star wars

Day 50 – Celebrating 50 Great Days of Unemployment!

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Saturday – October 18, 2014

ID-10086740Day 50! Wow, what a milestone. I just never thought we would make it this far. I’d like to thank the job that let me go, and all of you who said “Brock, I believe in you! You can do this. You can be unemployed for 50 days straight!” You were right. There were times I didn’t believe, but… you were right.

What I hear from people who have been through this is that a months-long wait for employment is not unusual. It’s not just about finding the right position, it’s also about wading through the interview and hiring processes, which can be stressful and lenghty. Funny thing: most companies aren’t in as much of a hurry as I am. Go figure.

* * *

Today was a Saturday and Saturdays are always a bit easier to take than other days. This is a day I wouldn’t have been working anyway, so I skip through it essentially guilt-free.

Yes, there is a bit of guilt associated with all this. Not because of anything I did wrong or any job performance issues I might have had to lose my job in the first place (nothing I did was the cause of the loss), but because I’m just supposed to be working. I feel bad for not working, period. It’s not a rational thing because it’s not like I’m living like this by choice, but at least I have Saturdays when I know I wouldn’t have been working anyway. It’s a small relief to engage with life without looking at the calendar and thinking about where I would be otherwise.

I used my blessed Saturday for a mishmash of things. I took Cami to go ride her horse out the Heart of the Horst Therapy Ranch, moved the treadmill out of our bedroom to make room for a desk so I can stop writing and drawing and working at the kitchen table, and I did a bit of pro bono design for the upcoming McKinley Ward Halloween Party. Always feels good to do stuff like that, even if it takes me away from my own stuff for a few hours. The sacrifice, actually, is what makes it worth it.

* * *

Today I posted Day 42 – What Happens When You’re Unemployed and Working Too Hard. Eight days ago I was having a pretty tough time balancing home life and the other projects and freelance work I’ve got going on while I wait out this storm. It’s encouraging to look back and that blog and realize that I’m doing much better with all that now. I’m spending less time on the computer and paying better attention to my family.

The consequence? As I feared, I’m falling behind. This blog is getting tougher to turn out and other projects aren’t as far along as I’d like. But it’s probably a fair trade off.

* * *

TWO SHORT STORIES FROM TODAY:

Erin told me this morning she applied to a job for me here in Fresno that could be great for me. This is encouraging because I can almost never find anything in my field here in town. I looked at it and it has a crazy amount of qualifications and requirements. I don’t know anyone who can do all that and knows all of those programs.

She reassured me it’s just a wishlist. After all, she only got half of what she wanted in a husband.

Awesome.

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Violet (age 3), who had been watching Return of the Jedi this afternoon, ran up to Erin with the most broken-hearted little look on her face and choked out the following:

“MOMMY! Darth Vader… is Luke’s father. IT’S JUST SO SAD!”

shawscene

I agree, Violet. It’s a real tearjerker.

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Sports

I have an antagonistic relationship with sports. My dad was a star pitcher in high school, a brown belt in Karate and coached a Little League team. I liked to draw and not sweat. As his oldest boy, I couldn’t have been anything less than a disappointment, but he was good about not making me feel like one.

I let Dad take me to an Oakland A’s game once because it was in San Francisco and I knew I’d get a hot dog. As far as I was concerned, the only downside to the event was the actual game itself. I knew from Dad’s constant commandeering of the TV that pro baseball games were a lot like golf (and golf, as everyone knows, is boring)—lots of people standing around waiting for a guy to hit a ball with a big stick. The only real difference between the two is that chasing the ball down after the hit involves carts in golf, and running in baseball. Baseball is essentially golf with a track and field component.

At that particular A’s game, Rickey Henderson set a new record for the number of bases stolen over a career. He neither hit the ball nor threw it. Instead, everyone applauded him for running away from the ball a lot successfully. I fell asleep shortly thereafter.

I played two seasons of Soccer when I was in the lower grades, but I didn’t enjoy the experience. The ball seemed to always be gunning for me, and the number of hits I took to the crotch confirmed I wasn’t being paranoid. Really, I should have been grateful. The alternative to being waylaid by the attempted murder of my burgeoning manhood was running back and forth and back and forth across the field. Because someone had decided that soccer is a winter sport, this was unpleasant. Only heavy wheezing and cold, stabbing air through my lungs could make me long for the times after the big hits when I was stuck on the sidelines, holding my breath and doing my best to keep my groin from falling apart.

Now, I’m married and my disdain for sports is a huge asset. My wife also grew up in a house where crowd noise from the television was more common than silence. Since neither one of us watches sports, you’re more likely to hear conversation or the news or (more recently) songs about not biting your friends (thank you, Yo Gabba Gabba). Not saying this is better than sports noise, but it’s better for us.

My aversion to sports can sometimes make it difficult to engage in conversation with my male peers. Thankfully, Star Wars. That seems to be universal. When I meet women who are into sports it weirds me out–I always think they’re lying. I think of females as the sensible sex and when one of them goes off the Reservation like that it really messes with my head.

I understand the point of sports, I think. It builds character. It’s good exercise and teaches you about teamwork and pushes you to achieve more than you thought possible.

I don’t know. I don’t think any of that explains bowling.

Must all males enjoy sports? Also, what can we do about the females who join them? Island or Asylum? Weigh in below!

…Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Jar Jar in 3D

Jar Jar Binks is a terrible character. Let’s get that out of the way first. From the way he talks to his appearance (which, even if we’re speaking just in terms of technical advances, has not aged well) to his ability to suck the life out of any given scene with his “comedy,” he makes it hard to sit through Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace as an adult. So, I use my kids as an excuse.

I recently appeared on a podcast in which much of the discussion centered around the (then) imminent release of Episode I in 3D. Memories of the original release were shared and finally, thirteen years after the fact, I was able to articulate accurately my reaction to seeing the movie for the first time after being, quite literally, a Star Wars fan my entire life (I was born the same year the original Star Wars was released): I didn’t know I was disappointed.

Only those of us who stood in line for six hours for tickets (this was before Fandango) can even begin to understand how it’s possible to be so completely out of touch with your own feelings that you return to the cinema six more times over a six month period to try to figure them out (yes, I did that). Trying to wrap my head around my own disappointment with the film was like trying to comprehend a slow leak when I desperately needed water. I didn’t want to believe what my eyes were seeing because I was so thirsty and the bowl looked full enough that I fooled myself into believing the levels weren’t really going down. But Star Wars was going down. The magic just wasn’t there in the same way anymore.

Did you see that? I didn’t say “the magic wasn’t there.” I said, “the magic wasn’t there in the same way.” Big difference. One my daughter would insist upon. She digs The Phantom Menace. Even though we already own the movie and she’d seen it several times, she wanted to see it again, in 3D.

Blame–and thank–Jar Jar. She thinks he’s hilarious. He says “doo doo” and she laughs. She’s smart–might be smarter than me one day–but she’s 9. This is how she rolls. And can I fault her for that? Of course not. When I was a kid, I coerced my dad into taking me to see the Garbage Pail Kids Movie. I deserve whatever fresh hell my kids can drag me into.

But (and this is between you and me), I didn’t completely dislike Episode One yesterday. It was kind of cool seeing the pod race on the big screen again. And that lightsaber fight at the end? Man, you can’t beat it.

The 3D was well done, I can’t deny that. It didn’t have View Masteritis like the John Carter trailer that ran before it. It looked more like the 3D in the trailer for the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man–slick, rounded and consistent. Time and care was put the conversion and whatever E1 may lack in charm, I can’t deny that it’s a visual splendor and the 3D added to the experience.

Am I blinded by time and age? No, if anything I’m blinded by my kids. Seeing things fresh again through their eyes is one of the great treats of parenthood. They soften my cynicism and my criticisms. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

I’d rather enjoy things than not, on whatever level.

Making the Rounds on the Web (and Why)

Hey everybody, I’ve been poppin’ up in some spots you may have missed and I wanted to give you all a heads up!

First off, I recorded a podcast last week with my good friends, Tom Racine and artist Marc Lapierre. The ‘cast was mostly about the online comic Marc and I do together, The SuperFogeys, but we also talk a bit about my memoir and, of all things, Star Wars 3D. In any case, it’s a chance for you to make fun of my voice. You can listen to it right now.

Second, just yesterday one of my blogs from a couple weeks back, What is a Memoir? (And Why I Wrote One) has been passed along to many a person, and Wayne Groner just went ahead and reposted it to his site in full (with my permission, of course–Wayne’s an upstanding guy).

Lastly, power blogger Angie Mizzell invited me to do a guest blog for her as she gets ready for the birth of her third child and I was only too happy to oblige. That guest blog, which went live today, is entitled Cami and is a rewrite and update of a piece I wrote up years ago about my special needs daughter and the awkward conversations I sometimes have about her. I’m particularly proud of this one.

Why is this all happening?

One of the purposes of this website is to try to get myself out there a little more and to be more, well, known. When my book comes out I’d like it to see some success (imagine that) and the only way to do that these days isn’t just to have a great book that’s well-written and well represented by a terrific agent (though I have both of those things and they’re very, very important), it’s to have PRESENCE. Or, if you’d prefer I didn’t use my own word to describe a known thing, a platform.

To that end, I’d like to put it out there that I’m available for guest blogging, podcast shows, link exchanges, etc. Hit me up in the comments or contact me directly and we’ll see what’s shakin’.

My Halloween Costume

I don’t often dress up for Halloween anymore. I’m the dad who’s trailing his little kids and making sure they’re staying safe. One year, I went as a full blown stormtrooper. I worked for six weeks with a friend putting the costume together and custom fitting it to my body. It looked amazing and was to the exact specifications of what you see in the Star Wars movies.

The problem? It didn’t allow me to be a dad. Despite how it looks in the movies, it’s really hard to move in those things. And forget sitting down. My wife forbid me to wear it out the kids ever again, but this year she came up with a great way to modify it to allow me mobility and maximum cool (well, as much cool as can be achieved when one is geeking out so hard they have a custom fit stormtrooper costume): a stormtrooper dressed as a man. I took it just a bit further and came up with this, Prohibition-Era Stormtrooper Gangster!

Watching Star Wars with Elora, Part Two

Back when Elora was very, very young and before her long term memory really kicked in, Attack of the Clones was her favorite of all the Star Wars films. It was released the year of her birth, 2002, so maybe that had something to do with it. The original Star Wars was released the year of my birth, 1977, and that one was always my favorite. Elora responded to ‘Clones’ this time right away and gasped at the big explosion that kills one of Padme’s doubles.

A lot of the early politics were lost on her, but her suspicions about Chancellor Palpatine were raised. She didn’t like the cut of his jib. I pointed out that he was Anakin’s friend and seemed nice, but she wasn’t buying it. There was something fishy about that guy. When Obi-Wan when off into his own little detective story, she was fascinated–though I had to put the pieces together for her.

The romance she had no patience for–so she said. Elora still hides her eyes when people kiss on screen, but she loves movies with romance. She just won’t admit to actually liking the romance aspect of the movies. Of course, saying there’s any real romance in ‘Clones’ is a bit of stretch. While I found myself really admiring the imagination and much of the action, the love story plays worse and worse each time you see it. That’s just not how human beings fall in love. That’s not even how aliens fall in love.

The end battle scenes were Elora’s favorite part. Because that’s what kind of a girl she is.

Revenge of the Sith made Elora nervous. She knew this was the PG-13 one and she knew this was the one where Anakin burns up and turns into Darth Vader. She did not want to see those parts. I assured her I’d mute the sound and tell her when to close her eyes.

The opening battle remains stunning, if confusing to look at. Elora wasn’t terribly impressed with it. It was only once Anakin and Obi-Wan jumped out of their starfighters and took on Grievous’s ship that she was in. She thought R2’s antics were hilarious. And the crash landing on Coruscant? Made her eyes pop out.

Her suspicions about Palpatine continued to be raised, though she couldn’t quite figure out what his play was. She finally decided he was completely evil about five minutes before his big reveal and then was wowed by the revelation he had been Darth Sidious the entire time. It’s funny because that wasn’t a reveal that even seemed like much a reveal to me. It was always so obvious. But to her? It was extremely satisfying.

She didn’t quite understand Anakin’s turn to the dark side or why he would go so far so fast. It is abrupt and I did my best to explain, but I don’t think she was ever completely satisfied. I know I’m not, so that’s not surprising. When the big moment at the end of the big fight came, sure enough she hid her eyes.

The other big reveal for her was that Luke and Leia were twins. When Padme had TWO babies, it blew her mind. It was a lot of fun seeing her jaw drop like that, and, I think, much more satisfying than if I’d let her watch ‘Jedi’ first and find out the same time Luke does. That’s one twist that’s much improved watching the films in the order we did.

Finally, we reached the end and joined back up with the original trilogy with Episode VI, Return of the Jedi. I’ll admit that the one drawback to watching them all in the order we did is that by the time you get to ‘Jedi’ you’ve kind of lost the plot of the original trilogy. Three movies is a loooooong flashback. However, we got caught back up rather quickly and I’ve got to say that ‘Jedi’ resonated in a whole new way with me. When you have all the history from the prequels swimming in your head and realize that, essentially, Luke and Leia are all that’s left of what everyone was fighting for, it really gives the events of ‘Jedi’ a whole new weight. Plus, there’s a lot of symmetry between ‘Sith’ and ‘Jedi’ and that plays really, really well when you watch them back-to-back. It was the most satisfying viewing of ‘Jedi’ I’d had in quite a while.

Jabba was gross, of course. But Elora loved all the interplay with C-3PO and R2-D2. It was like having old friends back. (Side note: I’m surprised the nudity in the scene where Jabba’s slave dances for him wasn’t edited out. On Blu-ray, you can see it much, much more clearly.)

Far and away the thing Elora loved most about ‘Jedi’ was the Ewoks. She thought they were HILARIOUS and cute and wonderful. She laughed and laughed at the idea that teddy bears could defeat stormtroopers. She stopped laughing once the Ewoks started dying. By then, she was attached and wasn’t expecting that. Honestly, I get it. I’ve never hated the Ewoks and always thought they were really cool. That the Empire is defeated by a bunch of small teddy bears isn’t stupid, it’s fitting. Quintessentially American, even. I dug it when I was six, and I still dig it now.

To Elora’s credit, even she noticed how odd it was for Anakin’s ghost to look like Hayden Christensen when Obi-Wan and Yoda had to be old men.

Elora went nuts for Star Wars. It took us about a week and a half to get through them all and not a day went by that she didn’t bed me to watch “just 10 minutes” if that was all we had time for. She’s hooked, but she’s spoiled. She can’t even comprehend the amount of time I had to wait between movies.

Now, she’s moved onto The Clone Wars. She’s already watched the 2D short series that came out years ago and is working on the current, CG series right now. They’re pretty fun, so I try to watch them with her as much as I can.

When was the last time you watched all the Star Wars movies? What order will you show them in to your kids? Will you show them the prequels and risk them loving Jar Jar? Love to know what you think!