The Elevator Play

21 11 2010

The other day, I’m not sure which other day, I was reading about formulaic story plots. One of the most commonly used is the Elevator Play, especially in theater. This isn’t like the Elevator Pitch, which is given in an actual elevator in order to elevate one’s status, but rather a theoretical construct in which the characters are confined together in a limited space (like an elevator). “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (sp) is a classic example of this. The action takes place in basically one spot the whole time. You can see how a playwright would love a limited space like this. Screw the setting changes, focus just on the characters.

According to the formula, you put a bunch of characters in the space together and then at least one of them goes berserk, or otherwise instigates the rest of the group. The physical limitations imposed by the setting then force the characters to confront some kind of personal demons.

It’s interesting how that theory applies to many stories. Think about “LOST,” which I’m just about done watching. Maybe down to the last three or four episodes or so (whew!) and I’ve already seen the finale. So a bunch of people are on an airplane (another classic Elevator Play scenario) and then they crash onto an island (there’s the confinement again) and, guess what, they’re not only being chased down by smoke monsters and giant polar bears, but they’re being forced to confront their own personal demons. Be they misgivings about one’s father, as in pretty much all the cases, or something else. Who knows what. And, guess what, some of those people are unstable and they create trouble, but everyone’s trapped there and they can’t leave. And so it goes, until it all gets boring, and then they get to leave the island … all the events from the second half of the show were created to cope with the limitations of the island setting. It gets to the point where the island scenes are less interesting than everything else.

I think an interesting writing exercise is to think about your “elevator” and what kind of people you would want to put in it. If I had to pick one, it would be a subway car late at night, or a family hiding out in a bomb shelter underground, or maybe some kids who eat lunch together in their school’s band room. It could even be a shady motel room on Route 66, or a Seattle office during the dot-com boom. Maybe even the Donner Party in a snowstorm. There’d be some archetypes: the wide-eyed innocent, the sage, the stoic, the trickster, the thief, the cannibal. Naturally, some wouldn’t get along, and some would get hungry.

The theory behind the Elevator Play probably explains what makes reality shows so remarkably compelling. There’s usually a set location or premise that permits a group of attractive young people to stop being polite and start getting real. That is, they get into a fancy house and then start getting naked, showering together, fighting about petty things, doing mandatory volunteer work, confessing to the camera and having pixellated sex on camera. Which is about as real as it gets.

I’m now several years older than most of the cast members, but let me tell you, the Real World kids have nothing on me; they’d better get those elevator pitches ready.





365 Hats Trailer!

6 02 2010


365 Hats Trailer

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

I’ve just put out the trailer for the 365 Hats project. Going through this process has been lots of fun. As you may gather, this project has been more about being creative than adhering to strict rules. I’ve violated pretty much every principle I started with, but at the same time, I’ve also stuck better to the plan than I expected I would. A few notes/lessons learned through the process:

  • This is nutz, baby. Nutz. But so much fun.
  • My definition of a “hat” is somewhat loose in many cases, but that’s OK. It’s all creativity.
  • I don’t need to OWN the hat. A few of these were “found” in the environment.
  • Some of the hats are handmade or improvised.
  • The vast majority of the hats are actual hats that I own.
  • Headbands, bows and the like count as hats for the sake of simplicity.
  • I got a late start at dailymugshot. I’ll be posting a link to that soon, thanks to a pointer from a coworker.
  • Currently the images are stored in a Picasa Web Album, which allows me a lot of freedom to upload in batches and change photos in and out.
  • In some cases I’ve had to bend or break the time interval rules due to breaking news at my day job (Haiti coverage for example).
  • The only strict rule I’m setting is that I must upload at once per week (multiple images from that week are OK, individual daily posts are ideal) and that I must have 365 different hat or headgear arrangements by the end of 2010.
  • Multiple poses/shots with the same hat are ideal because it allows me to animate the scene. I may do some videos, too, just to mix things up a bit.
  • Don’t tell anyone, but I’m actually a few days ahead in my photo-taking. I’m trying to stash those aside and stay in pace.
  • It’s super-awesomer if the hat has some meaning for the events of that day.

Overally, I’m surprised at how fun and not-tedious this process has been. While I haven’t been able to do updates every single day that I’ve been doing this, I’ve stuck with it through most of the thick and thin moments that have come along, and there’s been quite a bit to distract from my resolve. In many cases my hats or headgear match up with current events so that helps. I can document the day by showing what hat I am wearing.

View high-quality version on YouTube if you like. The video clip here is from Flickr.

So the big question is, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? ARE YOU INSANE? Well I’m doing it mainly because it’s fun and because it will be something I can look back on at the end of the year. It will be something simply awesome and fun. And, it gives me a chance to play around and experiment with new ideas and technology and software. In short, it’s just a lot of awesome. I do wear a lot of hats in this world and sometimes it’s nice to just do something fun.

PRODUCTION NOTES: All the photos shown here were taken with an iPhone or with Photo Booth on my MacBook. Visual arrangement for this piece was done on free video editor HyperEngine-AV v. 1.5. I experimented with iMovie but found it too limiting in some respects and far superior in other ways. Overall, I’m finding that a combined approach of HyperEngine-AV and iMovie may be the way to go unless I spring for Final Cut at home. More to come on that. The music is an exported GarageBand sound clip.





Crazy hat

6 04 2009
  


Crazy hat

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

Walking to the park on a weekend, you always see crazy things. But I wasn’t sure what to think when I saw this guy standing outside of OutWrite, the midtown gay bookstore. A crowd congregated around him and he explained that the hat was “for a contest next door.”

My neighborhood and its Piedmont Park surroundings are so fabulous and flamboyant… for people of all kinds. And that’s what I like about it. So unexpected in the South. Makes for comfortable living, although I usually head to other neighborhoods and places to socialize because the scene ain’t always my style.





Andy Warhol was a bit generous

29 03 2009

Rain, rain, rain, there you go again, messin’ up my plans
Ruinin’ my day of fun best as you can
I think it’s fair to say that I’m not your biggest fan
But I always make do in these gray hours, best as I can.

ONE of my favorite new rainy-day activities is 12seconds.tv, a new site that we are using. You get 12 seconds, not 15 minutes, of fame. That is, if the community likes what you do. For me, I feel like if I’m going to ask other people to submit videos, I sure as heck had better be submitting videos, too. So submit I do, and I’ve had a modicum of success. It’s good to know what it feels like to submit your work and be part of an active community. Hopefully this experience will help me do better at my job. Also, hey, the site is lots of fun to use and I really enjoy trying to stretch myself and see if I can respond to the silly and thought-provoking challenges. Good times!

Here are some notable pieces I’ve done so far:

So check it out. Also, Muse rules. Oh how I love your sweet sounds.





Upside-down tree

28 12 2008



Upside-down tree

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

Talk about OTT holidays. That’s OVER THE TOP for you whippersnappers. You see, there is a home in north-ish Phoenix that regularly hosts a massive indoor holiday lights display. I decided to visit this year and found it amazing. We tried to go during the day but it was frankly scary as hell, so we left and came back at night.

The owner came out wearing a full-on elf suit and the lights were totally up and shining, so we decided to go in. It appears that the place normally has an Egyptian theme (complete with life-sized sarcophogi), but during the season of sharing, the whole place is done up like Santa’s workshop. So… enjoy. (Here’s all the “decorations” tag pics)





Paul and Storm!

1 09 2008

I’m just learning about Paul and Storm… good stuff. I mean, it takes a lot of brainz to realize that there are a lot of “seamen” on pirate ships.

Good show. Bacteria/disease dolls were given out (so you can “catch” syphillis) and even audio books on tape.

So they called Jonathan Coulton during the performance… based on Twitter exchanges I saw, the comedic routine may have backfired. Paul called and made a lot of jokes teasing Coulton for being at PAX (holding the phone to the Mic) and then hung up the phone mid-convo.

Dana Snyder, Master Shake’s voice, was a guest.

I also saw goth-folk-comedy artist Voltaire perform and he was just great. Plus, there was the added benefit that he didn’t really tick anybody off. He was performing at the last minute after his schedule was changed the previous night. D*C officials or hotel or some peeps deemed him a “fire hazard.”

Paul and Storm – on the phone…, originally uploaded by N-Sai.





Learn to speak Apartment-Ese with Ease!

17 07 2008

DISCLAIMER: The following text is a gross exaggeration and utter generalization of a common scenario: apartment ads on classifieds pages or on Craigslist. Any resemblance to actual ads is PURELY COINCIDENTAL so please don’t sue my GR@$$ or post angry comments or feel hurt in general. I couldn’t do better, I assure you.

It’s no secret that I’m looking for an apartment now, and in order to do this, I’m checking Craigslist and other sources. After some time hunting in the wild, it became clear that these ads are not written in English but in another language, one based on the Indo-European tradition but incorporating entirely foreign phrases and words. This language is of unknown origins, possibly brought to Earth by space aliens in flying saucers. This language is Apartment-Ese.

After years of studying the ins and outs of this bizarre form of language, if you could call it that, I put together a guide explaining the ins and outs of the parts of speech, meanings of words, etc. Should you find yourself out hunting in the bush, trying to find the right apartment and go in for the kill, you need to know what to expect in case you run into any of the locals, overlords or landlords in the region. Here is an overview of the translations of various phrases you might encounter out in the wild:

  • ALL CAPITAL LETTERS HOLY SH* MAN, THIS IS IMPORTANT — The person wishes to get your attention to tell you that the place is potentially dangerous or a bad value. The person is potentially screaming, only using words and not their voice.
  • “In the heart of ____” — You are located a fair distance from a desirable locale. Your commute will be several miles at minimum. It’s a good thing they’re warning you ahead of time.
  • GINORMOUS PETS PURRRRFECTLY WELCOME!!!! — This is the landlord’s way of warning you that there are dangerous or annoying animals in the midst of your new potential home. Strange, I know. Note the capital letters. This is how they warn you that you might be barking up the wrong tree.
  • “walking distance” — During the daytime, you will be able to walk to a specific location in a matter of minutes, or at least in less than an hour. However at night, they are warning you, it is probably too dangerous.
  • “on a quiet street” — They’re telling you the place is in a boring, potentially remote area. Or, alternatively, they are emphasizing that although the area around is known for being dangerous, this place is an island of safety in a sea of crack houses.
  • “upscale” — Boring area, snobby neighbors
  • BAD CREDIT OK!! NO CREDIT CHECK!! — The OverLandLords are informing you that they come in peace and that they wish to help you build your credit. They love you. They don’t care what a loser or SOB you are. This place is just for you, you SOB. No need to be concerned or worried or potentially suspicious. No need to wonder if others around you are SOBs — you’re one big happy SOB family.
  • “adorable bungalow” — Better have Bob Villa’s number on speed-dial, because this place qualifies for This Old House’s Greatest Hits. Make that “Olde,” because this is a fixer-upper times 10.
  • “charming” — Like that ugly dog that’s so ugly that you can’t help but love it.
  • “city living” or “urban luxury” or “convenience of downtown” — Could be dangerous. This is the place that people living “on a quiet street” are seeking an island of safety from.

That said, once again, I don’t know that I could do much better writing apartment ads, but I felt I had to get that off my chest. My apologies to anyone I might have offended; and now I’d better get back in the bush and start apartment hunting again. Losers.

Love, me.