Dear Jack: Webisodes 9 & 10 of Jack-Man

4 years, 6 months.

Dear Jack: Episodes 9 & 10 of Jack-Man

Dear Jack,

Last weekend you and I left the house at 9:00 AM and didn’t return until nearly 3:00 PM. During those 6 hours, you and I made Webisodes 9 and 10 of Jack-Man; plus we got to hang out at Whole Foods for lunch and you bought Fuzzy (your new rabbit) at TJ Maxx for 3 bucks.

We filmed Webisode 9 in our neighborhood, finding the perfect “haunted house” for Jack-Man to encounter. My twist on the story is that the ghost could only exist if Jack-Man believed in him.

In Webisode 10, I got to try out not some newly learned editing tricks to speed up the action sequences. I also wrote a brand-new song exclusively for this episode, “I’m Coming For You.” I plan to do more of these original songs for Jack-Man.

I’m really excited about Webisode 11, which we are planning on filming this weekend while your friend Sophie will be in town, along with Madison as well. That will be a really fun reunion!

Something that I hope is becoming evident for Jack-Man fans is that these storylines contain social commentary and/or a deeper message than is on the surface.

For example, in Webisode 9, the ghost that only exists if you believe in him represents the psychological limits we place on ourselves that only bother us, but not other people.

EP10 Title Card Actual

And in Webisode 10… well, I feel it’s pretty obvious what Chill Pills represent, as they are easily prescribed to combat “the signs of hyperactivity.”

Jack-Man is a web series that is obviously geared towards children yet contains concepts geared towards adults.

Like in Webisode 11 this weekend, the Green Meanie will be attempting to get Jack-Man to spend the money he got from finding the treasure chest in Webisode 10, instead of investing it.

I can’t wait to record it!

Love,

Daddy

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dad from day one: A Baby’s Sixth Sense

Week 6.

It’s a sort of eery feeling getting up at 1:30 AM, 3:30 AM, and/or 5:30 AM every morning to feed and change Jack.  While it’s still dark and quiet, while I’m only “awake” enough to put the word in quotation marks, and while my memory barely records the routine actions taking place during the twilight, I’m sure I’m subconsciously looking for something out of the ordinary.  As I hold Jack in one arm and his bottle in the other, the dimly lit room casts a strange shadow on his face.  Sometimes when I look at him during this time I get a little creeped out.  In this situation he reminds me of a baby version of the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz (played by the Jewish actor Bert Lahr); that movie and the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, though they are both wonderful classic movies, have always freaked me out a bit.  On a similar note, it also seems like I’m taking care of a little old man, with his receding hairstyle (Jack Nicholson style), his chubby cheeks, and his baby-version-of-cussing-somebody-out cries when he’s really hungry and his diaper is wet.

To make matters more theatrical, there are times when I am taking care of him during the middle of the night when it’s like he peeks around my shoulder and sees something and gets this calm yet curious look on his face. Does he see something?  A guardian angel?  Jesus?  Maybe the ghost of Bert Lahr?

I wouldn’t be surprised if babies can see into the spiritual realm.  It could make sense in a way; babies are completely innocent.  They are unaware of damning traps like pride and greed.  I could see how a baby is naturally closer to Heaven than we adults are.  Sometimes I envy the things my baby may be seeing.  But then again, it would be just another thing to spook me in the middle of the night. It seems every account I can immediately think of in the Bible where an angelic being spoke to a human, the angel always had to start the conversation out with “Do not be afraid…”  But Jack isn’t scared by whatever he is seeing around me that I am less aware; if he’s actually seeing anything supernatural at all.

Bert Lahr as The Cowardly Lion:

The Art of Storytelling: How to Be a Good Storyteller- Start in the Action or Plot, Note the Irony and Comedy, Then Do a Quick Recap

I’m not good at it.  I just follow a formula I made up.

Last month my Italian second cousin Phyllis from Kenosha, Wisconsin left me a comment on my post People Watching in Nashville Traffic, saying, “I love your stories!”  Until then, it had never crossed my mind that I even told stories.  I’ve always seen myself as a younger Grandfather Time- the voice of a man who keeps one foot in the past and one in the present, in order to keep a nostalgic feel on everything “new” idea I write.  Just an involved narrator.

I’ve always thought of myself as a commentator on life.  A writer of nonfiction.  There’s no hesitation in me admitting I’m no good at making up stories- fiction is something I am only a spectator of, not a creator.  What I can do is embellish the story that is already there.

Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon

By connecting the facts to old school pop culture references with a subtle smart Alec touch.  Finding ways to make the ordinary occurrences of life seem more interesting than they are.  My favorite author, Michael Chabon, refers to it in his book Maps and Legends, as “the artist’s urge to discover a pattern in, or derive a meaning from, the random facts of the world”.

 

And that’s basically what I’m doing.  And I get so much out of it.  It makes me feel like, in a sense, I’m about to prove the world’s wisest man ever, King Solomon, wrong, when he said there’s nothing new under the sun.  (Though he’s still obviously right.)

Because everyday life events actually are more interesting than they seem.  They may just need to be seen from a reversed diagonal angle.

So now I’m embracing the fact that intermittent in all my quirky observations are actually little stories.  The tag “storyteller” became even more real to me yesterday as I was conspiring with my sister to write Which Role Do You Play in Your Family? When I asked her what my roles are, the word “storyteller” came up write away.

There are certain things about yourself you can only learn from other people.

Frank Lapidus

Maybe my surprise in all this is the connotation that the word “storyteller” conjures up in my head.  Some eccentric, animated man looking like Frank Lapidus from LOST (for some unknown reason) telling a corny ghost story to a bunch of kids gathered around a campfire who all gasp at the end of the tale when he says, “And the ghost of Tom Joad still haunts this campground today in the form of the wolf that killed him…”  And of course, right as he finishes that sentence, the storyteller’s buddy, who has been hanging out in the woods waiting for his cue, howls at the top of his lungs, for dramatic effect.

 

But now I get it.  Storytellers can also recite true stories.  Nonfiction.  That is my specialty.  And now that I better understand who I am as a writer and communicator, I am starting to realize my frustration when people don’t tell stories the way I like to tell them (and hear them).

Like the guy at work who drags out the end of the story until the last sentence.  And I think to myself, “You can’t do that!” Because I get annoyed waiting to find out the point of the story and I stop listening and start thinking about something else, and whatever I start thinking about instead ends up becoming a new post on this site a few days later.

Or the friend of a friend who uses the punch line or climax of the story as the opening line.  Again, “You can’t do that!”  Because then I feel like there’s really no point in sitting around to hear all the details.

What that tells me about my own form of storytelling is that I have a formula for it:

1)     Start the story in the first moment of action and/or the plotline.

2)     Get to the resolution of the story by the second paragraph, approximately 1/3rd or halfway through the length of the post (or if the story is being told orally, 1/3rd or halfway through the time set aside to tell the story).

3)     Spend the rest of the time or page space picking out the irony and humor of the story’s events.  By not ending the story when the story actually ends, but instead, ending on an provoking or comedic recap note, it opens up the door for the listeners to share in the story- because the story is resolved, yet left open-ended.  (Like the finale of LOST.)

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on storytelling, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

What Ever Happened to the Amusement Park Called “Canyon Land Park”, Near Fort Payne, Alabama?

During the early 1970’s up until circa 1983, there was an amusement park called Canyon Land, just a few miles outside of my hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama on Lookout Mountain. In ‘70’s fashion, very comparable to the Dharma Initiative on LOST, Canyon Land could best be described as “1977 carnival meets small zoo”. One of the rides was a ski lift that took people over an actual canyon, Little River Canyon.

Being that I was born in 1981 and the park closed a few years later, my descriptions aren’t based on me being there during its prime. But my parents did go on dates there as teenagers.

Fortunately in 1993 (7th grade) my church youth minister Eddie McPherson was able to rent the shut down amusement park for $4 for the Halloween season. Our youth group put on an evangelical version of a “spook house” called Hell House. We used the old roller coaster carts and its track to manually push the guests through a “no flashlights allowed tour of hell” which ended with a bright room featuring Jesus (played by my dad) who invited them to Heaven.

It was a lot of fun for a 12 year old kid to explore that old place. The grass was taller than I was, where the parking lot used to be. Much of the place had basically been frozen in time as it evidently was abruptly shut down. In a room that stored all the old ski lift chairs, I found a completely intact Mellow Yellow can from 1979 (which I still have in my old bedroom at my parents’ house.

The urban legend is that the man who ran the place just let all the zoo animals go free into the woods. Therefore, to this day, jaguars and monkeys and all kinds of exotic animals can still be spotted on a lucky day. That would be fun to believe.

Because I helped resurrect Canyon Land for a few weeks in 1993, I tend to imagine what current lively buildings and attractions would be like if they became old an abandoned. Like Starbuck’s, for example. Twenty years from now, will all those Seattle-esque building be defunct? Like the old Food World building that remained years after the Super Wal-Mart came to town.

Not so much a ghost town. But a ghost attraction. Once filled with people laughing and buying ice cream. Now, only visited by raccoons.

Canyon Land is so forsaken that not even the Internet really acknowledges it. No Wikipedia entry. The best Google was able to do was take me to Ebay where someone is trying to sell Canyon Land postcards and tickets from 1970.

http://cgi.ebay.com/Fort-Payne-Alabama-Canyon-Land-Park-Card-Tickets-1970_W0QQitemZ310185209860QQcmdZViewItemQQssPageNameZRSS:B:SRCH:US:101?rvr_id=

Also, for anyone who would like to purchase Canyon Land, it’s currently for sale. For the low, low price of $2.4 million.  http://www.mycampgroundsforsale.com/park_detail.asp?ID=11