Yeah, I know. It’s been a while. I’ve been meaning to get back to the dreaded blog thing, only to be undermined by circumstance. The modem is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Anyway, I’ve been saving up several things to post here. I might rush through ’em a bit, so keep up:

We’ve made a lot of progress since we last met; some of it, of a dubious nature. (Ooh! Cryptic. That’ll keep him in their seats for another second….)

All the roles were cast at the end of April, and we’ve had two rehearsal sessions. And at each one, we were short one actor. The first time, I guess one guy got tied up with work and schedules and things. I don’t think he deliberately flaked. He was sufficiently apologetic when he joined the second rehearsal, so I didn’t glare at him too hard. On that rehearsal, I knew we were going to be short one actress, so I was ready for that.

Either way, all our local actors haven’t had a single rehearsal together, as a unit. A moment while I mumble and get the frustration out of my system….

On the bright side, the performances have been fantastic. The actors we got are wonderful. On the second rehearsal, we got yet another actress sign on to play a bit part and fill in, basically a glorified understudy and utility infielder. But the minute I heard her, I really wished I had a bigger role for her. She ran some lines for our missing Assistant DA who goes mad in this ep, and delivered an impish, bloodthirsty psychopathy. Man, she knocked everyone’s socks off.

Frankly I was tempted to sack the lady I’d originally cast. But that actress put up with some of my rantings on things almost totally unrelated to AH during her audition, even as her allergies were kicking. If nothing else, I keep her in the role by way of thanks and politeness. I couldn’t live with myself if I screwed someone over for my own profit.

Screwing someone over because they’re jerks, I can do….

Anyway, AH now enters an awkward phase. Our studio date has gotten pushed back to June 28, so we have to sweat through the next five or six weeks. Jamie and I are trying to put together a few pick-up rehearsal sessions for any castmembers. She’s combing through dates and e-mails, looking for times where more than two actors are going to be at the same place at the same time. It’ll keep them focused and it’ll give our sound engineer a chance to get a feel for the voices and performances.

Oh great, now he shows up. He never made it to any of the other rehearsals. We made damn sure he was in the loop for those, too.

I suppose now I’ll have to show how adaptable and quick-thinking we are. If I knew there was gonna be a pop-quiz, I’d have cut to the chase and just flunked.

Monkey’s Audio
Goofy name, amazing tech. Monkey’s Audio is audio compression freeware. I tried it a while ago, wasn’t thrilled with the results, but I think it’s improved a lot.

It doesn’t always compress audio as tightly as MP3 or Ogg Vorbis, but it has one advantage over them. It’s loss-free compression. It doesn’t shave data off the original sound to conserve space. You lose neither quality nor data. Not only is it great for archiving, but it sounds exactly the same compressed as uncompressed. You can save hard drive space and keep the original sound quality.

Anyone who knows me for more than a few days knows I’m a music junkie. I listen to MP3’s made from my CD collection while I work, but if I know a certain song by heart, it doesn’t sound right in that format. The music’s been changed. That little bass thump at the start of the third chorus feels wrong. Stuff like that. Monkey’s Audio has provided a handy compromise.

I just hope iPods can read it….

Beware of Trojans Bearing Crap
Lastly, I’ve had the ignominous pleasure of working all day yesterday to get a stupid virus off my computer. This time, there was no pimply-faced sex-starved script kiddie behind it. It was from a corporate entity. Yahoo/Geocities. You can find a brief description of it here: Boycott Yahoo/Geocities

On the bright side, I was able to beat the little bugger and get it off my system. I’d downloaded five or six different anti-trojan programs that day. Only one did the trick: The Cleaner by MooSoft.

Blogging tools
Well, can’t get much more self-referential than that. For the last month or so, I’ve been using a blogging client that lets me access my hideous manifestation of net-presence with a double-click and nothing more. It’s called w.bloggar. Very nice. And freeware.

Frequent readers of this blog (all four of you) will notice the changes I’ve made to the look of the ol’ blog here. w.bloggar made it easier, but what made this change a real breeze was StrangeBanana. It’s a webpage that randomly generates new styles suitable for any blog. Refresh the page and you get a whole new look. If you like it, copy it.

Hence, Dark Karma get a face lift and my lazy little teeny-weeny brain didn’t have to crunch nearly as much code as it first a-feared. As for whether the new look sucks….

No Fur Flying, At Least…

Yesterday was Nita’s Urinary Infection Day. Her problem was still going on after two days, and still no clue and no urine sample, so we turned to the experts. Jamie packed Nita off to the Allen Boulevard Vet Clinic for a few hours and let Dr. Mark Nielsen get it from the source. Of course they had to get off the exam counter before they got it into the specimen cup. After a few drinkee-poos, kitty-kat kut loose.

The diagnosis was a more confident one, but still had a tentative ring to it. Apparently the urinary tract is uncharted territory. (I guess I can’t blame ’em. I sure couldn’t fit in there.)

But at least every other possibility has been eliminated. It’s urinary for sure. That’s our number one suspect. We minded our P’s and Q’s, and that’s what it all trickles down to.

In blog space, there is no pun tax.

Jamie and I used to host a local writer’s group meeting thingie. I’m starting to wonder if this was ever meant to be. These meetings hardly ever happen anymore. I know everyone’s busy and, since we’re not exactly rich, these are basically trying times for all of us. All the same, something about people not showing up…it really brings me down. I mean, what’s the point to the whole group anymore?

Maybe men really are allergic to rejection. The slightest whiff of it drives me up the wall. I’ll stop there before I start sounding all weepy or something. “Oh, the world sucks, no one understands me! Rhubarb, rhubarb, martyr rhubarb….”

I wasn’t sure, but I guess a few people have been reading this after all. Every once in a while, someone comes up to me and asks if I’m okay or something. I don’t know why that’s such a surprise for me. In the last entry, I practically hint at going postal the way most people might talk about going Democrat or Republican.

“And how are you voting this year?”

Postal.” Insert maniacal grin here.

I’m just used to writing and not getting any apparent effect out of an audience. When I write something, no one stands up and applauds. It’s just me, a cat, and her tiny tiny bladder in the room. Looking for feedback is a waste of time. Someone says it’s good. When I ask for more detail, the answer comes back, “It’s really good.” It’s hard to tell if anyone’s there at all. I’m not a TV set; I need to know someone is receiving. I’ve written things to shock or get people mad just to see if anyone’s really listening. It’s a waste of time. People don’t turn into English lit. scholars when they’re massively cheesed.

Dickens would’ve shot himself with help like that. “Do they say anything about Miss Havisham’s wedding cake? A single word about the double irony about Pip, Estella, and Magwitch? No, no, it’s just ‘really good’! Forget it! I quit! I knew I should’ve gone into taxidermy….”

So anyway, I’ve gotten used to working in complete isolation. I didn’t show anyone my work for years. I just did it. I couldn’t stop. I had words and images in my head, and I had to get ’em out of there. I was convinced that being alone was the best I could hope for. If there was no audience, they couldn’t ruin it for me. You don’t get applause or cheers either, but after years of people laughing at the wrong parts and nitpicking even my choice in word processor, I stopped expecting any.

And frankly, most people can’t see what’s in front of them anyway. In high school, I was on self-destruct. For days I would walk around, at home, at school, with my hands coated in my own blood. I know of only five people who took a second glance. OJ gets off scot-free. Posers and corporate shills are lauded as artistes. My prez the Shrub argues with the debating skills of a mummified walrus, and even without evidence, he’ll get his war.

And I expect people to wake up half a minute just for me?

So whenever I get a clear and positive response to something I’ve written or said, I’m stunned. Old habits die hard.

The Rush Hour of Our Discontent

I’m not quite as liberal as Jesus, but I’m not too thrilled with the election results. Locally it’s pretty good for my li’l hobbit hole, but throughout the rest of the United States…well, I think the next six years are going to be a long, hard ride. I can only hope the music scene picks up during this Bush’s administration as it did for Bush Senior. At least we’d have a cool soundtrack for the disaster movie to come.

Of course we had Kurt Cobain to kick everyone’s butts into gear back then. Marilyn Manson (the goth answer to Sideshow Bob) and N*Stinc ain’t gonna cut it.

And man, I need something to go my way here. Our cats–all fourteen of ’em–are rapidly turning into the Typhoid Mary brigade. Nita, a dilute tortie introvert/assault vehicle, has some kind of urinary infection. Jamie and I took her to the vet a day or so ago, and we’re still puzzled as to why. She keeps bleeding all over the office, so I’m surrounded by puddles of watery blood even as I write. Visitors are going to think I’m a devil worshipper or something. (“See? I knew it! He wears black all the time, he’s got heavy metal records! He even does blood sacrifices fergodsakes!!!”) Meanwhile a couple of Jamie’s Japanese Bobtail kittens, henceforth referred to as “JBTs,” keep chunking charlies all over the rest of the house.

We’re living in mortal dread that more than one cat might need professional medical attention at the same time. That’d take us instantly into three figures. Even if we weren’t in the throes of bankruptcy, it would’ve hurt plenty.

Anyone who’s kept up with Jamie (or her blog ) knows a lot of this BS already. For me, it’s a different kind of pain. I never thought I’d ever have to file for bankruptcy, let alone spend enough money to go there. Technically it’s not being filed in my name, but I’m about as screwed. All our efforts are being channeled to fix it. We’re bleeding money. And frankly it’s humiliating. A bunch of strangers show up at my door, demanding that I account for money I never saw. Yet I see all around me things bought with that money. And I didn’t want even half of it. The whole situation is ridiculous, at least to me.

I’ve seen some strange things in my life, courtesy of very strange people, folks who were eager to believe anything, no matter how absurd or outrageous, as long as their consciences or perceptions got an easy out. For a long time I was surrounded by such humanoid creatures, subjected to more personal demons than Max von Sydow, forced to tangle with them just to free myself of them. And I learned, like any victim of brainwashing, that reality is liquid. It changes with the wind. People see what they want to see. Dysfunctional people, even more so. It’s taken many years–after the efforts of so many to convince me 2+2=5; that there were five lights when I saw only four; that meddling with my life was their way of loving me; that I was a monster for not letting them get away with it; all because it suited their pathetic ends–for me to trust my perceptions again. So it takes a lot of thought and willpower to override the fear of retribution invading my flesh like an electrical shock when I speak my mind. Part of me wants to hide every time I feel anything. It might not be what someone else wants me to feel.

They say he who dares, wins. I look at all the horrors that happened in my life, at the ones plaguing the world at large, and the kinds of people who profit the most from them. I forget who was it who claimed that a barbarian has the upper hand in any battle because he’s willing to do anything to win. Of late, I begin to wonder if that person was right.

And a horrible thought strikes me: Is this what it feels like when someone is about to go postal?