Friday, December 31, 2010

From the The Things You've Made

It’s the end of the year, so I wanted to put some kind of a gift or offering out there to show my gratitude for all the wonderful people in my life and my many blessings.  Unfortunately, I’m the kind of guy who prefers cash.  But my wife and kids keep telling me that homemade gifts mean more.  I’m coming to learn that, much of the time, they're right.  So I’m taking a risk and putting something out there that I made.

This year I was commissioned to write a new musical.  This is the first song I wrote for the show.  It’s appropriately called “From the Things You've Made”.  I recorded the demo in our living room.  I had fun strumming my cheap guitar, playing the fiddle, and I even did the vocals.  (The story is set in pre-Civil War America, but I channeled a bit of a British Isle’s accent since the story is laced with immigrant characters.)  So download it, put it on your “Favorites” playlist and enjoy.  But above all, I hope you find comfort from the things you’ve made, whether in the year past or the year to come.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Want to Surf Like Abraham Lincoln

“Lincoln is truly the most progressive man of the age, because he always moves in conjunction with propitious circumstances, not waiting to be dragged by the force of events or wasting strength in premature struggles with them.”

I’m reading Team of Rivals, a biography by Doris Kearns Goodwin about Lincoln and the political rivals he brought into his presidential cabinet. It’s a light, 754 page (not counting the appendix) beach-type book that I thought would be fun. And I have not been disappointed. But for some reason this quote really captivated me. To compare Lincoln to a surfer, I would say, ‘Lincoln knew how to catch a wave’, and I admire that about him.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What if My Kids Never Write a Hit Show?!

Courtesy of
Dear Readers,

This started out as a long winded Facebook status update, but apparently it's 1,111 characters too long.  So, here it is:

I just watched the West Wing episode last night about trying to fix Social Security, and it got me thinking.  (Unlike most television out there.)  My parents will be retiring soon and rightfully collecting their well earned Social Security.  (Love you, Mom!)  And I'm glad they will get to enjoy this benefit.

That said...

I'm fortunate because I will be writing or producing a hit show (or both) that will set me up for life.  But for anyone else not in those circumstances, what is the impact of paying a substantial percentage of your income--calculate the totals on your pay stub next payday--into a knowingly broken program that will not be there for us or our children?  (At least I'm not banking on it.)  Think of all the IKEA furniture you could buy.  Think of all the Apple stock you could buy.  Think of all the startup capital you'd have for a business.  Or all the overpriced college tuition you could pay.  Shouldn't there be a law against something like that? 

Now I believe what Warren Buffet says:  "Taxes are the price we pay for living in a civilized society", but if Social Security were Social Security Inc., I'd be curious to see his valuation of that company.  Would he buy, or invest?  Becuase that's what all of today's income earners under the age of 60 are doing.  Part of me wants to "withhold rent" to gently persuade some congress and some president to find a solution.  (Sorry, guys.  You asked for the job.  Ball's in your court.)  Of course that would land me in some kind of white-colar-civil-disobedience prison with the likes of Martha Stewart, but I'm willing to take that kind of a risk.  But I'm not willing to risk my kids' futures.  What if they never write a hit show?

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Nantucket: Flying into the headwinds.
I had the good fortune this past week to direct a theatre project out on Nantucket Island, off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Between the rehearsal and the performance I went for a run on the beach. Hurricane Igor was wreaking havoc over Bermuda and Nantucket was feeling the spin-off effects of the high winds. As I ran down the beach I couldn’t help but notice the seagulls who were making the most of—if not thoroughly enjoying—the high winds. As someone who loves the wind, whether it be sailing, kite flying or just driving with the windows down, I could relate. But here’s the cool thing: the seagulls would take 2-3 casual steps into the window and the next thing you knew, they were lifted skyward.

I couldn’t help but think about the connections between headwinds on the beaches and in life. So often I try to fly perpendicular to the wind and end up getting blown off course or crashing. Sometimes I just hunker down in the sand and try to wait it out. But I believe that if we face the wind and angle our wings just right, we can soar. But we need to take the two or three steps in the right direction that will help us launch.

I took this picture on the north shore of Nantucket. The interesting thing is that all the seagulls were holding still in the air. They peacefully rode out the hurricane spin-off and used the strong winds to gain altitude.

What are the headwinds of you might be facing?
What angle are you flying at?
What are the two to three steps that you can take into the wind?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Power of Doing Nothing

So I recently took a trip, and while traveling I learned an unusual lesson:  The Power of Doing Nothing.  As a fairly ambitious, no-nonsense, highly motivated kind of guy, this was a surprise to me.  One of my challenges in life is I feel I almost always have an agenda.  Not necessarily a hidden agenda, or a bad agenda, but just some specific goal in mind.  My focus is that goal.  I will not be distracted.  Even worse, I will not be bored.  I do not like to waste time.  My kids know this.  My wife knows this.  So when I discoverd The Power of Doing Nothing, it was completely by accident.  Here's how it went down:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How to Be a Kid Again

This past week I attended a home school conference at a small private college in the beautiful, rolling hills of the Shennandoah Valley.  There were several interesting classes, and I met some fascinating people.  Yet for some reason, one of the bits that has most stuck with me was a short children's book I just happened to peruse after a 30 minute presentation on teaching math to children.

I've never been particularly interested in calculaing the circumference of the earth, or even math for that matter (I primarily work in theatre), yet I found myself leafing through "The Librarian Who Measured the Earth."  Not exactly a riveting title, but by the time I got to the end (~16 pages), I was captivated.  Using a well, a long stick and the sun, Eratosthenese (born in North Africa over 2000 years ago) was not only able to measure the distance to the center of the earth, but also accurately calculate the circumference of the earth. 

As technology improved, his calculation held up, and it turns out he was accurate to within 200 miles.  Not a bad margin of error considering the earth's circumference is 25,000 miles.  So why was I so interested?  I guess because this was such elegant thinking.  It showed true ingenuity and resourcefulness; attributes I would like to cultivate in myself and my children.  And I liked the author's dedication:

"To all the children who dare to ask questions and continue to wonder."

It makes me want to be a kid again : )

Monday, April 26, 2010

9 Cells, 1 Show, 10 Questions.

Nine Cells Floating - by Tricia Rose Burt
I was pleasantly caught up in Tricia Rose Burt's story the first time I heard it.  I had received the DVD in the mail and finally had a chance to watch it late one night while on a trip visiting family.  The next day I told my wife she needed to see it too. 

After hearing Tricia's story, I found myself asking important, searching questions about my own life, creative career and general life plans.  However, I was asking these questions in a light, freeing way. Nothing oppressive or discouraging here.  A sign of good art in my opinion.

After returning to NYC, Tricia and I were introduced through a mutual friend and have since had an ongoing dialogue about creativity, art and many of the life-factors that impact creativity.
So with Tricia performing her one woman show in NYC this week, I thought was a perfect time to pepper her with some questions and share with you a little about the artist behind the art.

Tricia Rose Burt in "I Will Be Good"

Creative Conversations 
Tricia Rose Burt:

(Visual/Performance Artist)

1. How would you describe your creative work?
My work deals with transformation. I create works using ordinary materials in unexpected ways – masking tape, tea bags, ceramic figurines. In my one-woman performance, “I Will Be Good,” I chronicle how I unexpectedly transformed myself by going to art school. My world became entirely different.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Three Poster Bed

This song literally came pouring into my head one night and kept me up until I had written the whole thing.   Again, recorded on the fly in my living room.  I have my dad to thank for the inspiration.  He helped me build my three poster bed.  Happy Birthday, Dad!

Click here to download the song
© Erik Orton, 2010.  All rights reserved.

Don't miss the thought provoking question-of-the-day at the end of the lyrics.

If you'd like to be notified as I post more tunes and tales, please subscribe up above on the right. And feel free to share with your friends.  The tunes are free.

Here are the lyrics:

One day a dream popped into my head
How life would be with a three poster bred
So I hummed and hawed.  Ooed and awed.
And out popped a plan that was a bit odd.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In Between

Here's a little song I started writing at work and finished writing at home.  I like how it turned out.  I hope you do too.

In Between  <--click here to get the song

I had to record it fast, because I only had about 20 minutes of peace and quiet while Emily had the kids outside at the park.  Nothing's quite as fun as making music on the run! 

Here are the lyrics:

Got into work
Tossed down my bag
Got a drink 
And I stowed my things
I looked outside 
At the rain
I settled in
Then I looked down

There on the floor
You're little plane
A little scratched
And a little worn
But it had wings
And there's a sky
And made me think
There's so much more

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Currency of Creativity

So I came across this video while doing research for a project I'm working.  Love it!

Creative Heads  <---- Click me, click me!

(scroll down a bit to see "Creative Heads", unless you want to watch the intro video at the top)

Okay, so it's a bit of an add for a competition, but I'm okay with that.  It makes me forget my fears and makes me want to go to work and create something awesome.  My favorite bits: "failure is the currency of creativity" and "good is the enemy of great".  I think it takes a lot of failure to get to good, and then even more to push on through to great.  That's what I think.  Would love to hear what you think.

Which leads me to something I've been moodling about:  you.  Yes, you.  I want to hear from you.  Why? Because you're interesting, talented, fascinating and amazing.  I may be contacting you, but you can contact me too.  (Stop looking over your shoulder.  Yes, I'm talking to you.)  What do you have to say, show, tell, think, share?  We want to learn from you.  Why?  Because we're interested in you...    I'll look forward to the conversation.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Long May You Run

I was struck by Neil Young’s performance at the Olympic closing ceremony last night.  This mega-international-worldwide event, a massive stadium full of people, four criss-crossed obelisks with flames coming out of them as the Olympic torch, and this one guy--an old guy--with a beat up guitar and a harmonica, a creaky voice a song that truly said something, “Long My You Run”.  I’m sure he didn’t have the Olympics in mind when he wrote it, but it is great because it has endured.  It has taken on various meanings throughout the course of its life, and at the Closing Ceremonies, it cut through all the hype, clatter and clutter and went straight to the heart: the bobsledder who passed away, the athletes who won, the athletes who did not win, the history of the games, the future games in Sochi, the encouraging words to keep going in whatever it is that we are pursuing.  To keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Here are the lyrics

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why We Got Up Early to Go to the Movies

The alarm went off at 7:30am.  Pretty early for our household.  Showers, clothes, hair brushes, rubber bands (the hair kind), cereal, milk, shoes, socks, house keys, car keys, hats, gloves, bag-o-baby-stuff for Lily, stroller, coats, movie tickets. 

Photo by Corbis
Movie tickets?  Yes.  Movie tickets.  Today our family was waking up early to go to the movies.  Specifically, an opening day screening of Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Lightening Thief.  This was serious business.  We were not messing around. 

Earlier in the year we were downtown and saw a billboard for said movie.  The kids went bonkers.  We stopped right there and then, took photos with the billboard in the background.  The countdown was on!  “When is President’s Day Weekend?” they asked.  “Sometime in February,” we responded.  We’d tuck that away for later.  For now it was hot, we were hungry and it was time to get back to our air conditioned car and drive home.

Well, summer turned into fall, fall turned into winter, and winter turned into President’s Day weekend.  By this time our children had finished reading the whole Percy Jackson series.  (I’d heard the first 100 pages or so read aloud on a car trip.) They’d seen all the movie trailers.  They knew all the stars.  Our two oldest had started a pod cast comparing the trailer to book.  The only question that remained was, “When can we see it?”  I was ambivalent.

Friday, February 5, 2010


So here's the song I wrote in the Albuquerque Airport:


I recorded it in my living room a few nights later after I'd gotten back to NYC. It was late. Traffic was quiet outside, Emily was reading a magazine and the kids were asleep.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

3 Things I Learned from Being Kicked Out of the House by My Wife

I wasn't going to go.  My film was being screened at the LDS Film Festival on Thursday night, but I'd vacilated too long.  I didn't want to take more time off from work.  Our daughter's birthday party was that weekend.  Airfare was now fairly expensive.  But my wife, Emily, emailed me at work:  "Just go.  I'll send you pictures of the birthday party.  There's high inflation on regret.  Buy a ticket and I'll see you Sunday or Monday.  I love you."  So I bought a ticket Wednesday night at 8pm.  8am the next morning I was taking off from LaGuardia on my way to Salt Lake City.  (She even got up at 6am to give me a ride to the airport.  That's love!)  Here are some things I learned on my way:

1.  Don't fight it.  Let the magic happen.
2.  Everyone uses the bathroom.
3.  Mellow music makes many things possible.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jam & Dreams

We had our friends, Cole and Aubrey Carter and their kids, over for a little afternoon jam session in our living room. We had a blast strumming, remembering parts of tunes, making up tunes and ultimately discovering some hidden gems. Aubrey and Cole were kind enough to share with us a song they'd written many moons ago, called "The Stalker Song." We were fortunate to hear the premise first. Feel free to listen in either order:

Now that you've had a chance to listen to something that hopefully made you smile (we certainly had a good laugh), here's something that will hopefully make you cry.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Warm Up

Okay. Here's my warm up post.

It's confession time: online publicity freaks me, just a little bit. I have a Facebook page. My friend, Doug, talked me into it. I've regretted it ever since. I visit it about once a month. A recent post from a high school friend said, "You don't get here much do you?" I never replied.

I have another blog: I intentionally kept it "anonymous". If you go there, you'll see a picture of me...wearing a helmet with the faceshield down. Like the Night Rider of Blogging. Okay, maybe more like Darth Vadar. But I digress.