Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011, Make A Wish!

Unbelievably, in less than 3 days, we will be living in the year 2011.

This year had several ups and several downs, but stirring in just enough of the right ingredients seems to keep things going strong. We have been in a holding pattern for quite some time, with freelance opportunities and side projects here and there, but our patience has paid off and now I have at least 6 months of employment to look forward to with SpeakeasyFX! Season 2 of "Abby's Flying Fairy School" begins!!!

The last two weeks were spent as a layout supervisor there, putting together layouts and assisting in composition and creative direction for the first episode. It's fantastic to be back. Not everyone has returned yet, but we're only days away from full production and I am super excited that I'll be returning as an animator as of January 3, and get to see all my SEFX friends again.

Since the studio was closed this week (for Christmas through New Years), I've been taking it easy at home, cleaning and making turkey-egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwiches to freeze for myself during the workweek. Despite the massive snowstorm that hit the northeast, I did get to travel "home" to Wisconsin (and back, without incident!) to see most of my family. We arrived on the afternoon of Christmas Eve and stayed through Monday, visiting my dad's mother and some family, as well as mostly my mom's side (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins), went to church for vigil mass and Holy Family Sunday, and enjoyed tons of excellent home cooking and bakery, games like Apples to Apples, and quality family time. Now that I'm back in New Jersey, my attention is back to getting to work on another Sesame Street project, which everyone asked about over the holidays and triggered further excitement!

This year has been tough, though. I've learned that if I want to be happy in this line of work, I have to prepare for more seamless transitions between jobs. I absolutely love animating in a creative studio of folks, all working together toward something bigger than a project I'm merely kicking around at home. It's taken me a while to decide that if you are a project hire, it isn't disloyal to spot new opportunities and take them. If I am willing to do that, I am being loyal to myself, and frankly it makes me feel more saught after, which is rewarding when it happens. Until a place puts you on staff, you have to keep the ball in play at all times, sending reels out and applying places where you feel you can make a positive difference in the product, and also to be happy and make others happy during production.

January is a great time to get hired, and it is also a good time to develop and finish side projects, deciding whether they are reel-worthy, and put that development cycle on a continuous loop, rather than to expect so much from a single project. You shouldn't be developing for a reel, you have to develop the talent. Gotta take the blinders off and make broad improvements.

That said, may it be a Happy New Year to all -- a year of relentless strength, proactive perseverance, marked improvement, open-mindedness, calculation, and confidence. And be happy!!!!!




Naveen and I opening gifts at our apartment in NJ.




Making breakfast sandwiches with Pillsbury Grands, turkey, egg, and cheese.




The Milwaukee airport, Christmas 2010.




The storm that skipped over the midwest but walloped the east coast.




Naveen and I on Christmas Eve 2010. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Happy Holidays!!!

The holidays are here!!!!!

I am super excited.. and I haven't even gotten my flights yet to go home yet. It's been a crazy time lately, wondering what the future holds for us. But as of Monday I'll be back on at SpeakeasyFX putting together layouts for a new season of "Abby's Flying Fairy School" for Sesame Street! I am so excited. I wish we could put together a Christmas special for next year. I've always wanted to work on one... like Disney's Prep & Landing, a relatively new ABC holiday special. Last night they aired a short called "Operation Secret Santa," which I caught this morning on YouTube. It's a SUPER cute new holiday Disney series, featuring Betty White as Mrs. Claus, Dave Foley as one of the elves, among others.. well done!!! Check it out.

Watch on YouTube



Official Prep & Landing Disney Site

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Story Telling...

...is something I sincerely want to get better at. A handful of friends and family tell me that they already like my storytelling, but I tend to be long-winded, full of details that may or may not be necessary or critical to my audience -- the kinds of stuff people might skim over in a book that they're cramming in a hurry to get to the end. Being concise is not a strong suit of mine.

One thing you learn in animation is to tell stories -- not just through the animated expression of the character, but also through composition, lighting, texturing, aspects of your set and props, etc.

If someone were to animate me, in my life right now, they may put together a jovial essence with a lot of hinted backstory of struggle and hard work in my facial expressions and how I hold myself when I'm sitting at my computer desk, playing Angry Birds on my Droid, reading books on Autism and stars and religion and fuzzy Muppets. Gradually, they could tell a bigger story by modeling a fantastic array of clutter on my desk, consisting of power cords, pencils I used in the fourth grade, handmade felt flowers from Nepal, several external hard drives, travel receipts, honeymoon vacation brochures, Tylenol Cold medicine, coupons, bank statements, demo reels, pads of paper with scribbled dates, recipes, and wannabe-Matt-Groening-slash-Jhonen-Vasquez-style sketches of myself and my husband.

Then you add more story-telling layers. Many items are covered in a thin layer of dust and/or cat hair. Papers are generally a bit crinkled throughout with worn looking edges from getting thrown in and out of travel bags or my ever-stuffed purse. The honeymoon brochures have those transparent circle seals, which are yet unbroken. In the looming shadow behind my flatscreen monitors are my demo reels from this past year as well as blank dvds for new reels. Also back there is my webcam, which I used to use daily when my husband and I had to live 800 miles apart (but now he's at the desk beside me, tinkering away at his work as well).

All those details add so much to that crazy ol' Laura character with the goofy-serious face, hunched camel neck, and famed librarian hairstyle... typing away thoughtfully at her machine.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Staples..That Was Hard

Telemarketing calls are annoying.

It's bad enough to get unwanted calls from time to time. It's almost more annoying to continue getting unwanted calls regularly per month from the same venue.



I've gotten many calls in the last year claiming to be from Staples Rewards.. many times I ignored the call, let it go to voicemail, etc. But the last couple of months I started asking to be removed from the system, with no luck.

On September 16, I got a call from a pleasant sounding woman named Shiny (yes.. Shiny) who claimed to be my Staples Rewards account manager, which seemed weird to me because to be honest I rarely shop at Staples - I made a large purchase a few years ago when I was initially setting up my home office (desk, chair, etc) but I don't have many office supply needs. I think I signed up for rewards at the time, but to my knowledge I've never received any Rewards information or benefits, and had since forgotten about the program. She seemed perplexed because there was activity on my Staples Rewards account, $12 here, $30 there, etc. That certainly wasn't me - I don't know the last time I shopped at Staples. I gave her updated information (no credit card, just email and home addresses) and she said the Rewards checks would come to me now, but I have just found this very confusing and thought I should report it. The contact info she gave me was Shiny Varghese, 866-319-8181 extension 7654, but she called me from 306-584-6705.

I reported exactly that to a customer service contact form online, but never got any response. Then today, I got another call from Shiny. Of course now she had all the updated information I had given her the last time, but I had still not received any rewards checks or even any account information - no mail at all from Staples. She was again perplexed to hear this, and I just told her I didn't mean to be unfriendly but I wish to stop the unwanted calls as I am not currently a Staples customer, my former account information is not accurate (and has not been corrected), and someone else is using my rewards checks (although they are buying with the card so they should be getting the awards.. I just don't want the calls anymore)...

So I reported again to the online form that I had received another call from the same person and now I absolutely would like to be removed from their system. I even went to the Staples customer service live chat and spoke briefly with a person who didn't know what to do, and then gave me a number, (800)793-3320, which I could call to get my information removed. I called, and reached a woman who said my telephone number wasn't in their system. Frustrated, I asked why I am getting calls from reps, and she suggested it might be this other department, so she gave me another number, (877) 235-9088. When I called that number, I spoke with an operator, and got redirected back to the original number. At this point I was so fed up that I just disconnected. I imagine the next time Shiny calls me, I will demand to speak to a supervisor. All of the roundabout calls ignite my dramatic side and makes me just want to organize a boycott of Staples (if it is actually them, and if not I just wonder if these are just some amazingly connected scam artists up in Saskatchewan -- which is apparently where Shiny calls from).

There are other people as frustrated as I am out there. I searched Shiny's phone number on Google and made a complaint on this 800notes.com website along with maybe a hundred other people who also have received calls claiming to be from Staples.

No "easy" button for this ongoing problem... :(

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Virtual Me #1

This is hardly the first digital representation of myself that I have made. Nor is it anywhere near the best. I just thought I should share the 5 minute pose exercise I did yesterday morning over coffee and waking up my animation brain for the day. It's not a great pose, but I want to do more of these "quick sketches" since they prove useful to do with a sketchbook and pencil or vine charcoal.



Thanks to Animation Mentor for the customizable Bishop 2.0 rig. It's very versatile even in its beta/first released version. So all you AMers, check it out!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Solace

It's been an interesting year. Only a month and a half left of 2010. On one hand, it seems that I didn't use this year to its full potential, and although there is some amount of correctness to the thought, I spent a lot of this year learning about myself and about the world, and how I think the two should be related.

Tonight I had some time to myself, with inspiration from Queen, Temple Grandin, and a little Vouvray --- 2008, a good year! :) It's been a quiet, reflective kind of evening, which is highly welcomed after a string of working and crashing and noise. I don't really have anything more to say about it. Just thought I'd share. I'm happy. :-)


The Queen Symphony, Movement #3, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Tolga Kashif




Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Abby Season Two Announced!!!

What better day than today, the 41st birthday of Sesame Street, to announce that I'll be returning to SpeakeasyFX on January 3, 2011, for a second season of Abby's Flying Fairy School. WOOT!!!

Some of last season's episodes can be found on Leslie's page! Yay!

Happy birthday Sesame Street! Presents for Everyone!!!

~*-*-*-*-*~


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Call Me Katamari

I've decided, in all my recent purging of nostalgia, my nickname should be katamari - I'm a rolling, highly adhesive ball collecting junk as I tumble along hoping to become a star.

Check out: TomPreston (DeviantArt) Nintendo Katamari Cartoon


Recently I took a trip back to my stomping grounds in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where my parents and my husband's parents still live 5 minutes away from each other. My folks think they're edging closer to putting the house on the market, and all summer I had hoped to visit them but then I went and did that preschool thing, so the time finally seemed right to make the journey home and start sorting, throwing out, recycling, and donating my stuff that has stayed behind the last several years.

Which, of course, meant Man Week for my husband.


I planned the trip to overlap my good friend Cait's baby shower in Chicago and surprise her there, and I also had friends to see in Indianapolis area (including my friend Mark on Saturday, my other pregnant friend Jess with her son Liam and our friend Mike on Sunday, and my friend Jac Piette speak at Purdue on Tuesday about her experience in the animation film industry), and also friends to see in Fort Wayne (where my pregnant high school friend Julie lives with her husband), so I got my flight through Indy and rented a car for 10/2-10/10 to cover all my bases.

Liam providing "Duck Dinner" to all the little ducks behind our house.




Hanging out at Purdue with my family and Jac before her presentation





The PU Bell Tower, where Naveen and I decided to start dating




Other fun moments at home






I fully intended to fly home in time for a friend's wedding on Sunday afternoon in PA. But then on Friday, as I was out to lunch with Julie, my plans took twist number one: I found out that Launch didn't need me to come in the following week. Working there has been really cool, by the way. For two weeks I've really enjoyed the people and getting an awesome breakfast in the morning, and being in the city, learning new things, being part of a commercial pre-production team - but one of the things I like least about freelance is the unpredictability. I don't know from week to week whether I have work or not, and frankly that does bug me a little. Don't get me wrong, I like the flexibility that comes with it, but it's really hard to plan ahead. Like in this case, if I had known that, I would have simply booked a 2-week trip home. After talking with Julie about it, and realizing there was still so much to be done at the house, I decided I wanted to push my flight. I was glad to come to that decision because it meant that Julie and I could go to lunch together again the following week. After lunch we went to Target together and she gave me some tips on what to get my friend Cait off of her baby registry, speaking from personal experience with her sister's pregnancy advice and now being pregnant herself. We had a nice time catching up.

I got home and started dialing Expedia when the unthinkable twist number two happened. A call interrupted my dialing, and I saw it was my friend Jess. I answered very bubbly, excited from seeing her the past Sunday and meeting her two-year-old Liam for the first time. However, her voice did not answer me - it was Kevin, her husband who had just started his year in Korea with the air force last month. At first I was ecstatic to hear his voice, but it quickly fell to pieces as he told me that there had been a problem with the baby girl and she had been stillborn on Thursday morning. The air force (and the American Red Cross) got him home quickly enough that he got a chance to hold her that night. It was a shocking, devastating blow, especially since the baby was due December 1, just another month away. I pushed my flight and extended my car rental, but other than that I spent most of the rest of the day crying and wondering how that kind of thing could happen. I had an awfully hard time putting it out of my mind the very next day on my drive and visit to Chicago for my friend Cait's baby shower (also due in one month). I was fairly relieved there were so many other friends and family there (some who also surprised her like I did) so that I could hold it together and be happy for her as I have been these last several months. I also made a fairly impromptu visit with Kedari and her brother Harikiran (who was running the Chicago marathon the next day), and had a really good time unwinding with them for a couple hours before making the trek back to Fort Wayne. It was a tough ride home in the Indiana darkness, late into the wee hours, but I was so thankful to get to see them and talk about everything.

Cait's shower




Thankfully Jess and Kevin are incredibly strong people with amazing focus on their future, and with Liam they understand the importance of projecting constructive energy rather than allowing themselves to fall into complete despair (as I fear I would, at least for a while, had I been in their shoes). They definitely grieved for her, but they felt strongly that something wasn't right with her heart and that this just wasn't meant to be.

Dominique's memorial



They named her Dominique (after St. Dominic) and held a memorial for her on Monday in Fishers (near Indy), which I attended. It was comforting to see both of them doing so well, watching Liam steal the spotlight, seeing our friend Crystal who I hadn't seen in years. It was good to see Jess and Kevin together, since the last time had been at our Hindu wedding two years ago to the day (I got an awkwardly funny "Happy Anniversary" moment). Despite the tragedy, we had a wonderful visit, with laughs and memories, and Kevin's hilarious stories about hashing in a foreign country (meeting at a bar with a bunch of guys, some of whom are deemed hares and run off into the night, and the rest are deemed hounds who must follow the trails, or clues left in chalk on the ground, until they finally meet up at the final drinking destination). I was so thankful to be there with them and to swap good memories to help us move on again.





Staying the extra week also allowed me to be home in front of a live television broadcast of the historical overnight rescue of 33 miners in Copiapo, Chile.




So back to the at-home cleanup effort. Besides leaving behind useful furniture that belongs to my folks anyway, I have collected and saved all kinds of memorabilia from my childhood. I used to be REALLY bad about saving things - cocktail napkins from airplane trips I was excited about, wrappers of favorite special candy from faraway places, scraps of paper or leftover materials I believed I'd use for crafts, etc. Those kind of things I was able to get rid of when I was in college. However, I still kept hundreds of school papers, cg magazines, SIGGRAPH swag, and more. I came across a lot of forgotten things... In fact, here are some of the highlights:



Found:
  • $20 in a high school graduation card
  • A friend's college senior project (and yes he wants it sent to him!)
  • About 15 SNES game instruction booklets
  • Reply letter from Nintendo's Megan Faris (Gameplay Counselor) wishing me happy birthday and comparing our favorite games
  • Reminder note for my Indy eye appointment July 22, 2002 at 10am
  • Funny poem I scribbled on a piece of paper (probably something I heard and wanted to remember) - The limerick packs laughs anatomical / into space that is quite economical / but the good ones I've seen / so seldom are clean / and the clean ones so seldom are comical.




Kept:
  • 3 carefully drafted 8th grade English papers riddled in Mrs. Applen's red pen, the toughest class of my childhood
  • My first flipbook animation of a stick figure turning into a flower vine then back to a smiley stick figure, on the back of Grandma's Rite Realty contact cards
  • Things I brought back from the month I spent teaching a cg workshop in Poland
  • About a dozen dried roses





Disposed:
  • 1 so-called "bookish" paper in which Mrs. Applen accused me of plagiarism when I had spent a week or more trying my best to use more adult and intelligent language
  • Another dozen or so dried flowers (used to be a "thing" for me)
  • About a gadgillion wedding magazines
  • Gateway 2000 Computer with Win98 OS
  • 1995 Calendar from my church growing up, St. Vincent de Paul
  • A Giant box of college/tech school admissions marketing books and dvds, mostly from schools like AAU, SCAD, USC, Cal Arts, Pratt, Art Center, and Full Sail (all great schools)
  • Countless progress report cards, assignment planner notebooks, and school newsletters
  • Century Pride fundraising brochure with cheese, sausage, and chocolate selections
  • Keyboarding class papers from 7th grade, showing 20-30 gwam
  • Claire's receipt from 6/23/2006 when I had to have my ears re-pierced
  • Class Royale memory book where my name wasn't published
  • Ferngully seed packet from a Pizza Hut promotion back in 1992
  • Receipts from sending demo reels by mail or other carriers through the years
  • Random assortment of colored or specialty envelopes that once held greeting cards
  • VHS tapes from college like Independence Day, MIB, Erin Brochovich, Elizabeth, Air Force One, 10 Things I Hate About You, Wedding Singer, A League of Their Own, Little Women, Rain Man, Patch Adams, Matrix (all), Apollo 13, Romeo & Juliet, Stuart Little, Schindler's List, Good Will Hunting, Hearts In Atlantis, Shrek, Jack, A PBS Vietnam Story, Volcano, Bowling for Columbine, "The Circus" with Charlie Chaplan, Man on the Moon, Cast Away, Twilight Zone Episodes, Bridget Jones Diary, My Dog Skip, Lilo & Stitch, Fantasia 2000, Walt Disney's Old Yeller, Paris When It Sizzles




And the absolutely laughable, gets-its-own-category:
  • Cassette tapes from back in the day: Club Cutz (Everything T-Empo's Key Lime Pie Mix, Don't Stop Me Now Extended Power Mix, Lookin Up West End Mix, Movin Up Extended Version, Can You Feel It Ultimate Club Edit, Wait For Our Love to Find Us Extended Version, Scatman, Basic Radio, Love Me The Right Way Real Rapino 12" Mix, Gotta Find Love 7" Radio Mix, Let Me In Your Heart Full Mix, Macarena Bayside Boys Remix, I Was Made For Loving You Club Mix), KWS Please Don't Go (The Album), 20 Greatest Hits of 1964 (Highland Records), Eurythmics (Sweet Dreams Are Made of This) from 1983, The Wallflowers - Bringing Down the Horse, Billy Joel - River of Dreams, Autographs - A collection of favorites by popular artists (Tony Bennet, Shawn Colvin, Gloria Estefan, Kenny G, Luther Vandross, Kenny Loggins, Celine Dion, Jon Secada, Taylor Dane, and Basia), Sheryl Crow (includes If It Makes You Happy, Every Day Is A Winding Road), Gloria Estefan - Destiny, Tears for Fears - Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Bruce Springsteen - Dancing in the Dark, Kenny G - Kenny G, Wayanay - Andes Cosmos, Wayanay - The Magic Music of the Andes - Tee Pee Encounters Catacoma, Andrew Lloyd Webber - The Premiere Collection Encore, Nature Quest - An Adventure in Nature and Music - The Power of Beethoven, Gene Autry - Everyone's a Child At Christmas, Random House's Story of the Nutcracker Ballet / Nutcracker Suite, Oasis - Definitely Maybe, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (with Donny Osmond), Highlights from The Phantom of the Opera (original cast recording with Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman, Steve Barton), Tim Weisberg - Night Rider, Hootie & the Blowfish - Cracked Rear View; Soundtrack Music from the Motion Pictures - Top Gun, One Fine Day, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Don Juan DeMarco (Score & Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman)...




So you can see even just a tiny bit how necessary it was for me to go home and take care of these things. There is still more to do - yearbooks, figurines, and even some clothes that have come in handy when I'm visiting home - but those will have to wait for next time. :)

And so, with all that in mind, I will sign off as yours truly,
Katamari





Oh. PS, Hubby picked me up in a suit when I returned home, in lieu of flowers, considering I may try to dry them and keep them in our apartment. Cute. :) He always makes me laugh.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

More AFFS stuff!

Cool new "Abby's Flying Fairy School" stuff on the Sesame Street website!



Abby's Flying Fairy Fun Pack
Gear up for Flying Fairy School with twinkle-tasty recipes and magically simple costumes.



Abby's Flying Fairy School Playset
AFFS Paper Dolls!!! Create your own adventure in Abby's classroom with this printable playset.



Abby & Friends: P is for Princess DVD
Once upon a time on Sesame Street there lived a fairy in training named Abby Cadabby, and she loved going on all kinds of adventures. She loved playing princess with friends like Rosita, but what happens when a misguided Prince (played by actor Paul Rudd) tries to rescue them? Pretending and the Letter P are the focus of two more stories in this enchanting title that also features fun with Natalie Portman and Elmo in "The Princess and The Elephant". This title also features two bonus episodes of Sesame Street's animated show Abby's Flying Fairy School.

Online "Play Along Stories" (assets by SpeakeasyFX interactive team):


Call It Macaronisaurus
Help Abby, Blogg, and Gonnigan stop the macaronisaurus.
Subject: Thinking Skills



Sleeping Bloggy
Help Abby and Gonnigan wake up Blogg.
Subject: Numbers / Early Math



Say Gezundenshniffle
Help the fairies get the dust bunnies back under the rug.