Saturday, May 20, 2023

Being Human in the Age of AI

being human is big, bigger than we usually think it is

A robot's human-like face looks back at us amidst a chaotic background.
Too Human by David August

There is a lot of talk about artificial intelligence (AI) doing as well or better than humans at things. Machines have long out-performed people at a lot of stuff. And this doesn't just apply to complicated machines like cars, but simple machines, like a lever, have long amplified or done better than us. A pry bar is better at prying things than our bare hands. But humans have not, ever since the first person used a rock to make their efforts easier, been made obsolete by the machines we've made.

Sure, some things we have machines do that people used to do. But humans haven't stopped existing because of this. If anything, machines have allowed us to grow: machines and technology are part of why there are more humans currently alive than there have been at any other point in history. Humans haven't been made obsolete by tech.

So why is AI disrupting things typically done only by humans? Things like writing, art making, film-making and acting are starting to be threatened by systems, artificial intelligence (AI) systems. Why isn't it pry bars and not artists? Life and limb.

A self-driving car getting things wrong immediately collapses into the tyranny of atoms: concrete and often irreversible consequences come when a machine driving itself ends a life, or ruins someone's property. While self-driving vehicles may get to the point they are safer than human drivers, they will never be perfect, and this imperfection when matters of life and limb are involved, makes them hard to cheer for or even experiment with out in the real world.

Not so with media, entertainment and the arts. Artistic creations made by non-humans don't leave grotesque consequences if they fail: any bad movies, books, music and more made by artificial-intelligence (AI) will fade into the noise floor of un-celebrated human artistic attempts. No life or limb is imperiled if an artificial intelligence (AI) made film falls flat, instead bank accounts and careers get impacted (and disappointed audience).

This lack of life and limb involvement can make creative and artistic endeavors feel like the "consequence-free" world of software and web development: as if one can fail quickly and iterate in order to experiment in public and refine as one goes. However, the context of software and any context where life and limb are in play react very differently to things if one tries to fail fast. Experimenting and learning are invaluable, but at scale and in public, the tyranny of atoms makes doing so with self-driving vehicles, autonomous weapons and other life and limb scenarios far more dire than an unpleasing painting or a film that flops at the box office.

While many life and limb contexts benefit from the fact automated and artificial intelligence (AI) systems don't suffer from fatigue, emotional compromise or inebriation, some of the same things that drive humans to be tired, emotional, or otherwise not consistent are vital to make good decisions in other ways. Logical decisions with zero emotion can be low quality decisions (there are studies suggesting this is true, but they are beyond the scope of our discussion here).

Artificial intelligence (AI) promises the benefits of intelligence with none of the "downsides" like inconsistency or asking for a paycheck. Taking humans out of the loop may be possible, even beneficial in some contexts. But imagining an artificial system will benefit from all the strengths we take for granted in humans (or even see as liabilities) seems a mistake. Human are imperfect according to humans. What we find desirable and what the universe has evolved us into for our survival as a species are not the same. Eugenics makes many errors, this is one among them. Humans are great at a lot, even things we don't think of as great.

Being human includes the foibles and messy parts. It's not pre-Copernican to suggest that humans, after millions of years of evolution, are excellent at being human. This includes messing stuff up, hurting ourselves and also creating great things, beauty, connection, grace, mercy, cruelty: all of it. To imagine in the space of a few years or decades one can do what has taken billions of people filtering through millions of years of evolving is the magical thinking here. To fall so I love with human ingenuity and creation as to believe in a few generations time we can out create the forces of evolution over the timeline of geologic epochs, that is feeling to me like the fallacy in this.

Yes, AI can do, and maybe even excel at, specific human-like tasks. The question of what is necessary and sufficient for something artistic to be art, what is the essential that makes art in fact art is an entire branch of philosophy. There is little consensus on this, and what makes art human, or what human component is necessary for something to connect and resonate may not have consensus either. That said: I think saying there is an X factor, some amorphous and undefined thing, that is a cop out.

The generative AIs, both images and text, are sophisticated mirrors. Highly complex yes, but basically reflecting back their prompt and their training data is all they're actually doing. Often compelling enough for us to forget this, but that is what is happening even if the results feel like more.

So here goes:

It is the vast and minute combination of human intuition, rationality, emotion, fear, power, weakness, apprehension, insight and ignorance. At the risk of paraphrasing the dignity of man speech in Hamlet, we might sum it up as the human condition.

Wikipedia, a source of common meanings, sums the human condition up as "the characteristics and key events of human life, including birth, learning, emotion, aspiration, morality, conflict, and death." Mortality and love (not just romantic love) certainly seem to figure in to what I think the condition of being human includes. And how love and mortality figure into making art, or any creation in a way, is somehow uniquely human. We can probably spend a long time and many words defining, describing and discussing this.

For our purposes: knowing we will die perhaps underscores all our actions with a fleeting immediacy, even if that immediacy is an undercurrent and not the focus of what we do moment to moment, day to day. Does a machine have a functional life? Of course. But none of its activities are filtered, really in any way, through a lens of that mechanized mortality. Even in the back of our minds, under our awareness, the fact we may stop existing does inform in both subtle and bold ways how we do what we do.

Fictional characters are often revealed by how the do what they do. In many ways, how we do what we do is who we are. How the character says what they say, matters almost as much as what they've said. I leave the studies on non-verbal communication dominating the information exchanged between people for others to detail elsewhere.

How someone lifts a coffee cup can speak volumes about them, what they have done, are doing and will do. Does the way they lift it reveal the old injury from their time in a past captivity? Do they lift it in preparation to enjoy a moment's respite from current stress? Are they preparing to go without coffee as they are due too enter a coffee-less meeting? All of these options and a myriad more impact how the simple act of lifting a cup of coffee happens. They can be revealed and communicated in many ways like how quickly, slowly, angrily, happily and a bunch of other details that we all notice, even if not consciously.

And this rich, deep, full bodied (pun intended) action and all it communicates (literally, emotionally and maybe even spiritually) happens on some level even from this mundane act of picking up a cup of coffee. It can be filtered (pun intended again) through the whole of the human experience of the person lifting the cup, and also through the whole of the our human experiences as we witness it. With varying levels of awareness and attention, our neurology encounters and interprets what we behold in a rich amalgam of ways that help us understand, cognitively and otherwise, the world and those in it.

If all of this can easily become an overwhelming, almost unmeasurable amount of "data" were we to try to digitize it. Both the actor and the viewer are effected by it all and in turn effect the interaction in so many ways.

To imagine that we, in a handful of years, will be able to do this with a machine is folly. To replicate or emulate with a machine (let alone innovate) such a deep and complex moment as raising a cup of coffee is a little bit of hubris.

What's that you say? An mp3 compresses sound to about a tenth the size (in data) of what CD quality sound takes up by trying too remove what the algorithm imagines (was designed) to think we won't miss. And mp3s still give us the emotional and other impacts of the higher quality sound file? Our music on our phones and streaming services is still music, right? Yes, but if something walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and isn't actually a duck it still matters if it isn't a duck. And some people do consciously hear the difference between an mp3 and CD quality music. The rest of us unconsciously hear the difference (studies of galvanic skin response suggest different audio qualities and film frames rates effect us differently physiologically).

Why does that matter? Because there are many things the simulacrum (the simulation or reproduction) of things do not have that the actual things do have. People still flock to see the Mona Lisa despite reproductions, even very high quality and faithful reproductions. Those reproductions may have a "better" viewing experience than traveling to Paris and dealing with crowds. Is that some sort of fame fetish, or placebo effect? Maybe.

The fact remains: when we have had whatever day we have had, and crave the comfort of stories, we often yearn to have humans help us make sense, not just of events, but of our own experience, emotions and spirituality from the day. We have done this as long as we have done anything, even if at first it used to only be around the embers of a fire in caves long ago. Now we use tech to send reproductions of people to the far reaches of the globe, but the purpose and our need for it is the same.

If people still care about an original painting made centuries ago, can we really assume they won't care about original people on screen made now? Can our creation with only artificial intelligence (AI) really out human our ability to human? No. It can enhance, stand-in-for and supplement humans. Much as shoes do for more the fragile soles of our feet than going barefoot does, so too will artificial intelligence (AI) allow us to do new things. And like shoes, or a pry bar, or any other technology, artificial intelligence (AI) will change things, even in ways we can't yet guess at. But it seems deeply unlikely any artificial intelligence will somehow, inexplicably, transcend the makers of it.

What feature could allow any digital or electronic system to suddenly cross the threshold of passing from not human to beyond human? Since we don't agree on what being human is to begin with, we may not even be able to measure or meaningfully discuss when something we have made is more us than we are.

Our imagining we already consciously understand the what and why of how we connect with humans and human stories may be the big fallacy of this. Can we make something that imitates human stuff? Probably. We can probably even make imitations that we will believe are the real thing, at least in some contexts. Will this somehow become better at being human, whatever that means to us, than humans are? Probably not. Whatever our weaknesses and strengths, we probably aren't going to buck or defy our own natures enough to make a more human-than-human non-human.

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this posted by David August at 5:20 PM - 0 comments -  

Sunday, May 07, 2023

Hollywood Producers on the Brink: Why Making a Deal is Critical

Hollywood Producers' negotiating style threatens the industry

a camera device sits in the foreground on a table as an open furnace door bellows fire out into the film set, smoke and ash permeate as the camera singes and catches fire itself
Fiery Filmset by David August

Hollywood producers are facing mounting pressure to reach a deal with striking writers, as more recognizable faces in the industry prepare to join picket lines once directors' and actors' contracts run out as well. Producers have only weeks to avoid a potentially disastrous situation, as audience backlash against intransigence could escalate. Economic uncertainty, compounded by a recent interest rate hike, adds to the urgency for producers to resolve the issue and maintain market stability.

Industry experts suggest that a deal with writers now on strike is a solvable problem, and could free up valuable resources to handle future economic challenges. With audiences increasingly interested in convenient, on-demand viewing experiences, any further disruption to their preferred entertainment could lead to lasting damage to brand sentiment and subscriber bases, ultimately resulting in a loss of customers.

While union-busting consultants may suggest a hard-line approach, the risks of such a strategy outweigh the benefits. As viewing habits shift rapidly, producers cannot afford to alienate their core audience by attempting to underpay workers, leaving them with no material to show. It is clear that producers must prioritize a deal with writers to avoid damaging long-term consequences and to maintain their market position.

As Hollywood producers continue to grapple with the ongoing writers' strike, they face the stark reality that long labor strikes can have disastrous effects on their companies. History shows that prolonged strikes can lead to financial losses, damaged relationships with talent, and negative public perception.

One of the most infamous examples of a long strike's impact on companies is the 1980 strike by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). The strike lasted for over 3 months, causing delays and cancellations of TV shows and films, and resulted in hundreds of millions in losses for the entertainment industry. The strike also included a boycott of the Emmy Awards ceremony by all but one single Emmy winner.

Another example of the potentially devastating effects of labor strikes on a media business is the case of the 1987 strike by the National Football League (NFL) players. The strike lasted for 24 days, causing the season to be shortened to 15 games per team. The NFL's total revenue loss due to the strike was estimated to be over a billion dollars, and it took several years for the league to recover from the effects of the strike.

In 2007–2008, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike for about 100 days, demanding higher pay for streaming content. The strike caused delays and cancellations of TV shows and films, and resulted in an estimated $2.5 billion loss for the entertainment industry. It also led to strained relationships between writers and producers, as well as a decline in public perception of the industry.

While these strikes were ultimately resolved, the importance of reaching a deal quickly to avoid long-term damage to the industry and to the companies involved is real and present tense. The past strikes highlight the potential risks to producers of a prolonged labor dispute.

The current negotiations between Hollywood producers and striking writers are particularly important, given the economic uncertainty caused by wider economic factors and the ongoing shift in viewing habits.

Beyond financial losses and damaged relationships, long labor strikes can also lead to negative public perception of the entertainment industry. Audience sentiment towards the industry is already fragile, with growing concerns over diversity and inclusion in Hollywood. Any further disruptions to viewers' preferred entertainment options could result in lasting damage to the industry's reputation and a loss of customers.

Finally, with these viewing preference possibly in flux, and fact technological hurdles to building distribution on one's own are lower than ever before, the producers risk making their own possible competitive existential threat a reality: the writers learning to finance, market and distribute their work themselves. Producers in the past could rely on big obstacles like access to movie theatres and broadcast airwaves to keep their position in the entertainment ecosystem secure, even during labor actions. 

Today, most forms of entertainment can reach their audiences with out any involvement of theatres, broadcast airwaves or other technological bottlenecks. While it would take a lot of change for the writers to cut the producers out of the equation of modern entertainment, the longer the producers refuse to deal and the strike drags on, the higher the incentives for them, and their companies, to be circumvented entirely. Producers delays slowing a quick and stable resolution speeds up the process of their own obsolescence.

Ultimately, the success of the negotiations between Hollywood producers and striking writers will have significant consequences for the industry's future and the viability of producers' businesses as profitable, ongoing concerns. It is essential that a deal is offered soon to avoid long-term damage, and to ensure that the industry can continue to thrive in the face of ongoing challenges.

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this posted by David August at 2:12 PM - 0 comments -  

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Lights Out

ephemeral nature of our work

hazy scene of a cabaret performer wearing a dress performing for patrons in a full venue under shafts of light
Cabaret by David August

I imagine these same questions are what the Twitter alums are dealing with right now. It will be difficult for them, too. But this [company closing and turning off all the servers] is a necessary step in the career for anyone who wants to arrange electrons for a living. Because the things we make, the ways we express our creativity, none of it is tangible. It can all go away with the press of a button. And we have to face that part of the bargain with our eyes open. Making something lasting of our lives is difficult, and very few of us will ever do it. But making something lasting with electrons? It might be damn near impossible.

(from When the Lights Go Out).

Projects fall apart. We hate it when they do, but they do sometimes. Blue Sky is a movie made in 1991 that spent 3 years in a vault after the production company Orion's bankruptcy. Then, Jessica Lang won an Academy Award for her work in it after it was later released. There is a story I've not been able to confirm that Brad Pitt, before Thelma & Louise, was in a movie that was going to be his star-making turn, and the footage was lost in the scramble to evacuate from Yugoslavia as it descended into war.

But less dramatically, sometimes funding falls out. Sometimes people withdraw, sometimes any number of things make a project stop, dead in its tracks. The lights go out.

What are we to do as actors, how are we to seek any sort of meaning, will our work even be remembered?

Even highly established actors may not be widely known in a generation. I once heard a story of a teacher in the 21st Century marveling that their students didn't know who James Cagney, Marlene Dietrich and other major 20th Century stars were. Their students simply hadn't been exposed to work by some titans of the industry, people who helped define what film is.

So what are we to do? If every project we are in can go into turnaround or stall out entirely at any time, and if our work can be forgettable in decades (or in the case of most films from the silent era, lost entirely), how do we cope?

How do we handle knowing our work is fleeting? We try to embrace it.

Life is fleeting. Don't stop reading worried I'm going into some woo woo jag, or worry I only mean "all we have is now." While life, and our work, does happen in the now, it changes everything. Everything. Our work changes everything.

The American people have spent more on entertainment than they do on food for over ten years now. More money than being nourished physically is being spent on nourishing our hearts and minds (with some distraction thrown in there too). People are arguing about media and entertainment's role in civilization as before, only now more loudly since the internet lets people's anger and joy find audiences like no generation ever before.

From the time when we all lived in caves and told stories around the fire at night, and someone stood up and acted out a sequence, we have needed entertainment. We have needed storytelling. We need it like we need air.

Not only is a whole hemisphere of our brains seemingly built to make narratives out of our experiences, but whole countries need stories to understand and invent who they are, their identities. A people need to have a story of how they are a group, and a person needs a story of who they are and how they're living.

We risk collapsing all of this into solipsism, saying that our mind is all that we can be sure exists. But story, the narratives of our lives, are central to how we do what we do, and how we understand the world. And actors are assistant storytellers.

 My occupation is assistant storyteller. It is not "icon."
- Harrison Ford

So maybe it is perfectly fine if in a few decades strangers don't remember us. We still help tell the stories, we still touch the lives of those we know, meet, work with and love. If we make some great work, really truly great stuff, and if the world doesn't end up noticing, it hurts. It does.

It is not fun to do amazing things and have that stuff go away and seem like it never happened. But that's the thing. Since an early human acted out a story around the fire, an actor's work has been fleeting. For centuries, live performance was all there was. It was gone when the curtain fell, save for the hearts and minds it touched.

There could be paintings or sketches of an actor's work, but the performance itself: vanished.

Then photographs could capture fractions of a second of our work more accurately. Finally, film could hold the performance over time. Then something interesting started to happen: everyone could think something can be forever.

But maybe even then we're missing something, risking solipsism again. The performance never had substance in a tangible way to begin with. The film is not us, it is a representation of us. A reflection or sorts. Sure, films made today can be preserved and seen by people not yet born. Time shifting is compelling, but our selves, our bodies and minds aren't on that celluloid or in that binary data stored on a chip.

We can go further. The live stage performances didn't put us actually into the audience so much as move their hearts and minds. The early human acting around the fire did the same. We have always been touching the minds and hearts of the audience. That's the work.

Commerce and technology make it seem like our lives and the lives of those generations of pre-film actors are fundamentally different. Our need to light things well for a self-tape audition, so we can capture and digitize our image and voice, and then send them off to far places, makes it easy to think we're different than other epoch's actors. It seems like we're different than other epoch's humans.

But here's the permanence of it, here's the everlasting part of our work. It's not the disk drives, or the database entries that hold our work, that give our work substance. It's not the reviews and moldering stage costumes in theatres around the world that make our work real and impacting. It is the fact humans are the only part of the physical universe we know of that are conscious of themselves and we, actors, tell that part of the universe's stories.

You are something the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is something that the whole ocean is doing.
- Alan Watts

If you think being a wave means having no impact, just ask anyone who's experienced an undertow, or been in a city that's faced a storm surge.

Actors absolutely have substance and our impact echoes through the ages.

Actors used to be buried at a crossroads with a stake through the heart. Those people's performances so troubled the onlookers that they feared their ghosts. An awesome compliment.
- David Mamet

Our power and lasting permanence is in our ethereal and unbounded possibilities.

One only needs to read Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley to start to grasp the folly of fixating on permanence:

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—"Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

Our work may be fleeting, even if the technology of film and TV lets it last for decades or centuries. But the hearts and minds we move, and the way those people then change the world, those things will ripple on through to the end of time. And that is the un-substantive substance of our work.

Like lighting in a bottle, an actors work cannot be held: it is intangible. That's sometimes scary, and hard to get our minds around. Especially when we've bills to pay. That's partly why acting takes more than our minds to do. It's why getting in our heads alone usually doesn't get the scene or the moment the life it really needs. We are the squishy, and that's more than ok, it's good.

People talk about content often using that word in part to try to put a handle on something that cannot be contained. Sure, cat videos are content too, but at its most moving: our work is meant to be hard to hold in our hands, our minds and hearts.

It is part of why accidental behavior caught on film is often so compelling. Which is why having the illusion of the first time and being in the moment can be so vital. It is part of why facing uncertainty with courage is often something good acting (immediate, authentic, interesting and fun) has as part of it.

So between action and cut, or curtain up and curtain down, amid fake danger, courage and life is the order of the day.

Let the realm of paying our bills, grocery shopping and other concrete things get our attention when we seek the tangible, purely physical and logistic. But when we're acting, let yourself fly.

And if you want help flying, I'd love to work with you. I'll use this corpuscle of the physical, tangible and concrete to button up this post: my acting coaching website, that I put together in like five minutes when a friend asked if I had one, is here:

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this posted by David August at 1:54 PM - 0 comments -  

Friday, November 18, 2022

How to Find Your Twitter People on Mastodon

people you follow on Twitter may be on Mastodon and you can find them

two robots, one in the foreground and one in the background
Assessing by David August

Trying to find people you connected with on Twitter here on Mastodon is complex right now.

I'm using the three tools to try to get people's handles over here on Mastodon off of Twitter. All of these are a little unstable right now since so many people are using them at once.

    You log into both your accounts with it, let it work, and then can download a file you can then upload to Mastodon to follow people. The catch: those people need to have used it too.
    Lets you basically scan your Twitter folks profiles to see if they've left a Mastodon forwarding address for people. Then you can download a file you can then upload to Mastodon to follow people (or manually look through, which I recommend). The catch: if might get things that aren't actually Mastodon addresses, or their colleagues info scooped up instead.
    Like Debirdify (number 2 on this list), it scans your twitter folks profiles over there to try to find their Mastodon handles. It also download a file you can then upload to Mastodon to follow people (or manually look through, which I recommend). The catch: it also might scoop up stuff that isn't actually a Mastodon addresses, or their colleagues info.

So far, there is no single, easy way to migrate. That is kinda what happens when a single company with 7,500 employees keeping things working is no longer involved. Disappointing, but Mastodon can be an alternative and stop-gap right now; Mastodon may be able to grow into a more resilient option than Twitter or any other run-by-a-single-company social network ever has been. Right now, much of Mastodon is just struggling to accept the huge number of new people using it. Patience is probably a good plan. Good luck, and let me know if I can help you. I'm on Mastodon and have other links on my linktree, and should always be findable through

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this posted by David August at 12:24 PM - 0 comments -  

Monday, November 07, 2022

Posting Tweets to Mastodon

automatically have your Twitter post to your Mastodon

image of a rainbow colored mystical mastodon lumbering along
Mastodon by David August

So maybe like me you're thinking of diversifying your social media presence beyond Twitter and onto Mastodon. I don't want to have to manually post on both right now, and it is too early to focus just on Mastodon since most of the people I connect with not there yet, they're still on Twitter. I want to build for the future now by posting my tweets on Mastodon.

One way to build a presence on any new site is to have what you post on an old site get posted to the new one automatically. That's where a tool that posts your tweets on Mastodon for you comes in. I was going to try 3 tools to automatically post my Twitter on my Mastodon, and review them all. But the first I tried seems to do the job; I haven't needed to see how the others work. I'll stay with it unless the first one goes offline or stops working. I'll mention the other two here in case when you read this one of them is a better solution.

Without getting too technical, these tools will check your twitter for new tweets, and then post them on Mastodon for you, automatically. That is what's supposed to happen; unless something breaks or goes offline, it should work as designed once it is set up.

Mastodon is not a central company, so everything that runs on Mastodon may not always run as smoothly as a commercial product. Mastodon also does not have a single place to seek answers if you need help or support. Your mileage may vary. So far things often load more slowly with Mastodon than they do with a site/app like Twitter that is run by one company.

Not every Mastodon tool will work with every other Mastodon tool and instance. Instances are what Mastodon calls the servers that run it. They are run by different people, unlike Twitter which is run by a single company. These different servers, instances, can talk with each other. That lets a post (Mastodon calls posts "toots") on one server be read and interacted with by people on other servers. This can delay things. Sometimes if a server is down or out of communication, then the delay can be more than a few minutes.

Every Mastodon server being run by different people can also mean their policies can be different. Different Mastodon servers allow different types of content sometimes, and each have their own privacy policies. The good news here is that there isn't a business model of Mastodon gathering and selling personal information. In fact, there is no single business model behind Mastodon. It is more a protocol than a company or product. Mastodon is like a way you to do what you have always done on social networks, except without single central company running it. It is more like software than a single service.

Here's how to post your Twitter posts on Mastodon.

Mastodon-Twitter Crossposter

The first tool I tried using to send my Twitter feed to Mastodon is the Mastodon-Twitter Crossposter and I set it up at It was recommended to me and seems to work well.



Moa Party

I have not yet used this tool (at, but Martin Fowler, whom I do not know personally, does and says his Mastodon-aware colleagues have used it without problems.


Linky is an iOS app (at, that is intended to "Post to Twitter and Mastodon with simplicity." It may or may not automatically post from one to the other. It might be more about posting directly to your Twitter and Mastodon easily from your iPhone of iPad.


IFTTT is a service/site/app that allows many different websites, apps and devices to interact and do things automatically. They do not currently have a publicly available applet (what they call the small piece you can configure to do stuff for you) that will post from your Twitter to Mastodon. If you are open to some coding/technical configuration, you can make yourself a IFTTT applet to post to Mastodon from Twitter (or anywhere else). If you don't already feel comfortable using webhooks, or know what a webhook is, this may be a bit of a learning curve.

Please let me know if you have any thoughts or questions. My current links can probably be found on my linktree or at And I’m now on Mastodon at too.

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this posted by David August at 3:14 PM - 0 comments -  

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Individuals Investing in Film

Back in about 2015, the SEC started to allow small investors to invest in public offerings (regulation crowdfunding), to invest in and own small pieces of things. The possibility for individuals who had not previously invested in films began to change, and now it seems to be getting people's attention more broadly:

The Fresh Kills offering is structured so that Upstream investors will be at the front of the line should the movie make money and receive a 110 percent payout on their investment before other shareholders in the film receive any dividends or returns. After the payout, the investors’ preferred shares will convert to common shares representing 25 percent of the copyright in the company/film. The remaining 75 percent will be owned by Horizon

(from AFM: Why Indie Filmmakers Are Betting on NFTs).

NFTs are often lumped in with cryptocurrencies in general, and unlike how some sell them, they are not a panacea or single solution to funding art, including movies. However, as the quote above suggests, crowdfunding equity combined with both traditional and non-traditional funding sources may be a more popular path to getting films funded now than ever before.

Film has always been a somewhat atypical investment instrument, and so it makes good sense that new-ish things like regulation crowdfunding, as well as new things like NFTs, have found their way to the film finance world. That said, film finance still by and large falls into certain types:

  1. Equity - the investor owns a piece of the film, as intellectual property, and therefore profits as the deal describes if and when the movie makes money. Profit participation of people who are in or made the movie can be seen as falling into this category, they simply brought something (like themselves) to the movie instead of simple cash; they brought capital: the means of production.
  2. Loans - money of borrowed and must be paid back to whomever or what ever loaned the money. Often, negative pickup deals fall into this category because someone, like a bank, loans the production budget knowing the film will be bought at a given price by a distributor or something or the loan is guarenteed by a studio or something like that.
  3. Ad Fees - ad buys or other marketing fees paid to the production don't need to be paid back and give the buyer no ownership of the final film. All that's required is the agreed ad or product placement happen, and the final film see the light of day. Once the ad is published as agreed, the contract is satisfied and the producer and ad buyer can go on about their business happily and without any further obligations to each other.

Worth noting that the first 2 are by and large how any business is funded: equity or loans. The third is almost the whole business model of over-the-air TV. The third also gives the most flexibility to whomever owns the movie to do with it what they want. Selling ads, structuring a loan and getting investors are also different skills; being good at one may not translate to being good at the others. Having good investment contacts may not mean one also has good loan contacts of advertiser contacts, and so to all around.

NFTs somewhat unavoidably have to fall into the equity style fundraising: the buyer owns a unique piece of the project. However, perhaps NFTs allow segmentation of a film, or the transaction of its purchase to happen in ways we haven't quite seen exactly before. If an entire film is sold as an NFT, then unlike in previous decades, the transaction can be sort of recorded in the global ledger of the blockchain. Just like previous decades, the ownership of the film changes hands as intellectual property law dictates, especially copyright law. However, the auction process itself could be more efficient.

[Kevin] Smith noted, saying that the NFT auction for Killroy was essentially a high-tech version of what he did in 1994 when he took his debut film Clerks to Sundance and sold it to Miramax (AFM: Why Indie Filmmakers Are Betting on NFTs). So perhaps, in an NFT auction, multiple bidders can efficiently bid and arrive at a better valuation than an older and somewhat more fragmented offer/counter-offer technique that has typically been used before. Selling films as NFTs to their eventual distributors may make the purchase process smoother and one hopes better for both buyer and seller.

Regulation crowdfunding the partial or complete equity ownership of the film could open a film to get funding without needing major deep-pocketed investors to be interested. If both there is a big enough pool of small investors and the deal is put together as the law requires (and doesn't overextend those smaller investors who may be less able to safely risk larger sums) then this can be a new avenue to get funded. However, so far, there haven't been prominent successes from this model. While many films have crowdfunded their budgets, I know of none that have given the funders equity ownership and then have also have found their way to wide distribution, yet.

Yet is perhaps the key word here. Just because these new instruments and mechanisms do not yet have long track records, doesn't they mean can't or won't be part of successful films and wealth creation. As has often been the case, film finance is a risky situation, and risks both big downsides and tremendous upsides.

Creativity both with the creative work and how it's financed has always been, and will continue to be, the path to success.

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this posted by David August at 12:19 PM - 0 comments -  

Friday, February 12, 2021

Progress Made and Needed in Film and Television (guest post)

A guest post from my friend and colleague Thomai Hatsios:

It was 2015, I was on set and I waited for it. I waited and waited ...and it didn't happen.

2015 was the first time I was on set and I did not hear, You're the first woman _____(fill in my position on the job) I've ever worked with!

I was the only woman in the crew, but I was not their first woman in that position that is more often filled by a man.

For the longest time, if you were a woman in the crew, it was assumed you were there to work in makeup, hair, wardrobe, as scripty, coordinator, or production office assistant.

Thank you Wendal Scott Reeder for giving me my first opportunity to work on the set of a high-budget job with union crew. We met when a friend hired me, a single mom who was struggling, for a position I was not right for (office PA) on commercials aka promos for network television shows.

Coming from live performance, I didn't know how to use a 3 hole puncher, a printer, I didn't have a laptop. I had not learned how to sit still for more than 15 minutes, yet. (Sorry for ruining the wrap book, Courtney.)

When I told Wendal I needed to be on set, I wanted to learn EVERYTHING so I could be an informed director, producer, production company owner, and that I'd been directing experimental films- he responded by moving me to work on set. It was bliss.

Over the years, I worked in a variety of productions with budgets ranging from 1M for one day of shooting to 300K for 25 days of shooting in all but two departments both on and off set.

As a single mom of a wild artist, we hired my son who was 14 yrs old then, to work on set as a production assistant, only for the art department to grab him up, utilize his artistic skills. That grabbing him up that happens when department heads recognize one of their own, didn't happen for women so much back then. I made sure to change that.

Every day that I was not working with a more typically woman staffed department, I would hear that line, You're the first woman _____(fill in my position on the job) I've ever worked with! and I knew I was not alone in hearing that.

When I met a woman I knew would be a great grip or electric or AD, etc. - I made sure to help them into that department. I do the same with men, though when it's a woman and I know she'd be perfect for a dept. that is less typically staffed by women, it requires allies to step up.

Thank you, Lyon Reese for mentoring me and countless others.

Thank you Stacy Dean for taking women I knew were grips in the making, under your wing. I bet women grips still hear, Wow, you're the first woman grip I've ever worked with! in 2021.

When I was injured from aerial work, I worked as an editor.
Now the pandemic has forced me to develop as a writer.

My incredibly creative beau and I have been inspired to create projects I can direct, that are as understaffed and under-budgeted as my experimental films were way back in the day- and it's been saving my soul. It feels so good to exercise the muscle that directing is. It's fun.

Thank goodness for the women who came before us, who paved the way. Thank goodness for allies. Thank goodness for women creating opportunities for women directors every day. Thank goodness for the men and women who rise above stereotypes and irrational restrictions. WOC, LGBTQI+, Women with disabilities are creating some of the most appreciated content now. Thank goodness.

And for me, I'm using every drop of privilege I have, every day, every breath, to inform my directing and help shift the paradigm to be more inclusive.

Some of Thomai's work on vimeo

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this posted by David August at 12:51 PM - 0 comments -  

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

SAG-AFTRA Disciplinary Hearing for Trump

The board acted on charges initiated by National Executive Director David White at the request of President Gabrielle Carteris. The charges specifically cite Trump's role in inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, and in sustaining a reckless campaign of misinformation aimed at discrediting and ultimately threatening the safety of journalists, many of whom are SAG-AFTRA members. The charges request the imposition of the most severe penalty available to SAG-AFTRA: expulsion from membership.
Our most important role as a union is the protection of our members. The unfortunate truth is, this individual's words and actions over the past four years have presented actual harm to our broadcast journalist members, said SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White. The board's resolution addresses this effort to undermine freedom of the press and reaffirms the principles on which our democratic society rests, and which we must all work to protect and preserve.
SAG-AFTRA represents thousands of broadcast journalists across the country, and reports of intimidation and physical assaults have escalated throughout Trump's presidency.

(emphasis added, from National Board Orders Disciplinary Hearing for Donald Trump.)

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this posted by David August at 12:26 PM - 0 comments -  

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Actors Take Note

Take note of who is doing what. On-set safety counts.

picture of a video camera on set with a pink teddy bear wearing a face mask on the view finder screen

There are some producers and directors who would rather get you and everyone you come in contact with sick than spend any more time and money to make their projects safe.

We all want to work. And we all want to say yes whenever work is offered that makes sense to take. We each have to decide what sort of actor we want to be and what sort of life we want to live. It is not necessary to give up basic safety in order to work, get paid and make things worth making. I know it can feel like it is something we must surrender. We don't have to. Most protective measures are reasonable, relatively low cost and only cause slight delays.

Will work that is rushed and cuts corners be good work that can move your career forward? Or is taking some extra time and money to insure the work is good (and those who make it are safe) better? I suggest the latter is the best way forward.

Getting paid matters; we all use money to exchange for goods and services. And getting paid does not require recklessness or taking dangerous risks. Nor does doing projects well require easily avoidable risk and facing injury or death. I can't believe I have to say that out loud.

Every year films and TV have ever been made have unfortunately included productions who hurt and killed cast and crew. Case studies of why rushing, cutting corners and ignoring safety are foolish are too many to name here and predate both 2020 and the pandemic by decades. The Twilight Zone movie (which killed and injured many people) and Midnight Rider (which killed Sarah Jones and injured many others) are 2 well known examples. There are many many others.

Film sets are largely construction sites and include risk independent of contagious disease. Preventable death is worth preventing. Working with people who will work to prevent your preventable death leads to career longevity, and for that matter life longevity.

Most danger on film and TV sets can avoided by taking simple steps. Many people do not take those simple steps. They will not take cheap and fast steps to make the cast and crew way more safe. There are no good reasons they don't take those steps. Impatience and laziness are not good reasons.

Good projects are not good by accident. Talented people working in unison to realize a good vision has always been the best bet to create good work. Being needlessly unsafe is not a wise path to creating good work. People who are worried on set will not do good work. People who are calm and feel safe, and are safe, will do better work. Being in danger does not lead people to be calm, nor does danger lead to people doing their best work. This is true of every department. This is true of every set. This is true of every job on earth.

Production insurance companies agree with me on this even if their arguments are largely financial. Lack of safety is more expensive than safety. Productions are already gambling whether or not the audience will show up and like the finished product. There is no good reason to gamble with having the production shut down and bankrupted by taking foolish and avoidable risks. There are no good reasons productions gamble foolishly. Ever. Impatience and laziness are not good reasons. Greed is not a good reason.

I am surprised to find myself writing this. I have also been surprised to see proposals for restarting production that contain next to no comments on keeping people safe. I am surprised to see people planning productions like it is 2019. Before this year it was stunning to see people take risks they don't need to take. It is still stunning seeing people take risks they don't need to now.

We do not want to work with those who rush. There is little upside. We do not want to work with those who cut corners. Cut corners diminish our gains. They ruin work. They break people. We want to work with people who are working to the best of their ability to do good work.

Sometime later we can forgive those that are reckless now and still remember who they are. People who would be reckless with you and your cast mates' lives are unlikely to do good work. They are unlikely to move your career in a good direction. This may be true of them beyond 2020. This may be true of them beyond 2030. Find the people you want to work with, not only for your career but because your career is your work life. You only get one life and it includes your work life.

We can all be positive that good work is more likely being done by people focusing on all details effectively, including safety. Our careers are marathons and not sprints. Working well and doing good work are how we book more work and book better work. We make progress by not merely saying yes, but by saying yes well and wisely.

I know we all want to work. And we all have bills to pay. I am extremely eager to book work too. I feel desperation. And there is no good reason to be foolish or reckless pursuing work, pursuing our careers or pursuing our next paychecks. Desperation is not a good reason. Desperation is a feeling, and it is better felt than acted on. Acting out of desperation leads nowhere good.

Feel desperation, but try not to act on it. Be well. Work to thrive. Good luck and caveat actor.

If you are in an unsafe situation on set, you can contact SAG-AFTRA's Emergency Hotline 24 hours, seven days a week at: (844) SAFER SET / (844) 723–3773, and/or leave set.

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this posted by David August at 11:23 PM - 0 comments -  

Thursday, May 21, 2020

How We Use Time Now

how productive is enough

picture of a river through a wooded mountain area tinted blue with the words 'Any time not sick, is time well spent. -Julie Nolke' written on it
pine watt/Unsplash

Let that sink in. Everyday you aren't sick is a good day. In a fairly objective sense we know this is true. I know it hasn't felt like that to me, but I suspect it is still true.

How could that not be true during a global catastrophe. Whatever the specifics of our individual situation, we are facing a world that's different than it was in 2019. As you may be acutely aware, our industry, both on camera and on stage, has been largely hollowed out. This isn't new, Shakespeare faced this too when the plague came to London.

But what do we do? I mean what do we do and feel we need to do now? I have felt alternately that I should be solving everything all at once, and also be content to do whatever I can each day and be ok with whatever that is.

Don't forget to be thankful for the time you have, and make use of those low moments. Feeling uncomfortable is great because it shows you all the things you can be, and what you need to be.

- David Bowie, as told to me by Joseph Dale Kelly

This does not mean you must "be productive." As Bowie says: be what you need to be. Surviving a pandemic is success. Having a pulse at the end of this is success. Have a pulse and then all your dreams can come true.

This may sound harsh, or reductionist, but couldn't it really be just that simple? Couldn't surviving a global pandemic be enough, and anything else is bonus? I think this is an uncomfortable and oddly simple truth. Thriving as we may all wish to thrive may be less possible now than at any other time in our collective lives.

This angers me, and my rage lands on the virus itself. Unfortunately, it has no face to punch, literally or metaphorically (though washing hands does help kill it). So in my distemper, what should fill my time, occupy my days?

There have been good things said about how to spend and even structure time during lock-down and quarantine, but what do we do as actors specifically? There are resources for financial relief (donate to the Actors Fund if you can, mail a donation for COVID-19 relief to The Actors Fund Home, 155–175 W Hudson Ave, Englewood NJ 07631 or visit and click donate), and unemployment is also worth perusing. I am also seeking other options myself.

So step one seems to be pursuing financial relief. Step two probably can be seeking other income. This likely means seeking a non-acting job. Like anyone not doing what their career is, we are very allowed to be unhappy about it.

And there we land back on Julie Nolke's words: any time not sick is time well spent. As mentioned, having a pulse is now the bar for success and we have the gift of anything else. Seeking work that doesn't require going to set or stage isn't fun, but is worth doing anyway.

Maybe step three is to get ourselves creative sustenance. I'm not talking about paying acting work which is likely more scarce now than any other time in the last century. I'm talking about feeding our souls and using our instruments. Creative outlets now, as before, don't always require many others to participate or a hiring to happen first. We can do this without permission from anyone else. No guarantee it will always be satisfying, but it is possible.

Now may be a time we can work on a screenplay we have had on our back burner, or a play. But it's ok if we don't. Maybe we can join one of the online script readings by video chat. But we're fine if we don't. Maybe just cold read something. Or don't. There is no playbook for this or plan we have to fit. That doesn't mean we aren't pushing back against our own expectations. And one's own expectations can be oppressive.

Our own expectations do get dicey. Our own judgements often aren't particularly useful or helpful. That doesn't mean we don't have them or shouldn't have them. It does mean we are likely better served by not acting on our judgements or feeding them. Have I done all the things in an ideal world I would love to have gotten done so far during the pandemic? No. Do I gain by beating myself up for that? No. Do I beat myself up a bit anyway? Yes. It is also tempting to beat myself up for beating myself up? Also yes. I am reminded that it is worth remembering to breathe.

The Crux: the Sabre-Toothed Tiger

And here's the crux of it: many people feel uncreative right now. Many are unmotivated to work on acting things or really anything else as well. You are not alone. A metaphor I hastily came up with early on in this was that we're all trying to do everything we're trying to do with a sabre-toothed tiger in the room with us, looking on and ready to pounce. After all, there is a threat looming. Something that might hurts us and the people we love is, in a way, stalking us. This can't be comfortable. It truly cannot.

This can, all by itself, account for not being motivated. It can explain why creativity may be less accessible. And it is awful. Acknowledging the pain at least gives us some sort of handle on it even if it doesn't help it go away. Yes, Shakespeare wrote some great work during epidemics, but almost everyone else didn't. Almost everyone in the history of the world hasn't. Virtually everyone. And that does not make them any less valid of a human. If you have made anything, it's bonus. Our worth is not bound to our output. We do not earn the right to be ourselves through productivity. It is worth saying again. We do not earn the right to be ourselves through productivity.

And there's the gain we can have that Bowie name checks: this discomfort can show us all the things we can be. Yes it is awful, and the possibilities for the future are limitless. Still. These feel mutually exclusive but they aren't. It strains the mind to hold the ideas together at once: the difficulties we face now and our dreams coming true. We can survive this, and doing so is enough to achieve greatness when the threat has passed. Having a pulse at the end of this is exactly enough for us to thrive down the road. Yes, we'd like to thrive all day everyday, and often we may have been amazingly lucky to be able to. Right now, that is less possible. And that is the fault of a virus. Place the blame there, where it has been earned.

Maybe we can see things more clearly through this, even ourselves and our priorities. And maybe we can't. Either way is ok. Because simply being around tomorrow leaves us with options. So do that, and you're succeeding. Anything else is a bonus. Everything else is a bonus. Talked to a friend? That's bonus. Ate something vaguely healthy? That's bonus. Scrawled something down for a future project? Bonus. Read this paragraph aloud to check in with your cold reading and speaking of text? That's bonus too.

No two actors have the same career path. We're not lawyers, accountants or anything with a singular sequence of steps to take that lead to employment or professional development. We also get fewer road signs along the way confirming our progress is in the direction we want or that progress is happening at all. This has long been true.

But often our best work is when we, and our characters, face uncertainty with courage. And courage does not mean not being afraid. Courage does not mean knowing the outcome or forcing ourselves into some form of comfort that is known and straightforward. Courage does not mean feeling good about it and courage is not concerned with comfort. Courage is doing what we do anyway. Sometimes that thing we do is read a line, execute blocking, show up to an audition on time or play a role. Right now the "it" we have to do is have a pulse. Our task is to be. Our success is to look back on this pandemic and tell those unborn now what it was like back then. Back now.

We can act in faith or act in fear, but not both. Act in the faith that surviving now lets you thrive later. The thriving will come, as certainly as the sun will rise tomorrow. Right now, just be. And may all the time you spend be not sick and so well spent. And if you do spend time sick, may that time pass as gently as possible and return you to days well. Just be.

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this posted by David August at 1:05 PM - 0 comments -  

Friday, May 15, 2020

How to Feel Miserable As an Actor

Thank you for indulging the short stories I posted earlier; I was seeking a creative outlet and hope they entertained.

I did not write these (they seem to be least 10 years old and I can't find the original author), but they still feel relevant today:


Sometimes, pain may be inevitable, but suffering is optional. I'm finding things stressful, but stressed is the new black. Please feel free to let me know how you're doing: you can @ me on Twitter.

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this posted by David August at 12:38 PM - 0 comments -  

Saturday, May 02, 2020



by David August - horror/sci-fi short story

cover image for the story Heartbreak by David August - a tree in a field surrounded by trees

"Grandpa?" Tommy asked his grandfather, holding his hand, "why don't you want to go for a walk unless there's some wind?"

"Well, back in the first pandemic, the idea was that it could hang in the air from people breathing it out. So if there was some wind, then you could walk a good distance behind them and the wind would blow it away before you stepped through the cloud of their exhalation."

The little boy smiled a little, and felt guilty. He knew talking about the first pandemic was hard for his grandfather. But he also knew that his grandpa's eyes would light up with a twinkle he'd never see otherwise, not even when they had birthday cake or went bike riding. He was glad to get his grandfather to speak about those times, even if it sometimes made his grandfather hesitant. And Tommy felt a little bad for bringing it up. But grandpa's twinkle seemed worth it.

He'd never met his grandma, but in the stories his grandfather told of how they met, their adventures (as grandpa called them), Tommy felt like he could imagine her, moving and interactive, not just the photos and videos he could watch.

"I know it might seem a little silly," his grandfather continued, "but..."

Tommy looked back up at him as they got to the end of the driveway.

"...nothing was quite the same after that, and so I... I don't know. I guess it feels kind of nice, even if it's nostalgia, to keep some habits from then going."

"I think I can understand." Tommy was glad he hasn't seen one of them yet. The shortages, the lockdowns, the way his grandpa and the TV describe it all seems kind of scary even if old fashioned. "Do you miss it? You know, how things were?"

His grandfather paused. Tommy would realize years later it was like his grandpa was reliving it. "Yes, I do. I miss the time before. I miss the thousand little things that no one even thinks about now."

"Like what?"

"Well, there's the architecture for one."

"The architecture?"

"Yeah. They used to build stadiums and theatres and everything with people way closer together, and no screening corridors at entrances. Don't get me wrong, they are a great way to ease into the space, and they make good use of them. And who doesn't like having more personal space during a game or a show, but..."

Tommy waited, hoping he'd continue.

"There is not a great way to explain the way it is to be there now, with people just...together. Spontaneous and planning, let you really enjoy it, get into it and connect with the players."

"Uh huh."

His grandfather looked him in the eye. "You could really feel it. Like at a ball game there could be a wave started, people standing up and raising their arms in unison, and following the people next to them as this whole, wave I guess, would go all the way around the stadium. You'd feel the people starting to stand near you, so even if you weren't paying attention, like you weren't watching the stands, you were looking at your food or something, you'd feel it. People try to do it now. In stadiums now you can't get that close to feel it the same way. Even at Wrigley, after the renovations it's not the same,"

Tommy knew his grandpa loved Wrigley. His grandpa and grandma had their first date there when his grandpa had been given two free tickets. That was before they'd won the last time, and before later when tickets got hard to get for in-person.

His grandpa continued, "or at a concert. I remember once on this beach, I wasn't that much older than you, this festival. It was a total free for all. I mean they had the trucks set up with speakers, and vendors and this big dinosaur thing you could just climb up and get your pictures on. And there was this one camper that was converted into a sort of bar and dance club thing, right out in the open. People dancing and trading places with a DJ who was playing the music that you could feel through the speakers, and the ground. I swear you could feel the ground moving because of all the people's feet dancing with the rhythm. Dancers just freely moving among each other."

"That's weird." Tommy had never seen that except in an old black and white movie. "People don't do that now."

"No...they don't. And for good reason."

"I know, my teachers tell us that. Tell us about how it was and can't be. That that's why we can't play with our classmates, just our brothers or sisters."

"Yeah..." grandpa fell silent and Tommy could sense it was not necessary to say something, just hold grandpa's hand while they walked.

A delivery vehicle passed by and the wind gently moved the branches of the trees.

"Grandpa?" Tommy wanted to ask, and it seemed like now was a good moment. "Do you miss grandma?"

"Yes...every moment of every day."

"How did you, do you...I don't know, how did did you..."

"Well..." grandpa stopped walking and looked at Tommy. "Why do you want to know."

"Well, daddy says Wilson is getting old, and I can maybe prepare myself for when he goes." His grandpa smiled; losing your dog is hard for anyone, but especially for a little boy.

"Well, you probably can't perfectly prepare for that kind of thing. But your dad, he's a planner."

"Yeah. But he said you might be able to help me get ‘as ready as you can be.'"

"Right." His grandpa took a breath and let it out slowly. "Well, with your grandma we...I didn't have any real warning. It looked like we were out of it. We'd made it through. Vaccine was getting traction, and there was light at the end of the tunnel." Tommy saw his eyes turn wistful, like they always did when he talked about grandma. "And your grandma, she smiled, really smiled again."

Tommy tried to egg him on to keep going, "Uh huh."

"We went to the beach where we lived, well five or six blocks away, the day they opened them up. One of the last things to open up. First walk since it had started where we didn't feel like we needed to zigzag to keep away from everyone else. The sidewalks allowed two-way walking traffic then."

Tommy didn't see why they would have let that happen, it would put people passing too close to each other. "That's weird."

"Yes, it is. It was. Your grandma, she smiled when we got to the beach, and I hadn't realized how long it had been since I'd seen her really smile, her relaxed smile. You could light the world with it."

Tommy smiled. He'd seen her smile in pictures, but it was easier to see in his grandpa's eyes. "That sounds nice."

"It was. People were swimming, together, no lane markers either. And the waves and sand, the sound of kids playing. It was such a good way to celebrate being able to come outside and be with people again."

"I'll bet," said Tommy. He could hardly imagine but it all sounded very exciting.

"It was there she suggested we have your dad."


"Yeah. She was putting on sunscreen, and she said, totally frankly, ‘let's start a family.'"

Tommy saw his grandpa's face change. It was like storm clouds crashed into it and tears came from both eyes. Tommy had never seen this before. His grandpa's face was hollow suddenly, it was alone.

"Grandpa? You ok?" He was quiet. His eyes met Tommy's and they lit up again.

"Yes. I'm here with you."

Tommy felt good that that made his grandfather smile. "She never met me did she?"

"No. You were born a lot after she was gone. So was your dad. I'm so glad we'd frozen-"

"Popsicle Kid!" Tommy knew that well. Tommy knew that when his dad had asked his grandpa about where he came from when he was a kid, his grandpa told him and his dad had started calling himself Popsicle Kid. He'd even made his grandpa get him a cape that had PK stitched on the back so he could run around the yard like an old superhero. Tommy's dad now lets him play with it too.

"Yeah, your dad was a popsicle kid."

"So she never met dad either."

"No. She didn't. She would have really liked to."

His grandfather was quiet. The wind blew gently.

"What happened after the beach?"

"I never saw her smile, not really like that. Then..." his grandpa swallowed. "I didn't see it again until your dad was born. You and him have it."

That made Tommy feel happy inside. He was sure he would have liked to know his grandma. Could you miss someone you've never met he wondered.

"What happened after the beach?"

His grandpa paused. Breathed in and then out again.

"It mutated."

© copyright 2020 David August, all rights reserved.

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this posted by David August at 4:42 PM - 0 comments -  

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Avocado Katz and the Battle for Mars - chapter 1

Avocado Katz and the Battle for Mars
by David August

cover image for 'Avocado Katz and the Battle for Mars' by David August
Gullies at the Edge of Hale Crater - NASA/JPL/University of Arizona, Frederick Tubiermont/Unslpash

The First Chapter
[this was written years ago, and may or may not end up with more chapters]

Avocado Katz took a calming breath as the hiss of atmosphere filling the compartment began to be audible. The airlock light would switch from muted red to muted green in 15 seconds and then the interlocks would release. Then she could go inside and face the others. 

It wasn't fair. She wanted to be like the others. To really be like them. But she wasn't. They'd been sent to colonize the red planet. She'd been sent to watch them. Of course they all thought she was like them. Just here to scrape out our species' first foothold on another world. And she was. Only it wasn't that simple. 

"You see, colonization has never been a gentle process," he'd stood looking out the windows of his Palo Alto office with his coffee in his hand, like it was a brandy, eight months ago. And he continued. "The others are in it for the adventure, or the isolation, or maybe the chance to be a 'founding father' or even the money. But you, Dr. Katz, you are there to make sure we don't end up just a footnote with 'Croatoan' carved into some Mars rock."

"Croatoan sir?" She shifted uneasily as the young chief executive replied.

"Roanoke island, in North Carolina. There was a colony there, in the late 1500s. Then one day there wasn't. There were a lot of theories, DNA research and such, but the upshot is that the lost colony is a footnote. A historical curiosity." He turned to her, with greater purpose, "We're not gonna go that way. We're not going down as the first ones who tried. We're going to be the first ones who did."

"Yes sir."

"Katz, it's not just for the sake of this company, or this country, but for all of us. Humanity. We can't let this New World have attempts separated by centuries. We have to start a straight line, a timeline of humans touching it and never stepping away."

"Yes sir," and then she thought, "sir? If I may ask, why the urgency then, why now?"

He let a breath out. "What I'm about to tell you doesn't leave this room."


"Satellites and human intel on the ground say the Russians are arming their expedition."

"Arming?" she almost whispered, the familiar feeling she hadn't had in years, since back before a battle when she was in the Corps, crept into her stomach.

"Arming. They're not just going to get there 6 months after us," his eyes connected with her, underscoring the stakes, "they're going to try to wipe us out when they do."

The airlock indicator shifted green, and she willed herself to step to the door and release the latch. 2 months, they'd had 2 months on this rock alone, and she'd been sneaking time to get the system online. She was the only one who knew it was there, even if other ex-military had been staffed specifically to use it when the time came. They didn't know the weapon system was there. 4 months. They were 2 months in and in 4 months, if recent history on Earth was any indicator, they would be fighting. 

The click of the helmet release in her hand took her out of the horrible calm she always felt before an engagement. Today she'd put the targeting system through its paces, and sent the data off to Earth to get it analyzed. She'd know then if they had a prayer.

About 23 minutes after she'd sent the communication, after eating and just as she was climbing into her rack to get some sleep, she wasn't sure what sort of reply would be good news. For the system to work would seem like a good thing. But there was a little voice in her chest that wanted it not to. Then maybe they could evacuate. The message indicator gently sounded. Earth had done their work fast, the long message to Earth had been returned with cool concision that made the feeling in her stomach that had started back in that office in Palo Alto grow: "Targeting systems ok."


"Incoming ordinance," the stern concern of the computer voice startled Avocado, "cover cover cover." Then the concussion and sound were more felt than heard. The computer was speaking again, and her heads-up overlay was highlighting in red before the dust settled and she could make out the figures it indicated, they were coming closer. "Recommend fire, recommend fire..." she almost felt the rhythm of the words before her ears adjusted and could hear the threat identification system's repeating suggestion that she shoot the people coming to kill her before they did kill her. She squeezed the trigger, rounds flew away, figures fell. Then her thigh screamed. "Auto-tourniquet engaged, seek medical help immediately." She'd only ever heard it say that phrase before failing one of the simulated missions in drills on Earth. But the dust was red. Like it was already soaked with blood. This was Mars.

She tried to feel for her leg, to assess the damage herself, with her non-gun hand. She couldn't find it. The system repeated, "urgent, get medical help now!" Then an all too human voice cut through on the coms, "my god, they're-" and a thud then a crackle. Her heads-up overlay filled with red and she made out the Russian flag on the faceless figure's gear. Then the muzzle flash blinded.


She jerked out of sleep, and tried to throttle the ceiling above her rack. Realizing she woke up, she smiled a hollow smile. That might have been the first nightmare on Mars. She could have done without being the one who did that first.

© 2014 David August, all rights reserved.

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this posted by David August at 2:38 PM - 0 comments -  

Monday, March 30, 2020

SAG-AFTRA Dues Relief

SAG-AFTRA today announced that it has developed a program to provide dues relief for SAG-AFTRA members during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Under the program, SAG-AFTRA members who are in a position to pay their dues in full are urged to do so upon receipt of their May semi-annual dues bill. Members experiencing financial hardship resulting from work stoppages related to COVID-19 will be granted a due date extension and an installment plan for those payments. As part of that relief, no late fees will be assessed and there will be no adverse impact on members’ work eligibility during this time.

(emphasis added by me, from SAG-AFTRA To Adopt Dues Extension Program for Members Impacted By COVID-19 Work Loss).

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this posted by David August at 1:03 PM - 0 comments -