Tuesday, December 23, 2008

X-mas - Merry in Maybe A Day and a Half...

...but for the moment, not so much.

There's something about trying to cram five days worth of work into two and a half days.

Ugh.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Vote of "Snow"-confidence

Yesterday it snowed less than 4 inches. It snowed less than 4 inches starting at roughly 11:00 AM in Chicago and ended in the evening.

Maybe my perspective is skewed because I'm from Michigan, a land known for its cars (for the moment), bad football and snow. But under 4 inches over the course of the late morning and afternoon should not bring the world to a standstill.

Particularly in Chicago. I can understand in Texas or something, where snow is so rare that they're likely to think its nuclear winter. But in Chicago? In December?

And yet it did. Despite having a good six hours between when the snow started and when rush hour traditionally begins, the roads were atrocious. Six hours to throw down a little salt on at least some of the major roads. Something.

I got a ride home from a coworker, it took an hour to go what normally takes like thirty minutes. We traveled Lake Street, Lake Shore Drive, Belmont and I walked Halsted and Wellington and saw only one plow the entire time.

Not cool, Chicago. Not cool.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Senate Sweepstakes!

This may come as a surprise to those of you who are not news junkies, but here in Illinois we have a little bit of a political scandal going on.

Oh my God, political scandal?! In Illinois of all places?! The left side of my body is going numb!! Are those pigs flying past my window?!

Quit freaking out. I have a solution.

You see, when Senator Obama was elected to be our next President he was forced to give up his seat in the US Senate. He's so dreamy I don't know why he couldn't just be President and Senator which would solve everything (make it a new position; call it Presidor or Sentadent) but hey, I don't make the rules.

Because of this, there's now an open position that needs to be filled. And, by law, it must be filled by the Governor of that Senator's home state.

Okay fine, so we'll just have our decent law abiding Governor pick someone. Done.

Except, as it turns out, Illinois' Governor is none other than Rod Blagojevich who is unfortunately an allegedly corrupt asshole. The kind who allegedly tries to sell the highest profile political appointment in the history of democracy to the highest bidder. Allegedly.

So now nobody knows what to do with the Senate seat. The state Republicans want a special election because they feel its the best way to respect our democratic institutions (AH HA HA HA HA HAAA!!!) and because they want the seat. State Democrats want the Governor - a Democrat - to keep the right to appoint the Senator knowing full well that he's going to pick a Democrat or they want assurance that some Democrat somewhere gets to make the choice.

And Governor Rod just wants to be bribed.

Allegedy.

So here we are, Republicans want a contest, Democrats want a Democrat, and Rod wants money. What do we do?

Spectacle, baby. Spectacle.

I propose we have a contest. Five contestants. Entrance fee of 50,000 unmarked Euros in small denominations to be paid to Rod Blagojevich upon applying. The five contestants must take part in a series of challenges - things like who can filibuster the longest or who can cave in to political pressure the quickest or who praise Wall Street with the prettiest language - after which the voters of the state will vote one contestant out of the running.

Once we are down to two contestants, Governor Blagojevich will then choose whichever one is a Democrat. If both are Democrats, he will choose whichever one has given him the most in campaign contributions over the past five years.

The winner will then be appointed Senator for the Great State of Illinois and will be charged with the duty of protecting Illinois' interests in the senate and also will be asked to do everything he can to secure a pardon for Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Everybody wins! Hooray!

All we need now is a title. Any thoughts?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Monkey Kung Fu

What's better than Monkey Knife Fighting?

MONKEY KUNG FU!!


HOORAY MONKEY KUNG FU!!

Happy Friday.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nagging Proof of my Mental Ineptness

On Tuesday of this week, the company had a carpenter come in to the office and "fix" the bathroom doors.

I was woefully unaware that they needed to be fixed. Whenever I went to the bathroom, the door always opened and shut. It never refused to open. It never fell over while trying to open it. It never had any gaping holes in it. I needed only push on the left hand side of the door and it would open for me. In short, it was a door and performed all necessary door functions quite nicely.

Supposedly (at least the powers that be want you to believe that) this is not enough for "some people." "Some people" complained that whenever anyone opened the door to the men's room, one could not only see the sink but also potentially see a man standing at the urinal.

At the urinal! Behind a divider that concealed any nastiness! For the three seconds it takes a door to close!

I don't know who these "some people" are who stand near the door to the men's room who are so offended by this, but I would love to know so that I can properly shame them for ogling the men's room door. So far, nobody has come forward to claim that particular title.

And so this past Tuesday a carpenter came in and rehung the door so that when they open one can only see the urinal when the door is opened very wide and even then only for a fleeting moment.

Problem solved!

Except now in order to enter the bathroom I must push on the right side of the door.

This is markedly different from before, when I only had to push on the left side of the door. We are talking about the complete opposite side of the door.

I usually never stop to think about how certain things become habit.

It became quickly apparent yesterday that I had in fact formed the habit of opening the door on the left side and that, no matter how hard I tried, I could not break myself of the habit. In order for me avoid embarrassment when going to the men's room I must now stop and think about the specific actions I need to take:

I will walk up to the door.
I will stop and review.
I will place my right hand on the right side of the door.
I will push on the right side of the door.
I will enter the bathroom.

However, if I'm preoccupied or in a hurry I skip this review process and inevitably come to the shocking realization that the door is not opening and its my fault because I can't get it in my head that I'm supposed to open from the right now, goddamn it, you moron it's not that hard!

Deep breath. Okay.

Confidentially (and don't tell the powers that be) I'm beginning to think that these complainers, these "some people" don't exist, and that this bathroom door business is nothing more than a psychological experiment. Or worse, maybe its a tactic. A tactic for keep me and others like me subdued.

Bastards.

Anyway, I have to go now. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Idiot


Congratulations, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois. You are officially an asshole.


Governor Blagojevich tried to auction off the senate seat of President Elect Barack Obama, by far the most nationally known appointment ever in the history of appointments, to the highest bidder which, as it turns out, is illegal.


You sir are in fact an idiot.


So that's Kwame Kilpatrick in Detroit and Rod Blagojevich in Illinois. I'm beginning to think I'm a magnet for corruption.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Key Problems

I've had more freaking key problems with this new apartment... I swear to God, it's getting ridiculous.

When you move into an apartment building, you expect to get three keys maximum: the main building key, your apartment key, and your mailbox key.

When I first moved in to the new apartment two months ago, I was given two keys: a main building key and an apartment key. It took me about two weeks to get a mailbox key.

Then I realized that the back door to my apartment, which opens out to a stairwell down to the alley behind my apartment, and my apartment key do not like each other. Turns out that back lock is a different lock from my apartment front door lock. I've asked for a key to that back lock, only to discover that nobody, not even God and management themselves, have a key to that lock.

I tried to use the laundry room once, only to discover that the passageway to the laundry room has it's own separate key, but that the laundry room itself uses the main building key. It look me a month to get the key to the laundry passageway. Once I managed to get in to the laundry passageway, I discovered that my main building key does not work in that lock.

Also, the laundry room has a total of two washers and two dryers for the whole building. Also, the laundry room itself is a disgusting hellhole that falls apart around you as you are trying to do your whites. I have since given up on ever using the laundry room.

The lock on the main door to the apartment building was unreliable, meaning basically broken. As a result, Katie and I once came home and found a homeless man sleeping in front of my apartment (as in, the door to my apartment specifically on the third floor). We kicked him out and then I called my building supervisor to let her know and to ask her if they were going to change the lock or something so that, oh I don't know, maybe next time I come home there won't be some random dude sleeping in front of my door. She said no, not necessary, people just needed to make sure that the door was closing all the way when they entered the building and that there was no need for a new lock.

Instead, she put up laminated signs in the entry way asking people to close the door behind them. Problem solved.

So let's recap: one lock into the apartment building which is broken and can be jimmied by homeless Bob, one lock into my apartment from through the front door, one lock to my back door for which nobody has a key, one lock to the passageway that goes to the shitty laundry room for which I finally got a key, one lock into the shitty laundry room itself in which my main key theoretically works but practically speaking does not, and one lock to my mailbox key which took me two weeks to get.

Yesterday evening I decided to leave my apartment to get some milk. I wanted to eat a delicious bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. As I was leaving the building, I noticed that the lock was shiny and new looking.

Oh joy, I thought, they finally fixed that broken lock that was letting homeless people into my apartment building.

And then I thought, You know, I wonder if my building key will work in the new lock.

Of course not.

So I called my building manager and asked, Hey, did you guys change the lock or something?

Yes, she said, But your key should still work. It's the same lock.

Really? Because guess what? It doesn't.

Fuck, she said (at least I think - the building manager has an accent from generic Balkan country), I have to make a list of people who need new keys.

Great, so what do I do tonight to get back into the sheltered warm place where I sleep?

Oh don't worry, there's a key in the mailbox where you leave your rent (which is two apartment buildings down from where I live). Get the key from the box and use that. Only you need to return it right away so that other people can use it to get into their apartments.

When do I get my new...?

Click.

You motherless bastards.

The main apartment door slams shut after you enter, so it's not like I can unlock the door, leave it open, return the key, come back and get in to the apartment building. So, last night, to get into my apartment, I had to go grab the key, enter the apartment building, go to my apartment, unlock the back door to my apartment from the inside (for which, remember, nobody has a key) return the key, enter my apartment through the back stairwell, and enter my apartment through the door that I have left unlocked. I can accomplish all of this provided that everyone else who needs to get in to their apartment puts the key back where everyone can get to it.

I have to do all of this to get into my apartment. I may as well have a retina scanner too and maybe a hallway full of booby trapped plates that shoot poison darts at me.

And given my building manager's track record, I can expect a replacement key hopefully in the early portion of the new year.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ughhhh

Morning after X-mas party. At work. Every good idea from last night turns out to be bad.

*BURP*

Eghh....

Thursday, December 4, 2008

X-mas Party

That's right, baby. It's the X-mas party tonight.

Company X-mas party.

It's the party where we drink X-mas drinks and do X-mas things.

Will I be naughty or nice? Take a wild guess.

...

(Nice. I'll be nice. Who am I kidding? I'm nice.)

Here is my X-mas present to you, a quick article with a great Header.

Looks like someone was a little too naughty.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

An Appropriate Manner

I just got off a work call with the voicemail of some telcom dude in Minneapolis, MN. He had the longest, most convoluted away message I think I've ever heard. It was like a five minute message.

There were a couple of nuggets that he spouted to quickly for me to scribble down, but I did manage to get this little piece of well-wishing:

"I hope your day is proceeding in an appropriate manner."

How great is that?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Big Three Go to Canossa

There is a meeting today in Washington between the government and the Big Three auto companies. The meetings are ostensibly about how the auto companies would use government loans to save the struggling car industry.

The results of the meeting? Well, I guess Ford executives will have to make due without their private jets in the near future.

For those of you who don't know, the auto industry is going down and begging the government to loan them some money ($25 billion dollars) to patch the gigantic hole at the bottom of their proverbial boat.

This includes Ford CEO Alan Mulally cutting his salary to $1 a year if they actually are allowed to borrow money.

Word is he will also be trading in his business suits for hairshirts shortly.

I am of two minds on this.

The populist mind says, "Good. To hell with these rich greedy bastard CEO types, who have single handedly prevented us from having flying cars by now!"

However, the other mind says, "Is anyone else slightly unnerved at all that the government's asking that the auto industry essentially humiliate itself for a loan?"

Populist mind chimes in, "Well, but they deserve it. I mean, they've been hawking gas guzzling SUVs for decades now. They ignored the fact that the people want hybrids. That's why they're failing right now - they can't sell their fat-ass SUVs in the current market."

"Well, that's not completely accurate," says other mind. "First of all, the Big Three made SUVs because people bought them; like, a lot of them. So who's to blame for that? Also, one of the few products still selling strong is the truck. Second, there are plenty of quality Big Three made hybrids available on the market (check out the Ford Escape Hybrid for example) and have plans of rolling out Electric Cars within the next few years. But leaving all of that aside, the reason the Big Three can't sell enough cars right now is because customers can't get the loans to buy them."

"Loans?" asks the populist mind. "You mean those things people used to use to buy houses could also have been used to buy cars?"

"A whole lot of people get their cars using loans," says other mind. "But the credit crisis (which, by the way, was not caused by the auto companies) has infected the likes of Ford Credit. Not to say that the auto companies might have done some things differently - they've certainly been on the slide for a couple of years now - but as far as the current sudden crisis is concerned it looks like it might be related more to the credit crisis and less to the type of product available."

"Credit crisis! They just gave those sons of bitches $700 billion dollars or something!" shouts outraged populist mind.

"And barely blinked an eye too. If there's a hole at the bottom of Ford's boat, you can be sure it was AIG's rock that put it there. And it was probably thrown from the yacht AIG bought with their federal bailout money."

But by now, I've grown tired of listening to my minds argue back and forth, so I pat the side of my head and tell them to shut up in there.

Instead, I decide to placate my inner history nerd. I look to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge) and find this article about the Walk to Canossa, which was when the mighty Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV, walked barefoot to the castle of Pope Gregory VII and waited outside in a hairshirt for three days in the snow to beg for forgiveness. This was, of course, back in the days when it was not only cool to be Catholic but also required.

Ostensibly, that little meeting was a matter of religion. Of course, the real issue wasn't religion but power.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Ho!

Thanksgiving has come and gone. I ate probably eight pounds of stuffing and slept for a good half of my time home. I hope, dear readers, that your holiday was as restful as mine. I also hope that your travels were significantly less painful than driving home through Michigan Wintery Apocalypse.

Today I've returned to the office to find that Chicago is blanketed with snow and that the air is electrified with the palpable stress of buying presents, making travel plans and preparing for further visiting with family. That must mean it's nearly Christmas time!

Hooray Christmas time!

I've been holding off on thinking about this most wonderful time of year as much as possible. As a rule, I try not to pay attention to Christmas until after Thanksgiving is over. It seems like every year, the Christmas onslaught starts earlier and earlier. This year, they were selling Christmas bobbles along side Scream masks. What the hell? I can't celebrate a day devoted to dressing up like a slutty demon along side of the birth of baby Jesus!

Can we just do the one holiday at a time, Hallmark? Please?

But now here we are, with Thanksgiving neatly tucked in the past, standing fully in December, and there are no more excuses. It's time to dust off those holiday decorations and steel yourself for a month's worth of Christmas music. I will be putting my head down and pushing on to Christmas eve, which is the last day of the current year that I'll have to work.

Onward to Christmas!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Get Thankful, You Ungrateful Bastards

Hey! It's the Wednesday before Thanksgiving! Which can mean only one thing! A 5+ hour drive to Michigan after work today!

YES!

Thanksgiving is supposed to be about tradition, so in recognition of this truth I am officially rolling out a new blog tradition - a blogdition if you will (wait, that sounds stupid) - for Clever Title:



THREE THINGS FOR WHICH I AM THANKFUL THIS YEAR

THING #1: I am, as always, thankful to have the next four days off from work. The closest thing I've had to a vacation lately has been getting ill. Before that, it was moving apartments. Before that, I don't even know. Probably getting ill again. I'll tell you what, though, working in Telecom gets to you after while. I can really use the chance to just chill out (even above and beyond my general distaste for work), and Thanksgiving is the harbinger for a season full of days off.

THING #2: I am thankful that I will be going home to Michigan this Thanksgiving and that my beautiful girlfriend will be along for the ride. The long drive home is much easier to take with someone else in the car. Now I won't have to pick up hitch hikers!

THING #3: Butterflies. They're beautiful.


And...


ONE THING FOR WHICH I AM NOT THANKFUL THIS YEAR

Detroit Lions football. I mean Jesus H. Christ, you people make millions of dollars you can't win one lousy freaking game? And this is what I have to watch on Thanksgiving? What an enormous pile of suck.



The plan is to do this every Thanksgiving season. Of course, chances are I'll forget come next year. Whatever, it's my blog. Don't judge me.

What are you thankful for, oh six loyal readers?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Amazing Adventures of Kavelier & Clay - Michael Chabon

I guess I'm on a bit of a reading kick lately. Over the weekend I finished another book. That's two in one month! I need to slow down and watch more of the TV.

My most recently read book was The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon.

I bought this book a couple of years ago and started reading it but for some reason got distracted and put it down for a while. Then I read a collection of Michael Chabon's non-fiction (Maps and Legends, which is also an interesting read if you don't mind essays on writing and genre fiction) and was reminded that I actually own some of his fiction. So I picked it back up and finished it this time around.

I liked this book. I liked it a lot actually.

The story revolves around the lives and careers of two young men, a writer from Brooklyn named Sam Clay and his Czech artist cousin Joe Kavalier, who become successful comic book writers and illustrators around the time of World War II.

I feel foolish for putting the book down, but in retrospect I'm glad I waited to read this until after reading his essays in Maps and Legends. A big part of his critique on modern literature is that genre fiction - such as scifi, fantasy and comic books for example - gets a bad rap from the literati establishment, which tends to lean towards more critically accepted novels about disgruntled middle aged wives/ professors/ writers and their divorces/ psychological issues/ boring existential crises etc. This is a critique that I tend to agree with so it's nice to see someone voice that opinion and still win a Pulitzer Prize (for Kavelier and Clay no less).

In reading Kavelier and Clay, you can really see how this chip on Chabon's shoulder affects his work. The book reads like part comic book, part history book, part coming-of-age story. And yet, the novel never reads like the schizophrenically disjointed mess you might expect. He actually manages to pull it off quite well.

Then again, he better if they're giving him a Pulitzer.

What makes this novel so successful is that Chabon is able to take so many different ideas and topics - he manages to write about comic book history, the holocaust, the merits of high art, Houdini-style escapistry, immigration, love, Jewishness, World War II and homosexuality just to name a few - while simultaneously telling an honest to God story that is actually fun to read.

He manages this feat with humor and with care. His characters are fully developed as even his less admirable characters still inspire sympathy and his minor characters possess just enough depth to make them memorable. His style, while a little bit wordy for my taste at times (his essays are even worse to that end), is otherwise effortless and allows the audience to easily buy in to the story.

The result is a reading experience with a wide appeal that both intellectually challenges the reader while engaging them and ultimately entertaining them.

You don't have to be a comic book fan or a genre junky to enjoy this book and you don't have to be an English major to understand what's going on (although I might recommend keeping a dictionary handy as some of his word choices are a little obscure). If you have the chance, I'd recommend the read. It's a little long but it should be worth your while.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Show Wrap Up

Are You There God? It's Me, Satan closed this past Saturday. Of course, I spent Sunday weeping like a little child now that it's gone (momentarily). I'd like to think that it was a pretty good show and that people enjoyed watching it. Sure, we may have crossed boundaries of morality and decency, but we had some laughs while doing it. We even turned something of a profit on the show. So that was cool. I haven't been able to say that very often.

For those of you who did not get the chance to see the show, we will be doing a stripped down version of it for this year's Chicago Sketchfest. We'll be performing Thursday, 1/15/09 at 9:30 PM in the South Theatre. Sketchfest is always a good time because it offers people the chance to see sketch comedy groups from around the country (and Canada!) perform, so if you get the chance you should come check it out.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Last Weekend

All right you bastards. You have only two more chances to see this sketch show. I suggest calling ahead for tickets or reserving them online. Here is the info:

Robot vs. Dinosaur Presents:

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, SATAN
HOW SATAN SOLD HIS SOUL

Closing: November 22nd, 2008
Days and Time: Fridays and Saturdays at 10pm

Location: Gorilla Tango Theatre
1919 N. Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

Tickets: $12
For Tickets, Call 773.598.4549 or visit http://www.gorillatango.com/

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Breaking Silence

Earlier this year I came to the conclusion that this blog was cursed. I became convinced that by simply mentioning a favorite sports team I could potentially doom them to a year of outright suckitude and, as a result, I've avoided talking directly about sports as much as possible.

Of course my college football team, the Michigan Wolverines, has since gone 3-8 and are a 20-some point underdog against the 10th Ranked Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio State this weekend and the Lions are, well, the Lions.

So much for the curse.

Today I thought that since Michigan's struggles this year have clearly been well out of the hands of this blog, and since Michigan's likelihood of beating Ohio State this weekend is in a word slim (though not completely out of question goddamnit!), why not break the silence and reflect on the experience of the past football season?

Just a warning, this might be a long one since we're talking about three and a half months worth of pent-up sports-talk here.

Being a college football fan is a stupid, stupid thing.

Objectively speaking, it is silly to get so rabidly upset or rapturously euphoric over the movements of a weirdly shaped brown leather ball over a big field covered in fake grass made from ground up tires. Yet, college football has the power to turn the most erudite sophisticate into a blithering loudmouthed idiot. This is, somehow, part of the beauty of the sport.

It has been a very odd year for the Michigan fan. In years past, I would watch a Michigan victory and worry that they hadn't won by enough, that despite the win there were still apparent weaknesses and deficiencies, an exposed Achilles heel that would keep Michigan from winning that Rose Bowl game or making it to the National Championship that was our birthright as Michigan fans.

Then came the first game of last year's season, otherwise known as the great terror of 2007.

And now here I am, over a year removed from that awful day, elated over any victory Michigan can get. I was happy for days after Michigan beat Minnesota this year.

Minnesota!

Of course, since last season, Michigan has changed coaches, changed coaching staffs, changed playing style, changed the stadium. They lost all but one starter on their entire offense. Their quarterbacks were all incredibly young and had never played a snap of college football prior to this season. Their offensive line was patched together with anyone who might be able to hold a block. Their defense consisted of a good D-line, mediocre linebackers and a secondary capable of both brilliant and mind-numbingly awful play.

At the beginning of the year, we all thought, "Who knows? It could work."

This is a team consisting for the most part of underclassmen and you get the sense in watching the games that sometimes the whole thing could completely fall apart if not for Rich Rodriguez, the new coach, willing them from the sidelines to keep playing.

No, there was bound to be pain. We Michigan faithful have had to endure losses to Notre Dame and Michigan State and the jeers of their fans. We've had to endure a season's worth of ridiculous articles from the likes of Drew Sharp, writer for the Detroit Free Press and I have to believe one of the most loathsome sports columnist ever to write for a major publication.

I watched the last part of the first game at a bar with my friend. During the final five minutes or so, some douchebag in a Cubs hat came up to me and said, "I'm sorry for your loss." "Well, game's not over yet" I said affable, to which he replied, with a smug look on his face, "Are you kidding? Your whole season's over," laughed, and then punctuated it with a "Michigan sucks" for good measure.

Of course, at the time the Cubs had yet to exit the playoffs without a single win, so I had nothing.

With all this angst, the Michigan fan base has been tearing itself apart. In fact, without the help of my favorite Michigan blog I might never had made it through.

And yet I have to say, despite all of that angst, that I haven't enjoyed a season of football this much since I saw my last home game as a student.

Why? Am I a sports masochist?

Who knows? Maybe. I'm still a Lions fan after all.

I'm not completely sure why this is. My theory is that this year, instead of irrationally asking perfection and inevitable disappointment from a slew of NFL bound seniors, I'm looking for flashes of talent and portents of the future from a group of kids who are not really ready to play yet but damn it they're playing anyway.

I don't know what to expect anymore. There's no Mike Hart, Michigan's all time leading rusher and graduate from last year's senior class, to run 100+ yards per game regardless of who they're playing. I could tune in and watch Michigan give up 48 points to Purdue of all teams, or I could tune in and watch a former walk-on quarterback, an interception machine from earlier in the season, play the game of his life in Minnesota. I could watch them lose pitifully to Toledo or make a stunning second quarter comeback against a nationally ranked (at the time) Wisconsin team.

Who knows?

This Saturday Michigan will play the hated Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio. They will play with their patchwork offensive line and their slew of freshmen and what's left of the defense and they will most likely lose. In fact, they may lose by a lot.

But then again, who knows?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Again With The Shameless Plug!

It's a new Friday tradition! Like TGIF! Only funny!


Robot vs. Dinosaur Presents:

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, SATAN
HOW SATAN SOLD HIS SOUL

Opening: October 31st, 2008
Closing: November 22nd, 2008
Days and Time: Fridays and Saturdays at 10pm

Location: Gorilla Tango Theatre
1919 N. Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

Tickets: $12
For Tickets, Call 773.598.4549 or visit http://www.gorillatango.com/



Only two more weekends of this and then I'll have to actually start writing stuff again.

Yikes.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Der Kettenraucher!


I'm not going to make any value judgements or statements. I'm just going to say that I found this to be an interesting piece of information.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Road - Cormac McCarthy

I picked up The Road by Cormac McCarthy a couple of weeks back and finally got around to reading it this past weekend. I had heard good things about it froma couple of different people and it was on sale at Borders so I figured what the hell.

The book is about a father and son in their quest to survive in some sort of gray, ashen, post-apocalyptic world full of gray dust, canibals, and gray. Also, there is some grayness.

A hilarious romp? Not so much.

But an engaging read nonetheless, and a quick read too as everything is written in tiny snipets.

As far as plot goes there was nothing spectacular and I had guessed the ending just by reading the back cover of the book. I was also bothered in the back of my head that I was never told why the world had decended into apocalyptically grayish gray grayity. I realize this was likely intentional and that the reason why wasn't at all the point of the novel. Still, I'm a sucker for that kind of back story.

There were two remarkable aspects of the book, though, that I did enjoy quite a lot. The first is that the language really created the perfect atmosphere for the story. It was a little tedious at first slogging through all of the descriptions of gray dust and all but after a while it became the tone. By the end, it was almost as though I was more experiencing the book in all of its desolate grayness than just reading it.

The second is that, by literally stripping away almost everything else, the novel can really concentrate on the relationship between the father and his son. At the end of the day, that's what this book is about: the relationship between these two and how it changes as they struggle to survive.

Definitely worth the read if you get the chance.

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's Friday! Which Can Mean Only One Thing....

...time to plug the show! Again!


Robot vs. Dinosaur Presents:

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, SATAN
HOW SATAN SOLD HIS SOUL


Opening: October 31st, 2008
Closing: November 22nd, 2008
Days and Time: Fridays and Saturdays at 10pm

Location: Gorilla Tango Theatre
1919 N. Milwaukee AveChicago, IL 60647
Tickets: $12

For Tickets, Call 773.598.4544 or visit http://www.gorillatango.com/


"More fun than an old fashioned monkey knife-fight!"




No matter how hard I try, I just can't stop loving this picture. Sigh.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thoughts on the Day After

This morning I woke up and, apart from it being unseasonably warm, it was a normal fall weekday. There were piles of yellowed leaves in the streets and on the sidewalks. People were going to and from work. The bus was still crowded.

It was a perfectly typical Wednesday morning.

You really wouldn't have been able to tell this morning that the night before was a historic night, that the country had chosen to follow up nearly eight widely unpopular years with the risk of the unknown, that hundreds of thousands of people had packed downtown Chicago to hear the first black president-elect in the history of our country claim victory, that after a long, gruelling and seemingly endless election process we finally had our answer to the question: who gets saddled with fixing our collective mess?

People were crying and dancing in the streets all over the world. All over the world. Who can remember the last time people celebrated all over the world for the election of an American president?

Years from now I am certain that people will ask me if I was there downtown when it happened, when Obama claimed victory and a quarter of a million people went absolutely wild and Jesse Jackson cried for all the television watching audience to see world over.

And I will tell them no, I was at home in my apartment. Eating leftover chicken fried rice out of a carton. Typing away on my laptop with the election on in the background.

Anti-climactic, I know.

From the comfort of my desk chair, I saw John McCain step up to a podium in Arizona. I listened as he gave an eloquent and graceful concession speech where he quieted the shouting disappointed masses as best he could and pledged to work with the new President. He was calm and direct, and I could have sworn I detected a certain amount of relief.

In that brief speech he was the John McCain I vaguely remembered from before the campaign.

And Obama gave the type of speech that Obama gives, draped in the soaring rhetoric of hope and change, a call which has become synonymous with his campaign along with the easily repeatable slogan "Yes we can." Still it raises goosebumps.

But I think this was the last time Obama could really give this speech. Last night Obama ceased to be the embodiment of change and became the new establishment.

It remains to be seen what this new establishment means. It remains to be seen what change really means, and whether or not our President-elect can live up to (or even come close to) the insane expectations that the world has of him.

All of this for a guy who was a state senator, what, four years ago?

Last night I expected that the whole country would wake up today feeling a confusing mixture of exhilaration, fear, relief, doubt, excitement and uncertainty. Yet this morning, all I had was the understanding that I still had a job to get to and a bus to ride.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

MEME and GO VOTE, A-HOLE!

I'VE BEEN MEME'D!


What the hell is a meme? I guess it's a survey thing that gets passed around the interwebs from time to time. Like syphilis for bloggers. In this instance, I've contracted it courtesy of the loving caress of a Mr. Joe Janes.


List seven random and/or weird facts about myself:


(1) When I was a kid, my parents used to take us to Kentucky on vacation to go spelunking.


(2) My parents have family video of my brother and I dancing rather embarassingly to Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al" when we were very tiny. They like to show it to girlfriends whenever I bring them home for the first time.


(3) I nearly went to Washington University in St. Louis to pursue a degree in Architecture.


(4) I hate having my blood taken. This was not that big of a problem until my girlfriend decided to enrole in a phlebotomy program. Now every once in a while I will catch her staring at my arms. It creeps me out.


(5) My favorite movie to watch when I was sick was "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves." I was too young to be bothered by the fact that Robin Hood was the only one in the movie without an English accent.


(6) I am a huge fan of "Good Eats," the television show on the Food Network.


(7) Saturday night, I came home to my apartment on the third floor to find a homeless man sleeping in front of my door.

There you go. I'll tag my sister Vanessa, ex-coworker Lauren, and current castmate Lisa.

GO VOTE

I did it. I got my ass up at 6:00 AM, struggled through my complex yet simplistic local Chicago precinct poll, waded through seas of disgruntled people through what seemed like 20 lines but goddamn it I performed my civic duty. And if I can do it, so can you. Get your asses to the polls, people!

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Sigh of Relief

First, I want to thank everyone who came out for opening weekend of our show, Are You There God? It's Me, Satan. We had pretty good turn out, especially considering that Friday night was Halloween and Saturday night was Halloween Part II, the after-Costume Party. I'd particularly like to thank my Parents, who saw it twice, my girlfriend, who overcame intense moral objections, and my friends Jesse and Natalia who both came in from out of town.

The show is now up and running. People seemed to respond well to the show and we had a couple of big laughs, which is always nice. After months of rehearsing, it's easy for the writers, actors etc. to lose sight of the fact that your comedy show can actually be funny. Those first laughs are huge confidence builders. So now we can all sigh with relief comforted by the fact that somebody is going to laugh, so now all we have to do now is perform the damned thing.

Aaaah.

We have three more weekends, Friday and Saturday nights at 10:00 PM. You should come out and bring everyone you know.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Shut Up About Your Show Already!

I can't help myself. The damned thing goes up on Friday.

Robot vs. Dinosaur Presents:

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, SATAN
HOW SATAN SOLD HIS SOUL

Opening: October 31st, 2008
Closing: November 22nd, 2008
Days and Time: Fridays and Saturdays at 10pm
Location: Gorilla Tango Theatre
1919 N. Milwaukee AveChicago, IL 60647
Tickets: $12
For Tickets, Call 773.598.4544 or visit http://www.gorillatango.com/

Monday, October 27, 2008

Paintball Wednesday

I don't consider myself to be a violent person.

That said, when given the opportunity by the company to take a day out of this work week to go out into a field and shoot paintballs at my bosses and coworkers, I immediately said yes.

Have I ever played paintball before? No.

Do I have any idea how much it stings to get hit by one of those suckers? No, why do you ask?

Am I even athletic? I mean, there's a lot of running around and stuff. I'm just going to end up painfully reminded of how out of shape I am. Was I aware of that when I signed up?

No I'm not athletic. Yes I was aware.

Sure, it may be that I do not believe in running and sure I'm a 6'3" monster so it's not like I hide very easily. I also haven't shot anything resembling a gun since boy scouts. But the immediate benefits, which include:
  1. Skipping work for a day for a company sanctioned event
  2. Drinking beer for free during aforementioned company sanctioned event
  3. Getting a shot off on a sales agent before being mercilessly pummeled with paint

...Outweigh any negatives.

So that's going to be Wednesday. Provided I'm not too busy catching up on Thursday, I'll let you know how that went.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Investing In The Future

So apparently while I've been busy worrying about moving, recovering from sudden illness and producing a sketch show, something funny happened to the economy.

I'm no economist, but this seems to be the deal: Democrats are blaming Republicans; Republicans are blaming Democrats; home owners are blaming the Wall Street Fat-Cats for strong arming them into crazy loans so that they could buy houses they really couldn't afford in the first place, and the Wall Street Fat-Cats have absconded to various tropical locales to live out their days sipping Strawberry Daiquiris poolside. The Government's response to the crisis has been to give several hundreds of billions of dollars that they don't have to various companies in the hopes that the stock market numbers go up again, while simultaneously giving back tax money to the citizens so that they can still buy iPods.

The lesson here for everyone would seem to be something along the lines of DON'T BUY SHIT THAT YOU CAN'T AFFORD, YOU JACKASS but nobody wants to hear any of that foolishness.

In short, we're probably pretty screwed here.

So, given the economic instability of the times, I would suggest that we all start investing immediately in the future.

I'm not talking about Warren Buffet buying stocks during a Wall Street sell off style investing.

I'm talking about hoarding books on the history of rudimentary agriculture, buying case after case of bottled water, constructing bunkers in the backyard, and learning how to throw a spear while running really fast.

Personally, I am looking for a place to buy chickens so that I can start breeding them. I figure once the monetary system collapses and paper money becomes completely worthless (currently the majority of my wealth is represented by little numbers on a computer hard drive somewhere - meanwhile the freaking wireless card on my laptop decided to quit of its own volition, thus breeding confidence in the power of technology), I'm going to need something real to barter with. And that something real is going to be eggs, feathers and delicious chicken meat.

I've begun taking longs walks around Chicago to scout areas that will be both suitable for farming and easily defensible from wild animal attacks and marauding brigand hordes. Also, I'm spending a lot of my free time cutting trees into big posts so that I can build an effective palisade when the time comes. Also, I'm learning how to make smoke signals.

I figure if I start now, I'll have a better chance of surviving the riotous collapse of society. This will put me in a better position to one day become the warlord I've always dreamed of being.

Vote Nat Topping for Warlord, 2014!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Consumed By Show

It's getting around that time in the production process of Are You There God? It's Me, Satan. where I start to think and talk about nothing but the show. So forgive me if that's what this blog becomes over the next couple of weeks. Rest assured, it will eventually go back to what it normally is: two posts a week consisting of monkey knife-fighting pictures.

But for the moment, I wanted to share this:


I drew that picture!

Putting up a show is a lot of work, even just a one hour sketch show. If you are only involved in part of the process - just a writer, or an actor, etc. - obviously you work hard on your part and you kind of get an overall sense of how much work the whole production entails, but for me I didn't really understand until I got involved in actual production work, as I have with Robot vs Dinosaur.

For our last show, Greatest Stories, in addition to acting and writing I also worked on the set. This basically meant building a tree out of foam core, wood and tape. It lived in the kitchen area of my studio apartment. That tree became like a child to me.

This time around I've coordinated publicity, drawn the set (you'll find out what that means when you see the show), helped run auditions, helped cast the show, and directed one rehearsal in addition to also acting, singing and writing.

And that's just my part of the deal. The other writers all have their own similarly time consuming production responsibilities.

The great thing about this, though, is that I'm using a ton of skills from past lives that I haven't used in quite a while. I haven't done this much drawing since I went to college intent on becoming an architect. I also haven't directed since college. Prior to RVD, my previous singing experience entailed one song in one high school musical and one or two sketch show songs.

Yet here I am now, a grown up, using all of this shit I never thought I'd use again and it's a blast.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

THWACK!

Our bus hit a guy on my way to work this morning.

After standing in the aisle for a couple of blocks, I had just managed to wrangle myself a seat (I'll punch an old lady in the face in the morning, I don't even care) when the bus driver hit the breaks and the horn. I heard a loud 'thwack!' and someone up front shouted 'Holy Shit!' We stopped, the bus driver opened the door. I saw some dude stand up - he looked like a high school kid - replace the buds from his ipod back into his ears, and walk off apparently uninjured.

I guess the guy had stepped off the curb and the freaking driver was talking on his cell phone (there's got to be some sort of CTA code violation for that) and didn't notice him until too late.

So, we sat at the bus top while the bus driver called in to someone at the CTA. This was at Armitage and Halsted. Then he made us all get off the bus. Then we all crammed on to the next available bus, which was of course crowded.

I can't complain too much. At least I wasn't hit by a bus today.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

NEW SHOW!! The Press Release

Well, you knew it was going to happen eventually. Enough with the politics and pictures of monkey knife fights! It's time to start plugging the new show:

Robot vs. Dinosaur Presents:

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, SATAN
HOW SATAN SOLD HIS SOUL


Opening: October 31st, 2008
Closing: November 22nd, 2008
Days and Time: Fridays and Saturdays at 10pm
Location: Gorilla Tango Theatre
1919 N. Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
Tickets: $12
For Tickets, Call 773.598.4544 or visit www.gorillatango.com

CHICAGO, IL – Robot vs. Dinosaur proudly presents their new show, Are You There God? It’s Me, Satan. Times are tough everywhere, even in Hell. With Hell crippled by overcrowding, thanks in part to the Internet, Satan may be forced to make a rash decision. But when push comes to shove, will Satan sell out?

Follow along as a father and son journey past demons, sinners and a three-headed puppy on a tour of the past, present and future of Hell led by none other than Satan himself.

Opening just in time for the Halloween weekend, Are You There God? It’s Me, Satan weaves together short comic scenes with compelling narrative to create a funny and playfully irreverent theatrical experience that will leave audiences laughing.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Satan is performed by Neil Arsenty, Kim Boler, Lisa Burton, Jill Fenstermaker, Tim Heurlin, Ryan McDermott, Nat Topping and Trish Vignola and is directed by Geoff Crump.

Robot vs. Dinosaur is Mike Bauman, Geoff Crump, Joe Janes, Joe Linstroth, Chris Othic, Nat Topping and Greg Wendling.


Tell Everyone You Know!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Campaign '08 - Have We Lost Our F@&%ING MINDS?!

Gird your loins and prepare for my cynical civics lesson for the week:


Well, election day is less than a month away, when the enlightened citizenship of this country will elect their leaders and heads of state for the next 2/4/6 years. Of course, we all know what that means: everyone descends into a month long bout of partisan lunacy.


Democrats blame the nation's problems on Republicans and accuse them of being evil. Republicans blame the nation's problems on Democrats and accuse them of being the pals of terrorists. You need no more than to have watched one of the last three debates to see that is true. My favorite question was at this last town hall debate where a lady asked "How can we trust either of you to run this economy when both parties are responsible for ruining everything (I'm paraphrasing of course)." And all the while, the Third Party Candidates wonder aloud what the hell is wrong with everyone that they don't get tired of this back and forth foolishness between the two and start looking at other options.


Before long, we come to the point where I start shouting at you, with specks of spittle on my beard, about how 'my' candidate is a freaking Saint who we must elect at all cost because electing 'your' candidate would bring about a second dark age where we would all be forced to live in thatched cottages without modern plumbing or iPods.


In short, people lose their minds. And it happens every time as far as I can recall in my short time on this little blue and green orb we call home.


This year it seems to be particularly bad.


On the one hand we have Obama, a reasonably intelligent and eloquent albeit legislatively undistinguished Democratic Senator from Illinois who has shot up the pedestal of notoriety to the point where they are already planning out his mug on Mount Rushmore.


On the other hand, we have John McCain, who went from being this guy:


To being this guy:


I remember earlier this summer, when John McCain was promising to run a civil and respectful campaign and Barack Obama had just finished off Hillary the Three AM Filth Queen and I thought, "This might actually be tolerable this year." Alas, no.


For while many Obama followers edge closer and closer towards creepy cult-status John McCain, following the realization that he's probably going to lose the election, decides to give up on "issues" and go down swinging like a wounded mountain lion.


Read this account of a recent John McCain rally.


Are you serious? Some of this is border-line torch and pitch fork wielding mob chasing down Frankenstein kind of crazy! This is still America, right? We haven't been transported back to the French Revolution, right? Is Robespierre running this year?


Robespierre joke? Anyone? No? Okay, moving on.


People: chill the fuck out already.


What ever happened to that trusted American virtue known as cynicism? You know, the one where you realize at the back of your mind that if he's a politician, regardless of political party, he's probably bullshitting you to get elected. The one where you realize that the two Parties are really all about getting their weasels elected over the other guy, and that the whole liberal vs. conservative thing is basically just branding. Anyone remember that?


Democrats: it's okay to be excited about your candidate. He seems like a nice guy and, as I said before, reasonably intelligent. Basically, unless he gets caught on camera beating an old lady with a tire iron he's likely going to win. He's not going to save the world, though, and he's not going to wave a magic wand and fix everything within the first 100 days. Two years of already controlling Congress should have convinced you of this by now. In fact, the next four years will probably suck regardless of who ends up in the oval office.


Republicans: face it, your Party is falling apart and, short of catching Obama beating an old lady with a tire iron on camera your guy's going to lose, and no amount of screaming about William Ayers (which, by the way, has to be the most ridiculous political argument anyone's ever tried to legitimately make since the Know Nothing party) is going to change that. What used to be a party devoted to limited government and lower taxes has devolved into a patriotism abusing group of hawks who spend money like there is no tomorrow. If that's still your bag, that's fine; just don't be surprised when a lot of people are 'inconceivably' kind of turned off to that. For the rest of you wondering what the hell happened to your party, it moved to the Libertarian side of town.


Remember, my fellow Americans, this is a government by the people for the people and, as a result, is a reflection of its people. If those people are jackasses, then a jackass government is what you'll get.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Burn Her

Just in time for the Halloween season comes an article from the Detroit Free Press, one of my home town newspapers. I share this because it is hilarious to me.

"A day after asking a teacher if she was a witch or believed in witchcraft — following a history lesson on early-America’s Salem witch trials — an adult-education student tossed a liquid on a teacher and then pulled out a cigarette lighter, police said."

I'm not completely sure what to say about that. There's so much delicous absurdity in just that one little paragraph that I don't know where to start. I mean I've read some bad plays in my time but I've never actually tried lighting the teacher on file.

Hats off to you, adult-education person.

I wonder what her answer was to the question "Are you a witch or do you believe in witchcraft?" The article doesn't tell you that, does it?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Incommunicado

Hello loyal readership of five.

Well, it's been about a week now since I last wrote anything here, so I figured I would write in and give you a catch up post.

When last we left off, I was moving apartments literally across the alley from where I used to live. I was able to accomplish this thanks largely to the efforts of my buddies Pat and Jen and also my mother, who came to town for a couple nights to help me move. I think it's nicer than the last place. I have to say once we got everything in the new apartment it was kind of humbling looking at all of my earthly possessions sitting in a pile in the middle of a room.

I worked Monday and Tuesday, and then took the rest of the week off to get my place in order, which I still haven't completed as I have a lot of things sitting in cardboard boxes - mostly books. It's amazing how much useless shit I accumulated. I threw out a ton of stuff before the move but still; how does that happen?

At any rate, Wednesday I deep cleaned the new apartment with the help of my girlfriend Katie and my mother. Thursday I did some touch up painting in the apartment. Friday I went out and looked at furniture with Katie. Saturday was rehearsal for our new RVD show "Are You There God? It's Me, Satan," (more info on the show to follow eventually) and Michigan football which was painful but sometimes you just can't help yourself, you know? Sunday Katie and I went to get dinner at the Gale Street Inn, which was delicious.

Blah blah blah that's been my week.

I figured I could keep in touch with the blogging world via my HP laptop during the move, with it's handy-dandy wireless card. I pictured myself waltzing over to, oh I don't know maybe a Caribou Coffee, grabbing myself an espresso and some free wifi and then writing amazing and relevant blog posts about, say, the Vice Presidential debate last week (which was kind of disappointing in that Palin didn't outright fuck up and Biden's eyeballs didn't explode out of his head - although Palin's mastery of mangling the English language was enjoyable to watch: "we've got not to (verb)" I think was how she phrased it, but I digress).

Unfortunately, my HP laptop's handy-dandy wireless card suddenly and inexplicably decided to cease working. As in it uninstalled itself of it's own accord. So yeah, I still have to figure that out.

Note to self: double check research before purchasing another HP laptop.

So instead I've been going to the Internet joint on Broadway to take care of Internet related things and check my email. Cheap compared to Kinkos, though I am surprised at the amount of people who are actively and unabashedly looking at porn at this place. It's astounding. No shame whatsoever. I have to cover my head with a paper bag just to think about naked women.

Yesterday I came back to work and the shit storm that always accompanies coming back to work, and now here I am hoping to write something a little more substantive in the coming days.

How are you, by the way?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Small Things

Saturday morning, I woke up and went to rehearsal for my upcoming sketch show, where I ran around, rolled all over the floor, shouted at the top of my lungs, sang a song about going to hell and generally made a gleeful ass out of myself with a bunch of people that I like.

After that, I ate delicious barbecue rib tips.

After that, I went home and destroyed my desk - which has been falling apart for some time now - using just a hammer and a screwdriver. Then, I packed. While I packed, I watched perhaps the greatest comeback victory in the recent history of Michigan football on ABC which, miraculously, is the only channel I get in my apartment.

During the game, I received a call from my dad on my cellphone. "Can you believe they're even in this game?!" he shouted as Michigan scored their go-ahead touchdown.

We talked football for a while, and I said hi to my brother.

After that, I took a shower and then drove out to see my girlfriend. I took her to a Greek restaurant and then we saw a late night show at the Metropolis in Arlington Heights.

After that, I slept for 10 hours.

It's always nice when, confronted with the stress of moving and the stress of work etc., you're able to eek out a day full of small things that go well.

Now if I can just make it through the move, I should be okay.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Moving - or - Why Don't We Cuddle Anymore, You Know, Like We Used To?

You've probably already noticed a lapse in posting frequency and quality here at Clever Title. The reason for this is I've been swamped lately with figuring out moving details (I'm moving out of my current rat-infested hell hole into a new rat-infested hell hole early next week), my upcoming sketch show and the general business of work. However, I don't want to leave you another day without something to look at, so here you go, courtesy of last years battle between the Michigan Wolverines and the Wisconsin Badgers.

Isn't that sweet? Thank you, sports and Internet.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Clay Aiken is... GAY?!?!

What?! WHAT?!

You mean the pillar of masculinity from American Idol? The ladies man himself? You mean this guy?

How can you tell me that this guy is... that... Oh God.

He's... what?!

No! NO, I won't believe it!

Oh God, my whole world is collapsing in on itself.

Ah well, back to work.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ghost Town - Nice Ghosts Finish First

This whole ghost thing has really gotten out of hand.

Yesterday Katie and I went to see Ghost Town, the new movie with Ricky Gervais, Tea Leoni and Greg Kinnear. It's about a dentist who dies momentarily while getting a colonoscopy and when he wakes up he can see ghosts. Kind of like Sixth Sense. Then, because it's a comedy, he falls in love with a ghost's ex-wife. Hilarity ensues.

Ricky Gervais was very good in his Ricky-Gervais-in-Extras way, and the rest of the cast was strong. It was actually quite enjoyable and a good date movie. Or would have been, if not for one glaring problem that nagged at me like a festering papercut during the whole movie.

That festering papercut is called 'realism.'

I don't know what the deal is with these crazy magical Hollywood movies that would have you believe that there are a bunch of really nice, friendly ghosts out there who are just trying to let their loved ones know where the family heirlooms are before they pass on to their afterlives, but it has to stop. Do they really expect me to suspend my disbelief and just accept this hogwash in my movies?

I can't do it anymore. This has gone too far.

And the reason why is because everyone knows there is no such thing.

Everybody knows that ghosts are mean, evil, vindictive, creepy creatures. The idea that a ghost would somehow be a nice guy trying to right the wrongs of his past life is just plain ludicrous. It's an invention of Hollywood that in no way represents the reality of ghosts.

Ghosts are scary, people! They try to push living beings down flights of stairs, and they throw vases and they make blood gush out of elevator doors! We need to be on guard against these vile creatures, not contemplating how to help their still-living relatives find missing stuffed squirrel dolls! You want ghosts? I'll show you ghosts!


Now that's creepy! In Ghost Town, one of the ghosts is played by Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off! CAMERON! The guy that wouldn't get out of bed at the beginning of the movie!


When I saw this face on screen, I could take it no more. I needed to make sure that everyone was aware of the travesty we were seeing. I stood up and shouted:

"This man is an imposter! That's no ghost! That's the guy from Ferris Bueller - the friend!"

Of course I was booed and had popcorn thrown at me. Evidently the whole crowd had been previously brainwashed. Katie tugged on my sleeve until I sat back down. I don't think she was pleased. But I knew I had to tell as many people as I could.

I don't want people caught off guard when the gigantic ghost painting starts to talk and covers an art museum is pink slime.


Other than that, though, the movie was good.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Letters of Redress

Letter The First

TO:
A Gentleman Named Brian Who Evidently Lives One Floor Above Me
-and-
His Douche bag 'Brah' Friend Who Was Pounding On Brian's Door At Midnight Last Night Shouting 'BRIAN!' At The Top Of His Lungs
The Back Stairwell of 2908 and 2910 N. Mildred
Chicago IL

Dear Sirs,

I hate you.

Sincerely yours,

Nathaniel B. Topping

P.S. Fuck you.



Letter The Second

TO:
The Previously Mentioned Brian
-and-
The Previously Mentioned Douche bag 'Brah,' With Whom 'Brian' Engaged in a Shouting Match of "FUCK YOUs" at 1:30 AM This Very Morning
The Back Alley Behind 2908 and 2910 N. Mildred
Chicago, IL

Dear Sirs,

I hate you.

Sincerely yours,

Nathaniel B. Topping

P.S. Fuck you.



Letter the Third

TO:
Chicago Transit Authority
567 W Lake St
Chicago, IL 60661

Dear Chicago Transit Authority,

Please explain to me why I can take a bus which departs my nearest bus stop 10 minutes earlier than my normal bus, and yet arrive later than normal at my desired destination?

I await your inconsistently prompt reply.

Sincerely yours,

Nathaniel B Topping

P.S. Fuck you.


That feels better.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Someone, PLEASE Satiate My Frustration!!!!!!

I make my money as a Provisioning Manager at a Telecommunications Reseller in Chicago. What does this mean exactly? It means I read and write emails all day for five days out of the week. I also do a lot of basically what boils down to customer service. Not exactly a glamorous job but hey, it pays the bills so that I can spend my nights writing shows about people who hump trees.

As it turns out, there are a lot of ridiculous emails at the intersection of "customer service" and "email writing." As a result, I've developed some pet peeves. First and foremost among these is the use of exclamation points in emails.

These are not personal emails. These are not poems or David Mamet plays. These are emails that business people write to other business people with the hopes of performing business functions. One might expect business people to conduct themselves like professional business people in such an environment.

Not so.

For example: "This is fucking unbelievable!!!" or, from another email "These circuits are STILL not operational and you guys began billing for tem"

Now, did you need three exclamation points for that? Do you feel that 'fuck' is an appropriate term given the context? Did you really need to capitalize 'still' to get the proper emphasis? Tem? Are you a fucking child? Seriously? Can we act like adults?

I understand why people get frustrated sometimes. Anyone who has ever had to call AT&T customer service for anything knows that the have a propensity for messing things up. I get frustrated all the time. It's the same deal with any telecommunications company. It's kind of just the way it is with this business. And I don't even work for a company that can actually do anything; we resell this crap to other businesses because we get cheaper rates than they can. So my job is basically to ask AT&T or whoever to do something on behalf of my angry customer. And then I pass information back to the customer when it becomes available. Sometimes, though, there's just no information to give, at which point the messanger gets shot. Which is how you end up getting something like this, from a guy I nicknamed Mount Kramer because he was like a volcano:

"Until you have that information no ambiguous wording like the one below will satiate my frustration!!!"

That's a response to an email from my boss. Three exclamation points, but he gets a bonus for using the word 'satiate.'

"This needs to happen “TODAY”"

Jesus, is it lunch yet?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ask Richard Simmons' Dalmatians Takes Shit From No Fan

For those of you who haven't read, evidently Richard Simmons' Dalmatian dogs are like oracles, who impart wisdom on those seeking to make big life decisions and need solid advice that they can trust. With that in mind, I've created a feature on Clever Title called...

ASK RICHARD SIMMONS' DALMATIANS



This week's request comes from Reginald of Grosse Point Farms, MI. Reginald writes:

"Dear Richard Simmons Dalmatians,

I am an avid fanatic of a specific college football team, whose name I will not reveal now for the sake of annonymity. This upcoming Saturday, this particular college football team travels to a certain other college football team's stadium in Indiana to do battle with the "Fighting" other college football team. I've managed to procure two tickets through a friend of mine and was planning on attending, properly outfitted in merchandise bearing the logo of my chosen college team.

However, upon expressing my enthusiasm to other friends, I was informed that these other fanatics, who follow the "Fighting" other team, can sometimes be less than hospitable to fanatics of my particular football persuasion. They even told of a certain instance involving my friend's grandfather, a bucket of raw egg yolks and a small battering ram.

This disturbs me greatly as I had planned on inviting my father along, who is getting up there in years. I fear for his safety.

Do you, Dalmatians, have any advice for how to handle the potential ribbing, good natured or otherwise, that we may experience in Indiana? I await your reply.

Sincerely yours,

Reginald, Grosse Point Farms."


"Reg,

As far as we know, there are two ways to deal with asshole taunters and one sure fire way to make things worse.

One way to deal is to just ignore them. The way you write, Grosse Pointe, sounds like you're probably that kind of guy. Ignoring them makes the whole taunting-the-other-guy's-fans thing no fun, which usually means the taunters go back to drinking warm yager and shouting "Rudy" at the top of their lungs.

The worst thing you can do, though, is respond and then try to ignore them. That shows weakness. It means you're bothered by the taunting, but you're too chicken shit to fight. You may as well paint a target and then curl up on the ground.

No, either ignore them or, our personal favorite, bring down the law vigilante style. We're not talking about shouting insults back and forth about who has the better running back. We're talking about bullrushing the bastards at the first sign of an insult and causing physical and psychological pain. Do it even if you're outnumbered because, let's face it, they've probably been drinking out of a left-over keg since 8:30 AM. They'll be surprised as hell no matter what you do. And I think it's the kind of thing that will help keep your team's honor in tact.

Fuck yeah,

-Richard Simmons Dalmatians"

Questions? Concerns? Leave them in the comment box! Who knows, you may see your comment next time on Ask Richard Simmons' Dalmatians.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Writing Process

Rewrites.
Typie type type type type type type. Read, read. Typie type type. Backspace. Backspace backspace. Think. Typie type type type.
Stand walk walk glass fridge water drink walk sit read.
Typie type type type type type.
Sigh. TV TV TV TV TV sigh. Off.
Typie type type type.
Clock: 2:35 AM?!
Fuck.
Save, power off, clothes off, lights off, bed.
Stare. Stare blink. Think. Stare blink stare.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Wedding Post

Where the hell have I been?


I know, I know. It's been a little while. But, as is often the excuse for inconsistent blogging, I've been busy. Namely, work has been increasingly busy as of late, and in my off time I'm working on putting together another show for Robot Vs. Dinosaur (auditions are today, if anyone is interested; visit our blog for details. I would have posted that earlier but, again, snowed under).


And on the weekends, I've been going to weddings.


This last weekend, I had two in one day: my former college roommate Eric and his new wife Kathy, and my friend and former fellow Purple Rose Apprentice Jesse and his new wife Sian.


Eric and Kathy's wedding was at 1:30 and Jesse and Sian's wedding was at 2:30, and both were in different parts of Southeastern Michigan. Needless to say, there was a lot of driving over the weekend.


It's always great to see old friends, though. I went to the wedding of two highschool friends, Mike and Rachel, a few weeks ago and it was the same feeling. There's always the obligatory 'what are you doing now' and then typically you launch right back into acting like old friends. Here is my favorite picture from Eric and Kathy's wedding:






I'm on the left, my girlfriend Katie is next to me, and that's another former roommate Andy (who is reading this blog right now) on the right. For those of you who are witty, write a caption and leave it in the comment box. Who knows, if I continue to get swamped it might just make a post.


After we left Eric and Kathy's wedding, which was at the Cranbrook House gardens in Bloomfield Hills, we drove to Ann Arbor to catch Jesse and Sian's reception. The invitation said the wedding would be in the botanical gardens and that the reception would follow. We assumed from the invitation that the reception would also be at the botanical gardens, but that turned out not to be the case and there was a completely different wedding there once we arrived. We managed to find out from the visitor center that the reception was actually at a local micro brewery and, after searching through the phone book, finding the number, calling the brewery and wrangling the street through poor cellphone reception, we finally made it to the party.


I was lucky enough to have the Greatest Major League Baseball Girlfriend Ever accompany me for the weekend, and she remarked on the ride home how strikingly different weddings can be. Both weddings were a perfect reflection of both couples. Where Eric's groomsmen wore tuxes, Jesse's wore tweed vests and hats. Where Eric and Kathy had a champagne toast, Jesse and Sian had us raise beer steins. Eric and Kathy had a string quartet. Jesse and Sian had a bluegrass band. It was interesting having both in the same day because, despite the contrast in style, both were great times and both were very loving environments.


So anyway, that's where I've been.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bus Musings

This morning I was sitting on the bus - I managed to get a seat despite the fact that the bus was packed at, like, 7:15 in the morning - staring at the navels and buttocks of the many passengers standing in the bus aisle, and I got to wondering: why is it that the bus is crowded on one day and then the same time bus is nearly empty the next?

I'm not talking about the bus on summer Fridays or Mondays being light. Those can be explained away as popular days off, three day weekends, etc. I'm talking about available seats on a Tuesday, and standing next to the entrance the whole ride on Wednesday. Not just the one time, either, but randomly and repeatedly over the course of the summer.

I tried to think of possible reasons. Are there holidays that I'm unaware of that large amounts of bus riders observe? Are there some offices downtown that schedule random late days or something?

And then I got to thinking how many variables must go into the amount of bus riders for any given bus. How many people are sick on any given day, or wake up late and miss their normal bus, or have to go in earlier than normal for a conference call? How many people normally don't take the bus but their car died on them last night on their way home from a midnight White Castle run and their only way in to work is taking the bus for the first time in seven years?

What about the bus that's just a shade late leaving the terminal, or that has to stop for a fire truck backing into the garage on Halsted, and that extra minute causes more riders to accrue at the bus stops, which adds to the delay and ultimately causes the bus to drop me off six minutes later than usual?

And then I got to thinking about how each of these navels and asses that I've been staring at in the aisle has their own completely different lives that somehow manage to intersect with every other life on that particular bus on that particular day and that they combine to slow my commute to work or deny me a seat. And I think about how I am potentially slowing the commute to work for someone else, who I am denying a seat on this particular morning.

And then I thought how I would prefer to have a magazine to read so that I had something to look at other than navels and asses.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ask Richard Simmons' Dalmatians Will Be There 'Till the Open Bar Closes

For those of you who haven't read, evidently Richard Simmons' Dalmatian dogs are like oracles who impart wisdom on those seeking to make big life decisions and need solid advice that they can trust. With that in mind, I've created a feature on Clever Title called...

ASK RICHARD SIMMONS' DALMATIANS


This week's request comes from last week's comment box. Anonymous writes:

"Dear Richard Simmons' Dalmatians,

This wedding season I've noticed there is a popular trend among couples-to-be creating a website of themselves for invited guests, their family and friends. Is this couple-site thing exclusively married people specific or can I start one with my boyfriend? Could I make a website including myself and someone I want to be my boyfriend? Would that work? What do you think? Also, I like presents a lot and so would having a gift registry on my boyfriend and my site be acceptable or just tacky?
Thank you tastemakers!

-Anonymous"


"Dear Anonymous,

Good lord, you ask a lot of questions.

Thing about the Internet is you can put whatever the hell you want up on the site and nobody can say anything. Nat gets away with that crap all the time here. So, as far as we're concerned, knock yourself out. The wannabe boyfriend thing is a little creepy but so is Dicky's website (we call him Dicky).

If you put up a fake gift registry, are you going to get free stuff from people? Doubt it. People like cake and open bars, and that's why we all go to weddings. And you can't go to a wedding without giving the Excuses a consolation gift. We say if you want free shit, do what everyone else does: get married, throw a party, and then five years and two children later you can break it off and start all over again. Repeat until necessary amount of free shit has been accumulated.

It's a time honored tradition, babe.

Fuck yeah,

-Richard Simmons' Dalmatians."


Questions? Concerns? Leave them in the comment box! Who knows, you may see your comment next time on Ask Richard Simmons' Dalmatians.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Little Bit Busy Today...

...but I don't want to leave you all hanging without something to show for it. So here's a delightfully inappropriate and awkward news article, courtesy of my buddy Patrick. It's short, I promise.

Oh Matthew McConaughey's Mom, you vixen!

Enjoy!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Wait, Badminton is an Olympic Sport?

For someone who has barely watched any Olympics at all this year (not that I'm boycotting per se so much as don't have television), I've talked about it a surprising amount. I guess this is testament to the ridiculousness that ensues when you get people together from all over the world.

This latest bit is courtesy of Cuba where apparently a Cuban taekwondo athlete kicked a ref in the face.

Not that I blame anyone for accusing China of fixing the Olympics or anything. Their women gymnasts were all 12 year old girls crossbred with Spiders, and their Gold Medal Men's Singles Badminton player (that's an Olympic sport?) turned out to be a robot.

Still, when you need freaking Fidel Castro to vouch for you, you know you probably did something ridiculous.

This should also teach all of you young parents that taekwondo is probably not the best anger management lesson for your children.

"Eat your vegitables!"

WHA-CHUNK!


One of my favorite parts of the article is when Castro blames the lack of Olympic-caliber Cuban boxers on "the repugnant mercenary actions" of promoters. By "repugnant mercenary actions," Castro clearly means such actions as 'owning your own iPod' and the promise of 'not living in freaking Cuba.'

Oh Cuba. When will you ever learn?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ask Richard Simmons' Dalmatians In China

For those of you who haven't read, evidently Richard Simmons' Dalmatian dogs are like oracles, who impart wisdom on those seeking to make big life decisions and need solid advice that they can trust. With that in mind, I've created a feature on Clever Title called...




ASK RICHARD SIMMONS' DALMATIANS




The past two weeks have been very special for Ask Richard Simmons' Dalmatians, because the Dalmatians are in China judging Women's Freestyle 55kg Wrestling. As such, they have been unable to provide advice. However, I did receive a post card from them just the other day that I would like to share with you now:




"Dear Clever Title,

In China judging Olympics. This country is crazy! Food here not so good, but at least we're still on the 'eating' side and not the 'eaten' (watching our step just in case). Also, Great Wall... not so great. Hung out with Spanish basketball team the other day. Those people are hilarious. Anyway, gotta run. Judging Russia vs. Georgia in Womens' Wrestling. Wanna bet who wins?


Wish you were here,


-Richard Simmons' Dalmatians


P.S: Michael Phelps is a total dick."


Isn't that sweet?



Questions? Concerns? Leave them in the comment box! Who knows, you may see your comment next time on Ask Richard Simmons' Dalmatians.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sports Curse #2 - The Return of Sports Curse

For those of you who don't know, college football is only 11 days away.


Given that we have yet another sport's season starting up, I figured I would go ahead and drag out a little used feature of Clever Title called Sports Curse.


For those of you who need a refresher on Sports Curse, click here. Essentially, since I can't seem to mention a sports team on my blog without them tanking badly (see Michigan's Appalachian State loss of last year) I've decided to use the power of this blog for evil only.


~~~*~*~*~~~


Some of you may be surprised at who I've picked, given my own college football team preference.


I am not cursing Notre Dame. No, their coach Charlie Weis has already done that for them. (Side note, did you know that Charlie Weis earned a bachelor's degree is speech and drama from Notre Dame? What does that tell you?)


Nor am I cursing Ohio State. The reason for this is two fold: (1) when my chosen team beats them again, it will be so much sweeter knowing that they did so without the benefit of a curse, and (2) they can't seem to win the National Championship anyway despite making it to the game twice in a row.


I briefly thought about cursing West Virginia, as payment for a long and drawn out contract dispute regarding a certain coaching hire. But that team will likely collapse in on itself within two years. If it hasn't, I'll consider imposing a curse.


No, I've decided on a completely different team from all of these. So here it is, friends.


SPORTS CURSE #2 - The USC Trojans



"The Trojans are, like, totally awesome because they're always like the best at everything they do and they're like super talented and guess what, they get to live in Southern California which is, like, totally super cool. And even though they're only ranked, like, 3rd in the AP poll which has to be the lowest they've been ranked in like years or something, I totally think they're going to win another National Championship because Pete Carroll, who's like their totally hot coach, is super awesome."


MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'll Just Stay in the Room and Watch Maury, Thank You

I had gone my entire young life without ever seeing a live Elvis Impersonator until these past four months, over the course of which I have seen two separate Elvis Impersonators.

The first Elvis Impersonator was at our new office's opening party in May. It was about as strangely awkward as I could have imagined. One minute I was at the make-shift bar getting a glass of Cabernet (I've fooled my coworkers into thinking I drink liquids classier than Pabst Blue Ribbon), the next minute an Elvis Impersonator walked out of the elevator and lo and behold Elvis had entered the building in all of his hip-shaking glory.

It was the kind of hokey fun that lasts thirty minutes and then proceeds to get old very quickly.

The second fake-Elvis sighting occurred over this past weekend, while I was visiting my Grandmother in the nursing home. My mother and I walked in to the building atrium to find, sitting next to a flight of stairs, a gaggle of elderly residents (and yes, gaggle is the correct term) clapping along to a life band complete with Elvis Impersonator.

My mom and I joined my Aunt Denise and my Grandmother on the balcony overlooking the band. After the initial shock had worn off of seeing fake-Elvis teasing the old ladies with a scarf, my Aunt asked us to take a moment and appreciate the vocal quality of our Elvis Impersonator.

He was quite possibly tone deaf. The higher notes, while valiantly attempted, were beyond the poor guys range. In short he was terrible. To the point of comically terrible. But seriously, really really bad.

While watching my Grandmother, a captive in her own wheelchair grimacing at every false note of quite possibly the worst rendition of "Suspicious Minds" anyone's ever heard, I felt very very sorry for her and I wondered what sort of fate awaits me in the nursing home of the future.