Wednesday, December 31

Wunder Boner: "My wife would sure love one of those!"



I hope you all get a wunder boner in '09.

Thank you.

Thank you, family and friends.  You always believe in me... even when I (1) have a hard time doing it myself and (2) give no signs of having anything to believe in.  You fill me will joy and hope.  You make the world a beqautiful place to be.

Tuesday, December 30

Time waster

I'm waiting on some downloads playing Super Obama World, which is pretty awesome.

Track, Trig, Tripp

Bristol Palin had her baby.  Named it Tripp.  Apparently the Palins believe firmly in TR names for boys.  

By request...

Here's the thing.  I know that my brain doesn't quite function in this reality.  It is some where else a large portion of my days.  It's often hard for me to find ways to get those thoughts and images out into this world.  That's one reason why I like gaming.

When gaming the other night, I realized that a play stronger than I do on stage.  That's ridiculous.  I need to channel that energy and intensity.  In part is the difference in goals.  Gaming is LONG long form improv.  It's not trying to make the next minute and a half entertaining but make the story mean something.  But there is something there.

I'm going to the Jersey shore for New Year's.  I'm very happy with that choice.  But I need a sleeping bag in case I end up on the floor and not in a bed.  I'm fine with sleeping on the floor.  I also need gloves.

I am debating going to the gaming store to look for 10+ year old books.  I don't need them but I am realizing that there are so many bits and details that I have forgotten.  I could just make them up myself I suppose.  But the next chapter is going to be hard to balance.  I need to introduce the characters to the world and how the world works and how different factions think the world works.  The players should feel that their way is right and true.  (Not "right as in "just" but "right" as in "best.")  And it needs to be convincing and, most importantly, rich.  The more I can flesh it out the better.

Maybe that is my improv problem.  I have always had a problem with specifics in scenes.  Although I am obsessed with pop culture, it is often in broad terms.  I never remember lyrics to songs or the names of bands or actors.   I immediate jump to grand ideas and thoughts.  I can flesh out a world of entirely making without problem.  I can even share that creation process with someone.  But when an audience is not in that world, when they are observing it, specifics can be great to make it so that they can relate to it.  

I'm not quite being clear.

My relationship with my body is a complex one.

I am either too disconnect to the world outside or too connected to it.


The Cool, Refreshing Tatse of Tentacle Rape

Tentacle Grape, the caffeinated grape soda.  Actual product.

"This new beverage, inspired by the genre of adult Japanese animation called Hentai, is a perfect caffeine rush for gamers, cosplayers, and comic book fans."

I was about to qualify that, while it is a real product, it is also tongue in cheek... but that phrase is too close to the topic.

(via Kotaku via Bent)

Good reads


After playing "When will UPS drop by today?" for three days, I received a lovely collection of comicbooks yesterday (thank you!).  I of course dived in pretty quick.

The Umbrella Academy written by Gerard Way, art by Gabriel Bá.
Darn fun.  Gooky.  Goofy.  But dark and moving.  Reminds me a lot of Doug TenNapel's work.  And very very pretty.  Your basic superhero team story.

The Alcoholic written by Jonathan Ames, art by Dean Haspiel.
One of those heart breaking works.  Very funny and truth full.  Ames is a regular at The Moth (in fact I am pretty sure I saw him there 3 years ago) and it shows.  

Both are great.

Sunday, December 28

Another attempt at the ol' gamin'

Last night I ended up starting another game, for better or worse.  I am hoping that I am structuring this story/attempt in such a way that will be easier to keep going.  (1) It is less ambitious in scope (at least to start).  The last one, the large meta-plot was main driving plot, which meant there was a ton of balancing of how information got delivered to the players.  Inthis case, I am making it up as I go along.  I had no idea what I was going top do until I hear the characters.  Today I have some theme ideas and such.  Luckily most of the beginning story would be just self-discovery, which hopefully means that the players and I get to discover the story together.  (2)  The setting is pulled much closer from the source material.  The last one was such a massive mish-mash of sources that I ended up creating so so much.  Which I enjoy, but it makes it hard to pull things out thin air.  And seeing as this is set in a gaming world I spent many many years in, I know it forward and backward.  (3) Because it is a world I adore and miss and am curious about what it is like 7 years later, it is a fun way for me to explore it again.  It's kind of like the new BH90210.  It's a bit like the story I told with Liz and Erin playing werewolves where I looked at the affects Silvertongue was having on the world.  (Yes, that last sentence made no sense except to about 6 people.  And if any of the those 6 people end up in NYC, I might have you do a cameo.)  (4) It was hard to do the last game because there felt like there was a need to follow almost every waking moment of the characters... and their lives where very tight interwoven.  This has more freedom to one-on-ones and such.  Because, more than anything else, it was the juggling of schedules that killed the last one.  (Okay,  it isn't dead.  It is just hard to look at since I know it is anywhere from 10 to 20 sessions from complete.)

Anywhozits, its fun to watch people play for the first time.  And its fun to see new people stumble in to the shadows the NYC I knew before I ever moved here.  Besides it gave me an excuse to play Hedge again.

When my bias shows

I was scanning google news and I read the title of this article as "Rich people will soon thank Bush."

Who watches the Watchcats?


This immediately made me thing of the book The Mouse and Child.

(via Arboath)

Saturday, December 27

Why I don't carry a gun

I don't advocate shooting people for talking during movies but I do understand the feelings.
Phila. man shot because family talked during movie
My favorite part is definitely:
"After exchanging words, Vanore said Cialella allegedly got out of his seat to confront the family when the father got up to protect them. That's when the victim was shot once in the left arm, sending others in the theatre running to safety.

Cialella then sat down to watch the movie."
I would also like to point out to people out there that texting or even checking your phone can be as distracting as talking.  When I'm sitting there and suddenly in the corner of my eye there is a sudden flash of white light... I start reaching for the weapon that I am luckily not carrying.

Forward looking

Listening to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me on NPR this morning, I've been reminded on another reason why I am glad we'll have a President Obama.  The episode was a clip show of election related material, both from this year and years gone by.  The last third was a series of Obama segments.  And, god damn it, it's nice to have a Head of State that has a good sense of humor.  Not a simple jovial, one of the guys humor, but a good natured cutting cynical humor.  Self-depreciating and sharp.  (Yes, I will say it.  He is someone I would actually like to have a beer with.)

Two highlights that stood out:
• When during the campaign, a young reporter showed up at an Obama event.  He had brought along a young woman he wanted to impress.  Obama mistook the reporter for a student and then proceeded to make comments about how baby faced he was.  The reporter wrote that Obama had ruined his chance with the woman.  Obama called the reporter to apologize.

• When Obama was an actual guest, he was discussing how the drawers in the desks in the Senate had the carved names of all the Senators that had sat there.  When they made jokes about vandalism and such, Obama joked that he thought about doing it with spray paint... you know, being the only black senator and all.

Friday, December 26

Unpardoned

Here's my feelings about the weird rescinding of the Presidential pardon yesterday:
There are three possible reasons this happened, none of which are good.

(1) The Whitehouse didn't vet Isaac Toussie and he never really deserved a pardon but they were too clueless to realize it. They weren't doing it because of donations but realized after flag were up that he shouldn't have been pardoned. So they were passing out pardons with no real checking.
(2) They gave the pardon BECAUSE of the money and influence even though they knew it was undeserved and stopped only when caught.
(3) He deserved a pardon (at least in the Whitehouse's eyes) but they took it back when it looked like it was because of the money. Meaning a man they believed should be pardoned isn't.

So, yes.  Whacked no matter how you slice it.

State Quarters: The Critique

Years ago, I started to review the aesthetics of those state themed quarters. I haven't given it much thought since then. But I just noticed Montana's which made me realize that perhaps it was time to cover them in more detail. Then I realized that they all have been released now that Hawaii is out there. So I am going to tackle them year by year is a series of posts.

1999
Delaware

About as dull and traditional as they get. Oh-so-colonial. Given that they chose to celebrate Caesar Rodney... Wait a minute. Who the hell is Caesar Rodney? Oh, right signer of the Declaration of Independence. How very New England of you, Delaware. Anyway. Given that they chose to celebrate Caesar Rodney, they placed him on a horse... which makes him so tiny he could be anyone. Okay, fine. Then put the horse the least attractive position possible. A horse just standing could have been majestic (perhaps alluding to Rodney's position as President of Delaware during much of the Revolutionary War). A horse running could been exciting (playing off Rodney's military position during the war). But they froze the horse in that awkward all legs forward pose, making it appear the horse is about to fall on its ass (calling forth allusions to Rodney's poor health).

The phrase "THE FIRST STATE" makes Delaware out to be an internet forum poster on Ain't It Cool News. "F1RST!!!1!!"

Grade: D+

Pennsylvania
A bit of a yawner. I do appreciate the quarters that utilized the smooth blank cleanness of the metal. What we get here is the classical image of the statue that sits atop PA's state capital dome. (Note: The ribboned mace symbolized "justice." It comes from the old saying "May justice be swift as a ribbon dance.") It's at least a nice image. The composition holds up with the addition of the state outline... which many quarters ended up doing... which I find ridiculous. If you are trying to celebrate your state, is the 'shape' the best you can do? Especially if you are basically a lumpy rectangle like PA? "Come to Pennsylvania! We've got a nubbin in the northwest corner!" As said, it the state shape at least had a nice composition what with the lady centered and all... until they cluttered it up with (1) the Keystone and (2) the words. I realize the Keystone is PA's grand symbol and all but in this design it looks like it was slapped on after the fact by a committee. It also makes it look like an product packaging button, as if it should say "NEW & IMPROVED!" or "NOW WITH MORE FIBER!" I appreciate the motto or whatever of the "Virtue, Liberty, Independence" on the right except that those are the such boring hyper USA mottos. Yeah yeah. I realize they are cliché American because PA was right there in the beginning. It is like saying "In the beginning" is a clichéd way of starting the Bible.

Grade: C-

New Jersey
While the composition lacks a bit, the over all simplicity and directness is excellent. Chose a recognizable image (Washington crossing the Delaware River) and don't clutter it up much. And "Crossroads of the Revolution" is much catchier than "The First State." What bothers me about the composition is more of an issue with the size of the phrase. Made slightly smaller it wouldn't dominate the whole image... although it would make an awesome album cover the way it is. I might have not kept the unconnected chunk of ice below the right end of the boat. It looks like a random dump in the river. Sidenote: I'd guess that if you asked most folks what they first thought of when they thought about Delaware, they'd say this image of Washington. Of course Delaware couldn't really have used it on their coin since it was about Washington crossing to fight on Trenton, NJ, and then Princeton. Sucks to to be Delaware.

Grade: B+

Georgia
Okay, Georgia gets points for getting away from the historical. But let's first discuss the motto. I love that they illustrated it instead of just using whatever the quarter font is. The ribbon is a bit hard to read and looks like it should have two doves holding it up, but they at least went a different way. I also like "Wisdom, Justice, Moderation" for being so nicely pragmatic. "Smart, fair and not too extreme." The live oak springs don't do tons for me but it is the first quarter to utilize the circular nature of the medium. Georgia also when with the state shape thing ("Look! We have a nubbin in the southeast!"). Yawn. Now to the central image: The peach. Admittedly, it is the first thing I think about when I think about Georgia. (That or Atlanta... which immediately makes my thing ting of the Atlanta Olympics... which makes me think of Richard Jewell... which would probably be a poor choice of quarter image.) There's not much you can do with the image of a peach. The problem is the similarities to a well formed rear end. It does not come across greatly just looking at a picture, but when you have one of these coins in your hand and can see the raised gentle slope and the sharp cleft... Anyway, may be the most erotic of the quarters. The over all effect of the design is a bit slapped together.

Grade: B-

Connecticut
This as always been on of my favorites. Simple, dramatic and uses the form and medium extremely well. The Charter Oak has an interesting story that most people don't know. Its shape fills in the circle. The fine work of the branches creates a fascinating texture in relief making it more than just image (and doesn't invoke butts). It doesn't try to do too much. No slapping on of the state motto (which is "Qui transtulit sustinet" - He who transplanted still sustains... okay, I definitely understand why they didn't). Great quarter.

Grade: A

Wednesday, December 24


I actually remember seeing this.  I had fond memories of it.  Just goes to show that... hell, I have no idea what that shows.

(via Wonkette)

Xmas Eve in the P.Heights

Just kickin' back in at Soda Bar in Prospect Heights.  Had a very very tasty lamb burger.  Tomorrow I am making my way to Hoboken, Nj, and then a train to Pearl River (which may or may not be in NY) to have Chritmas dinner with Katey and Nicole and Nicole's family.  Should be levels of adorable that one can't find outside of a puppy farm run by kittens.

I hurt my shoulder yesterday.  I have no idea how.  Feels like I slept with my right elbow tied to my left ankle with a 12 inch piece of barbed wire.  (Okay, no real reason for the barbed wire.)

I am definitely enjoying seeing people I know in movie trailers.  Take a look at I Love You Man.

Since I had to get a new hard drive for my lap top, I am trying to put ONLY the things I want onto the new drive from the old one.... Man, I collect a lot of digital grabage.

Happy for...

...successful surgeries.

Not happy for...
...unexplained shoulder pain.

Tuesday, December 23

Happy Holidays... sigh

This is about as much enthusiasm as I can get going this year...


(via Arborath)

Thundercats

Fan made. Fun to play spot the movie they grabbed from, Nice top see that the Garfield movie finally has a reason to exist.


(via SMARTARSE)

Celebs slumin' but smellin' good

Maybe this happens every December and I just miss it but there seems to be a LOT of A -list celebrities in commercials this year.  This used to be such a no-no (at least on American tv).  Of course all the ads are arty looking weird perfume ads that celebrate their celebrity instead of exploiting it.  Okay, that may be a very thin, basically non-existent distinction.   The old wisdom was that doing commercials would taint the image the the personality.  Perfume ads tend to be flattering and 'stylish.'  Like a classy magazine photo shoot.  Also, since perfume is a smell which (so far) can't be presented even in HD, you never actually have to see the celeb actually use the product.  In fact perfume ads usually fall into the format of "Beautiful person looking mysterious and sexy... and then 2 seconds of a funky shaped bottle named after an adjective."  So perhaps the allowable displacement between product and personality makes it all okay.

But I do wonder if this is yet another sign of the economy going to crap.

Monday, December 22

Cake Wrecks

This site has been getting a fair amount of coverage but it might has well get more.


Unrelated, the table behind me is playing cards.  I miss playing cards.  Oh Hell anyone?

Prospect Heights

I adore my neighborhood.   I plan to spent more time here.  Join me.

Things the make me cringe

Okay.  I'm back.  While I can't say I have gathered a bunch of experience in the last month+, there are tons of things that have made me fearful (most of which are tv related).  Here are just a few.

• I am pretty sure The Secret Millionaire is the worst possible sign of where the world is right now.  Emotionally exploitative.  But, hey, it plays off the dream that someone will hand you $100,000.
• Burger King's Whopper Virgins ads is probably the other one.  I have NOT watched the web ads.  I am waiting for the "We placed starving 3 orphans in a room a Whopper and two loaded guns" ads.  However, Flame by BK makes me laugh.
• While we're talking about fast food ads, the wedding cake made I've seen recently.
• Snow and ice.  Actually snow is fine. I don't mind shoveling snow.  Ice however... oh, so much suck.
• I saw The Day The Earth Stood Still.  All I learned it is the the tunnels under bridges in Central Park can safe you from anything (also learned from Cloverfield).
• I also saw Quantum of Solstice.  It was not as horrible as I was led to believe.  The over arching story and the thematic points were the right ones to hit.  In effect, it and Casino Royale are one movie, telling how Bond becomes the asshole that he is.  And there are a lot of little moments I loved.  Too bad they blew it overall.  And I honestly can't remember on single action set piece except in the terms of "there was that chase in cars... and I think something with boats."  And (SPOILER) the final fight in the burning/exploding hotel in the desert... "Hey, we should have a scene in an exploding and burning hotel or something.  Let's just say the place runs on fuel cells... that way ONE runaway car crashing can cause the whole place to blow up."
• Why I insist on watching reruns of CSI Miami is beyond me.  Horatio Cane is the worst written/performed cop since... God, I can't come up with something.  Normally, police procedurals have a goofy cliché pattern (see Law & Order) but they really out do themselves on CSI:M.  H.C.'s scene ending one lines aren't even on liners.  They're just random silly threats. "Well, officer Cane, I didn't even know that girl."  "Well, you will."  What?

• On the other hand, my insomnia has shown my Da Vinci's Inquest (in NYC on at 1:30am Mondays on ABC).  Very (and wonderfully) Canadian police procedural. So so Canadian (reminds me a lot of Minnesota).  So low keyed.  For example, passive-aggressive apologies by the police during interrogations.  Last nights episode opened with a ten minute one-shot on the street... in a mild wet rain.  Imagine being an actor delivering 10 minutes of dialog on the street (covering many topics but mostly rants on public surveillance cameras) while slowly having your trench coat get soaked.  Pretty amazing.

Anywhozits, good to be back. 

Saturday, November 22

Things

1) I have great friends.
2) I stalled out on Nanowrimo at around 30,000 words. The story just died. Or any interest I had in it.
3) Improv is hard. And easy.
4) There are things I hate about myself and things I love. Sometimes one overwhelms the other.
5) I often wish I knew how to open up myself. But I don't.
6) I should realize by now that crying during Wife Swap is a sign that I am going through some stuff.
7) Casablanca is over rated. Still good, but over rated.
8) Sometimes the simplest things can turn me around. In this case it was a deeply honest question about my well being.
9) Falafel for 2.50 at 2am is a godsend. God bless NYC.
10) I owe so many apologies I don't know where to start.

Friday, October 31

NaNoWriMo '08

So NaNo starts tonight at midnight.

I went to the kick-off last night and it was packed solid with folks bursting with creative juices. Which is both exciting and a bit gross.

I am still unclear what exactly I'm going to write about. Vague ideas, issues I want to work out, blah blah. Absolutely no plot in mind. We'll see. Actually you all will see because I am going to set up a separate blog where I am going to post it as I write it. It will be a mess. My plan is to post every couple of days and to link it here.

I started playing Fallout 3 and am so far blown away. There is something very moving about walking a wasteland Washington D.C., listening to oldies on my Pip-Boy, trusty hunting rifle on my shoulder. I also hate fire ants. And Super Mutants. I of course will have to put the game away for November. Sigh.

Anywhozits, have a snazzy Halloween and all that jazz.

Thursday, October 30

McCain Ads Directed By Hollywood




(via Katey)

Synecdoche, New York

I finally made it out to see Synecdoche, New York last night.

Let's be clear. I love Charlie Kaufman. Back in '97 or '98, a friend in Minneapolis handed me a script. It was stamped with some studio's logo in read ink. Looked all official and everything. My friend said, "You have to read this. Messed up." I did read it. It was messed up. It was also amazing. Beautiful and distorted and twisted and weird. With in 5 pages I remember thinking, "This is unshootable. Or at least unsellable. I love it."

It was Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. This was at least a year before Being John Malkovich came out.

Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind is still one of my favorite movies.

Synecdoche, New York is now up there too. It is far from perfect but that doesn't matter. It is ambitious in a way films hardly ever are. The last film this ambitious that I've seen was The Fountain. I really liked The Fountain but its ideas where SO large that the whole thing turned into a tone poem. The Fountain was about image and Ideas with a Capital I.

Synecdoche manages to stay grounded. Because it is telling a simple story (the 2nd half of a life). But it explores the very fact that you can't explore just one life because every life is connected to other lives... which are connected to other lives. But it doesn't get lost that concept. It finds a simple analogy for that point (or points – One, that all of us are connected and affect others and, two, that you can't tell the truth of any life because of point one) and just plays it simply. Or as simply as works in Kaufman's mind.

In his previous scripts his weird ideas (a tunnel into someones body/soul, a machine that erases memories, a man writing a script that becomes the script that is being shot) have always been analogies that become the larger hook of the stories. The characters respond to the fact that the ideas are weird and surreal (at least at first). Synecdoche is different. Oh, it is surreal (sometimes just surreal for surreal's sake which would be my one criticism), but it is rarely called out by the characters. Perhaps Kaufman, directing for the first time here, decided to remove the anchors for the viewers. Pure (or almost pure) analogy in form without feeling the need to explain it away.

Time and space and identity is fluid here but it always is in film. One reason I love it so much is that so few films use the medium to portray that which cannot normally be seen in life. And I don't mean space ships or whatever. I like films that do something new. A Scanner Darkly, Sin City, 300... all flawed but at least they tried to do something new, and I appreciate that.

I want to discuss the themes but I also don't want to tweak it for anyone. If you want to see it, you should decide what it means for yourself. It's one of those movies I can't recommend to people because it is TOO much MY aesthetic. "If you are exactly me, then you'll love it. I have no idea how anyone else would feel about it."

Tuesday, October 21

Salad of Doom

I haven't been writing much because, well, the stuff I've been think about is none of you business.
On Sunday, after class, I ate from Dave B's salad. I used his fork. I kind of pride myself on not being scared of germs and such which has done me pretty well. It doesn't appear that I spend and time being sick than anyone else. If anything I am sick less.
BUT I shouldn't have eaten that salad. Dave has been sick. Monday morning I woke up and my body felt like it had been placed beaten by a two-by-four all night. My legs were like jello. I drank some water and climbed back into bed. And slept. All day. Eventually I woke up and was sort of functioning from 6pm 'til 11pm (thanks to Excedrin) and then collapsed again.
On the other hand, I feel fantastic today. Not sick at all.

Not Waving But Drowning

I was at this event on Saturday. I was pretty awesome... and insane. I can't do it justice with words. Here's New York Magazine's take.
Most importantly is that it was a release party for Not Waving But Drowning's new CD, Any Old Iron. You should get it.

Friday, October 17

Bjork Explains Television. Sort Of.

Bjork explores her television and is, well, adorable.



"You shouldn't let poets lie to you." Indeed.

(via claspy)

Wednesday, October 15

Friday, October 10

For these times: Duck Soup

A Dog + 150 Balloons & A Monkey + A Black Belt




(both via Nothing To Do With Arbroath)

The Weekend

This will probably be yet another long weekend.
Tonight drinks and dinner with the 'rents and then birthday drinks (not my birthday, silly).
Tomorrow there is brunch and errands. And then at 10pm I'll be in Bad Data's Bad Date IV: The Book of Shadows at The Creek & The Cave (10-93 Jackson Ave Long Island City). I'll be in Buffy-prov playing The Host/Lorne. There will also be Law & Order-prov and X-Force-prov. It's free.
Sunday is yet another day o' improv. There is a System Error show at The Parkside Lounge with Thank You, Robot and LD & The Scientist and Ghostfight at 8pm on Sunday. It's also free. You should go. I can't because I'll be in class.
So very little posting will happen.

Wednesday, October 8

Erotic Fiction: The Wizard's Staff

WARNING: Extreme language, visuals, uncomfortable moments, repeated use of the word "c*ck."

This is part of a series.

(via Morrissey and Fist Fighting, Mostly)

Kota

If this think actually walked while you were riding it... Well, not you. Max weight is 60lbs..


(via BotJunkie via Gizmodo)

Tuesday, October 7

Mirror's Edge

It's hard for me to get actually excited about video games these days since so many just are "same old-same old." This one has me all a twitter though. FPS have gotten pretty stale. If the gameplay is actually good, this is gonna rock my tiny world.

Crazy Naked Spaniard in Japan

Posted almost entirely because the photo is so great.
Short version is a crazy naked Spaniard (only important because I love the phrase "crazy naked Spaniard") jumped in to the Japan Imperial Palace moat.
Oh, and the video is pretty frackin' awesome too. Especially as he terrorizes boats with rocks and climbs up rock walls like a pudgy naked Spider-man.


(via Tokyo Times via Boing Boing)

Deconstructing (pt. 2): Better To Give Than Receive (actually, both are great)

(Continuing from pt 1.)

One of the liberating things about this opening (and the form that follows) is that it is a free pass at endowing yourself and everyone else with stuff to play.

Normally, openings tend to interpreted pretty loosely. This is by design. You want to surprise the audience and yourself. You take bits and pieces and themes from the opening and then explore, riff, whatever off them. Part of the magic of improv is the discoveries that happen during a show. It is something that the audience and performers get to share at the same time. They aren't sure who you're going to use the opening and neither are you.

This form, because you are drawing so directly from the opening, makes that harder. Everything is played much closer. (I'm going to discuss the difficulty and freedom this causes in a later post.) But because things are played closer it does allow you to do something which is semi-frowned on in most improv... but can also be so so fun.

Pimping. (In improv, for those few readers who don't know, pimping is that act of forcing your scene partner to do something. The classic example is handing them a 'book' and saying, "Read this poem out loud." You have now forced your partner into making up a poem on the spot.)

Now, this is true pimping. It is more endowing. Because you know that if you mention a one legged French ballet dancer who sells knifes door to door in the opening someone on the backline is going to play the one legged French ballet dancer who sells knifes door to door, it can be quite fun. Once I realized this, it took some of the pressure off the opening for me. I knew whatever I said was going to be something for someone else to put on. Of course this heightens the fact that you don't want to explore anything to deeply in the opening. If you paint to main details about something/someone in the opening, it gives them nothing to explore later. If you describe the whole 'game' of a character in the opening, there will be nothing to be discovered when we finally see that character. (And if you spend too much time on one thing, you'll not have enough time to get out other things for other people to play.) Again it is such a gentle balance.

Not unique to this form but perhaps heightened by it, is the "I Want That!" syndrome. When on the backline during the opening, you hear something that appeals to you strongly, you suddenly think "Oh god. I want to play that!" You of course have to keep listening but you jam it into your back pocket. Now in most openings, I jam a handful of things into my pockets and am all set to bring it up whenever I need to. But because the ideas from The Gossip opening can be so strong I find myself being, well, selfish. I want to jump out with the one thing that most appeals to me as quickly as I can... before anyone else can. This is good (because you are excited about the gifts that are being given to you) but so dangerous. Besides it just being greedy and not so supportive, it can also screw the pacing of the whole piece. If there is one idea that is clearly so fun and so good, you probably want to save it for a few scenes in. The audience probably keyed in on that idea too. It is probably strongest in their mind right after the opening and they want and expect to see it. If you go straight to it, you are just giving them exactly what they expect. But if you wait, it leaves the from of the audience's mind and becomes exciting when it finally does show up. One of those keys to comedy is to get the audience to expect and anticipate something and then not give it to them until they don't expect it. Giving them that moment of "Oh yes! I remember that!" is so much better than "Oh yes. I knew that was next."

But something else I realized is that you need to take care of yourself. Because the characters in the opening end up (just by the nature of it all) being the center of the world (although they might not be the focus), they will (most likely) come back in the body of the piece. And if you don't give yourself something you want to play, you are screwing yourself. This is hard because you are trying to NOT play game in the opening, a character game might not get developed at all. So, especially early in the opening, giving you something strong to grab on to is just watching out for yourself. But of course, you don't want to play it strongly during the opening. You want to leave something to explore later on. An example from my previous post is the touching thing. It gave me a strong character trait. When I was called off the backline and put into a flash back scene of having my boss/lover over for dinner with my wife, I immediately started touching both of them. I knew exactly who I was and what I was thinking and what I was doing.

I tend to be pretty shy about endowing myself. I'm more comfortable supporting others with moves. Heck,one of my problems is playing game so hard and straight that there is too little discovery. I think I'm getting better. With this form (especially the opening, either in it or on the backline) I feel like I am being set free.

Excited for no real reason

I was just watching (again) the crappy cell phone video of the TR2N teaser from ComiCon. It brings tears to my eyes. I get this way about certain movies. I felt this way when I first was the teaser for Lord of the Rings. But I also felt this way when the teasers for Phantom Menace came out. I should know better by now.

But Tron is so darn ripe to be brought back. And that shot of Jeff Bridges... come on! If you were an eleven year old boy in 1983 it is hard not to get all twittery.

Monday, October 6

SenSlip: Get your foreskin on!

Did your 'rents clip your skin? Feel like you're missing out on the experience? Viafin-Atlas has the fix for you. I mean, they are "the world leaders in the manufacture of artificial foreskin for circumcised men." Isn't that a bit like saying you're the world leader in making top hats for ferrets?*

This whole thing immediately made me think of the movie Europa Europa.

From the "Ladies Page":
Have you ever bought your man boxer shorts, only to find that he cannot wear them as they make him sore? When wearing the SenSlip, boxer shorts or underwear made from any material is no longer a problem, as the SenSlip protects the most sensitive part of his penis from friction caused by movement. Just think how many women get ‘Joggers Nipple’ caused by movement of their breast against their clothing, now imagine the extra movement at the end of the penis - OUCH!
Note to ladies: I would avoid buying SenSlip as a Christmas gift. I just can't think of a way that would go well.

Look, just be grateful I didn't link straight to the video.

(via Mr. Gibson via Boing Boing)

*I wrote "top hats for ferrets" just as something that there would be little competition for. Later I realized it sounds like a euphemism for foreskins.

Deconstructing (pt. 1): Create More, Explore Less

This post will be rambling and probably insanely boring to non-impov people. (Chances are that it will be boring to improv people too.) This is at least me third attempt at it but each thought leads to a new thought and by the time I get three paragraphs in and I end up contradicting myself. But I do love thinking about this stuff and my brain has been pretty fixated on this topic for the last two weeks. Writing/discussing about it helps me process my thoughts which actually helps me get out of my head when I am actually performing. Anywhozits, enough with the qualifications. I should just get on with it.

(Off topic, the radio just mentioned that Disneyland was closed last night for Miley Ray Cirus's birthday. Yes, I wish I was her. Just this once.)

Background: Right after I finished my last 501 class (which was one of the great classes of my short improv life), I started a 600 class. 600 classes are kind of the master classes at UCB. They focus on a specific thing or form, often something new the teacher wants to create or explore. It is the same teacher as my last 501 (who I adore because I think she "gets me"). The 600 is filled with great performers, most of whom I have know of for a long time but never have had a chance to play with.

I went into the class not having very clear idea what the form was going to be. (I had a guess that was completely wrong.) It is a form of deconstruction... sort of. It is almost a reconstruction. No, that's not the right word either. One of the big problems with discussing improv (as is the problem with discussing most art) is that the vocabulary is so slippery. Very little is concrete form person to person, place to place, time to time. Hell. I don't want to get too deep into what it is because that might spoil some of the fun for those who see it. But I want to talk about some of the ideas behind it.

One of the cool/difficult things about the way we are doing this form is that it involves breaking a lot of the "rules" that have been drilled into our heads. Of course there are no rules in improv. There is often structure (which can also be broken).

(A lot of 600s are about learning new tools and skill sets but don't actively break any of the previous rules. Forms like The Documentary or The Movie are different forms that give you different styles and editing tools with which to play (and does brake the "avoid plot/narrative"). Other 600s like the phenomenal Raw Harold was about really removing all the rules. This 600 has moments that remove some rules and tweaking others but staying very true to others. We are being given a lot of freedom with which to play... which means you have to be so more diligent about certain other things.)

But there are things that are trained into you that are make it easier and smoother. For example, "Don't talk about things not in the scene." You want to make the scene about the present. Simple enough. Who wants to watch people talk about what the crazy night they had last night or what they are going to do tomorrow or that weird guy done the street. You want to see those things on stage. Of course, you can have very funny/engaging scenes with people talking about other things... it is just a lot harder to do well.

The opening of this form is specifically breaking that rule. You want to talk a lot about other people and things. You want not get stuck on playing the game of the scene because that will stop you from getting information out for the rest of the piece. I took a workshop with Matt Walsh during the Del Close Marathon this year. The best thing I took away from it was a simple sentence, "Create less, explore more." Basically, find that information and stuff in those first few lines and explore those. Don't keep adding new vaguely related stuff. But here we have to do a five minute scene, layering more and more info, never delving to deeply into anyone thing. It goes against one of the base instincts we have had imprinted into our brains. In someways it become the reverse of that rule: "Create more, explore less."

While difficult to shift gears, I am finding this aspect so rewarding. In my head I am creating new little rules in my head, new ways to think about the doing the opening scene. The idea is to paint the world around the people in the scene. Step one (like any scene), is to establish where you are and who you are to each other. The where is important. Not just "we are in our living room" but where that living room is. Is it in a New York apartment? A suburbs? A farmhouse? Those are all questions you should be asking in any scene but here it is even more important. And once you know who you and your scene partner(s) are, just start painting that world around you. Who would these people know? Who would be important to them? Who would intrigue them? The teacher calls the opening the Gossip and for good reason. Who would they talk about and why would they talk about them?

Normally, it is important to me to figure out my view point through specific emotions and actions. But this becomes some what secondary. But I am finding that is okay. Given five minutes (which is actually a life time in an improv scene), you can take your time and figure out who you are through who you talk about. I like having that time and discovering things indirectly. Once I realized that, it suddenly became easier to think about. (I'm not saying I'm doing it well yet but I think I am starting to get it in my head.)

I've established a bit of a pattern in my head. Establish where we are by environmental work and who we are to each other. (I still need to get better at naming people... I am bad at that.) As soon as we are done with that, start talking about other people. Right away. Don't worry about finding something important about us in the scene. That will come. Once someone has been mention, give two or three things about them. Just yes-and. If your scene partner mentions the new pet shop down the street, immediately think about pet shops I know or what pet shops make me think of. "Oh, yes. I walked in there yesterday. Jenkins, the owner, sure seems to specialize in exotic reptiles." Doesn't matter what it is. Yes-and once or twice then move on. That is hard to relearn but I'm starting to get my brain to do it "two, three facts and drop it." From there it is to A to C off of who we are, where we are, or what what has already been mentioned. For whatever reason, I think pet shop, I picture a barbershop next to it. "I so need to get my haircut but I swear that my barber is trying to cheat me." Or when I think "reptiles," I think of people who are scared of them. "Speaking of snakes, my sister still hasn't recovered from that time she got lost in the Reptile House at the zoo." Or go to the environment we're in. Maybe my scene partner has gone to the fridge. "Oh, by the way, I gave the last of our eggs to the neighbors. You know how hard it has been on the Dickersons since Fredrick lost his job at the paper mill."

The hard part for me has definitely been to not play any game that has popped up. It is so ingrained in me that if I see a way to play something already established to not come back to it. For example, last night I was doing a scene where we quickly discovered we were a married couple and I had recently told my wife that I had always been gay. We had a few mini-games very early including the fact that I was touching her gingerly but a lot. It was so difficult to get away from (1) that very loaded and emotional relationship and (2) that mini-game. We had, in any other case, everything you needed for an easy and fun scene to just play. But we needed to give info for the body of the set. We (well, mostly my great scene partner) would quickly add more things/people in the world, but almost everything was presenting a way to play the game we'd established. I actively had to keep steering myself away from it.

One lesson I took from that scene, is that you can play those mini-side games (like the touching) but you can never fixate on them. They can help ground you and give you something to do but you can't comment on them more than once. And you can save any game you find for the scene for later. When you feel you are getting closer to that five minute mark and feel you have laid down a lot of stuff for everyone else to play with, it can give you something nice to give the backline something to edit you on. For example, last night I realized that has the scene went on I was becoming more comfortable being gay around my wife and I just said, "Wow. I am become more gay by the minute." (Yes, not the greatest game. Just an example.) And we were edited.

Okay, this is already too long and I haven't come close to everything I want to say/am thinking about. So I added a "pt. 1" to the title. Later (when I get time) I will discuss...
• In the opening, endowing yourself with something strong. • Pimping the entire backline, or why it is better to give than receive. • Playing specifics but not plot. • Laying game, playing game, discovering game. • The easiest from of connections ever: Mix and matching characters.

Chairlift "Bruises"

I love 80% of this song. Simple and sweet. Especially the lyrics. And then the end just loses me. (And, yes, this is the song from the Nano ads.)

I tried to do handstands for you
I tried to do headstands for you
Everytime I fell you on yeah everytime I fell
I tried to do handstands for you
But everytime I fell for you
I'm permanently black and blue, permanently blue for
you

You-ooo etc...
For you-ooo etc...
So black and blue-oooo etc...
For you-ooo etc...

I grabbed some frozen strawberries so I could ice your bruisy knees
But frozen things they all unfreeze and now I taste like
All those frozen strawberries I used to chill your bruisy knees,
Hot July ain't good to me
I'm pink and black and blue

I got bruises on my knees for you
And grass stains on my knees for you
Got holes in my new jeans for you
Got pink and black and blue

Got bruises on my knees for you
And grass stains on my knees for you
Got holes in my new jeans for you
Got pink and black and blue for

You-ooo etc...
For you-ooo etc....
So black and blue-ooo etc...
For you-oooo etc....

The Institute of Official Cheer

"Humiliating the defenseless past since 1996."

A nice collection of random stuff from the past, mostly ads and bad comic. Great large scans. Here are just a couple that struck my fancy.
Mor, the Spam pretender. To quote from the commentary, "When you have to put "wieners" in quotes we're really talking about a level of meat so far removed from actual meat it's almost abstract."
Camels, the cigarettes for athletes. This add likes to push the idea of chain smoking. To quote from the ad, "A feeling of well-being comes after a good meal... and plenty of Camels."

(via PapaSix)


Everything's drawn and super 80's

The only thing that would make this better is an Altered States reference at the end.
See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Saturday, October 4

Cleaning up

I'm going through the "What I'm Reading" (my blog rolling list) and removing some that haven't been updated lately (as in months). I am trying to add new ones I'm following. Nothing to exciting. I apologize to those that got the boot. Nothing personal.

To keep you entertained, here's a video of a pig doing stuff.

Sick?

I may or may not be sick today. To be honest, I think it is just gas. Yes, I'm farting a lot.

To make myself feel better I'm looking at Star Wars inspired art. Then I'm going to finally get around to watching Spaced.

Hopefully I will feel better for tonight. A.W.'s birthday and then Fat Penguin's anniversary/Fwand reunion show (115 MacDougal Street, 10:30pm, $5). Don't want to miss that.

I farted three times while making this post. Sigh.

Friday, October 3

NaNoWriMo & Omens

While I was writing my first novel for NaNoWriMo, I received a phone call from my friend Jake. He delivered the news that someone I had dated for a short period of time had died on an overdose. (I blogged about this back then.) The point being that I had been writing for a few weeks about regret and death and ends. I'm not saying that her death was a sign. Heck, she'd died a year and a half before I heard about it. But perhaps Jake's call was. Or I at least took it as one.

I just this week decided what I want to write this year. Stories and dreams and memories and beginnings. Today I get a Facebook message from a woman I dated back in 1989-1990. She's been looking through old, old papers and found a file titled "Tales to Sleep." My memories of that file is pretty slim and vague. They were short stories I wrote for her. Specifically to be read out loud to help her get to sleep. Bedtime stories. Fairy tales of sorts.

She wrote me to ask if I wanted copies (if I didn't have any, which I don't). And to tell me she was going to read through them to see if any her son might like to hear in the future. She's been married for awhile now and her son is one. The idea that those stories were all but lost but now have been rediscovered and might be read by/to her child fills me with joy. The whole concept of the stories and their rediscovery fits right into what I want to write about. Eerily so.

And I am taking it as a sign. The NaNoWriMo muse is definitely looking out for me.

Macks


When the federal prison system banned smoking in 2004, prisoners had to find besides cigarettes to use for barter. They settled of "macks" or cans/pouches of mackerel. Seriously.

The Wall Street Journal article "Mackerel Economics in Prison Leads to Appreciation for Oily Fillets."

Something to think about in these trying economic times.

(via Boing Boing)

I'm Just A Bailout Bill

The voice is dead on. Link.

(via Ross Bergman)

How to win by not losing

(via Wonkette)

Lil' O'Reilly



(via Fred Garvin)

For dad

The My Little Pony Project

(via Eliza ala gChat status)

(Bonus points to Eliza for pointing out to Gov Palin, "
You know Goose dies, right? Goose dies.")

Spore without intelligent design

Darwin@HOME is a project that uses idle personal computer power to do a whole lot of simulating of artificial life. (Much like SETI@HOME uses that power to sort through radio data from space to see if any of it is from, well, aliens.) They started with simulating something simple: locomotion. How to walk. How to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible.

Plans are to expand it into a competitive world. Getting food. Hunter and prey. The good stuff. So a lot like the early stages of Spore but without the meddling human input.

(via Kottke via Boing Boing)

(Warning: Boing Boing has quite a few interesting things posted this morning. I try to not make this blog just a Boing Boing reposting site... today I expect to fail.)

Thursday, October 2

Tonight! On TV!

In prep to watch the debates, I turned on the tv early. The channel was already on Fox. And on Hole In The Wall.

Um, yeah.

The contestants where three women from Rock of Love and three women from Flavor of Love. Let me tell you, some classy tv. And early commentary from the host after one woman succeeded in fitting through a martini glass shaped hole: "This is probably not the first time Amber has gotten on her knees for a martini." Super classy.

On the other hand I wish I could play this the next time I was drunk. It's like playing a human-sized version of Perfection.

Later I realized I missed Jerry Van Dyke on My Name Is Earl. The Dick Van Duke Show is still perhaps my favorite sit-com and Jerry was always a favorite character. Can't say I was a huge fan of him on Coach.

The debate was actually pretty interesting. Neither screwed the pooch, but of course the bar had been lowered so low for Palin. It was going to be a success for her if she didn't have to break out a Magic 8 Ball for her answers. Biden was pretty straight forward and concise. Palin has learned that if you don't know the answer to a question, just answer a question that wasn't asked.

I am glad I decided not to do the drinking game. I am pretty sure Biden decided people might not be drunk enough near the end and said "maverick" eight times in one answer.

I am interested to see FactCheck tomorrow. I am pretty sure Palin kept getting the name of the general in Afghanistan wrong. Not that any of that matters to 99.9% of the population (on either side).

Palin v Biden. Now with less booze.

I got pretty drunk during the first Obama/McCain debate. Sadly, the VP debate is on a Thursday so not getting wasted for me tonight.

At first I was more excited about this debate (the way on gets more excited watch amateur demolition derby that the Indy 500), but I have a feeling there won't be any huge flubs. The format is to geared to pat short answers and will have very little follow up. There just won't be as much chance for disasters. Sigh.

It has been mentioned that Palin is the comedy gift that doesn't stop giving. I was going to post some of 1000's on Palin related internet crap... but Wonkette beat me to it and did it better. So just go there.

Wonkette.com
.

Analytics

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I was linked to to a few popular sites. First was Fark.com. From that Preston and Steve and then Boing Boing. Getting linked by Boing Boing made me particularly happy considering the amount of stuff I get from there. Yes, it wasn't for anything I wrote or created. It was a video of a crab riding a jellyfish. But traffic is traffic.

Looking at the stats are a bit depressing.
It looks like the blog didn't exist before Tuesday. 40 to 80 hits a day get a bit washed out by the 11,000+ hits. And of course very very few of the visitors looked at any page beyond the crab/jellyfish. Over the last three days, A Crab Riding A Jellyfish has been visited 15,263 time. The main page has been visited 404. Needless to say I'm expecting to be back o 40 to 80 visits by the weekend.

Ah, the internet.

Stories

I think I've stumbled upon what I am going to write for NaNoWriMo. The inspiration came from a weird place, as ideas often do. I was on the subway the other night, attempting to read. A lone empty 20oz. plastic soda bottle (most likely Sprite but hard to confirm since the label had been torn off, leaving just the white remnant scraps that are usually left) was rolling back and forth through out the car. Just enough fluid remained to make it's journey and trajectory erratic and unpredictable. It was late and no one in the car cared to be bothered by the bottle as it made its travels to and fro. Occasionally a passenger, when confronted by the vessel rolling up to them like a cat begging for attention, would kick it away or try to nudge it under the benches in vain hope that it would remain there.

For some reason I spent a fair amount of time that bottle and the people. I began to think about how it is pretty and odd and playful and how everyone was all but pretending it didn't exist. I pictured the scene, describing it in my head. And then, for no reason, I thought, "The pooka next to him fiddled with his Nintendo DS, tiny fox claws making tik-tac noised on the buttons."

The whole idea is still being fleshed out in my noggin. It is a world idea I kind of like. Nothing very original. I plan to treat it a bit different than I've seen before. Kind of Alien Nation meets War for the Oaks. Honestly not all the different in tone from the books I've written before... except probably more marketable. Somehow my biblical revisionist New York romantic comedy horror genre wasn't setting the lit world on fire.

Anywhozits, there is still a month left before November. Plenty of time for me to change my mind or to realize that the idea is shallow and totally lacking subtlety.

Wednesday, October 1

Jesus Use Me

From the pretty amazing LP Cover Lover site. This could be another improv form (the site, not "The Faith Tones"... although I take dibs of that has a team name).

(via Boing Boing)

Temptation of Neil/Neal

I went to the bookstore yesterday. Neil Gaiman and Neal Stephenson both have new books out. Two of my favorite authors. Joy of joys. (I really wanted to call this post "The Two Neals" or "The Two Neils." I tried a version of "The Two Neials" but it really didn't make any sense.)

Gaiman has finally published The Graveyard Book which has yet another story that I wish I had thought of first – Boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard. It's like The Jungle Book of the Dead. But I have long come to terms that any clever idea I have will have been thought up by Gaiman first.

Compared to Gaiman's standard sized book (320 pages), Stephenson's Anathem is a beast (960 pages). It also defies easy description. Something about the far future, math monks, immortality, god I don't know what else. I have long come to terms that I could never come up with Stephenson's ideas.

I bought neither. I am still reading Infinite Jest. I am loving it but it is a work out. It is hard to read Jest "casually." I am trying to really pay attention this time and not skim over the more difficult sections (like, say, 10 pages with only half a dozen punctuation marks). It would be very easy to "take a break" and read something else... but then I'd never get back to it.

Sigh. Well, at least I have books to look forward to in 2009.

Tuesday, September 30

The Merciless Pepper of Quetzalzatenango

Chef dies after eating 'super hot' chili.

Andrew Lee, 33, challenged his girlfriend's brother to a contest on September 19 to see who could make and eat the hottest sauce, London's The Times reported.

The forklift driver from Edlington, West Yorkshire in England, made a tomato sauce with red chillies grown by his father, but after eating it suffered intense discomfort and itching.

Mr Lee went to bed and asked his girlfriend, Samantha Bailey, to scratch his back until he fell asleep.

When she woke in the morning he was dead, possibly after suffering a heart attack, The Guardian said.

(via Boing Boing)

1) I really like spicy spicy food. Oddly, it was easier to get super spicy in Minneapolis than in New York City. There was a place there where you could ask for "1 through 5" (1 being bland, 5 being coma). I usually had 4. One day my friend Matt and I got into machismo "I want mine slightly spicier than his" thing. That was the first time I felt ass-burn on the other end.

2) My dad and I would do this machismo thing in the past. We have both gotten over it.

3) My dad once bought peppers at a Mexican market in L.A. for salsa. The type of peppers you need to wear gloves to handle. I am not speaking with hyperbole. The pepper juices got into his skin and stung.

4) Back in the early eighties, before everyone was eating sushi, my mom brought be a big thing of sushi to school for my birthday. My friends watched in fascination/horror as I ate raw fish. One kid asked what that green stuff was. I said, "Avocado. Go ahead. Take a big bite." He did. It was wasabi. I still thing it was funny.

5) This was the same kid who decided to crush up Zots ( the center of which are a bit like Pop Rocks but more fizz and less pop) and snort them.

6) To add sweetness to a chili at a chili contest, my father once decided to use marshmallow as the "secret" ingredient. My father also once tried to / did feed a marshmallow to my sister when she was a baby.

7) The Guatemalan Insanity Pepper episode of The Simpsons is one of my favorites

8) Some of these stories my be slightly distorted due to my crappy memory.

Well, hello fark

I used to go Fark all the time. For some reason I stopped.
Well, this morning I suddenly notice a tiny jump in traffic. You know, the standard 80 or so hits a day jumped to a thousand.

Things that have driven traffic here in the past:
• The phrase "scrotal suspension."
• The M.I.T. Triforce hack.
• Mentions of Mythbusters slash fiction.
• Any mention of Gordon Freeman.
• And now, a crab on a jellyfish.

I get very few hits from talking about improv or politics.

Edit: Because of a nice comment, I double checked the analytics and, yes, I am also getting a ton of traffic from Preston and Steve. The fact is, everyone loves animals riding on other animals. Cat on a dog. Mouse on a duck. Monkey on frackin' anything. Why is that?

Monday, September 29

Pulp

I've be looking through this fascinating collection of "pulp" magazine covers. Hundreds of covers. This stuff is gorgeous. The colors and composition. "Evocative" is the word. Each cover immediately sends you into a world. Here are just a few that stood out to me.

Oh, jesus! A giant flying buzz saw of death!
I believe this one is pretty famous. This is what aliens look like in my nightmares (except without the weird duck feet).
Why are albino gorillas so freaky? Even ones that look to fat to stand up and can only throw rocks?
Temptress of Planet Delight! Or is it Deliyht? Or Deliyhj? Either way, I love the composition. The flowing of her yellow dress like flames balanced by the harsh orange-yellows of the explosion below.
I have no idea what to even say about this one except you can see why Congress was worried about the effect it was having on the nation's youth.
Okay, not great art. But art to not post.

It occurs to me that this all has the making of yet another improv project I probably won't get around to: Randomly select any of the covers from this collection and use that as the suggestion. After that it pretty much works its own magic.

(via Papa Scott)