Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Who Killed Jonathan Larson?: A Grudge of Three Years and Counting

There was once a young man who had a passion for acting. He followed his passion wherever it led him, even to SeaWorld, where he did a comedy act as an opener for Shamu. He settled down for a time at a university in the southern United States to pursue a graduate degree in his field.

He had a number of adventures during his time there. He connected with other aspiring thespians, lent his talent to the university's theatrical productions, and even taught undergraduate theatre classes.

One such class was called Introduction to Theatre, and its aim was to inform students about the history, culture, and diverse genres of theatre. Most of his students were not theatre majors; they were there to earn their required fine arts credit. But this didn't faze the young teacher. He put long hours into preparing lectures and compiling video clips to give his students the best possible understanding of the field he loved so much. He varied his teaching methods to engage the class, and he usually succeeded in capturing their attention. Some days he even inspired lively debates.

The young teacher was undoubtedly the person with the most theatre knowledge in the room at any given time. While some of his students certainly had a deep appreciation for the craft, he was the one pursuing theatre at the graduate level. No one had a reason to question his knowledge or life experience. What he proclaimed from the front of the classroom was gospel.

He referenced many shows throughout the semester. One of them was Rent, the rock opera telling the story of starving musicians living and dying in New York under the shadow of the AIDS epidemic. The young teacher showed the class a video of the song "La Vie Bohème," a sort of anthem of the starving artists, to give them a taste for the musical's spirit and the way it tackled taboo and unpopular topics. He made sure to tell the tragic story of how the show's creator, Jonathan Larson, died of AIDS just before the show opened, never to see the success of his creation.

There was once a pair of girls taking an eighth grade Civics and Economics class. They were required by their teacher to enter a history contest with the theme "Triumph and Tragedy in History,"  and they were encouraged to do so by creating a short documentary in their school's video editing lab.

Since the girls shared an interest in musical theatre, one girl proposed making a documentary about the creator of one of her new favorite musicals- Rent. His story included both triumph and tragedy in spades, and the visual and musical aspects would shine brighter in a documentary than in any other medium.

The other girl knew nothing about Rent or its creator, but she agreed to team up for the project. She spent the next few months educating herself and quickly fell in love with the musical and the story of its creation. She listened to the original Broadway cast soundtrack constantly and watched whatever video clips she could find online. She found the creator's other musical, tick, tick... BOOM! and analyzed its similarities to Rent. She read the officially-published libretto with its wealth of behind-the-scenes notes, the autobiography of one of the original cast members, and several fan sites full of information and opinions. She watched the recently-released film adaptation, although she concluded it was far inferior to the stage version, and she poked around to see what the arts foundation formed in the creator's name was doing at the time.

The team cobbled together a decent almost-ten-minute documentary using iMovie. It earned them a good grade in their Civics class, performed well in their school's local level of the contest, and moved on to the next level, where it earned third place in their division but did not score highly enough to move forward.

Soon afterwards, the friends parted ways. The girl who had originally known nothing about Jonathan Larson or his popular work moved to the southern United States, bringing her wealth of new knowledge with her. She fell in love with many other musicals over the years, but Rent remained one of her sentimental favorites even as she started her undergraduate studies.

In the last semester of her senior year, the girl found herself in a very enjoyable Introduction to Theatre class. She enjoyed the teacher's personality and his efforts to make the class interesting, and she loved all the musical video clips that he shared with them. She nearly exploded in excitement when the teacher brought up the topic of Rent one day.

The teacher introduced the video he was about to play as "la VEE bo-HEM," which made the girl cringe. She tried to forgive his poor pronunciation and reminded herself that not everyone was minoring in French like she was. But her irritation mounted as the video concluded and the teacher continued to mispronounce the song title, despite having just heard the performers singing the correct pronunciation ("la VEE bo-EMM") over and over again. She tried to ignore it and simply enjoy the conversation.

Then the young teacher proceeded to tell the tragic story of how the show's creator, Jonathan Larson, worked hard to write a musical that would show the victims of AIDS in a sympathetic light and challenge the perceptions people had of them at the time, but he died of AIDS before the show could even open.

The passing of all those turbulent teenage years could not erase long hours of impassioned research from the girl's mind. She knew Larson had gone door-to-door as a child to see which of his neighbors weren't home so he could swim in their pool. She knew Larson made a giant pot of spaghetti and portioned it out as his supper each night of the week while he was writing music. And she knew Jonathan Larson never had AIDS- he had died of complications of his Marfan syndrome.

She sat at her flimsy desk, her burning rage and indignation manifesting in a frown that she directed right at the teacher, almost daring him to see her expression and ask what was wrong. Her hand twitched, desperate to shoot up into the air and silence the teacher mid-sentence, but she bit her tongue. "Don't be that person," she repeated to herself like a mantra. The teacher was doing his best and didn't deserve to be called out by one of his students in front of the entire class. Don't be that person.

She managed to stay quiet throughout the class, and she resisted the urge to approach the teacher after class, but the frustration burned within her. She overthought and overanalyzed- where had the teacher gotten his information? A simple Google search would have told him the true story. Had he heard about Larson's untimely death and just assumed that, since so many of his characters had AIDS, he had to have had it, too? If so, it was a lazy excuse for proper research, and Jonathan Larson deserved to have his story told correctly.

The girl complained to her friends about the blatant misinformation the teacher had fed her class, and she seethed about the incident whenever she thought about it, but she resisted the urge to confront the teacher during his office hours or send him a snotty email informing him of his mistake. Don't be that person. Don't be that person.

She held her tongue until the end of the semester, when teacher evaluation forms opened up online. She rated the class fairly, discussing how it was usually informative and entertaining. She praised the teacher's efforts. But she could not resist a parting shot in the comments box, informing the teacher as politely as she could that he was wrong.

Obviously, that girl was me, and I'm still a little irritated. I'm aware that I'm a snob and a know-it-all and I need to let it go. I know that interrupting the class to correct the teacher wouldn't have helped anyone and would've cost me my classmates' good opinion. And in the teacher's defense, it was a fairly reasonable assumption to make. He was doing his best to make the lesson interesting, and he had provoked a genuine emotional response in my classmates. It wasn't his fault he had a fanatical Larson subject matter expert in his class.

But he did. And the discomfort of hearing someone present incorrect information about a topic I know and love well was real. And to this day, I still don't know how I stopped myself from being a terrible human being and blurting out the "Well, ACTUALLY" in my head.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day! Thank you for visiting my blog. Remember that you are a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. And don't forget- no matter who you are, where you live, or what you look like, you are my valentine. My world is better because you're in it!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Weird Dreams: Trombone Concert

I have really, really weird dreams. They're very vivid and detailed, and I can usually remember them pretty well when I wake up. It's a side effect of a medication I take. It's as though the old director of my dream movies got fired and replaced by a really eccentric, artistic, hyperactive director who can't figure out how to make dreams stunning and entertaining without stressing me out and making me feel tired when I wake up.

I remember when I was studying French in high school, my classmates used to get so excited when we had dreams in which we spoke French, because that meant the language was really sinking into our brains. It was a momentous occasion when someone burst into the classroom and shouted, "I GOT MY FRENCH DREAM!"

I remember my first "French dream." I was practicing saying "Je voudrais un croissant, s'il vous plaît" (I would like a croissant, please) over and over because I wanted to order a croissant at the France pavilion at Epcot.

Now my French dreams are a lot more insane. They consist of me going BLAH BLAH BLAH in complete sentences while I run around strange, cobblestone streets in Paris or Tours, having weird adventures in some kind of study abroad program.

Last night, I dreamed I was playing the trombone in a school band concert. I don't play trombone. I play clarinet. But there I was, in what seemed to be the school's top ensemble, playing the trombone pretty dang well considering I don't know how to play the trombone.

And by "pretty dang well," I mean I hit some of the notes. I was well aware that I was nowhere near as good as the other trombone players around me.

The dream was just so absurd that I had to doodle it. This is the first art I've made using Krita on my new laptop, and I was playing around with a few interesting brushes.

While I was drawing, I thought to myself, "You know, I really have no idea what a trombone is supposed to look like. Maybe I should look at a photo online for reference."

And then I thought to myself, "If I can't picture what a trombone looks like now when I'm awake, there's no way my dream self was holding anything remotely resembling a trombone." So I just went with it.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Acne Explained

My Face: Hey, boss?

Me: Hmm?

Face: Hey, I got those notes you sent about appearances for the new month, and I was wondering if you'd be open to some suggestions.

Me: Well, I suppose I could think about it. What did you have in mind?

Face: Well, first of all, I can't get rid of the bags under the eyes. We're under contract with Insomnia and Electronic Media. I could try to soak up a little sunlight, go a little tanner, you know- reduce the contrast a little.

Me: *sigh* Fair enough. What else?

Face: Well, you said you'd like to go for smooth, consistently-colored skin again, and I was just thinking... isn't that a little boring?

Me: What do you mean?

Face: Well, think about it! Everybody wants skin like that, and so many people either have it or use makeup to make it look that way. Why don't we try something a little different?

Me: No.

Face: Hear me out! It would be a bit modern, a little abstract- We can get some red shading in places, and then we'll go for a 3-D effect with some pink, and red, and- just wait, you're going to love this- WHITE!

Me: NO!

Face: No, it'll be okay! I'll sprinkle some little dark spots around your nose, chin, and forehead. I think it'll really enrich the color palette.

Me: NO, NO, NO, NO. NO PIMPLES. NO BLACKHEADS. NO WHITEHEADS. THIS IS NOT UP FOR DEBATE!

Face: ...

Face: ...but I already ordered the pimples...

Thursday, January 18, 2018

I GOT A NEW LAPTOP

Hello, ladies and gentlebloggers! I have fantastic news- I recently bought myself a new laptop, and it arrived this evening! I may or may not have completely forgotten about going to karate in my excitement.

It's a Dell Inspiron 15 5000 series 2-in-1, so I can flip the lid all the way back and turn it into a tablet. A rather large tablet, mind you, but here's the awesome thing-

IT'S LIKE HAVING A HUGE DIGITAL SKETCHBOOK.

The laptop came with a free trial of Autodesk SketchBook, which I used to create this lovely quick sketch fox:


(I had to take a screenshot... I don't think the free trial has a way to export photos as anything other than a TIF, and Blogger doesn't like those)

It was pretty neat! It's a bit different from my Wacom Bamboo Splash tablet, which didn't have a screen of its own. I'm looking forward to getting a better stylus to work with.

This laptop is also pretty great for reading comic books online. I usually use my Marvel Unlimited app to read comics on my iPhone, but the screen is kind of small. My laptop screen is anything BUT small. One could say that the digital comics I'm reading are larger than life. Because they are. They are literally bigger than actual comic books.

I'm still getting used to Windows 10 and my new hardware, but I'm pretty psyched about my new laptop so far!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Heartburn Inferno

I'm having a flare-up of heartburn and acid reflux and who knows what else. Pepto Bismol is helping, but not completely. If it doesn't go away, I'm gonna have to go see my doctor about getting back on prescription medication, 'cause this is not the way I want to live my life.

Scribbly work doodles are how I deal with my problems.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Frustrated Meeting Doodles

I attended a meeting today. I thought it was going to be a cool thing where I tested out a new software program my company's getting ready to use, but instead I had to watch a poorly-edited video of someone showing us how to use the program.

The narrator's voice was quite pleasant- she had an accent that sounded British, but infused with elements of an American South accent.

But the video was still kind of long, and there were parts that didn't apply to us, and I was starting to feel like I was going to explode, so I started doodling a little.



It made me feel better and carried me through until we got back to the relevant stuff.