Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hypocritical Position

In the ever-swelling file of "Things I Disagree With Everyone About", there is a curious alleged news story out of North Dakota. Evidently, a woman called into a radio station to announce her plan to give children letters instead of candy on Halloween. The letters were meant for the children's parents, and convey the message that the children in question are overweight and that the parents should be looking after their children's health better. The letter has circulated online after she provided a copy to the aforementioned station.

This is, of course, a lousy thing to do. I don't dispute the prevailing opinion that the woman is in the wrong for this, even if all she did was say this on the radio. As Halloween has only just come today, I don't imagine we can say whether she actually followed through on it. I don't think it matters if she did or she didn't, because her greatest aspiration- that of spreading her message of what people now call "fat shaming" - was carried out for her by the very people who hate her and her message.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sandwich Entre

A couple of days ago I had an improv performance. My team, composed of students from a level four (out of 5) workshop, was to cap off a show of performances from level 1 and 2 workshops, so there was a rare feeling of being the big guys. Usually moving from a smaller pond to a larger one only serves to grant you a view of one that is larger still, but for this night we were able only to look back to the ones behind us.

In any event, it's not the show that concerns me at the moment. I had eaten very little on the day of the show. I think I had a cup of tea and english muffins. I reasoned that I should eat something before performing, and so I picked something up on the way. I had decided to walk to the show, which was maybe a mile and a half away. Taking the bus would have saved me perhaps five minutes, and it would not be unheard of for a bus to be over five minutes late.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Mooch With Scrambled Brains

I am ordinarily fairly clear-headed, although it doesn't always come across that way. Whatever disorder appears on the surface, it is usually well-ordered inside. There's just some kind of problem transmitting that. Lately though, it's been messy on the inside. I am inclined to blame a breakdown in my routines leaving me tired and unfed at times. This is, I think, why I accidentally ate someone else's food at a restaurant the other day.

I was very hungry and, as this was the day following a big Halloween party, I was somewhat hungover. We were at a sushi restaurant for someone's birthday, and as you often order in a rather piecemeal fashion, it's hard sometimes to keep track of what is yours and what is someone else's. I ordered four cut rolls, and I knew for sure when things started showing up (which was a long time later considering nothing gets cooked) what three of them were.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Maze Pays

The weekend just past was full of activities. I hardly seemed to have a single moment of peace or rest. I'm glad to have social activity to my name, and yet I sort of wish I didn't have to be there for it. In any event, one of the events I was party to was a visit to a pumpkin patch, petting zoo and haunted maze. If I had to say which one of those things was the most worth the money, I would be stumped. It was not a great place.

We actually didn't patronize the petting zoo, as it was enough to see the handful of animals languishing behind the fence without getting in there too. We also didn't buy pumpkins, but we could see them and their prices, and they did not match up. They were rather overpriced in my opinion, although maybe I'm supposed to value them higher on account of their coming from some small-time farming operation. I guess that's worth something.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

This Year's Clothes

In past years, Halloween has consisted for me of numerous costume parties, each of which represented a chance to strike gold with a costume haphazardly assembled at the last minute. Sometimes I have just thrown things together and played my intentions close to the vest until a consensus emerged as to what people thought I was. The last couple of years, the costume that proved to be the most memorable was an inexplicably fat version of someone (last year David Lee Roth and the year before, Doc Brown).

It has helped to be the steward of a prop and costume box whose primary function is supplying the production of comedy sketches. It has sometimes supplemented a costume, but is not in itself enough to furnish any complete costume. This year it did contribute one or two things for me and for my roommate. I do wish it could have done more, because I didn't this year come up with anything better than my very mediocre average.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Classic Episode

While trying to write yesterday, I turned on the TV and watched most of an episode of "Dragnet". It's a terrible show (although I find enough enjoyment in watching that I can't claim it's all bad) and I have a hard time believing it held up in the short term any better than it does in the long term. You have a couple of stone-faced detectives slinging emotionless dialogue at rapid fire pace, and invariably over some crime so minor as to scarcely bear a mention in passing.

They are always working out of a different department, making one wonder if that is how little valued they are. You would think that if they were very good they'd be in homicide, but there they are investigating people posing as officers, or busting puppy-snatching rings. Typically the despicable culprit looks every bit as square and establishment-minded as the cops themselves, except when the show is making a point about how wrongheaded hippies are. That's when you see some real cartoon characters.

Friday, October 25, 2013


A little while ago, I carved a jack-o-lantern, along with some friends who each carved their own. It's a hell of a feeling to cut a whole in the top of one and rip out the guts. That's a neat tactile experience, and one which it's difficult to mess up. You pull out the easy stuff, then scrape until it's clean in there. That's the part leading up to the hard decisions, but so long as you're just engaged in this clean-up, it's easy fun.

My original plan was to make a jack-o-lantern whose sole decoration was an obscene written message. I went so far as to figure how easy it would be to render , and I determined that the lone difficult character would be an "O". I discarded the plan anyway, not because it would be difficult, but because I decided to be nice and to live up to the traditional values of the occasion. A consequence of this was a more difficult design, however.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Man, A Dog & A Post

I saw something peculiar on my way out of the grocery store the other day. I had a few bags in my hand and I stopped just outside the door to check something on my phone. Suddenly there was a flurry of activity. A terrible noise pierced the relative silence (which is to say, as silent as it ever gets in a Los Angeles neighborhood). I looked up. A big dog, tied to this big post seemingly meant to dispense circulars for the store, was dragging it behind him as he bolted into the parking lot.

It was a hell of a thing. Moments later, a man came tearing out of the grocery store after the dog. He labored greatly to calm the dog and detach it from the post (which, obviously, was not mounted in any permanent fashion). I wondered at the man's failure to properly look after his dog. It seems like something he ought to have anticipated. This burst of energetic rebellion can hardly be out of the dog's character.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gross & Overly Personal

Not to venture any unprecedented opinions, but it's very unpleasant to throw up. I did so two nights ago after a night of drinking. It caught me a bit by surprise, as I had ceased drinking perhaps a couple hours before I was seized by a fit of terrible nausea as I lay in bed trying to sleep. I first did not want to go to the trouble of trying to ease the feeling, hoping that the feelings would pass. The feelings of nausea did not pass.

My first concession was the readying of a receptacle to throw up in right by the bed in case it became necessary. Admittedly, it was not a very good receptacle. My waste basket was full, and I could not be bothered to empty it. Instead I located a small plastic shopping back which it's highly probable would have failed if put to the test. I probably would have evacuated my stomach onto the carpet, and I would have been ill-equipped (so to speak) to cope with that.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Lament In Place Of A Review

Last night I finally saw the big current film that just must be seen: "Escape Plan". It stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger as two very old men who must escape from a brutal prison. It's a tremendously fun movie in spite of the two coming together with the same timing as two great heavyweights, which is to say years and years after people would really have wanted to see it happen. That's no bother to me.

They're really the only two guys who could possibly carry the movie in the way that it needed. That's the sad reality. Since the 80s, few if any top-of-the-line action hero actors have risen. There are men who would have been like that if they'd only come during the genre's fertile years, but at this point there are only last gasps with men grandfathered in. It's like what they say in the Air Force. The last fighter pilot has already been born.

Monday, October 21, 2013


I lost my Toastmasters speech contest yesterday, and that was unpleasant. I had won the first two rounds of a four round contest in which competitors give "Tall Tale"-style speeches. It felt as if I had something akin to the winning speech from last year's humorous speech contest, and while I won't say I was complacent, I did feel as if I might be fated to have it happen for me again. I did nothing different on that basis, but perhaps expectations were a factor nonetheless.

There is really nothing to do in such a contest but the same thing over and over again. The competition has no ability to impair you, nor you them. It was therefore of no consequence to me who I would be facing before I saw them at the contest yesterday. Once I did, I felt little concern over the threat they posed, not (like I said) that I changed anything consciously. I wouldn't know how to ease up at that point.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

On "Halloween 3"

Here comes another of my dubiously constructed movie reviews. The other night, there was some notion of going to a local place where they occasionally screen movies on sixteen millimeter film. Having been a few times, I can say it's a lot of fun (the one time my ear drums were about destroyed from overly loud sound notwithstanding). This time, there was a lot of hype about it being a special evening on account of a partnership with Fangoria, so my friend and I opted to watch something at my place.

He volunteered the film "Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch". It was the one film in the Halloween series I had not seen that I wanted to (though I have now developed an interest in the other I haven't seen, Halloween: Resurrection). Of course I was delighted by the prospect, and so he and his wife came over that evening. It proved to be an enjoyable evening, if a longer one than I guessed it would be.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Flash From The '80s

Over the last couple days I have been watching some of David Letterman's iteration of "Late Night". Naturally it is not available in its entirety, there being far too many episodes, but there are some bits and pieces that can be found on one video website or another. Individual interviews are there, such as ones with Harvey Pekar and Sandra Bernhardt, and there are some whole episodes out there as well, such as the two I watched yesterday whose guests included Dr. Ruth and Ron Silver.

It's a hell of a thing to think of what Letterman was doing at the time. It's true enough, I suppose, that he was building on what Steve Allen had done before him, but Letterman's brand of talk show (as it was then) feels revolutionary and subversive even today, and perhaps especially today. He was doing things that felt daring not because (or not solely because) they ran the risk of crossing a line, but because it felt crazy to devote real money, time and energy on things so silly or, at times, insubstantial.

Friday, October 18, 2013

My Mistake

I learned something yesterday. I had assumed, not unreasonably I think, that Southern Comfort was a bourbon. It seemed to obviously be a whiskey of some persuasion, since that is where they stock it in the grocery store. Assumptions are not wise though, and I shouldn't have made this one. I bought a bottle of the stuff thinking it was bourbon. By the time I got home, I was starting to wonder why that word didn't appear on the bottle. I would just check online to be sure, I thought. Sure enough, it's just a liqueur made of "neutral spirits".

Of course I resolved to return the misleading bottle of booze, and I did so perhaps a couple hours later. On my way, a man remarked on my "So Co". I surmised after a moment of thought that he must mean the Southern Comfort, of whose nicknames I am as ignorant as I am of its actual composition. He seemed to be pleased that I had it, and I informed him that I was returning it. Given that cover, he admitted he thought very little of it as well.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

On "Messenger Of Death"

I returned to the VHS format after a brief foray into online streaming, and the film that took me back was "Messenger Of Death", one of about forty different movies on the theme of vigilante violence which pair Charles Bronson and director J. Lee Thompson in a Cannon production. In this one, Bronson plays a Denver newspaper reporter who investigates an apparent blood feud between two Mormon families.

Bronson ordinarily plays the regular guy (or the cop) who must take matters into his own hands when the system fails to adequately punish those who have wronged him and his family. Little of that is true here. The film opens with a grisly crime and then settles into a low-octane investigation of the parties involved in the aforementioned feud. Bronson only took a firearm into his hands once by my account, and not to menace a person.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On "Deathstalker"

Last night I watched a movie on a format other than VHS for the first time in a while. I'm not sure why I did that when I have a Blu-Ray lying around from Netflix and a whole lot of tapes likewise languishing, but somehow it felt right a couple nights ago when I couldn't sleep to watch "Deathstalker", which was streaming on Netflix. It's a sword and sorcery film of the time that proliferated in the early to mid 80s in the wake of "Conan The Barbarian".

I had seen one of the later films in the Deathstalker series on the show "Mystery Science Theater 3000". "Deathstalker And The Warriors From Hell" is a predictably terrible, silly movie that richly deserves the ribbing it gets from Mike and the bots. Its predecessor turns out to be far less predictably terrible, although it is blessedly every bit as short as the films which followed it. It is, in short, not a well-made movie, but one which I enjoyed anyway.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Just For Me

Sunday night's Top Story! Weekly (the news-based sketch show hosted by iO West in Hollywood) was a bit of an odd one for me. It was something like the tenth show out of 11 which featured one or more of my submitted jokes, but for a time I thought they had not taken any of mine. By the time I had come to terms with that, I found I was wrong. That was a pleasant enough way to wake up on Sunday morning.

The show was also novel for being only the second time I had a friend along expressly at my invitation. I think I will try to avoid that, because I feel added stress over the idea that my jokes and the show must live up not only to my hopes, but to the expectations of someone else. That's just too much for me to take. My part of the show is maybe thirty seconds long, which isn't much for someone who's there to see your thing.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Expiration Date

I'm just not ever going to be like other people, and they're not ever going to be like me. They and I are just going to live out our respective lives annoyed by each other. A fair example of why came today while I was trying to write a joke. When I'm in a foul mood, I keep writing jokes that are just angry or sad expressions of opinion. I'll read what I wrote and realize that it's just me being pissed off, but it's written in a joke format. I have to throw out a lot of those.

I was trying to write a joke about people who still make jokes about the missing kids on milk cartons. It's an interesting story. Before the '80s, there were no real coordinated programs to find missing kids. A couple of really notable cases galvanized the movement to change that, and the National Child Safety Council was behind the effort to publicize individual cases of missing children and the general issue of them by putting their pictures on milk cartons.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Shows Of Youth

When I was young, one of the things that was very popular was ABC's Friday night "TGIF" lineup. These days, I don't think any network bothers to program Friday night with anything original. Even then I imagine that Friday night was for kids specifically for the reason that it was fertile ground for anything more. Anyway, I occasionally watched those shows, but I was not disciplined enough to watch anything regularly.

A friend had a party whose central purpose was to watch a the TGIF shows from a particular week October, 1993. I would have been ten years old, and the odds are sharply against my having been watching then. If I was, I don't remember seeing these shows. I frankly did not find that they held up, but then I don't know that I really enjoyed them in the first place. I guess I liked them better then, if only because I couldn't see how dumb they were.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Movie & Music

I recently bought "Highlander" on VHS. This gives me each of the first three films in the series on that format. I bought them in spite of feeling rather let down by the first film (which is still the only one of them that I have watched) when I first watched it years ago. I think that the film's reputation led me to enter with high expectations, and it was unable to live up to them. I watched the tape recently, and I decided that I really liked it. Each viewing (and there have been several) has led me to raise my opinion of it.

The film, of course, tells the story of immortals enduring through history as they battle each other to live out some foretold chain of events and win some new level of enlightenment. It's cheap and cheesy with some oddball decisions and weak acting. It's also got great music from Queen, some really fun stuff and a certain charm. In the end I love it, as much for its weaknesses as its strengths. I wouldn't have found that out if I hadn't liked it enough for repeated viewings.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Film Attitude

If you've read the brief reviews of movies that I've sometimes posted here, then you've noticed that many of the movies I go for are rather off the beaten track. Many people- maybe most people- would call them terrible. Seeing many of the movies I have on VHS, one friend inquired when there would be a "shitty movie night". I advised him that there would be no such night, since all of my movies rule. That's my attitude.

It's a weird thing to me when someone says they're into watching terrible movies, or that they watch any sort of movies ironically. It sounds like a real waste of time, watching movies that you think are bad. Every movie I watch is chosen because I expect to like it. At the very least, I make a good faith effort to like them all, and that's often enough how it comes out. I can see a movie's shortcomings as well as anyone, but I don't have a hostile attitude.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

On "DC Cab"

Yesterday I watched "DC Cab". It was one of the VHS tapes I have lying around. One reason I watched it was that I really wanted to finally see the movie that has been the subject of so many bad movie jokes, a second reason was simply to keep working down that backlog, and a third reason was that I have promised myself anew not to eat the popcorn I buy unless it is while watching a movie. I'm trying to make both the movie-watching experience and the popcorn-eating experience special, but my resolve keeps wavering.

So it was that, being very hungry and having little in the house but popcorn, I popped the movie in. I didn't know much except that it was a movie about cab drivers and that Mr. T was in it. Watching it did not offer much illumination as to what it was about. Given that it was directed and co-written by Joel Schumacher, I figured that it would at least be coherent if not definitely a solid film. I was quite surprised.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

See Your Heroes

There are only so many things I see or hear about where I just have to make sure I do them. When I was a boy, there was a backpack designed to emulate a school locker, and upon a single viewing of the commercial, I went and found my mother, asking her for the backpack. I got the backpack all right. Things like that only come along so often, and a good example is an improv show that I attended last night.

I think it was Saturday night that, after a long, full day which left me exhausted, I read a tweet promoting a show at iO West called "Horribly Funny". The tweet advised the presence of special Heather Langenkamp, and that sure got my attention. You see, I'm a fan of horror movies. I have found that in Los Angeles there are many people more knowledgeable and more single-minded in their enthusiasm for the genre, but I really like horror movies too, and so I'm a big fan of Heather Langenkamp, who starred in several of the "Nightmare On Elm Street" films.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


It has become a Sunday evening ritual to troop off to the iO West theater in Hollywood to see what joke of mine has made it into the show (and, indeed, the joke made it in and stayed in). It's a time of nearly as much anxiety as the preceding day when I await word that I have gotten a joke into the show in the first place. I have gotten more relaxed all around about these things, but there's still some tension there.

Yesterday's showtime found me in something of a funk. I regained good humor for at least the duration of the show, seeing a few friends and meeting one of my fellow contributors of these two line jokes that I have been doing. The drink I had may also have been a contributing factor to my fleeting good feelings. Before I'd gotten very awkward in my social interaction (on account of my introverted nature, not the drinking), the show began.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dictated But Not Read

There is a tray in the lobby of my apartment building that is sporadically stocked with complimentary fruit. It's usually something like oranges, or, more likely, apples. Upon noticing as I was heading out the other night that there were some apples on the tray, I paused. I wasn't exactly hungry, and to the extent that I was, apples were not what would sate me. I grabbed one apple and then considered that I was about to be with some four or some people, each of whom could theoretically want an apple.

I started to grab four apples, but stopped myself out of concern that I was abusing the privilege so kindly (if inconsistently) extended to us by the building management (who, incidentally, can well manage to absorb the loss on account of their ever increasing rent). I put back all of the apples but one, which I offered to the friend who was waiting outside to pick me up. She declined the offer, leaving me rather at a loss.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Win

As I think I must have said before, it's contest season for Toastmasters, my public speaking organization. For me that means two things. There is the inevitable string of requests that I run the raffle for various contest, and I've done that a time or two so far. I also, of course, enter the contests myself, sometimes going far and sometimes not. Yesterday was the second round for me as a contestant, following the opening club round.

It was weeks ago that I won the first round. The time in between was even longer because the second round was delayed, and so I was concerned that I would struggle to recall my speech at all. This speech is in the "Tall Tales" contest, so it's akin to a Paul Bunyan or John Henry-type story of fanciful exaggerations. Mine concerns the origin of laughter, incorporating both ghosts and the Marx Brothers. I do not find that distinguishing myself from others is my problem.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Facing Up To It

I was thinking about the manner in which I have grieved in my life. Specifically, I was thinking about my reaction to deceased pets. A friend had her dog die on her, and I must confess that I was somewhat put off by her reaction. I admit that's really not right, and that it makes me look pretty callous. A person has a right to get upset however they want when they experience a loss, even if it isn't the loss of a person. Maybe she would say the dog is a person. I don't think like that.

I always remember how George Carlin said once that a person buying a dog is buying a tragedy. It makes sense when you think about it. You could buy a puppy that lives fifteen years or you could see it run down in the road the next day, but the outcome is the same. The dog dies and you get your heart broken. I don't mean to counsel that people shouldn't invest themselves emotionally in anything, but they ought to be aware from the start of what's coming. To paraphrase Kris Kristofferson, "The going up is worth coming down."

Friday, October 4, 2013

Passing Through, But Of Course You Knew

Something I've mused about in the past is what it feels like under different sets of circumstances to travel by foot. I've written about walking through well-to-do neighborhoods where I feel as if I might be picked up by police on the grounds that my presence is suspicious. Yesterday I found myself in that scenario again. In fact, I walked through an awfully nice neighborhood twice, to and from my Toastmasters meeting.

It's a novel thing to travel slowly along a nice residential street. It's very quiet and inactive, and yet being there for a while gives you the opportunity to see what actually is happening. You see the one or two residents walking dogs or jogging, and you see the armies of service workers who make the neighborhood go. You see some of the nice cars that people who live there drive, but mostly you see pickup trucks and delivery vans.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bad Times

As I write this, the shutdown of the US government has entered its second day. By the time you read this, it will probably be in its third day, but I sincerely hope it is somehow over by then. It's obviously a very bad thing, but it is not at all a simple thing (evidenced by the fact that this "shutdown" leaves many of the tangible signs that we have a federal government intact. We are still getting mail and being protected by a standing army, but we do not get to see the pandas at the national zoo, for example).

It seems that the shutdown itself, while not great, is also not itself the absolutely worst thing. We've gotten through shutdowns before. Who on Earth remembers the hardships of the last one, waged between Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich? I remember it happening, but I would be hard-pressed to name one thing about it that that made life worse during that time. So far little of what I've read about sounds bad unless you happen to work for the federal government.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Back On Top

Something I've always enjoyed is reading comic strips. I think I've mentioned that. It used to be that I could only see what was in the Arizona Republic, which wasn't that many. We had most of the typical funny strips, and maybe four of the serious ones (which were at the bottom of the two adjacent pages and which I then skipped). Today I can more or less read whichever I like. I don't read them all, but I read a fair number.

It gets to be that I cannot handle the burden of reading them. Sometimes it's for a day or two, and sometimes it's for longer. Recently, which things like the big sketch-writing month, auditions and illness occupied a good amount of my time, I was kept from reading my comic strips for much of the last two months. One or twice I made small efforts to get caught up again, but I found that the backlog was most persistent.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Minor Achievement

I was very pleased with myself on Saturday for succeeding in my effort to write thirty comedy sketches in thirty days. You see, there's this thing called "National Sketch Writing Month", and while I despise fake holidays and the like, I try very hard not to see this as one one those solely because of the appellation. It's just an exercise wherein you try to do what I said: write thirty sketches in the month of September.

It's challenging for a few reasons. It's not easy, of course, to think up thirty ideas that you will be able to bring to fruition. In truth, I was forced more than once to proceed with an idea I didn't entirely love due to the pressure I felt from where I stood in relation to the quota. This is actually a good thing, because you get to see what happens when you override your instincts. Sometimes you're very pleasantly surprised, and it's a way to grow as a writer.