Phase II Web Series Production Update

I’m referring to this latest production of the BABY TIME! web series as Phase II. I shot the pilot in 2010, and it took a year and a half to get through the post process. I decided to create a few more episodes with the very limited amount of money that I’ve been able to save. I don’t have enough for the whole series, so I’m shooting Episodes 3 - 6, and that has become lovingly dubbed Phase II.

The script was re-written a few times, due to the inability to bring back one of the previous cast members (sorry brother-in-law Max, but you’re out of the series). I re-developed one of the other characters, Cabbie Joe, to take the place of Max as the annoying buddy that tags along with our control freak father-to-be.

Another successful round of casting for the Baby Time! web series barreled through my schedule on June 4, 2012. Many fantastic Chicago actors took the time to meet me at The Den (a wonderful theater space in Bucktown that is available for rent). Although the competition dragged the decision-making process into a 6-day affair, the dust settled onto the following super-duper cast:

Cabbie Joe - Vince Clark

Drunk Tom - Sean Bolger

Drunk Steve - Mark Czoske

Officer Spence - Rob Glidden

Sebastian - Tiffany Yvonne Cox

Patrick - Harter Clingman

Reggie - Carly Robinson

Prego - Brooke Breit

Then, I finally made it to production this week, shooting 2 episodes on 6/21, 1 episode on 6/22 and 1 episode on 6/24. The cast produced stunning performances - filled with real human drama, and therefore quite hilarious. Once I get the footage from my amazing DP Camrin Petramale, I can pass it along to my editor (which could be me). The difference this time compared to the pilot: I’m ready to move forward fast, so hopefully the finished episodes will come soon enough.

PARENTAL CONTROL: HOW DO WE ALLOW OUR KIDS TO MAKE MISTAKES WITHOUT LOSING OUR COOL?

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My family loves to argue. They argue about why someone went downstairs instead of upstairs, or why someone left the milk on the counter as opposed to the table, or even how someone could forget the keys were in their hands the whole time - expending excessive energy clearing up miscommunications on trivial logistics. However, they all agree that I have control issues. I’ve always wanted to control the situations and people around me – my brother’s interaction with other children, my parents’ perception of me, my wife’s dishwasher loading procedures…

I can’t let this dishwasher issue go. I know many couples argue about this topic so often that an extra power rinse cycle couldn’t jet the stale smell from the words hanging in the air. However, my advice to couples everywhere would be to stop wasting your energy on the topic. The success of a dishwasher cycle is not just a matter of opinion, but science. Of course, each dishwasher unit performs differently, but once you know your unit, finding the proper dish, bowl and utensil configuration should be elementary. Unfortunately, my wife uses a more creative and artistic approach to loading, such that no 2 loading configurations are the same.

I owe my authority on the subject to my organizational skills. I have spent much of my life looking at the world as a grand Tetris game. I have been filling in slots, moving objects around, and advancing levels by rearranging my furniture, restacking my closet, packing bags for trips, and negotiating through traffic. And, I’ve used my mental joystick to restore order to more than just storage and driving. This grand skill of organization works for ideas as well – posing strange combinations of thoughts and self-reflective suggestions until a solid solution or philosophy forms itself in my head, like a snug puzzle of squares and rectangles that become one singular block of comfortably symmetrical and smooth notions. And that’s how I convince myself it is an absolute truth.

So, yes, my mind is programmed to engineer the perfect combination of Pyrex, Fiesta Ware and Corning Ware. Not only does this flaw/skill yield an efficient and clean kitchen, but it also delivers a jolt of adrenaline to know that everything is in its’ place. I am least helpless at that moment. Over the past few years, I have worked hard to let go of some of these control issues, but they still pop up. After all, it feels so good to control!

Now, if we decide to throw children into the picture, my control issues become more significant of a problem. Especially since I believe that children learn best when they are making mistakes. I adopted this belief while working at Cognitive Arts – an interactive training company started by a professor at Northwestern University. We designed the training around the concept that the brain is more open to receiving information when a mistake is made. And if children are working in a safe environment, they will explore more, learn more, and learn faster. But, I see many parents anxious to keep their kids safe, protecting them from the evil dangers of mistakes, and even shaming them before they get near a mistake. This approach tends to make the children not want to even try in the first place.

I understand that instinct, and I worry that I would fall in that trap very easily with my control issue. And what’s worse, this issue is not my only issue that could easily traumatize my children. It only takes one incident, one slip-up, and that tiny moment in my child’s entire span of life becomes the calling card as the kid heads into adulthood, either blaming me directly for damaging them and sending them to therapy, or worse, subconsciously changing the way they think that might prevent them from future success.

I’m not sure it’s worth all the effort to create a new life when it seems so easy to mess them up. How does it work in real life? How do you control, I mean protect your children while letting them explore? Let me know.

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

I used to be very proud of my lawn care business. Most of my time was spent cutting the grass, with a few extra services like bushes, weeding, etc. I made around $5 - $10 per house, and by my senior year in high school, I had 7 clients in the neighborhood that brought in a weekly income of $45 per week. I paid for my own prom with lawn money ($222 - which is $436 in today’s value). Actually, that still seems like a fairly cheap prom all-in, but considering I failed to get a goodnight kiss and crashed my dad’s car, it was a good deal.

Still, I was in control of my money back then. I had a CD, which earned interest, I had a savings account, and I even had money to spend on pizza. Eventually, I found myself a salary at Andersen Consulting, and I was still able to spend money on whatever I wanted. I had a condo investment, I treated friends to drinks and dinners, and I even had money to spend on travel.

Then, I got married. Suddenly, managing money wasn’t so easy. I had to plan for 2 people, and somehow our expenses seemed to quadruple. We were spending like we were still single, and then we were spending money as a couple on top of that. Money became tight, and tension mounted. Something needed to be done at this point in my young adult life. I had to take action!

So, I quit my job.

I went back to school, took a job at a restaurant on the corner of minimum wage and no insurance. But, that wasn’t enough of a challenge, so I moved to Los Angeles with an unstable job that made even less money.

After some more stress and difficulties with money, we finally turned our situation around. We became financially stable as a couple, and started paying off our debts. We are currently in the best financial shape that we’ve ever been. So, if history is any indication, we will have to devise a way to put ourselves in jeopardy again. I know, let’s have a baby!

If we have a baby, I will see an immediate impact on the household finances. First, Jackie will want to stay home with the kid. By the way, that point is not up for discussion. I was happy to be the stay at home dad, but after the initial discussion, I wasn’t so happy any more.

So, as Jackie earns half the family income, that would be a huge cut each month. Some estimate that the first year of birth could cost $250,000! What?! The obvious solution that comes to mind first would be to increase our family income. That’s an easy fix, since we will have the advantage of a new person to share the load. Get the baby a job, keeping the little tyke busy, allowing my wife to get back to work. It’s the perfect plan. I’ll just put an ad on Craig’s List, and…

Okay. Change in plans. Jackie tells me that our baby will not be available as a laborer due to something she shouting-ly calls “common sense,” so I’ve pulled my Craig’s List ad. Instead, I will have to explore what must be cut from the monthly expenses.

Variable expenses go first:

- Dining Out: Poquito Mas es no Mas

- Entertainment like Netflix, movies, live music, coffee and medicine

- Books, DVDs, iTunes, chow porn (don’t ask) and water

Then I’ll have to cut into monthly expenses that will be soon considered a luxury:

- Cable

- iPhone service

- Power / Gas Utilities

- One of the cars will have to go

- Mortgage

That doesn’t leave us much. But, we won’t need any of these expenses. We can spend our time entertained by the baby, living in our 1 car, and eating theatre popcorn for dinner.

So, is giving up a relatively comfortable style of life worth a baby?

I suddenly remember when Jackie and I first started dating, and we offered to baby sit our niece Megan, who was a new baby at the time (she’s 14 now). I don’t think we realized that she was colicky when signed up for that act of kindness, but soon we were pulling our hair out and shoving it our ears to block out the screaming. For some reason, we thought that she would calm down by holding her near the ceiling fan (not sure which of us lame-brains came up with that scheme), and so we took turns holding her up in the air towards the fan, looking like some urban tribal shamans offering up our first born to sacrifice to the gods of air circulation. If that’s the fun of parenting that makes all the sacrifices irrelevant, then sign me up!

Why would anyone choose to change a comfortable life to hold a screaming baby up in the air for hours each night? Why would anyone sacrifice luxuries like TV, food, and chow porn? Besides, Jackie and I had the benefit of spending time with Megan last summer when she visited California. So, we enjoyed our role as the cool aunt and uncle, without the pain and suffering of 14 years of parenting.

I’m not convinced at this point that parenting is right for me. Bottom line, I’m not ready to give up the necessities. If we must sacrifice our food, clothing and shelter, I will only reconsider - as long as I can keep my iPhone.

Web Series Project Update

The BABY TIME project has made some recent progress. If you’re at all interested in the process of making movies, I hope to add some elements to the web site that document the process. In the mean time, here are some recent updates:

Casting

I’m very excited that the roles for the pilot have been cast. These are some amazing actors and I look forward to collaborating with them:

RICHARD - Brian Boland

ANNA - Cassandra Bissell

CHELSEA - Barbara Robertson

MAX - Dan Kenney

THELMA – Sara Sevigny

SOCCER MOM - Roni Geva

GUNMAN - James Allen

THE PITBULL - Dan Granata

Production

The shoot is scheduled for May 6, 7 and 10. Locations include my parents house in Morton Grove, my cousin’s condo in Lincoln Park and my sister-in-law’s apartment in Rogers Park. I also am still looking for a typical Chicago apartment building foyer, but I may have run out of relatives. Thanks to everyone who has been so gracious to allow the use of their location so far. Also, a big thanks to my cousin John Gallegos who is helping produce the series with me!

Series News

Yes, the episodes must be funny and each stand on their own, but I really want the entire series to work as a full story that could play as a feature film. So, I submitted a rough draft of the entire series (22 episodes) to the Film Independent Screenwriters Lab.  If accepted, I will have some the support of some amazing experts to improve the script and my craft as a writer. However, I also want the content to be flexible, so as I work on the main story line and the character arc, I plan to easily switch out sketches when research and collaborations with friends and people involved in the project inspire new ideas.

Pre-Production, Fun and Romance

Today I celebrated Valentine’s Day with some fabulous take-home sushi. The take-home dinner may not seem like the ideal romantic date, but my wife and actually prefer the cozy meal in front of a fire and a great movie to the crappy service we’ve grown to expect from Los Angeles eateries. Besides, I gave her a very thoughtful card, and according to Hallmark commercials, that can fill the holes in anyone’s empty heart.

Jackie does prefer to eat at home, and she could see from my zombie-state that I needed to recover from my very busy and productive weekend in Chicago. Here’s what really went down:

First, I held my casting session for the BABY TIME pilot on Friday. Some of my ideal actors were not available. However, lucky for me Chicago is bursting with talent. I did see a large number of actors that turned out some great performances from a quick 1-page scene. And, I was relieved to find myself laughing at the scenes that I wrote. You never really know if something works until a good actor finds the subtext between the lines to carry a scene. Very encouraging. It’s all part of the magic of collaboration.

Next, I met with my cinematographer Darryl Miller. We went through the script to discuss the basic visual design. He was hugely helpful with suggestions and solutions, including his addition of a hilarious visual joke to the story. Another fun example - he converted one of my camera movement ideas into a much better visual motif that will help represent my main character’s flaw while adding tension to the narrative. I love the simple approach of his idea: 3 quick shots of the main character walking instead of one shot. We extend his traveling time, emphasizing his control-freak frustration in not getting to his destination quick enough, while lengthening the tension for the viewer. It’s a nice subtlety that people won’t notice, but can improve the texture of the story - it’s perfect! I so appreciate these little improvements - another example of the collaboration process in action.

Then, I played another one of those fun Outcast Jazz Band gigs at Hackney’s in Palos Hills - a musical collaboration. I actually paid attention to the music, and played respectably. Much to my delight, many of my friends who normally rush home after the gigs actually stayed to hang out. We closed the place down in a splendidly social way. Unfortunately, by the time I returned to my parents house (Che Gorski Bed & Breakfast), I could only get 4 hours of sleep before my flight the next morning.

I love capitalizing on every moment of the day, but it tends to add up, which made for a hazy Sunday. Lucky for me, my supportive wife Jackie provides a daily inspirational fuel, which makes my marriage my greatest collaboration to date.

My Two Sessions

Living in California, I am required by law to meet with a professional of some sort at least twice a year. It’s part of a set of laws created to keep the state liberal. So, I managed to do 2 sessions this week. Here are my thoughts.

Session #1: Therapy

Jackie and I met with a therapist to discuss the topic of children. We talked about what children mean to us, and the pros and cons - many of the concerns and issues discussed previously in the blog. At this point, I’m still on the fence, and Jackie still leans towards remaining cool aunt and uncle only.

Nothing really earth-shattering came out of the session. So, I guess one visit to the therapist is not going to solve the problem. That’s a $10 co-pay gone to waste. I’ll have to wait until next week. In the mean time, I managed to get my second session another way…

Session#2: Pet Psychic

Yes, it’s true. I went to a pet psychic. I am now a true Californian. And, even more amazingly, the session was conducted over the phone!

As I’ve mentioned before, Sensation has a problem with seizures, and he takes epilepsy medicine. But, the medicine makes him so sleepy, and it doesn’t stop him from having a week of seizures every month. So, we were desperate - we gave the psychic a try.

First of all, the psychic figured out that Sensation was epileptic without any hints from us. I later confirmed that my friend who recommended the psychic didn’t tell her anything about my dogs either. So, she passed that test. Then, she told us that Sensation was happy, but just sleepy from the medicine all the time. That was a relief, because when your dog mopes all the time, well, you begin to wonder.

Finally, she recommended that we do some visualization to help him. She wanted us to first visualize his brain, then look for black circles on that brain, and then erase the black spots with a blue light.

I always remain skeptical when I see psychics and spiritualists on TV. That John Edwards guy seems like a liar and a fake, and the way he speaks makes him more suited to sell condoms out of a 75 hatchback. Then there’s Sylvia Brown. She seems like she’s just making stuff up because she’s bored. And don’t get me started on the writing of “Ghost Whisperer.” Despite it’s high ratings lately, the show is too melodramatic for my tastes.

Ultimately, it’s hard for me to accept the story of someone being paid to tell you stuff you can never see or hear. I believe in the practical. I believe in proven solutions. Real stuff.

I also learned from my parents that you do anything for your kid. You look for retainers in the garbage. You drive 3 hours on a Wednesday to see a jazz concert, only to drive 3 more hours back home in time for work the next day. And, you figure out how to take care of your kid when he’s sick, no matter what.

So, when the psychic on the speaker phone gave her suggestions, and they didn’t involve the vet, I had only one question. Should the light be dark blue or light blue?

Free Stuff

Today my theatre hosted a press junket for PLANET 51. So, the press came and brought their kids. Everyone could order whatever they wanted at the concessions stand for FREE. The studio paid for it. Not a bad deal. A stampede of polite wiry blogger chicks and agoraphobic creepy 70-year-old film critics rushed the stand zombie-style to grab armfuls of gummy bears, hot dogs, carmel popcorn, and whatever else they could fit in their pockets. Some must of known the concessions would be free, because they came wearing several layers of jackets - all with deep pockets.

I can’t criticize because I have a special swag bucket to stock up on such occasions. After all, the choices included more than just Twizzlers - but also Tim Tams from Australia, and Pocky from Japan, and fancy dark chocolate, and fresh pretzels from La Brea Bakery, and fun Fizzy Lizzy soda flavors… if you’re feeling nauseous, don’t worry. Now you see the double value of the swag bucket.

But, if someone is watching, I tend to refuse gifts and kind offers as a matter of instinct. When I was offered a glass of soda as a child, I believed I was supposed to refuse it. Otherwise, I would be considered impolite. I’m not sure where that thinking started - maybe it wasn’t really soda, but a bottle with colored water to make that family look rich.

Even to this day, my parents refuse gifts all the time. Jackie and I tried to find out what they wanted for their anniversary, since their needs are difficult to figure out these days. They told us not to get anything for them. But, they won’t be getting away with that. They will be getting a large Christmas / Anniversary present. We’ll show them.

I’m learning that gifts have value, for the giver as well as the receiver. For some, it’s a chance for you to owe them. But from what I’ve heard, others actually feel happy giving. So, I might have to give it a try.

As I may have mentioned, I recently learned that some of my issues may categorize me as codependent. Apparently, codependent people have a hard time accepting gifts from others because they feel embarrassed or undeserving. So, I qualify - I have turned down gifts for years, or when possible, accepted the gift with profuse blushing.

On a side note, the more I’ve discussed the concept of codependency with people recently, the more common I’m finding these behavioral patterns. Even you may be codependent! Here you can see some patterns that may indicate you may also be a member of the codependent club: http://www.codependents.org/tools4recovery/patterns.php

I can’t blame my parents for this one, because they so rarely have a drink. So, I can only blame my grandparents or great-grandparents and their hidden alcoholism for building these behaviors into the patterns of living for my family to pass down from generation to generation.

I guess those pictures of me as a baby learning to walk on my grandma’s tavern bar aren’t that cute any more. I always laughed at those who would react in shock at those photos - they couldn’t possibly think that a baby is going to pick up any drinking habits from hanging out in a tavern. After all, it wasn’t different from a family party - lots of people having fun, eating beef sandwiches and drinking beer. But, maybe we did pick up some of the dysfunctions that they lovingly passed onto my parents.

However, I actually want to embrace my family’s past. It’s many of those imperfections that made me the quirk that I am today. In fact, without the battle of codependence and they typical dysfunction of my youth, I wouldn’t have the driving need to express myself publicly, nor the inspiration to strive to become a writer and filmmaker. It’s a well-known cliche that our struggles and challenges only make us stronger and more resilient.

So, I choose to embrace the power of my dysfunction. I choose to give my child the challenges required to give him (eventual) success. The trick for me will be to figure out what I want my kid to be, pull hard in the opposite direction of all those characteristics, and then watch as he rebels and stumbles unwittingly into my trap.

Most importantly, I expect him to learn the value of receiving as much as giving - not to make the same mistakes I made, but instead take all that he can from others. And, in a special family traditional ceremony, I will pass on my swag bucket.

Limits of Creativity

I love to brainstorm. No, I crave it. When I brainstorm, I can be playful, crazy, ridiculous, disgusting, immature, extreme, and make myself laugh. No one says “no” to me - it’s all yes, yes, yes, like an orgasm of the psyche. Of course, if I’m not careful, I might say “no” to myself once in a while when my internal editor appears. I curse my internal editor, and the years of growing up as a human being in this society that creates the doubts, fears, and disappointments of the little man who thinks he knows better inside my head.

At the same time, I can’t help but rejoice over my ability to study my own writing and give myself constructive criticism. If used with the right mix along side brainstorming, I know my writing will thrive. I like to think that my taste has been fine-tuned over the years from influences such as Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, Second City, and the Simpsons, as well as the Coen Brothers, Mel Brooks, John Hughes and the family Reiner. So, using my powers of analysis on my own work will hopefully result in something that — at very least — works. 

Of course, the downside of thinking is the paralysis of analysis. Yesterday, I spent a good 2 hours debating whether my new Google Voice phone number should be 56-GORSKI or 333-CHOW. Unfortunately, 4-NEUROTIC was taken.

Naturally, I eventually reach the same crossroads in every project - where the 2 sides feed into each other. I begin to analyze myself to determine if I’m allowing myself to be creative enough. When is creativity best served by analysis, and when does analysis have enough creative material to get started? What’s the balance?

I began this project because I wanted to explore parenthood without giving direct examples of parenting issues. I also wanted an excuse to write a bunch of comedy sketches.

So, I designed a simple premise: our hero wants to get somewhere, but something keeps stopping him. And what better goal for someone exploring parenthood, but to get to his wife who is in labor? It’s a clean formula to set the stage for each week’s struggle. And, each challenge he faces can explore a different issue of parenthood.

But, is it really the best formula? This week I thought that maybe I rushed into it. Why did I stop there? Is the premise too simple? And how can I keep coming up with topics for the blog?

So, I did some more brainstorming to see if I should change the premise of the series:

- What if the hero is kidnapped by a baby who talks like a gangster that takes him around the city to see all stages of parenthood - good and bad examples - like a ghosts of parenthood present and future?

- What if I make the series more loose in structure, such that each week’s episode has fun with a different topic, but there’s no throughline story?(Like one week discusses the issue of dealing with drug use, which leads to a sketch about a drug-dealing dog, and then the next week starts with a discussion of bullies, which leads to a sketch about people who bully their way with acts of kindness that are unwanted)?

- What if the series consists of a different dream each episode that covers the days of his wife’s pregnancy and gives a surreal slant on the issues of child rearing?

While these ideas could become something with merit, I still can’t help but trust my original instincts: simple is always better. And so, I move forward with the guy who wants to get across town in time to see his baby born.

But, even though I’m in the process of developing 10 decent episode ideas, I’m still struggling with the first episode. After all, it needs to be hilarious above all else so it can help secure funding for future episodes, it must introduce the concept, the story and the characters clearly, and it must be less than five minutes if I expect anyone to take a look at it.

I guess at some point I will have to quit, or just pick a draft an hope for the best. The same could be said for the question of whether or not I should have children. I’m going to have to make a decision at some point.

Unfortunately, that decision can’t be changed or written off as a good learning experience. No brainstorming can can cure a lifetime of regrets. In the end, what if I fail? What if my kid faces the same fate as some of my previous film projects — sitting alone and ignored on some external hard drive, unloved, forgotten and replaced by the joy of  my newest baby project? What if the premise of me as a father is a flawed premise?

I have to admit the premise may be flawed. But, that idea for the time being is still in development.

Homework

I spent some time tonight re-formatting Jackie’s master’s thesis paper. I’m thrilled that she sits on the edge of graduation, after years of grueling work - with only the unpredictable whims of her professor standing between her and freedom. But, it gave me a flavor of being in school again. And, of course, a flash to the future of working through every grade level all over again with my question mark of a child. Initially, I thought, “well, that’s the end of that.” But, then I realized I should probably explore the subject a little bit before turning in my final grade. Let’s break it down into the various subjects…

HISTORY

My parents used to ask me to help my brother with his homework. I held certain strong opinions about the best way to provide help - namely, to guide him into learning and understanding the material without giving him the answers. Unfortunately, his concept of how we should proceed seemed to be slightly different - perhaps even in direct conflict - namely, he just wanted the answers. And so, I have many memories of the typical for older brothers like me - the threatening, screaming, beating, chasing and choking required to get through that process. And once my parents made my brother stop his violence, he eventually learned.

History: D -

MATH

I hear that the volume and complexity of homework load has increased over the past 20 years. Judging by my nephew and nieces, I may have to brush up on my high school math just to get my child through grade school. And with the higher standards, you would think that children should be learning more, but in reality, it really seems to stress them out more than anything else. Not to mention the cost of education. If you want a halfway decent education, plan on spending big bucks on grade school and high school, and then get in deep debt for college.

Math: D +

POLITICAL SCIENCE

The current state of education in this country s-u-x that mirrors our class system. Poor and middle class settle for public school where resources force large class sizes and federal money is rewarded to schools based on unrealistic test scores. One of Jackie’s schools is failing this NCLB because many of the kids are ESL (English Second Language). Those kids are not at the level they should be from the very start. Some upper middle class and rich then have an option to find a quality private school with better resources and a better education. A negative side effect of membership in this luxurious educated club: either lifelong depression from realizing how the world really works, or lifelong blind ambition to take over the world in the name of Jesus Christ. Some believe (including me) that the educational system has been altered so that middle class and poor kids are taught just enough to get them a middle manager or low income job, which keeps the status quo. As a result, the majority of Americans who get through school can work a job that keeps them busy enough that they don’t have time to challenge the corporations running our country, and only comfortable enough to think they are happy.

Poli Sci: C

PHILOSOPHY

And when I dig deep into my thoughts on school, I eventually bump up head to head with my complete disrespect for the philosophy branded on American children in every grade - the concept of competition . It’s a system that supposedly uses human nature’s need to “win” as the engine to create progress, growth and innovation. The only problem is that winning often involves preventing the other person from winning more than they are preventing you from winning. It’s a flawed system. I’ve seen far too many examples of collaboration that result in the kind of progress, growth and innovation that blows competition’s model into the dust - leaving “competition” crying for it’s mommy, begging collaboration to show mercy.

Philosophy: F -

LITERATURE

Maybe it’s time for me to create a new story for myself. Maybe it’s time to become a hero in my own life’s journey and cross the threshold into the adventure. Maybe I should train my kid to think differently. Take them off the grid. Go live in the woods. Become some kind of liberal rebel mumbling over my tree branch and berry soup about my hate for the ‘state.’ Of course, that approach will leave my child no choice but to rebel, and how do you rebel when you’re bathing in a stream and feasting on squirrel? You become a hard-lined conservative.

Literature: C+

MUSIC

Next year, the arts program will be eliminated from all California public schools. No more music.

Music: F - - -

FINAL ASSESSMENT

It looks like the topic of education is getting a solid “D.” I guess we’ll have to send it back through the same grade again. Maybe it has learned a lesson.

Bottom line, I conclude that homework makes you hate thinking, which makes you hate growing, and ultimately leads to a robot life drinking the Kool Aid. In fact, I probably shouldn’t be creating new children, but eliminating them. It might help the bottom line, and then maybe California will reinstitute an arts program, and maybe Jackie will have a job after all next year. I guess I better polish my gun, and head down to the local school. But, which kids to get rid of first? I know, I’ll start with the rich bastards.

THE DAILY SCHEDULE

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Do I really want to share my time with a baby? Do I want to sacrifice my own important life for the creation of a new one? Important things I do each day during the week:

Sleep - 7 hours

Procrastinate - 1 hour

Write - 2 hours

Work - 8 hours

Commute - 2 hours

TV - 1 hour

Chows - 1 hour

This schedule leaves only 2 hours to devote to the baby. So now, I must face the inevitable sacrifices. Obviously TV will be the first to go (but you and I both know that I will still attempt to watch my shows while burping and changing). But, that only counts for an extra hour. Then, I’ll have to sacrifice some of my writing time, which will make me bitter and resentful. On the other hand, I find I’m least funny when I’m happy, so that one’s a toss-up. If I’m lucky, I can remove the hour of procrastination. Or, better yet, the baby will be the new procrastination! And sleep, from what I understand, will also go away. I guess that’s when your dreams literally disappear.

So, I’ve managed to add 5 hours of time. I’m sure Jackie will be more than happy to spend the other 19 hours handling the baby by herself, right?

Okay, after successfully avoiding 3 good swings from Jackie’s fist, but catching the last upper cut squarely in the jaw, I needed to take a break from being conscious. However, it gave me some time to ponder the additional elements from last week’s schedule that could make having a baby plainly irresponsible:

1) Stress about mediating between my client and my coworkers to make sure everyone is happy about microphones (8 hours for the week)

This situation presents an opportunity for the baby to experience some real life trauma when it needs loving from an emotionally drained father. I can pretend everything is fine, but the baby will know. It’s sensors will record the fear and confusion to store it away for future use. Then, some day, my adult child will freak out when someone sings karaoke, or someone offers a microphone. And my child won’t even know why.

2) Reading a guide for personal finance (6  hours for the week)

Forget the fact that I won’t even be able to consider the idea of conducting self-improving activities post-birth. The new knowledge I gained this week about my financial mistakes and ignorance should be proof enough that a baby will be sorely deprived of many needs. The lack of finances for a baby will have to be covered next week…

3)  Sensation Seizures (5 hours for the week)

Sensation had 10 seizures this week. I imagine my baby delighting at the first sight of a Sensation seizure, as it looks forward to many hours of playing with the dog that likes to dance. But, once it runs like a demonized hound across the room, blind and confused, knocking over my baby and creating it’s first scar on the corner of the coffee table, it will realize the terrifying truth that the dog is not into music, but more into Satan. And, my baby will enjoy a lifetime of nightmares!

4) Movies at Work (2 hours for the week)

Okay, I have an unusual benefit of working at a theatre. I can watch a movie during my work day, without any negative repercussions. In fact, I would’ve spent an additionally 6 - 8 hours watching movies at work last week if I didn’t have the seizure problems. But, how could I justify seeing a movie at work, while my wife is at home with a screaming child? Now that I think about it, if the child screamed all day, I would probably desperately need a movie to prevent myself from going postal. Jackie would probably want to join me, too. Goldie and Sensation may be able to baby sit once in a while - they are very loyal and protective - although the screaming may trigger another seizure cluster.

All in all, my reluctance when it comes to giving up my time appears to prove my mother correct - I am selfish. But, I like being selfish. It’s fun. However, I admit I would feel guilty for spending so much time on myself if a baby comes. I might be forced to change. I might even learn from the change. Or, I may just harbor my resentment for years, fight with my children, and die unhappy and alone.

I understand that approach works just as effectively as not having children in the first place.

PARENTING LESSONS FROM CHICAGO

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Last week, I traveled to Chicago to do some research for the Baby Time project by visiting with friends and family. I enjoyed the trip immensely, but my only regret was not stopping at Oberweiss for the best ice cream in the country, but unfortunately my dad thinks Oberweiss should be called Oberpreissed.

Here’s a summary of my findings:

- Raising children is difficult / a struggle / a challenge - Life as you know it is changed - You will make many sacrifices - The joy far outweighs any frustration - Life is way better seen through the eyes of your children

Not exactly a mind-blowing revelation. But, within these talking points that all the parents must get on their faxes every morning, I hear the difference in the details from one parent to the next. And, those differences in experience appear to be a direct result of their approach and philosophy.

Overprotective – Results in a constant stressful and helpless existence, following your child around every turn with the loving family mantra of “Watch out!” (No one claims to be this parent, but everyone knows one.)

Free and Easy – Results in a flexible lifestyle, with the freedom to eat out and socialize at will, with the children following you around. Children are rewarded for good behavior, instead of to shut them up. The plus with this approach is a well-socialized infant, but the negative is that if they act up, the outing is over immediately.

Well-Balanced – Results in a sometimes-stressful experience of watching your children screw up, followed by an opportunity to learn from the mistake. You experience the joy of living life almost entirely through their eyes, and then your reward is the anguish of letting them go off to college without you.

Overscheduled – Results in a well-balanced child with lots of extra life experience in sports, music, and other activities. You have the excitement of carting your children around like they are the rich teen celebrity that employs you.

Obviously there are many other approaches, but I had to go to the Cubs game on Saturday.

Through all my discussions, everyone agreed that Jackie and Dan would make great parents. I thank you all for your vote of confidence. On paper, I whole-heartedly agree! Jackie and I are educated and compassionate people. With my abstract sense of humor, and Jackie’s music teacher knowledge, we’d have a very stable and unique spawn. My fear is that if I don’t fully understand the weight of the stress and sacrifice that parenting requires, I might be sorely disappointed when the experience reigns down on me.

Maybe caring for dogs will help. I’ve learned compassion from Sensation, my chow. He’s got a medical problem. Any time his body is stressed, he can have seizures. And the seizures cluster, meaning he’ll have 2 seizures a day for 7 days. For the last year and a half, this happens every 3 – 4 weeks. Unpredictable, varying in intensity, the seizures cause his body to convulse, followed by chaotic confusion, and the need to run outside like a mo-fo to relieve himself (the dogs don’t like to go inside the house, luckily). The drugs calm him (like valium and chlorazopate), and he can sleep for 8 – 20 hours. That is, until the next seizure, which seems to gravitate towards 2am when I return home after an exhausting party at the theatre, or at 5am, or 7am, or 3am, or the middle of dinner. I can’t help but look at him with compassion and ask “Can I kill him now? How about now?”

I know it’s horrible. It shows that I am truly a monster. After all, if he didn’t have a high quality of life, killing him would be the compassionate thing to do. But, when he’s seizing, he’s unconscious, and if this happens 6 times, and then he has 3 weeks of normal living, that seems like he still has an ultimately quality life, right?

I think the key is to be aware of those thoughts. And hopefully, I would never have those thoughts with my own children. Besides, I think it’s better to be conscious of those dark thoughts, than to hide it deep in the subconscious and wake up one day with your car and kids in the lake.

And, a reminder of the biggest lesson from Chicago: how you look at the experience changes the nature of the experience. Parents who decide to enjoy the ups and downs show less stress. Sure, they feel pain, but when they appreciate the mistakes for their lessons as much as the successes, then they appreciate every moment of their lives, and that’s living!

GOALS OF THE BABY TIME! PROJECT

WEDDIN~1

Welcome to the Baby Time blog! The goal of the blog is to:

1) Develop a comic web series.

2) Explore the topic of rearing children to inspire episodes.

3) Decide once and for all if Jackie and Dan should have children.

We love our 2 dogs. They are chow chows. They are very independent. We can leave them for 12 hours without worrying about accidents. They only like a certain amount of attention, so we don’t feel guilty about not playing with them when we are tired.

They are gorgeous animals that get praise on every walk. They don’t bark - unless there is real danger (like a stranger in the house - the only time you really want a bark). They are loyal. They have unique personalities.

They basically have all the benefits of children without the hassle of worrying about a kid choking on a toy or growing up to murder a town.

And yet, I can’t help but take all my friends and family seriously when they say “having children will change your life — for the better.” Usually this comes right before they initiate some life-scarring trauma upon their innocent child.

When I was growing up, my main focus in life was to have a family. It’s what my parents did. My good friends were family members. And our lives revolved around the family. So, naturally having children was a foregone conclusion. Even into my twenties, my goal in life was to have a family.

Then I got out of the house and met some other people. Some happy people. What kind of happiness is this? It’s not forced. It’s not pretend. It’s not fleeting.

And something else changed. I started to explore my love of creativity. My desire to tell stories. My inner dream to make films. It’s a dream that has never gone away. So, as I started listening to my inner desires, my need to create a family faded.

I also met the love of my life: Jackie. She was not interested in having children. She got all the contact with little ones that she needed as a music teacher. She could enjoy the magic and wonder of children creating music. And then at the end of the day, she could go home and not worry about the other responsibilities of raising children. Plus, we discovered that we were having a lot of fun as a couple. We actually have a great marriage. So, it would seem that since she is the female, she has the last word on the question of bearing children.

However, as we approach an age where we either have children now, I still find myself needing to explore the topic in a more intentional way. A decision must be made. And the biological sands of time are running out of grains. And she agrees that a detailed study needs to be made before we can confidently be happy to spend the rest of our life as just the cool aunt and uncle, or if we join the rest of our family and friends in the glorious struggle of child rearing.

So, I will be exploring topics of raising children with pros and cons. I will be rambling on about the potential joys and devastations of generating humans of my own. And, I will be using that discussion to generate comic material for a web series.

I welcome all input, and hopefully by the end, I will know for sure whether or not I want children. And even more importantly, hopefully Jackie will agree.