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Saturday, January 04, 2014

The Cat and Mouse Freakout



When I decided to get a new cat, I wanted to get a kitten so I could make sure I could raise it myself so there would be no bad habits or what not.  She was from an animal shelter and loved to play.  Turns out she was trained to be mouse catcher, and she is a good one.  During the summer she will patrol my yard and track down any mice (or baby rabbits) that invade.  She has had a great deal of success, I have had the charming gift of a mouse carcass deposited on my doorstep several times.  During the winter, I have usually been able to keep my cat occupied in the off-season by using simple objects like a pipe cleaner and a shoelace to amuse my feline.  It's been a few years now since I got Bonny, now a full grown adult.  She still loves to play but now is bored by the normal distractions.  I could tell by the complaining tone of her meows that she wanted something to do.  I felt it was my duty to follow the mission of Confuse A Cat, and do whatever it takes to create a distraction for my bored animal.   So for Christmas I finally gave in and purchased her a cat toy, a realistic looking furry stuffed mouse.

I Am The Claw

I attached the mouse to the end of a shoelace and I dragged it across the floor.  Like the classic Tom & Jerry cartoons, my cat's eyes instantly went wide.  She crouched into attack position, setting her hind legs like an Olympic track runner on a starting block.    As she pounced for the mouse, I yanked it away and she gave chase.   More lethal than I expected, she was able to successfully swipe at the toy with her front claws several times as I dragged it over the carpet, behind my trash, onto my bed, and finally a quick run into my dressing room.   I let her clutch it in her mouth as she dutifully carried her hunting prize back to where I sat next to my computer.  

No Longer A Game

A few minutes later I picked up the mouse toy and checked to see if she was still as entranced with it as before.   She nearly barked once she saw it move again and immediately went back into attack position.   This time she was even more determined to terminate with extreme prejudice.   The fact she was more vocal as she stalked indicated to me that she had elevated to Defcon 2.  Again with lethal precision she swiped multiple times at the fake rodent only to see it scurry away.   Like a running back being denied the endzone over and over, I would finally let go of the string to let her claim her kill.   I was both tickled silly at my cat's behaviour and terribly sympathetic.   Here was an all-pro mouse killer used to downing her quarry by one mighty swish of her trusty claws.    Yet this mouse rose again and survived!  The tone of her voice and her unusual behaviour lead me to believe that my cat was freaking out over this Zombie Mouse that continued to rise from the dead.  It was particularly bewildering to my cat when the mouse displayed characteristics she had never encountered before, able to make huge leaps on to furniture and possess super-strength ability to free itself from her superior weapons. 

My Cute Pet Declares War

After a few more times of pulling the toy around and then letting her grab the mouse and declare victory.  I put the toy away, a little concerned that my cat was losing self-esteem, long accustomed to being the ruler of the back-yard jungle.   This seemed to upset the cat even more.  The absence of the mouse only made her switch to hunter/prowler mode.   I observed what now seemed like some unintentional animal behaviour experiment as I witnessed Bonny methodically return to the trash, the bed, and into the dressing room again, peeking under the furniture, looking for targets.   My god, I thought, what have I done?   I triggered the part of her brain that turns my cat into a autonomous killing machine.  She will not stop until all mice are eradicated.  The poor kitty had one job, to keep the house clear of varmints, and now she lost her touch.  Am I going to have to put her in Cat Therapy now? 

"Yes dear, no, really you are an expert mouser, it was just a game, ok?  It wasn't real"
  
The Kitty Matrix

It now has been over a week that the mouse has permanently been a part of my cat's world.  She now appears to have slowly accepted that as much as she uses her hunting instincts, repeatedly swiping and biting, this particular mouse is a demon that continually rises from the dead.   I will make a point once summer returns to rehabilitate my defeated feline and assure her that the cyber-mouse was only a simulation and that real mice can't leap 4 feet into the air and are not immortal.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

It Took Five Years

In The Beginning
When I began this blog, I wanted to use it as an outlet for observations that hopefully others may find useful.  Meanwhile Facebook 'took over'.  However, Facebook is meant for a few sentences (and Twitter for a few sound bytes), whereas a separate blogsite is it's own entity.  Previously, all my writings were merely word documents that I typed and saved privately.  Before that, I wrote by hand in a notebook, dating back to high school.  I still have all those notebooks.  Many of them included poetry that were used for my music lyrics.  When I have the time, I will begin to organise and post some passages from the past.  It has been over a year since I last posted on this blog.  The frequencies of posts dwindled as I was less inspired to compose deeper trains of thought in a thorough enough matter to legitimise posting to the world.   When I got laid off near the beginning of 2007, I used this blog to organise my life and find perspective as the the economy collapse loomed.  I also used it as a way to publicly declare my determination to see the drought through.  I would have never imagined how long that drought would be. 

My Kid Could Do That
When I have spent time unemployed in the past, it wasn't a bad thing.  I always had something to live off in my savings while looking for new work.  I didn't stress it.  Being a freelancer, there usually is no such thing as a steady job.  Not everybody can live with the idea hanging over your head that you could be a few paychecks from being broke.   I figured that within a year I would land at another creative firm.  What I failed to realise was that as the popularity of YouTube lowered the level of acceptable production values, along with shrinking budgets, reduced the need for freelance video editors.  I tried to get involved with a TV production, even reality TV shows need real editors, but I had only done comedy television, not good demo reel material.  


Ken 2.1:  Reinventing Myself (Version 2)
The future was YouTube and everything else web.  Any company that has a website can have their own video channel.  I obtained a degree in Web Design and Interactive Media.  I wanted to find my niche, the intersection of video production and web design.   I found Motion Graphics.  Really it is animation, mainly having fun with words.  Words jump, spin, zoom, to become eye candy.   A good website is going to want to have movement, so the that it seems active.  Whether it is the interactivity when your mouse hovers over a button or a word, or an automated slideshow showing off your wares.  


Fear of Graduation
Beginning in 2010, I was released out into the working environment after a portfolio show and some meetings with a placement advisor.  I knew the economy was still dire, but I had good credentials, just no experience in Web Design yet.  Having no savings left, it was down to a few bread crumbles of freelance jobs that helped me pay the mortgage and buy food, but little else.   Undaunted, I continued to post my unwavering conviction that my niche would be found, and I would be a perfect fit somewhere, sometime.  


The Epic Extended Director's Cut
As I look over my Blog posts over the last five years, this has been the longest dry spell for work, and it started to take it's toll near the end.  The latest contract Web Design jobs I have taken in the last year,  will be enough to declare the drought over,  but it is hard for me to completely adjust to it right away.  An analogy would be an engaged couple where the girlfriend goes overseas for a year to teach English, and assure each other that when she returns the engagement will carry on as planned.  Only she stays an extra year, and another 9 months after that.  Once they are finally back together, the long separation of time still has created residual damage.  After 2 & 1/2 years of job searching, I am a little shelled out from living so long with so little.  Another analogy is that if a film were made of my life, this period would be depict me battling the very essentials to remain an independently living grown adult.  From disintegrating cars, frostbitten bus stops, computer disasters, and a depressing descent into poverty.  The scenes of endless depression would go two more extra reels than one would anticipate.  It was that bad.

Even so, I still am surviving with a 22 year old car that is falling apart, and several debt collectors hounding me.  Things will start to feel normal in a few months, but I really can't say that I will ever get over one of the worst periods of my life.   It took five years to finally find a regular job and start to feel like I can be myself again.  My track record has taken a huge hit with this overlong period of inactivity.  But at least I can finally say that I can put this life-changing chapter to rest.  






  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The 10s Decade

What Do We Call the Last Decade? The "Ohs"?

It used to be that at the end of the decade there would be a cavalcade of TV specials and "Best of" the decade discussions. But there seems to be a new kind of troubling distraction. Just 20 years or so ago news of massive disasters - floods, tornados, record temperatures, would dominate discussions over the frequency of these events. But today it just is accepted as commonplace. The tornado in North Minneapolis is the worst to hit the metropolitan area in decades. Yet it is just another day with just another disaster. When the tornados of 1965 hit, it was unprecedented. It would be 20 years until the 1981 tornado tore across Minneapolis. Now in the last decade or so, tornados are becoming commonplace. The rise in natural disasters in the last decade are breaking records all over the place. If you have been living in Minnesota as long as I have, you cannot deny the strange weather that has become commonplace year after year. Snowless winters followed by nearly record snow. The unusually cold spring and summer this year compared to record heat (July 2005 & 2006 had 15 days over 90 degrees). The news is no longer dominated for any appreciable period of time over one specific disaster because another disaster of equal or greater magnitude replaces it.

When It Hits the Fan

Worse are the economic disasters. Economies are in crisis in many countries around the globe. Lack of financial discipline has reared it's ugly head and many gargantuan upheavals have occurred in the last few years to the tune of millions of jobs lost and trillions of dollars squandered. When weather or other natural disasters hit the country at the same time, then it can't afford to take care of it's own. As we enter the next decade, nobody seems to be celebrating the last one. Nobody is cheerfully making rosy predictions for the future. Nobody seems to want to say this but it seems like we all acknowledge impending hardship for many years to come. With civil services being forced to cut back, the feeling of security that our society can sustain the current level of fulfillment has been steadily declining. In other words, trust in the social compact is starting to erode.

My Backup Plan Needs a Backup Plan

For me, the unprecedented events of the last decade have nearly wiped out my steady career arc. Beginning in 2007 when I was laid off from my last full time job. My freelance work has all but evaporated where it was on a steady increase previously. I had a well established track record for making ends meet and bouncing into another working situation that would always be an improvement over the last job. Over the last year and a half since I graduated, I have been astounded over the difficulty in finding any kind of work with my new skills. Many factors are to blame (the recent economic collapse the primary one). Perhaps the demand for Web Design work is not as strong compared to surge of graduates with Web Design degrees. Although I finally have experienced a very small uptick in freelance work this last month (this is peak season), I have had to go to a Plan C in order to find any income whatsoever. I maintain a sense of pride in my willingness to do what it takes to keep my house and basically exist. I know I have hardships to face, my school loans are overdue and they won't just disappear.

The Time of Reckoning Has Come

When I have times of uncertainly like this, I seek some kind of assurance that things will work out. Or at the very least, that my plight is common and hardships I face are being faced by others as well. My own challenge is to make my new degree meaningful and justify the expense - truly a gamble that I saw as an investment on my future - and land a job that supports my track record. For good or bad, I can reflect on my accomplishments as evidence I have had a good life so far. This could be bad for me, for looking back instead of forward can stall my progress. Yet using my accomplishments to advance my opportunities is ideal. For me, it all comes down to attitude and discipline. When I didn't have the ability to pay my mortgage, I immediately sought a part-time job to stabilise things. Although it was somewhat an affront to me in terms of lifestyle, I never was late and was never sick for the 4 months I spent getting up at 5:15am daily for work. It reminded of the daily parking lot job I had for years when I was in college. I saw it as a means to an end, and it gave me the ability to support my self while I pursued larger ambitions.

The First Step is to Admit You are Normal

Those ambitions have not subsided. Depression will hit me sometimes as I see others having greater success by my age. But I realise that I made a conscious choice to put my art over income. I embrace the notion of the starving artist. I refuse to allow my financial conundrums to interfere with my ambitions. One thing that is a blessing as I struggle financially, is that I get a chance to find out how strong of a relationship I have with my good friends. The only thing I can do to respond to their hospitality is to volunteer myself in any capacity I can. One thing I am glad I am not, is stingy with my resources. I have strengths that benefit my friends and the community, and my contributions will hopefully correspond with a equal compensation. I have dedicated this summer to securing another full time position. I have a sense that opportunities will improve and some financial counseling will help get my plans for success back on track.

Everyone has a Handicap

I do not view the next decade as a disaster. I think the ideas of apocalypse are products of our imagination that make good summer films, but we as a global community cannot go backwards in our evolution. We have to acknowledge everyone and help everyone. I help others by providing assistance for disabilities. Something that not only benefits society, but fits within my own standards of validity. These are kind of deep statements, but I have found over the last few months that it has been unavoidable to face the price tag of living the life I do. It has caused a breakdown of my foundation of my world view. Being in my mid-40s, as blogged about for the last couple years, is known as a mid-life crisis. This financial depression has never been as bad for me and it has been another strike against me when it appears my calculated solution to solving it has not materialised. I have no choice but to double my efforts and dedicate the next decade to doing whatever it takes find that solid foundation again.

"The Me Decade", "The Us Decade", now: "The Them Decade"

I don't mind that my times of weakness are documented. One way for me to get out this funk is peer out of the shell and speak my mind to the world. Perhaps others can relate. To find a common thread is the basis of this blog. I encourage others to dissipate their depression by expressing themselves openly. Keeping it inside you does not make it better. When I was trying to 'find myself' back at the parking lot job, I kept a journal of my thoughts to accomplish the same thing I am doing now. The kicker is, that was 1989, and that year was a start of a decade of great creativity and personal accomplishment. There is no reason not to expect the same thing for this decade as well. I have had many periods of high tide/low tide in terms of finding this fulfillment. I sense even now that the tide is finally turning back up for me. My band Scary Numan, although not having any monetary rewards, has helped fulfill things artistically, and I feel will be a launching point for greater things.

Hopefully much more to come.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

What is Your Quest?

Backseat Dreamer
One thing I used to do to pass the time as a child riding in the back seat of my parent's car, was to wonder how come adults acted so differently than me as a child. I had insanely deep thoughts about what appeared to be drawbacks that came with the benefits of adulthood. Con: You have to work instead of spending all day in the empty lot playing kickball. Pro: You get to drive a car. It became my quest that I keep track of the process in which I willingly give up that ratio of work over play. If one is smart, it is the sense of reality when you reach post-college age, that you aren't living your lifelong dream as a rock star (or whatever), and have to "get serious" about earning a living.

Welcome to your Mid-Life Crisis
So now past my halfway point, I have to accept that I am that adult. I recently read an article about how people who enter middle age typically go through a depression. Behold the mid-life crisis. I can see this as just another chapter of the eternal struggle between the adult and the child, where the adult loses it's grip as it becomes burned out when it's work/play ratio becomes too one-sided. If you have tracked my sporadic blog entries, you will know that I consider my life an experiment, and put trust in my ability to generate a way of life with the philosophy that if your work is considered play, then you have struck that perfect adult/child balance. Good luck.

Living in the Limelight, the Universal Dream
I went to see the band Rush recently for the first time in my life. Here are a couple of eager showoffs who didn't finish high school, because they already knew what they wanted to do for a living. Totally crazy. Needless to say, there is more than talent and perseverance that gets you to superstardom, there is only room for a lucky few who get the right opportunity at the right time. But I am finding in my own career arc that it is not too late, my dream of having a band together again took nearly two decades.

This is Where Things Start to get Interesting
It is an interesting observation to note that I am finally on the flipside of that adult/child coin. But I can look back to myself sitting in the back of the Buick station wagon, and let that kid know that I haven't forgotten about him.

Jessie's Grrrrl


Here is a little snippet from "Scary Numan"'s first appearance at the Fine Line Music Club in Mpls. Additional post-production visual effects done by Industrial Cut and Paste.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Pledge to End Email Snark

I made an observation about road rage back when it was the big thing, that when you have armour surrounding you in the shape of a car, you feel invincible. People who normally wouldn't risk their lives, try to get back at someone who cut them off. It's easy to see why, you are in a projectile that speeds along with just a tap of your foot. But more importantly, you can lock your doors and roll up your windows, creating a shield between you and others. You have a combination of a weapon at your disposal and armour to protect you from any consequences. This releases the anger you possess and hulks you up as you unleash your blind rage, subduing the normally civilised self.

Pulling the Trigger when Hitting Send

Such seems to be the case with email snark. I first witnessed it at a computer programming job I had in the late 90's. Our group started talking less, and venting via email. I once received a long rant from my manager talking about how hard it is to be a manager in very frank language. Yet in person he was all smiles and chipper talk. Email has the same safety shield as a car, that gives your anger permission to channel it's energy without having to be face-to-face with the person you are attacking. It is no wonder in this social networking age that people don't comprehend the impact of making threats or trashing on another person online. Schools have expelled students, inflammatory email can even make the news, just like road rage. Thankfully actual physical harm rarely occurs, as you could in a speeding car.

Separate the Drama from the Problem

Spreading hate is nonproductive in our diverse world. We are all under stress because of these troubled times. We have anger, and needs to be vented. I personally exercise as way to vent most my rage. However, honesty and communication are something that I foster, so I still make my concerns clear to another person. But it is best to pick up the phone at the very least, or at best meet them in person, so an exchange can take place without weapons and shields.

Join the Snark Patrol

So I make the pledge to be a better communicator. To start with, no more email snark. A childish jab at a colleague can come back to bite you. And it only compels the other party to start trashing on you. Challenge yourself to bite your tongue (or your thumbs) and find a level-headed statement or inquiry to encourage the other person to engage in a conversation. If the other guy begins to snark on you, you can take pride that you have stayed on the high ground. When you take such a stand for staying civil in your discourse, you can easily be given more credibility on your side of things.

Monday, December 14, 2009

James Cameron and Me

This is it

It is almost exactly three years since I was laid off from my last full time job. I have now completed my Web design degree and have reinvented myself for the new age. I am confident about my situation and the economy is scheduled for a comeback next year. In parallel, James Cameron has reinvented moviemaking and bet the last few years as well that his actions will be successful. The best outlook to give myself is that I slowly build up steady work to start my road to recovery.

I feel more melancholy than usual today about going for broke. One thing you accept when you take financial chances is that it may cause hardship. I also hear this story time and time again in the filmmaking business. The sadness comes from the overly familiar stuck-in-a-rut situation that has always been part of the story of my life. It always works out, but it is a lonely road when you blaze your own trail.

As I struggled through my final project to make graduation, I was finally able to convince my overwhelmed brain that I was making a mountain out of a molehill. It was just necessary to escape from the hundreds of steps that it took to get everything functioning properly. Here is a secret about coding for the web, it is chaos. The rules are probably going to improve about HTML and javascript, the prevalent languages in use. But for now, there are incongruent commands and recognised keywords that are being forced to act together whether they like it or not.

This chaos has been compounded with further chaos in my business and personal life. I finally had to put my G5 to pasture last week, after continuing to fail to boot properly and jeopardising my business. It got to the point that the simple act of booting my G5 up would cause my blood to drain. I guess I am getting what others call the holiday blues, where the memories of better times collide with current reality. I'm also melancholy because my friend Cheryl did not enjoy her birthday, something that is rare for her.

I remember my first reaction when I was laid-off before Christmas in 2006, I saw it as an opportunity to jump into my desired career, chronicled in this blog. I think James Cameron today is like an expectant father, his baby "Avatar" will be screened for the press, and by this time next week it will be known if years of venturing into unknown territory will payoff or not. I am similarly wrapped up on Ken 2.0, and also unsure of what the world will think of my efforts.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Overkeel

A favourite with our band, this arrangement of "Overkill" dates back to about 2005, inspired after hearing some better 're-imaginings' of songs from the 80's being played on the the Current. Video is from David Lynch's haunting masterpiece "Eraserhead".