Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Thoughtful, Inspiring Thanksgiving Day Post

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm thankful I live in a world where pictures like this are possible and can be shared with friends.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Believe...

...that Dada is art come alive. And just like encountering another human being. Dada is full of mystery, complexity, pain and beauty. And, like the stories we tell ourselves, only means what we say it means.

...that there's something off in America about work and holidays. I no longer look at the holidays as a time for reflection and spiritual fine-tuning. It is time off. A chance to get caught up on that thing I've been writing and cleaning the bath tub. Or, more likely, get caught up on the shows on my DVR or in my Netflix queue.

...that president-elect Obama has already had more press conferences before taking office than Bush has had in eight years. This is a different kind of president and it's going to make the status quo deregulation corporate tool morons who are happy with our ship heading towards an iceberg very unhappy. Of course, thanks to the status quo deregulation corporate tool morons, that ice berg will probably melt by the time we get there.

...that I am strangely unaffected by the current economy. I'm paying my bills. Barely covering my ass. Just like always. All the news programs are recommending ways to tighten our belts. Hey, elite media! Stop flaunting your high falutin' belts in my face. Let me know when you have something to say that we, the beltless of America, can relate to!


So, I got a reward for $500. In my dreams. Not sure who it was from. Possibly an airport, except we were all outside standing in a line. Like some converted small town main street. I found a bank deposit bag full of something. I tried to hand it to someone who worked there, and he pushed it back. He thought I was trying to shove more work on him. When I finally got to the counter, the lady was very happy to see it and told me I would get a reward amounting to 18% of whatever is in the bag. That turned out to be $500 exactly (even in my dreams, I can't do math).

The lesson, of course, is look in the bag before you turn it in.


Yesterday, I asked...

"According to a study done by the City University of New York, napping can boost your what?"

15% said "libido"
- Maybe. I don't get nap boners. You?

14% said "energy"
- I don't think they needed to do a study to figure that one out.

No one said "drooling"

71% got it right with "memory"

According to The Huffington Post, "Not only do we need to remember to sleep, but most certainly we sleep to remember," is how Dr. William Fishbein, a cognitive neuroscientist at the City University of New York, put it at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience last week.

Particularly important is "slow-wave sleep," a period of very deep sleep that comes earlier than better-known REM sleep, or dreaming time.

Fishbein suspected a more active role for the slow-wave sleep that can emerge even in a power nap. Maybe our brains keep working during that time to solve problems and come up with new ideas. So he and graduate student Hiuyan Lau devised a simple test: documenting relational memory, where the brain puts together separately learned facts in new ways.

First, they taught 20 English-speaking college students lists of Chinese words spelled with two characters _ such as sister, mother, maid. Then half the students took a nap, being monitored to be sure they didn't move from slow-wave sleep into the REM stage.

Upon awakening, they took a multiple-choice test of Chinese words they'd never seen before. The nappers did much better at automatically learning that the first of the two-pair characters in the words they'd memorized earlier always meant the same thing _ female, for example. So they also were more likely than non-nappers to choose that a new word containing that character meant "princess" and not "ape."

So, there you go. When you see me hunched over my backpack on the El train, I'm working on my next blog post. Shove off.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Captain's Room

Being a grown-up and all, you should be able to do whatever you damn well please when it comes to furnishing your apartment. As much as I would love for my apartment to look like the Nautilus submarine and my bedroom to look like Captain Nemo's quarters, it's just not feasible. For one, it costs a lot to do it right and I won't settle for less than authenticity. Two, women look at you funny when you ask them to pretend they have just been saved from a giant squid and it would really go better with the apartment if you put on this corset, oh, please. Don't make the captain beg.

So, I found some tasteful big boy furniture that I really do like. It's a platform bed and I got a matching nightstand. It's like living in a hotel. And I won't have to grow a beard or wear a sea captain's uniform to get the full effect. Cats sold separately.


Hope you don't have a crappy Tuesday. Here she is as Dada Dabo about to bite Dada Mondo Yippeeeeeee's head on the streets of Chicago.


Yesterday, I asked...

"Judge Paul Sacco of Colorado makes noise ordinance violators do what?"

10% said "take meditation classes"
- He did, but that loud "ohm" sound was pissing off the neighbors.

No one said "buy ear plugs for their neighbors" or "whisper"

90% got it right with "listen to Barry Manilow"

According to the Associated Press, Fort Lupton Municipal Judge Paul Sacco says his novel punishment of forcing noise violators to listen to music they don't like for one hour has cut down on the number of repeat offenders in this northwestern Colorado prairie town. About four times a year, those guilty of noise ordinance violations are required to sit in a room and listen to music from the likes of Manilow, Barney the Dinosaur, and The Platters' crooning "Only You."

Sacco began the program years ago when he noticed that many of the repeat offenders simply showed up at his courtroom to pay their fine with cash.

"Most kids don't want to hear somebody like Glenn Close trying to sing opera," he said.

...Okay. Good idea. I don't think The Platters belong on the list, but if I were a teenager playing my gothemometal music too loud, I could see where "Only You" might be like taking medicine. But it is good for you.

And, FYI, let's clear up the magnificent Glenn Close's reputation here. She does not sing opera. She once did a forgettable movie called Meeting Venus in which she played a diva opera singer. Her voice was dubbed. You can watch the trailer HERE.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Theater is Fluid

One show close to my heart closed this past weekend and another one also wedged deep within my chest cavity opened. What's odd, is that while being very invested in the shows, I had very little to do directly with their development. The closer was Robot vs Dinosaur's Are You There, God? It's Me, Satan at Gorilla Tango. A very strong sophomore effort from our group. And it made some money. Enough to give us some good footing going in to our next project. Are You There God? was a sketch revue. Well written and performed and as good, if not better, than any other revue running right now. My involvement? I started the company and from time-to-time during this process stuck my head in the door and said "Hey, that looks good." A job well done, on my part, I must say.

The show that opened is WNEP's Soiree DADA: Schmuck die Hallen at the DCA Theater. It is our slickest dada show in our most professional space with our most blatant theme. In many ways, that should be ringing the death knell of Soiree Dada. Happy to say, it does not. Well worth it to see this show, even if you have never seen dada before. You can get a break on the cost of your ticket by bringing an unwrapped toy that goes to charity. $10 off if you bring a really cool gift. $5 off if you are a loser and just bring a crappy coloring book and off-brand crayons. My involvement with the show? I came up with the title. I also co-created Soiree Dada with Joel Jeske back in the winter 1995-96. Our first show was a two-man dada thing at an open mic in the back of Sheffield's bar on an icy cold Monday night. The audience didn't know what hit them. I also didn't know what I was hitting them with.

The holidays are quickly approaching and off-loop theater is alive and well. With the temporary slow down in my schedule, I'm going to try to take the opportunity to see more stuff.


On Friday, I asked...

"On Thursday, Sarah Palin made a holiday appearance in Wasilla to pardon a local turkey and then did an interview with what happening in the background?"

31% said "turkeys being crammed into a cage"

No one went for "turkeys being bred" (Even turkeys think abstinence is dumb) or "turkeys being dropped from a plane" (They learned their lesson after the 2007 Wasilla Turkey Drop, Les Nessman reporting.)

69% got it right with "turkeys being slaughtered"

According to The Huffington Post, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin appeared in Wasilla in order to pardon a local turkey in anticipation of Thanksgiving. This proved to be a slightly absurd but ultimately unremarkable event. But what came next was positively surreal. After the pardon Palin proceeded to do an interview with a local TV station while the turkeys were being SLAUGHTERED in the background!! Seemingly oblivious to the gruesomeness going on over her shoulder, she carries on talking for over three minutes. Watch the video below to see for yourself. Be warned, it's kind of gruesome.

Can Joe Six-Pack say "oblivious"? My favorite part is when she talks about having a little levity this time of year while a turkey is being bled. I love the look on the guy's face doing the slaughtering. He looks around from time-to-time like "You know, I'm killing turkeys here, right?" Personally, I think he's wringing the wrong neck.

The turkey's the one sipping Starbucks.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Lazy Writing?

Saw a sketch revue last night that shall go nameless, particularly because it is in previews. But it reminded me of how brilliant and lazy Chicago's comic minds can be when it comes to scenework. There were many scenes in the show that set up some compelling premises, only to bail on them rather than resolve them.

A common structure of the scenes I saw went something like this...

SET-UP - establish the who, the what and the where
PROBLEM - introduce the comic problem
HEIGHTEN - make the problem worse
SAY SOMETHING REALLY FUNNY, LIGHTS! - say something funny, hit the lights, play loud music

Does this mean they didn't explore possible resolutions and try to find the one that fit the scene best? They actually probably did, but there's a misbelief out there that every sketch in a sketch revue has to end on a big laugh (and just in case it doesn't, be ready with a quick blackout and loud music). Sketches do not have to end on big laughs. Great if it does, but I think it's more satisfying to end on resolution. Or find the big laugh in the resolution or right on the heels of the resolution. Finish telling the story. Scenes in a sketch revue are a lot like short stories. They take us to an interesting world and tell us a quick, compelling tale. The scenes I saw last night took us to interesting worlds and started to tell us compelling tales and then changed the subject.

Trust your audience. Trust they are as smart as you. Most of them are or are probably smarter.


Speaking of good story telling, we usually knock it out of the park at ISC. Tonight we experiment in numbers. Almost the entire company will be there. The number of board treaders could be thirteen to fifteen. We're going for telling a complete play without double or tripled casting lead characters. Hopefully, we'll be able to deliver big battles, angry mobs, full courts, etc. A real Shakespearean clusterphuk. It's at iO at 8pm. Click HERE for ticket info.


Yesterday, I asked...

"War veteran Johan Jambor, a WWI German army medic, has confirmed what about Adolph Hitler?"

10% said "He grew his mustache to hide his hairlip."
- Heil Himphfler!

No one went for "He had a dove-shaped birthmark." or "He had six fingers on his left hand."

90% got it right with "He only had one testicle."

According to The Sun, an extraordinary account from a German army medic has finally confirmed what the world long suspected: Hitler only had one ball.

War veteran Johan Jambor made the revelation to a priest in the 1960s, who wrote it down.

The priest’s document has now come to light – 23 years after Johan’s death.

A friend of Johan's recounted his story: “In 1916 they had their hardest fight in the Battle of the Somme.

“For several hours, Johan and his friends picked up injured soldiers. He remembers Hitler.

“They called him the ‘Screamer’. He was very noisy. Hitler was screaming ‘help, help’.

“His abdomen and legs were all in blood. Hitler was injured in the abdomen and lost one testicle. His first question to the doctor was: ‘Will I be able to have children?’.”

Blassius said that when the Nazis swept to power Johan began to suffer nightmares and blame himself for saving Hitler.

I think its okay that he saved Hitler. He was a medic and doing his job. I do think he should have "accidentally" stepped on that other ball. Eunuchs aren't known for their aggressive behavior and tendency to invade other countries.

Here's a picture of Hitler doing inventory...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

That Internal Heckler

Last night, I met with the students from my most recent Writing 5 class to have dinner and close the book on the show. At the end of the five training center shows, the students get a certificate of completion for the program, a journal (if they're in stock!) and I usually throw in a dorky gift. In this case, my additions were flatulence-oriented. Whoopee cushions and Flarp. Then we make our way to a bar and celebrate. Throughout the evening, most of the students will pull me aside and ask me about the show and I tell them what I give them my beer-in-hand assessment.

I have always found that unsatisfying as a teacher. I'm very in to debriefing lessons and finding out what students learned. If anything, to make sure they got value out of the experience. So, we met last night, ate good food at Flat Top Grill, and chatted about what they learned and what their next steps will be. It was great to do this, especially in a group setting. A student who thought they didn't get anything out of the experience might realize they did when someone else articulates it. In Writing 5, there's not a lot of writing. The focus is producing a revue. Some students really enjoy this and find it a fascinating process. Other get bored and frustrated. There was a little bit of both last night.

One interesting thing to hear was how nervous people were whenever their scene was on stage. And how they had a hard time just enjoying their work. Seeing your work performed on stage in front of sold out crowds is the best part about W5. And I forgot how grueling an experience that can be.

In college, I wrote a full-length play called The Big G. It was a comedy that dealt a lot with religion, from Sunday school to going to heaven. I can't even remember where I was or what I was doing during the show, although I do remember seeing it. I remember seemingly only breathing during the laughs. At the close of the first act, I bolted towards the exit and hid behind a door for the intermission. I was so freaked out that everyone may have hated it that I didn't want to see anyone. If there was a large rock in the lobby that I could have crawled under, I would have. The good thing that came out of my fetal place behind a door was that I heard people talking positively about the show. That helped me make it back in to the theater for the second act.

It reminds me of that internal editor that loves to fire off in one's head when writing, especially a first draft. That eternal drumming of "this sucks, this sucks, this sucks" that just isn't very helpful. It doesn't really ever go away and it loves to make a bold appearance on opening night. So, no, it never goes away, but, with experience, I think it does get a little better. I'm more likely to notice it for what it is, a by-product of a self-defense mechanism, and not buy into it so much. I think that internal editor is God's quality control on art. If you can make it through without it stopping you, congratulations. You're on your way to being a writer.

The voices inside my head personified...


Yesterday, I asked...

"NASA had to change plans for the crew of the space shuttle Endeavor because one of the astronauts on a space walk did what?"

No one said "got lost," "tripped" or "stepped in space poo"

100% got it right with "dropped a tool bag"

According to The Associated Press, flight controllers were revamping plans Wednesday for the remaining spacewalks planned during space shuttle Endeavour's visit to the international space station, after a crucial tool bag floated out to space during a repair trip.

The briefcase-sized tool bag drifted away from astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper on Tuesday as she cleaned and lubed a gummed-up joint on a wing of solar panels on the space station. She and fellow astronaut Stephen Bowen were midway through the first of four spacewalks planned for the mission. The tool bag was one of the largest items ever lost by a spacewalker.

One of? What else did some astronaut lose? Keys to the shuttle? Wallet?


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Believe... The Peter Principle that people rise to their level of incompetence. They are promoted up until they reach a level they are unqualified for, but are kept there because going back down the corporate ladder would be an embarrassment. That explains Bush's trajectory. I'm hoping there's a better position for Obama to achieve after executive-in-chief.

...that if you really want to make people uncomfortable over the holidays, arrange the living room furniture in the home your family is gathering in so that instead of orienting towards the television, all the chairs and sofas face one another.

...that Johnny Depp is solely responsible for the resurgence of piracy on the high seas.


"Cheney is charged with engaging in an organized criminal activity related to the vice president's investment in the Vanguard Group, which holds financial interests in the private prison companies running the federal detention centers. It accuses Cheney of a conflict of interest and "at least misdemeanor assaults" on detainees because of his link to the prison companies."

It's a start! Let's hope we see more so rich, white guys think they can just buy or bully their way out of breaking the law. Read more HERE.


Here's a link to an article with a lot of pictures and the new trailer. It looks pretty damn good. Love how the trailer opens. CLICK HERE!


Yesterday, I wrote...

"Lord Drayson, the UK's new science minister, claims he has a special ability to do what?"

55% said "connect with animals"
- You're confusing him with Lord Doolittle.

11% said "talk to God"
- Nope. Our American politicians that have that exclusive pipeline. If it's another country, they're talking to some other inferior god.

No one said "knot cherry stems with his tongue"

34% got it right with "predict the future"

According to The Daily Mail, the Government's new science minister has raised eyebrows after he says he believes he has a 'sixth sense' to predict the future, it was revealed today.Lord Drayson said he was one of the humans with a 'capability' that experts did not fully understand.

His "shining" allows him to predict many future events, except those that involve opening himself up for ridicule.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Gods

The premise of Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods is simple and brilliant. Basically, the old school gods, like Pan, have disappeared or are on the wane, because people have stopped believing in them. We know they have stopped believing in them, because people no longer build temples to worship them. No worship, no god. It's a very co-dependent relationship. However, new gods have been created through our unconscious worshiping. The television is seen as an altar in every home that is worshipped on hours daily, thus creating a type of electronic god.

Based on that criteria, who are my gods?

1) The God of Dishes - Every morning, first thing I do, is feed the cats and wash the dishes. I stand before the stainless steel altar and cleanse my enchanted cookery and then place them on another altar that elevates them while they dry.

2) The God of Coffee - I used to go to church (Starbucks), but now I worship at home with my french press. The press - by taking it apart, cleaning it, reassembling it, boiling and pouring water, stirring the contents with my special plastic paddle, waiting four minutes, pressing the plunger - heightens the sense of ritual in my praising of the bean.

3) The God of Cats - I make offerings (food, toys), I groom them, I pet them, I scoop up their excrement and place it in a plastic bag. These gods have been around a long time, though. The Egyptians were hip to them.

4) The God of Trains - I tithe, I pass through special portals, I stand and wait, I enter and sit quietly in communion with others.

5) The God of Computers - I even have a special place for my computer. I sit in front of it for hours. It is quickly replacing my television god as a vessel of worship.

6) The God of Blogging - Every morning, five days a week, I write an entry that I hope will please the blogging gods and send my place on the Internet a bounty of hits and comments.

So, got any gods you've been worshipping?


Yesterday, I asked...

"Paul McCartney would like to release a 14-minute experimental music track The Beatles recorded called what?"

40% said "Crap Beatles Fans Will Pay Big Money For"
- That's just the British release featuring Sir Paul wearing a butcher's outfit and holding bags of bloody money.

10% said "The Un-fair"
- Un-nope.

No one said "Circus of the Stares"

50% got it right with "Carnival of Lights"

According to The Associated Press, McCartney says he wants to release "Carnival of Light," a 14-minute experimental track the Fab Four recorded in 1967 but never released.

The band played the recording for an audience just once, at an electronic music festival in London. It reportedly includes distorted guitar, organ sounds, gargling and shouts of "Barcelona!" and "Are you all right?" from McCartney and John Lennon.

He said he had wanted to include the track on the Beatles' "Anthology" compilation, but was vetoed by his bandmates.

With some of the crap George and Ringo have put out in their solo careers (I know, blasphemer!), it has to be pretty bad for them to veto it.

But thanks to the miracle of the Internet, here's what purports to be a cover of that tune. So, you can decide for yourself if you really need the original to fill out your Beatles catalogue.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Steely Comedy

REVIEW: Le Coq Plastique

Le Coq Plastique (a farce)
Written and Directed
by Brian Crowley and Greg Wendling
Presented by Denise's Book Club

Through Nov 29th 2008

Saturdays at 7:30pm at Donny's Skybox

Tickets are $12, $10 for students,

$6 for training center students

(Disclosure: Greg Wendling is a member of Robot vs Dinosaur and Brian Crowly formerly so.)

Well, first off, so Don Hall will keep reading, this is not a farce. If anything, it is, as one of its press blurbs describes, an existential farce. But I hesitate to say that in case anyone interpret it as meaning, "Oh. It's a farce without the comedy." Nope. That's not it, either.

Le Coq Plastique lives in its own unique world wedged between being a short one-act play and being a sketch comedy revue.

As a sketch comedy revue, it breaks a lot of rules. We don't meet everyone in the show until the third scene. And then, we don't see the whole cast on stage together until the middle of the show. There's no big flashy opener, there's no big toe-tapping closer. There are sketches, though. Sketches interspersed between a main storyline. The sketches themselves do nothing to forward the story, but do illuminate us about the main characters.

As a play, it doesn't take itself too seriously and makes one feel as though they spent the evening at a small cocktail party at Rob and Laura Petrie's home.

This form seemed to throw the audience off a bit. It took a good 20 minutes for them to warm-up to the characters and stories unfolding on stage. It wasn't fitting the mold of what one would expect from a Skybox show, especially if it was chosen as an alternative to the sold out Second City sketch revues on the first floor of the building.

The main story has to do with a young suburban couple nervously prepping their home to be inspected by a magazine editor for a possible profile in her high society publication. Everything looks fine, except for the large dildo they find prominently displayed on a small pedestal in their living room. And thus, the mystery begins. How did it get there? How will they deal with it? They call their best friends over to help who are equally perplexed.

In spite of the presence of a very effective phallus, this is a clean, intelligent sophisticated comedy. The "play" takes place in the late 1950's, serving to heighten the upset with, at least our notion of, that day's gender and societal roles. The cast is also professionally and elegantly dressed which I think helps bring the audience along.

The cast is exceptional. Nick Cutelli, Heather Muth, Katie O'Brien, Evan O'Donnell and Annie Rijks all seem to get that they have one foot standing in a play and one foot standing in a sketch revue. Their commitment and emotional investment propel the story into fun Ionesco absurdism. if anything doesn't serve them, it's the space. I think the piece would be better served in a small theater with a grounded, simple set.


On Friday, I asked...

"Orthodox priest Vitaly in the central region of Russia has complained to police about the theft of what?"

55% said "innocence"
- I think that happened several thousand years ago when someone stole some fruit from the tree of knowledge. Kind of blows that you steal some knowledge and all that you learn is that you are naked. You think you'd at least get enough smarts to build a car or something. At least be able to knit a sweater. Sticking a fig leaf on your weenie ain't exactly high learning.

No one said "a gold 10-foot crucifix" or "a statue of Jesus"

45% got it right with "a church"

According to The Associated Press, Orthodox officials in a central Russian region say an abandoned church building that was to be put back into use has been stolen by local villagers.

Orthodox priest Vitaly of the Ivanovo-Voskresenskaya diocese said officials last saw the two-story Church of Resurrection intact in late July. Sometime in early October, however, people from the nearby village of Komarovo, northeast of Moscow, dismantled the building, he said.

Villagers apparently sold it to a local businessman, one ruble (about 4 cents) per brick, Vitaly said. Orthodox priests use only one name.

"Of course, this is blasphemy," he told The Associated Press. "These people have to realize they committed a grave sin."

Vitaly said police were investigating the theft.

In the meantime, pictures of the church have shown up on the sides of cartons of goat's milk and officials have issued a myrrh alert.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rewriting or Rehashing

So, the Comcast issue seems resolved. Between Mark, who commented on yesterday's entry and someone from the customer service center, my bill will be adjusted for the loss of three days. I had to volley a few e-mails with the customer service guy because I wasn't getting an answer at all on what happened. The final answer I got was "equipment failure." Well, okay. Hard to argue that point. My experience last year just makes me really suspicious of anything that happens with Comcast a month-ish after I move. I do want to reiterate that every time I have dealt with someone at Comcast they have been super nice and these two post-move issues are the only problems I have ever had with them. If I ever find out these customer representatives are sitting in a windowless room in India working 18 hour days and making five cents an hour, then I'll be pissed.


At the Robot vs Dinosaur meeting on Wednesday I brought in two scenes that were actually extracted from a play I wrote ten years ago. The play was a full length piece that should have only been a one act. In the one act version that exists in my head, these two scenes are cut. But I like them and think they have potential to stand on their own. I can't stress enough the importance of having people to reflect back to you what they hear in your work.

One of the scenes, about a 1950s one-armed vacuum cleaner salesman visiting a lonely housewife, I thought was perfect and done. I'd just be having it read to impress my compatriots on how awesome a writer I am. Turns out, that's the one that really needs the most work. The RvD boys pointed out some inconsistencies in what one of the characters was going for. More importantly, they pointed out in some of the housewife's lines where my own voice was clearly rearing up for a joke versus the character organically speaking. I see this all the time in writing classes where the writer has inserted a joke for the joke's sake even though it does nothing to forward the story or express the character's wants or needs.

It's easy to see it in someone else's work. And it's very hard to tell someone "That's a funny bit. I think you should cut it." Actually, it's more hard to hear than to say. But quite often, that's exactly what needs to be done to strengthen a scene. The joke that the writer thought was so precious in reality acts as a speed bump pooching the reality of the scene and thwarting the audiences ability, or willingness, to emotionally invest in the outcome.

Tell the story. Hang on to the joke. You might find a more authentic place for it somewhere else. Or be able to sell it to Yakov Smirnoff.


Yesterday, I asked...

"What distinguishes 'Jules,' a robot built in Bristol, England, from other robots is the ability to do what?"

44% said "eat and make robot doo-doo"
- Robots don't go number 2. They go number 001 1011.

22% said "make realistic telephone interactions"
- Hmm. I wonder if they work for Comcast.

11% said "make up stories"
- A robot that lies? See Cheney, Dick.

22% got it right with "make realistic facial expressions"

According to The Daily Mail, scientists have created the first 'humanoid' robot that can mimic the facial expressions and lip movements of a human being.

'Jules' - a disembodied androgynous robotic head - can automatically copy the movements, which are picked up by a video camera and mapped on to the tiny electronic motors in his skin.

It can grin and grimace, furrow its brow and 'speak' as his software translates real expressions observed through video camera 'eyes'.

Whatever you do, don't give this guy arms and legs! We'll be in big trouble then.

Of course, Disney was ahead of these guys forty plus years ago...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

...And We're Back!

Generally speaking, I like Comcast. Except when I move.

On Sunday afternoon, my cable and Internet went out. What was odd, is that my laptop still indicated I was getting a wi-fi signal, but I couldn't access the Internet. On the tube, I still had my DVR and channel guide, but kept getting an eternal "Just A Moment" window. Called Comcast, the friendly lady had me plug and unplug a few things to no avail. She thought it might have to do with my modem and set me up for a visit from a Comcast tech elf. No problem, really. I could access my e-mail from work and it just put a crimp in my blogging for a few days.

Wednesday afternoon, the cable guy comes by, takes a quick look at the "Just A Moment" screen and concludes it has nothing to do with my modem, someone turned off my service. He asked if I recently moved in and then informed me that sometimes when the previous tenant's service expires, the new tenant's service gets cut off, too. Now, I don't really know if that's what happened. My cable didn't get installed until a few days after I moved in and you can bet the first thing I did when I unpacked everything was hook up my TV to the existing cable and see if I lucked into any free HBO. Nope. No such luck. The only thing I do know, is that nothing was broken on my end. Comcast owes me three days of Internet and cable.

The upside. I read more. Currently reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Great book. Imaginative, profilific storyteller. I can hardly stand to be away from it. I also listened to more music and radio. Not so bad from that aspect, just a pain in the ass.


Almost a week ago (!), I asked...

"Steve Lipski, a New Jersey councilman, was arrested in Washington, D.C. for doing what?

18% said "soliciting a prostitute"
- Tough call in DC. Isn't everyone a prostitute there?

No one said "buying drugs in an alley" or "accepting money from lobbyists"

82% got it right with "urinating on a crowd"

According to The Associated Press, Lipski was in D.C. to see a Grateful Dead tribute band and was spotted relieving himself on a balcony onto a crowd of concertgoers by one of the club's staffers around 9:50 p.m., club sources told the Daily News. He was charged with simple assault.

"I've resolved not to touch alcohol again," two-term Jersey City councilman Steve Lipski told the Fox 5 New York.

He went on to say that the incident was "deeply humiliating, very embarrassing" and troubling," the Daily News reported.

The 44-year-old Democratic councilman refused to admit to the lewd stunt.

Of course, he's guilty. It's the "Trickled On" economics that politicians have been practicing for decades.

I think he was urinating when this picture was taken, too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Check back Thursday

My modem is down and so am I. Boo-hoo. Komkast is coming out to fix it today.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Having a sneezy wheezy day and am sitting up to my waist in work that needs a-doing. Fortunately, the work is absorbent and I can blow my nose on it.


On Friday, I asked...

"According to Oxford University, number one on their top ten list of irritating phrases is what?"

55% said "Before I begin"
- Nope. That tops my list, though, because when someone says it they are oblivious to the fact that they already began.

23% said "It's not rocket science"
- There are lots of things "it" is not. It is also not correct.

7% said "I'd buy that for a dollar"
- That's only irritating in the near future in Old Detroit.

15% got it right with "At the end of the day"

According to the Telegraph, a top 10 of irritating expressions has been compiled by researchers at Oxford University.

Heading the list was the expression 'at the end of the day', which was followed in second place by the phrase 'fairly unique'.

The tautological statement "I personally" made third place – an expression that BBC Radio 4 presenter John Humphreys has described as "the linguistic equivalent of having chips with rice."

Also making the top 10 is the grammatically incorrect "shouldn't of", instead of "shouldn't have".

The phrases appear in a book called Damp Squid, named after the mistake of confusing a squid with a squib, a type of firework.


It annoys the squid more than anything.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I Hate Writing

(Chris Othic so gently reminded me the other day that I used to write more about writing on this blog.)

"I hate writing. I love having written." - Dorothy Parker

That quote from the brilliant sardonic mind of Dorothy Parker sums up pretty well my feelings about writing. And I write a lot. Sometimes it is quite enjoyable, once I am in the flow of things, but most of the time, it's a chore. Yet, I write a lot. I have surprisingly amassed quite a body of work. BS, Inc. will have to hire an intern to organize it all. I attribute my prolificacy to two things...

1) I don't believe in writer's block. There's writing or not writing. If you find yourself stuck and not writing, try...writing.

2) I paint myself in to corners. I started this blog. I belong to a writer's group (Robot vs Dinosaur). I get involved in projects that require me to write (WNEP's Soiree Dada, The Armageddon Radio Hour, The Hopper Project, etc).

Left to my own devices, I usually won't get much done. I'm in the process of assembling some short works into an evening's worth of entertainment. I wasn't making any headway on it, because, quite simply, I'm lazy. It has finally started to come together because I told some friends about it and asked them to hold me accountable. I have set deadlines with them and check in with them on the progress.

So, write. So you can enjoy the fruits of having written.



Two friends of mine, Joe Linstroth of RvD and Bob Fisher of The Mammals have an interesting approach to writing. They overwrite. Intentionally. They write to explore the characters and avenues of a story. Joe will bring in a ten-page scene to RvD and it's up to the rest of us to help him find the five-page scene that lies within.

It's okay to view writing as a process. It is a process. You know your comedy sketch should really only be four-to-five pages which sometimes throws one's mind into editing before you are ready to edit. It's okay to write an eight-page scene and edit it down to five. However, if you overwrite, I think you need to make sure you do one of two things. Having a cooling off period. Write, write, write and then leave your scene alone for a week or more. That way, you can return to it with a fresh eye and piece out what works and what is not needed. Alternatively, or in addition to, have it read in a writer's group. Quite often, brand new sets of eyes and ears will be able to point you in the direction of where the heart of your scene is.


Yesterday, I asked...

"On Facebook, just a day after the election, groups have sprung up calling for Barak Obama's what?"

19% said "deportation"
- Right! Send him back where he came from. Hawaii! Stupid Polynesian Muslim socialist motherfucker.

18% said "coronation"
- I don't think he'll trade in that halo for a crown.

9% said "third term"
- Not yet.

54% said "impeachment"

According to, Barack Obama has not even been sworn in yet as the 44th president of the United States but groups are springing up online calling for his impeachment.

On Facebook, an "Impeach Barack Obama" group has attracted more than 700 members and a lively debate about the Democrat's election victory on Tuesday over Republican John McCain.

Another Facebook group of the same name has 160 members and urges others to join because "we might as well get a head start on the impeachment of Obama."

"There are a lot of Americans out there that do not fully understand the concept of Socialism or Communism which is why they've elected Obama as president," it says.

Yet another Facebook group, "Impeach Barack Hussein Obama," has 160 members.

It decries that Obama "has voiced support for various unconstitutional programs such as the assault weapons ban, universal healthcare, and various schemes for wealth distribution."

"What are we going to do about it? IMPEACH HIM!" it says.

Obama still has some way to go, however, to equal the number of "Impeach George Bush" groups on Facebook, which lists at least 95 such groups with varying membership.

Well, I guess the thing for most of us to remember is that there are over 50 million people out there who are pissed their guy didn't win.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

That "Now What?" Question

A lot of right wingers out there have been asking the liberal media and left wing bloggers, "Now what are you going to write about?"

They assume that now that Obama is president-elect, we have nothing left to bitch about.


I'll admit that Obama being elected has left me feeling hopeful and positive about our country. But I also remember feeling the same way when Clinton was elected . He had twelve "trickle down" years of Reagan and Bush I to clean up after. And I can remember the Republican machine doing whatever they could to stop him. Hillary's attempts at reforming healthcare became a fiasco. Senators fillabustered til they were blue in the face. There was sweet talk about bi-partisanship between November and January, but Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole had other plans. Their goal was to make the current Democratic administration look bad and prove to the country that we elected the wrong party. They almost succeeded. They jumped on everything the administration did and put it in as bad a light as possible. They hired Ken Starr to find dirt. He hung around long enough for Clinton to provide the dirt by turning the Oval Office into the Oral Office.

So, while Obama represents change, there's a cadre of Republicans who do not want change and will fight to keep things just the way they are. I think we'll still have stuff to bitch about.


Yesterday, I asked...

"According to a recent report in the journal BMC Biology, African antelopes demonstrate their sexual prowess by doing what?"

25% said "hooting at the females"
- I don't think that works for any species.

13% said "showing off their horns"
- "Hey, I think Phil is using a stick. That's just sad."

12% said "dating Madonna"
- They would, but they don't want to get stuck pretending to be interested in Kabbalah.

50% got it right with "clicking their knees"

According to BBC News, scientists from the Zoological Society of London and the University of Copenhagen recorded the sounds of eland bulls in Kenya, Africa.

Reporting in the journal BMC Biology, the researchers say that the depth of the sound correlates to body size.

The tactic signals the bulls' fighting potential, establishing mating rights.

The sound is thought to be made as a tendon in the animals' legs slips over one of the leg bones, and can be heard from hundreds of metres away.

"The tendon in this case behaves like a string being plucked, and the frequency of the sound from a string correlates negatively with both its length and diameter," said Jakob Bro-Jorgensen.

You know what they say, the bigger the tendon, the bigger the...tendon?

You can hear what is sounds like making your own clicking sound HERE.