Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday's Drivel

Here are some random incoherent thoughts for you to ponder this Friday:

(1) Aren't you glad, Chicagoland, that it's spring? I mean, yeah the temperature has been in the 30's several times this week and, yeah, it snowed this week too so, yeah, it probably still feels like winter. But it's nice to know that, for all that, it's technically spring. Which is comforting. Right? No?

(2) In related news, Global Warming is a lie. I have no evidence to back that up (and yeah, I may have written an earlier blog entry convinced that it probably wasn't a lie), but Blogs are all about making spurious assertions with no supporting evidence, so bite it.

(3) Some good news on a personal front: since the weather has become my favorite topic of conversation, I have been named an honorary 65 year old man by the "Cultural Revolution for Adult Babies" (C.R.A.B). Once the weather is replaced with ailments, I can upgrade to a higher age bracket.

(4) I would like to abolish the "-gate" suffix from our political lexicon (e.g: travel-gate, Bosnia-gate, etc.).

(5) I've decided I want to quit my job to devote my life to developing a language translation site. This site will take normal English sentences and translate them into fake Spanish (and eventually other languages) by replacing "the" with "el" and by adding "o"s and "e"s on to the end of words. The intention is to help Americans learn the proper way to patronize other cultures by faking their languages.

That's all for today, kiddies. Happy Friday and smooches.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Smiling Turtle!!

Hello everyone,

In lieu of writing something new, I wanted to share with you this picture:

It's a smiling turtle!!

If the turtle looks surprised, it's because it's surprised at how much it loves you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Ah the ways of politics!

I used to hate politics. "But Nat," you may ask, "how can you hate politics if you're planning to run for President in 2040?" Simple, my friends; I'm running for corrupt and selfish purposes that have nothing to do with the political process. And so last year I paid little attention to politics, mostly because this was back when there was still football and baseball on television.

However, since those ended and since we still have awhile before the NBA finals (D-troit!) begin and before baseball starts back up again, I've had to occupy my rapidly decreasing attention span on the horse race (donkey race?) that is the Democratic primaries.

It's actually pretty entertaining. Not because of the issues, ideals and principles at stake. To hell with that. The real meat is in the bullshit being slung around the television and internet.

Here's an example of grade-A bullshit:

One of the candidates is named Hillary Clinton. She says that people should elect her because she has experience in foreign policy. One of the little anecdotes she's shared on several occasions deals with the time that she was landing in Bosnia in 1996. Quoth Clinton:

"I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind
of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads
down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."

What a riveting story! Hillary Clinton risks her life to be in Bosnia for her country! And all of this while she was on a USO tour with Sinbad! That's the kind of leader I want, the type who will risk her life to open for Sinbad! Although, does it not seem highly unlikely that they would send the First Lady into an active combat zone? That seems kind of strange, almost bordering on unbelievable.

Wait, what's this You Tube link?

Oh, so that's why it borders on unbelievable: because it is unbelievable.

Not only was Hillary not under fire from snipers when she landed, but there's actual major network news video footage showing her waltzing off the plane with her daughter, calmly meeting with foreign dignitaries and giving cheek kissed to a little girl. There is absolutely no sign of snipers, bullets, firearms or any other source of danger. And once this is pointed out to Clinton on the campaign trail, what is her response?

"I misspoke."

Misspoke? Misspoke? Are you kidding me? Misspeaking is when you accidentally call your first grade teacher "mom."

How did Clinton misspeak? When she said "sniper fire" did she really mean to say "cute little Bosnian girl kisses?" "I remember landing under cute little Bosnian girl kisses?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. When I said 'ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles', what I meant to say was stroll leisurely with my teenaged daughter and foreign dignitaries to the vehicles. My bad."

Unless, of course, the little Bosnian girl turned out to actually be a sniper and everyone had to run to their cars for safety after the cute cheek kisses were over and the little Bosnian girl started shooting. My guess is there would probably be video footage of that, though.

She didn't misspeak. She fabricated, invented, and exaggerated to the point of untruthfulness. In short, she lied. I mean, we can still say that, right? The word lie isn't banned from the dictionary, right?

Of course, in the grand scheme of lying it's probably not really that big of a deal. I mean, how many of you put Microsoft Office under your resume's skill list even though you only know how to use Word and are actually quite frightened of Excel? Except, of course, I was applying for a low level administrative job and not President.

It's just facinating because you're not allowed to just call bullshit in politics. When I'm running for President in the year 2040, you can count on me doing these two things constantly: (1) Calling everone else liars, and (2) Running for my life from cute little Bosnian sniper girls.

Monday, March 24, 2008

It's So Cute! EAT IT!

Well this past Sunday was Easter, which is significant for a couple of reasons:

(1) As a Catholic, I can now go back to eating meat on Fridays with a clear conscience

(2) Traffic was light today

(3) There's nothing more to look forward to holiday-wise until Memorial Day.

I spent this Easter with my girlfriend's family, as part of a holiday sharing agreement whereby in exchange for Easter with her family she must travel to Michigan with me on Christmas to play the bongos. With this plan, we are able to experience the most important aspects of each other's family traditions - meaning food. Typically, her family meals feature tried and true standbys such as honey baked ham. My family tends to lean towards grotesque Franken-meats and other adventurous non-traditional eating extravaganzas which, surprisingly, often turn out delicious (but if they don't, there's always a Taco Bell about five minutes away).

One of her family's Easter traditions is the eating of the Lamb Cake. For those of you who don't know what a Lamb Cake is, it is exactly what it sounds like: a cake baked in the shape of a lamb.

Like most Easter objects, the cake is symbolic. The lamb is supposed to symbolise the Lamb of God (Jesus) who was sacreficed to alleviate the burden of original sin on all mankind. And as if lifting that burden wasn't enough, you then get to eat the Lamb of God (again... Jesus). Bonus!

Anyway, the cake must be procured from a certain bakery in Mount Prospect, IL, and it must have fudgy frosting. Here's a picture of a Lamb Cake:

This is not quite an ideal Lamb Cake because it doesn't have fudgy frosting but you get the idea. For the record, they're delicious.

As I was munching on a slice of the Lamb Cake's rump area, the meaning of Easter suddenly dawned on me: Easter is the time of year where we all get together and eat things that are shaped like cute little animals. Think about it: Lamb Cake, Chocolate Bunnies, Marshmallow Baby Chickens, Peanut Butter-Filled Chocolate Eggs.

When you stop to think about it, it's actually kind of a creepy holiday. All across the country, people are letting their little children loose on a candy-coated petting zoo. If I didn't love sugar and chocolate so much, I might be weirded out. Instead, I'm still buzzing from my sugar high, and wondering if there's a way to spin sugar into flags for Flag Day, or bake Lincoln shaped cakes for President's day.

Friday, March 21, 2008

What's So Good About It?

Dudes, today sucks. It's been nonstop all day. Half the office is out of the... damn it, I gotta go.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Value of Theatre

Now that I've gone and written a diatribe yesterday about how I hate when plays preach at people, I find a bunch of fellow theatrically-minded bloggistas have picked today as the day to write odes to the theatre. Great, now I feel like an asshole.

So now I will now atone for my sins. Let me put my pontificating hat back on. Tuck the hair up under the hat and... okay, I'm ready.

The question posed to these other bloggers is: What is the value of theatre?

Any theatrically inclined person, from highschool students all the way up to your Tony award winning professionals, can probably point you to a moment where they fell in love with live theatre. It could be the first moment they were "in the moment" with another actor, or that first laugh, that first bit of applause, the first time they heard their own words recited out loud or the first time they ever saw their set design in full scale and on and on.

For those who have those experiences, they are life changing and unquestionably valuable. And in those rare moments, pompous as it's going to sound, I believe you are connected not only to the show and the audience, but to a tradition of storytelling that dates back to the foundations of civilization.

See? Pompous sounding, right? Told ya. But if you've ever had that experience I think you'll know what I'm talking about.

So is that enough to make other people want to shell out cash for tickets? No. I don't know about you, but I don't watch movies or television or go to concerts because I know that the performers love their jobs. That love might enhance my experience, but it does so indirectly and at the end of the day I watch because I want entertainment, regardless of how the performers get there.

So how does one convince someone who could just as easily sit at home and watch HBO that they should spend money (often more money than they would pay for a movie ticket) to come out and sit in a room, ranging anywhere from titanic to claustrophobic in size, with a bunch of strangers to watch something that, for all they know, may or may not be boring?

Not an easy task, right? As far as convenience and cost, I don't think theatre can compete with television and movies. I mean, how can you make things any simpler than "free," "anytime" and "in the living room/kitchen/bedroom/den?" You can't.

And like screened media, theatre tells a story. And like screened media, it engages the imagination. And it has the power to entertain, move and educate people, just like screened media.

But I think the one place where theatre competes is in the fact that it's live. The story is playing out right in front of your face. You don't control the volume. You can't change the channel. You can't stop the show to check the score of the Piston's game. The performers and the set are not just lights on a screen, as they are in television and film.

You can only sit and watch and react, along with everyone else in the audience. You can see spit spewing from an actor's mouth, watch sweat beading on the brow, hear the actors breath, all of this proof that you are watching something human. Hell sometimes, depending on the type of show you're at, they'll actually talk to you, or even ask you to talk back.

I think there's something about actually being present in the same room as the story amplifies that story's effect.

If it's a crummy quality story, it may well amplify the crumminess. And, just like with television and movies and so on, there are a lot of shows that will not fit your individual taste. But I'll bet anyone who goes to the theatre with any regularity can probably give you an example of at least one performance where they left and thought, "wow, that was something special." When it's a great story and it's done well and draws in the audience then that connection between audience and performance creates that "something special" which, in turn, is valuable.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fatboy, or The Bludgeon

Last Saturday Katie and I went and saw Fatboy, a play that was at A Red Orchid Theatre. It closed on Sunday, so nobody reading this today will have a chance to see the show. So this isn't a review, per se. I'm just bothered by it and feel the need to bore you with a rant.

I enjoyed the vast majority of the show. It's the story of this awful, awful man and his awful, awful wife who, through the sheer force of greed and profanity and comic violence, rise from inhabitants of their lowly hovel all the way up to king and queen of a horribly ravaged and messed up earth. It was crass and deliberately offensive but very physical and very funny. The production was well done, the performances were good and even. And I got the point; the stuff about greed and it's relation to power, the stuff about political monsters preying upon the widespread indifference of their victims; the stuff about Fatboy and his relationship to our current political situation. The style of the show was so blunt that it was impossible to go through all three acts and not get that. But it was fun and entertaining and illustrated what it wanted to illustrate and by the end of those three acts, the points had all been made and, lo and behold, I actually agreed with some of them.

Then came the epilogue.

And in this epilogue, the actor playing the odious, power-thirsty, money-grubbing Fatboy takes off the fat suit and proceeds to preach the message of the show to the audience. The same message that we've already figured out from sitting through the past hour and a half. Not just preach either, but curse out and mock and damn the audience for letting our own Fatboys take control of everything and ruining the entire world. And I was pissed off.

Why? Why was that necessary? The show already did it's job. They could have just let me leave the theatre with something to think about, but no. They had to tell me what to think about the show. Not only that, but they had to curse me out at the same time.

If there's one thing I hate - hate - it's dropping $25 per ticket to sit in a room and be told what to think. There is no shortage of people who are willing to tell you what to think. I would say nine times out of ten, they'll tell you for free too.

So this is what I hate about the vast majority of political theatre. If the whole point of your show is to shout a message at a bunch of people, why do all of the work of slapping together a story and charging people to sit in a dark room to see it? Why not just get yourself a milk crate, head down to your local town square and just start shouting at people?

This is not to say that there is no great message-oriented theatre. But I don't remember The Crucible needing a long preachy monologue at the end of the show to illuminate the audience. I don't remember someone coming out and shouting "You see, you fucking assholes? This is about McCarthyism! And you're letting the same shit happen like a bunch of fucking sheep!" It was unnecessary to do so. The story spoke for itself. And, even now years after the red scare, people like me can still understand the dynamic and apply it.

I wonder if too many playwrights do not trust that their stories speak for themselves. Or, maybe worse, they do not trust the audience's capacity to understand, as though the notion that 'power-hungry people are bad' is some arcane Augustinian treatise that must be spoonfed in order to truly comprehend.

And so, perhaps because of this lack of trust or because they've fallen in love with their message or fallen in love with the idea of blowing people's minds, they bludgeon their audience over the head. And they do so even though the majority of audience members are most likely aware of the message going in to the show (through promotional materials, through recommendations or reviews, through association with the cast) and also likely already agree to some extent. The playwright is cursing out the choir.

And for that minority that wanders in to the theatre unawares, or that minority who is dragged along by friends of loved ones to the show or that minority that is even willing to consider another point of view, I'll bet you that they blocked it out the moment they smell a sermon. It happened to me, and I agreed with the show.

There's a difference between educating and proselytizing.

And that's what irritates and disappoints me so much about Fatboy. Had the show ended five to ten minutes earlier, the show would have left me with enough pieces to come to a conclusion on my own. But instead of thinking about what I could glean from the story, all I could think about was the fact that I hate being told what to think.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

T'is a fine day for one and all to don their green drinking t-shirts and stumble through the streets of Chicago for the third time in two weeks. Have fun and be safe everyone.

Personally, I plan to celebrate my Irish heritage by doing laundry.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Drivel: The Roaming Gnome's Revenge

Well, it's friday ladies and germs. And to celebrate, I thought that I would offer you a video of a gnome roaming the streets of General Guemes, Argentina, apparently looking for discount prices on airfare, car rentals and hotel accomodations. Courtesty of my favorite legitimate online newspaper, Great Britain's The Sun. Because there's nothing I love more than tabloid gossip about people with bad teeth (meaning gnomes).

In related news, and by related I mean totally unrelated, my Writing Level 5 show goes up tonight. It's called Lasers From Heaven and it plays at Donn'y Skybox at 9:00. Details to the left. It should be a good time.

And finally, for all of you writers or fans of drama out there, a quote from a recent article by David Mamet:

"I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama."

I just read a book called A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. The above quote pretty much says it all for that book. If you get a chance to read it, I would highly recommend it. It is hilarious.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

In Bruges: Martin McDonagh Hates Children

Who the hell is Martin McDonagh? He's a writer turned film director, of course.

I've been thinking about writing a review for this movie that I saw back on Saturday, but I've been too lazy to get around to it until now. I might have written it yesterday, but I felt the need to share the news on our Writing Level 5 show's title "Lasers From Heaven" since people voiced strong opinions on them in the comment section. Something about a cracker.

Anyway, the movie: In Bruges.

It's not playing everywhere, unfortunately, but it was a good time so if you can find it playing somewhere, I'd recommend seeing it. I even remember there being a moment while watching the movie where I thought to myself "I'm really enjoying this." That's relatively rare for me unless it's a balls-out comedy, which this isn't quite. It's a action/crime/comedy/drama and it's pretty dark at moments.

Basically, it's about two hitmen who are hiding out in Bruges, a city widely considered the lamest in all of Belgium (which is widely considered one of the lamest countries in Europe) because the younger hitman (Colin Farrell) accidentally shot a little kid while knocking off a priest. They're in town to wait for further instructions from their shadowy boss, presumably until the heat dies down, for their next steps, leaving the young hitman to think about what he's done, meaning drink and chase local women, while the older hitman (Brendan Gleeson - you know: Professor Alestair Moody from the Harry Potter movies! [nerd!]) does a little sightseeing. Let the shenanigans begin!

Of course, being the comedy nerd that I am, I particularly enjoyed some of the comic construction. I don't want to give too much away, but the shadowy boss, played by Ralph Fiennes, is the head of some type of hitman service which employs the two main characters. For the beginning half of the movie, all you get of him is his voice on the phone and a note. By the time you meet him, he's beating the hell out of his telephone and having a temper tantrum in his office. His home office, with his wife and kids in the next room. I just love the idea of the head hitman being a family man.

Fun premise, entertaining execution and, in my opinion, a pretty solid ending; it's got some well earned comic moments, some violence, suicide, a chase scene and drug usage. All in all, a pretty successful viewing experience.

I did come to one conclusion about the writer/director, Martin McDonagh. He also wrote a play called The Pillowman, which is a favorite of mine and which was at Steppenwolf last year. The play features descriptions of graphic violence perpetrated on children a la Grimm Brothers style story telling. In this movie, a child is accidentally shot during a hit. My conclusion? Martin McDonagh hates children. Of course, I can't prove that violence towards children is in everything that he's ever written, but I've seen enough to draw my conclusion: Martin McDonagh hates children.

Of course, what does it say about me that I dig his play and movie?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lasers from Heaven

Well, it's official. After a meeting of the braintrust for our writing level 5 show last night, it was decided in a 4-2 vote that "The Gods Must Be Swayze" will be dropped as title of the show in favor of our new title, "Lasers From Heaven."

I know, I know. We Swayzists were outnumbered. What could we do? We were only two.

So all references to Patrick Swayze have been dropped from the show in the interest of being sensitive to his situation. It actually isn't that big of a change. The poster was replaced by an old mock-up from the beginning of the process, a couple of lines have changed in the show and the program cover art had to be changed. I also have to make a couple of changes to the sound design to accomodate an entirely different 80's celebrity. I'm happy that we didn't end up going with bits of Swayze songs for the transition music. I would be screwed.

Now that we've had our tech rehearsal and I really only need to do some quick tweaking to the sound design, I now feel like I can take a moment to be excited about and even a little bit proud of the show.

Again, show info is to the left. Come out and see us if you get the chance.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Drivel: Donuts=Good

No cohesive single thought today, so I figured I'd just offer up some more random pieces of drivel:

(A) Interesting question on the comment section of yesterday's post (yes, i linked it even though it's right beneath this post - deal with it). Joe, a friend, sketch comedy practitioner and fellow blogger, seems to think there's no harm in doing our writing level 5 show as titled (the God's Must Be Swayze) despite the fact that Patrick Swayze was just diagnosed with cancer. The group consensus from the writers is that the title will need to be changed regardless, but I wonder what the rest of you people think would be acceptable, given the circumstances. Go ahead and leave a comment. I'm curious.

Bear in mind, the poster is a knock-off of the famous Sistine Chapel panel of God touching Adam's finger. Both faces are replaced with Patrick Swayze's mug. Thus, you have two Patrick Swayze faced characters in a heaven-like setting on the main advertising for the show.

Leading candidate for the replacement title: Lasers from Heaven

(II) My sister pointed this out when she was trying to remember the address to this blog.

Wow. It's like my anti-blog.

(3) I'm becoming consumed with my distaste for Hillary Clinton. I've been able to keep this distaste under control for the most part, but lately it's becoming harder and harder. I don't know if it's the 3AM phone call ad fiasco, the fact that she sites her own foreign policy experience that doesn't exist, the amount of Muslim questions which conveniently spiked once she decided to "throw the kitchen sink" at Obama, the fact that Clinton forced the "resignation" of an un-paid Obama adviser for calling Hillary a "monster" (off the record, by the way, in an interview with a UK newspaper) because of the fact that she's pulling all of these sleazy underhanded political tricks (aka, acting like a monster), or the nostalgia for the so-called "Golden Age" of the Clinton years (which, I don't know if I missed something, but all I remember from that period is learning to distrust politics for the first time), but it's depressing me.

(D) You know what doesn't depress me? Donuts.

Hooray! Hooray Donuts!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"The Gods Must Be Swayze" No Longer

No sooner do I post the title of our Writing Level 5 show "The Gods Must Be Swayze" than this happens: Patrick Swayze is diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. I think it's safe to say we will likely be changing the name of the show soon so as to avoid being in extremely poor taste.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

March Drivel

I haven't writen anything in a couple of days, so I wanted to assure you that it wasn't because I'm ignoring you. It's because I'm lazy.

A couple of random thoughts:

My writing level 5 show goes up next Friday and will run for something like 5 weeks. If you people have the chance, you should go check it out. There is some pretty funny stuff in there that is completely unrelated to me and what I wrote. Of course, I think the portion that I wrote isn't bad either. The info is under the Events section of the left-hand column.

Speaking of the writing level 5 show, I had to go get props for my scene before Monday, which entailed purchasing four brandy snifters and four fake moustaches (plus an extra moustache for me). I found it interesting that my apparent classiness skyrocketed in the eyes of the sales people when I showed up at the checkout carrying four brandy snifters. "Oh, is somebody having a brandy party this evening?" Like I'm having a meeting with some old Harvard friends of mine to smoke cigars, discuss economic globalization and/or to read the New Yorker and laugh snidely at the cartoons. No, I went ahead and told the cashier lady the truth and, naturally, when she found out that it was for a show her esteem plummeted. "Oh. Well, be sure to save the receipt."

Thanks for the advice.

There was, of course, no judgement from the cashier when I purchased five fake moustaches.

I bought an extra moustache for myself and was very excited until I realized that I already have a full beard, which includes a moustache. This doesn't prevent me from wearing the moustache - it just dampens the joy a little bit. I briefly considered shaving the beard off until I realized it would be for the sole purpose of wearing a novelty item on my face.

Sunday night I became sick again, this time with the cold. I pulled one of those sweaty half-dreaming/half-awake jobs in lieu of getting any rest. I had a constantly recurring dream involving Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the replacement of the vowel 'o' with 'eaux' (as in geaux instead of go). What does that mean, sexy baby face?

One of our most underrated bodily processes: swallowing without pain.

Lessons learned/reinforced following Tuesday night:

Yes, even the great Detroit Pistons can have an off night, narrowly avoiding a loss to lowly Seattle with a 100-97 final score.

I maintain that nothing good ever came out of Ohio with the exception of the Sandusky area - specifically the Cedar Point peninsula (America's Roller Coast!).

I also maintain that nothing good ever came out of Texas with the exception of... trying to think of something that came out of Texas...

That's it for now, kiddies. I've missed you too.