Polar Vortex

Transmissions from the Polar Vortex

We had a warm, brown Christmas here in Wisconsin, so naturally some sort of frozen doom was inevitable. I’m writing now from under a pile of snow and subzero temperatures. Hell, or at least Mental Shed HQ, has officially frozen over. Add to that the fact that my daughter just turned 21, and my 95-year-old grandmother—my last surviving grandparent—is tired of living and has effectively checked herself into hospice where she intends to stop eating and drinking to speed things along.

So it’s a bit weird and bleak over here.

But that’s just par for the course lately.

With school called off multiple days for snow, and working remotely because I live near the bottom of a hill on a dead end street that rarely gets plowed (so there’s no escape) I’ve just hunkered down and gotten to work.

Here’s what I’ve been working on:

One Mental Minute

I work on a lot of things that rarely see the light of day, mostly because I don’t have time to finish them. So I’ve been kicking around the idea of needlessly consuming even more of my time by creating short form “day in the life” style videos about various things I’m working on. Maybe it will motivate me to finish something, maybe it will just help keep my video chops up, maybe I’ll abandoned the whole idea in a week. There’s no telling.

Anyway, here’s a day in a polar vortex, hanging out with one of my polydactyl cats, and working on Wisconsin Frights:

I had to break this up into two parts because I couldn’t possibly cut the cat shots. So the second thrilling installment will be posted later.

Ultimately, I consider this one a complete failure because I wanted a shot of a skeleton hand sticking out of the snow, but I couldn’t find the hand.

Project: Weird-Ass Cartoons

One of my passions has always been bizarre animation. Traditional animation, stop-motion, CG. Liquid Television on MTV in the early 90s, the kind of stuff you see on Adult Swim now. I’ve always been obsessed. I’ve started planning numerous animated shorts over the years, but I really don’t have that kind of time. I still don’t have that kind of time. It would be better to work with someone, but I also don’t have that kind of money. Regardless, I’ve decided to start piecing things together slowly as time allows to see if it will eventually take shape. Because I need to exorcise these ideas. They’re consuming too much headspace. So I’m learning new animation software, writing scripts, developing visual styles. The goal is to produce one initial short form video comprised of multiple animated micro shorts.

Project: Short Horror Story

A new publisher has opened submissions for their next anthology horror book. It sounds fun. But after initially thinking I didn’t have an idea that fit their concept, a drive through the dark, wintery wastes of Wisconsin served to help formulate a potentially viable story. I started working on it, but it didn’t take long until I hit a roadblock. I haven’t completed a work of fiction in a really long time so I’m not particularly hopeful.

Project: Music Site

A longtime friend (who I recently worked with to conceptualize some guitar amp designs and branding) is developing another music-related project that needed a quick website for a presentation to potential early adopters. I’ve been casually working on branding ideas for this one for a while, but it still came together surprisingly fast.

Dungeons & Dragons

2024 marks the 50th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, which was created right here in Wisconsin. Thanks to a group called the Gary Gygax Memorial Fund, a lot of great D&D-related things have been happening in his hometown of Lake Geneva that’s making it a must-visit destination for TTRPG fans. So I worked up this piece for Wisconsin Frights: 12 Dungeons and Dragons Things to Check Out in Lake Geneva.

Recent Distractions

Books

Focusing on fiction right now. I’m finishing The Cipher by Kathe Koja, which just keeps getting more disturbing, and just started the short horror story collection Doors of Darkness from Terrorcore Publishing. I also read through the Kindle preview of The Deep by Nick Cutter, and I’m definitely going to have to finish it.

Video Games

I finally finished the Bioshock trilogy over the holidays, I’m giving up on actually completing Breath of the Wild, and I don’t want to to finish Resident Evil: Village because then it will be over. But I got Jedi: Survivor for Christmas, so I’ve been attempting to play that a little in the evenings. Usually, I start a game, don’t get back to it for several years, forget how to play it, and wander off to do something productive. So I’m really trying to stick with this one. My favorite part is wondering aimlessly for long periods of time between action because I can’t figure out what the hell I’m supposed to do.

Movies

I fired up Amazon prime to find something to watch briefly with dinner. A movie called Nefarious was right there in front. Hadn’t heard of it, pressed play. Possession movie, great! But Christian propaganda slowly started to drip in. I paused about half way through, when the demon started monologuing about how “the carpenter” has been their biggest problem. Looked the movie up on IMDB, realized with extreme horror that I had been duped by the people who made Unplanned and God’s Not Dead. I immediately took a shower and tried to scrub it off, but I still feel dirty.

TV

We’ve been rewatching Breaking Bad. It goes without saying that this show is a masterclass in story telling, but it’s been a while since I watched it last, and I’m mesmerized all over again by how brilliant every second is. Also, the new season of True Detective just started, starring Jodie Foster and set during the polar night in Alaska. I’ve been counting the days until the premiere, but then I spent too much time editing the first One Mental Minute video. So it was nearly 2am when I finally turned True Detective on, and I didn’t last long.