A Roach’s Tale

New podcast is up, and this one contains a couple of stories from my high school years. You can find it in iTunes and Google Play.

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Black Days

The news of Chris Cornell’s death hit me pretty hard. I recorded a podcast with some of my thoughts.

You can listen to the podcast in iTunes.

You can also listen to the podcast in Google Play.

Or you can just click the little “play” button down below.

I hope you like it.

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Like Minded Lunatics

Big news to share.

First and foremost, you can now find “When Wade Tried to Save the World,” and “The Adventures of Heroman: Season 1” in audiobook format in Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. Just hit the links below (If you buy from Amazon, you have to specifically choose the audio version. Don’t buy the print version. It’s not as fun.)

AudiobooksAmazonAudibleiTunes

Since we’re selling our work as audiobooks, I’m removing the free versions of those stories  from The Hyperliterature Presents podcast channel.

In the future, Todd and I plan to roll out the serial versions of our podcasts through Hyperliterature Presents for free, just as we’ve done in the past. Once we’ve released the entire season, and people have had a chance to listen to it for free, we’re going to repackage them and sell them as audiobooks on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. So you’ll still be able to enjoy our work for free if you listen during our normal release schedule.

Our idea is to treat the audiobook version like T.V. shows treat a DVD release. You can always watch a T.V. show for free as it airs, but if you want to keep it and watch it over and over, you have to pay for the collected DVD set, which oftentimes contains behind the scenes material and commentaires. The same will be true for our work, and we’ll try to keep the cost as low as possible.

Next, I’m pleased to announce that Todd and I finally finished up all the paperwork, and we’re now an official Texas small business. We’re calling our production company “Like Minded Lunatics,” and our goal is to help aspiring authors create their own podcasts and audiobooks. We’re currently listed as producers at ACX, which is the distributor that lists audiobooks in Amazon, Audible, and iTunes, so if you know aspiring writers who would like to either self-publish their print work, or create and publish their own audiobook, send’em our way.

Lastly, if you’d be so kind, please visit and “like” the “Like Minded Lunatics” Facebook page. I promise not to spam your Facebook wall with nonsense, but it’s important for us to build up numbers. The page is kinda empty right now, but I’ll slowly build it out over the next few weeks.

We’ll have more to announce shortly, so stay tuned.

 

 

 

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And That’s A Wrap on Moontower Comedy 2016

MoontowerAustin isn’t exactly known for its dearth of festivals. We have a festival for everything. Want a whole festival dedicated to Hot Sauce? We got you covered. Big fan of all things Celtic? Come on down. What are your thoughts on kites? Wanna see a whole fest dedicated to them? You’re in luck.

But for my money, The Moontower Comedy Festival might be my absolute favorite. For a comedy nerd like myself, it’s four days of nirvana.

The performers run the gamut from club comics to outright variety acts, which is great because the diversity of the shows almost guarantees you won’t get burned out on one type of performance.

Moontower is also very well run. That might sound like a dumb thing to love about a festival, but let me tell you, some of the fests in Austin might as well be run by monkeys. Okay. I’m sorry. That’s insulting to monkeys. If they were run by monkeys they might go smoother. But the people behind Moontower have their shit together. The badge levels are easy to understand. The calendar tells you what you need to know without having to wade through 300 links. And when something does go awry, the people in charge are efficient and apologetic. In this town, that’s a breath of fresh air. People outside Austin are starting to notice, too.

We saw so many great acts this year: Jimmy Carr. Ari Shaffir. Kevin Smith & Jay Mewes. Erin Foley. Maria Bamford.jay and bob

But looking back on the 2016 fest, several shows really stick out in my mind. Martin Short headlined on Thursday night, and although I certainly love Short’s work in film and TV, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Martin Short live show.

What we got was an honest-to-goodness Martin Short one-man variety act. He sang. He danced. He joked and he mugged for the audience. It was like Marty was channeling the spirit of those old, Copacabana Martin and Lewis shows, except Marty was playing both the Dean and Jerry parts all by himself. He oozed energy, and when he sang the closing song, I knew we’d just seen something special.

I also adore the participants of this fest. On various podcasts and in interviews, Judd Apatow has repeatedly said how growing up a comedy nerd is a lonely affair. Lots of D&D nerds out there. Lots of computer nerds with which to commiserate. But comedy nerds? When I was growing up, we were thin on the ground.

But at Moontower, I’m positively surrounded by comedy nerds. When I’m chatting with people, I don’t have to explain my references to Dennis Wolfberg or the old HBO Young Comedian specials. Mencia’s plagiarism is common knowledge. There’s no need to ask if someone is a fan of Pete Holmes or if they’ve heard the new episode of “You Made it Weird.” We’re all comedy nerds at Moontower.

I do need to add a caveat to that last thing. There are a very small number of big donor VIPs at the fest, and they always get priority seating, which is great. That’s not the annoying bit. But this year, an old couple who had obviously donated loads of cash, angrily walked out of two shows. They were sitting up front at David Cross’s show, and apparently his political stances were just too much. The old man got up and left in a huff. They were in the second row at Jimmy Norton’s show, and as soon as Jimmy started in on a bit about have sex with transsexuals they became visibly and audibly disgusted and left. Cross even mentions it in this clip:

How the hell do you go to a David Cross show without knowing his politics? I guess they thought he was just gonna get onstage and blue himself for 90 minutes. And how do you go to a Norton show and get disgusted at his sex jokes? I mean, Jimmy calls himself a disgusting human being, and he’s got a low bar.

Don’t get me wrong. It was hilarious watching this old couple self-righteously storm out of the theater, and it was even funnier when Norton noticed and bashed the hell out of them as they left, but their anger confounds me. Why pay money for comedy and then get annoyed when there’s comedy? That’s like going to a Kevin Smith movie and going, “There’s just too much dialogue!” Very confusing.

Anyway.

The highlight of the festival had to be Maya Rudolph and Gretchen Lieberum’s Prince coverband Princess.

I know these acts are booked months and months in advance, and obviously Prince’s death was shockingly sudden to everyone. Consequently, I didn’t know how the band intended to handle the situation, but the show ended up being a moving tribute to a musician both Rudolph and Lieberum loved dearly.

When Rudolph opened the show, with the opening sounds of “Let’s Go Crazy” hanging in the air, she told the crowd “This is gonna be hard, and we’ll probably cry. He was our hero, and we love him. And he has completely shaped our world. But we’re gonna do this together. Alright?” And from that moment until the very end of the show, Rudolph and Lieberum shaped our world.

For the next 90 minutes, the entire audience at the Paramount Theater sang and danced as Princess, bathed in soft purple light, grooved onstage. At the end of the show, a visibly shaken and crying Rudolph stood alone at the front of the stage, illuminated with a single spotlight, and told the audience she wasn’t sure if they’d ever perform as Princess again. “But,” she said, she wanted to keep singing songs because “that’s what Prince would do.”

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a more emotional show. It was raw and real, and Rudolph and Lieberum’s love for Prince was palpable. I left the theater completely drained from dancing and singing and crying. It was unforgettable, and I feel lucky to have been there.

In a city full of festivals, The Moontower Comedy festival is truly something special. I’m already pumped for next year.

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Heroman Cometh Next Week (Jan. 18th)

I’ve already updated “The Adventures of Heroman” Facebook page (please “like” our page if you haven’t already), but I wanted to make sure I have all my bases covered. Next Monday (1/18), we will release the first episode of “The Adventures of Heroman,” titled “The Nest of Honesty.” We’re going to release a new episode every two weeks. This first series is four episodes long, so you’ll get an entire two months of Heroman!

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This podcast has been in progress since this time last year. The podcast is kinda like those old-school superhero radio dramas like “The Shadow” or “The Green Hornet.” There’s also a bit of a “Superfriends” vibe as well, but the characters themselves are thoroughly modern. They also swear a lot. Sorry. We tried to get them to stop, but they wouldn’t listen.

Todd and I started writing at the beginning of 2015, we finished principle recording in the summer, and Ricky and I have been editing fast and furious to get this things into your ears. And let me just say that Ricky has outdone himself on this one. I mean, our original trilogy was awesome (the score for “Wade” still gives me goosebumps), but Ricky’s work on “Heroman” is nothing short of amazing.

You can always listen to our latest podcasts on this page, and you can also download them from the iTunes store. Android podcast apps will find us too. Just search for “Hyperliterature Presents” and you should be good to go.

To tide you over until next week, here’s our newest Heroman-related video. You can hear a bit of the score at the beginning and at the end.

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Heroman Cometh

Thanks to everyone who has liked “The Adventures of Heroman” Facebook page. I’ve gotten some great responses to the first teaser trailer, and don’t worry, we have more fun stuff coming in the next few months, but I promise not to spam the heck out of you. And if you haven’t seen it, and even if you already have, here’s the trailer:

“The Adventures of Heroman” is a throwback to the old school superhero radio shows from the 30s and 40s, but we’re tweaking the concept quite a bit. I’m not going to give anything away, but needless to say, things in Heroman’s world aren’t as easy as he’d like them to be.

Todd and I have been working diligently on the scripts, and we should begin recording in earnest next week. The writing process has been a ton of fun, and I know the recording process is going to be a blast, too. Hopefully it will be as fun to listen to as it’s been to create.

In the meantime, please check out the previous series we created to get an idea of our work. We’ve taken to calling it the “When We Tried to Trilogy” Trilogy, primarily because we couldn’t think of a better name. The first episode is called “When Thomas Tired to be a Graverobber,” the second is called “When Ronald Tried to be a Private Investigator,” and the third and final episode is called “When Wade Tried to Save the World.” All three episodes are related, so listen to them in order.

You can listen to them on the Hyperliterature page I’ve linked, via iTunes, or through any other podcast app you’d like to use. Just search for “Hyperliterature Presents.”

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Beneath the Stains of Time…

Me and Mom 83 or 84My wife and I were jogging along the Embarcadero in San Francisco when we received the news that my mom was dying. We’d booked a ferry to see Alcatraz, and a malfunctioning bus had put us way behind schedule, so we were legging it.

I was out of breath and the blood pumping in my ears made it hard to hear, but I immediately knew that something was wrong because mom was using her “don’t panic Mark” tone of voice that she reserved for bad news.

I remember her saying, “I’m going to be okay.”

I remember her saying, “I feel fine.”

I remember her saying, “renal cell carcinoma.”

I remember her saying, “immediate nephrectomy.”

Then I remember my knees buckling and nearly falling down on the sidewalk amidst the swarms of tourists. I remember people staring at me as I cried hysterically. I remember Leigh taking the phone from me.

And that’s about all I remember.

They removed the cancerous kidney, which, according to the surgeon, was nearly the size of a basketball. Unfortunately, the surgeon was unable to get clear margins, and the pathology report and subsequent scans showed the cancer had already metastasized and was present in the lungs.

There are very clear advantages in having been with Leigh throughout medical school, residency, fellowship, and into her medical practice. Free healthcare & medical advice. Trigger point injections when my muscles hurt. Fantastic company Christmas parties.

But the downside in being well-informed about medicine is that I immediately knew there would be no cure. No amount of chemo or radiation would be able to cure my mom’s cancer. I knew that even hoping for a cure was energy best spend elsewhere. From the moment I took my mother’s call on San Francisco’s bustling Embarcadero on the way to Alcatraz, I knew we were simply playing a waiting game with Death.

For nearly two years the chemo held the metastases at bay. But during the summer of 2014, we got the news I’d been dreading since the first day mom started treatment: The metastases were no longer responding to the meds, and they’d begun to aggressively grow and multiply.

Mom has only been gone a little over a week now, but it seems like years since we last spoke. I miss her hands. They were so soft. I miss her smile. It could light up a room. I miss her laugh. It was so infectious.

I just miss her. I miss her so much.

A good friend of mine lost his mother several years ago, and during this whole process, I’ve leaned on him pretty heavily for support and advice.

A month or so ago, as mom’s health started to really nose-dive, my friend told me that the pain of losing your mom never really goes away. The pain, he explained, will change everything about you. It will change who you are and how you see the world.

And, goddammit Todd, you were right.IMG_0008

Sometimes I feel guilty if I laugh too much. Maybe I’m not supposed to be having fun yet. Is it too soon for me to laugh?

Sometimes I’m so anxious I run on the treadmill for miles and miles.

Sometimes I feel so sad I don’t have the energy to get out of bed.

Sometimes I’m so angry I could punch holes in the walls.

Sometimes I wake up crying.

Sometimes I can’t sleep.

I know these dramatic emotional episodes will probably pass with time, but I have a feeling the emptiness I feel will always be there, just waiting for me when my mind gets quiet and the world falls away.

But the thing that’s amazed me most about this whole ordeal is the stunning generosity and comfort folks have offered to me and my family. Sympathy cards. Emails. Facebook messages. Hugs. Tears. Flowers and food. So many people have done such wonderful things for me.

It’s been overwhelming, the things folks have done, but the generosity of others has really been the only thing that’s kept me from falling into a deep depression and retreating into a self-imposed isolation. Intellectually I know that path only ends in despair, but emotionally, retreating feels the most compelling. I’m lucky that I’m surrounded by people who won’t let me do that, and I can’t imagine what I would do without such a wonderful and lovely support group. I’ll thank them all individually and privately, but I couldn’t have made it through this without all of them.

On March 26th, we laid my mother to rest in Gholson Cemetery. I gave the eulogy at the funeral (click here to read it), and I think it was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to write. There’s no doubt in my mind that it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to read in front of an audience. But I simply could not let someone else speak at her funeral. For one thing, she wasn’t religious and neither am I, so a lot of talk about God, Heaven, and the afterlife would have dishonored and been an affront to her epistemological and theological views. Even more importantly, I wanted the funeral to highlight the beauty of her life, and there was no way someone who didn’t know her could have accomplished that.

I don’t believe in fate. I don’t believe in destiny, and I sure as hell don’t believe that everything happens for a reason.

I think things happen, and we use reason to explain them. Mom’s death is easy to explain. Cancer. She drew the genetic short straw, and it killed her. But as I said in my eulogy, she left an indelible mark on the world. Her visitation and funeral was absolutely packed. All of those people are a testament to the woman she was.

I’ll miss you mom.

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Three Bad Brothers

Two years ago today we lost Adam “MCA” Yauch to cancer. His death hit me pretty hard. If I had to create a soundtrack of my youth, the Beastie Boys would feature quite prominently. I wrote a blog post after he passed, and since this is the two year anniversary of his death, I decided to record that post as a podcast. It’s only about 8 minutes long, and it’s filled with vertigo, water balloons, and a nymphomaniac with a penchant for fist fights.

I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed recording it and cutting it.

RIP MCA

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Ty Wolosin & David Barrow

In this episode of Hyperliterature Presents, I sit down with Ty Wolosin and David Barrow for an excellent conversation about local farming, farmer’s markets, and sustainable foods. You can listen to it below, or click here to download it at the iTunes store. We also discuss David’s new film Farm-City, State, which will be premiering in Austin in a few weeks. Ty and David are great guys, and we had a lot of fun recording this episode.

Couple of things: In the podcast, I mention an article at the Freakonomics blog by Steven Sexton, and during the intro, I reference another article by Tom Philpott. Click those hyperlinks to read the articles.

If you’d like to catch up with Ty you can find him every Sunday at the HOPE farmers market at east 5th & Comal from 11 A.M. to 3 P.M. Everything he sells is quality, but do yourself a favor and try some of the goat. If you’ve never cooked it before, ask Ty for tips. He’ll be glad to help you out. You can also visit the Windy Hill Farm website where Ty has an excellent list of all the places you can find his wonderful products.

Also, if you’re in the Austin area, be sure to visit the website for David’s film Farm-City, State. He doesn’t have a date yet for the premiere of the film, but when he does, I’ll update this post.

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Washing the Stress Away at Ojo Caliente

Two days punishing our bodies on the exhilarating slopes at Taos ski village. Another day traversing the Rio Grande Gorge from Pilar to the Gorge Bridge on mountain bikes. Nearly 40 miles for a round-trip of muscle-straining cycling.  And finally, a day of white-water rafting the Rio Grande from Razorblades to The Box to to The Racecourse.

We’d taken our minds and bodies past the point of no return, and finding a way to refresh our souls and process our experiences had become priority number one.

Beautiful Flowers

Beautiful Flowers

Before we’d booked our trip to New Mexico, Matt Gontram, the owner of New Mexico River Adventures, recommended we stay at Ojo Caliente after our week of skiing, biking, and rafting. He tried to emphasize how important it would be to relax after such a trip, and he stressed that the arid grandeur of Ojo would be just what we needed after such a physically demanding vacation. My wife and I had never stayed at a spa like Ojo, but we took his advice and hesitantly booked our stay, not knowing what to expect.

When we finally arrived at Ojo, exhausted from our adventures, we were eager to rejuvenate our minds and bodies. We wandered into the lobby, dusty and dirty, two weary souls in need of solace. The wonderful folks at the front desk greeted us warmly, and they pointed us toward our room.

Muddy Mark

Muddy Mark

As anyone who has ever had the distinct pleasure of staying at Ojo can probably attest, simply walking onto the gorgeous property sets the mind at ease. The landscaping. The beautiful New Mexico flora. The remote location. The whole ambience of Ojo Caliente simply encourages peaceful contemplation, and as we walked through the property, marveling at the various hot springs fed pools and the luxury that awaited us, any lingering doubts about our stay vanished.

Muddy Leigh

Muddy Leigh

We dropped our things off in our spacious and homey room and, like most people, immediately headed off to the mud bath.

How to describe the sensation of bathing in mud? Imagine slathering yourself with a velvety, satiny, substance that feels like liquid chocolate, and you might get close to the feeling of scooping handfuls of red mud onto your body at the mud pool at Ojo Caliente. The viscous liquid envelopes your body like a lover, holding you close and keeping you warm. Lie back on a reclining chair and let the warm, New Mexico sun bake and harden the mud onto your body, pulling your skin taught in the process. The mud will tighten on your skin, causing a child-like playfulness in even the dourest personality. You can’t help but smile at the feeling created by the mud hardening on your face, and each time you smile, the mud cracks a bit more, which in turn, makes you smile even more.

Private, Please

Private, Please

When we’d booked our stay, we’d also included a massage, and my wife pointed out that we were in danger of missing our appointment. So we reluctantly rinsed off and left the luxuriousness of the mud bath and headed to the masseuses. For nearly an hour, two talented masseuses massaged and manipulated our tired muscles with their slippery, strong fingers, loosening knots and relaxing our tired bodies.

We ended our night in one of the private baths. As my wife and I sank into the warm, spring-fed waters, our private and enclosed bathing area illuminated by the dancing flames of a log fire in our mini kiva, we held each other and watched the moon rise from behind the cliff-face. All the tension in our muscles had vanished as if by magic, and our spirits had also calmed from the excitement of the past week of adventures.

Private Bath

Private Bath

We’ve been back to Ojo Caliente many times since then, but that first trip was revelatory and truly magical. The warm waters of the springs, the luxurious mud bath, the deft fingers of the masseuses, and the intimacy of the private bath provided my wife and I with the opportunity to calm our souls and reconnect with one another intimately and spiritually.

 

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