blue man group

Let Me Tell Ya 'Bout ...

...the birds and the bees.... More specifically this bee. No, not the one in the picture. *points to self* This one. Me. I've been posting a lot of things lately that talk about my Bee People...bee socks for a Blue Twitter handle is BeeGirlBlue...that kind of thing and that is drawing questions from those of you who may be new to our little show here. So, I thought I'd take a post to answer one of the frequently asked questions: "Dude, what's up with you and bees?"

Remember 1991? Flannel around your waist, Docs on your feet and a slightly emo slump to your step because you were so misunderstood by the establishment that it made your soul ache like Kurt Cobain's cancer? We had angst and people like Steven Tyler kept telling us to Rock The Vote to do something about it. Remember those days? Damn, 8th grade was awesome, wasn't it? Anyway...back in 1991 this video came out and MTV played it damn near every morning. (I know, some of you come from a world when MTV didn't play music, but trust me, it was cool.) I woke up to this song many many times and the video always spoke to me. Blind Melon's No Rain.

Here's this girl. Not much to look at, laughed at by the people she's trying to blend with...she goes on her own quest around the town to find someone who will dance with her. Finally, she finds a whole tribe of Bee People who will dance her dance. She finds a place where she belongs.

For many years I felt like the Bee Girl...weird, funny looking and misunderstood. Alone in a crowd and constantly looking for that place of peace and acceptance. My friend Carrie was the first to call me Bee Girl back in college. It fit and it stuck. I envied the Bee Girl because she found that place full of sympathetic characters who not only accept but love her for her differences. Her weirdness is exalted and she ends the video triumphant! Hoo and ray!  I envied her that.

In 2002 I met a friend online who lived in Phoenix. I'd been thinking of moving there and we hit it off online and later on the phone. We talked for 2 years and finally I started making plans to relocate. There was this one weekend that all things seemed to gel. I went to Phoenix for that weekend to meet people I'd only spoken to online or the phone and those people introduced me to more people. I walked into a house for a birthday party of a complete stranger and I met my Tribe. My very own Bee People. No trumpets and choirs...just laughter and karaoke. But that feeling of resonance, sympathetic vibration and utter peace said it all. I didn't want to leave the party. At 3:30am my friend looked at me and said, "Your flight leaves in 3 hours and we still have to go get your suitcase packed and get you to the airport." Bummed, I started saying goodbye. As people hugged me they told me, "I don't want to wish you bad luck, but I hope you fuck up this audition because it means you'll move here."

Two days later I auditioned for Blue Man Group. That in and of itself is a whole 'nother story. Short version: I stood on the stage of the Briar Street Theater in Chicago and drummed stroke for stroke with my personal idol and got a call back. (And on the evening news, but that just made me feel awkward..) I went in the next day for the acting portion, went on my way and waited. A few weeks later I emailed the casting director for information and thanked her profusely for the experience. She said that my drumming was "exactly what we're looking for" but that the character needed work. I was urged to try again.

So I moved to Phoenix in October of 2004. On New Year's Eve I was at The Party (see previous entry) and my beloveds gifted me with a pair of blue LED drumsticks. Blue was my signature color and it became my "thing". The nickname "Blue" popped into being and I've answered to it ever since. (It's on my Con badge.) I have to giggle when I read Christopher Moore's You Suck! because of the hooker named Blue who wears blue make up specifically because of Blue Man Group. I found out recently that Chris Moore's next book, Sacre Bleu!, comes out on my birthday and has a stunning prologue about the color Blue and how it is like a woman.

I am Blue. I am the Bee Girl.

So there's your answer.

Girl Resurrected

Sunday, Sean and I took K to the Science Center. I have to boast about the fact that my Mom Voice stopped 3 teenagers from banging on a computer monitor. Seriously, who the fuck lets their children (I don't care how old) get away with that shit? To give you more know how museums have the touch-screen monitors next to exhibits? Well, the Science Center has two next to one of their anatomical exhibits. That particular feature was down (after a free weekend and unattended kids, are we surprised?). I was at the next space over piecing together an anatomy dummy with the Hobbits when I heard terrible banging. I look up to see the afore mentioned twits pounding their fists on the wall screens like imprisoned apes.

"HEY!" I barked. I turned on the stern voice I usually withhold for serious problems with the daughter or when the cats are trying to unroll the toilet paper. "Stop that. Right. Now. It's already broken and you don't need to destroy it and make things worse."

The kids flushed and went off, heads hanging.

My Mom-Fu is strong!

But enough about that...

So, with the kiddo back in school I have more time to put toward my creative endeavors. Of course, this means writing! Woo! Some projects I want to spend time with:

  • Editing flash/short fiction to send to lit. magazines for publication.
  • A fantasy short called "The Giving Tree".
  • More work in the Zombie verse I've got going including editing the novella (title: Stitch), getting sequels outlined and written in a way that satisfies me and more shorts from the point of view of other characters.
  • Research and work for the YA novel I want to write (title: Banning Elizabeth).
  • Work on the short story "Woebegone" and see if I have a novel in there.
  • New fiction yet to be imagined.
  • Overhaul of the first novel I wrote back in 2008.

Yeah, it's a lot. But, some is editing, some is new work...and it's all do-able. But, other than writing, I've got a proverbial bug up my ass to do something else. As long-time readers of this blog will know, I auditioned for Blue Man Group about 7 years ago. For a while, all I wanted in life was to be a Blue Man. For various reasons, that did not happen. After I had my daughter, my priorities shifted and I made the conscious choice to let go of that dream. For a few years, that stung a bit, I admit. I felt like I'd failed. Now, though, I understand that I did the right thing for me and mine and that's what matters.
So, now, with a bad back and fifty pounds that won't look great on stage, being a Blue Man just isn't in the cards. (Not to mention that I just don't have the Oh-My-God-I-Need-This feeling about it anymore.) But, that doesn't mean I can't still play like a Blue Man.
For a while, I've been silent. My sticks are collecting dust and I never play my electric kit. My chops are rustier than the Tin Man's joints. I've let my musical muscles atrophy out of fear and shame from an imagined failure. But...the other day at the Science Center, something of that me woke up. We were playing with some of their acoustic toys (long pipes that just channel air to form amazing drone sounds, a ginormous sound box with 4 strings to pluck). And Sean and I started talking about how the notes on the "guitar" sounded very Blue Man. While we sat down and let K build things with magnets, Sean and I "composed" a piece just talking out patterns.
At one point, I elbowed him and said, "What are you doing? You're going to make me a musician again!"
"Again?" he asked.
Those skills have been dormant, it's true, but they haven't left me. Not entirely. And now, I have a desire to build my own instruments. I won't get the chance to play PVC IV on the stage at Briar Street...but what's stopping me from doing it in my own back yard? Or yours?
Lack of plumbing hardware, really.
So, I've decided that in the coming months, I will be gathering some like-minded troops from the Local Ohana and I will be making my own Blue Man instruments. I want to make a PVC instrument, a Drumbone...possibly a backpack Tubulum...and I want to have some Airpoles for good measure. The build will be a fun, communal  learning experience and playing the instruments with my daughter would be a blast!
When I do this, I will be documenting the build(s) on this blog, and possibly on my neglected percussion blog, Chickaboom. Pictures, hints, tips, rants...possibly video once they are ready to play. (I still have Drumbone memorized. Just need two people to get the slide going.)
I think this is going to be a blast.
How 'bout you? Ever build anything crazy? Geeky? Any homemade instruments or flame throwers out there? I want to hear about it.
What's rooting around in your brain and ready to hatch?

One Voice?

So last weekend a friend of mine pulled me out onto his patio to enable his smoking habit and listen to him bounce around some ideas he's got for potential stories. This turned into a pretty deep philosophical discussion about the shape of the world and where we--as a global society--could be headed. One thing that came up was homogenization and the destruction of voices that are seen as "dissonant". Got me thinking about writers and peer critiques and such.

So tonight I would like to talk about Voice.

Have you ever watched a performance by Blue Man Group? Even a video? If you haven't go here and educate yourself. I'll wait. Now, while it may just look like a few guys in black pajamas beating on Home Depot rejects, there's so much more to the Blue Man. One thing that has always drawn me to BMG is their commentaries on personality.

The performers themselves put ego aside and dress the same as their partners. You don't see Bryce Flint-Summerville or Eric Gebow on see a Blue Man. And yet, these three near-identical beings are so varied! Each has his own personality. Each performer brings something unique to the table and creates a vibrant character. On the other side of the coin, you have the Blue Man's ideas about what our society is like. The Blue Man sees us as look-a-like drones working in soul-stifling mazes, replaceable cogs in a machine, slaves to the status quo. All at once, the Blue Man presents a mirror and a window into possibility. It's fascinating.

But it wouldn't be the same if the directors and creators of Blue Man Group gave everyone a hard and fast script, if they said, "Be like me and leave all individual nuances at the door." No theatrical or musical performance could rivet an audience if that were the case. Musicians follow a score and play the notes on the page, but the soul of a piece is what stirs emotion in the listener.

So, too, is it with writing.

Just like you can turn on a radio and know a band by the style and sound of the song, you can open a book and find an author's voice. There's a cadence to the words, a flow of speech and dialect that can serve as a literary fingerprint. Jim Butcher sounds different than Charlaine Harris sounds different than Chris Moore et cetra ad infinitum. That's what we love about the authors we go apeshit about. It's that distinct quality that draws us into their well-crafted tales, it's the VOICE of the author.

One thing I worry about, though, with the crop of self-proclaimed aspiring authors. (Never say you're "aspiring". You're a writer or you're not. You can be a neophyte, but if you put pen to paper, you're a goddamn author. Own it, bask in it, bathe in it and fucking cherish it. No apologies.) I worry that many people are aspiring so hard to "get it right" that they are losing their voices before they even have a chance to grow. I worry that with critique groups, some of us are trying to replace an author's blossoming style with what WE want our own to be.

I can read a post on Chuck Wendig's blog and be in absolute awe and say, "Damn I wish I could write like that." But at the end of the day, throwing the word "cockwaffle" into my posts isn't going to make me like him. It makes me a pretender. And it means that I'm not respecting my individual voice.

Everyone has something to say. Some of us may have the same stories to tell, but it's the way we tell them that makes all the difference. What fun would it be if we all sounded the same?

Drumming With My Daughter

If ever my various incarnations did collide, that moment of explosion and being happens in the above phrase.

Drumming with my daughter.

I started drumming at the age of 11 or 12...more than half my life ago. I did concert band, orchestra, steel drums, drum set, marching band, mallets. I even auditioned for Blue Man Group in 2004. While my audition wasn't "successful" in the sense that I went on to rock the bald cap, I call it a success. When I went into that audition, my goal was to someday drum on the stage at the Briar Street Theatre in Chicago with my personal Blue Man idol.  Guess what my audition was... drumming. On stage at the Briar. With that same man. I lived my dream, and these years later I say that's enough for me. It all worked out. After all, if I'd made it as a Blue Man, I wouldn't have moved to Arizona, gotten together with Sean and had my daughter.

Soon after she was born I put the drums away. I'd pull out sticks or hand drums occasionally, but I'd just about given up on drumming. It was part of that other life. Not to mention that any time I got the idea to play, K would freak out. Couldn't touch sticks, my electric kit, my practice pad or play Rock Band lest the kid melt down. So, I just took the few private moments I could, but moved onto other expressions of rhythm -- poi spinning, writing (which was actually me reconnecting with an older piece of myself). Yes, I consider writing an expression of rhythm. You tell a story, but the words are important, too. The flow, the inherent combinations of sounds that come from words on a page... there is rhythm there and sometimes when I edit I'm trying to see if the story sounds right. It might be something as minute as a syllable, putting emphasis somewhere else, a comma here to give the reader a pause... but it's rhythm.

Anyway. Drumming. Recently, I've picked it back up again. I started Chickaboom and my dear friend Eric donated a snare drum to the project. K, my kiddo, saw the drum last night and started running around asking me to teach her. I told her we'd do it today. She woke up and immediately asked me to teach her about the snare drum. So, for about a half hour we took sticks and played. PLAYED.

It's pretty cool to watch someone so pure, so innocent of bias or training, dive into playing an instrument. Her eyes lit up and her tongue wagged in her mouth. So excited! Too much for such a little body to contain. She drummed faster, louder and started screaming.

I know that moment. I know what she was feeling.
I wish I could bottle that wonder.
I wish I could give it to you and everyone else, because that moment was so beautiful it hurt.
But, I can't. And that makes it all the more precious.

"Come on, Mommy!" she yelled. "Let's rock out some more!"

What do you say to that?

The only thing you can do is pick up some sticks and start rocking.


Boom De Yada

Alright, so it's no secret that I am a dork and I heart the BoomDeYada songs from Discovery Channel. I also love any variation (the XKCD homage and its subsequent video are up there, too). It's my ringtone!

Well, I've had Boomdeyada stuck in my head...forever... and now, I've started with my own version of it. It started on Facebook with me just typing boomdeyada boomdeyada boomdeyada boomdeyada... then Krista Long contributed "I love the nerds. I love my awesome friends..."

Me: "I love my dork boys and game nights that never end." Brian: "I love the whole world, Olympics start tonight! boomdeyada boomdeyada boomdeyada boomdeyada..."

So now, I'm going to keep it going.... Happy Friday, y'all! BOOMDEYADA

I love my hobbits
I love my Ohana.

I love Dark Chocolate. I love Manah Manah. I love the whole world and being part of it. Boomdeyada Boomdeyada Boomdeyada Boomdeyada

I love red rocks.
I love the Blue Man Group.
I love to play with fire
and local circus troupes.
I love the whole world! No place I'd rather be.
Boomdeyada boomdeyada boomdeyada boomdeyada

The world is awesome.