Apr 7 2016

The dreaded chores of officialdom, federal edition. Plus: Night Vale!

Rosemary

Yep, finished my taxes.   I had assumed it was going to be insane and overwhelming and stress-inducing, and had scheduled extra time to be freaked out about it all.

I had eight different 1099’s for writing income, and another one for unemployment income, and W-2’s for both the day job and about a month of disability pay that I got at the beginning of the year.  And I had started an HSA account.   And I had to do the Schedule C for my business, and self-employment tax, and all the deductions relating to having an office dedicated entirely to my writing work, thus office expenses, not to mention (she mentions, as she mentions it) travel and hotels for business-related events.

Amazingly, it was actually pretty easy.

I had saved most of my receipts.  Good habits win!   Plus, I ran almost everything through my Amex, so my year-end statement helped.   Also, some stuff was bought on Amazon for my business, and for each of those I could reprint all the receipts I hadn’t saved at the time.

Then I ran it all through TurboTax.    Twenty-first century, I love you.

I do remember the Dark Ages, when I (and most people, for that matter) did not even possess a computer.  I was a self-employed programmer consultant, and aspiring singer/songwriter.  Tax time was a nightmare!   Lordy, not even Excel spreadsheets to help me calculate.   And I did not make enough to afford an accountant to do it all for me.   Just me and the forms and sheets of paper and a calculator, and sweat and anguish.

This time, just a few hours on two separate days to sort it all, enter it all, print it out .  I owed the government slightly less than I thought I was going to.   All is well.

In other news: Yes! Sabine and I saw the latest Welcome to Night Vale live show, Ghost Stories.  I did love it.  It went by much too quickly.

No spoilers here.  I’ll just say that Cecil Baldwin (as the Voice of Night Vale, Cecil Palmer) is a treasure.   There were moments when I was completely enthralled, just by this  guy  all alone on a stage, saying words.  I’m still amazed that that can happen.  A lovely script (Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, the creators of Night Vale), all eerie and funny and heartbreakingly poignant.

Their live shows change a bit from city to city, traditionally.  They usually have alternate versions so that the different cast members from the podcast can step in for a show or two, and not have to be present for the entire tour.   This time we had Hal Lublin doing his usual great delivery as the much-maligned Steve Carlsberg.   And Meg Bashwiner as Deb the Sentient Patch of Haze.   Meg also does the intro and credits, and is a delight.   The two other walk-on roles were handled by Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink themselves, and they were really quite good.   You don’t expect writers to be good actors too, but these guys are pros.

This was only the third time the show had been performed… so, maybe a little rough in spots?  I did not mind.  Also, the Academy of Music, while a lovely venue, is also a small venue.   Sabine and I later wondered if seeing it in a big city at a bigger theater might allow the show to have more guests.  Because, bigger theater=more income?  More $$ to spread around?   Maybe.

If so, what we missed in spectacular-spectacular was made up for with intimacy.  Cecil was right there. He was also right here:

Yo, there , behind the pole. Tall guy with the blue wool cap.

Yo, there , behind the pole. Tall guy with the blue wool cap.

Yeah, okay you can’t tell it’s him unless you saw him walk up to that intersection.

By the way, that snow on the ground?  Yes, it was the horrible snow/sleet/freezing rain event that we had on Monday.  And I was at the wheel.  White-knuckle driving all the way to Massachusetts!   Ten miles an hour, sometimes increasing to a terrifying thirty miles an hour! But I was not going to miss the show.  And once we hit Mass, it all calmed down, amazingly.   Past Springfield, it was a breeze.

And we had a lovely pre-show dinner with Geary Gravel, whom we see all too rarely.  Discussions of Life and writing.  Discussions about self-publication of works now out of print.   How to do it, etc.   And family!  And Life, did I mention that?   I love hanging with Geary.

Sabine was at the wheel on the way home.  When the weather was all done being weather.

 

 


Jan 19 2015

Into the Village for an evening in Night Vale

Rosemary

Yes, I was in the audience for their live show on Friday night.

I couldn’t make a whole day of hanging around in New York, unfortunately — I’ll have to save that for another time.  So I hopped the train that would get me there in time for dinner before the show.

I love the ceiling at Grand Central

I love the ceiling at Grand Central

The show was at the Skirball Performing Arts Center, down in the heart of Greenwich Village (where I used to hang in my folkie days). Whenever I visit the Village, I experience a weird sort of double vision. I see what’s there, and my interest and response is to what is really there — but some of the emotional resonance remains of what was there when I was young, when the Village was new to me.  It’s sort of like looking at a person, and also at their shadow, but the shadow does not match the person. Or like standing between two mirrors, and seeing that infinite replication — but somewhere deep in the repeated reflections, the images no longer match the original.

Not in a spooky way (which it certainly would be if that happened in real life).

In fact, there are a couple of places in the Village that I can recall from the very first time I was there, when I was eighteen, and the sidekick of a girl who knew a comics writer, and we went to a party in an apartment off Washington Square.  If I stand in one of those places, I get a triple resonance (what it meant to me at eighteen; what it meant to me in my twenties and thirties; what it means as I look at it now)  that really is quite interesting, and quite odd.

 

This used to be Gerde's Folk City.

This used to be Gerde’s Folk City.  Now the Fat Black Pussy Cat, which is itself a name of long fame, but not at this location.

 

I wanted to wander the streets, take in the sights, but — damn! It was  eighteen degrees (Fahrenheit, that is; -7.77 for you Celsius users).  Way too cold for perambulating.

The show itself — Ah.  Love Night Vale, love the live shows, love the podcasts, love it all.

I won’t say too much about the content of the show — they’re going to be releasing a recording of it.    But I will say that the script was one called “The Librarian”,  versions of which they’ve performed live in the States several times.

An updated version was also used  in their massive tour of Europe last year.   So, even though live shows of Welcome to Night Vale are staged as radio plays, with people standing and talking into microphones while holding their scripts in their hands, mostly they didn’t need to consult the scripts very often.  They’ve done this show a lot.

The show had everything you could want from an episode of Welcome to Night Vale: the eerie; the amusing; the weird-to-you-but-perfectly-normal to us; the romance (with many a squee! from the fangirls); the charm; and the sudden utterance of a deep truth about reality that you did not notice before but which now cannot be denied…

All that stuff.

But it was also the scariest episode I have ever heard.   Edge-of-the-seat, heart-pounding scary.

And at one point, in the middle of the scariest part, I found myself asking: How is this even possible?

I looked around.

One big room.  850 people.

One man in front.  All alone.

Saying… words.

850 people riveted.  Fascinated — and scared.

How does that work?

Of course, we see this every day, don’t we?   We take in words, we put out words.  And the words scare us, comfort us, enlighten us, take us away from some things, put us directly into the true and beating heart of other things.   We escape, we approach.

We can subtract everything else, put ourselves in dark rooms with nothing but a voice (or eyes moving across a page) — and we blossom universes inside.

I feel like “imagination” is not a strong enough word for this.   Because “imagination” seems to imply making stuff up, an apparently frivolous act. But in order to understand anything, you have to also imagine it.   Replicate it, reflect it, model it internally, matching it to reality, but containing it within yourself.

So… this is an act of creation undertaken by 850 people simultaneously, using the cues, clues, raw material and enacted example provided by the man in front.

Well, that’s the phenomenon; then there’s the skill involved.

Crappy, ham-fisted writing would have made the shared creation impossible.  But Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink are very, very good writers indeed.  Every word uttered on that stage, every concept, every emotion,  was put there by them: all the movement of story, and the orchestration of emotion, set up by them.

And a lousy actor would have destroyed it all.  But Cecil Baldwin was almost impossibly brilliant in his role.  Maybe there are other people who could have delivered those words, and done it well; but it would have been a different story, it wouldn’t have been this story.  I can’t say enough good things about him.  The man is a treasure.

And there was the skill of the audience.  There exist many, many people who cannot do this thing —  this taking in of words and making them real inside.  People of that type, placed in that audience, would experience nothing but, perhaps, perplexity.  But I believe that the audience that night was composed of people with great talent in turning the seen and heard into the experience of Art.

Well.   That’s rather a lot of philosophizing about a live episode of a very popular podcast…

But, see, that’s another thing I love about Welcome to Night Vale; it makes me think about this stuff.   I get not only the pleasure of the episode, but the meta-pleasure of watching something done well.

After the show, I wanted to hang out at a coffee shop and sip coffee contemplatively while writing in my journal.  Unfortunately it was so cold that every human being was driven indoors, and every restaurant and coffee shop was packed with people elbow-to-elbow with no room for even one more person with a pen and some paper.   So I took the subway uptown and caught the train home.


Nov 7 2014

No internet at the office

Rosemary

New office! A lot remains to be done, of course… at the moment the biggest lack is the Internet. I won’t get service until sometime next week.

Of course, I am SO behind on NaNoWriMo… too much of last week was eaten up with signing things, packing things, having burly men move objects from one location to another, and regular Day Job duties. I still get tired, but I’m so much improved. My office being on the third floor with no elevator should help me get a little exercise.

Meanwhile, for a bit of inspiration, BoingBoing has a short post by Welcome to Night Vale’s co-creator Jeffrey Cranor, wherein he reveals the secret to success in the arts.

Must stop now — I’m blogging from the Day Job, which is not exactly forbidden,  but possibly only because it hasn’t occurred to them that anyone might be doing it. They’re rather 20th-century around here…