Saturday, January 1, 2011

Let's Japan!

Dusting off the cobwebs of this ol' blog to let you know of a slight change in my life.

On Wednesday I leave for Tokyo to perform in Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile. I'll be gone for about 2.5 months, living the life in Japan.

And you can follow my exploits on this tumblr:


Saturday, January 2, 2010


And the beat goes on...

I don't know this person, but I know someone who does, and her first Year of Yes moment was something I always wanted to do, but never did. I love it!

Also, on January 1st, I did a nice li'l diversion: Sarah and I, leading Squad 7 of the Gallian militia, were able to drive the Empire out of our country. In other words, we beat Valkyria Chronicles.

And today, January 2nd, is the first day of a new futuristic RPG campaign, in which I'll be playing an intelligent three-foot-tall gerbil.

2010: Year of Diversions and Projects?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Let's Fin!

I started to write a Year in Review for 2009, but upon looking over the 134 entries that made up the past 365 days, I found I didn't really have that much to recap.

It was a good year and it certainly had its funs and wows, but I dunno... I said Yes to a lot of stuff, but I ultimately feel a bit unsatisfied.

You see, there's something in me that really enjoys doing Projects. Big projects, ones that ultimately define my year: making My Wife, the Ghost and Cakey, for example, or writing and producing a Halloween jukebox musical.

And I feel that 2009 was bereft of a Project. Sure, I did a couple of puzzles and took some classes and ate a life-changing Chicago hot dog, but these are things I'd call Diversions (for lack of a better word). And while it's important to have Diversions, they don't give me the same sense of accomplishment.

"Ah," some would say, "but you DID do Projects in 2009! You wrote Disney Zombies, which is no small feat, and then you directed/produced The Hogwarts Improvisation Society, which was one of the greatest events ever," and those are completely true statements, but... I want more (more hot dogs, too).

Maybe part of it involves focusing too much on other people's Projects - directing two shows, for example, or working undercover for the Man - but then at the end of the day, I'm not making any progress on my own stuff.

Imagine the irony, then, of not saying Yes to myself.

Perhaps, during the two years of this blog (which in itself is kind of a Diversion), I took the idea of Yes too far and spread myself too thin, going off in all sorts of little directions instead of focusing on what I really want to do.

And that's part of my problem. I can get all wrapped up in some idea and follow that for a bit, and then leave my Project (whatever it might be) on the back-burner. A good example: while at home, I looked through my childhood drawings and letters and wanted to make a tumblr for them, because it'd be really funny to scan a notebook page with "DO YOU BELIEVE IN ALIENS?" in big bubble letters.

But that's just a Diversion, to me. A fun one, but also a time-eating one, and so I asked myself, "Is this worth it?" and... well, the jury's still out, I kind of want to do it, even though it's a big commitment, but we'll see.

Anyhow, having learned that it's worthwhile to say Yes, and that you can say Yes too much, I've decide to conclude this ol' blog. I think we've hit a good stopping point, since 2010 probably won't involve saying Yes to so many things, just a few big ones.

I feel I should come up with some poignant parting words, but these two are always what I say, so I'll present them here in their originality...

This blog has been fun, but then again, it's about my life, and that's always fun.

Thank you for reading, I truly do appreciate it, and I hope that you'll say Yes in your life... but not to excess.

I remain, humbly, your obedient servant and faithful friend,

Kirk Damato
January 1, 2010

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Let's Puzzles! (IV)

Finished "Cinderella's Grand Arrival" last week (so fast!), and took care of the (rather large) Marvel one in a day or two, because I've now got mad puzzle skillz.

My next puzzle project is to make a mash-up of Cinderella and Winnie the Pooh. Since they have the exact same cut, you can switch pieces between each one. I'm hoping it'll look somewhat odd and beautiful, but the color combination of blue and green really doesn't go together so far.

This might actually be harder than doing the puzzles from scratch, because you have to punch out each piece and they're sturdy little buggers.

2010: The year I revolutionized puzzles?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Let's Musical Improv! (IV)

I did it! (Again!)

Last Sunday was the free Intro to Musical Improv class offered by the Magnet Theater, and it was... pretty easy! And all because of teacher Tara Copeland and accompanist extraordinaire Frank Spitznagel, as well as the incredibly supportive class.

To be honest, I was nervous going in. It's not often that I take classes anymore, and I always feel like I've gotta prove my "veteran" status to the other students. Maybe everyone feels that way, I dunno. But it was a heck of a lot easier to have a handful of friends and teammates in there (plus it's always exciting to see Ari and Betsy rap), and the environment was blessedly free from any critical eyes.

Luckily, there wasn't much actual improvising, so I felt better - and yes, I'm aware it seems weird for an improviser to be relieved he wouldn't have to do any actual improvising in a Musical Improv class.

Since it was an introductory class, Tara ran a lot of warm-ups and simple musical exercises. To analogize this to my katana class from January, we were just learning how to hold the sword and swing it properly, not how to kill in one slice. You know, the basics. And since I've run a number of these exercises before, it was even less stressful. Also, it's hard to be nervous with Tara around, as she is one of the most incredibly supportive teachers I've ever had (also in that category: Ari).

Throw in the fact that Frank underscored all of the exercises with his epic level piano playing and it threw everything into a whole new dimension. Seriously, with him on the keys, even a simple game like Hot Spot felt performance-worthy.

About halfway through, I became delightedly aware that we were being trained somehow. And this sounds like a redundantly thing to realize while in a classroom, but it was pretty exciting to me. Tara explicitly taught us to not be ashamed of our singing or our lyrics, to never apologize, to love what we sing and to have fun. And those are all lessons I never tire of hearing. It's like walking past those guardians in The NeverEnding Story - you won't fail unless you let yourself fail. But if you live it, love it, sing it... you'll get whatever it is beyond those guardians.

And implicitly, we were learning to trust the piano, to realize the accompanist had our back and would only make things better, not make them harder. Maybe this li'l lesson delighted me so because that's something I've always worried about. As stated before, chord progression and crap like that is alien to me, and God knows I never want to be the performer who's singing off-key. Now I know that such a thing won't happen, the accompanist can handle it. Whew!

Our final exercise was, actually, improvising a song. Four people to a group, one person would come up with the chorus, two would each do a verse, and one would make up the bridge. I would've been happy doing any of those, but I got the bridge, which was probably the best choice, because I wasn't sure what one was until Tara explained it for us. And we sang a silly song about air pollution, and it was pretty great, and I loved it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Let's Christmas!

Christmas 2009 was a hit! And, for perhaps the first time in my life, I've felt like, "This was a good Christmas, and I'm glad it's come to a satisfying end," instead of the usual, "What?! That's it? I feel... so empty."

So what changed?

This season didn't have the outlook of being jolly - it came off of a pretty depressing Thanksgiving (where my 91-year-old grandfather, already recuperating from a recently broken hip, broke his wrist the morning of Thanksgiving), plane tickets that were mucho expensive (aren't they always?) and they edited out my favorite line from A Charlie Brown Christmas ("All I want is what I've got coming to me. All I want is my fair share."). Plus, my dog's still dead, and I don't think she's coming back.

But because of my grandpa's Thanksgiving trip to the hospital, there was no name-drawing for the family gift exchange, and I thought that made things nicer: everyone's gift was that he'd recuperated and most of us were together. Getting rid of gifts? G'04 it!

Actually, I did get a few gifts from my brother: a Sonic Screwdriver, but also a nice surprise - this Orange Bird pin that he picked up in Disney World...

And I love Orange Bird! I miss the li'l guy.

And getting that Christmas tree? I loved our tree and really enjoyed decorating it throughout the course of the month, either with real decorations or with stuff we've had forever. Having it for a month definitely made me feel like I got my fill of the season, and next year I might wait another week or so (just so it isn't pretty dead by the 26th, as it is now). And I loved making the Kinder Egg Nativity Scene and can't wait for the next one.

I was a bit disappointed to see that most of the old Christmas decorations from my youth (a walrus from Alice in Wonderland, an old lady - probably Mother Goose - riding a duck, one of those vintage Dwarfs I'm always talking about, this Oscar the Grouch head) are no longer with us, but I took it in stride. I wanted to plunder my favorites, but I can let the past stay with the past, and bring on the future with some new decorative traditions, like monkey head coin purses.

Maybe it's the realization that Christmas really is for kids, and rather than thinking that I'm a kid and I deserve Christmas joy for myself, I should try to give it to others. I learned this while watching Elf (for the first time!) last night. It's like, rather than trying to keep returning to Narnia, I have to accept that my time there might be over, and I now have to help others reach that magical Christian land. And maybe that's how I can get back, but it certainly isn't by helping myself.

Since my brother is having a kid soon, next Christmas will be the baby's first Christmas, and that's kind of exciting... even though he'll be too young to appreciate or understand anything.

Things I look forward to: pretending to be Mickey Mouse or Santa Claus on the telephone, which is what my uncle used to do to me. And I never stopped believing. Even now, knowing it was fake, I don't forget the wonder I experienced when talking to the two most important men in the world.

I guess that's why I became a bit jaded - I still want my phone call from Mickey Mouse, but of course that's not gonna happen, and so I stand around going, "That's it?" But what better way than to become Mickey Mouse? And to eventually become Santa? That's my plan.

So, like wisely deciding against thirds on that lasagna and ham we had last night, I feel good that Christmas is just about done. I don't wanna push it or anything. There's still Sarah's return home in a few hours and we'll exchange gifts, but all in all, what a hit! I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge felt after he got that World's Greatest Boss mug.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Let's Distant Worlds! (II)

Last weekend Sarah and I went to Chicago, mostly to see the Distant Worlds concert, and let me tell you, I can understand why people fly in from around the world to attend these shows.

It was a harrowing journey from downtown Chicago to the Rosemont Theater, and I was pretty scared that we'd be late, because of course the first song is probably one of the most vital: the prelude. Luckily, we made it just as the lights were dimming. This was as close a shave as when you're waiting for Shadow at the edge of that flying island. (If you don't understand or appreciate this reference, you might as well stop reading this entry right now.)

The prelude means nothing if you aren't familiar with Final Fantasy, but if you are, oh, man, it conjures up so much! Mostly I remember the excitement of first playing Final Fantasy II and the III, not knowing what exactly the adventure would be like, but knowing it'd be epic... and being right.

Man, oh, man. Those were some good times. Those are some great games.

The concert was a little FF8-heavy for me (I never played Final Fantasy VIII) and a lot of the vocal songs weren't my cup of tea. I was mostly hoping for a lot of VI, since that's probably the best video game ever made, but sadly, they did not play the Opera. As a consolation, we got the world premiere of Dancing Mad...

...and they concluded with the much beloved Terra's Theme, so I was pretty satisfied. The ending, especially, with the credits showing and the character sketches, that got to me. Just remembering poor Cyan, beautiful, suicidal Celes and Gau, the worst boy in the world. I could (and would) fly anywhere to see a fully orchestrated version of Final Fantasy VI, that's how much I love those songs.

But the highlight of the show was the attendance of the man himself, Nobuo Uematsu, who composed this great music. And during the encore (One-Winged Angel, of course), he played a kick-ass solo on the Hammond organ... while dressed in a ninja costume. Then, as a second encore, they played it again. The audience roared.

It was a very inspiring night. It's pretty amazing to think that this humble little ninja could create such amazing music, music that'll stick with millions of people for their entire lives, and it made me think of creating art as opposed to just creating a product, and there's something to be said for that. (I was in a pretty weird head space last week, but that's another story.)

Out of everything I got out of that concert, I'm probably most grateful for that li'l lesson. So much emotion was poured into this music (man, I even got misty-eyed during To Zanarkand and Aerith's Theme), and, I dunno, life's just too short to make some bullshit project for the sake of throwing something out there.

I feel that way about movies and television and books and everything, and we're overwhelmed with choices, most of which are empty and subpar (Four Christmases, our in-flight movie, comes to mind)... and is it worth it? Couldn't we just focus on what we love and what means something to us?

I know it seems ridiculous to think such thoughts while attending a video game concert, but eff that, it's good music, it stays with you, you care about the characters, they have a soul, and that's the sort of thing I want to make.

So I thank you, Nobuo Uematsu. I thank you very much.