Friday Free-for-All #69: Phobia, city, actor, trend

Here’s the next in an ongoing series in which I answer random questions generated by a website. Here are this week’s questions. Feel free to give your own answers or ask your own questions in the comments.

What would be the worst thing to have a phobia of?

This question reminds me of a quote attributed to Morgan Freeman, although he never said it. “I hate the word ‘homophobia.’ It‘s not a phobia. You are not scared. You’re an asshole.” It came from a now suspended Twitter account called Tweets from god that used a picture of Freeman from the movie Bruce Almighty, where Freeman played god.

Now, granted, it has a lot more impact if you hear it in his voice.

So, by definition, I’m not going to include things that are called phobias, like homophobia or transphobia, because they do not come from fear, but rather from ignorance and hatred. Oh, they are very bad feelings to have, to be sure, but I doubt that anyone seriously starts quaking in fear on sight of member of the LGBTQ+ community.

If they did, we wouldn’t have any hate crimes because the would-be attackers would be running away.

So, if we get into true phobias, which do induce panic and anxiety if not outright terror, there’s a very long list of them. Probably the worst and most debilitating one to have, though, would be anthropophobia, which is a fear of all other people, regardless of the circumstances under which you run into them.

This includes not just random strangers, but rather everyone — friends and family included. It sounds like a perfect diagnosis for Emily Dickinson, actually. She could write you a mean poem, but would prefer to never see you in person.

It’s far different from and far worse than social phobia, which was reclassified as social anxiety disorder anyway. At least with these two, you can go outside and conduct routine business without going into a total panic attack. But if you have anthropophobia, then you should probably live alone in an isolated shack on a remote, unpopulated island, and hope that you don’t also have cynophobia.

What city would you most like to live in?

The main consideration is somewhere that’s not going to be burnt out in a heatwave, flooded by rising tides, or have more than a handful of Trump 2024 campaign signs within the county limits, with four of those preferably all being on the same property.

Then there’s the affordability issue, because this question has both “money is no object” and “you have to be able to afford it” versions.

Without regard to affordability, I’d probably opt for the Bay Area, preferably a place from which San Francisco would be easily accessible at any time, but in more of a flat, suburban layout — I’d rather have a modest house on a big lot with a pool and privacy than an in-city Victorian with multiple floors, big rooms and windows, and no yard space.

So it would definitely be either to the east or south of the City, although swimming pools don’t seem to be that common up there. San José is also an interesting option. It reminds me a lot of L.A. and the San Fernando Valley, and isn’t that far from San Francisco, either.

If we want to go realistic, then I’d have to take my California income to somewhere where it would buy me that house and yard — but since I work from home, my location is a little less important. The trick, of course, is finding a place.

I wouldn’t want to be anywhere prone to tornadoes, so that leaves out a big chunk in the middle of the country. And while I love thunderstorms and the like, those places also come with ridiculous heat and humidity in the summer. I can handle Palm Springs, even if it did get up to Death Valley temps, because there’s no water in the air and it’s easy to sweat and cool down.

But I’ve been in much cooler yet more humid weather in Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York and… no thank you. a dry 110°F (43.3°C) summer day in Los Angeles is far more pleasant than a humid 95°F (35°C) summer day in Pennsylvania any day.

Okay, we can get a touch muggy in L.A. because we’re near the ocean — but the canyons between the L.A. Basin in the south and the San Fernando Valley in the north keep a nice airflow going that also helps dry the atmosphere out and, even on the hottest of days, we often get fog up along the ridgeline that is Mulholland drive, where the trip up from one side turns into the trip down into the other.

And, honestly, if the affordability thing were not an issue, I’d probably stay in L.A. and buy the house here.

If you were an actor, what kind of roles do you think you would be good at?

There’s no “if” on this one, and I know what kind of roles I’m good at. For one thing, I have an affinity and knack for playing non-human characters — a depressed bear, a Jesus figure with supernatural powers, the Grim Reaper, a zombie Pope… those are a few of my favorites that I’ve actually done.

And yes, while a couple of those were in human form, I consider their powers as putting them into an entirely different category.

When it comes to humans, I’ve discovered an ability to play ones that are awkward and easily intimidated, or who are only brave when the danger has passed. For example, I once played a friar who kept his mouth shut until after the threatening knights had left the building, and then he went off in a fiery and threatening monologue solely for the benefit of his fellow monks and the women hanging around in the cathedral.

I did this a lot in improv, too, choosing to play a so-called “low-status” character because it’s fun to be the butt-monkey in a scene. Yes, that’s a real term, although you can use “chew-toy” if you prefer.

I also love ensemble roles, because it affords a chance to work closely with fellow actors and create the background and mood that supports the leads. Hey — I’ve got no problems at all using my concentration to put focus on the most important speaker on the stage at any given moment, and it’s also a lot of fun.

Of course, I have had my time playing the villain, and in those cases I find that going 180° from who I really am is the key — big, loud, brash, and bigoted. Although, if you want to learn how to play a villain the best, go no further than studying Alan Rickman’s performance as Hans Gruber in Die Hard.

All of the best villains have two traits in common: 1) They’re the hero in their own story, period. 2) They do not show their villainy by being threatening or loud or over the top. The scariest villains smile and whisper.

What trend are you tired of?

I’m not sure whether I’m more tired of the endless parade of super-hero movies of of social media influencers. However, as Marvel starts their 4th wave, it sounds like they might be getting tired of the super-hero thing as well, and might be taking the characters but putting them in different genres.

Ironically, as a kid I was into DC but not Marvel. As an adult, I can tolerate the occasional Marvel film, but have found nothing to like in any DC movies except for both Deadpool films but, then again, he was the super-hero who could say “fuck.”

If only they could do a Deadpool/Star Lord crossover…

Now, Wandavision was good, although I could not get past the first half of the first episode of Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I haven’t ventured into Loki yet, but I probably will once all of the episodes are up.

As for the influencers, I do have to admit that there are a few TikTokkers I’ve wound up finding via Instagram and I do follow if only because I find them amusing. But, at the same time, they generally don’t seem to be trying to sell me anything, and are often genuinely funny and entertaining.

Oh, they’re probably marketing stuff out their asses and it’s just that I’m nowhere near their likely target demographic of teens. But that’s okay.

I think that the bunch which infiltrated my feed are all kind of related, and as far as I can tell, they’re based in Orange County, California. They may or may not collectively be called The Squad. But some of the names are The Stokes Twins (Alan and Alex), Brent Rivera, Ben Azelert, and Jeremy Hutchins.

Generally, they all alternate between short comedy routines, well-choreographed TikTok dances, lip-synced dialogue moments, and pranking each other. Speaking of which, I remember reading that the Stokes Twins were arrested sometime last year in Orange County for pulling a prank involve a fake bank-robbery escape through a crowded outdoor public mall, although that story vanished from the news, and they never mentioned it.

Maybe they’re actually as rich as their videos make them seem, and they just bought their way out of it.

Now, speaking of apparently rich as hell, there’s Danny Duncan, who somehow crept into my feed, and I’m very ambivalent about him. on the one hand he often comes across in his videos as very warm and genuine, and someone who truly cares about his friends and family.

On the other hand, he can quite often be a quite destructive little asshole doing his own private version of Jackass, Jr. Now, he’s almost a decade older than the squad, but I’ve watched him destroy his own Tesla intentionally, give one away to a fan in a contest, pull all kinds of stupid stunts in moving vehicles (including driving at ludicrous speeds in traffic), and destroy a door with his head.

I’m not sure exactly how he became rich and famous, either, despite trying to find the answers on-line. He sells a ridiculous amount of branded (and somewhat overpriced) merch with slogans like “Virginity Rocks,” “Fet’s Luck!” and “Big Dick Is Back,” and at at least one point in the past went on a multi-city tour with live shows that seemed to constantly sell out.

One of his other venues is Danny’s Cream Pies, which has long existed in Florida, with a restaurant made to look like a walk-up ice cream truck. His products are stupidly cheap ice cream and the like, and ridiculously expensive merch.

He opened a second store in Los Angeles earlier this month, on Fairfax near Canter’s Deli, with the same menu and prices, and during its opening weekend, the line to the door ran multiple blocks. Granted, it was stretched out by social distancing, but it was still of 70s blockbuster movie proportions.

And I’m still not sure how I feel about him. On the one hand, he’s obviously had huge success doing this, is generous with his fortune, and a generally accepting all around when it comes to age, physical ability, sexual orientation, and so on.

But he also still has that chaotic and destructive energy that often makes him just seem like a fourteen-year-old boy who can afford to destroy whatever he wants just because it’s fun.

The scary part, really, is that he has so many fans who don’t seem to have any issues with the negative parts even as they focus on the positives.

And that’s probably the biggest issue with influencers. Their influence is quite obvious and visible. Whatever entity is managing it behind the scenes is hidden.

Like I mentioned, some of them don’t even have any visible sponsors, although the branded clothing can be obvious. And a lot of them do giveaways like they’re McDonald’s or Coca-Cola. The Stokes Twins often have YouTube competitions with friends where they pay the winner $10,000, for example, and while they sell some of their own merch, they don’t seem to plug it all that often.

Still, every last one of these kids is clearly just the marketable front for someone who’s raking in the big bucks thanks to their online work. And remember what they say: If a huge company offers you something for free, beware, because what they’re really selling is you.

Influencers are just the far more subtle version of product placement and celebrity endorsements.

Theatre Thursday: The ghost light is still burning

I haven’t performed on a stage in public for one year, three months, a week, and a day now and at this point I don’t know when I will again. Except for the main company, the rest of the improv troupes that used to be part of the whole have disbanded and although our Monday night Rec League group has met and practiced via Zoom the whole time, it’s just not the same.

As I see live theatre start to sneak back into reality, it just reminds me of how much I miss the experience of performing — and the great irony of that is that I never set out to be an actor or improviser in the first place. My goal was always to be a writer. I just fell into the acting accidentally.

Like probably everyone, I’d done a couple of elementary school plays, but didn’t really think of those as acting. In my first, I was one out of six lumberjacks with construction paper axes and no, I have no idea what the play was, except that I don’t think it was Little Red Riding Hood but it was staged right in the classroom.

In my last year of elementary school, we did do a production of The Pied Piper of Hamlin and we did it on the actual stage in the auditorium. I actually had a fairly featured part — a young boy named Obi. Since he was lame, he wasn’t able to follow the piper with the rest of the children, so he was the only one who knew what could happen and was able to tell the adults.

I had a big speech and everything, although we had a glitch. There was a student who transferred to the school a fairly short time before the performance but, in the interest of having everyone participate, the teacher cast him in a speaking part. Not having had enough time to prepare and rehearse, he totally forgot his lines — which were all in the same scene that was my big one.

Since none of us were particularly good at ad-libbing, the production sort of slid off the rails until someone finally ran on and handed him the book — although he did wind up repeating the speech that was my cue, which got awkward, since the only thing I knew to do was to repeat my scene as well.

When I did get into drama class in middle school, I really sucked at it, so that made me performance shy except for playing piano and keyboards for a couple of musicals. In college, I had no intention of pursuing theatre, except that the music thing came up to lure me back in.

One of the theatre professors heard from one of my friends that I owned a synthesizer, so she contacted me to ask if I wanted to play in the combo for the musical she was directing that fall, which was my first semester of freshman year.

It sounded like fun, so I figured, “Okay, what the hell,” and did it, and it was a game-changer. There were four of us in the combo — piano, bass, drums, and synth. The musical was an odd little show called Philemon, originally produced off-Broadway in 1975, although it never really went on to become a hit, more on why in a moment.

What’s most notable about it, though is that it was created by the same team that had created The Fantasticks fifteen years earlier, and that show still holds the record for longest continuous run of any show in the U.S. The off-Broadway premiere was in 1960 and it didn’t close until 2002.

It could be argued that San Francisco’s Beach Blanket Babylon had a longer run, premiering in 1974 and not closing until 2020. However, it did change venues and it was also a very topical review, so the numbers, performers, subject matter, and lyrics were changing constantly, so it could just as rightly be argued that it wasn’t really the same show or in the same category.

But I was talking about meeee! Back to Philemon: It’s actually a very dark show. Set in third century C.E. Antioch during the Roman occupation, the premise is simple. The location is a Roman prison (concentration camp, perhaps?) holding arrested dissidents, Christians among them.

The rumor is that a famous Christian leader, Philemon, is coming to liberate them. The Romans would really like to figure out who the Christians are but in order to do it, they need a fake Philemon. It just so happens that an amoral street performer and clown, Cockian, has just been arrested, but the head of the camp has an offer for him.

You’ve probably figured out that the offer is to pretend to be Philemon and flush out the Christians, and the story goes from there. The songs were actually surprisingly good and fun to play, and since we were sitting behind the set which was covered with scrims, we could see everything onstage while the audience could not see us — at least not until our curtain call moment, when a change of lighting revealed us.

One of my favorite stories from that play involves a number in which I played a single note as undertone during a monologue, slowly bending the pitch down. I quickly figured out the trick of putting a pencil under the key so I could just focus on the pitch bend, but noticed something else during the course of the run.

This monologue was a speech given by a character who had been discovered to be Christian and sentenced to be flogged to death, and the actor in the role convinced the director to let him do the scene nude — which actually made sense in context. Of course, they kept it tasteful for the audience and most of the rest of the cast was sitting under the upper level of the set at that time, so they couldn’t see anything.

The band, however, had front row seats for Liam’s backstage entrance and butt-ass naked climb up the ladder to that platform, so we got to see everything. But that’s not the interesting part.

No — it’s that I started to time how long I had to play that single note while we were in dress rehearsals, and it started out at about two and a half minutes. But then, once the audience came in, Liam’s performance got more and more dramatic and emotional every night. By the time we closed, that note was almost six and a half minutes.

That’s called milking it.

The next semester, my friends from Philemon talked me into going to the theatre department’s first meeting, then egged me into auditioning for the next play. Figuring that there’d be no way in hell I’d get cast, since I wasn’t even a theatre major, I auditioned — and got cast in a fairly prominent speaking role.

Well, damn. And then I became a theatre minor, did a bunch of shows in college with both the theatre department and the school’s student drama club, and enjoyed it all immensely. But after graduation, I hung up my performing hats for a while and just focused on writing.

I think, by that point, I’d taken to just performing in real life, so didn’t really need an artificial stage. Plus the format of the writing workshop I belonged to consisted of all the writers getting together weekly and then doing dramatic reads of each other’s pages, and I got quite a lot of practice at cold reading and acting, not to mention a chance to perform. I was involved with various groups like that for years, right up until I made the switch to improv.

Of course, writing would eventually bring me back to performing, and this happened after I had joined the writing arm of a theatre company that was on the verge of collapsing. That would have been Actors Alley at the El Portal Theatre, and once it did blow up, somebody else created The Company Rep from its ashes.

At first, I just stuck with the writing group, but after they had moved to a larger theater and announced that they were doing Camino Real, I just had to jump back in again, and so I did. I auditioned, got a really great part that was mostly non-speaking, so very physical, and although I’m sure that show was sheer torture for the audience, it popped me right back on that performing horse again.

The Company Rep didn’t last too long, but I did manage a few really fun roles as well as tech gigs during that time. And then, the biggest irony was that when I got into improv, it was with the company that occupied exactly the same 99-seat space within the El Portal Theatre that Actors Alley had died in and The Company Rep had been born in.

Full circle, then, when the improv company shut down in 2020.

“We’re actors. We’re the opposite of people!” That’s perhaps my favorite line from Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which is a wonderfully loopy meta take on Hamlet. Indeed, the whole Stoppard masterpiece is just one of Shakespeare’s most renowned plays as seen from the POV of two minor characters who are summarily dispatched by the melancholy Dane when he turns the tables and alters a letter.

But it’s true. It’s probably the case for a lot of actors, but when we’re not onstage, we can be introverted, awkward, and shy. Throw us on stage, though, with or without a script, and that’s when we’re given permission to come alive.

If only theatre weren’t still dead right now. But, as I said in the title, the ghost light is still burning, so there is still hope that we’ll be back, bigger and better than ever. Hey — a little plague couldn’t stop Shakespeare, right? It’s not going to stop us.

Sunday Nibble #57: Shook

Today, April 18, 2021, is the 115th anniversary of the Great San Francisco Earthquake, which struck at 5:12 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. Estimated to have been a magnitude 7.9 with a Mercali intensity of XI, it leveled much of the city. A lot of the rest of it was destroyed by the multitude of fires that broke out in the aftermath.

But let’s take a look at Market Street, one of the main crosstown thoroughfares in the city, on a Saturday afternoon just four days earlier. This footage has been uprezzed, colorized, and the frame rate adjusted to 60 FPS, but that only serves to make it more amazing.

For me, a few things are significant about this. One is the total chaos of the traffic patterns, with pedestrians, horse-drawn vehicle, automobiles, and streetcars all somehow co-existing without any kind of traffic signals or apparent control.

Sure, everything is probably going eight miles an hour, but it’s still a pretty impressive feat.

Another thing to pay attention to is the behavior of the people. Other than the outer trappings of clothing, you can see that they have the same needs and concerns, and even some of the same reactions to the camera passing as people do now to spotting the Google Map Car.

But something else to keep in mind while looking at this footage: A lot of these people would be dead in less than in less than 96 hours — 3,000 died in the quake — and most of what you’re looking at was destroyed. About 80% of the city either fell over outright or burned.

Collapsing was pretty common along Market which, like most big cities of the time, was full of unreinforced brick and masonry buildings. The quake even shifted the course of the Salinas River by an incredible distance of six miles.

Remember, at the time, San Francisco was the ninth largest city in the U.S., and the largest on the West Coast. (Los Angeles really hadn’t happened yet.) The City was the center of trade, finance, and culture for the west, operating a busy port known as the Gateway to the Pacific.

The quake changed everything, and while San Francisco rebuilt quickly, the vast majority of its 410,000 residents were still homeless for a couple of years. A lot of them headed south and wound up in Los Angeles, which eventually took over as the principal city of the West Coast.

Total property damage, adjusted for inflation, was over $11 billion dollars, only $6.7 billion of it covered by insurance.

Since San Francisco was a banking center, immediate cash was tied up. All of the major banks did have fireproof vaults, but they had to wait days before they were cool enough to open. Meanwhile, only one bank, the Bank of Italy, had been able to evacuate its funds and started making rebuilding loans immediately.

That company changed its name to Bank of America in 1929, but it wouldn’t have become so big without the quake. The Transamerica Tower — the famous pyramidal structure in The City’s North Beach — is named for the holding company that owns Bank of America and its corporate parent.

California in general and San Francisco and Los Angeles in particular have survived plenty of earthquakes since 1906, of course. L.A. got its first big jolt — well, the county, not the city — in the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, which led to some of the first big building code reforms.

A lot of the buildings that lost walls and façades were made of unreinforced brick, so in the ensuing years, these structures were strengthened with steel rebar (i.e., reinforcing bar) which would run through the bricks beneath floors as well as up the vertical height of internal supporting walls.

You can spot the telltale signs to this day on brick buildings. Just look for the things that look like stubby bolts sticking out of square metal plates in regular lines. Unreinforced brick buildings are still standing in all the older parts of the city, including Downtown, Koreatown, Hollywood, South L.A., and so on.

Los Angeles next got hit in 1971 with the Sylmar Quake, and San Francisco followed with the Loma Prieta quake in 1989, which hit during the opening of a World Series baseball final taking place in the city, making it one of the few quakes seen nationally in real time.

In 1994, Los Angeles was rattled by the 1994 Northridge Quake — and things have been weirdly quiet since then, really — down south and up north.

Although California did experience not one, but two 1906-worthy Big Ones on consecutive days in 2019 — a 6.4 out in the desert on Independence day, which turned out to be the intro to the 7.1 quake that hit the following evening.

This happened 150 miles northeast of L.A., and I did not feel the first one — but the second was one of the most surreal quakes I ever have experienced.

I was still working for ComedySportz L.A. and doing improv at the time, and we had just started our Friday night 8 p.m. show when the entire place started to sort of… shimmy.

It wasn’t a hard shaking by any means, but there was definitely motion. Thinking quickly, the cast onstage opened the on-set doors, which backed up to the actor entrance doors behind the stage, opened those, and hurried everyone out to the street, probably a better option than rushing them out under the (at the time) 93-year-old steel and neon marquee out front.

Meanwhile, the house manager and I stood in the lobby, wondering, “Okay. Little one nearby, or big one far away?”

We eventually strolled into the lobby and chatted with the main theatre company’s house manager as the floor continued to vibrate.

The two weirdest things to me were that while the motion was detectable, it really wasn’t alarming, just strange. The other was just how damn long it continued. Nobody timed anything, but objectively, it seemed like a couple of minutes at least, maybe more. Then it finally stopped.

Now, if we felt that one so strongly in L.A. why didn’t feel the one from the day before at all? True, the second one had 11 times the energy of the first and I was about three miles closer. Still, there should have been a jolt. Except, this is a weird quirk I’ve discovered about the place I’m living now.

For some reason, not a lot of small quakes seem to even rattle things here. I’ve been online when people nearby in North Hollywood or over at the Sherman Oaks Galleria have posted, “Good shake. Did you feel that?” And I felt nothing.

Not even a swinging blind-rod or a tell-tale creak. Hey, I’m not complaining. I remember the Northridge quake quite well, and it scared the crap out of me.

But there is one other thing. For some reason (knock wood), Los Angeles has always had very low mortality rates in earthquakes. Then again, other than 1906, it’s been the same for San Francisco.

Only 63 people died in the 1989 quake in San Francisco, despite the double-decker Marina Freeway pancaking during evening rush hour. In the Northridge quake of 1994, only 72 people died, and the death toll for Sylmar in 1971 was 64 people, 49 of whom died in a single location when the VA hospital practically sitting on the epicenter experienced multiple structure failures.

My dad had actually worked for the architectural firm that had designed and built the place, and since he’d been a photographer in the Air Force and did all of his own processing and printing, they had him come along to document the damage, part of a process that became essential in figuring out what failed and how to prevent it from happening again.

Of course, he kept a complete set of prints for himself, and I remember looking at them years later. A few photos stuck out. One was a wheelchair balanced precariously in the edge of a parking structure that had partially collapsed, so that it was hanging by its back wheels, five stories up.

Another was of a supporting column, probably three feet square, that had sheared off. This exposed the maybe 1-inch rebar inside in I’m guessing a five-by-five array. This solid, braided steel had been bent in several directions by the shaking, so that it resembled more of a hybrid S/J shape in the gap between the lower and upper parts of the column.

The most disturbing, though, was the one that looked the most normal. It seemed to be just a non-descript one-story medical building, nothing out of the ordinary. It had no broken windows, wasn’t leaning in any particular direction, and seemed to have survived.

I asked my dad about it and he said, “Oh. That was a two-story building.”

Because of things I’ve learned over the years, I will always shun living or working in any building between 4 and 8 stories, because those tend to resonate with earthquakes. This means that once the shake starts, the natural rate at which the building will propagate that shaking up its height before damping it from the bottom makes the shaking stronger.

This was particularly apparent in the Northridge quake, when a lot of fatalities occurred in an apartment complex that was… four stories tall. The top three pancaked the bottom and, since it was 4:31 in the morning, a lot of people were sleeping down there.

The other type of apartment building to avoid is what’s called “Dingbat Architecture.” Popular in the 1950s and 60s, they were a cheap-to-build style that popped up all across the Sunbelt. In Los Angeles, they’re all over the West Side, Culver City, and the San Fernando Valley.

One of their defining features is a second story that just out over open parking spaces and is supported by rather thin columns. Depending on whether the parking was on the street or in the back, the second floor above it would be either the living room and kitchen areas or the bedrooms and bathrooms.

Needless to say, being in a bedroom above a parking area like this is generally not the safest space to be in a quake. Surprisingly, it’s a lot safer to be in a much taller building.

I had friends who, at the time of the Northridge Quake, ived in a high-rise on Wilshire, near Westwood. They were on the 23rd floor of what I think was a 25-story building. Their perception of the quake? “Oh, it was just a little rattle, not worth getting up for.”

They didn’t learn the truth until they got up hours later, went to make coffee, and turned on the news.

So, yeah, I’d prefer to be in a building like that. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but here’s the thing — structures that tall naturally cancel out the shaking. Why? Well, because when the ground floor shifts, it takes a while for that movement to make it to the top.

Say that the ground floor starts out with a shift of five feet west. That will start traveling up the building, but this is an earthquake, so it’s very likely that half a second later, the ground is going to shift five feet east, and send this impulse up. And… repeat.

What you wind up with is the equivalent of a starting a very fast vibration in a very long string. And the longer the string, the lower the note, because that fast vibration slows way down. A move in one direction might only make it to the third floor by the time the next move cancels it out, and so on.

On top of that, for really tall buildings, they have to counter the very real effect of wind-sway so that occupants on the top floors don’t get motion sickness — yeah, those suckers can swing a few feet in any direction at any time. To do this, a lot of really tall buildings have counterweights built into their cores. These are basically heavy pendulums that naturally fight the building’s need to sway.

Hey — wind, earthquake, whatever. The counterweights do their job.

Barring either of the above, then a single-story, wood frame, free-standing house with everything earthquake strapped, bugout kits in the cars, and earthquake beds would be the other ideal. The one advantage over the high rise, of course, is that you’re not stuck with the choice between staying home for a week or two or walking down and then possibly back up way too many flights of stairs.

Still, my grandmother would call my mother after any report of any quake and ask her, “When are you moving back home to Pennsylvania?”

My mom would reply, “You have floods, and the effects of those last for months and years. An earthquake is over in seconds, and things get back to normal quickly.”

I always grew up thinking the same way. Give me the choice between floor, tornado, hurricane, and earthquake, I’ll take the quake — provided that I’m living somewhere, like California, that takes them seriously enough to make things as safe as possible.

Monday chills and thrills: “Within” with Peter Bean

Last Thursday was personally momentous for me because I finished the first draft of The Rêves, which I’ve been serializing here, and am very happy with how it turned out. Fifty-eight chapters, nearly 150,000 words, and an incredibly diverse cast of characters. I like to describe it as “Magical realism meets hard SciFi with a goth/romantic lit injection.”

But between that and working tons of overtime because I work in Medicare Insurance by day and it’s our version of tax season, I’ve started throwing the spotlight to one of my talented friends on Mondays, with the first installment on Zach Timson last week.

This week’s guest is someone regular readers of my site have already met, Peter Bean, who made his debut here guest-blogging right before everything shut down in March. He is a ridiculously talented filmmaker and editor (hire him!), as well as one of the nicest, down-to-earth people I know.

He’s also made me much more environmentally conscious purely by example, and I want to be him when I grow up.

He’s made some pretty amazing short features, but since we’re just past Halloween — and because this one is an amazing example of what a crew of two can accomplish in a stairwell in San Francisco — I’m sharing Within, in which Peter is also the lead, proving that yes, he can act, too.

You can see some of his other films at his company’s, Chispa Productions, Youtube Channel. They’re all worth a look or two.

Image: Peter Bean in Within, © 2012 Chispa Productions