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28 Sep 2023 - 5:20pm

2015: a grim fucking year, but also -paradoxically- a more innocent time.

That bellowing sack of pig shit hadn't slid down a greased chute of sleaze and hysterically bigoted hyper-nationalism into the Oval Office, yet. 7 million people hadn't yet died of Covid (a million of them right here in our country).

My mother was still alive back then. Shelby-Alice's mom too. Juno, Kodi and Horace were still alive, then. Harlan Ellison was still alive. Gene Wilder was still alive. So was Peter Boyle. Carrie Fisher was still alive. Chris Cornell was still alive. Anthony Bourdain was still alive. Joe Frank was still alive.

Anyway. Here's...

The Rest of 2015 (Part 4):

This is how it went:

Once again I found myself striving (struggling?) to rehabilitate my atrophied 3d animation/vfx skills, and-

Wait. Hang on. I need to back up and explain something. A few somethings.

Begin Digression

So... I'd washed out of the QA business the year prior. Turns out that software testing requires a more specialized set of skills than just knowing the software. And that was but one out of a variety of reasons (some known to me and some not) that I had wound up in bad odor with the powers that be at The Slag, which had merged with acquired Wunderlicht a year and a half before, and I was kicked to the curb.

During 2014/2015 I had done some freelance animation work. But not enough. And I've already told the part of the story that followed. Anyway, at some point about 30 days before we were evicted I talked to Chaz, and... oh shit. Now I have to talk about Chaz, don't I?

Begin Goddamned Sub-digression

[sigh] Ok, here goes: back in 2009 I did some 3d animation contract work for Medoru, a media company serving the medical/pharma sector. I wrote about it here and here. During my time there I met another contract animator named Chaz. Seemed like a cool guy at first. Struck up a loose friendship. Over time it became clear that he was a person who did not respect boundaries. When I went to work for Wunderlicht he relentlessly pestered me to give him a beta copy of the latest version of Lilienthal, ignoring the fact that doing so could get me fired. He often talked about the Fight Clubbish shenanigans he got up to. He routinely threw around a particular epithet (used in the past to describe a bundle of sticks for use in fire-making), directed at whoever he didn't like at the moment. But he had reasonably solid chops as a 3d artist, and he could talk his way into just about any job. He just had that ability. And just as often as he wangled his way into a job, he quit or got himself fired. You're getting the picture... right, Dear Reader?

So... by July 2015 Chaz had moved to Southern California and had been working for about a year at Ætheric, a boutique vfx company in North Hollywood. If you watched the Marvel tv shows or American Horror Story, you probably saw some of their work. In desperation I called and asked him if he might put in a good word for me there. He said "sure", and that's how the plan was formed; I and my family would scatter to various safe havens while I looked for work in L.A. as a 3d animator or vfx artist. Hopefully at Ætheric, but nothing was certain. Then, once established, I'd find us a place to live.

End Both Stupid Digressions

At the time I thought I also might look for work as a compositor (a type of vfx artist), so I studied up on the trial version of TriniTite, which was/is The Slag's flagship product. It's for combining lots of moving images into a single composite moving image. It's one of the tools used to erase those ubiquitous green screens and replace them with whatever space the director wants to put their actors in. It does a lot of other stuff too, but that's what most non-vfx folks would associate it with. I also cranked away at Lilienthal to make new 3d content for my reel.

So... I sweated and studied and ground away at my demo reel. I pooped out that previously-mentioned freelance animation; it paid for a few burritos and bus tickets. I visited a former student who was working at Whiteout, home to millions of online orc and faerie alter egos. There was no AC in Kate's place, just a few fans. One day when the thermometer read 114 degrees I rose from a nap to discover I'd sweated a body outline of salt onto the futon (unwittingly recreating a scene from Infinite Jest).

I took the Greyhound north every 2 weeks or so. First time on the connecting bus to L.A. I fell asleep in the start-stop ooze of commuter traffic (having caught it at 5am). I woke up as we were creeping down the 7th Street offramp. I'd left the Maps app open on my phone; I reflexively checked it for the time and observed a red lattice of near-motionless freeway traffic surrounding downtown L.A. Pulling into the terminal I realized it was no longer located at Union Station, to my great disappointment. (edit- apparently it's been moved back sometime since).

Up in the mountains... well, some visits went better than others. When S-A despaired of ever having a normal life again, I tried to talk her off the ledge. I walked the dogs. I walked myself. I experienced the near right-angle, no-brakes, up-on-two-wheels turn from late Summer into Autumn that seems unique to the high forested country.

Back in the southland, my hoped-for job connection at Ætheric dissolved when Chaz got himself fired again. Possibly out of some vague sense of guilt (pretty unlikely), he offered me a sliver of freelancing work on a video game he was trying to develop for the OUYA console. Remember the OUYA, the crowdfunded open-source 'PS4/XBox One Killer'? I rode the Metro up to North Hollywood and footed it from the Universal City station to his studio apartment. There were young women all over the complex, pacing and muttering into cell phones, vaping in the elevator, etc. I discretely pointed them out to Chaz and he leered "Yeeh... lotta porn actresses live here; Vivid's just up the street." He had to go teach a class (fundamentals of Lilienthal, as it turned out), so he pulled up his Game Grumps playlist, told me not to leave the apartment unless it was an emergency, and split. I made 2d scroller game tiles in Photoshop and listened to Arin Hanson's volcanically operatic meltdowns. I also noted the presence of a Scrum board, and later tried to adopt one for myself.

Something else happened. Or rather: didn't happen.

But I'm going to leave that for my next entry...

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