Mantis Shrimp

I finally crossed something off my internet bucket list. Something out in the real world that you only hear about because the internet.

This creature is something I’ve wanted to see ever since I read that awesome Oatmeal post. I hope you’re already down the rabbit hole and know what I’m talking about. Colorful cartoon super-punching shrimp. That about nails it.

Or maybe you listened to the Colors Radiolab podcast and learned all about the MegaSuperRainbow spectrum of colors that they can see with their superior eye cones.

Or maybe you saw the PBS Deep Look vid.

or the Nat Geo one.

I was once where you hopefully are now and I filed it in the back of my mind that the Monterey Bay Aquarium houses one of these ferocious beauties.  

If you’ve got bad knees, this is as close as your going to get to one. Isn’t it cute?!

Wine Country

Every single time I cross that Golden Gate Bridge I am enamored with the northern bay area way of life. Every time I come home saying — THAT is what I want to do with my life! Why am I not living like they are??

I get it though. I know that my interpretation is way off because when I go up there, I’m on vacation and so is mostly everyone else up there! It’s easy to think, geez I’m living wrong.

I should be sipping wine at 11am and taking 4 hour power naps until a 4 course dinner—EVERY DAY!

It happened again. We took a long weekend up to Sonoma with one of our favorite couples on the planet. It was marvelous.

Ya know, there are just those people that you meet and you’re connected. This friend is one of them. Her husband 100%, too. It’s like we all just mesh and it feels so good. (She tells that story entirely differently, but this is my blog.)

I laugh until I’m sick. I nap. (I never nap.) I laugh tears. I face fears. I do things I normally wouldn’t ever do and I already miss them. They even make me miss Chicago. We all pulled through some horribly cold nights together there. And whether they knew it or not, they helped pull us through some horribly cold and dark years there. This visit meant so stupid much to me. I hope it doesn’t take us 5 years for the next one!

It’s been a crazy time here lately for friends—whether they’re leaving or getting sick or struggling through tough times. It’s really made me appreciate all of them so much. As RuPaul says: we choose our family.

So I just want to raise my glass to all of those amazing friends that have stuck it out with me for so long. And hell, I even want to raise a glass to those that took an exit! Comedy is all about timing. The impressions you all have made on my life were noticed.

P.S. I finally joined a wine club!!! It’s like my purpose in life now. Just like the time I went kayaking. Somehow I see this one sticking.

P.S.S. Someone else rear ended my poor little baby girl, MINI. What is the fucking deal, people??? Who rear ends a mini full of people wearing giant hats with the top down? Ugh, enough already. That car is going on it’s 3rd bumper and it is only 6 months old!!

Podcasting is so hard.

I’m trying to find my will to continue podcast editing. Life’s always so busy and I’ve been trying to fill any spare time with bicycling and photography. But we went out with a new friend this weekend and laughed ourselves horse over stories and it really made me want to get back in the groove of our podcast. We have sooooooo many ridiculous stories and I want to tell them so badly.

It’s different though when you’re hanging out with a new friend and you just have so many crazy stories to launch into—than when it’s just the two of us sitting at microphones in our studio.

I am struggling to capture that magic of genuine storytelling. Since our days of stage improv in Nashville, we are just improv artists at heart. We have all sorts of ways that we’ve experimented, but I keep coming back to the fact that…what if we had someone that could join the recordings. What if we had someone to tell the stories to? It would be miles above any sort of production spin magic that even *I* could put on it! ;-)

It’s a big commitment though. And you have all probably gathered by now the fact that I only like to depend on myself because if you want anything done—DO IT YOURSELF.

So I’m making a few promises to myself and to our podcast dream. Naturally, I wanted to put them here to keep me honest and motivated:

  1. I will not overproduce them. I will let them live free—without my enormous efforts in editing.

  2. I will export mp3 roughs for each edit so that I can easily listen on my walks and in the car. To fulfill this promise, I have already exported the 3 drafts we are currently editing. (But let’s face it, I’m only listening to Nicki Minaj, Cardi B and Lizzo when I’m driving. Or Salt-n-pepa when I’ve got the top down, just to show my age.)

  3. When there are 5 episodes of 35 minutes each recorded and in-the-can…I WILL BEGIN TO RELEASE.

My goal has been to produce a 6-part series of our favorite stories. I will not let inconvenience or distractions get in my way now. Promise.

But speaking of distractions. Here’s the latest from my lanai collection.

48116208866_a53032a1b1_k (1).jpg

And here’s a long exposure from our podcast studio…sometimes it’s hard to focus in this place!

Sony and Zeiss play so nice together.

Sony and Zeiss play so nice together.

Going Home

When you reach a certain point in your life, you can’t ever really go home. Home becomes your daily life, even without kids of my own. California is home. Wherever Mariela is, is home now.

But we went to St. Louis and on a short tour of my family in the midwest this week. We rented the equally ridiculous car that we almost bought instead of our Mini convertible, a Jeep Sahara 4x4. It was so fun and enormous compared to our little Mini. But the top covers weren’t on quite right so it sounded so loud—like your head was outside the car window on the highway. After a few short highway trips we discovered the problem and after fighting to get the covers sealed, it was a much more enjoyable experience. But I have to say, It’s an awful lot of work for a glorified sunroof! My Mini drops the top on her own and at a stoplight. I just have to push a button, not crawl to the roof and fight with large ceiling panels. Whew, I know we made the right choice. I mean aside from the fact that the Mini is a rocket, it also just feels so much nicer. STILL, I want a Jeep now. Of course.

IMG_1707.jpg

The point of all of that is that it was a perfect car for driving over the flooded Mississippi River and through extreme deer country. All of the flood waters have caused the deer populations to seek high ground—the roads were full of deer at 2am. Absolutely frightening.

This trip was to celebrate my Granny turning 80 years old! And it was also a feeble attempt to find some way to accept or ease my mind over the passing of one of the most important people in my raising…my Aunt Donna. I’ll be honest, I’ve been extremely depressed since we lost her in November. I cannot think about her without tears streaming immediately. I know she wouldn’t want that. She was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. She only brought laughter and happiness (AND PHOTOS—lots and lots of photos) when she was around. I know she would want me to keep carrying on.

I always thought she was silly to have all of these cemetery plots for the family, but in my guilt of missing her funeral—it was the one place I could go to find peace, or so I thought. There was some relief to see her dirt square next to my Uncle’s grave, to know that their headstones would be fused into one soon. I placed flowers to hang over the two of them. I sat and cried into the mosquitoes and cleaned up their area before saying goodbye. I stopped in on Beulah, my Great-grandmother’s grave, watching over them nearby. Beulah was the head of this family of amazing sisters and one traveling uncle. My Grandma came from a large family of 6 girls and 1 boy. When I was a kid, my (great) Aunts were the core of our family. They kept us together because they needed to be together. They would bring their kids and dogs and pile into Aunt Donna’s house for holidays, summer cookouts or just to hang out and craft together. My Aunt Donna had a salon in a huge room off the house and they would all bleach, color, perm, braid and cut everyone’s hair, for sport. It was the best times of my childhood. They all have an Oklahoma twang and beautiful native-american influenced skin. They are strong and willful women that never accepted smack talk. They looked out for each other in ways that families just don’t anymore.

It shouldn’t be surprising, but it was kind of surprising to me that I found the most connection with Aunt Donna through her baby sister, my Aunt Nita. We stayed with her for most of our trip. When I was a kid, Aunt Nita was the coolest Aunt. She was military and my cousins got to live in amazing places like Hawaii and Germany. It was always so exciting to hear that Aunt Nita was coming home. It was a real reason to rollout the best and for everyone to try to get together. The aunts would make giant vats of potato salad and bust out the crafts!!! It was always a reason to celebrate. Aunt Nita and Aunt Donna were so close in age and in absolutely every way in life—even though their lives were opposite. The oceans and life experiences never kept them apart. They talked on the phone all the time and shared kids stories and craft obsessions. And they made time for each other whenever they could.

I think a lot of my sadness comes from her loss. I know how important my Aunt Donna was to her. But seeing her and hearing my Aunt Donna in her voice really started to heal my bruised heart. The last time I saw my Aunt Donna was sitting at Aunt Nita’s dining room table. I hugged her and told her I loved her… and never saw her again. This time, we sat in those same chairs and cried and laughed about Aunt Donna.

I feel so incredibly lucky to have walked in on Aunt Nita making one of her talk-of-the-town CAKES!!! I’ve only ever seen them in their magnificent final states, but this time we got to watch and learn from a cake master. Mariela frantically took notes and I tried to snap pictures and just enjoy the crafting magic once again of my aunt(-s). Mariela struggled to help turn the cake and Aunt Nita just laughed it off when she failed and her icing line broke. It was the best thing that’s happened all year. It’s my family line—broken and tattered, but patched together and continuing to delight with it’s own little bits of magic.

IMG_2937.jpg

My Aunt Donna taught me that kids come first. She severed her relationship with my mom because of the way she treated us kids. We’re the opposite of my Grandma’s family—we were separated and never really raised in the same house. I have that staunchness from Aunt Donna and I carry it forward. As a result, I will never have the chance to be apart of one of my nephew & niece’s lives. That makes me sad because I know how important family is to my great-Aunts and Grandma. But kids come first and I will not apologize for standing up for the little guy. I would do it again. Today.

My brother and sister were too young or not there to see my Aunt Donna fighting for their futures. I saw in her the person that I wanted to be. Strong, unwavering and believing in something bigger than herself.

The other part of this trip that helped so much to heal my heart was the fact that my baby brother took his kids out of school for the day and drove them 2 hours to Granny’s birthday get together. I haven’t seen them in years. They barely know how/if we’re related, but that didn’t stop them from climbing all over us and wanting to find out! It truly meant the world to me to see them and I love him forever for it.

A7300654.jpg

When I was a kid, I was so smitten with my Aunt Donna because of her camera. She had fun with it and made us have fun because of it. I always wanted to be THAT Aunt, ya know. Imagine my surprise that my wife was actually THAT aunt… The kids loved my camera right away. My niece pointed to it and wanted to see it. I showed her and let her take a photo, but when Mariela busted out the Instax Mini 90 Classic and handed it over to the kids…she became THAT aunt. She would reload it over and over with her special hand-checked film cartridges. She taught them double exposures and gave them their own photos to take home in their little pockets…

“It looks so OLD!” Lucas said kind of disgusted but amazed.

It was like the universe smiling at me in the best possible way.

IMG_5246.jpg

My niece was standing in a group of tall adults. She looked a little unsure, so I reached out my hands to her just to reassure her and she jumped into my arms like we were connected souls. She reminds me so much of my brother at that age. I’m so incredibly grateful that he gave me that chance to see them. I hope we can make the future in each other’s lives somehow, even if it’s random visits from an aunt that lives far, far away. After all, that Aunt for me is the only one that could ease this burden right now.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my amazing aunts out there…and up there. I love you and all that you stand for.

Double Exposure

Fort Mason Greeeeeeeeeen

We went to the city last weekend to stop by the Cartoon Art Museum along the bay. We arrived early to do a little photo walk in our favorite park, Fort Mason Green. We used to go there in our first year of moving to the bay area. It not only has an incredible view of “The Bridge,” but it kinda sits atop everything with such an expansive view. It just feels incredible to be there—looking back either on the beautiful hills of SF lights or out at the water, Alcatraz, the Palace of Fine Arts, huge trees, palm trees, whatever your pleasure! This year, they’ve really put the GREEN in Fort Mason Green! I must admit, the rains (and several other huge factors) have been so depressing this year, but wow, everything looks so lush and gorgeous. I’m so glad (and terrified at how I’m going to pay for it) that I bought a new Sony a7iii and crazy Zeiss lens because #bealphafemale. But I’ve been shooting with the same old gutted camera for over 8 years now. I mean, personally obviously. I’m so fortunate that I get to shoot with nice gear for a living.

Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco

It’s not the same though as when it’s MY camera. I always have such a strong connection with my camera. It’s more than a piece of equipment. So we may be eating ramen for a year to pay for it, but I’m so extremely grateful to have a new camera that is mine...and isn’t dented or has a short in the display anymore.

Aaaaaand this is the spring for photography in the bay area. Green, green, lush, green, lush!

We went to the book signing to see Brian Fies give a presentation about his new book. I won an Emmy because of him and his incredible storytelling. So as he says, “We’re forever tied together!” It was a great opportunity to see him again, get a signed copy of his book, and see my work as part of a museum exhibit. That certainly doesn’t happen everyday. I don’t push products, but you should buy his book.

As a pretty selfish artist myself, it’s so meaningful if your work can directly have an affect on someone’s life. I started learning all of this for my own stories and never thought I’d have the chance to share someone else’s because of it! Maybe it’s silly, but that means the world to me. This was such a heartbreaking story to edit and animate. It was exceptionally difficult to manipulate another artist’s work, but he was so wonderful about the changes and modifications I made. And he certainly changed my life in the process. Now I get introduced at parties as “She has an Emmy!” —but seriously, this story saved me. I felt like my world was crumbling and I was presented with another story way worse and far more important than my own troubles. It forced me out of a darkness and into creation. I worked around the clock to animate his story in the rapid news cycle of today. I thought it would be important for the people devastated by the fires. It was at least important enough to him and his family to share it with the world.

This story, and his previous stories, strike such a chord with me because of his ability to take horrible trauma and turn it into something that is relatable and yet completely brutally honest. His art comes from darkness, something I can certainly relate to…

Brian Fies art, Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco, CA.

I’m so happy to see this book rise out of the ashes, in his medium, comics. To see his refined and beautiful drawings that are completely true to the rushed, ragged version that we started with, now in full color. Full circle. Thank you for dragging me along on a little of your journey, Brian. Onwards and upwards, dear sir!

After the talk and book signing, Mariela and I walked the dark path back and spent some time taking long exposures, crawling around in wet grass and using only our phone flashlights and it was perfect. I love shooting with her more than anything. She makes me want to take chances and do things different. Still my muse. I know someday we will do it more…and until then, we can do lots more mini photowalks of our own.

View from the Fort

Double Exposure

*Instax collection by Mariela!

Speaking of mini — I bought Mariela a little instax mini 90 polaroid-like camera for her birthday recently. She’s not really one for sharing her photos, but her eye is better than any photographer I know. It may sound crazy because she won’t even touch my new camera and barely touched the one that I just sold and had used for almost a decade. She’s not technical about her photography, it’s just really GOOD. She has incredible hidden talent in photography, she just won’t believe me. She loves instant photos so I had to find her a fun camera that SHE would love. I knew she would like it for awhile, but I didn’t think she would love it quite as much as she does. She really has taken to it and makes these amazing double exposures that blow my mind. I know I’m biased, but she took more than an entire roll on our walk yesterday and each photo is so damn cool. The textures make you want to stare at them forever…a tiny business card sized photo! Fuck instagram, I just want to crawl through a tiny museum of Mariela’s Polaroids!

📷: Mariela Abbott

📷: Mariela Abbott

She gifted this photo to me and gave me full permissions to share as I wish. ❤️

Tech jam sesh

I really love it when family comes to town and Farrin patiently teaches older people how to improve their tech with the machines they already have and how to make their shit work better by downloading a new App or 3.

Now of course she also teaches me this stuff but I usually forget or get confused, and don’t want to bring her down to my level by asking her the same inane questions all the time, because I thoroughly believe in not wasting out a good resource. I save my no-such-thing-as-a-stupid-question stupid questions for things like mic set up and editing in Audition (over and over and over again).

Then inevitably due to my own ignorance, I don’t really use things like this blog as much as I intend to and the cool tech in my life falls aside. 

Not today! Recently F helped Uncle Ditch set up his blog where he now shares the tales of his travels, along with some really beautiful off-the-beaten-path pics; gives unsolicted tips, documents remote Ferry rides and provides general Ditch observations. 

Photo syncing for intermediate learners. 

Photo syncing for intermediate learners. 

I’m really digging it. It took F a lot longer than she thought to really get it up and running and formatting correctly, and making sure it pulled in pics from Ditch’s Lightroom and all that jazz.  I don’t know where she finds the strength but I’m very grateful. I forgot all about this Blog App that I’m using right now to write this post. And she had already ensured that all my photos automagically show up on my ipad. Cool. 

I’m really inspired by Ditch and his travels. I really hope he keeps blogging the shit out of all of it. I for one am definitely going to blog more now that I know how to use this thing again. 

 

January Photo Explosion

It has been a whirlwind of a January for us. It’s usually a time that is pretty quiet. Returning from the long luxurious university break and then slowly ramping up into lots of projects at work. But this January has been totally different! We had two exciting visitors — my cousin Jefferson and my Uncle Ditch! They were separated by a week, but we got to do a lot of the sight seeing and fun you do when visitors come to the Bay Area.

Half Moon Bay, Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, the Mission, Monterey Bay Aquarium… a gas station in Pescadero for tacos. You know, the usual.

But with my family, it is never, the usual.

It started with Jefferson joining us for a nice dinner outside on my birthday! It rained most of his visit, but we managed to hike around the tide pools in Half Moon Bay and drive across the Golden Gate with the convertible top down—a few small victories in a very rainy Bay Area winter. (Luckily, we had a lot of time to fight and bicker about Overcooked on Nintendo Switch!)

Uncle Ditch is a blast and always brings out crazy in us. We went on an epic taco triathlon around the Bay Area and finished it off with an entire blueberry chess pie. We did. a. lot. But really in the end, I feel such a recharge from their visits. They each inspired me in various ways and that’s so SO nice to have this time of year.

Before Ditch gleefully boarded his train to Oregon, he sat down for a mini recording session with us in the new podcast studio. I’m so thrilled about it because he retold one of my very favorite Uncle Ditch stories. I don’t know precisely how I will use it yet, other than a hidden diamond in my digital archive.


Speaking of digital archive. I’ve been on a quest this entire week to save and recover nearly lost and broken photo archives, both at work and then at home this whole weekend.

I’ve discovered that somewhere along the way, my lightroom photography database was lost and only starts from here in California (6 years). It’s a bummer and at first upsetting, but then I realized how grateful I am for Flickr. All of my original edits in full resolution are still available. The raw and discards are lost, but the finished photos remain.

Nothing is forever.

Best to keep moving forward.

P.S. Squarespace is really pissing me off about flickr integration — or lack thereof! So the actual photos are over here on Flickr. If you’re interested.

Puppet Studio Prototype!

Wow, it’s been a terrific WINTER BREAK!!! It’s been so so so nice to just spend time together at home. Our Christmas presents were “hers and hers MIXERS!!!” M has been wanting to dive into baking crazy things and I’ve been hard at work—really for the past 20 years—building a studio and a real mixer was an awesome addition!!!

We spent the break working away on all sorts of prototyping experiments with podcasting, graphics, animation, puppets, audio and any kind of media we could pin down. M is learning audio editing and we just chilled around here and worked on making this crazy prototype. I’m so proud of us for pulling it through by the end:

a bit of an overall update and testing out some techniques...

**We used a whole slew of Adobe products to wrangle this crazy thing together: Audition, Rush, Premiere Pro, Character Animator, Illustrator and of course, my favorite, After Effects.

Drop the top.

It’s weird. Our car started crapping out just all of a sudden. Month after month it was huge expenses to fix something stupid—like an air conditioner vent that made a horrible sound every time I started the car. Yeah that was $600. Despite continuous Volkswagen services, it just kept shocking me. Finally, the fuel pump and injector blew and I was out of love. I’ve been a VW driver since college — 3 Jettas, 1 GTI…but I could NOT buy another one. The last two were never as good as the first 2. It was time to move on. But the GTI was my dream car. It was the first car that I drove at 16 and said — I’m going to have one of them. So I did.

New scene.

We’ve moved out to the edge of civilization to “be close to the water” but that also means that M is often stranded because public transportation is no longer an option and she just would not drive the manual GTI.

So we started car shopping, picked out the most ridiculous car we could find and set the wheels into motion. It all happened at the worst possible time, but it’s always been our dream to own a convertible. Since we first visited California together in 2006 when we rented a Sebring convertible that we would just drop the top randomly at almost every stoplight in LA...we have wanted a convertible. I think my friend put it best the other day when I opened the roof after one of our infamous mall shopping trips like Cher in Clueless and he said “I don’t deserve to feel this free.” Maybe we don’t either, but that’s never stopped us before. And sure, we can only carry 2 bags of groceries and 3 bottles of wine at a time and the backseat has absolutely NO floor room so it’s basically just a place to put your feet when you’re waving in a parade—propped up on the back like a princess. But whatever. If there’s anything these last few weeks has taught me is that life is short. I’m hellbent on living it.

It’s a 2019 Mini Cooper John Cooper Works Convertible with the JCW tuning and bluetooth exhaust. I haggled for that last bit like my Granddad would have and I was pretty proud. I had spent the day fighting at the dealer and it was closing time. MY bottom line was met and I went in for more...he would be proud. Perhaps not of the car—but if there’s one thing I was good at, it was convincing him about cars. He always enjoyed my car rantings even though the “ivy-educated” man could car less about cars...I carry him on, too.

It’s a pocket rocket with nowhere to even put the garage door clicker. It’s absurd and the most British car I’ve ever seen. If Patsy & Eddie went out car shopping without Saffy, this is the car they would buy, today. (—If we hadn’t already.)

I’m not gonna lie. It’s amazing to drive around in a convertible. One of my favorite things to do is blast Christmas music rumbling under our seats in the full California sunshine, with the top down. THAT is living. Not that we’ve been able to much because it’s rainy season, thankfully. But hearing the rain pitter-patter on the soft canvas top is southing for my weary “winterness”. I’ll try to capture some recordings of that, but for now you can listen to the special bluetooth popcorn maker exhaust:

 

with the added JCW exhaust and tuning kit

stop motion, some thoughts...

I’ve been working on an insanely difficult project in my real job. It’s a huge undertaking that I’ve made even more difficult by adding in stop motion elements. I LOOOOOVE stop motion. To me it’s one of the really magical things of cinema. I love the problem solving, the designing, the building with real materials, the focus on details and the absolute tediousness of the work. One mistake and you’re starting that whooooole scene all over again. Period.

It makes me hold my breath, crawl around on the floor, lift heavy objects, get glue and paint on all of my clothes, sweat under lights for hours—for a few seconds of footage. But to see something that I made, come to life is incredible. I love it.

Having said all of that, I need to save it for my own projects because it’s incredibly time consuming. No one in their right mind can really fully grasp the time it takes unless they too are insane enough to do it!!!

Our very 1st film project was a silly little stop motion in 2005-ish. Mariela and I are a team with stop motion. Together we can do anything. A couple that has been together for 17+ years, that can bicker about the dumbest things, are calm and collected for 4 hours animating a 10 second sequence together. It’s like our zen place. Each piece moved in rhythm, we sweat, we barely breathed and we finished. No bickering. No arguing. It was pretty beautiful. We should do it more often…

32373891218_126b329a87_o.jpg
44430003160_741ac8a5d0_o.jpg

"My Aunt Donna ain't no fuzzy."

I’ve searched this entire week for peace. I know that the normal process of getting older is losing people that you love dearly. But my Aunt Donna was one of the most influential people in my life, from the time I was born. I feel like there’s a giant hole in the world now. She was my protector, my savior, my discipline, my motivator, my confidence. She taught me to love photography and cameras, my love of crafting and making shit with my hands…and she was the funniest person in my life.

Scan-AuntDonna 6-e.jpg

She ran a beauty salon out of our house. I was an orphan and so were my 2 siblings. We were orphaned frequently, sometimes my mom would just leave us in apartments and call my Aunt Donna to “come get us, she was leaving.” Aunt Donna would drive hours, like Steve McQueen in a Dodge Caravan to save us…

Girl Scout camp, 1985

Girl Scout camp, 1985

She put me in school, fixed my hair, made me pose for pictures and told me to be confident:

“Get out there in your swimming suit, don’t let them stop you. I’m gonna get my fat ass out there! I don’t care what anybody thinks.”

She became a girl scout troop leader because I needed one. She was THE BEST girl scout troop leader there ever was…she had a giant van for all of her felt and glitter, she took us on amazing trips and taught us to make everything. I was so proud to call her my aunt. When I was drowning, she saved me—from the shore. When I was smart-mouthing, she chased me down. I was young and thought she was too big to catch me, but she defied her size in every way. She could outrun me at 12. She could out-swim me my whole life.

When my brother needed her, she saved him, repeatedly.

The day my family broke apart forever — it was Aunt Donna that saved my sister from foster care. She dropped everything and ran to fight to keep my sister in the family. I always looked up to her and not just because she was radiant with the world’s perfect tan and not one hair was ever out of place. I looked up to her because she had a heart of gold and a bitingly funny sense of humor. Because she cared about everyone, but with her charismatic gruff exterior.

She gathered the family around her table like it was her job. She brought happiness into my life every time I saw her…and that is why I feel so terribly guilty for not being there to lay her to rest today. She was always there for me. Always.

But I’ve battled my demons all week, the same demons that I was trapped with as a child in this 40 year battle—my mom and my grandma. The four of us have gone around this circle for so long. I had to end it here. My mom has ruined every funeral she’s ever attended and even some that she didn’t attend…I absolutely could not risk being the reason for a scene at my Aunt Donna’s. I had to give my family the respect she deserves. All she ever wanted for me was to get out of that bullshit…So I will say goodbye to her in my own way. But in a way that she would appreciate, working on a crazy craft building set for my job. That’s the girl scout she made…

I love you so much, Aunt Donna. You are the fabric of every part of who I am.

Thank you for always saving me and for teaching me how to use a camera. It’s sooooo much of the person behind the lens. Thanks for lighting my life.

**This is one of my favorite moments. Clearly my exposure was off, but it’s still one of my favorite memories. Her photo and mine, with Uncle D over my shoulder. Forever.

Gold Dustfree Woman

I won an Emmy!!!???

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's a thousand pictures of one of the craziest nights of my life! 

I'm so honored to have worked on this incredible story. It was also terrific to spend a little time getting to know Brian. And as he said,

“we’re tied together forever now!”

 

I couldn't be happier about that...at least given the extremely unfortunate circumstances that brought us together. I'm proud of the three of us for turning fused and melted metal into gold.

 

* more and more photos *

EMMY

Dun tah ta daaaa!

My new job is awesome. My work has been in Gizmodo, Newsweek and I’ve even had to set up a Google alert for myself!?!? But the greatest thing is that I feel pushed further with graphics than I ever really thought possible. I had started to feel a bit dull and bored with graphic creation because it started to feel hollow and meaningless. Churning out lifeless storyboards felt like a grind (other than the occasion amazing project as I mention below)... but now I’m constantly trying to actually learn and visualize extremely complicated science breakthroughs AND trying to figure out how to show them to the rest of the world. It is so challenging and I love it!!

Speaking of challenging — Cinema 4D. Whew, what a learning curve. I feel like I start to get it or at least the basics of it and how it all works and then feel like I have to start all over again the next time. I’m trying to get myself on a routine of working on it so the latency doesn’t keep hindering my progress. Luckily in the coming weeks I will have all sorts of reasons to hang out at in my new studio space and struggle through it. My new iMac PRO is arriving any moment and at that point I plan to bury myself in that studio and make some real progress.  

But before that, I will be attending the regional EMMY awards because...well, I’ve been nominated!!!! I’m still pretty much in shock. I really want the artist (who’s work I surgically animated) to win. I know that means that I would also win, but I don’t really care about that. The nomination is enough for me. He lost every-thing. That gold trophy won’t bring his stuff back, but it would certainly honor the struggle that he went through to not only survive, but to share it in a way that is so meaningful to so many people. I love love love that I had the opportunity to work on this project. It was painful to stare deep into the pixels of such pain in people’s lives, but it came at a time when I needed it, too. It took me out of my own free fall and forced me to care more about all of them. I am forever indebted. 

 

This is me dressed (I hope for Halloween) as my uncle, a welder mechanic that taught me to make stuff. And gender is just a construct...so I can make it what I want.

This is me dressed (I hope for Halloween) as my uncle, a welder mechanic that taught me to make stuff. And gender is just a construct...so I can make it what I want.

Another dream to come from all of this is the opportunity to wear a tuxedo. It’s one of the only “men’s costumes” that I have yet to disrupt. I’ve always wanted to, but it just never lined up nor could I ever really afford it. Thanks to my guardian angel, Stanford, I will be rockin it tonight. And I never stray too far from my roots, so I’ll have my red accents shoutin’ #gostanford “on the runway.”  

IMG_0166.JPG

It’s funny that I’ve married my crazy wife four times and have yet to wear a tux!! We even went to a startup Christmas party PROM and chose the 70’s leisure suit look instead. I was waiting for this moment...

wish him luck!🤞

Silent Movie Silent Film Title Card: Free Download

Back by very popular demand...my free silent movie title card!  

by Farrin N. Abbott, CopyCatFilms
by Farrin N. Abbott, CopyCatFilms

 

Please note: I am a professional video producer and I do not appreciate major brands, networks and professionals using my design WITHOUT crediting me as a source. You see, I created this design because there was a lack of available options. I spent many days getting it just right and as a result I decided that something so common should be widely available. I decided to share, asking for credit when used. I would also appreciate a comment with a link to your work. It's not required, but I would like to see the creative ways it has been used around the web.

And as many people have over the years, please feel free to ping with links of use that you discover, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (s2 ep9) -- I'M LOOKIN' at YOU. Have some class.

Also note, I am not interested in helping you format this for a powerpoint or changing any feature--unless of course you are looking to hire me. I'm sorry but that's just reality.

Here are the links to download. And here is the link from 2010 with lots of creative examples where it's been used. Thank you all for sharing and making the internet a creative and inspiring place to work!

Photoshop Versions (AE version is too big for hosting these days):

Silent Movie Title HD

Silent Movie The End Title Card HD

Silent Movie The END Title Card NTSC DV Widescreen

With respect,

Farrin N. Abbott CopyCatFilms

Diving Back Into JavaScript

Never thought I'd say that again, but here I go... In times of transition and change, I like to consume my thoughts with learning new shit. Perhaps that's why I have so many crazy skills that I pull together in weird ways? Anyway, I've done a lot with website design and html5 building over the years -- most were all related to a video experience of some sort. Clickable choose your own adventures and such.

But a few weeks ago, I was talking with a few amazing people about the future of education and my spark for coding was reignited.  I'd like to dive into Unity, but for now I'm going to see this out with JavaScript. I've made it so far and I really think JS helps a lot with After Effects expressions. I just don't want to build a crappy website as part of an online project. So I won't.

Maybe I'll find a reasonable bootcamp. Maybe I won't. Maybe I'll just learn straight from the damn books -- just as I have with everything else.

When I was young, I remember everyone in my family talking about one of my cousins that never played tennis (a faux pas in my family) so he read a book about it and immediately became one of the strongest players. It kinda blew my mind and changed my perspective.

Eons ago, I printed out the entire Final Cut Pro manual and learned video editing front to back using that giant binder. Worked for him and it worked for me. I haven't stopped self teaching myself since.

...And hey...we spent Christmas in Paris this year. How amazing is that???

IMG_1616.jpg

the Sandman

This is a very personal story that gets to some of my roots. If you're interested in reading more of this story, I would turn to the internet. There's enough clues... I don't think we hear about the side of prison life from children going to prisons. I've watched in shock as the media and hollywood fell into the pit of prison life infatuation, romanticization or whatever you want to call it. I realize that people are trying to shed light on concerns that incarcerated people are treated unfairly and something should be done about it. Don't get me wrong, I applaud the intention. But I grew up seeing the world quite the opposite. I grew up going to prisons every weekend to visit someone. Life seemed better for them on the inside. It was bad for us when they were gone. My grandma would cry daily and work herself to the bone to send them money for "necessities." I was never allowed to join the school band even though I was obsessed with music. Instruments were too expensive. Holidays were sad and uncelebrated.

It was even worse when they returned. They would come home to large neighborhood parties with more stuff than I ever had -- tv's, fans, posters, music collections...and after only a short time they would have sold their stuff off for drugs or cash and turned to taking what little I had. My walkmans were turned into tattoo guns. My nintendos pawned for drugs.

They came back looking healthy, well rested and more muscled and bulkier than ever. Their release days were the darkness of my childhood.

This is just one of those "release days" that I wanted to tell. It was a way to get it off my chest, but as a result I really learned a lot about my mom during the making of this animation. I realize that I would have fallen right into this trap. He was like her Stevie Nicks -- shining up there on stage. A dream come to life, for her. And I realize that her life has just been absolute shit. None of it was my fault, but I'm sorry. I will always love her and always feel that it is my job to protect her. This is where that feeling started.

 

----------------------------------- Technical stuff: I wanted to make an animation project using my ipad and photoshop for a change, so I did. It started as an audio podcast, but I felt that it needed some visuals. It was meant to be quick and fast, but turned into months of work. Limited free time, moved to San Francisco and kind of a long piece to animate.

Animation, Sound and Design: Farrin N. Abbott

----------------------------------

A Couple Rebel Top Gun Pilots Flying in San Francisco

It's been a rather exciting few months around here. We set up some homemade dynamite and turned our lives upside down, gave up the huge loft in the cushy suburbs and found an amazing (smaller) apartment in San Francisco. I should add that we NEVER have a hard time finding a place when we want to, but SF is an entirely different beast. I know everyone says that, but we went through everything to get this place. We lost $800 on an apartment and we spent our lives to get settled. It was FULL of challenges. One of the biggest challenges was fitting our giant apartment of stuff down into (still a large apartment for San Francisco but) a much smaller place. It was the most stressful and secretly exciting part for me. I love a design challenge and my life is my top design priority. Mariela was amazingly patient during the whole process. She talked to me about dining room tables until she fell into a daytime coma about it. Surprisingly, it was after the table was completely standing in our dining room! She really stuck it out with me. The most wonderful thing she did was to make a giant 11x17 to-scale printout of our new apartment floorplan. It really melted my heart. Most people would think, big fuckin deal. But it really showed how much she cared and how much she really knows how my crazy mind works about this shit.  She even painstakingly helped me make to-scale paper versions of our couch, bed, desk and fantasy dining room table options!!! That's love.

I went to work designing and planning like a madman for the next month. I reconfigured the layouts a million times and the day we moved in -- my plan was completely in motion. I knew where everything needed to go and it was brilliant. It IS brilliant. Our apartment is finally done and it's time for a party!!!

I'm sensitive to my surroundings. I can only get to my creative zone in a creative environment. I've worked myself stupid to achieve that. I never forget where I came from -- a tiny, crumbling shack of cockroaches. My environment is important, perhaps a little too much. But I firmly believe in living for right now because tomorrow may never happen.

Never dreamed that we would end up in San Francisco though! It feels like a dream and I'm scared to wake up. And then I wake up to floor-to-ceiling windows! I'm so grateful for the chances I've been given and the fact that I've leapt onto them at every opportunity. It's the one thing about my unstoppable Granny that I always didn't like -- she doesn't handle change well at all. She fights it tooth and nail. I've always tried to embrace change. I owe that to Mariela. She's the leaper in our family and she pushes me to jump.

We've changed so much during the 16 years together that we're almost unrecognizable from when we met. Somehow we always manage to change and morph around each other. Sure, there have been mistakes and veers off path, but we find our way back to the sea (as Stevie says).

 
 

So now our home studio is alive and well and I'm not fussing over bookcases and dining room tables anymore. I've been focusing my energy on an animation project that I hope to finish this week. But I always get upset and restless when I start to finish a project, like "what's next??" "is there anything else that I can do?" "where do I funnel energy now?"...

It's silly really, I have about 500 projects going at once right now at work. But I'm constantly looking for that path. I know I'll find it if I just keep going. Interests are not my problem, I have about a 100 things I want to learn right now. I just have a hard time figuring out where I should narrowly focus my attention because there are sooooo many things I want to do.

  • I want to get our podcast going again, like regularly.
  • I want to focus on photography again.
  • I want to edit our Europe footage together.
  • I want to tell more stories with animation.
  • So do I dive back into character animator? Maybe that's a great plan for the next stroll down memory lane...

I also need to dive into some code and fix this website theme, upgrade or move everything to SquareSpace...? I'm just not convinced that it can handle all the customizations of Wordpress. I always feel like it's a platform for people that have no idea how to code html or css. Obviously from everything that I've said just in this post you can tell I like a lot of control. :-/

Anyway, I've rambled on enough with this overall life update. These are a few of my favorite photos and events of the past few months, getting settled in San Francisco:

  • Roomba busted up the 18 year old RENT poster frame and carried around shards of glass for a few hours, thoroughly terrorizing the kitties.

 

  • The amazing dining room table that we finally bought on our 16th anniversary. I love sitting right next to my espresso machine, working for hours facing a floor-to-ceiling window. We've come a long way, together.
Bliss: Working so close to my espresso machine
SF is so dramatic, I love it.
  • Drag shows are our favorite past-time. We made Rupaul Drag Race Watch Parties a part-time job. Here are some hilarious pictures of our adventures. Talking to Eureka was probably my personal highlight. I love her because she's fierce and hilarious.
  • And I have to say, I was actually terrified at the final showing of Peaches Christ Showgirls! It took me 10 years to make it to a showing. She never disappoints. Only in San Francisco would you find yourself running from a drag show in fear! I love you, Peaches. (Please let me redo your website and work with you on media projects. ♥)

Chrome Niko Camera Bag Sling In Action

I'm so thoroughly impressed with the Chrome Niko Camera Bag sling that I bought over a year ago that I absolutely have to share. I've used it more lately, and especially most recently for our gigantic European adventure over the Christmas and New Years holiday to London, Paris and Madrid. It was my only bag used for the 3 week trip (with a small rolling suitcase that held my laptop). It held absolutely everything that I needed and actually made the long haul home even better by protecting some beautiful artwork by a Parisian street artist! I am just blown away by how much it held, how great it worked, how the buckle made it easy to snap around the pull arm of my luggage...seriously incredible. This small camera bag is a must have for anyone traveling with camera equipment:

IMG_4296-Edit.jpg
IMG_4298-Edit.jpg
IMG_4300-Edit.jpg
IMG_4301-Edit.jpg
IMG_4304-Edit.jpg

ITEMS CARRIED, at the same time:

  • Joby DSLR Tripod
  • iPad Pro w/Apple Pencil (yay even the cap survived!)
  • Over the ear headphones
  • small moleskine reporter w/blackwing
  • gloves (flip over mittens with fingerless!)
  • Canon 60D
  • Shure Lenshopper DSLR shotgun (mounted!)
  • Osmo Mobile Gimbal (LOVE this thing!!!!)
  • Canon 24mm pancake lens
  • Zeiss 35mm lens
  • analog pencil case & sharpener
  • Peak Design camera strap (must have)
  • lens cloths
  • all the power cords ever (iphone, Apple Watch, Osmo, headphone)
  • charger and extra 60D battery
  • 2TB hard drive
  • California bear hat
  • Art from an adorable little man drawing along the river in Paris, outside of the Louvre.

The only small note is that I would like to see the heavy seatbelt Chrome buckle in black or even a smaller version for this bag--it got me stopped at several boarding gates because it makes the bag seem larger when over the shoulder because the chrome seatbelt is very prominent. They now offer a camo version with the black buckle but I would like the black on black option, I'm not into carrying camo at the airport, or really anywhere for that matter.

IMG_3666.jpg

Coming Out of the Darkness with Art

IMG_0858-1.jpg

Website is busted, again. I like to think of it as another robot in my life...roomba, hue lights, sonos...wordpress! I'm not losing another weekend to trying to fix our portfolio. I have another site for that anyway. It seems to work flawlessly, thanks Tumblr. I'm proud of myself for getting our podcast feed working again! We're terrible about making them and that's the only way to be successful at it, I know. But that's not our goal. Each one is a success to me. This is all a longer story, put together in various pieces of media. I won't limit myself to one. --But I've been inspired, a lot lately by a few remarkable podcasters and that does make me want to do them a little more frequently. However, I am trying to get a really long video edit done before we leave for EUROPE! I want to finish it for many reasons. Namely, my travel hard drive needs to be free!

The edit probably won't happen though. I have about a million things to do before we fly around the world. The point of this post is that I want to say what a horribly hard couple of weeks it has been for many of us. I've only found solitude in art. I look to artists to say the things that need to be said and with our support, they will. So support local art and artists!Support public media and real news sources. I am so saddened by the recent Pew research that said most people get their news from Facebook that I haven't even been able to return. There has to be more for us. I don't know about you, but I don't want my news curated by childhood friends from my hometown. Do you?

Don't get me wrong, I really miss hearing updates about the people in my life that are scattered through time and huge distances. The separation has added to the darkness of the days. But I don't want my worldview shaped by a tech company setup to share college stories on campus. I lived #startuplife and it's not for me. (A wonderful life experience, but it ain't me.) I've enjoyed trying to immerse myself in local culture and art, as part of my job, but it's so fulfilling for my life. What an incredible opportunity. California is more than I could have dreamed and we dreamed about it for more than 10 years!

I'm a Capricorn though. I like to be absorbed in work and the more I work, the more it all becomes a melding of what I love to do with my days anyway.  Speaking of, I bought the best book about hand lettering recently. I'll write more about that later. It's kind of for work, but I'll be sure to share any horribly drawn lettering projects here! :) I am a sucker for an artists story--the passion, the drive, the determination to never give up. It fills my heart with drive. I need to fill my wallet with money so I can afford font making software...where's the open source!?

We attended an art event at the Embarcadero last night. Well, it was really a maker event -- people building really cool shit with crazy tools. It was terrific! We are so anxious to move to the city now. There's so much to do. The opportunities are endless. But I have some anxiety about leaving this gloriously soft life. It's a process that is going to take me some getting used to. Until then, I will continue to hack Waze to give me the rich people routes to the city. I'm serious. They route me to 101 every day, but I can beat their time by taking 280...stop pandering to the Teslas and let me drive! I'm Waze royalty damn't!

Speaking of royalty, if you're in the market for a good show about a woman's rise to power and a country that supported her, please check out Netflix's The Crown! That gave me a lot of comfort about the state of women (in other countries anyway). Great Britain has had something like 6 or 9 queens...I'm scared I'm going to love London too much...*God save the queen!

*whatever God that you may or may not believe in.

Strange Times

The point of this - the whole reason I’m writing this is just to tell you to get high and go see Dr. Strange.

 

After the most atrocious thing ever to happen to America, getting baked and watching a trippy film just sounds like a good solid idea, doesn't it? Really cuts through the “what did we do wrong, who’s to blame?, things are going to be the worst, what is he DOING?, maybe he’s alright, let’s give him a chance" soundbite journalism that has taken over our wretched lives.
We'll be raided again!

"A mean nasty republican town."

 

Instead of listening to any more junk journalism, just go to the movies. You’re much better off.

 

After this fiasco, LinkedIn really started a daily news feature and bogus stories are already getting shared. This is the current state of affairs: Headlines for you, courtesy of a job board-business card-networking in a box social site. It’s bad. So just ignore it.
[Cool news jobs in your area - just share this story!]

 

I haven’t gone on the big one since the election, shhhh. In the interest of full disclosure I did share some Michael Moore from another site and I think I shared a petition (but I might not have). So it’s officially been almost two weeks since I’ve been in the bubble. Feels good. On a similar note I’m on juice cleanse and everything is starting to feel better there too.
 juice-taste-warm

 

I needed the cleanse because we poisoned ourselves with gin on Tuesday. Everyone in America drank on Election night didn’t they? I don’t even drink (other than margaritas with food and the occasional fancy cocktail with ‘sour’ in the name) and I tried to keep up with F on Gin & Tonics as the states were called. Neither of us had eaten and things were looking grim on TV. Our only food was salad I had picked up earlier so I tried to eat it. Not great but I powered through. Things got bad in our house as they got worse on TV. F mysteriously disappeared during my prayers for Michigan.

She came back much later, but still before Michigan was called and she said she needed a shower, but she couldn’t use my shower? No, definitely not come upsairswithmeIneedaquickshower. So I did and Michigan and Pennsylvania still hadn’t been called and there was still hope for this country but there was no hope for my shower. My toilet was untouched and my shower looked like a salad shooter riot of dark pieces of kale and carrot sticks stuck to every surface. I started feeling sick from the gin and puked in the toilet. Before I flushed I looked at the scene - completely disgusting.

 Vom everywhere: a foreshadowing.

 

what have we done???

 

We passed out, woke up abruptly at 1am, learned the awful truth, bitched, went upstairs and left my shower until morning.

The only good thing that came out of the election was legalization of recreational marijuana.

And what better way to celebrate than to go on a little visual escape. F doesn’t generally do movies, but this was IMAX 3D and I basically spent $47 dollars on tickets a week before, so we had to go. I gathered up all of our weed: smokable, vapable, and edible and met her in the city. We ate cannabis cotton candy (see my secret weed tumblr where I review this awesome stuff) and cannabis chocolate espresso beans and I vaped Pax but F is still too paranoid to vape in the city because “it’s still illegal to do on the street."  No, I am not kidding you.

 

It’s still out. It’s still playing in 3D right now and if I had any friends that liked to do that sort of thing, I would go again and again and pay ridiculously high prices for seats that vibrate and compare the 3D to 2D and catch all the little easter eggs. But I don’t. So you should go see Dr. Strange and get really high. You’ll thank yourself.

 

3d-trip

especially if you can't emigrate right now.