Posts by Edward Champion

Edward Champion is the Managing Editor of Reluctant Habits.

Audio Drama: “Shadows Have Offended”

We just released “Shadows Have Offended.” This is the seventh and final chapter of our massive epic, “Paths Not Taken,” which takes place from 1994 through 2023 in two parallel universes. This seven part story is part of the second season of The Gray Area. You can follow the overarching story through this episode guide.

This is the most ambitious story we have ever told. It takes place in two parallel universes and follows numerous characters between 1994 and 2023. “Shadows Have Offended” is the seventh chapter of an exciting seven part epic that involves parallel universes, lost love, identity, forgiveness, compassion, fate, fortune tellers, mysterious Englishmen, strange interdimensional creatures named Chester, a wildly exuberant alien fond of hot dogs and Tony Danza, and life choices.

You can listen to the first chapter here, the second chapter here, the third chapter here, the fourth chapter here, the fifth chapter here, and the sixth chapter here.

Here are a number of useful links: (The Gray Area website) (the iTunes feed) (the Libsyn RSS feed) (the Podchaser feed)

For listeners who want to support our show, we have a great deal of behind-the-scenes material available for Season 2 subscribers at grayareapod.podbean.com.

Here’s the synopsis for Chapter Seven:

In the final part of the “Paths” saga, Chelsea and Maya struggle in their forties to keep their relationship alive as they initiate a fateful but necessary Thanksgiving meeting with Maya’s grandfather — a stubborn and “old-fashioned” World War I historian. Meanwhile, the disastrous political trajectory of the parallel universe encroaches upon deeply personal and deeply fatal territory. (Running time: 84 minutes, 55 seconds)

Written, produced, and directed by Edward Champion

CAST:

Chelsea: Katrina Clairvoyant
Maya: Tanja Milojevic
Grandpa: J.K. McCauley
Grandma: Julie Chapin
The DJ: Peter Coleman
Emma: Colette Thomas
Alicia: Elizabeth Rimar
Scarlett: Jessica Cuesta
GPS: Carol Jacobanis
Thomas: Phillip O’Gorman
The Guard: Graham Rowat
Rick: Michael Hisry
The Detective: Phillip Merritt
News Leeches: Pete Lutz, David Nagel, Morgan Corcoran, and Edward Champion
and Zack Glassman as The Receptionist

Additional Voices: Dylan Reed and Christian Caminiti

German Consultant: Vincent Fallow

Sound design, editing, engineering, and mastering by a bald man in Brooklyn who will instantly sing numerous Paul Williams songs if you mention The Phantom of the Paradise to him in person.

The “Paths Not Taken” songs were written and performed by Edward Chmpion

Incidental music licensed through Neosounds and MusicFox.

Thank you for listening!

Behind the Scenes:

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Today I recorded one of the most emotionally intense scenes of the second season with J.K. McCauley, a subtly savvy talent who instantly understood that this character was both very real and hyper real. The man had loads of dialogue — dialogue that is among some of the most hardcore I've ever written. And he soldiered on to my great gratitude. (I didn't want to exhaust him!) But his instincts allowed me to see that what I was really doing with this character is renouncing some part of me I don't live with anymore. The hell of it is that J.K. recently returned to acting after a long absence and offered the most eccentric read out of all who auditioned. He was excellent and different and I am so glad I took a chance here. However, I was a bit alarmed by the recognition and, as grueling as it was to unknowingly hold up a mirror to some dark part of me I didn't know I had to contend with, we still had a lot of laughs. Thank you! #acting #audiodrama #darkhalf #character #truth #art

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This afternoon, the marvelous Peter Coleman, a really good guy who I had the great pleasure of meeting in an improv class, returned to record new material for The Gray Area. You may recall him as the DJ in "Brand Awareness." I will not divulge how he factors into Season 2. But I will say this: when we recorded last time, I got the sense that Peter, who largely plays comedic roles, had A LOT more range as an actor and that there was a serious part of him that I hoped to gently draw out. So I wrote a scene specifically with this in mind, knowing that Peter could pull it off, in part because he is highly specific about context and line meaning. (And in fact, knowing this, I urged him during our session today to push back against my own view of the story, because I also knew that he would have some interesting interpretation ideas. Sure enough, he did!) The result was an instinctively smart and a very moving performance. I did my best to inject more empathy into Peter's performance and Peter, in turn, graciously called me out on my own motivations. These are the types of collaborations I really, really dig. Because being surprised is how we get closer to making something new and different. I'm thrilled and very honored that Peter has been a part of The Gray Area. Thank you so much, Peter, for fitting me into your busy schedule! #audiodrama #acting #motivation #character #recording #instinct #collaboration

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We did it! The incredible @katrinaclairvoyant and I wrapped months of recording this afternoon, finishing up her final scenes in this incredibly epic tale in which she stars. It was, of course, quite necessary to pop open the champagne. There was great joy, a bit of sadness, and, above all, the sense that we had gone through an incredible journey together. I wrote this character with every emotion I had in my heart and Katrina always surprised me every day she came in, finding new angles on this character and always using her instincts to flesh her out further. I cannot conceive of any other actor for this role. My considerable gratitude to Katrina for knocking this out of the park and for her great commitment to this role. This was one of the most incredible and fortuitous artistic collaborations I have had the honor and the pleasure to experience. And I can't wait to see how this comes together. Thank you so much, Katrina! #audiodrama #acting #champagne #character #fun #commitment #real #drama

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I just finished a very quick evening session with @mikey_hizy, who squares off against @ogorman.pp in the final scene of the epic Season 2 story! I met Michael through @lit_karaoke (who ALSO said he wanted to be in this, but DIDN'T return my message when I offered him a role — what's the deal, sir? Are you all talk? 🙂 ) and I was immediately impressed with his fine speaking and singing voice. You can learn a lot about an actor by singing karaoke and improvising with him! I had one quick role that I forgot to cast, but then I thought, "Michael! Of course!" Well, Michael was great. He was the first actor to memorize the lines (totally unnecessary for audio drama!). But I steered him towards his instincts and this was very fun. Thanks again, Michael! #audiodrama #acting #audiodrama #character #barbeque #karaoke #voiceover #recording #session #audio

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Dave Piepkorn: The Stupidest Local Politician in America

It goes without saying that Ken Doll dumb white males are part of a significant epidemic now plaguing America. We can usually tolerate such privileged dunces because they can be laughed out of a boardroom or deservedly ridiculed in a local bar. But what happens when such a hideously arrogant and hopelessly stupid lowlife with an inflated sense of importance presides over vital city affairs? You get a guy like Dave Piepkorn.

The good people of Fargo, North Dakota have apparently decided that Dave Piepkorn, arguably the stupidest man to hold local office in the United States, should continue to serve as their Deputy Mayor and City Commissioner. Dave Piepkorn first came to my attentions on Sunday morning, when a video shared by journalist Aaron Rupar went viral on Twitter.

The video documents an October 5, 2020 meeting of the Fargo City Commission, whereby the dutiful leaders of a city populated by 125,000 people discussed a mask mandate. But the maskless Piepkorn embarrassingly states, in full defiance of the science, that masks are no defense against COVID-19.

“And the facts are I’m just as protected as you are wearing that mask of COVID-19,” said Piepkorn. “COVID-19 passes right through that mask. Isn’t that correct?”

There is then a pause, almost as if the collected attendees are collecting their jaws from the floor, understanding with shock and shame just how much of a putz they have in the number two slot. One of Piepkorn’s fellow commissioners, along with the audience, shout numerous noes.

Piepkorn responds with the haughty smirk of a six-year-old sociopath who has gleefully stomped on a helpless salamander with his sneaker. The meeting is closed for public comment. And then Piepkorn continues, “But basically a virus, it doesn’t — it goes, it goes right through the mask. And so for us to start mandating something that doesn’t work, that doesn’t make sense. And as far as the people…”

There are additional stunned reactions from the crowd that one hears off-mike.

And Piepkorn, who clearly doesn’t understand that the hill he has chosen to die on stands in the face of rudimentary rationale that even a preschooler can understand, then grows imperious. His voice takes on the raised autocratic tone of a twisted Karen using her privilege to ruin a Black man by making a phony 911 call for a purely manufactured offense:

“Okay, here’s how it goes. Once again, if you behave yourselves, you can stay in the room. You’re welcome to. But if you don’t, you’re going to be asked to leave. And if you don’t leave, then the police will escort you out. Is that clear?”

The meeting continues.

“The masks are not effective with the virus. Period. That’s proven. The coronavirus passes through. And so it’s false to tell people that they’re going to be safe by wearing that. And as far as sitting six feet apart, it’s liberty. If you don’t want to sit next to each other, then you don’t have to. You can go someplace else or watch it on TV. Or on the Internet. So thank you very much.”

A few weeks after this meeting, North Dakota has now seen its biggest upswing in COVID infections and deaths in some time. Cass County — home to Piepkorn’s Fargo — is now the second most infected vicinity in North Dakota. And it’s all thanks to feebleminded fuckwits like Piepkorn, who scatter falsehoods into the wind like poisonous seeds permanently sullying a promising orchard.

In short, Dave Piepkorn is the living embodiment of Idiocracy, though with more of an ego-driven tinge than Mike Judge’s characters. He refuses to consider other viewpoints. He refuses to grasp science. He is dense when it comes to comprehending basic facts. He is, in short, a contemptible clod who is better suited to work as an assistant plumber rather than as assistant to the highest local office in the land. And that’s only because no respectable building contractor in North Dakota would ever trust this incompetent buffoon to fix the pipes by himself. It also doesn’t help that Piepkorn’s face is so ugly that he looks as if he’s the secret love child of Charles Manson follower Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Boris Karloff. Honestly, with a visage so hideous, you’d think that Piepkorn would be on the side of wearing a mask, if only to disguise his aesthetic limitations.

This isn’t the first time that Piepkorn has been a clueless contrarian. He has partaken in comparatively more innocent acts of idiocy, such as being the only no vote in a measure back in May that allowed vegetable and flower gardens to be grown on local boulevards. (The measure passed anyway.) And this certainly isn’t the first time that Piepkorn has demonstrated that he has slightly more brain cells than a gerbil. In a September 9, 2019 Fargo City Commission meeting, Piepkorn condemned fellow Commissioner Tony Gehring for not being present during a special assessment task force meeting. Gehring swiftly pointed out that he was then being deployed by the military. “Sorry, Dave,” snapped Gehring in disbelief. But this didn’t stop dimwitted Piepkorn from actually attempting to follow through on this failed gotcha moment after being publicly embarrassed by Gehring. “It’s just ironic that you seem to be, um, very upset about it, but then your not at the meetings.” It’s certainly no surprise that Piepkorn is too dense to comprehend that irony usually happens when the subject is unaware of his actions and does the opposite of what he says he will. And I suppose it’s ironic that a poltroon like Piepkorn doesn’t see the irony in his own failed attempts to point out irony. (Although, if Piepkorn is reading this, that concept may be a little tricky for his bradykinetic brain to understand.)

It’s easy to simply dismiss Dave Piepkorn as some jaunty jackass who is embarrassing the most populous city in North Dakota. But when you place such an unqualified pillock in power, just as if we have seen nationally, there are often dangerous ramifications.

Piepkorn is also a racist whose atavistic words and actions have ignited racially charged violence in the region. One little known fact is that 8% of the Fargo population was born in another country. These people fled to North Dakota from war and devastation in an attempt to build a new life and contribute to the promise of America. But for repugnant xenophobes like Piepkorn, refugees are clearly a scourge. In September 2016, Piepkorn stood in the way of a refugee resettlement program operated by Lutheran Social Services. When not condemning the money going to a nonprofit devoted to helping people who had fled violence, Piepkorn made unsubstantiated racist remarks claiming that Somali refugees were more inclined to commit crime. Less than a year after Piepkorn expressed his bigotry, Somali-American Shuib Ali was assaulted in a hate crime. Moreover, Piepkorn’s opposition to benevolent organizations helping out anyone who isn’t white has resulted in local racists turning into Piepkorn fans, showing their true colors and loudly ranting against Somalis.

Dave Piepkorn is living proof that fatuous and flatulent imbeciles must not be allowed to hold power. Given how much of a local embarrassment Piepkorn is, perhaps the good people of Fargo can restore their city back to good grace by initiating a new recall campaign, ensuring that Piepkorn never holds any form of political office ever again.

EXCLUSIVE! Q&A with The Fly That Landed on Mike Pence’s Head

After several calls to the insect’s publicists, Reluctant Habits had the good fortune of landing an exclusive interview with the fly that landed on Mike Pence’s head during the October 7, 2020 vice presidential debate. We normally don’t pay our subjects for interviews, but, given the newsworthy nature of this get, the fly insisted on a large bag of Domino Sugar before speaking with us. The fly is currently in negotiations with Simon & Schuster for a six figure book deal and has also recently taped a reality TV pilot called Life After Larva for Peacock TV. The fly spoke to us in a strange patois of English and buzzing. We did our best to transcribe the conversation so that humans could understand it.

Why did you decide to land on Mike Pence’s head last night?

BZZZZZ. BECAUZZZZE IT WAS THERE!

You were there for two minutes.

BZZZZZ. YES, THE PENZZZZZZZZZZZZZZE IS A DEPENDABLE STATUE. BZZZZZZZZZZZ.

Uh, he’s a living and breathing human being.

HE IZZZZZZ? BZZZZZZZZ. HE WAS STIFFER THAN THE BRIGHAM YOUNG MONUMENT I LANDED ON YEZZZZZZTERDAY. BZZZZZZ.

Did you detect any signs of COVID On Mr. Pence?

BZZZZZ. BZZZZ. I HAVE LARGE COMPOUND EYES THAT SEE EVERYTHING! THE WHITE HAIR WAS A NICE PLACE TO REST AFTER MUNCHING ON ROTTING CARRION!

You’re dodging the question, Mr. Fly. Although it’s true that Pence’s left eye was notably pink.

BZZZZZ. TWAZZZZZZ INDEED. YET STILL NOT AS APPETIZING AS THE RAT I FEAZZZZZZZTED ON IN THE BACKROOM WALLS OF KINGSBURY HALL. BZZZZZZZ.

Wait a minute. I thought they sanitized the place to prevent infection.

BZZZZZZ. WE FLIEZZZZZZZZ CAN GET IN ANYWHERE. MUCH LIKE OUR FRIEND THE COVID-19 VIRUZZZZZZZZZ. NOT EVEN PLEXIGLAZZZZZZZZ WILL STOP UZZZZZZZZZZ! BZZZZZZZZZ!

You’ve spoken directly with the virus?

BZZZZZZZZ. WHY YEZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!

Wow. Why didn’t you land on Kamalas’s head?

BZZZZZZZ. SHE WAZZZZZ NOT INFECTED WITH MY FRIEND THE COVID VIRUZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! BZZZZZZZZZZ. ALZO, SHE HAD A SOUL! BZZZZZZZZZZZZ. ALZZZZZZOOO, YOU FOOLISH HUMANS HAVE IT BACKWARDS! YOU CATCH MORE OF UZZZZZZZ WITH VINEGAR RATHER THAN HONEY. BZZZZZZZ!

Do you feel bad about distracting the American public from the real issues of this very important election?

BZZZZZZZ. NOOOOOO. THERE ARE SO MANY OF MY BROTHERS AND ZIZZZZZZZTERS. MORE OF UZZZZ THAN YOU. IT’S ABOUT TIME YOU PAID ATTENTION TO UZZZZZZZZ. BZZZZZZZZZZ.

Has celebrity changed you, Mister Fly?

BZZZZZZZ. MORE DECAYING FRUITS AND VEGETABLES TO ZPREAD MY ZEEED! BZZZZZZZZZ!! THE BEGINNING OF WORLDWIDE FLY DOMINATION! BZZZZZZZ!

You’re getting a tad megalomaniac there.

BZZZZZZZZZZ. WE ARE NO WORSE THAN YOUR FASCIST LEADERZZZZZZZZ. SUBMIT TO UZZZZZZZ NOW, HUMANZZZZZZZZZ!

Alright, here’s the bag of sugar.

Audio Drama: “Too Hard a Knot”

We just released “Too Hard a Knot.” This is the sixth chapter of our massive epic, “Paths Not Taken,” which takes place from 1994 through 2023 in two parallel universes. This seven part story is part of the second season of The Gray Area. You can follow the overarching story through this episode guide.

This is the most ambitious story we have ever told. It takes place in two parallel universes and follows numerous characters between 1994 and 2023. “Unfound Door” is the fourth chapter of an exciting seven part epic that involves parallel universes, lost love, identity, forgiveness, compassion, fate, fortune tellers, mysterious Englishmen, strange interdimensional creatures named Chester, a wildly exuberant alien fond of hot dogs and Tony Danza, and life choices.

You can listen to the first chapter here, the second chapter here, the third chapter here, the fourth chapter here, and the fifth chapter here.

Here are a number of useful links: (The Gray Area website) (the iTunes feed) (the Libsyn RSS feed) (the Podchaser feed)

For listeners who don’t want to wait two weeks for the next chapter, we also have all seven parts (as well as a great deal of behind-the-scenes material) available for Season 2 subscribers at grayareapod.podbean.com.

Here’s the synopsis for Chapter Six:

Back in the original universe, Scarlett and Alicia contend with another version of Chelsea and conjure up a plan to get the two Chelseas back in their respective universes as they face the danger of a seemingly innocent benefactor gone rogue. (Running time: 24 minutes.)

Written, produced, and directed by Edward Champion

CAST:

Chelsea: Katrina Clairvoyant
Alicia: Elizabeth Rimar
Scarlett: Jessenia Cuesta
Jan Swillson: Ingeborg Reidmeier
and Zack Glassman as The Receptionist

Sound design, editing, engineering, and mastering by a bald man in Brooklyn who holds open doors for people just before he enters a happening establishment.

The “Paths Not Taken” songs were written and performed by Edward Chmpion

Incidental music licensed through Neosounds and MusicFox.

Image licensed through Getty.

Thank you for listening!

If you’d like to support this independent audio production and learn more about how we made it, for only $20, you can become a Season 2 Subscriber! You’ll get instant access to all episodes as we finish them — months before release. Plus, you’ll get access to exclusive interviews and more than 400 minutes of behind-the-scenes commentary! Here are some behind-the-scenes photos and videos pertaining to this episode that we made during the more than two years of production we put into the second season.

Behind the Scenes:

Why Donald Trump Deserves No Sympathy: The Case for Popping Open the Champagne If He Drops Dead

Donald Trump has tested positive for COVID.

I wouldn’t mind if he dropped dead.

Let be more specific in case the Secret Service has flagged this article and some dutiful bean counter is now adding my name to a list. I do not possess a homicidal bone in my body. I have no interest in hurting or assassinating anyone. I am not threatening the President’s life. I am merely stating my opinion that, should the President expire of the very virus he stubbornly failed to control and that killed so many people, I’d probably sleep much better at night and chuckle over the poetic justice.

To further clarify the nature of my opinion: If I learn that the corpulent moronic mass of Donald Trump drops dead in the next month from COVID, I will take the chilled champagne out of the fridge without hesitation and pop it open, watching the cool parabola of bubbly goodness explode from the bottle just after the cork shoots into the air like a wild projectile that has been waiting four years to demonstrate its resistance to gravity. I will probably grab my guitar and sing “Born free, as free as the wind blows” very loudly out my window. I may even bust out the confetti and some party blowers. I will then probably dance naked in my living room, blasting Rage Against the Machine at top volume, and paint my body all sorts of exciting colors. Based on some informal text canvassing of some sleepless friends, I am far from alone in my methods.

Why would I do this? Because this is how I celebrate liberation. This is how I celebrate being released from grief. Let us not forget that all of America has been held captive by this brutish bully for almost four years. He’s had so many opportunities to be presidential, to be an eloquent leader who the people can look up to, even if they disagree with him. He has botched them all and he has demonstrated that he will never change or apologize. I’m sick of the stupid neoliberal belief that we can’t play dirty. With Trump, it’s self-evident that the normal rules of schadenfreude do not apply. There is nothing shameful in denouncing this monster. If anything, it’s an act of patriotism.

Why is it so bad to express this? Why should the measure of goodness involve believing that all people are worthy of commiseration? Sure, most people are. But Trump is not most people. As the writer Zito Madu declared on Twitter, “It’s always insufferable when people see the true test of their kindness as extending public sympathy for the worst people who have spent their time on earth being cruel to others.” Don’t give me the Christian malarkey that you’ve never once wished for bad things to happen to bad people. I mean, I’d probably give you the sideeye if you spent most of your time doing this rather than doing good work and being good to other people. But if you’re a normal person, I guarantee that you’ve probably stewed over some son of a bitch who burned you earlier in the week, an ogre who made your life a little more hellish during a time in which patience is increasingly a hard-won virtue. Perhaps you chose — wisely, I might add — to hold your tongue and not react to the transgressor and focus on the positive. Life is all about how we choose to react. Even so, it is a perfectly justifiable reaction to rejoice if Trump dies. Remember: We’ve had nearly four years of this.

Some may argue that this makes me a bad person. But it doesn’t.

The number of people who I want to die can literally be counted on one hand. Believe it or not, I tend to be kind and respectful towards other people. But Trump falls into a category of animalistic slime that defies all known human classifications and thus excludes him from the virtually universal privilege of being given clemency or the benefit of the doubt. At the end of the day, you can still have a conversation with a cop or a gun nut or someone who leans to the right. But with Trump, you clearly cannot. This man is a boor and a bully and it’s this very personality quality, this incurable narcissism that a troubling cluster of Americans believe to be a virtue, that has inspired dangerous public health policy decisions that have contributed to the deaths of 209,000 people.

Trump effectively sentenced these people to death. He was more efficient than the NKVD during its notorious Polish Operation of 1937-1938. More people dead than the East Timor genocide. More casualties than the Greek Civil War of the 1940s. It’s a staggering number that will likely spill over the casualty count in Darfur. And it only took six months for Trump to do this.

If that doesn’t fill you with red hot rage, I don’t know what to tell you. What people often forget about angry people is that they are often angry because they believe in a corresponding set of positive virtues. In my case, my unshakeable anger towards Trump is driven by my unwavering faith in democracy, of returning to a nation in which we can actually have conversations with each other again.

My great desire to see the most dangerous fascist in America disappear permanently from public life is predicated upon all the goodness that I see from everyday people. In short, I want the American experiment to continue. It won’t under Donald Trump. His removal from office or this earth, whatever fate decides first, will surely be one of the 21st century’s most awe-inspiring achievements.