but I choose to remember one of his more underrated roles: Buzz Brighton in the M*A*S*H season one episode The Ringbanger. This was before his reinvention as a comic actor, but it’s still a brilliant comedy performance as a reckless colonel caught up in the confusion perpetrated by Hawkeye and Trapper. Yes, it’s far more farcical than most of the show’s later episodes, but it’s very enjoyable, and hints at Nielsen’s then-upcoming second career.

Rest in peace, Kershner and Nielsen. You both influenced my sensibilities in similar, yet completely different ways.

In Memory of a Genius

20 years ago today, we lost one of the most original creative geniuses ever: Jim Henson. The man knew how to take ordinary materials like felt and ping-pong balls and turn them into some of the most memorable characters in the history of entertainment. As a designer, writer, director, and actor, Jim brought characters to life that we fell in love with as kids, and who often continue to stick with us today. Not only was he creative, but he knew how to surround himself with creative people, like Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, etc, and how to bring out the best from them.

I recently watched through season one of “The Muppet Show” and was delighted–but not surprised–that it held up so well. Looking past the celebrity guest stars, the intentionally stupid puns, and even the remarkable physical special effects, at the heart of the show were wonderful characters and their relationships. Kermit wanted to put on the best show he could. Fozzie wanted to make people laugh. Gonzo wanted to fit in, even if it had to be through bizarre stunts. Piggy wanted to be a star, and to get Kermit’s love…and despite his irritation with her, he still liked the attention, as evident from the times she would make him jealous. Even Statler and Waldorf, for all their complaints about the show, enjoyed the very act of mockery, and would miss Fozzie when he wasn’t there to heckle. Everyone can easily identify with at least one of the Muppets, though we may not always want to admit it.

We leave here with this video by YouTube user “TimeMachine”, set to the heartwarming and tear-jerking song “A Boy and His Frog” by singer/comedian Tom Smith. If you don’t get at least a tiny bit choked up by this video, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore.