Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Okay, time for the update.

Let me start off talking about the bad news, then work my way to the good news. I find that's the nicest way to do things to you, my reader, who may also have bad news and may want to read some good news.

First and foremost: Kathy was laid off from KETC Channel 9 on February 27th. Everybody knows somebody who's been laid off now, I think. Now I live with somebody who has been laid off.

This has actually been kind of a blow to us, as you can imagine. Looking at our monthly income pre lay-off, I'd say Kathy brought in around 60% of the money. Sometimes, my paychecks would be bigger, but you have to remember that Kathy paid for our health and dental insurance out of her paycheck, and that she also had money taken out and put into a 403(b) (which is a 401(k) but for non-profits). So this impacts us in huge ways.

Suddenly, we can't even afford the four boxes of Girl Scout cookies we ordered. We're conserving milk and baking potatoes we might have thrown out a year ago (I know the grammar of that sentence is confusing; obviously we're not eating potatoes we've had since last year). We're skimming the ads for great deals and coupons and changing habits. We used to buy Oberweis milk, and now we're back to store brand plastic gallons. Instead of meat from the deli, we're getting pre-packaged processed meat. And we're struggling.

Kathy got a severance package. Meager. Two weeks' pay. So one paycheck. Not only have we already gotten that check, we've already spent most of it. Covering our mortgage payment.

We've called our cell phone provider and knocked ourselves down to bare-bones service, and cut that bill almost in half. We're cancelling home phone service but not sacrificing internet (I can't live without it in school, and Kathy needs to pick up some freelance work and also can't be without it). We never had cable or satellite. With Kathy driving less, we're saving money on gas. However, I'm taking long trips a lot for work. Why? Because if I take a long trip, I get reimbursed for a portion of the mileage. Generally, the reimbursed amount more than covers the gas for the trip, so that's extra money in the paycheck. But in the meantime, I need to spend money on the gas to get me places. We don't have any magazine subscriptions, cancelled our Post Dispatch delivery months ago. Car payments, student loan payments, and credit card payments? We used to pay beyond the minimum every month, in an effort to pay them down. Now, we're down to minimum payments on all of them, which saves us money in the here and now I know but will cost us more in interest in the long run. But it's the here and now that matters. Unfortunately, we added extra charges to our insurance bill; we signed up for catastrophic through our home/auto provider. Just in case of emergency. I have to tell you, I don't like to think about me driving around all day without health insurance.

Also unfortunate is our mortgage bill. With the fall in the housing market, the equity we expected to have after three and a half years has vanished, and we're under water by about $6000 on our mortgage. With no down payment, we've been paying Primary Mortgage Insurance every month along with the standard interest/principal/escrow. We've tried several times to get this removed, because it would save us money. We have never even been late with a payment, let alone missed one. But our mortgage servicer refuses to work with us.

The stimulus bill has been passed. There are provisions for home owners. I don't know all the details; despite the fact that I am on spring break, I am no less busy, working as hard as I can this week to put in a full week or more, to help make ends meet. So I don't know what all the details are. But I thought there was supposed to be something about helping home owners who are facing financial hardship.

So we called our mortgage servicer, told them that one of us was recently laid off, and we need some of that financial hardship assistance. They told us they could not offer it to us, because since Kathy was laid-off, we are now spending more in a month than we are making. And I'm thinking, isn't that the definition of financial hardship? I was at a banquet tonight (more on that later). The M.C. was a banker. She told a joke. "The banks have money to loan. They just won't loan it to you unless you can prove that you're rich enough not to need it." Lots of people laughed. Kathy and I didn't. Mo & Kevin sort of laughed, then sighed. They're currently selling their house and moving into a new one.

So that's the picture. We're not sure what we're doing. Kathy has her Mary Kay Business so if you need any cosmetics, please buy from her. I know she would appreciate it. Also, as mentioned above, she is picking up any freelance design jobs you may have (no website as of yet; coming soon though). So if you have any loose graphic design jobs you need taken care of, drop me a line and I'll put you in contact with her. I can't do much more than I am doing; full time employee, full time student, full time writer. Kathy is, of course, seeking full time employment.

The announcement comes now. Though it's not set in stone. This is a likely scenario: Kathy will continue to seek a career in the St. Louis area for another month or so. If nothing comes to fruition, she will begin seeking a career in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. And we will put our house up on the market. Despite being under water on the mortgage (according to St. Louis County assessments, the mortgage company, et al), I believe we could get a fair price for our home if it came down to it. After graduation (and more on that later, too), we'd likely be moving up to the Twin Cities, provided both of us can find work. We have a good support network of friends and family here in St. Louis, but we have a similar network in Minneapolis. We know our way around up there. But again, that's if Kathy can't find a career in St. Louis. If she does find one, we'll be staying here. So, if you're in StL or MSP, please keep your ear to the ground.

Moving away from the doom and gloom of the financiapocalypse, I'd like to move on to the idea that my Karma has a flat tire. I must mention Kathy getting laid-off again, because that's part of how I came to this conclusion.

A few weeks ago, I was driving my car and heard a flapping noise and found the handling had suddenly gone a little wonky. It was a flat tire. Passenger side rear. But, hey, you know, that happens. I changed the tire (thanking the good people at Volkswagen for a standard full-size spare) and admitted that it was time to replace my tires anyway. So, I got them replaced. But just the rear ones, mind, the front ones are relatively new. However, the price of the tires I had on the front went up. Significantly. So I got a comparable set for less. But I like all of my tires to match; I'm weird like that. I kept thinking I should have sprung for the more expensive tires. And two days later, Kathy got laid off. And last Friday, a week after this, Kathy called me in tears; reality had sunk in, she had visited channel nine to pick up some things for her portfolio and had to be escorted out of the building, like she's some crazed security risk, and then as she was on her way out to run an errand, her car wouldn't start. And then this morning, first thing that happened to me on my way to work was I got a flat tire. Passenger side rear. Big old fat old shiny sharp metal f*ck you right in the tread. So once again, thank you Volkswagen, for providing a full size spare.

I've been thinking a lot about this full size spare as a metaphor. Like Kathy losing her job is a flat tire, and it's no big deal. But driving on a donut isn't exactly great. You can't move as fast. You can't go as far. You have to get that regular sized tire back on ASAP. Actually, driving with a donut tire is a big impetus for getting that thing into the tire shop quickly. The only thing that was really driving me to get the car into the shop the first time was that because the spare doesn't have the VW hubcap, the car looked uneven. But now, this time, I want to get it fixed right away. Because there's really not much worse than driving around without a spare tire. No insurance. No crutch. Nothing to bridge the gap.

Okay. Now on to more pleasant thoughts. My father was awarded Teacher of the Year at his high school by the Lemay Chamber of Commerce. It's a pretty sweat deal, when you get right down to it. He's taught at Hancock Place High School for sixteen years (is that right? Maybe seventeen...) and has built the music program into one with a reputation. They may not have the biggest band, and they may not have the best band, but they've got (in my opinion) the best band director. Congratulations, Dad!

Also, I've been working on a play called Still Life, which is based on a piece of artwork by Belgian Artist Wim Delvoye entitled Tim. I heard about it on NPR (read the story here) and was, honestly, disgusted. Immediately, I began writing a play about it for Surfacing. I originally envisioned it as a comedy, but the more I thought about it, the less funny it was becoming. And also, the more I thought about it, the more ambitious it started to sound. I wrote half of a scene and abandoned the project as having too much scope.

But then this semester, taking what will be my last undergraduate level creative writing workshop, I got to thinking about it some more. The scope still seemed too big. But I thought, well, give it a try. So I wrote the second half of the first scene and then a second scene. People responded well. I hit a wall. I could not write any more. It sat at two scenes and 14 pages for a month. And then I burst through the wall. I think I decided it was time either to become the writer I wanted to be or hang up my typing fingers.

I didn't hang up.

Peers in my playwriting class have praised it. And the teacher compared it to GB Shaw. That's actually partially why I got blocked. It was like, "Shaw is a master. How could I compete?" But I read part of Pygmalion. And I realized that Shaw is a master. A genius. Don't be scared. It's a compliment. I realized I don't have to be the next GB Shaw. All I have to do is be the first Elliot M. Rauscher.

Anyway, sorry for the novella update. I'll try to be better in the future. To those who read my blog on a feed or a reader, you may want to swing by the actual website and check out my twitter feed on the right hand side. Or, you know, if you twitter, you could follow me there. It's much easier to update. I'll be using twitter to share links, short thoughts, and writing/surfacing progress updates.

And now, the following GB Shaw quotes to ponder:

"A day's work is a day's work, neither more nor less, and the man who does it needs a day's sustenance, a night's repose and due leisure, whether he be painter or ploughman."

"A fool's brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education."

"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing."

"An American has no sense of privacy. He does not know what it means. There is no such thing in the country."

With that last one being the most ironic because I have just blogged all about my personal life, let me introduce you to another American I know. His name is Andy, he's a fellow Webster Gorlock and friend. He's a good kid. He plays music, writes, and rides his bicycle. Sound familiar yet? Go check out his blog.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Not the Update, but Something I've been thinking about.

I saw Watchmen this weekend (along with most of America) and I liked it. More on why later.

My buddy Chris just posted a link to this blog, which I read with interest. Go read it now.

Thank you. Now read my response.

For those of us who have not read the novel (but who really really want to), I think the film was intriguing. I did not go in expecting a superhero film. And the narrative is extremely character driven, which is not what American audiences like. American audiences like explosions and good guys who are good and bad guys who are bad. Although, this is bound to change.

As America came out of the Great Depression and entered WWII, there emerged a new film genre which we now call Film Noir. Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity. Films where the good guys weren't all that good. They created their own morality. I think we're going to be seeing a lot more movies with this kind of tone. I'm not talking about the lovable criminals of the late 90's/early 2000's (remakes of Oceans 11, Italian Job, Thomas Crown Affair). You know, bad guys we wanted to win. And of course after 9/11, we were inundated with films that were very Patriotic in tone, specifically Spider-Man (which I thoroughly enjoyed, don't get me wrong), which included the scene of New Yorkers shouting at the Green Goblin to "leave him alone" and "take on the whole city." Now is a time when we will start seeing films take on shades of gray.

When you get down to it, writer Alan Moore's declaration that he won't see this film is just downright ridiculous. While admitting that I haven't read the novel, I have read a bit on the structure of it, and have gleaned a lot of information from friends who have read it. And, also, as I've been told the film is almost a panel-for-panel recreation of the novel (obviously not true, but fairly true), I can say that much of what the graphic novel did was use the kind of narrative structure used in Hard Boiled detective fiction and the stylistic chiaroscuro that film noir became so popular for (which, oddly enough, was borrowed from comic books back in the 40's). So adapting Watchmen to the screen just brings it all full circle and back again, so to speak.

So why, you may ask, did I like Watchmen? For the same reason I liked Pixar's The Incredibles: The idea that heroes walk among us. In fact, I'm going to guess that the initial driving plot point of The Incredibles (superheroes forced into obscurity due to a public angry and afraid of them) was likely borrowed from Watchmen. When you get down to it, most superhero stories you can come up with will have some sort of nod to another superhero story. In fact, take a look at my new guilty-pleasure TV show Heroes. The whole thing smacks of plot points derived from X-Men, The Justice League, Watchmen...the list goes on.

So why did I like Watchmen? Even though it's not about real people, the people are believable. They're flawed. They may be superhuman, but they're human. That's what I liked about Heroes versus a television show like all the nine thousand variations of Law & Order (note no link here): the characters on Heroes may have unbelievable abilities, but they behave in believable ways. Maybe unpredictable ways sometimes, but unpredictable in a good way. Much like the characters in Watchmen. They have extensive depth to them. Each is different.

But in reality, the only reason I liked Watchmen is because of Jackie Earl Haley. I mean, come on! He played Moocher in the Academy Award winning Breaking Away (and also in the very short lived television series of the same name).


I'm now on twitter.

Follow me at

Or just check here and read my twitter feed in my sidebar.

Twitter will be easier to update than the blog. And it'll help keep the blog about writing while I update you with life information on my twitter.

Stay tuned for a major update this week, as I am on Spring Break.