Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Double Whammy

For some reason my subconscious is all caught up in this ghost fascination. I had a dream the other night that my mom acquired property in the city, a coffeehouse/bookshop, two conjoined storefronts with a basement full of books. There was very much a ghost down there. Details are getting fuzzy but some kind of shadow figure and books being thrown.

Last night I had a dream I lived on a condominium complex similar to the ones my grandparents lived in when I was younger. Apartment units within a series of brown buildings, patios, all buildings looked the same laid out on a country club terrain. There was in my dream a common house with an indoor pool and a kitchenette with a small banquet room. I was in there boiling ramen noodles and suddenly felt creeped out and left and was suddenly very tired and collapsed on the cement driveway. When I looked back up at the 2nd floor banquet room window the blinds were lifted slightly and there was a womanly figure peaking out. I was very much the only person in the building when I was in there.

Hmmmm. Psychoanalyses? Clearly I have ghost issues in my subconscious. Or just the result of a very American problem = too much TV shows of a certain kind.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

That Tower Gave me the Creeps

It's been a strange weekend of vivid dreams. Saturday at 4am I woke up bolt upright from a horrifying dream about aggressive demonic ghosts. I was escorting a family in a station wagon across a bizarre treeless terrain against black sky. They stayed in a hotel, incredibly vacant and apparently abandoned. Suddenly I found blood all over my shirt and was aghast, trying to figure out if it was my blood. Then one of the guys I was with came running out from a darkened banquet hall screaming "run, run! A fucking demon is chasing me!" We ran and escaped the building and awoke abruptly. I was a bit stirred trying to go back to sleep. The neighbors above me were making some noise, heard some voices and it took sometime of coming out of the dreamy haze to secure myself in the fact that these weren't indeed ghostly voices.

When I fell back asleep I was part of a ghost hunting team wandering the north east side of Chicago. It was a bit different, a plethora of high rise condos had been erected. All were reportedly haunted, particularly one which had a glass base, plant life and candle chandeliers adorned this foyer. It stretched up like a blend between a "sorry game piece" and the eiffel tower. Looked to be layered with antiquated stone. It had a terrible air, and was rumored to have been built as an architectural beacon to summon spiritual energy, much like Dana Barret's apartment building in Ghostbusters. Check out the ink based drawing I scratched together of it. I'm curious if it has some meaning in my dream terrain.

We continued to survey the stretch of reportedly haunted buildings and were held up for sometime by a rival ghost hunting team which locked us in a public bathroom for some time. We eventually escaped and came across a building I had seen before in a prior dream, back when I was moving. I had dreamt of this tattered high rise which brings Detroit or Cabrini Green to mind. As I left I had noticed some activity in the back cafe. I spied in through the window to the basement lobby and noticed something cult like, people in robes. They noticed me and chased me. This was a dream way back. Anyway we came across it and I did not want to go near. I could have been recognized.

Last night I had a dream that I had to get my tonsils out. Which I already had done my sophomore year of high school! But apparently here they grew back. I was performing in an upcoming play for a long run and so there was a small window of time to get them yanked or else wait and risk infection. I was goaded into getting them yanked right then and there and drugged under. In my recovery my girlfriend took my stay at a cozy, sleek, and modern hotel doused in a soft blue light and which housed a modern marvel of a pool. It was built as a seamless terrace of water. Each depth and height had a different temperature, getting cooler and cooler the higher you went, as though you were walking out into the increasing depths of an ocean beach.

Friday, February 19, 2010


I have jumped into my fourth draft of my novel, working it entirely from scratch once again. It will be a slow process but I will be focusing on the specificity of each word and tightening the POV from what I've already worked up and deepening. It feels right now, where it's at so far. I'm overcoming my need to pound out a quantitative body of work. I've been pounding out quantity. All of it stuff I'm proud for some aspect or another. It was necessary to churn my brain and get me thinking as a writer again. Word by word. Sentence by sentence, someday you'll read this one. I'm excited about perfecting this one.

Also, somehow by changing the name of the main character I suddenly feel more connected to his POV.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Play written! / Economy Rant

Today turned out to be a pretty good day. I got on a roll with a play idea I started playing with at the start of the week and had a solid streak. I was able to finish up the first draft. I'm incredibly happy with how it winded up. It's a strange scenario but I think it's highly unique (at least I hope). I can't wait to play with the dialogue more and bring in a couple of actors in, do some readings of it to hear how it sounds.

I was a moody guy last night. It took me 1.5 hours to get home from Sugrila. It should have been a 45 min commute. We had some great Wood Sugars writing sessions and recorded a new podcast. We have whole new set up now, it's a lot like radio, so it's a blast to experiment with. But anyway. Took me a very long time to get home. Buses not running on schedule. Subway down to one track. Frustrating and cold out. I got pretty burned up inside thinking how CTA will not be improving anytime soon. After massive service cuts, old trains and tracks, unfinished construction projects and blossoming budget defecit, we are in for a butt pain of a time getting around Chicago for a long time to come. I got very depressed thinking about it, and when I finally got home I was absolutely exhausted from all of my bottle rage. I was even that guy muttering angrily to myself when the train stalled under ground for some time. Oy vei.

The transportation infrastructure of this nation in general, as we are well into the twenty first century and have the technology, is absolutely embarrassing. The basic economic structure of mankind at this point in time is regressive and will not contribute to forward progress. Particularly in energy, transportation, and medicine. It's beyond sad. Progress is held up because there is a price tag on everything: people, products, supplies, research, manpower. You need either capital or credit to get anything done and organizations have proven to be either irresponsible or stingy with both. I feel like a money based economy is out of date. Don't get me wrong. Money may have been a great motivator for "forward progress" in the past, inciting the industrial revolution, etc. (despite instigating exploitation) but now the concept of money has everything at a standstill. We have the technology for high speed transit and many hungry to work that could build it up. There have been great advances of medicine, yet many who need it don't have the financial status to access it. Thermal power, tidal power, solar power, wind power have hardly been explored to their potential.

The concept of money has clogged such advances like a bad case of constipation. Well, I know you will retort with "if it weren't for getting paid no one would do jack shit, we'd be lazy." Yes, there are some out there without a concept of work ethic but there are many who are motivated by accomplishment, by progress. I think you'd be amazed.

Will Durant wrote in The Story of Civilization something along the lines of (this will be paraphrased, I don't have the book on me anymore) "Mankind took a great step forward when they stopped eating their fellow man and instead enslaved them." Well perhaps it is time we take another great step forward and cease enslaving development and resources with money. But man ain't ready for it. Yanking money out of the daily workings of man would be cause withdrawal syndromes worse than forcing a heavy heroin junky to go cold turkey.

I will rearranging my reading list to learn more about economics. I want to understand it better and maybe someday experiment with my own attempt at configuring a new economic model to ween us off the current addiction to currency. Even if it's rejected by the world at least I'll die having tried to think up something.

Monday, February 15, 2010

New Stab at Trailer and smell of Cooking Wort

Last night I had a dream I was on a road trip to the east coast and wound up at the new house of some old family friends. They lived in house by the seaside that had elements of old colonial Boston and old west architecture slewed together. The inside stood hallowed out, like a hotel lobby but looked like the facade of a western movie set going into the off shooting rooms. And the guy had quite his own little microbrewery going. I think I was even able to smell the wort heating up in my dream, bringing it another sensory level. Man, I do love the smell of brewing the wort (mixture of the hops and barley mash). I've begun to dabble in home brewing and I really do dig the smell of the process. Smells like an odd variation of bread.

I took another stab and concocting a new Turban Tan trailer. Check her out

The Ghost that Shook the Sh&t out of the Bed

Last night at 2:30 am the bed shook three times abruptly and the cat jumped off in panic mode. My first reaction was tight gripping fear. I have been apt to watch a lot of those ghost hunting shows lately and have seen some haunted clients on the show make claims of "we've been woken in the middle of the night with what felt like someone shaking the bed." I was a bit afraid here as thoughts of this poured through my groggy, weary, still slightly sleeping brain.

I was thinking - shit. Are we going to have to arrange some sort of exorcism now? How did this happen? By just watching those shows did we open some sort of ghostly portal? I had a hard time thinking straight and imaginative paranoia trickled.

Then my girlfriend and I remembered that we moved the bed the day prior to clear space for a dolly shot in a movie we were making with Wood Sugars. The bed frame has a wooden platform with a wooden rod running the middle, longways, with three legs to hold it up. Sure enough when I looked under the bed the three legs had slid and slanted. Hence the three shifting bangs.

I was relieved. I confided in my girlfriend this morning of my ghostly fears and she had the same for a split second. Now I just need to get my hands on some lumber and get all carpenter like to fix up the frame so I don't have any more close calls with panic attacks during dark dead time. Or maybe it was caused by another mini earthquake like the one I slept through this week prior?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Eye Swat

An old boss of mine once said to me "Jeff, you seem like you're very much in love. Well don't take this the wrong way. Love very much has a way of making you stupid."

This morning I was spending time with my girlfriend and cat, Pythagoras. We were sitting nicely. I closed my eyes to fall back asleep and felt a nip at my eye. "Gus" went to bat at a string of my hair and got my eye lid. We of course yelled at him and scolded him and made him leave the bed. For the next hour Gus looked like a mad child. I remember as kid getting mad at my parents when they yelled at me when I most likely did deserve it. I was just mad at them for being mad at me. I very much felt like a parent. In a strange way having a cat has made me grow up a bit. I know it's a cat and there's not all that much to it, but at the is this living thing whom I am responsible for its life. I love him enough to teach him that swatting at eyeballs is a no-no. Other than that he's a good kid.

Happy Valentines Day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Precision & Stillness

Last night I got to sit in on a tech week dress rehearsal run of Adore in the Steppenwolf Garage Studio. I was very impressed. It was their first full run in the space and it's already coming together quite well. The interaction between the actors and the video projection blended nicely to create a very precise ambiance. I was very engaged by the piece and it is the first piece of theatre I have seen in awhile that truly has a visceral bite to it. It's far from flat. From my work with Three Leaves I'd like to think I'm fairly hardened (after performing as Jerry Thompson in Magnet 4: Hyena where my character rapes a girl in the woods after helping his brother set her on fire) but I felt myself squirming in a few points. Adore is about homosexual cannibals (based off of true events) but goes beyond what could have wound up as a shallow, gross out horror piece. Adore has some very endearing moments and examines romance within a very unique scenario . The moments in which I squirmed were rooted in the corporal introspection which it stimulated for me. I don't want to give anything away, but there are several lines of dialogue which got my imagination running in a scary but sense heightening way. Stephen Louis Grush wrote a galvanizing, compelling piece of theatre. To be honest my interest in theatre has been reignited and I'm honored that XIII Pocket recently invited me to join their ensemble and can't wait to get further involved with the group.

This morning we shot a bedroom sequence at my place for Tea Man, Steep! For what will be most likely a twenty second clip in the movie we spent four hours in prepping and shooting the location. We took great care to dress the set and make it visually different from an average apartment. My character is very sleepy in this scene, in the waking process, so most of my acting involved lazing around in a bed. Easy enough? I'm finding though that I get very fidgety when I have to stay absolutely still for a shot, as though the precision of stillness spikes a discomfort in me. When I acted in James N. Kienitz Wilkins' Public Hearing this past October, I can clearly recall how weird my hands felt while holding still a cup of coffee at a very precise point as not to go out of frame or throw focus, gripping it through thick gloves underneath some very hot lights. My sweaty hands were just crying to twitch. Perhaps it's a good exercise in concentration, to get beyond the hyper-awareness of discomfort and continue to perform as a different character. But sometimes the discomfort can elicit an energy that can translate into a stewing kinetic spark for the character and can help heighten presence in a scene...or so I'd like to think. In the typical actor way of "using" a true feeling brought on by a circumstance in the shooting process to reflect and bring life to the character, I figure why not at least try to translate the fidgety/stir craziness into something. But then again it may be like what one of Robin Williams' professors said to him at Julliard. "Robin, what you just did is like pissing in brown pants. You felt great but we saw nothing." (ultra paraphrasia). Anyway, how very actor-ly of me to complain about having to lie still in a shot.

I had a very weird dream last night that I was on a journey across country, riding in a home mounted on wheels. There was a handful of us, all childhood friends all grown up. I was very excited to stake out a corner chair where I could see out of two windows facing out at a sun bathed mountain. I had a book in my hands that I was jacked to read but forget now what it was.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dystopian Basement Gathering

The reading went well last night, I had a blast. I enjoyed everyone's story and strange adventure in apocalypse and I enjoyed reading my new short story Nagasaki Lagoon and I am thankful for the positive feedback. We recorded the audio of it on Aaron's tiny net book so once we clean up the audio, that will be posted here. I'm excited to revisit this story and get it spruced up before submitting it places. If anyone wants to take a look at it I would be glad for the critique. I won't be posting the actual story here as I'd like to unveil in it print somewhere somehow. But shoot me an e-mail if you want to read it TheIglooOven [at] gmail dot com. It's about a shit storm during a pharmaceutical convention in Nagasaki. A literal shit storm. Everyone's piece was very different from one another and awesome. I could recap each reader's piece but I think it would be more fun for you to listen to it when we go live with the pod cast version. You can keep a nice element of surprise.

We are in talks to get going with a monthly reading at Matilda-Baby Atlas. We are thinking of maintaining the same theme of apocalypse. We feel there are so many stories within that theme and it'd be fun to make it a specific and unique reading series. It is such a swell basement room. Layla the bartender was great about closing the door too to block out the noises from the other section of the bar upstairs. So it felt like this intimate little literary gathering work below the surface. We read by candle light. It was a very fitting ambience for our apocalyptic exploration.

As I said I had I blast last night, I think I had too much of a blast. Coming off of the reading our spirits were high so we naturally tried to match it with liquid spirits. More than several shots of tequila! I was hurting this morning. Did not get much done on any projects today, sadly. Unfortunately it became strictly a recovery day. I don't drink very often any more so my tolerance has dropped like a rock! Lesson learned - next reading event at Matilda I will have several creative excuses as to why I shall stick to beer. Layla is awesome whenever we do performance events there about hooking up some celebratory shots for the readers/performances. How does one decline such generosity? I guess I'd rather be hungover than rude...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Liquid Burning of Apocalyptic Bard Letters - Tonight!

If you're in the Chicago area, my friend Aaron Cynic and I have a organized a reading event, The Liquid Burning of Apocalyptic Bard Letters. The event is tonight and we have several other Chicago writers on board. It revolves around the theme of dystopia. I always have the most fun at collaborative reading events so I'm psyched about this and equally psyched to see what pieces the others bring to the table. I'll be reading a new piece which I'll be revising over the coming weeks and submitting it to various magazines and journals. I'm sure reading aloud will help, hearing it aloud is always nice. Originally I was thinking of just reading an excerpt of Turban Tan for my piece but I find I like the idea of giving the audience a full story experience as opposed to just a small section out a long text. That would be the literary equivalent of letting a soup lover taste a spoonful but not offering a full bowl. It's a terrible analogy, I know. Best I could come up with. But just know I'll give you a full story and it will be like a tiny but fat steak, very filling. If you're not in the Chicago area we're looking into recording it and pod casting it in the near future.

Here's a teaser.

The Liquid Burning of Apocalyptic Bard Letter from Jeff Phillips on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow & Writing

There is a bite in the fat snow flake that is quite recharging. It seems to slap with soft electricity. I’ve found myself at times being disappointed in the lack of snow so far this winter. Winter haters might argue against my claim that it has been a fairly mild winter in Chicago so far. The rest of the country seems to be getting dumped upon. Over Christmas, I witnessed Minnesota slammed with something like 3 days of snow. Yesterday, a mini blizzard unleashed. I brewed a pot of coffee and set up shop at the kitchen table, facing towards the two big windows that face an open schoolyard. I enjoy watching the thick precipitation fall as a panoramic sheet. It gets me going creatively. Usually. Although the first chunk of yesterday it didn’t do much for me. I felt lackluster.

Then I actually went out into it and I felt more awake. I’ve spent much of this winter locking myself in, spinning the vinyl and typing away. But perhaps I've allowed myself to become too much of a hermit lately, and I'm not sure sticking around one side of the window pane is the best place to recharge one's spiritual batteries.

I’m going to try taking a walk each morning before I sit down to write. Point of view is huge for the telling of stories. Especially the novel I am currently working on. I threw out most of yesterday’s writing because it was flat. Today’s fresh air so far has seemed to translate onto the page with a little more kinetic energy than the day prior, where I only allowed the snowfall most of the day through to stimulate me only by way of one sensory organ. Point of view seems to exist like rice on a skillet. If it isn’t stirred and set in motion the grains at the bottom burn and stick.

P.S. I am finding that messing around with pen and ink helps warm up the imaginative muscle. I didn't do that yesterday, I'll do some more's a piece from this weekend as I retooled a flyer idea.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Adore - projection & performance

I recently joined XIII Pocket as an ensemble member and last night I got to see some of the film work for the upcoming production of Adore going up at Steppenwolf in the Garage studio space. The staging of it involves intricate juxtaposition between live stage and film projection, and it's equally interesting to see how Stephen Louis Grush wrote it to play out that way. Often times mediums are mixed to add a stylized layer, but when an artist intends the production's vision as a precise combination of mediums, some very wild and intense stuff can hit the audience on a sensory level quite viscerally.

I'll be seeing a run through of it this coming weekend, so I will talk about it in more detail then. But for now take a look at the trailer. It opens Feb. 28th in the Steppenwolf Garage space.

The Liquid Burning of Apocalyptic Bard Letters

This coming Thursday Feb. 11th, my friend Aaron Cynic of Diatribe Media / Chicagoist and I have teamed to throw a reading event based on the theme of dystopia and apocalypse. Since my book Turban Tan is a very much in the realm of dystopia and global apocalypse, and Aaron's forthcoming zine explores this theme as well, we figured it'd be swell idea to pool our efforts and really have fun with such a heavy theme that is open to a wild variety of intense scenarios. We're jacked about the line up we've added on as well, Dan Mac Rae (playwright of Magnets, Division & Shame), Ian Randall (frontman of Farmer Tan Market, actor, and slam poet), Kevin Robinson (Chicagoist) and Grant Schreiber (Judas Goat Quarterly). All will be reading a selected work of their own original work related to the theme. None of use know what the other will be reading. Element of surprise. I've worked up a brand new short story for it, never before read or heard by another soul (although I might ask my girlfriend to take a proof reading pass at it).

If you're in the Chicago area, I hope you check it out. If you're a jet setter, come check it out. It's in the basement bar Matilda Baby Atlas. Probably one of the most unique bars I've seen. One of my favorites. We shot our Wood Sugars short film (Bee)tnick Poet there so give it a quick view if you'd like to see the sweet space. We'll have fun with the apocalypse.

The novel I'm working on has some elements of apocalypse/dystopia, although more so "pre-apocalypse." It's on the tottering brink, but the story really focuses elsewhere, I just like the back drop of the "pre-apocalypse." I got this strange fascination with the apocalypse. I know it's a bit of a dark and scary subject, but the idea of it really trips my imagination. Restarting society. Running a-muck in a vacant, dilapidated world. Abandoned buildings...former metropolises still standing, over grown. I don't mean to point melodramatically to these times we live in and the pervasive global climate. I don't mean to stir up frightening images. But I think it's an important theme to explore, if we want to avoid it.

The Liquid Burning of Apocalyptic Bard Letters

THURSDAY, February 11th, 2010.

9:00pm – mingle and chat about the apocalypse.

9:30-10:30pmReadings occur.

10:30pm – toast the apocalypse and carry on.

In the basement of 3101 N. Sheffield Ave.

Matilda’s - Baby Atlas

***enjoy $3 Point Ale and half off appetizers***

Sunday, February 7, 2010

world of tea

This weekend we shot more for Tea Man, Steep! including a tea party sequence, which was a blast. That was Friday. Saturday we shot the morning after sequence. I'm very proud of the shots Eliaz Rodriguez and Ben Fout have been setting up. Over the summer we worked mostly at pumping together improvised short films, meeting every Tuesday and working with whatever locations were immediately available or shooting complete guerilla style, making up all dialogue and interaction based off of a loose outline.

We are getting more serious, and Tea Man, Steep! is really our first scripted piece, with much care going into the design and set up of each location. In short we're creating a whole world for Tea Man. And I'm very amped for the soonish forthcoming date to show it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tea Man

During my first few months of college, I drank a lot of tea during the day. This was before I got full fledged into coffee. But I was really into, drinking it. Some of my first college friends would jokingly refer to me as Tea Man. The monicker subsided rather quickly as the blacker, caffeinated beverage gave me a better buzz, but the idea of Tea Man returned recently with an idea for a new Wood Sugars short film Eliaz Rodriguez and I started to brain storm just before x-mas. We are now in production for Tea Man - Steep! And we're getting to a point of exciting precision, building each shot like a painting. I've actually been working on a couple of tea related paintings for the set. It's proven to be therapeutic, and has helped me to stir up my old subconscious tea fascinations from the days of old. We shot one scene already at a store called Waxman, a candle store here in Chicago. We're about to shoot a tea party scene this coming weekend. An actual tea party will be involved. If there are any Chicagoans out there reading this and want to get involved with the tea party in anyway, please shoot me an e-mail jeffphillips [at] woodsugars dot com.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Roof Party

Last night I dreamed I lived and worked in a very tall tower in a city with very close and sky penetrating towers. On the top most floor was a very run down lounge, no longer in use. Red velvet carpet ran the length of the floors. Booth chairs were gripped in dark red plastic and white curtains covered the windows. An "emergency exit" door opened up to a roof ledge. There was a small space between the ledge and the ledge of another close by building. It snowed heavily. It was often very window and weather was inclement at these heights. One could leap to the other tower's roof although it was scary as fuck. From the other tower one could take an escalator down through an opening in a geodesic glass. Down beneath the geodesic glass was a large hall where a consistent farmer's market was held. I finally worked up the courage to leap to this other tower and visited the market. In my excitement and high for making the leap despite the torrent of wicked snow capped winds, my elbow jittered and knocked a display of heads of lettuce, which all rolled to the floor. I was chased by the farmer who tended that particular kiosk, down through the many vacant floors of old office buildings which now held classrooms for makeshift, independent school systems.