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.