Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year: Now Get Your Shit Together


Hello Everyone,
Happy New Year! Hooray for the end of dark and over-packed December. Here's to a lovely 2013. If, like me, you're a fan of lists, resolutions, and ACTIONS toward GSD (Gettin' Shit Done), might I gently encourage you to consider joining me at one or both of my upcoming workshops?

The first is a one-day affair, which I am co-hosting with my yoga pal, Cindy Scovel. That happens on January 5, 2013, from 10 am til 4 pm at Soma Vida. Cost is $150 and we'll focus on setting mind/body/spirit intent for 2013. Trust me, this shit works. In 2012 I set my intent at the beginning of the year and managed to accomplish everything on my list from quitting smoking to international travel to publishing a book. We've only got a few spots left.

The second opportunity is signing up for one of my six-week writing workshops. The first six-week session starts on January 31, 2013. Cost is $250. Space is extremely limited since we have so many returning members -- really, it's that fun and smart and helpful.

To sign up  you can email me at spikegillespie@gmail.com and if you sign up for both, I will give you $75 off your six-week writing workshop.

Thanks y'all,
Spike

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Office of Good Deeds Plan to STEAL from Portland! MWAHAHAHAHAHA!


Hello Everyone,
I hope you will join me in my not-so-evil-plan to steal from Portland, Oregon. I am fortunate enough to visit Portland just about every year, and while my heart will always belong to Austin, there are some things out there in the PNW that I do so love. My friends, for starters. The weather. The beautiful trees and other Dr. Seussian foliage. And, spotted on my last trip a few months ago: POETRY BOXES!!

Poetry boxes are like much, much, MUCH nicer versions of those real estate info boxes you see in front of homes for sale. Poetry boxes are made of wood, feature a hinged lid and a clear front, and, inside-- but of course-- poetry! Passers-by can stop and read the poetry or reach in and take a copy to go.

Great, right? And you can fill it with your own poetry or poetry that you love written by someone else. I know, I know, I'm over-explaining this concept. You get it already. So let me move on to the Big Poetry Box Building Party Invite. Which also happens to be My 49th Birthday Party! And it also happens to be The Feast of the Epiphany and National Bean Day! I so hope you'll come. Keep reading...




On Sunday, January 6, 2013, my poet pal, Deva Haney and I are co-hosting a poetry box building extravaganza. Once we get the boxes built, we'll then head over to The Snug, which is inside of Tom's Tabooley on the Drag. There, from 5 pm til 8 pm, we'll eat good food, share poetry, and listen to music by Southpaw Jones and Brian Kremer. Woo-hoo. It is going to be SO GREAT. There are all sorts of roles you can play. Following is a list of possibilities: 



We need folks to donate SUPPLIES! Do you have wood we can use? Good! We'll take it.
We need help coming up with a design-- are you a good wood-thing-designer? Let us know!
We need folks who can build! Do you have skills or are you willing to learn? Great! Email us!
We need folks willing to install poetry boxes in their front yards, particularly in well-walked areas!
We need folks to come to the party and celebrate poetry and ME ME ME! You all can do that.

So, if you are down and want to be part of this project, all you gotta do is shoot me an email. It might take me a few days to get back to you, but I will get back to you.  Thanks! Can't wait!
Love,
Spike
Email Spike

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Maine Event Has Arrived!



WOO-HOO!!! 
The book is HERE! UPS dude just dropped it off. Thank you UPS dude! I just got a small batch today. The rest get here Friday so I can start shipping KickStarter supporter copies this weekend. I'll be doing a reading at BookPeople on 12/12 with my buddy, Sandy Rankin, who is debuting her book, Pearl Street Memories. And there will be more festivities to come. This is so fun. Thanks so much to all of you who kicked in to make this happen!

Also, the website is up as of today!! Check it out: www.SpikeMaineEvent.com 
You can use the form there to order books directly from me. I'm still working out a few hiccups with the e-book version, but I do have a PDF available I can send. Also, probably by the end of the day, you'll also be able to buy it through Amazon Kindle Publishing. 

More news as it happens.
Thanks again!
Love,
Spike

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sunday's Child: Happy Birthday Henry Mowgli!


And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay

Just about 22 years ago to the minute, I went into labor. As with tonight, it was a Saturday night. Big Red and I were watching SNL when it started. Seventeen hours, zero drugs, and much screaming later, Henry finally emerged. It was not a good start, a home birth gone awry, a panicked midwife who needed to stop for a smoke break in the midst of it all, more than a couple of nightmare moments, and a house full of paramedics and cops. He nearly didn't make it, spent the better part of a week in Cardinal Glennon's NICU in St. Louis. That was about the shittiest week of my life, and I still can't pass by the St. David's truck-- the one with the huge photo of the NICU baby on the side-- without spontaneously bursting into tears.

To everyone who helped-- to get him here, to keep him here, to bring him up right-- I say thank you. THANK YOU. What an amazing creature he is. This is the first time in 22 years that I won't be spending Henry's birthday with him. The first year in a dozen or so that I won't be making the dark chocolate cake with raspberry filling and fresh whipped cream on top. Young man has up and moved to Brooklyn, making his way in the world, doing what he needs to do. 

What an honor and a pleasure and a thrill to call you son, son. Honey, I love you! Thanks for being born. (And, as I mentioned, this year I will go ahead and have Rebound play the role of you in our beloved, traditional birthing reenactment. I'll get dad to film it for you, don't worry.)




Thursday, November 29, 2012

Houston, We Have a Fully Funded Book AND the Baddest Ass Cover of ALL TIME!



This is what a fully funded book looks like, people! 
Thank you all for helping me make The Maine Event happen! Thanks especially to Erin Mayes for the badass design! And thanks to Ori Sofer for shooting the front and back cover even though if I'd known he was shooting that back cover picture when he shot it, I would've married him solely so I could divorce his ass. But it turned out to have been a good thing. I know, I know, there are lessons everywhere, sometimes you just have to wait and see.

Very soon the book will have its own website. And I'll publish an e-version in a couple of weeks. For now, if you pre-ordered a copy through my KickStarter campaign, expect that to arrive in about two weeks, hopefully slightly sooner. If you didn't order a copy but want to, you can email me at spikegillespie@gmail.com or you can come to one of two book readings I'm doing soon. The first is on December 12, 2012 at 7 pm at BookPeople with Sandy Rankin, who will be reading from her debut novel, Pearl Street Memories. The second will be on December 18, 2012 at 7 pm at DOMY Books with Deva Haney, who will be debuting her first chapbook, Until You Electrocute Everyone.

Thanks again! 
Super Psyched!
LOVE LOVE LOVE,
spike 


Thanks from Bubbles & Me & The Whole Pack!


THANKS Y'ALL! 
THANKS TO YOU--  I HIT BOTH KICKSTARTER GOALS! Scored the financial target and the 100 Backers Target. You guys rock it. Thank you thank you thank you! Can't wait to send you the book! If you're reading this and haven't yet gotten in on the fun, you can still kick in until Friday, November 30, 2012. 


And here, to thank you, are some outtakes from Bubbles' latest fashion shoot.
                                                         Love, Spike & Bubbles














Friday, November 23, 2012

Thoughts on Asking for Help


I had some folks over for dinner the other night and at one point I was talking about a Blue Collar Attitude and someone asked, "What is that?" and someone else, answering before I could, said, "I DON'T OWE YOU ANYTHING!" Ha. Well, that certainly nailed a major part of the BCA to which I was referring. I grew up with this attitude, which has a sort of corollary, which disallows asking for assistance, lest you wind up owing anyone anything.

At some point in my life, only because I had a crush on a guy who proclaimed to love Faulkner and not due to any genuine self-motivation, I stumbled through As I Lay Dying. I have two main memories of reading that book. The first is that I read it while I was in Japan, where the only other native English speaker I had access to was Henry, who was ten at the time. So my ears would fill up all day on Japanese and fourth-grade English. And in the evenings, my eyes would take in Faulkner. This was such an odd combination, and it thrilled me. I have a very specific memory of looking down from our window high up in the Landmark hotel in Yokohama, clutching my Faulkner, all of which has absolutely zero to do with the actual point I am most hoping to make here today. But hey, it was a cool memory, so I'm sharing it.

The other memory I have, and we're going back a dozen years here, so forgive me if I've lost the plot, is of how the whole mess of the drama in that book all comes back to the father's desire to not be beholden to anyone. Doesn't a barn burn down and a leg get lost and a mule drown dramatically thanks to his Blue Collar Attitude? (Aside: the guy who loses the barn, his last name is Gillespie.)

Before I embarked on a KickStarter Campaign, I thought about it long and hard. I have learned, through life in general and therapy in particular, that it is okay to remove one's blue collar sometimes and ask for help. But still, I think about all the help people already give me all the time. Whenever I have wanted to do a project-- the NAKED calendars come to mind, as well as sundry other fundraisers and the Office of Good Deeds-- folks rush in to participate. So I ask myself: What's the limit here? Why should people give me money to put out my book? Shouldn't I just figure out how to do this on my own? Shouldn't I be embarrassed to ask others to participate in this folly?

Eventually I wrestled that negative voice out of your head long enough to put up the campaign. Then I scored my goal pretty quickly. I believe there exist all sorts of tips and tricks to ask people to keep on giving, even though you hit your mark. And so another internal wrestling match began. Will this make me greedy? And deeper down: Seriously? You're going to aks people to pony up more dough to give to you for doing the thing about which you have held a lifelong passion, and which you will keep doing regardless of funding? 

Maybe what I'm getting at is, wow, if I'd known KickStarter could inspire such fabulously neurotic internal dialogues, I'd have put up a campaign long ago! I meditate every day so that the once constant chatter of self-deprecation had quieted down, relatively speaking anyway, quite considerably. But bam, you start one KickStarter campaign and it's like riding a bicycle with a nail sticking out of the seat.

So anyway, here we are. Last seven days for the KickStarter campaign. I am really, really excited and grateful that anyone at all pledged any amount at all. I am genuinely humbled-- not just paying lip service to the notion-- that I hit my goal, and did so fast. And now I am beating back the self-chastising voice in my head telling me not to be an ass and ask for more.

I am asking you-- will you please consider pledging $17 if you can spare it? This will get you a copy of the book. I am, as we speak, doing the final edits. Then I am shipping to the printer. My dream is to have copies by December 5th or, barring that, December 12th, when I will be giving a reading, along with my great friend Sandy, at BookPeople.

I am also asking if you will please pass this request on to others. I currently have 66 backers. I'd love to get that number to a nice, round 100.

And that, people, is all I got for you today. Here is a link to my KickStarter page, if you decide you want to kick in.

Thank you so much.
Love,
Spike

Monday, November 19, 2012

At LONG LAST-- The Big Unveil: My Next Project, An Adventure in Mentoring


Henry, in the studio, with cousin Geena. 
When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.
                                                            -- Michelle Obama

For months now, I’ve been hinting at a Coming Soon Big Unveil. Getting to the actual unveiling has taken longer than I planned or expected, which is a nice little lesson about plans and expectations. The thing is, that while I often engage in shooting from the hip and off-the-cuff antics, this time around, the project I’ve been mulling, well I really wanted to think it over before committing to it. And I wanted to make sure I truly had the time and resources to commit. Toward that end, I decided to wait until my new book is out (that happens in a couple of weeks) and I also decided to drop some other activities I have loved—namely a knitting blog and theater reviews— that consume time I would now rather dedicate to The Project.

Another reason I’ve delayed the Big Unveil is that I have SO much to say on the topic—how the project came to be, my vision for it, how you can help— that I’ve been wrestling with how to do a succinct presentation. I’m still wrestling with that. I think succinct is out of the question. So how about I go ahead and reveal what this program is and then ask you to bear with me and read this whole post to give you the background and also learn how you can be helpful, if you’d like to be helpful?

HERE IT IS—VOILA! –THE BIG UNVEIL  
So I am starting a free program that, for now, I am going to call HENRY, in honor of my darling son Henry. The name might change. Currently though, that’s the acronym, which stands for Helping Educate Non-College Reaching Youth. (Yeah, yeah, a little clunky spelled out, but I just love using the word HENRY). The goal of HENRY is to offer inspiration, advice, a leg-up and real-world experience to folks 17 – 25 who don’t want to, or can’t afford to, or aren’t feeling ready yet to attend college. Okay, time for some bullet points:

WHY THIS PROGRAM?
In 1982, I graduated near the top of my class and was accepted at a prestigious university. My father said I should skip college, that women should get married and have kids. Also, he said we couldn’t afford it. My high school counselor, instead of teaching me about scholarships, concurred that this experience was out of reach for me. I sure could’ve used some real mentoring back then, but I didn’t get it and I missed that chance.

Then, in 2009, when my son graduated from high school, he didn’t want to go to college. I understood pushing him to go would be like me being pushed to not go. I knew it was important to honor his vision for how his adult life was to go. He wanted to pursue his art, which I fully supported (I mean, emotionally—he already supported himself financially). Fortunately, years earlier he’d found a mentor, Kyle Ellison, who had a lot of music experience, having been a member of Pariah, Butthole Surfers, Meat Puppets, and Ministry. Kyle took Henry under his wing, helped him record Episodean amazing record, and continues to teach him all about music—both the fun part (making it) and the business part (selling it). Additionally, Henry was raised by a whole village, and in particular his first employer, Peg, taught him so much about how to survive in the world.

Consequently, I am mother to an amazing young man who is making his way, pursuing his passion, is grounded in reality, and who is really enjoying his life. My happiness for him is immeasurable. And I believe that similar happiness awaits other young people who pursue their dreams and who are able to do so with the support of passionate adults who have knowledge to share. Instead of saying, “You should…” or “You need to…” I would like to foster a supportive community that says, “What would you like to do?” and “How can I help you get there?”

Somewhere I want to toss in that, while I did not get mentoring when I was a young adult, I did have the great fortune of being mentored later on by Molly Ivins, who left us way too soon, but who left me with a lot of wisdom, and who also was so kind to Henry. I remain grateful to her, and I remain grateful to Kyle and the others who have mentored Henry. And so, time to pay it forward.

HOW WILL IT WORK?
Good question. I am looking for organic growth to be the main source of inspiration here, and I hope that as we go along we shape this program into what it needs to be to best serve participants. One big goal is to have the young members build this into what it needs to be to be most effective. (This is a Montessori principle—let the student lead—and I just love Montessori, which was Henry’s very first experience with education.)

That said, we do need a little structure to get started. I’m envisioning a cross between salons and TedTalks to get us going, gatherings at my house (or, if necessary, a bigger location), where we can prepare and share a meal and take in a talk from an artist or entrepreneur with insight to offer.

Also, because I am fortunate enough to know every single person in Austin, I hope to pair up participants with mentors. Let’s say, for example, a participant reveals a desire to be a tattoo artist. Okay then, I reach out to my ink artist friends and ask who among them will make time for a coffee date with the aspiring artist. Maybe they talk for an hour and that’s the end of it. Maybe they form a bond and an apprenticeship occurs. I’ve actually done this already myself—sometimes giving one-off writing chats and sometimes helping shepherd a manuscript from start to finish. It’s a cool way to work, and a chance for older and younger to learn from each other.

WHAT WILL IT COST?
I’m struggling with this one. Well, okay, “struggling” is too big of a word for it. As the President of the Office of Good Deeds, where we strive to work in deeds, not cash (except for folks dealing with extreme emergencies), I like the idea of charging ZERO DOLLARS for this program because I’m eager to return to a time when rocks and shells are the accepted currency, but I’m not holding my breath. Then again, there is that alleged psychological effect—that if you offer something for free, folks value it less. But maybe we can disprove this? If it turns out to be a good idea to ask for funds, then the donation will be minimal and it will go to defray the cost of the big salon meals we share. For now, I’d like to see if we can make it absolutely free.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Thanks for asking. So for now, I would love to compile two lists—one of eager young participants and the other of eager mentor types. If you are the parent/friend of a young adult and/or if you are an artist or entrepreneur willing to make some time, please email me at spike@spikeg.com. Put HENRY (all caps) in the subject heading, and let me know a little bit about you or the young person you think will be interested. And of course, because ideally we want to foster as much independence as possible, it is fine (better even) if the young adult contacts me her/himself. So please, please, help me get the word out-- pass on a link to this post.

Another way you can help—and pardon the shameless plug here—is to support my art. I love heading up these volunteer efforts, they provide their own rewards. But the evil mortgage company continues to bang on the door, month after month, and I have to pay those bills first, before I can dedicate time to HENRY and my other non-paying projects. Fair enough. If you want to help me help myself toward this end, please visit my Write With Spike website to see about my workshops and coaching, and you can visit my Custom Hitches Weddings website to see about my officiant services, and please consider pre-ordering my new book via my KickStarter campaign. The more copies of the book I sell, the more time I can set aside for this mentor program.

And yet another way you can help-- if you know of a cool space we might use to host our salons, one with a kitchen, let me know. I'm cool with hosting at my house, but I think/hope this might soon outgrow my little space.



MORE BACKGROUND
The time I spent asking myself if I could really make the time and space to implement this program was not time wasted. This mentoring stuff is hardly a new concept (see: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), but it is regaining big time purchase in the collective consciousness right now.

I have, in the past several months, come across countless articles and broadcasts that directly or indirectly touch on how education is going to have to change. So many kids are getting sucked into taking on enormous debt to go to college, and they graduate into an economy that isn’t offering them jobs that can knock out that debt, let alone provide a sense of accomplishment and achievement.

And then there is the whole definition of that sense of achievement. What is happiness? How do we get there? These might sound like Philosophy 101 questions, but they are questions so many people continue to wrestle with. And despite overwhelming evidence that happiness cannot be purchased, a lot of goals remained hinged on the attainment of fiscal wealth. I found a great article about how after a certain point, the amount we make annually drops exponentially in ROI. I’m really eager not only to help participants learn how to gain education without incurring major debt, but also to think hard about what happiness looks and feels like, and to understand this might be more attainable than it seems at first glance.

Anyway, getting back to the collective consciousness thing: there are an increasing number of opportunities—freeonline college courses for example—available for those who can’t or do not wish to go to college, or who want to wait until they figure out what passion to pursue. HENRY will ideally become just one in a growing number of opportunities that remind young people that there are a lot of options out there, you just need to know where to look.

TOPICS I HOPE TO TACKLE
This list is long and still forming, but I want to cover a really wide range of topics. I imagine some salons where our guest speaker speaks about a specific line of work. I imagine other conversations about the entrepreneurial spirit. And I imagine still others that might touch on how to avoid financial ruin, the benefits of meditation, the perils of addiction.

Here is where I want to point out that I do believe a big part of being a young adult is learning by trial and error. And no one wants to be told how they should live their lives. Let me emphasize that these talks will not be the adults talking from on high. Oh no—these will be lively conversations, with the speaker offering insight the way a river guide might discuss known submerged rocks in the river, sort of like a good spoiler alert. The students still have to ultimately navigate the river, they just will be able to do so armed with a bit of advance warning.

PEOPLE I WISH TO THANK
The list of people I wish to thank for inspiring this project would tack an additional 5,000 words onto this post, should I name everyone. So let me issue a blanket thank you to so many of you who have encouraged and bolstered me over the years, and supported my projects and cleaned my house when I was down and reminded me of the good things in life. I always want to thank my teachers—teachers are the absolute pillars of our society. I still remember Mrs. Nancy Brzuska, my sixth grade teacher, praising my poetry and hanging it up for all to see, and how good this felt, and I also remember her teaching me to play the guitar, and all those folk songs. And I have to give a shout out to Mrs. Penny Cipolone for demonstrating ongoing chutzpah and how, gasp, even women can succeed in previously male-dominated arenas. I want to thank all of my students over the years, for sharing your insight. I want to give a big shout out to Heather and Martin Kohout, who allowed me two weeks of solace and sanctuary at MadroƱo Ranch this past spring, which allowed me time to work on my book, and also time to start to really think through this HENRY project. And I want to thank Ari and Sigele who worked for me this summer and who comprised 2/3rds of my very tiny but very helpful focus group. And of course I want to thank Kyle Ellison, and Sparrow Song Music for helping Henry and for being the real inspiration for this new project of mine.

I am so lucky that I have arrived at a place in my life where I can work for myself, make a good living, still find plenty of time to be creative, and am constantly surrounded by love and support. Thanks to everyone who made this possible, I seriously couldn't have done it without you. And I'm looking forward to all of us helping more folks do the same. 

I'd like to close with a jumpy bootleg video of my friend, Matt the Electrician, singing a great song about how college didn't really cut it for him. Matt, you might know, has gone on to pursue his passion madly. 







Friday, November 9, 2012

Excusez-moi! Do You Know Where to Get Spike's New Book?

Trois Quebecois Debate Just How Much to Kick In
Even the Canadians want in on the action with my KickStarter campaign. Not a huge surprise, really, considering that they have excellent taste. But also, the border of Canada (well, close to the border) figures prominently into this tale. Actually, you might be wondering, "Mon Dieu! What is this book about anyway?!"

Great question. And before I answer it, let me say I am surprised and delighted that so many of you, displaying wonderful faith in me, pledged to help publish the book only having the vaguest notion about its contents. That was super awesome of you. 

Now, Austin's most amazing designer has stepped up to design the cover. That means I had to actually attempt to synopsize the story for book jacket text. Not sure if the following is my final answer, but it's a start. So, spoiler alert, don't read any further if you want to be totally surprised. On the other hand, if you have friends who might want to pledge (in essence, pre-order a copy) but they don't want to open their virtual wallets unless they know what they're getting into, well now you can tell them. 

So, one more time, before the jacket blurb-- THANK YOU to all of you who have kicked in. And to those of you who've not yet gotten on board but wish to, you can GO RIGHT HERE AND PLEDGE.

So grateful, y'all! Merci beaucoup!


ABOUT THE MAINE EVENT
In late September, 2011, Spike and her partner set out on what was supposed to be a simple Texas-to-Maine excursion. Instead, thanks to myriad factors beyond their control, the trip turns into an adventure that resembles a cross between Gilligan’s Island and a reality show where pairs of travelers race the clock and each other to reach their destination, getting increasingly frantic as they go. Adding to the high jinks of this journey are gender, cultural, and attitude differences between Spike and Warren, which at some turns provide pant-peeing hilarity, and in other moments foster mutual homicidal fantasies. In other words: two people stuck together 24-7, informally and unintentionally out to prove the theory that everyone needs alone time sometimes.

Culminating in a rush of events including a moose spotting, a full bladder, an empty wallet, and an escalating argument at the Canadian border, The Maine Event provides a funny/painful/brutally honest glimpse into the love-filled self-chosen insanity also known as “being in a relationship.” All this, set to a backdrop that includes late night parking lots under eerie golden arches, long stretches of back roads accented with that riot of color called New England Fall, and all around Monhegan Island, a stunning little speck of land an hour off the coast of Maine, a magic oasis punctuated with Fairy Houses, sparkling with sea glass, enrobed in breathtaking cliffs, and peopled by an entertaining cast laconic local lobsterfolk and chatty sea-loving travelers.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Review: Trouble Puppet Theater's Toil & Trouble-- BRAVO!!



Note before we get to the review: This is my last Austin theater review, at least for the foreseeable future. I might still squeeze in an occasional bit of commentary regarding the amazing stage offerings we have here, but for the most part it’s time to move on. I have had such a swell time the past five years covering plays and festivals first for the Austinist and then here at the blog. But I’ve got a couple of projects I’m about to launch—one of them which will hopefully become very big— and I need to focus all energy there. Oh, and yes, I am also about to self-publish my next book, The Maine Event, which I hope to have out by next month. Toward that end, I am running a KickStarter Campaign where you can, in essence, pre-order copies of the book. I really hope you’ll consider doing that.
Thanks for all the great shows, Austin!
Spike

Last Friday dawned and with it came a troubled gut. Rare for me to take ill, but this is super busy work season for me and I have to be so careful not to overdo it or else. So I knew I should really go home to bed, right after work. But doing so would mean surrendering seats I had reserved for Toil & Trouble, A Troubling Turn on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which opened last weekend at Salvage Vanguard Theater. I wrestled with this. And then I rallied. Because I just did not want to miss the production—The Trouble Puppet Theater Company has, time and again, presented rich, in-depth, stunning plays. This time, as my grumbly stomach and I predicted would be the case, was no different.

Connor Hopkins, who heads up TPT (and whom I’ve interviewed), looks at the world differently than a lot of people. This is such a good thing, and Austin is so fortunate that Hopkins has chosen our city in which to pull his strings. Drawn to dark works of literature, these he studies at length before adapting for his puppet wizardry. But there’s more to it than just the puppets, which are haunting and believable and stunningly emotionally nuanced (an interesting feat considering each gets but one facial expression).

Hopkins surrounds himself with a coven of puppet witches, actors who breathe life into his creations. Herein lies the major magic—TPT players are both fully present and totally invisible as needed. They speak in character, some of them taking on the roles of several characters. Dressed in muted browns, their physical bodies fade into the background, and yet they pour energy into their little stringed players, animating them to larger than life proportions.

How the eff do they do that, and do it so well, and do it show after show? I don’t know, but I find myself at TPT shows sometimes wanting to shift mental gears and try to examine the actors’ methods, try to figure out how they manage to sustain such rich language and carefully choreographed moves at once—and bear in mind that, because two or three people might be moving a puppet, this choreography is trickier still.

But always, any efforts to study technique are thwarted by the drama at hand. In this case, we have an adaptation of Macbeth, a comeuppance tragedy if ever there was one. The karma rained down upon the ruthless, power hungry aspiring king might not be instant, but its close enough. Talk about a troubled puppet.

Toil & Trouble is so exceptionally rendered that clearly it is the child of tremendous effort by many. The list of those who came together to make this show happen is a long one. I’d like to give a shout out to the entire cast—Zac Crofford, Rocky Hopson, Katy Horan, Ellie McBride, Caroline Reck, Gricelda Silva, Jose Villarreal, and Zeb L. West—for pouring so much love and talent into their art. Behind the scenes, great effort was also exerted, and the list includes some of Austin’s best, brightest, and award-winning talent, including: Connor Hopkins, Kathryn Rogers, Meredith Balderston, Graham Reynolds, Buzz Moran, Chris Owen, K. Eliot Haynes, Stephen Pruitt, Monica Gibson, Kim Soriano, Marc Smith, Robert Matney and Shelby Mitchusson.

Congratulations to the Trouble Puppet Theater on another jaw-dropping show. I’m so glad I decided to tell my troubled stomach to shut up and go. What an evening. The show is only playing through November 18, 2012, so get your tickets asap, before you miss your chance. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Haikus 2012 -- The Collection!



Hey Y'all,
Well that was fun and fast and YES WE DID! Hooray for Obama! Here's my collection of election haiku. Thanks for tuning in. And sorry to be a pain in the ass but please remember, My KickStarter Campaign is running through November 30th. Please, please, kick in a few bucks and help me publish my new book, The Maine Event. Thanks!
Love,
Spike

Election Haiku #1
Barack Obama
Slow and steady wins the race.
Mitt Romney: eat me.


 Haiku #2 
Stephen Colbert called 
Donald Trump scrotum holster 
I love that so much!

Election Haiku #3
Hey Mitt? Just kidding.
Really I do NOT want you
to eat me. REALLY.


Election Haiku #4
On CNN the
Talking head can't stop rubbing
tip of Florida


Election Haiku #5 
Ori took remote 
Switched to The Fifth Element 
Just as annoying.

Election Haiku #6
Yo, Bitches-- Jesse 
and Heisenberg say chill out
Barack gonna win


Election Haiku #7 
Colorado You 
Surprise me in a good way 
you're blue as teen balls

Election Haiku #8
Current vote count looks
like tight game of words with friends
O needs triple word!


Election Haiku #9
Jersey picks Barack
Mitt says, "No mor(mon) meatballs
for you, Chris Christie!"


Election Haiku #10 
In other news... the 
Rape supporters are losing 
All in God's Big Plan!

Election Haiku #11
Dear Wisconsin-- Thanks!
I'm making you a cheesecake
with cheese bought from you!


Election Haiku #12
Talking Heads say, "It's
getting tighter and tighter!"
cue porno bass line.


Election Haiku #13 (PSA) 
So, like my haiku? 
Well you'll love my brand new book. 
See my KickStarter!

Election Haiku #14
One forty eight to
One sixty. reminds me of 
good and bad weight days!


Election Haiku #15 
My chickens called it 
Before Nate Silver. 
They said: Barack! Barack! Braaaack!

Election Haiku #16 
Good news and bad news 
Daily Show on. How can I 
begin to compete?

Election Haiku #17
Pre-California
Barack is at two two nine
let's not get cocky


 Election Haiku #18 
Oh what the fudge-- let's 
get cocky. Ready? "Hey Mitt!" 
[group raspberry now!]

Election Haiku #19
Pennsylvania?
I'm gettin' new womb...
having your baby!


Election Haiku #20
Yes we did again!
Two five seven current count
Now-- lucky thirteen!


Election Haiku #21
I love the smell of
Whoop Ass in the morning and
on election day!

Monday, November 5, 2012

KickStarter Update and Book Excerpt

Warren with Flaccid Antler Moose Hat by Yours Truly

Y'all,
Thank you SO much! We are cruising right along with the KickStarter Campaign, and it's even possible I might hit my hoped-for goal today. Wow. I am so grateful. I have been asked to put up an excerpt from The Maine Event, the book I plan to publish myself, with y'all's generous help. And so, your wish is my command, here is a little taste of the book. This scene takes place on Monhegan Island, an amazing island an hour by boat off the coast of Maine. I go there every autumn. It's one of my favorite places in the world. I usually go as part of a knitting retreat group, but on the occasion described below, I took Warren to see what this beloved happy place of mine was all about. I hope you enjoy this, and I would love it if you'd let your friends know about the campaign.

Thank you so much!
Spike

THE MAINE EVENT EXCERPT

Trap Day 2011!
Forget about sleeping per chance to dream and sign me up for sleep of the dead. After all that driving, those useless McDonald’s parking lot catnaps, I am here, cupped in the hands of a benevolent god that places me into a temporary state in which dreams are banished, Warren’s snoring is on mute, there is miraculously no fight over the covers or space, and my only job is to conk out and stay conked out for hours and hours of delicious slumber.

We both wake before 5 am, pretty much unheard of in my real life. Though it is still dark, I feel utterly refreshed, solidly rested, and pleasantly cool to the core— chilly even—as I burrow beneath the comforter and allow myself to surface slowly. On the way up, I remember something Holden told us when we checked in. Today is Trap Day, the first day of lobster season, and the lobstermen will be heading out before sunrise to drop thousands of traps.

I’d never even heard of Trap Day before, I don’t eat lobster, and still I’m as excited as if this is Mardi Gras and I’ve been designated to play the role of a baby in a King Cake in the school play. Warren is excited, too. This is a chance for him to whip out his eighty-million dollar camera and shoot something other than me knitting on the ferry, knitting in the lobby, knitting in front of the Monhegan House sign.

We bundle up to steel ourselves for the cold and rain. Warren pulls on his moose hat, one in a series of silly knitted caps I’ve made at his request over the years. This is a running joke between us that started shortly after we met, when he asked me to knit him some handcuffs, which I did. I then made him a hat with a menorah sticking out of the top for Hanukkah, a hat in the colors of the French flag for our trip to Paris, a gnome hat (with a white beard attached) for a trip he took around the country posing in front of famous landmarks and in the midst of unsuspecting wedding parties, and a bright orange cap topped with a knitted Fanta bottle.

Warren loves these efforts and marches around bragging about my knitting with the sort of pride more associated with a new father announcing the birth of a child. He doesn’t even care how well they turn out, and since I knit them on the fly with no patterns, let’s just say results have been uneven at best. Case in point: the moose hat counts as both one of my greatest successes and failures. I was pleased with the ad hoc antlers when they were in progress, but then a little letdown to see how they drooped, unable to come up with some knitting version of Viagra to get them to shift from flaccid to erect. In the hat, Warren looks more like a puppy with misshapen ears than a moose, which will generate many confused looks and curious questions once we make our way to the dock.

From front porch to inlet, it can’t be more than five blocks as the crow flies. But the fog is thick and a lack of streetlights further hinders our journey as we pick our way carefully and very slowly down the winding path. Again all of my senses are fully engaged: the sounds of excited hollering among the lobstermen and women, the rain and mist on my face, the wet salt in my nostrils, the stacks and stacks of lobster traps— each embellished with a fluorescent buoy painted in a particular pattern to establish its ownership, like ocean cowboys branding metal cattle.

A small crowd of observers gathers, some momentarily distracted by Warren’s odd hat, most focused on the Trap Day trappings. I wish for a coffee, for both warmth and speed, and want to cheer when it dawns on me that, of course, the little dock shop is open early on this important day. Not only is steamy coffee ready, but they’ve got fresh, hot scones, too, scones punctuated with melty chocolate chips, dusted with cinnamon and peppered with cayenne.

As we sit and unsuccessfully try to slowly savor and not devour the scones, a blockbuster movie trailer unfolds before our very eyes. The young woman working the counter, a stunning beauty of perhaps twenty-two, blushes slightly when a lobsterman, perhaps a few years older than her, comes in to say hello and caffeinate. She is fresh scrubbed, her blonde tresses pulled into a ponytail, revealing an eager, flawless face. He says something indiscernible to us. She looks down for a moment, shy. An incredible buzz invades the room, one absent before he entered the scene.

In the instant that he smiles and she glances away (her rosy cheeks growing rosier) the plot unfolds and again my imagination roars awake. Have they kissed yet? If not, will they? Does she already have a boyfriend? Does he have a girlfriend? Will they find true love? Is she just summer help? Will her love for him keep her here on the island forever and ever? Will they have babies? Will she learn to go out on trap day? Will they stay in love forever? Will they grow to resent each other? Will they continue serving these fucking amazing scones? Please God, say yes!!

Then the lobsterman steps out to do his duties on the water, and we step outside too, and Warren disappears, off to shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot— hundreds of pictures of thousands of traps from countless angles. I stake out a spot and watch and listen, my attention pulled in a few different directions.

There is the big picture— all of those traps transforming dock into labyrinth, rows and rows of stacks and stacks that you could, if it didn’t mean being in the way of the workers, slip along and behind, imagining yourself to be a little child pretending to be an explorer in a forest of metal dotted with the psychedelic contrast of the buoys. Even in the pre-dawn darkness and thick fog, the colors leap out, as does the bright yellow of the head-to-toe rain suits worn by the lobstermen and lobsterwomen and at least one little lobsterchild, done up like a miniature sales rep for Gorton’s of Gloucester.

The atmosphere is a mix of seriousness— hauling the traps onto the boats is hard work in a tight space— and festive. Though there aren’t nearly as many tourists here on the first day of October, there are still enough of us and we are excited witnesses to the bustle. Some have volunteered to help, as have seasonal residents like Holden. This is certainly an all hands on deck affair and everyone has a job, even if that job is to stay out of the way and not ask too many questions.