Portfolio of Schemes

“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:

2D animation.

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.

Political/economic analysis.

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?


12 responses to “Portfolio of Schemes

  1. If I were you, I’d twitter Mr. Boh and ask him why I told you to call him. 🙂

  2. Hi, Rick:

    It’s misterboh on Twitter; I’ll DM you there.

  3. Rick, Hire a Coach. It doesn’t have to be me, but it could be! Then you can find the answers from inside. Or you could write. You’re a writer right? If you don’t figure it out with your readers, let me know and I will gift you with a little something to help….

  4. Wow Rick. You put it all out there, in a way that many are afraid to do so. That’s a courageous, self aware first step!

    I believe the next steps should help you uncover the roots of your fear so that you can then begin to address those fears and move into the life God ultimately has designed for you. I know, me showing my faith again. 🙂

    Here’s what I do know. You are an incredibly gifted writer/animator and communicator with so much more ahead for the next part of life.

    You are indeed on your way. Don’t give up!

  5. Rick, I see threads going through your life.. a bit like mine too. You love trying new things, quirky, off the wall things, and you can take something, like a podcast, that would be overwhelming to others and see it as fun, a challenge.

    I’ll be 50 this year. What I notice is that when I can take a complicated project and bring it to fruition, I’m happiest. and it needs to be a bit quirky too.
    How can you bring podcasting, video, cooking animation etc together? Oh wait! You are blogging! maybe you are already?
    What are the feelings you are going for? Fun? Happiness? Fulfillment? Challenge? Identify those and anything you follow will have to have that feeling attached to make sense to your soul.
    What is deepest in your heart? The piece you won’t share with anyone, not even yourself? To be a famous animator? To Make a movie? Follow that energy.
    You are highly CREATIVE. Us types don’t focus on one thing. That is what keeps our creativity flowing and our intuition aflame and our souls on fire. We love change, challenge, new things. Allow yourself to revel in the fact that you will always be flirting with life, and never an expert in only one area.

    Just some ideas today!

  6. Michelle, thank you for taking this post so seriously.
    I’ve gotten two books relevant to the issue.
    “The Renaissance Soul” by Margaret Lobenstine verifies something you seem to be saying: that a little of this, a little of that is a fine way of conducting one’s life. Providing, of course, I’m not hopping from one to the other like a frog on lillypads to evade success.
    The other book, “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield (which I’m about half-way through), suggests that I know damn well which one is my true calling: it’s the one that seems the biggest and most intimidating, for which I have the most elaborate excuses. That would be the animation. The “lillypad” on which I’m currently squatting.
    …except since this time last night, which has turned me onto something completely different and not listed above. Ugh…!

  7. I love that book, The War of Art. Terrific!.. Our TRUE Purpose is rarely ‘following the joy’. Often it is terrifying, something we know nothing about, and often takes sacrifices. What it does have though, is an very very deep desire within to follow a specific path.

    And so, what is next? Animation?

  8. You guessed it! Which means I have to explain this to Mark Davidson of Shift+One, to whom I gave the impression I was going in a different direction, as I say, one I hadn’t even had time to list above.

  9. Ok Ok. Waiting oh NOT SO PATIENTLY for the ‘
    ‘ONE’ you haven’t listed above.

    There are 2 ways to live.
    1. Is to get all your interests in your life. For Instance, spend time doing video, animation, drama cooking etc etc. Make some of the hobbies, don’t worry about making a living from any of them. Enjoy.
    2. Focus intently on one. Commit,
    and then go for it. Don’t look back, don’t have any other options and no backup plan.

    Both are good. Depending upon your life, circumstances and personality, you might be able to follow either path and be happy…. but, if you are NOT happy, then you know you have to switch to the other style.
    Great exchange here and I’m looking forward to your next step!

  10. Oh, okay! It is (was) a plan to capitalize on my interest in the 17th-century Dutch colonial influence in New York City and the Hudson Valley, and how they imprinted their personality as surely as the Puritans did in Boston. It was to be a website-blog, emphasizing immersion and creativity, and taking advantage of the economic opportunities to next year’s 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s entering New York harbor (assuming there are any). There would have initially been a viral PDF to drive traffic to the site, which itself would have been sponsored.

    The idea was fleshed out during a call, which turned out to be a free one-hour consultation, from Mark Davidson. At the start of it, I was a history buff, and at the end it casted me as an ad salesman, travel agent and wheeler-dealer. I sort of let the idea take this turn over the conversation, rather than drove it. Even as I was listening to his ideas, and even throwing some out at him, I knew this scheme wouldn’t keep me jazzed for more than 24 hours. I was right.

    Looking at my whole portfolio of schemes individually, and considering each in isolation, I can pretty readily see which are on the Mission list and which are on the Distraction list (or, as The War of Art would call it, the Resistance list).

    I will admit this: when I researched what interesting things could be put into a viral PDF besides still layouts and hyperlinks, I discovered a book that shows how to incorporate all kinds of creative elements that are readable by anyone through the Acrobat reader, using software I already have on hand. The techniques got me more interested than how to make money off it.

    That’s the way I’ve always been. And that’s okay. I’m not a seller; I’m a maker. I should go and find myself a seller!

  11. Rick, found your writing on stumbleupon. You are getting some great comments here. Rather than write more than is appropriate in a comment, I wrote a post replying, and linking, to yours.

    It explores the difference between the mentally driven life and a heart centered awareness and can be found here, http://www.energiesofcreation.com/creative-healing/get-unstuck/

    All the best as you rise to this challenge you have set for yourself!

  12. Hi Rick,

    I came from Lexi’s blog above. I feel your pain. 😉

    I recommend you check out this Forum thread:


    Particularly, check out a post on the second page about “scanners.” There’s a book that’s recommended there, so check that out.

    My wife is a scanner, so she has some of the same issues that you do. And I tried to point out some of my observations in the above post, such as focusing on the common thread among your varied interests.

    Enjoy and good luck! If you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to ask. (there’s a form on my web site for reader questions)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s