“Freedom of choice is what you’ve got. Freedom from choice is what you want.” —Devo
One of the things that hit me like a ton of bricks on my 50th birthday in October, which triggered my social media odyssey, is tragically typical to men my age: the realization of how little I’ve accomplished, as compared to how much anyone from age 1 to 49 assumes they’ll get accomplished by now.
I won’t describe my current domestic and career situation too much, since you’ll only think I’m depressed about it, which I’m not. In fact, I anticipate this post packaging things in such a tight little nugget that it will actually help me proceed. It’s like how a panic about money ends or lessens when you arrive at an actual dollar amount, even if it’s worse than you thought. Or when a doctor names the illness you have, because a diagnosis is less agony than not knowing.
Also, at the end, is a shameless request for your advice and counsel. This is a therapy blog post (good idea for a category), and I’m on the couch!
I am a man of ideas. And since my job doesn’t require ideas, or at least not of a broad range, I think of ideas on my own, for my own edification. All sorts of business plans, careers and avocations lay seige to my forebrain for weeks on end. Let me share some:
The Zero-G Council
My new fiscal-conservative Twitter friends should like this one. It’s a charity clearinghouse where conservatives can put their money where their mouths are. It would find charities and programs which pledge to either never take public money or to stop in their next fiscal year. After an audit, they’d be awarded a special seal of Taxpayer Friendliness, and would be welcomed into a suite of causes, kind of like the United Way. The goal would be to never make the charities miss the public money, by raising many times more cash for them. At an imagined tipping point, it would actually be cool to refuse government money, which would provide a grass-roots pressure to lower taxes, since all those programs put money on the table with fewer and fewer takers. Think Matthew Lesko, in reverse.
Medieval Reading Glasses (Spectacles)
My wife and I were active in the Society for Creative Anachronism, an American organization that re-creates the atmosphere of the Middle Ages at its social events, as far as people’s budgets allow. Unlike many historic re-enactor groups, this society has fairly lax authenticity requirements, relying not on rules and review but on encouragement and example. All but the most devoted authenticity-lovers wear their modern eyewear, and since the need for them is medicinal, it’s overlooked. Besides, an alternative was never very satisfactory. While dressed in my period clothing, I had a need for reading glasses, which historically is the first application of lens use. So I cannibalized a cheap pair from a dollar store and made wooden frames modeled after spectacles found in a dig in London, which hinged in the middle. I mass-produced them, and in a few weekends of work, I had a stock which we took along with us to its big August confab we used to attend as our summer vacation (this year’s is on as I write this). The sales paid for the whole vacation that year, and then some. I had plans to make the frames out of all the historically proven designs and materials: steer horn, pewter, brass. (Wood is actually pretty crummy, and not authentic.) I hadn’t known about outsourcing at the time, and my skills with those materials were non-existent. Last I checked, the need for period eyewear still goes unfilled.
This idea is obviously more recent. A web-based widget accepts a subscriber’s diary entry every six hours: her location and her self-assessed, 0-to-10, degree of arthritis pain (or really any disrupting transitory symptom). The back end would take that data and compare it to known weather for her area, an algorithm would detect sensitivity patterns, and the widget would deliver, in a pretty graph, a customized five-day pain forecast for that subscriber. Now she can plan on good days, and steer clear of bad days, with the confidence of a weather forecast. This would be for people who, while getting on in years, are not finished with the prime of their lives, and while they may want to prevent or forestall these conditions, they could now also dodge them. This idea was almost presented at a start-up weekend in Boulder, Colorado, but time and format didn’t permit, since I was presenting it through streaming video, and first dibs were given to paying customers, which is only fair. Again, I thank Laura Fitton for giving it a shot.
Media, so much media
Since I was a kid, and realized you could use a super-8 movie camera to tell a story just like Hollywood did, I wanted to do just that. And in spite of my career going in a different but parallel path, tantalizingly close to it, I’ve continued to want it, and to settle for only wanting it. I thought, and still think, that generations before us prospered because they made the disconnect between dream jobs and jobs that paid the bills. When they’re the same thing, that’s great, but if they’re not, well, that’s life. I’m beginning to wonder.
And so, media ideas:
As I’ve written here before, I’ve managed to amass a nice assortment of software and hardware, to start to teach myself the craft, from the smallest building blocks of character movement and walking and talking, all the way to complete pieces. I thought there’d be some need for animated titles, promos and interstitials for web videos, which could showcase my talents and availability. Eventually I’d produce short-subjects, several of which I’ve brought to shooting script stage. One, Sleeping Death, is about a guy who must dream to access some memories of his waking past, and remembers (correctly?) that he killed someone, and now must find a way to confront his waking self to relieve his guilt. Then there’s an idea that would be easier to produce: The Babysitter, an allegory comparing the hiring of a babysitter to the U.S. Constitution. It was originally intended as a viral video supporting Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy. Then there’s an atmospheric piece, considerably more advanced, using ancient Celtic imagery to tell the story of the song She Moved Through the Faire, for which I have already composed a temp track using Apple GarageBand.
Imagine James Burke’s Connections series, only dealing with American domestic policy, law, economics, the Constitution and the ideal of liberty. Picture Reagan-era Milton Friedman meets post-millennial George Carlin.
Audio drama podcast anthology.
At first it would have been a one-shot, just to prove it could be done. My first script took place inside a pizza truck stranded inside the Woodstock festival in 1969, where father and son find out secrets about each other.
Medieval cooking podcast.
To be titled Cook Medievally. This would involve some friends from the SCA, and be masterminded by my wife, who’s a great historical cook. I have a standing invitation from Fearless Cooking’s Grace Piper for advice and introductions.
Cheesology, a cheese podcast.
I figured there were many good wine podcasts, so why not? I could get a sponsor in a big cheese shop in New York, and use an existing cheese-maven for talent. It’d be a chance to travel the civilized world in search of the source of cheese, finding all kinds of incidental historical and cultural side-stories. I even did a concept for the opening animation, and even some cheesy music.
A Medieval Hand.
Live web video calligraphy lessons, via BlogTV. You’ve already been briefed on this.
Code-name: the Stone Chamber Project.
The idea was to start a travel blog about the supposedly mysterious stone structures that proliferate southern New England, with a concentration very close to where I live. Then, as things unfold, the reportage gets decidedly weird, and actually fictional. The subtle invitations for readers to comment and mash up the content, which is disemminated through all the top social media sites, make the face of the effort look like the ravings of a guy who’s witnessed the paranormal.
Well, you get the idea.
So, you ask, what’s the upshot of all this?
It’s always good to have plans. All of these plans have taken their turn at the front of my mind for at least several days, in the case of some others, months. Some, such as a semi-career as an animator, I’ve revisited over and over, and is there currently. What usually happens is, either an inability to focus will draw the act of beginning out so long that I lose attention, or some obstacle comes along which looks like a challenge. Either way, I stop for a while, then pick up where I left off… with some other idea in my mental portfolio. I don’t stick to one thing.
And it’s been like this for years and years. At first, I’d get all revved up on one of these ideas, especially if it was new. I’d be sure to tell everyone, so as to impress them with my cleverness. Then either the momentum would die or an obstacle would stop me, and I’d be on to something else. A few acquaintances, who value frankness over loyalty, have let me see how this obsessive behavior looks to them.
Lately, though, even though I know I have to latch on to one of the ideas to the exclusion of the others if I’m going to get out of my hole of obscurity, I don’t even get excited about the prospects of success any more. A voice in my head assures me that this time won’t be much different from the others; that I’ll be on to the next hairbrained scheme soon enough. As a result, I haven’t been enthusiastic about anything for quite some time.
I’m not even sure how to introduce myself. I’ve been an “aspiring animator” for years, it seems, yet I’m no closer to the step after “aspiring”. It’s a big joke. (That link in the upper right corner, inviting you to keep track of my animation progress at my Channel Frederator Ning site? Yeah, you guessed it: nothing yet.)
What would you do if you were in my position? Please realize, I’m not presenting the above list of ideas for you to pick the one I should devote my life to. This is not a call-to-vote reality show. How do you think I’m stuck? How did I get here? I re-decorate my rut with new blueprints from time to time. How do I get out?