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The Kingdom of the Dwarves

A song from BUMS! THE MUSICAL, In which I sing about unicorns, dwarves, and the wonders of anarchy.

Lyrics:

In my dream last night,
A magical unicorn
Was trotting through
The glimmer of the moon.
I climbed onto her saddle,
And then to my surprise,
She took me to
The kingdom of the dwarves.

All around were little men
With silly hats and silver beards.
Though I was roughly twice their size,
No one laughed and no one feared.

Some were flying golden kites
While others chipped away at stone.
Though some were dreaming, others cleaning,
Everyone seemed right at home.

But how could their economy
Support this strange anomaly
With some at work and some at play
And no one bossing anyone?

Did this happen every day,
A world of sweet tranquility
Where each with his ability
Pursued his calling, never stalling?

Though I longed to join the fun,
I knew I really had to run,
For I had duties far away,
Important business left undone.

I asked around, “Who has the time?”
But all I got were empty stares.
For in the dwarvish world, I learned,
There is no time nor need for cares.

I would soon be late for work.
The stress was driving me berserk.
But still they could not understand,
For in the dwarvish tongue, you see,
There is a secret oh so grand,
They have no word for work at all,
For work is play and every day,
Nothings drives their dreams away.

No systems,
No victims.
Freedom never felt so good,
Till I fin’ly understood.
No compulsion,
True propulsion.
Every man fulfills his part
Following his yearning heart.

When I woke up, I knew I’d miss
That dreamy place of never was.
Still when I face this dreary world,
The hope I saw fills me with pause.

When someone goes against the grain,
They lock him up in heavy chains,
But I know there’s a better way:
To blur the line ’tween work and play.

No systems,
No victims.
Freedom never felt so good,
Till I fin’ly understood.
No compulsion,
True propulsion.
Every man fulfills his part
Following his yearning heart.

No systems,
No victims.
Freedom never felt so good,
Till I fin’ly understood.
No compulsion,
True propulsion.
Every man fulfills his part
Following his yearning —

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All 8 Star Wars Episodes A Cappella

My vision for this one was not to show my Star Wars fandom through cosplay or geeky obsession but to illustrate how its glorious themes and ideas affect my everyday life. Deep down, I believe we all long to be Jedi knights. (It’s currently at 12,000 views on Youtube … which used to seem like a lot. But with our “Mario Parkour” video at 3M, it’s all relative now … which is good.)

Gideon Greenwich, a delinquent nerd, is given two choices: join the football team or be expelled.

To be “initiated” into the team, Gideon attends a violent fraternity party, where he has a startling discovery: the jocks are being controlled by an evil god of sports! As the conspiracy unfolds, it appears that the entire high school has been hijacked by otherworldly beings posing as teachers. To resist their dark powers, Gideon must look beyond social cliques and team up with star quarterback, Doug Rock, and the beautiful cheerleader, Cynthia McDaniels.

Together, the unlikely friends take on the god of sports, the goddess of fashion, and the god of popularity. But defying the “gods of cool” takes courage, a willingness to look stupid, and mind-bending adventures through parallel universes. In this thoughtful and hilarious critique of high school life, national award-winning storyteller, Stephen Gashler, will make you question what it means to be “cool”.

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The Recycled Suit

This one time in high school, the planets aligned, and I was asked to the girls-choice Valentines dance by secret crush, Lilly. Lilly was something else. She sewed her own clothes, she dyed her own hair, and I’m pretty sure she subsisted entirely on a diet of seaweed and soy milk. She spent her afternoons picking up litter and caring for stray dogs. One time, during class, the teacher stopped his lecture because he noticed that Lillie was turning blue. Lilly explained that she was trying to reduce carbon emissions by breathing less.

I really wanted to impress her, so I went shopping for suits. I found this great deal on a wool one, but then I remembered that, according to Lilly, wool was made by animal exploitation. All of the other suits had polyester in them, and according to Lilly, polyester is poisoning the oceans. Soon it was the day of the dance, and I had no idea what I was going to wear. So I made my own suit.

I thought it would impress if my suit was made entirely out of recycled materials, so I raided a newspaper bin and started paper-mache-ing some pants. I knew Lilly had this thing against refined starches, so instead of flour, I held it all together with mud. It’s more earthy that way. For the coat, I made a chain mail out of soda can tabs, which I also reinforced with mud and topped off with a layer of moss … you know, for style. For my hair, I used the most eco-friendly stiffening agent … mud … and topped it off with a hat made out of an abandoned bird’s nest. I’d never felt closer to mother nature.

When Lilly arrived on my doorstep, I opened the door slowly, so as not to give her a heart attack. Thus you could imagine my confusion at the look of horror on her face. I explained that she was looking at a genuine, one-hundred percent recycled suit, but I could change it she wanted. She said, “No, that’s okay.” But I could tell she was feeling awkward. This was probably because, despite her principles, she had chosen to wear a polyester dress. I guess nobody’s perfect.

Anyway, I took a seat in her dad’s Porsche, which was kind of hard to do without breaking my pants and leaving dirty everywhere. I just pretended nothing had happened. Then Lilly drove us to a restaurant. But after parking, we still had to walk a ways, which proved to be a formidable challenge within my stiff enclosure. I moved so slowly, I must have looked like a tree, which would explain why a dog urinated on my leg. I just pretended nothing had happened.

In the restaurant – one of the most expensive places in town – Lilly and I both ordered salads with vegan dressing. I was enraptured by the sound of her voice as she talked about her efforts to save the monkeys in Asia. But it was hard to focus, because I had the uncomfortable feeling that little things were crawling on my body. That was when I realized that I had an ant infestation. Ants started crawling up my neck and out of my sleeves. I would have ignored them, had not Lilly screamed.

“What?” I asked. “Oh my goodness! What kind of establishment is this?” When the waiter came, I complained about the ants, and they got us a new table. Of course, that didn’t stop the ants from coming, though I was able to cover them up with some conveniently-placed dinner napkins.

The dance was at the county courthouse. Again we parked and we were walking to our destination, when I noticed that three or four dogs were following me, sniffing with curiosity. I tried to kick them away, but they wouldn’t leave. So, not wanting to call unnecessary attention to myself, I just continued to walk as they took turns marking me as their territory.

The highlight of the evening was when, at last, Lilly and I were slow dancing to Nat King Cole. As we gazed into each other’s eyes, a squirrel crawled out of my jacket and leapt onto Lilly’s head. It happened so fast, she didn’t even see the squirrel, though she screamed as she felt it clawing around her body. I promptly beat the squirrel off of her, then tried to cover up what was happening by pretending I was getting fresh with her, which must have succeeded, because she slapped me in the face and walked off. Given the circumstances, this was probably the best possible outcome.

Around this time, someone must have thought it was a good idea to open a window, which, in reality, was a terrible idea, because it allowed a pelican to fly in and nest on my head. I tried to cover up the pelican by rearranging my hair, but I don’t think the illusion was working very well, because I was getting a lot of stairs. Needless to say, the night wasn’t turning out too well.

I went outside to get some air. That was when I was accosted by a mob of ten or twenty dogs. Not only were they interested in my scent, they seemed to have a certain fascination with a cat that had somehow managed to get stuck to my back. I hadn’t noticed that before.

Anyway, the dogs were really violent, so I ran back into the courthouse, where Lilly was waiting for me. Apparently she was ready to give me a second chance, which was nice. I must have accidentally left the door open, because soon I was accosted by the mob of barking dogs. In a panic, I pulled the cat off of me and threw it. Fortunately, this succeeded in dissuading the dogs from my body. Unfortunately, the cat landed on Lilly.

So if ever you have a date, and you’re dreading the goodnight kiss, just wear a one-hundred percent recycled suit, and I can guarantee you won’t get one.

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Guerrilla Filmmaking With No Budget and No Time | A Few Tips

On Monday, I was walking around the block with my wife. We were talking about our projects and goals. It occurred to me that I needed to make a book trailer for my novel, GIDEON VERSUS THE GODS OF COOL (which is set to be released on April 26th by Beacon Publishing Group in New York). I would be moderating a panel about making book trailers at a writing conference on Friday (Life, the Universe and Everything Science Fiction and Fantasy Symposium in Provo), and I needed something good to show. Teresa told me it was utterly impractical to undertake a video production like this under such a time constraint. This was my reply:

So after the walk, I continued alone through the neighborhood to enlist actors from neighborhood kids. As soon as I shared the vision, everyone I talked to was unequivocally in. On Tuesday, while waiting for my daughters to finish their gymnastics classes, my four-year-old son and I scoped out the locations at UVU (where, thirteen years prior, I used to “run and gun” similar productions). On Wednesday evening, we shot the footage. On Thursday, after spending the bulk of the day at the conference, I used the evening to edit. On Friday morning, I went to my sister in-law’s house to shoot the final scene (with her as the goddess of fashion). When it was time for my panel, the video was launched and ready to go. The total budget was sixteen dollars (fifteen for two Papa Johns pizzas for the neighborhood kids and one dollar for my gangster cap I wore as the god of coolness).

During the panel, we watched a series of popular book trailers. After each, I asked the audience to show, by raised hands, who would pick up the book being advertised. Many of the trailers had meager responses. For my video, the majority of hands were raised. So the moral of the story is: while I don’t actually recommend procrastination, we can do much more in a small amount of time than we think we can. Now here’s the video:

And now a few tips to the indie filmmaker: (1) all of the effects were from creative-commons-licensed videos I downloaded from Youtube. While I do know how to create my own partical effects in Adobe After Effects, when one has a deadline, there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel.

(2) I downloaded the music from the Free Music Archive (http://freemusicarchive.org). While I usually like to compose my own music, again, when one has a deadline …

(3) The green screen scenes were shot in my laundry room. The small space has actually proved to be a blessing, because it allows me to light the screen by bouncing light off of the walls, which creates a soft, evenly-lit diffusion with minimal shadows.

(4) I didn’t get permission to shoot in any of the locations. The great thing about shooting at universities is that there’s always productions and events going on, so no one will ask questions. Even if they do, you’ll open so many more doors in life when you ask for forgiveness instead of permission :-). Actually I did get permission to shoot in the board room, and if anyone asked, I was going to tell them this. What they wouldn’t need to know was that I got this permission thirteen years ago.

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Puppets Cover “Where Do We Go From Here” | The Gashler Family

Bet you’ve never seen such mad ventriloquism skills!

Another installment from our album VALHALLA | A NORDIC ROCK OPERA (https://stephengashler.com/product/valhalla-nordic-rock-opera/).

It’s always a struggle to teach a child not to act like an imbecile when they get a puppet on their hand. But when it came time to edit, some of my favorite clips were when they were acting like imbeciles.