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)


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-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