Sunday, March 25, 2012

A (very) personal project

Every once in awhile, I get a brainwave that has nothing to do with how much money I could be making.  It doesn't happen very often anymore, since I live in a constant state of financial desperation, but once in a great while, it occurs to me that there are things that I would like to do, simply because I have a passion to do them.  This is one of those moments.

I was supervising a theater rental last night (I brought Kenneth along with me, bribed with coffee, but that's another story.), and I was remarking about how I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself, as I don't even trust myself enough to know that what I want is really what I want, or is good for me.  I've been continually frustrated by this self-mistrust lately. 

Driving home, I dropped Kenneth off at the train, and took Lakeshore Drive up north.  I rarely drive on LSD, because the traffic can be hellish, and really, it's out of my way, unless I have to drop people off at the train for any reason.  Zipping up the shoreline, I hazarded a glance out at the endless darkness that is Lake Michigan.  And I remembered how much I love the water, and how it's really been nagging at me that I wish I could get out of the city and go spend some time at my family's cottage in northern Michigan. 

And then I remembered a goal I had had when I was about 16 or so.  I had decided that I wanted to photograph all the lighthouses on the Great Lakes.  When I was 16, I decided it would be AWESOME if I could make the whole trip on foot, because then you would really be in tune with all the minutiae of the world and the water.  For the record, I think it would take about a decade to walk around the ENTIRE chain of great lakes.  Thinking about it right now, it would probably be a really cool thing to do by bike, if I wasn't planning on carrying a zillion pounds of gear, or bringing companions.  As it stands, my current hope is to be able to start in Chicago, end in Buffalo, and pass through about ten thousand towns along the way, dead, dying, post-industrial, or resort. 

I want to photograph the lighthouses, yes.  And the lakeboats, and the lake, and the water and the trees and the sky.  But I also want to record a narrative of the midwest.  The Great Lakes region.  Canada and the U.S.  The collective voice of my home, the people who live there.  The history that runs through everything like water.  The whole span of human history, crushing in front of my lens simultaneously. 

I want to take the summation of all my feelings about those woods and that water from my entire life, and I want to express them. 

My end goal is twofold.  I'd love to write a book about the experience, stuffed with shiny, full-color digital photographs of my journey. 

But I'd also like to take the absolute best of the photographs, be it ten or a hundred or seven-hundred-thirty-two, and create prints.  The platinum-palladium prints that I learned in college, that lent such a timeless antiquation to my subjects.  And I'd like to have a gallery exhibition.  I want the narrative of my lakes and my history and my boundless love to be shared, to be known. 

So... I'm going to start researching, with the goal of departing in the summer of 2013, and just being an adventurer for however long it takes.  I need to know a lot of things before I go.  How many lighthouses *are* there?  What else can I plan on visiting?  How much time can I allot in case I find something I *didn't* plan on visiting?  Hotels?  What happens to my apartment?  My cat?  Who wants to come with me, and for how long?  I imagine this journey is going to take the entire summer, at the very least. 

And I don't want to neglect the other part of me either.  I'd love to do some research into the burlesque scene of every major metropolitan area I will pass through on my journey.  I'd love to make my personal journey one where I build bridges in the present-day as well.  And it wouldn't hurt to get paid to perform every once in awhile on my way either. 

I expect this project will be coming, sooner or later, to Kickstarter, in the hopes that I can drum up support for the grandest adventure I've always ached to have. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A matter of perspective

I've been feeling very overwhelmed and unmotivated lately.  Sometimes, I feel as if that is my natural state, since I seem to say that a lot.  But it's true.  The more I have to accomplish, the more I want to run away, until I'm trapped in a corner with my hands over my ears going "LA LA LA!  CAN'T HEAR YOU!!"

I've been having one of those moments the last few weeks.  There are dishes in my sink that are now coated with some sort of nastiness that I don't even want to fathom, because every time I look at them, I just get too overwhelmed to deal with it. 

I had a chat with one of my fellow burlesketeers, Marci Vousplait, a few days ago.  We both made our debuts sometime last year, and both of us remarked how this feeling has set in where we just don't want to work on anything right now.  For me, it's this overwhelming feeling again.  I've accomplished how many acts?  In six months time, I've finished two regular-run acts, one holiday act, worked on another, plus the three iterations of our group act, the Vaudezilla group acts, and our new group act.  It's a lot of work, and a lot of money, and it's gotten to the point where I just have a hard time thinking about it without reflexively watching a few minutes of MacGyver, (or a random Youtube video) just to try and chase it out of my head. 

But I've been thinking about it today.  Because it's really sort of a matter of perspective.  The first thing that helped was writing myself a to-do list.  Just a short blurb to get everything that was nagging at me out of my head, and down on a thing I can look at to remind me.  The next thing was really mentally preparing for showing my latest act in rehearsal tonight.  Normally an activity I dread, this time I concentrated my energies on trying to give a good performance, and really boosted my enthusiasm for getting it accomplished.  And you know what?  It was a zillion times better. 

I know that I have a hard time seeing the forest through all the trees, but I'd like to keep concentrating on the big picture, knocking out one thing at a time, and really attacking these next few weeks.  Because I can accomplish everything on those big, scary to-do lists.  I just have to look at it the right way. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The big announcement, part two

Well, I guess now's as good a time as any to make my big announcement.  I will be performing my murder act (Haifisch) as part of this year's Windy City Burlesque Fest!  I'll be getting the opportunity to share the stage with such wonderful, talented ladies as Jo Boobs, Foxy Tann, and Penny Starr Jr. (Whom I've met on a few occasions, and have a huge admiration for)

In addition to being able to perform with such esteemed burly-girls, I am also crafting my (not-so) famous handmade feather fascinators for the goodie-bags of all our headliners and featured performers.  I'm stoked (and terrified).

SO.  If you happen to be in the Chicagoland area the weekend of July 13-14th, you should REALLY make it a priority to get yourself down to at least one of the showcases of the Windy City Burlesque Fest.  (Hint hint, I'll be performing at 8pm on Friday, the 13th.  Not like you weren't going to figure that out on your own, to come see me.  But now I've done the work for you.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Big things!

There are some big things brewing in the land of me.  I'm not going to announce the biggest one yet, since the *official* announcement hasn't been released yet, but if you're interested in the burlesque side of the burlesque-dancing photographer, stay tuned.

The other big thing that's coming up is Vaudezilla's next theater show.  We're doing a live band show with our friends from Fatally Cool.  I'm listening to the recorded track of my act literally as we speak, since I need to jump on putting this act together.  I'll be completely honest, I wasn't really pumped to do this, a few weeks ago.  But since we've really fleshed out the concept of the show, and since *I've* really fleshed out the concept of what I want to do within that show, I'm really excited to get it done, and I'm just hoping I can make reality match the thing I have in my head.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Planes, trains, and automobiles

Side note for you all.  You can add Morocco and Iran to the list of interesting places from which people have visited my blog.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Vaudezilla's student showcase

Friday's performance went well.  As I believe I have mentioned, it was Vaudezilla's student showcase, which meant that there were a lot of ladies taking it off (or partially taking it off) for the very first time.  It can be very exciting and refreshing to see so many new faces, especially when they are all so enthused to be performing.

I did not get to watch most of the actual show.  Or... I could have, if I was willing to brave the muggy humidity and unbearable warmth of the bar, but I instead retreated to the cellar office we use as a dressing room, and got a play-by-play from every  relieved newbie.

Sometimes I forget why I perform.  It's very easy to get wrapped up in the minutae of planning this act, fixing that costume, drudging up the money for something new, being pushed toward the next big theater show and its next big theme. I've been very tired of thinking about new acts for awhile.  Not because I don't want to have new acts, mind you.  Because I do.  But I feel like all of this has just been happening so quickly, an inexorable progression toward an endgame that I am increasingly unable to see.

Before I began performing, the road looked fairly straight.  Put together some acts.  Weed out the ones that don't work, cultivate new ones.  Promote yourself.  Get famous.  It obviously helps if you're a) talented, b) driven, or c) both of the above.

The fact is that I'm working on three solo acts, two independent group acts, I'm learning all the Vaudezilla group acts.  And I've got to carve out separate times to work on all these.  I'm starting to think that I've perhaps stretched myself a little too thin.  I think that it's time for me to only worry about the things that I really need to worry about RIGHT NOW.  The rest is going to come.  It will.  But I will say this.  Once I'm done with these three acts, really good and done with them, I'm taking a break.  I'll perform them until I'm blue in the face, but I don't want to think about anything new for awhile.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Shameless self-promotion time!

I've got a show tomorrow night!  If you happen to be within the sound of my voice and think it might be nifty to see a REAL, LIVE BURLESQUE SHOW, you should come out.  This month is our student showcase, highlighting all the hard work of the students of Vaudezilla studios.

And if you're curious as to what you'd be in for in terms of *my* performance... I'll just leave you with this little image.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A new layout and an old video

I decided it was time for a new layout.  Something not too dissimilar, but also something that didn't look like I had designed my blog in 2002.  (I didn't, for the record.)  I like that it's a little sleeker and sharper this time around.

But the real meat of this post is... a video that's a million years old.  Not really.  It's about three months old, actually.  Vaudezilla puts out a monthly podcast, commonly known as Vaudezillavision.  In January, I was given the opportunity to guest host, and I was also able to conduct a mini-segment on constructing hair fascinators.  Have a look at the video. 

Please note that I also offer ready-made as well as made-to-order hair fascinators through my Etsy shop The Raven's Nest

Monday, March 5, 2012

A full weekend

I have had one of the most productive weekends, and I cannot wait to share with you.  Now, all of you are probably like "But it's the end of MONDAY, you've certainly waited awhile, yes?" 

No.  I don't work Mondays, so my weekend is still in full swing.  (FOR ANOTHER FOUR HOURS. WOOO)

Let's start with Saturday.  Saturday, I had a shoot for Vaudezilla with the lovely Kriss Abigail.  Myself and a few other Vaudezilla performers trekked out to the Museum of Science and Industry to take some wicked photos. 

Perhaps you would like a teaser from said shoot?
Here you go.

 Many thanks to Kriss for making me look gorgeous, as always. 

Immediately following our shoot, I booked it over to the theater where I work, so that I could open the box office for our performance that night.  Which basically meant, since I am SO GREAT at planning ahead, that I wore the same clothes I was wearing for the photoshoot in the box office all night.  I also may or may not have taken a nap on the floor in the middle of the box office during the show.  Classy.

The majority of Sunday was taken up by a three-hour long choreography workshop at Vaudezilla studios
It was epic, and it's really a shame that we're only holding them once a month.  (Although my muscles have no complaints about the lack of frequency.)  Can I just say that I am SO sore?  I had already felt like I was hit by a truck after four hours of running around MSI and posing all day, and THEN standing around the box office for hours, so add a three hour long dance class, and you've basically got muscular mutiny on your hands. 

But the real topper to this weekend was today.  Mmm.  Monday.  (Oh god, I might be the only person who has ever looked forward to a Monday.)
I do all my banking downtown, so I got up this morning and hopped on the train.  I decided that perhaps I would bring my camera downtown with me again, since I wasn't really thrilled with most of the shots I took last week.  So... a little begrudgingly, I packed up my camera, and headed down.  I did all my banking, and was kind of looking for an excuse to not have to shoot... I was walking around down by Millennium Park, and feeling SUPER uninspired, because I like taking photos of all the architecture when I'm in the moment, but when I come home, it all looks very standard and literal and boring, and then I get discouraged, and then...

Anyway.  I was down by Millennium Park, and I realized (after a failed trip into the Chicago cultural center... it was closed.  Because, apparently, it's Kasimir Pulaski day.  What?) that the ice rink was still open.  So I rented some skates and went ice skating for an hour.  Mostly to see if I could still remember how. 
For the record, I did get the hang of it pretty quickly, but the ice was fairly soft, and there were a bunch of folks out there, so I ended up wiping out three times in the same spot.  (I think I was getting stuck in a deeper ice rut)  By the third time, my left knee was pretty banged up, so I decided to grab my stuff and continue my day on foot.

So... I'm wandering away from the park, still without a clue as to where I'm going to go, or do I even feel like shooting? And I'm about to just give up and go get some bao... and then there it was. 

 Where have you been all my life?

So I spent the day concentrating on weird little details.  And the more I looked, the more of them I found.
The preceding might be my favorite shot of the day, and it definitely ranks in the top 10 shots I've ever taken. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Monkees' Davy Jones

So, I got the news yesterday that Davy Jones, singer/misc. percussion (come ON guys, you KNOW what I mean by this. :P) for The Monkees, has died. 

What, you may ask yourself, does this have to do with either photography OR burlesque?  Not much, outright.  But here's a little backstory for you.

I fell in love with The Monkees back in... '97?  Maybe?  I was about ten or eleven years old, so that sounds about right.  I didn't know it then, but all the resurgent hubbub for them was a result of their releasing their final- and only fully self-produced studio album Justus.  All I cared about was the TV show.  And the music.  My dad played a Monkees tape (Yes, this *is* how old we are) on the way home from a Tigers baseball game, and that was that.  I was hooked.  They were all over tv that summer, and we taped a bunch of episodes. 

Davy Jones might well have been my first childhood crush.  Granted, he was supplanted exactly fifteen seconds later when my capricious childhood mind decided that Mickey was much cuter.  (I still prefer Mickey, for the record, though I had a phase revolving around each of them.)  Still, for those fifteen seconds, he was the only tiny, British heartthrob in the world to me. 

Fast forward to this Tuesday.  I've been getting very frustrated with the state of my newest burlesque act.  Choreography-wise, it's coming together well.  Intentions-wise, I could be stronger, but that's more an issue of rehearse, rehearse, rehearse than anything else.  But costume-wise?  Eesh.  I haven't got a sparkle on that damn thing, and I've got no money to change that, at least not in the quantity that this particular act requires.  So I dusted off an old idea I've had hanging around. 

Since the inception of my burlesque career, as it were, I've been alternately trying to talk myself into and out of doing an act to The Monkees She Hangs Out.  It's a 2.5 minute long song, which makes it pretty damn short for burlesque, but it's peppy and catchy, and I tend to dance to it even though said dancing makes the record skip horribly.  I just can't help it.  And on Tuesday night, it finally hit me.  I'll throw together a quick shimmy act.  Fringe is dirt cheap compared to Swarovskis, and I'm pretty good at faking all those boppy '60's dance staples like the Pony, the Swim, and, oh, hey, the MONKEY. 

So I shimmied myself sick on Tuesday night.  And when I woke up Wednesday morning and dragged ass to work, I opened up my laptop only to see ten million people on Facebook posting Monkees clips and "RIP Davy" messages.

What the what? 

I have to admit, I'd never guessed that he would be the first to go.  Not least of which because he was the youngest Monkee.  It's still kind of a weird twingey feeling in my gut thinking about it, too.  Despite the fact that it was fifteen seconds of a ten-year-old me's life, Davy Jones was one of my first crushes, and this is the first time someone I've felt "that way" for (inasmuch as a ten year old can feel "that way") has died. 

So... cheers Davy.  I'm still gonna put that act together, and you might just have yourself a dedication.  And... I'll see you on the other side, with that bright orange GTO.