Monday, October 25, 2010

On Robots and Completion

It's so nice when everything comes together in a neat little package. I haven't felt that way in a while so I'm savoring the moment. [Mmmmm...moment...]

As I mentioned in my previous entries, I'd been having a bit of a block with the Ballads to the Buffy Big Bads. Two major factors-- one artistic and one personal -- contributed to the block. The artistic: I've been busy putting the finishing touches on my long-term short film project Lifeline (long-term short that oxymoron?). The personal: dealing with the death of my dear friend, Burning Dan (If you only click on one link, PLEASE click that one; it leads to a gorgeous video tribute that really shows the essence of who he is).

Lifeline -- at least in its current phase -- mostly involves long hours of hair-splitting scrutiny alone in front of my laptop. Not so much fun to blog about. I will, however, say a few words about Dan, which -- like all good things in life -- will eventually lead me to Buffy.

Losing Dan has been a pretty powerful experience for me. I'd known him pretty much a year to the day (met him and parted with him on a Sunday in October). I've had acquaintances and even relatives die, but he was definitely the closest person I've ever known to pass away. He was also the first person I've lost who was my peer. It was quite a shock to everyone he knew because he was one of the most vibrant and life-affirming people in the whole wide universe. But the biggest shocker to me was that I had seen him THAT VERY DAY. Not just that day, that EVENING!!! It boggles the hell out of me that I could be seeing someone and talking to them and hugging them one moment, and a few hours later... poof! No more.

Dan's death also represented something bigger in my mind: the idea that things will never be as they were. Just a month prior, I had let another relationship go. It was a decision I felt certain about at the time. Sad, but certain. Dan's passing added a whole, huge, deeper dimension to the end of that other relationship. I remember staring at Jonathan Reilly's torn-down kitchen at a party Saturday night (more on that momentarily), feeling exactly the way the kitchen looked -- raw, nonfunctional, somewhere between what it was and what it would be. All week, I'd been kicking myself over my Buffy block. But in hindsight, trying to finish a Buffy song in my condition was like trying to fry an egg in a kitchen with the stove yanked out of its socket.

Saturday was a big breakthrough for me. After a few amazing conversations with wonderful friends (and a wee bit of mood-altering facilitation), I had a subtle yet very impactful shift in perspective. Until that point, I had felt a deep sense of loss. That night, I reframed the loss as completion. I had two amazing encounters with people who enriched my life in a multitude of marvelous ways. Those experiences were all I could have hoped for and more. They were, essentially, complete. Don't get me wrong; I'm not magically "over Dan." Like anybody who shared so much as a handshake or smile with him, part of me will always be devastated by his death. He made the world a wacky, wonderful place, and we all wish we had a little more of him. But my time with him was such a gift -- especially my very last encounter with him, which I wrote about in a poem called Carpe the Awesome. And I know that all of us fortunate to still be on this planet owe to Burning Dan to live -- I mean really LIVE -- in a way that lends itself to awe-inspiring adventures of the quirkiest kind. Today was exactly that.

I was working as an extra on The Hard Times of RJ Berger, a raunchy high school scripted MTV comedy, which is going on its second season. I spent most of the day with a group of 20-somethings-playing-teenagers, running around a high school gym in my bra and underwear, pretending to be high out of my mind. It was one of my weirdest, wonderfullest workdays, which involved a surprise cameo by Paris Hilton, along with the making of some cool new friends -- including one of the crew guys who did sound mixing on Dollhouse. (He told me a fun story about how they'd break for lunch, and everyone would run to take a nap in the room where the Dolls slept. Fan girl silent squeal!) And somehow, in the process of playing a stoned, reckless teenager (which is SLIGHTLY different from my usual self, I swear!), I came up with two more lines to my Warren song. Though the song was partially written, I was missing a few big pieces, and my inability to write the remainder made me feel like I may as well not have begun. But those two lines were just enough to get me over the hump, and by the end of the day I had my song.

"If I Were a Robot": love song to Warren. Soon, you will see it in all of its geeky glory. Let me just say that, as wonderfully profound and valuable as it is to experience the concept of completion in a chapter of one's life, completing a Buffy love song FEELS FUCKING AWESOME!!!

And that completes my entry for the day.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Basking Before Buffy

I've gotten temporarily distracted from Buffy by various life things. The intent of this entry was originally to manifest more songwriting. But before I get back to Buffy, I need a moment to bask.

At the moment, I am on cloud nine after having "worked" a full day on the show "Community." I say worked in quotations because I basically spent 15 hours on the Paramount lot doing a metric boatload of absolutely nothing. I guess you could count it as 14 official work hours, minus the hour-long lunch break (which was actually an hour and a half), during which time I snuck in a coffee date on Melrose with my actor/singer/producer friend Andrew Appel, whom I've been meaning to catch up with for a while.

This whole day has left me feeling like a fan of many things. First of all, I am a HUGE fan of days like this -- easy, fun workdays that leave me more relaxed than even the laziest of days at home. I am a fan of the Paramount lot, which -- once I take a glimpse beyond the confines of our gross little smelly little prison of a holding cell -- is majestic and magical and the birthplace of all these epic things that made me want to make movies in the first place. I'm a fan of the camera guy I ran into at crafty who showed me, step-by-step, how to make the perfect peanut butter sandwich combo which was actually two sandwiches -- nutella on one side, raspberry jam on the other. I'm a total fan of Danny Pudi, whom I ran into on another trip to crafty. I struck up a conversation with him, which was easy to do since I had recently seen him perform at The Thrilling Adventure Hour. The fact that he is part of that crowd already earned him massive points in my book. His costume -- a green pair of pajamas with rocket ship print -- totally won my heart.

Needless to say, by the time I clocked out at 11:12 PM, my cake was thoroughly iced. But the night wasn't over yet for this Fan Girl -- I had one more pit stop to make. On my way home from Hollywood, I stopped by the house of my acting teacher, James Eckhouse, to drop off a DVD copy of my short film, "Lifeline." (He had told me in class on Monday that he could take a look at it and give me feedback this week.) This moment was actually a huge deal for me for several reasons. First of all, like many of my peers in their mid-to-late 20s, I grew up watching [the original] Beverly Hills 90210, so James was a fixture of my childhood. This was strongly reinforced by the fact that last year I had gone back and re-watched THE WHOLE SERIES on Netflix (at least through season five, after which point Jim Walsh was no longer a principal character).

Around the same time of my Beverly binge, I also saw James in an independent film called "Half-Life." I was still living in Berkeley, and I remember being in a mire of artistic angst over "Lifeline" at the time. Normally, when I go to those Film Festival screenings with the cast and crew Q&A at the end, I do my best to come up with some extremely witty, thought-provoking question that not only makes the filmmakers look into their "process" in a way they previously hadn't, but also (one can only hope) makes them go, "That girl who asked that question must be totally smart, and creative, and an actor/filmmaker too; just the kind of person I want on my team!" This time, the only burning question that came to mind was "How did you get James Eckhouse to act in your film?"

So there I was, at his doorstep, dropping a copy of MY SHORT FILM -- the very same short film I had been working on while watching him on multiple screens, big and small, dreaming about my life in LA! I took the time to really drink it in -- watching the wind blow through the trees, thinking about how far I'd come, and laughing at my inner 10-year-old for STILL not getting over the fact that his zip code wasn't actually 90210. It's totally silly, but it kills me; it really does.

So there is my flood of fandom for the night. Now, it's back to the books with Buffy. I have a half-formed Frankenstein monster of a song, which I need to flesh out and finally freaking finish. In order to do that, I must watch AT LEAST Warren's debut episode, I Was Made to Love You. Whoever happens to be reading this, I'm holding myself accountable to you. But enough manifesting for the night. It's time for some Dollhouse and dreams.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Fan of Dan

I put Buffy and blogging on the back burner for a bit when I found out about the tragic passing of a close friend of mine. Daniel Gordon-Levitt -- known to most as "Burning Dan" -- was one of those guys you could spot from 10 miles away. You'd first recognize him by his tell-tale color scheme; pink and green were his favorite colors to match his favorite food, watermelon. As you got closer, you would spot his unmistakable chestnut-brown dreadlocks, ornamented at the ends with sparkly little wax balls, also usually pink. I first met him at the birthday party of Joseph of Windows to Sky, where he did a fire-spinning routine to Madonna's "Ray of Light." Having spent many years as a camper and counselor at Camp Winnarainbow, I'd seen people spin fire on several occasions. But I'd never seen anyone spin FIRE, if you know what I mean.

The rest of the evening, he proceeded to describe every aspect of his life as "Awesome!" I later learned that was pretty much the way he felt about everything. In fact, his signature article of clothing was a pink T-shirt that said "Carpe Awesome." Sally Slade, who invented the T-shirt with him, printed out a bunch of them to give away at one of the memorial events. The thing has barely had a moment away from my body.

I won't go over every biographical factoid about Burning Dan, since you can find it all in a matter of moments online. A few basic things: he was a talented fire spinner, an avid attendee of Burning Man (enough to name himself after the event!), a skilled photographer, and a master of all things computer. He helped his brother, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, start an amazing collaborative art website called, which you should ALL go visit and contribute to. He started Flow Temple, a school for flow arts (juggling, poi, devil sticks, staff, etc.). He was the leader of a gigantic community of artists from all walks of life. He was an innovator and imagineer (the last day I saw him, he was teaching some newlyweds a beautiful way he'd invented of holding hands). And he was an amazing source of light in the lives of everyone who crossed his path.

After hearing the news of his death, I wrote him a poem, which I video recorded and linked to the top of this entry. If you did know him, hopefully it will bring back fond memories. And if you didn't, you can learn a little about a very special person who has inspired so many people to be their superhero selves.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Buffilicious Evening

All of you Buffy fans will certainly recognize the two females in the photo. The guy in the middle, you probably don't know... yet. But I'm fans of all of them, especially my friend Robert B. LeMoyne, author of an amazing young adult trilogy called The Inanimate Gods, which will no doubt be in your common vocabulary in the very near future. Robert and I have shared many adventures, and this whole blog -- not to mention the entire Ballads to the Buffy Big Bads project would not exist without him.

I met Robert outside The Thrilling Adventure Hour on Saturday night, along with my other friend Tom Caton. The two of them made the perfect combo of company, since Robert is a Buffy geek to the bone and Tom has never watched an episode of Buffy in his life. Not that he needs to because he has lived it (as I mentioned in an earlier entry, he was the boom operator on Season 2). Robert, Tom, and I had a lovely time before the show hanging out at a café and sharing stories about life, art, and Buffy. Robert and I soaked up every word of Tom's crazy anecdotes of all things Joss and Buffy.

Needless to say, the night got off to a promising start before the show had even begun. From then on, it was surprise after geeky surprise. Before the actual Thrilling Adventure Hour show begins, there is usually an opening act. This time, it was a band consisting of three guys, all of whom switched instruments, playing a short set of two or three songs. I didn't recognize any of them -- or so I thought. Midway through the first song, Robert nudged me and whispered, "The guy in the middle... is that who I think it is?" I looked at him and got giddy. "Oh my goodness, holy mother of everything holy!" It was indeed Adam Busch-- master of the dark arts, leader of the evil geek trio, inventor of the Buffybot!!! The fact that he just sort of appeared, unlisted, unannounced, made it all the cooler. My wheels started spinning. Ode to Warren, ode to Warren...

The whole show was lots of fun, especially in the company of two people who had never seen it before. There was a rich roster of guest stars, including GILLIAN JACOBS (Community), DAVID FURY (writer, producer on 24, Buffy, Angel), MICHAEL HOGAN (Battlestar Galactica), JUSTIN KIRK (Weeds), and TOBY HUSS (Cowboys & Aliens). And, of course, Juliet Landau did a hilarious rendition of Lady Haiku -- a beatnik super villain who only spoke in the 5-7-5 syllable structure.

After the show, it was a flurry of meat-and-greet. I first sought out the guest director Rian Johnson, of whom I am a big fan. (I remember seeing Brick before I moved to LA and thinking, "I want to watch and make movies like THIS for the rest of my life.) I got a picture with Justin Kirk and spoke with Juliet. It was different this time with her because she really saw me; knew who I was; kept mentioning my Drusilla song to people in conversation. When I mentioned "Ooh, Mr. Mayor," she said, "I'll send the link along to Harry Groener [the actor who played the Mayor]-- he's a friend of mine."

Also, this insanely beautiful thing happened at the very tail end of my conversation with Rian. Out of the blue, Amber Benson approached me and said, "Hey. I think I know you from somewhere." I said, "I don't believe we've met, but I KNOW you. We totally had this awesome casual conversation, which Robert joined at the perfect time just as she was mentioning her novels. And at the very moment when I was describing Ballads to the Buffy Big Bads, who should pop into the conversation but Adam Busch?! There was no way I could have planned such a beautiful moment, let alone imagined it!!!

I left the venue flustered and amazed, but not before giving Juliet Landau a hug and goodbye, way out. Robert and I sat at a diner and broke the whole thing down. It's great to have someone to reflect with when it comes to things like this. My own head was filled with self-criticism and out. Did I say the right things to the right people? Too much? Not enough? (And man, the geek in me wished I'd gotten a photo sandwiched between Amber and Adam since one was the other's assassin! Another time...) Thankfully, Robert was there to point out the positive. "Juliet Landau STOPPED her conversation to say goodbye to you. JULIET LANDAU!!!" He kept repeating it over and over again while we drove on Sunset strip.

Looking at it that way, it is pretty wild. Not too long ago, I was the fan girl reluctant to ask for a photo. Three months, three songs, and 4058 youtube hits later, Juliet Landau is making sure she doesn't miss out on our hug goodbye! I suppose you could say I've come a long way.