We can now see the surface of Mars as if we stood on its rusted sands.
I saw this beautifully stitched 360 panoramic shot of Mars by the Perseverance rover. How maddening that we can’t see our own humility in the distance between our planet and our red neighbor? How fucked up is it we still sit here throwing our bones at one another while a cosmic voyage can lead us to realizing our great human transgressions? I wish desperately to transcend. To become an astral being with infinite wisdom and clarity fit to know these unseen, untainted landscapes. I dunno. I dunno man. I thought of all these things in the tangle of my creature comforts, indulging in the human excess of snacking, ego, and Twitter. I can’t see beyond myself on most days. I dunno man. Is it possible to ruminate beyond earthly pleasure of sleeping and feeding, and the human impulse of carnage over progress? I dunno man. It gets pretty complicated. Like, you wanna be a star child but we got bills to pay ya know? I know I gotta get up early and I got to work like all day and when the day’s done I look up and I can’t see the skies because the pollution is up there in the clouds and in my eyes, and I just wanna go home and see my family because I got a shift coming up early in the mornin’ again and I hope we got pizza for dinner and maybe some Property Brothers or that singing competition show everyone likes.
Priority number one right now is getting Erin’s monologue squared away. I have a clear breakdown in my mind of the structure, but I’ve yet to go back to our shared document. I’m hung up on that familiar feeling of not knowing the specifics about a character’s field. Their pursuits. While I am fascinated with our generation’s obsession with purpose and purity of fulfilment, I find myself grasping at straws for the details. I just have to be okay writing a shitty outline so I can see it on paper. Then Erin can take it and we can mold it into something amazing! Okay, I feel better about that…
Ahren and Dane’s work on Prometheus has been such a light in recent weeks. I saved a screenshot of Ahren’s work on my desktop and I listen to Dane’s recordings often during these long days.
My son and I started casually podcasting at his request. He’s taken to it nicely and looks forward to talking into the microphone every weekend or so. We talk about Minecraft, and Roblox, and we ended our last episode with my boy making some sick beats on the tablet using BandLab. My son gives me reasons to be proud every single day, and that weekend was no exception. I recorded an episode of The Writing Record on my phone about being inspired by a child’s uninhibited curiosity, and how we can replicate it. That’s a lot to unpack, so I will be re-recording the episode and sharing it soon. Amazing the things you can learn from your children. I love you, son. You’re an incredible soul.
So far, I’ve written three poems in February. Not great, not terrible. The latest I wrote this morning after thinking of my grandfather this weekend. Born on Valentine’s Day. He was a tremendous human being and I can’t believe he has been gone almost twelve years. We miss him terribly, but hope to honor him every day with our kindness and positive actions. Love you, Pa Valente.
More to come on the other projects.
Stay safe out there. Make art. Make haste. Much love.
An update on what’s going on at the Write/Rec Lab!
Where did January go? I’m still unpacking 2020 and was supposed to be getting my shit together. Here’s what we have been working on this month:
Talked to Erin yesterday, we’re going to work on an audio monologue perhaps about yoga and the elitism, cultish nature of the industry, and other quirks. Will create google doc for us to start fiddling around. Will be an interesting challenge to create something aurally enticing, at the same time highlighting her insane talent as a performer. Custom monologue and new production challenges, here we come!
This weekend, Dane found a singer from Portugal on Fiverr to sing [Poor Prometheus] and it is enchanting and surreal. I’ve never had my words sung like this, and it was incredibly special. We have to deliberate and bring Ahren into the conversation whether this will be a good fit for the production or not. Lots to discuss. Ahren is hard at work on rendering and doing such an amazing job making the layers of the animation rich and exciting. This is a dream project come true.
Hopefully in the next month or so once the schedules line up, we should be starting a children’s book project with my dear friends Dani and Trevor. A little big tale close to my heart tentatively titled, The Big Friendship Flight. I can’t wait to start collaborating with these brilliant creative and driven minds.
Dust sent along the demo we recorded of, Cutter, the latest demo we recorded at his studio last week. It has some work but a great foundation. We spent a good hour originating a few ideas and I have some homework: to write two lyrics in the coming weeks with the kind of heartbreak or despair that one would hear in a song by Saliva. I’m really psyched about this because Dust is a phenomenal musician and I refuse to give him shitty lyrics.
Brenda’s focusing on auditions in L.A., but she just recorded a few episodes of Creative Drive and killed it. We’re working on getting her new mic setup so she’s pretty excited about that. I wrote her a short audio monologue that I’m hoping we can produce in the next month or so. All things at their own pace.
I’ve been thinking of Star Wars lately, thanks to a suggestion Anthony mentioned about hoping to do like a short homage film set in the planet Hoth. We’ll see if we can start scheming something. Treading into such fervent fandom is a bit intimidating and the lore is just overwhelming, but at least I can push myself out of my comfort zone to do something awesome.
I’ll be following up with Jason about his short film project, as well as Kari and Craig about our zoom project, see if we can pick up where we left off now that 2021 is here!
I’ve been meaning to design a cover for my dad’s singles, which will be coming out sometime in the next few months. I’m digging up some photos of him and trying to create something in the traditional mold of Mexican music. We’ll see what I can come up with, so that I can release his music online. He’s done covers of American country songs. Really happy that I can do this for him and get his music out there. He’s my hero.
No Writing Record Episode this month but will get back to it once the work schedule gets back to normal.
My son and I are chipping away, fashioning buildings and structures and monoliths in Minecraft’s creative mode. Nothing like getting to have a good time with my boy. I’m never short of inspiration around him.
It only took fifteen years or so, but this year is finally starting off the way I intended because for once, I am looking out and beyond myself. This year is indeed starting on the right foot, and I can’t thank my family and friends enough for that! Anyway, the year is long and I vow to reach out to more friends and bring more creative perspectives into the fold. As we pursue community, we have to remember that we don’t have to look very far. I know where my people are: they are here, at the ready, a multitude, offering support and art and joy. Now it’s my turn to give in return. Stay tuned for what’s to come! Check out our recent podcast episodes because there is a lot of new stuff over there.
I was inspired by a tweet shared by writer Susana Ramirez (previously featured on Creative Drive!). We needed to incorporate these three things: Crib, Tree, Shoe. I had to solve the puzzle. I had to make a narrative around it. So I scribbled together a flash fiction story! Thanks for allowing me to gather the pieces into something exciting!
I’ve had the great pleasure of knowing Ahren since High School. This person, this peculiar and inventive theater kid made such an impression on me as I tried to find my footing in those days. There is no doubt in my mind my creative life would be catastrophically duller and unfulfilled if it weren’t for this incredible human being. Whenever I look back on how we started our creativity, I discover new eureka moments that still inform how I collaborate and make art today. Ahren has always been a true hyphenate; a tech theatre guy, performer, musician, designer and curious creative soul. From our early days performing interpretive duets at Speech & Debate tournaments in high school, or acting at our Shakespearean finest our Senior year, to really committing to a long-distance songwriting collaboration with our band For The Benefit, we learned to trust each other and pushed to ask bold questions of each other. Since then, Ahren has become a brilliant set designer, visual thinker, and multimedia artist for the stage. I am so wowed by his work that it’s so rewarding for me to have experienced his progression from such an early time of exploration. Time flies, and so here we are, almost two decades later, continuing such a wonderful friendship that inspires me more by the day to bring my best to my work as well.
Thank you for all you’ve given me and all you continue to bring to my life, dear friend.
THE PRESENT: A SMALL PROJECT ABOUT A ROBOT
A short while ago, we rekindled our creative interaction with a flashback project I thought could use another stab. A final stab. In 2005, I wrote a story song about a character named Prometheus, a robot with an existential dilemma to solve. Back then, the version I did left a lot to be desired, and I didn’t get around to creating the visual component needed to fully flesh out the character. So looking back, I thought, this could be a good starter project for Ahren and I to freely explore and design without expectation. I hope to bring more details to this page as developments arise!
[POOR PROMETHEUS] TIMELINE
2005: I wrote the song in 2005 based on a childhood character of mine called Captain Condor, who was a loyal robot betrayed by humans and left to ponder his dramatic purpose. I eventually recorded the song and released it under the Cultured Animal album, “Headphone Music for Nowhere People.”
End of 9/2020: Ahren and I had a few chats to discuss potential short form projects.
10/2020: Settled on [Poor Prometheus], a robot’s tale that would give us a strong visual for Ahren to play and build upon.
11/2020: The 2005 recording of the song leaves a lot to be desired. I recorded the vocals on my old eMac (hella old and you could hear my AC going too, jfc). Re-did the vocals in early November after finding the original garage band files. Reached out to my musician friends Dane and Dust to potentially record a new bass line and add completely new arrangements to the existing synth, vocals, and beat. We’re working on that now!
11/23/20: Ahren send me the first minute of rough animation. The pacing, the look, and overall tone of the piece are set. Ahren’s a visual master and you will be able to see his unique point of view on full display with this piece!
December 2020: Sporadic communication due to holidays. Dane, like a musical machine, took the original surviving tracks from garage band 2005 file and really swung for the fences, in the best possible way. So thrilled for this reinvention. Ahren created more layers to capture the look of the world and character. First team meeting scheduled for January.
Early January: Just met today via Zoom. It was a complete joy of mine to bring two best friends of mine from two different parts of my life to collaborate on this project. We discussed the roadmap to get this beast done, and Ahren will be working on completing the rough visuals to better prepare the sound mix and musical arrangements. Really getting a sense of the gravity and intensity of these two talents coming together to bring this character and world to life. Can’t wait for everyone to see this!
Late January: Animation is mostly locked. It’s a beast of a piece so it will take a little while to render, but the design is looking phenomenal. The three of us are currently trying to finalize the vocals and lock the musical arrangement for the piece. Stay tuned!
I met Dust during my time at Casper College, what seems like ages ago. He has always been a figure of inspiration in my life, and looking back, I realize how fortunate I am to find myself collaborating with him now. We’ve been trying to start an EP album, with Dust providing his epic guitar playing skills for us to build on (there is really no other way to do this, Dust playing guitar is a supremely inspiring thing). Most of this summer has been a stop and go endeavor, but we’ve been in touch about what kind of songwriting collaboration we want and what is most pressing on our minds. The idea of loss was a constant in our conversations, as Dust lost a friend to suicide last year. Things of such gravity need to be synthesized, and he felt he wanted to honor his friend in this way. With our first single, Black Road, we used a demo of Dust’s as a building block, and I challenged myself to write a story for that recording. When I first heard the track, I knew we could use it as a starting point to capture some of the emotional hardship Dust experienced.
It happened very quickly, but right now, it’s exactly what we need to get back to creative ways. Sometimes, we shouldn’t overthink the work. It’s our job to do. This recording was exactly what we needed to jumpstart the collab, and now we’re in the process of hashing out the next one! We’re hoping to get back to our Village Inn brainstorming breakfasts to figure out the next creative project. For now, long distance collaboration via email will have to suffice.
11.14.20: Dust sent along an idea to start working on lyrics for our second song. The demo is about minute or so, but strong enough that I can start writing to. Once we have something, we’re going to invite our pal Dane to give us an extra boost. Great sounds unfolding!
11.21.20: Wrote up some lyrics I really like based on Dust’s demo. Tentatively calling it “Cerulean.”
11.22.20: Quick discussion with Dust re: album goals and getting the word out. We’re hoping to have four more songs by the end of the year, and pass on some things for our friend Dane to join the fray. Discussed other song ideas and the possibility of a streamed performance early next year. Also, we probably have to change the collab name to add Dane. Sucks to get a new name, but quite psyched to keep the momentum and bringing a new friend. But so far so good!
12.21.20: December was a month of long days at work for both of us, but we have continued our back and forth. Dane got us his version of Black Road, which was sick. We’re hoping to record some live sessions and so once we have three or four more songs, we’ll be capturing some performances. Worked on a few lyrics for Dust, and we’re emailing off and on about the music part (which I happily entrust to Dust because he’s a musical machine). Wish us luck!
Jaime Alejandro Cruz is a writer, podcaster, and arts advocate based in Wyoming. He currently produces The Writing Record and Creative Drive, podcasts to showcase and encourage the creativity of artists with day-jobs.
A Quick Script
After reaching out to Anthony about the Rode film competition, we began looking for a narrative that could be told visually, and of course, with the power of sound design. After a handful of calls, Anthony and I fleshed out an outline of points to cover, and I went to town on the script! I loved having such a close deadline, but also Anthony’s creative support to get it done quickly.
We only did a couple of revisions prior to planning the production. The great part about getting on the same page about what we wanted to achieve made the rest of the project incredibly easy!
Get on the same page as soon as possible, and work toward a singular vision.
Setbacks is the name of the game this week, but I am feeling good nonetheless. Using bullet points moving forward because it is faster, I can share my victories/updates, and it forces me to confront my failures and see where I need to improve. So far this week:
I failed. I did not complete the ten minute script for Craig and Kari this weekend. I can blame the kitchen sink, or the unnecessary video editing podcast experiment on Monday, or the workweek, but no: I did this to myself. I didn’t prioritize and gave in to a weekend of lethargy. I am hoping tonight’s the night and I will hash out a script from the outline I already have. I just need two hours or so. A few days may have passed me by, but the worst thing I can do is surrender the momentum. I refuse to capitulate!
When I finished the podcast episodes on Monday morning, I took a few minutes to lay down vocals for a demo my friend Dust and I have been working on for a while. Really proud of the lyrics, considering I wrote them late at night last week. This is the hopeful beginning of an EP collaboration!
New short film project coming along! First meeting went well with Jason, Dane, and myself. Reaching out to Jason this weekend about the storyboards and location scouting taking place in Laramie. We’ll see what the timeframe for this will be.
Forwarded a few ideas to my friend Ahren to consider doing animated interludes. I think we can get him on board for acting stuff too, so we’ll see how he feels about it.
I tried doing a video version of The Writing Record. I hated it. It’s not right for the show for some reason. But at least I figured out a multi-cam setup that works pretty well. In the future, I just have to pare down the video editing time because I can’t invest the hours into something that will look decent.
The Write/Rec Lab page doesn’t look lively enough. There’s a lot happening. I just need a better way to lay it out as a hub to showcase the spinning plates! I’m thinking of doing short videos about each video, like a progress report? Can’t visualize it yet. more to come!
Due to my work schedule, writing poetry consistently may be my most immediate way to get some writing in: Lunchtime, or winding down in the evening after the kid’s asleep may be the best time. Must. Write. It. In. The. Calendar.
Lastly, ICYMI, Anthony and I’s short film SEEK is now live on the Rode Film Competition website. I’m hoping to have a conversation with Anthony in the near future about the production process and how we collaborated on this great film that we are both so proud of! If you get a chance, please click on the link and vote!!! https://myrodereel.com/watch/9889
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get out of my head. New songs help. As we all know, the year has wreaked havoc and has us punching ourselves in the head from the inside as we wrassle with fight or flight. Anyone? Maybe it’s just me.
Fortunately, I’ve been having great creative sessions with one of my dear friends. I’m sharing project details on The Writing Record, so check it out! So much creative progress has occurred in recent weeks, that our skype calls have become a temporary escape from the anxiety of our new normal. Our world on fire. A pandemic of real cost and consequence for half the country, and a farce labeled as such by the other half. Our orange president speaking in tongues and soaking with incoherence those of us in the front row. Uncertain times, for sure. Fatalistic? Most definitely. That’s my primary setting.
Nonetheless, world aflame and all that shit, I am now left with a clarity of joy and purpose I had forgotten about. I remembered what it was like to get out of my head. I’ve been working with my friend Dane on a mini-musical that we hope to finish by the end of September. One song a week. Four songs. Incidental music and a small helping of dialogue to strengthen the through-line, and then voila! We will have something new. But already, collaborating has led me to this obvious revelation: Bootstrapping your way through life is fun and all, but have you ever bootstrapped your way through life without boots? Boots aren’t for me. My feet sweat at the thought of helping myself, I suppose. What’s better than finding hope and drive and dignity at the bottom of your worn boots? Helping your friends find their boots, and reaching out in case they need a hand with their straps.
Is that so goddamn hard to ask?
I ask this of myself first. Because why should I chastise anyone without confronting my own bootstrapped feet? (not to mention, I have boots for days at home)…
I just don’t want to keep thinking about bootstraps and giving my neighbors the finger when I can lend the whole hand. Few working class people are having a grand old time right now. These feelings of panic and distress are only escalated by our collective scarcity mindset. Speaking for myself, I find I have a scarcity mindset that at times permeates into my emotions as well. I feel as if I don’t have enough to give. But what can we do when scarcity is the only song we were ever taught? It was the only song we learned, because it doesn’t have many notes and it’s easy to remember by ear. We sing it to anyone who will listen, and its melody is simple and contagious and so everyone picks it up and continues to propagate it. What the fuck are we doing? The wealthiest nation in the world is an orchestra and it loves to play Mary Had a Little Lamb. I’d like to hear that orchestra at its full potential someday.
And as I try to grapple, once again, time and again, with the magnitude of the issues we face as a country, and the fact I feel helpless in the slung heaps of injustice and hurt and sickness of our American everyday, I must remind myself I am not the orchestra, but the stray clarinet player doing the best he can. Indeed, I have my part to play, but so do the rest of us.
So this is where the clarity of joy and purpose found me. I felt it guiding me to a better place, emotionally. I felt the hurt and heartbreak leave my body for a brief time. I forgot about the fires, and the injustices, and the goddamned pandemic, and the horsemen’s additional bag of pending plagues. Thanks to a friend who took the time to reach out and offer a temporary diversion, I put my panic attacks on hold and stepped into a familiar pool of light: One of hope and possibility. Sweet wounded Jesus and the heavens above, we all need that right now. Hope and possibility.
I’m not a doctor or a health services professional. I’m not a fireman or a nurse. I can’t kill the fires with my bare hands and I sure as hell can’t step into an emergency room and clobber COVID with roundhouse kicks. I’m barely an essential worker. But what I can do, is bring hope and levity to the people I care about. I miss my Mother and Father, my sisters too. I miss my friends, and the times when we made each other laugh in person. I miss so many things and I know you do too. I’m not in a position of power; I can’t fight the pandemic with executive orders or legislation. I’m just a guy who writes and records. But no matter what my jaded self tells me, I know there’s new songs out there for us to play. I’m pretty sure you can find one too. All ears on deck.
…I think I found mine. I think it’s true. And if I play this hopeful part on the clarinet just right, maybe the bassoons and oboes will join in, enticing the woodwinds, and then the brass and the strings and even the fella who dings the triangle is welcome to join in. Maybe it’ll just be me and my friends, but at least we won’t be bootstrapping on our own.
All I wanted to say is I am feeling better, optimistic, and bearing a lighter emotional tone. So I will be consolidating a few things in the coming weeks on idlewy.blog, and prepare for a new chapter of collaboration by sharing this blog and this space with my creative allies to make great shit, and to promote joy. Let’s see what sticks.