Live Active Cultures

Things to do in Orlando when you're unemployed: Last week, I began my fantastic voyage into an exciting new frontier where many, many have gone before: the land of unemployment. I'll still be writing for Orlando Weekly — I'm referring instead to my former full-time job as an IT consultant to the county we call Orange, from which the steady paycheck had heretofore subsidized these scribblings. For homeowners, myself included, who were pleased by their plummeting property tax assessments, I'm living proof that public budget cuts have casualties.

Anyhoo, after 10 years and two months of knowing what I'd be doing for five days a week (give or take the odd vacation or hurricane), I now find myself with an extra eight hours a day on my hands. While my natural inclination tends toward sleep and Xbox, those get old (and smelly) after a few days. Here's a report on my best efforts at finding cheap ways to force myself out of the house.

No. 1 — Read a book. Hey kids, the downtown library isn't just for homeless people. The 67 Books project — another product of performance artist Brian Feldman's endless imagination — proved the locale safe for the likes of philanthropist Harriett Lake, whose designated hour of Salinger's Catcher in the Rye was the 27th outdoor oratory of this week. In celebration of National Library Week (April 11-17), Feldman recruited enough volunteer readers to cover the downtown Orlando Public Library's entire operating schedule. Unlike Mrs. Lake, who stayed seated on firm ground, the rest of the readers were raised via scissor-lift to the top of the entrance overhang, across Central Boulevard, from the third story of the parking garage.

I volunteered for an hour and was slotted for noon on April 15. As reader No. 42, it would have been apropos to read some Douglas Adams, but instead I picked Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. I chose it because it's a smartly written specimen of speculative science-fiction, filled with devilish digs at Disney cast-member culture and released under the Creative Commons license allowing anyone to download it for free. (I read off my iPhone.)

Besides a balky microphone and a spritz of rain, I'd say my reading went well. The handful of people below who paused to listen appeared to be appreciative, and I managed not to Mr. Magoo my way off the parapet to the pavement below. After I was replaced by Naarah Clarke's rendition of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, I took a minute to check out the library. The Z-Cafe restaurant in the lobby has a wall-length menu (both veggie and carnivore) at reasonable prices, and the selection of foreign and TV series DVDs is second only to Netflix. Once I have to cancel the cable, this may become my second home.

No. 2 — See free art. Another month, another Third Thursday, another opportunity for complimentary crackers and crudités. CityArts Factory's main feature was the Christ School's MOMA show of elementary students aping modern art masters. (Insert your own "my kid paints better than that Pollock guy" crack here.) The Neu American Art Gallery hosted Yow Dance, which reprised routines that also will return in its upcoming Fringe show.

Outside in the Daily City: Mobile Art Show truck, Jeremy Seghers has already assembled the prizes for next month's Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival's 2010 Audience Choice Awards. The prize artworks come from a wide range of local artists, including Morgan Steele, Lisa Dunlop and Anna McCambridge. My favorite is an animatronic Frankenstein that Jack Fields cobbled together from cannibalized toys. Fun fact: Half these awards will go to Fringe shows that (as of this writing) aren't even close to being finished yet.

No. 3 — Have some tea: I like nothing better than good tea. It's hard to imagine what I'll do when I can't afford my soothing pot of herbal goodness. But when I stopped by Dandelion Communitea Café late Thursday, I got an eyeful with my cupful. UCF Digital Media graduate students Jillian Perez Dudziak, David Moran and Gary Seymour Jr. had set up their multimedia project Connections behind the teahouse. The installation involves an inflatable white sphere onto which 360 degrees of video was digitally projected. Gusty winds kept the balloon from its full 10-foot potential (a flaw they hoped to fix by the Audubon Park Community Market on Monday night), but I was still impressed how it replicated the essence of Universal's expensive "Cinesphere Spectacular" show on a shoestring.

Thanks to custom code, the transportation-themed video loop was overlaid with live texts sent from attendees answering the question "What moves you?" The answers I saw probably weren't what sponsor SunRail had in mind, but the technology has a ton of potential.

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