Tuesday, 10 December 2013

2013 Wrap Up

I can't believe it's the end of the year again already! This has been a very quick year, full of highs and lows. But I must say, the highs have certainly outweighed the lows. Here's my year in review:

My puppeteer business has been running for one year now. Sometimes I have a few bookings in a week, while other times, the gigs are a little more spread out. I'm not rolling in the cash yet, but it's been great to finally earn money doing something I'm passionate about that I enjoy doing - Something I never experienced in any of the jobs I've had over the years. 

This year I've gradually built up my collection of business expenses - Uniforms, a car magnet, a huge banner for the front of my puppet stage... Oh, and Troggg - the big blue monster puppet which I had built to my specifications by an ex-Henson Muppet builder in the US. 

As well as the many back yard birthday parties I've done for kids, I also appeared on TV twice with Troggg, had him perform a nightclub duet, had him MC at a film festival, perform at the RNA Showgrounds for the Brisbane Zombie Walk, and appear at all kinds of events that weren't kids' puppet shows. He even got to star in a short film called "Heart of a Thousand Souls", with lines of dialogue and everything! At the time of writing this, the film is still in post production. 

I auditioned for "Australia's Got Talent" this year. A stand-up comedy act for Troggg. Sadly Troggg arrived in the country one week AFTER my audition. So I had to use a different puppet for it. Not the same. And I wasn't called back to do the show. I think I'll try again next year. 

Much like my main role in "Avenue Q" last year, I was a 'puppetry consultant' again for a QUT film project called, "Cluck - The Web Series". I'm very much looking forward to seeing the final product. 

The "Avenue Q" awesomeness from last year carried over into this year, when I attended the 2013 ACT-Up Awards. Our 2012 production of Avenue Q won 'Best Publicity', and we won runner up for 'Best Set Design' and 'Best Programme'. 

I auditioned for a production of "Little Shop of Horrors" this year, and then did the puppeteer workshop for the show. I didn't end up performing in it, which opened up my schedule for plenty of other puppet gigs through my business. I attended one of the Little Shop performances and it was great! 

A small film crew recently started filming footage for a documentary about me too, which is nice. 

Impro / Improv / Improvisational Theatre:
Impro has been a big part of my year. I first started playing impro keyboard with ImproMafia around Easter time in 2011. 

This year, in addition to my weekly shows with ImproMafia, I also got to play during the heats of "Youth Theatresports" (a competition between different high schools). 

I also started doing quite a bit of work with Edge Improv. From a detective/noir-themed show called "Hard Boiled Dick" at the Brisbane Fringe Comedy Festival, to several "Gorilla Theatre" shows. It's been fun! I'm always learning new things, and I feel my playing has improved a lot since I started. I still have a long way to go, though. But all the extra practice this year has been good. 

Molkie Awards:
Winning a Molkie Award (like a fun, local version of the Logies) was a bit of fun earlier this year. My ex Jen and I each won a trophy for appearing on the nationally televised "2012 Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala". For just sitting in the audience and laughing while comedian Sam Simmons climbs off stage and sits on Jen's lap. 

An old friend and band mate from my days in the ska/swing band moved into my place in August. Living alone had its charms, but it's been great to have someone around to bounce ideas off and share funny stories with. I think it's very lucky that she was needing a place to live in Brisbane at that time, because the financial struggle was really starting to drag me under. Hooray for splitting rent and bills between two people! 

I posted in January about focussing on my own life and trying to forget about the idea of finding happiness with someone else. So I've been keeping busy running my business and looking after number one. Occasionally a bit of that loneliness would creep up on me, though. So I thought I'd sign up with a couple of those online dating sites. I had a few dates here and there throughout the year. Most of the people I met were actually a bit scary and borderline psychotic, sadly. I went out with one girl from a dating site for about three weeks, and she seemed nice enough. But that all fizzled out pretty quickly. I've been in a much better place recently, though. I deleted my dating profiles, realising that all of the most meaningful relationships I've had have been with people I've met in person first. 

I'm happy to say that for the last week and a half, I've started seeing a very lovely girl whom I've actually known for about seven years! We've known each other only very casually for all this time. But right now, we're enjoying the time getting to know each other better. It's so nice to spend time with someone so positive and easy going. Someone so passionate about her interests in the same way that I am about mine. And it's comforting to know that she's seen all of my highs and lows over the last seven years, and is completely understanding and accepting of these things. 

To conclude: 
When everything went horribly wrong towards the end of last year, I chose to turn it all around into a positive and throw everything I had into starting my own business. I like to end my years on a high, and it looks like this year's ending on a huge high as well. 

I've met heaps of new friends this year through my various puppeteer adventures, impro gigs, and film and TV involvement. 

And 2014 is looking very exciting! My business can only get bigger from here. I already have some bookings, including a couple in the outback towns of Injune and Roma (all flights and accommodation included)! 

And I'm waiting to hear back about an exciting puppet project for the 2014 "Anywhere Theatre Festival" as well. 

Perhaps Troggg will make it onto "Australia's Got Talent" this time around! The possibilities are endless. 

Thursday, 31 October 2013

What kind of geek am I?

Geeks come in many shapes and sizes. People often think that if a person likes one sci-fi show, they must love ALL of them. And if you're a practitioner or fan of animation, you must be into computers. There also seems to be this assumption that if you're a geek, you must automatically be a gamer. This is certainly not the case for me.

I'm a complicated geek. My geekiness is really hard to pigeonhole, and could be considered quite frustrating to other geeky types. 

- I'm a huge fan of Doctor Who - but only from 2005 to present. I HATED the 60s/70s/80s ones. That would be considered blasphemous to most Who fans. 

- I love Star Trek - But only the original 60s series, The Next Generation, and I kinda liked Voyager a bit. Couldn't stand Deep Space Nine or the other one. 

- I hate Star Wars. Plain and simple. Wasn't ever impressed. The only thing I *respected* about Star Wars was Muppet performer Frank Oz, and his Yoda puppet (built by the Jim Henson Company). The puppet was replaced with CGI in the newer prequels, so the only thing I liked about Star Wars was non-existent in those films. 

- I love Batman in ALL of his film, TV and animated forms... But I don't care much for the comics. I have a few comics, but I'm not a crazed collector. I prefer the screen versions. 

- I'm a very casual Superman fan. I hate "Smallville" with a passion, and didn't care much for the Christopher Reeve movies. But I love the Warner Bros. animated series/movies, and I enjoyed the "Louis & Clark" TV series. 

- I pretty much hate all Marvel superheroes EXCEPT Spiderman, only because he's so much like a DC one. 

- I'm not one of those anime fans who loves Akira and Wicked City, nor am I a Pokemon fan. However, I am OBSESSED with Studio Ghibli - especially (and almost exclusively) the films of Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, Totoro, etc). 

- Can't stand video games/computer games, board games, roleplaying. I feel like a stupid idiot whenever I participate in any of these. And a laughing stock to everyone else in the room. 

- I'm a cartoonist, animator, and a fan of hand drawn animation - Family Guy, SpongeBob, Ren & Stimpy, classic Looney Tunes... I'm not a fan of computer animation (though Pixar do some decent stuff, mainly because their writing is good). I don't like computers at all. People always think I must be some kind of I.T. computer tech whiz because I like/practice animation... But no! I draw! And I like watching drawings!

- And then there's Jim Henson - The Muppets, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, etc. Huge huge Henson/Muppet geek. But that's not to say I'm a fan of ALL puppetry... Marionettes and ventriloquism don't interest me, even though everybody says to me, "You must REALLY love Jeff Dunham and David Strassman!" They're ok. But I won't go out of my way to see them.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

What I’m: Reading- Listening to- Wanting- Doing

The lyrics to "Mr. Cellophane" from the musical, "Chicago". I've decided to choose this as my audition piece for my upcoming "Little Shop of Horrors" audition. While I'm auditioning for the role of "Plant Puppeteer" (Audrey II), I still need to learn a song from musical theatre's repertoire (not from LSOH), and sing it in my own voice, without a puppet. So I'm happy to jump through whatever hoops that I'm required to if it means adding Little Shop of Horrors to my puppeteer resume. 

Listening to: 
"Tomorrow's Harvest" - The new album by Boards of Canada, the Scottish ambient/electronic music duo. My favourite track on the album is, "New Seeds". 

- More gigs with my business, "Larrikin Puppets". I'm starting to get some. I've done a lot of unpaid promo appearances, and a couple of TV appearances, which must slowly be getting my name out there.
- The puppeteer role in "Little Shop of Horrors".  
- For my band Headkase to be short listed for the ABC's "Exhumed" competition I entered us into. It's for bands with members aged 30+ who did the hard yards in their hey day, but never quite managed to find financial or commercial success.  

Helping as "puppetry consultant" and assistant puppeteer (for AJ the Rooster) on the set of "Cluck - The Web Series", which is a film project by students at QUT. Shooting is now over, and they're currently working on post production, so we can expect to see this three-part series on YouTube in a couple of months. I've been performing puppet shows for kids' birthday parties, as well as a volunteer show for the sick kids at the Royal Children's Hospital. Troggg also sung a duet with a local burlesque performer Genevieve James. I've appeared on two TV shows with Troggg - "The Late Nite Show" and "Showreel". Highlights from Troggg's appearance on The Late Nite Show are on YouTube. The Showreel episode was taped on Monday and will air this Saturday at 2:30pm on 31 Digital (Channel 44). Tonight I'm going to a meeting about an upcoming film festival event, which Troggg will be hosting. My first puppet-MC gig.

 Anything Else?:
- The girl who gave me the contact details for the Children's Hospital gig is a volunteer there. After I performed the show, she started making my life very difficult, asking me to pay her for helping to set that up. I can't afford to pay a volunteer for a volunteer show I donated my time to perform and paid my way to get to. When I refused to pay cash, she said that I must be her boyfriend and pay her in 'other ways.' When I refused to run my business in this way, the constant missed calls, voice mails, text messages and Facebook inbox messages began (I soon blocked her from FB). After about two weeks of solid harassment (acting like a psycho ex-girlfriend whom I hardly knew), she finally said that she's told the hospital I'm no good with kids, and that my shows are a complete bore. So if you start to see some defamatory ramblings about what a terrible puppeteer I am, she's the one trying to ruin everything for me. 

- My lorrikeet Buster was under the weather for a few days, limping, refusing to eat, unable to make a sound, laying down on the bottom of his cage all exhausted and weak. So that got me worried. But I gave him a lot of tender loving care, and spoke with my vet friend about it. He soon got back on his feet again and started playing with his toys and talking again.

- I was unfriended by a few friends I quite admired and respected, which came as a bit of a blow at a time when I was experiencing all this psycho harassment and bird drama. 

- I have a housemate moving in next month, which will be great because I'll be able to split my rent and bills in half and be able to start saving again, instead of living below the poverty line and just barely being able to scrape by. This is an old trusted friend. The girl who used to play saxophone in my ska/swing band. 

Overall, things are ok. I just need to focus on my business and try to keep out of trouble. Relationships are out of the question at the moment. And I need to be very careful who I swap contact details with. You never know who's out to scam you or turn your life into a living hell. It's been quite a stressful time, while also a very busy time. 

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Currently #2

What I’m: Reading- Listening to- Wanting- Doing

"Your Keys to Driving in Queensland". Next week, I will be going for my fourth attempt at that damned Learner Driver written test. 

Every time I go for the test, I have to pay $24 or so, fill out a huge form, present several proof of ID documents, get a photo taken, and then sit for the test. After they've marked the test, they tell me I got one or two incorrect answers more than allowed to pass the test. So they give me a new form, delete all my details and photo from the computer system, and ask me to come in again another day with more money. It's been a couple of months since my last visit, because I haven't had the spare cash.

Listening to: 
I've really been getting into a bizarre, experimental jazz orchestra called "Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra" lately. They have an album called "Bum Bum" from 2012. The tracks "Saturn Hoola Hoop" and "Rainbow Warrior" stand out for me. Lots of flutes and recorders and things. Crazy stuff!

More gigs with "Larrikin Puppets" - my business! To hear back from "Australia's Got Talent" about a puppet standup comedy act I presented to producers at the recent Brisbane audition! They still haven't contacted all successful auditionees. I hope I get in! That big blue professional monster puppet has finally arrived from the US! After six months of waiting! His name is Troggg - with three Gs. The middle G is silent. Look at him! My design, built in the professional MUPPET style by an ex-Henson puppet builder! :D

I've been going nuts marketing Troggg and Larrikin Puppets everywhere! I launched my new website (http://www.larrikinpuppets.com.au), got some proper photos taken, made a few Troggg videos, I've taken him to ImproMafia (the impro/theatresports group I play music for), handed out hundreds of business cards, been getting my site onto all the free search and business listings, and I'm working on posters and flyers to be printed next week (when I have cash). Troggg even has his own Twitter account! 

I've done one puppet show under this business so far, which lead to some great feedback (a father texted me to say that his daughter is now obsessed with Troggg), and two more show bookings coming up!  So a show in May, a show in June and one in July so far. Let's try and increase that to a show a fortnight. Then weekly!

Troggg will also be appearing on Channel 31's "The Late Nite Show with Scott Black" on Thursday June 20 at 9pm. The channel can actually now only be found on Digital Channel 44. So yeah - Tune into 44 to watch 31. Troggg might just get me some more business! And of course, my audition for "Australia's Got Talent" - Result pending. TV exposure = Good!

I've also been busy playing the improvised music for "Youth Theatresports". Basically, I'm doing what I do with ImproMafia, but for competing high school teams in an annual competition. At a different school each night. It's fun!

 Anything Else?:
After many months of being separated, I decided to try dating again. So for three weeks, I dated a lovely red haired girl. I'm a huge fan of gingers! My first crush at age seven was a little red haired girl. So anyway, the most recent girl and I remain friends, but we stopped dating. We both realised that we're not as ready for it as we originally thought. Plus I'm super poor and can't afford it. And I felt bad that she was always helping me out and chipping in for meals and drinks if I was short. And as much as I appreciate people shouting me things, or covering for me, I don't feel all that comfortable with it. But hey - we had a lovely three weeks. Saw some theatre, saw some live comedy, watched a few movies on DVD, listened to lots of music. It was a fun time. 

But now I know for sure that I can handle being single. I don't *need* anyone else. And I'm fine with that for now. I don't feel lonely at all anymore! 

I have plenty of work to do towards getting my business out there, so I can start earning regular money before the end of the year! Because that's when my NEIS program ends, and I certainly don't want to go back to working in retail or call centres or cleaning. No way! That's not me! I have to be puppeteering! Performing! Entertaining! Creating! It's the only way I'll be happy, and the only thing I want to make money doing. I've had quite enough of miserable, back breaking, dead end jobs just to pay the bills. I'm trying to show the world my REAL skills and talents!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Currently #1

What I’m: Reading- Listening to- Wanting- Doing

I really should read more. I read a lot of non-fiction, reference books, self help and feel good inspirational stuff. I could use as much of that as possible. It's lame, but I guess the most recent book I've read is my copy of "The Little Book of Hugs - The Complete Collection" by Kathleen Keating. Drawings by Mimi Noland. Yes, there are illustrations. So what?

Listening to: 
Umlaut - Atlas Face (featuring Mike Patton)
Fiona Apple - Dull Tool
Jon Brion - ParaNorman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

The big blue monster puppet I designed, and then ordered in October (2012) from an American based puppet maker. I based my entire new puppet show business on this character - My scripts, my logo, business cards, uniform, and even an act for "Australia's Got Talent" which I've registered to audition for next month. The wait has completely set me back. 

I'm also wanting to finally pass my learner driver written test. I've gone for the test three times and failed. Paid twenty odd dollars for it each time. Even after extensive study and revision. My brother spent half a day with me going through the online practice tests aloud before my third try. Talking it all through and revising until I was at a point where it looked like I was bound to pass. Still failed. Very frustrating.

Working on a Plan B for my puppet business. I have a few smaller, cheaper puppets which were not designed by me, but they'll have to do. I mean, I was going to use them anyway. But the lead character was going to be my own creation. He was the one who I was going to take out to do my marketing. He's the one that would've really helped launch my business with a bang! But instead, I have to just launch it quietly and do the best I can with what I've got. I'm extremely frustrated and disappointed about the whole thing. And I don't feel comfortable charging money for second best. If I don't have this puppet by the "Australia's Got Talent" audition, I'm going to have to cancel it. Because there was a puppeteer on last year who has the exact same puppets I have, and I don't want to go in with what looks like a copycat act. That would be a waste of everyone's time. I had something unique.

Still studying to drive. I really want to start my lessons, but can't until I've passed this damn written test. My biggest regret in life was not doing this when I was 16 or 17. But I can't change the past. Only the future. And that's all I've been doing this year so far. Trying to get back up again after losing everything during the second half of last year. I had extremely high expectations for this new year, and it has been such a disappointingly slow start.

 To Conclude:
By March I had hoped to be well and truly established in my business - performing puppet shows every weekend for kids, and doing open mic comedy nights with my main puppet. 

I had also hoped to be well and truly onto about my 15th-20th driving lesson by now, after passing the written test with flying colours. But no. It's March, and I have achieved absolutely nothing. I've worked very hard to get my life back on track, but I'm still stuck in Square One. 

No, I haven't given up. But geez, it's exhausting. And everyone keeps saying, "Don't give up" and "Only you can make a difference", and "Be the change you want in life"... Yes, yes... I know all that! I'm following all of that advice! It's just not getting me anywhere. But I'm continuing to do all I can to get back on track before the middle of the year. 

I only have one crack at this business thing, because I only have a mentor as part of this NEIS program for one year. After that, payments end and I'm on my own. And I really don't want to have to go back to work in retail or as a janitor or any of the other unpleasant jobs I've had to do just to make money. This is supposed to be my chance to become my own boss and do my dream job.

I really hope things pick up so I can write a drastically different and positive post next time I update this.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Just Say No - To the Love Drug

Jen and I recently decided to end our marriage due to the fact that we just weren't clicking anymore as a couple. We'd become two very different people. And we were more like housemates than a married couple.

We are still friends. I can't NOT be her friend. I can't not be anybody's friend. I very rarely end friendships.

But I must say, it's quite hard to come out of a six year relationship with the one person who you thought was your soul mate.

Since I've been living alone, not just within my empty shell of what was once our happy home, but within my own head, I have at times become quite depressed.

I promised myself to become more independent, and learn to love myself rather than rely on others for love. And one way of ensuring my own happiness and success is by putting my heart and soul into the new puppeteer business that I have just recently set up.

This overnight transition between 2012 and 2013 in the world of social media has been a bit difficult for me to deal with today. I am very happy for all of my wonderful friends who, just over the last 24 hours, have either declared that they are now in new relationships, have become engaged, or have simply reminded the world that they are very much in love with their partners.

I of course extend my sincerest congratulations to my friends for finding and embracing love. They deserve to be happy, and to be loved. Everybody does. And it couldn't happen to nicer people. But at the same time, I have these awful and selfish feelings of jealousy and bitterness which I'm trying to keep locked away in a box with a chain around it.

I'm really trying to stay positive and focus on my own happiness and independence here. And not on the fact that love turned its back on me again. And now it's mocking me by surrounding me with happy loving couples enjoying what I once had.

People give up drugs and alcohol, because they often become addicted to them, and experience a most unpleasant come down effect.

Love is like a drug. It makes you so incredibly happy. But when it goes away, the come down is extremely painful.

I had plenty of short term relationships before I got married. All of those break ups hurt too. But those relationships were all between three and nine months long. But nothing cuts deeper than the end of a six year relationship, which included a beautiful wedding day shared with all of our closest friends and family.

Much like those who give up on drugs and alcohol, I feel that I need to give up on love. It's addictive, and then painful when it leaves your system. I have given love so many chances, and it keeps on building me up just to knock me down. And by surrounding me with the love enjoyed by the people I care about is like kicking me while I'm down.

You might be thinking, "If Facebook and Twitter updates on love are what's causing you pain, then give up on those instead". But those aren't to blame. That's like saying, "Give up on your friends. Give up on leaving the house to go and see them".

No, it's not the fault of my friends for sharing and declaring their love of each other to the world. They have a right to do so. And it's not the fault of Facebook and Twitter for allowing them a platform in which to do so. Should social media sites suddenly become obsolete, love would still find a way. It's so strong that people would still be able to share and declare their love by any means necessary, as people have always done. 

As you can see, my real enemy here is love itself. Love is what I need to give up on. Not the love of my personal interests and passions. My love of music, for example, has never failed me. It never lets me down.

But the notion of falling in love with another person. As exciting as falling in love is, I feel that I've experienced that excitement enough to realise that if you play with fire, you're going to get burned. That kind of love has ended in heartbreak time and time again. And when a dedicated marriage commitment can't even survive, where I have made a vow to hold onto that love for as long as I shall live, what hope is there of ever being able to love someone again?

It will be hard to turn my back on any attention I might receive, or crushes I may find myself having on anyone. But I feel like I must remember that no matter how interested a girl might seem in me at first, or how hard I work on pursuing someone I fancy, the end result of pain and heartbreak is inevitable. And I'm done with hurting like this. Especially since this kind of hurt was never supposed to return.

No, not "baby" anymore. If I need you I'll just use your simple name. Only kisses on the cheek from now on, and in a little while we'll only have to wave.
Love Ridden - Fiona Apple