Monday, June 28, 2010

He Likes When He Does the Things He Came Here to Do

All work and no play, etc. which lately there have been plenty of delightfully frustrating moments at the old 'place that gives me money to spend time here.'

Luckily, this Cutbertine nonsense has coincided with play, in the form of some actual doing of things I came to Chicago specifically to do.

Robot vs Dinosaur just wrapped up 12 Angry Sketches at Donny's Skybox (as I'm sure you're aware from the incessant pluggery around these parts that has taken the place of actual substantive bloggery) and will now turn attention to (A) writing again for a Fall show, and (B) a show at the Neo Futurarium's Film Fest IX where we will be performing "The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (As Performed by the Inmates of Charenton Under the Direction of the Great Sea Serpent)"

In addition to that, Geoff and I have some Crassus showcases coming up in July - three to be exact - where we will try out some new stuff and work on some old stuff as well.

In addition to that, I've signed up for some voice over classes.  What the hell, why not, right?

With all that, I have a trip to Wisconsin planned for the Fourth with the Lady, combined with a wedding for my college roommate the weekend after, and the sum total of all that is I have a busy month ahead of me.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Matisse and His Obsession with Nude Ladies

This post will likely be completely useless for your purposes because the subject is an exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, and that exhibit closed on 6/22 - which I didn't know until today when I went to look up information on the exhibit.  So, read on if you have a few minutes and want to hear some dude talk about art for a couple of minutes.

My family was in town over this past weekend for Father's Day and also to see my show (12 Angry Sketches, one more show this Friday cough cough) and while they were here we trotted on down to the Art Institute to check out the show.  Apparently blissfully unaware that it was closing the next day.  This explains why it was crowded so early in the morning.

Anyway, there were paintings.  What do you care?  Particularly since they are paintings from a very short period of his career (1913 - 1917) and most of the paintings were bizarre and the nude women unattractive.

I'll tell you why you care.  Because you may possibly have a creative streak, or have some sort of God given talent, and you need a reminder that just being a creative person doesn't immediately sky rocket you to the pantheon of greats in your chosen profession.

No, my friends, you have to work at it.  And that's what the exhibit was about: Matisse's obsession with the essence of construction and form and how to express that in his artwork.  Every piece of work in that exhibit fed and informed one another, showing Matisse's penchant for returning to the same subjects and the same ideas over and over again.  The whole show became a testament to revision, honing of craft, and the realization that even when one painting is complete there is still more to explore in the ideas and the creation of it.

The result is that you have an artist who goes from something like this painting completed in 1908...

...to this painting started in 1909 and finally completed in 1916.

Both of these paintings are of bathers.

And yeah, painting from 1916 is a strange grayish portal to the bizarre for those with a more classical appreciation of the arts.  But it also marks a great step forward in innovation and creativity for the art of painting; steps that were not really possible without the constant work and constant refinement by it's creator over seven years.  And I think it's pretty cool looking, too.

So let that be a lesson to you, creative types - whether you be a painter or sculptor, or just a comedy writer or performer - craft is as important as creativity

Monday, June 21, 2010

Love Bath

I just think this is a great song.



Ah Smokey Robinson.  Taking the ridiculous and making it supersexy.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday: Pulling a Cutbert

First thing’s first: let’s get the obligatory plug out of the way:


RvD presents:

12 Angry Sketches

Justice Gets Served

Fridays in June at 9:00 PM
Donny's Skybox Theatre
1608 N Wells St
Chicago, IL

Two more shows, people, including tonight. Come on out, stick around afterwards and say ‘hi.’

Sorry about the intermittent posting around here. Work has been like this lately:



I would be ‘Cutbert Simion vpon the racke’ laying down there. It’s difficult to post when your hands are tied to ropes that run to a gigantic crank that stretches you out more and more and more. I’m sure you understand.

But dash it all it’s Friday. And here in America Friday is a cause for celebration. We celebrate today with articles gathered during the week:

WHITE CASTLE DOES NOT NEED TO DEFEND ITSELF

White Castle is like that last drink of the night; it’s unnecessary and will only make you feel sick in a couple of hours, but damn it it’s delicious and I want it so let’s keep this party going. Apparently, some people take issue with the fact that White Castle prefers their deep fried manufactured chicken product in ring form and not as nuggets. These people regard the shape as blatant disregard for anything remotely chicken-like: chicken does not occur naturally in ring form.

I prefer to think of White Castle as speaking the truth here: your Mc Nuggets are processed pieces of disgusting deep fried breaded crap too. White Castle at least has the decency not to lie to you and try to make you think you’re getting something you’re not. It’s a ring of salty breaded chicken parts. If you like that kind of thing, consume at your leisure.

KEVIN COSTNER TO THE RESCUE

It may have all been downhill from Dances With Wolves (although I still prefer his unabashedly non-English Robin Hood) but Kevin Costner is still trying to make a difference. This time he’s going Water World (the Postman on the high seas) on the oil spill with an invention that separates oil and water at high speeds. Hooray for you, Kevin Costner. Your testimony before congress might make us wonder how you ever became a famous actor, but at least you are using your clout for good and not evil.

Side note: the rig that exploded and caused the whole oil spill mess was called “Deepwater Horizon.” This is the type of name reserved for really bad b-movie disaster sci-fi flicks from the 90’s. Nobody should be surprised that something disastrous happened here. My recommendation: we start giving these rigs less ominous sounding names. It’s not going to stop the current spill, but it can’t hurt.

YOUR DAY MIGHT SUCK, BUT...

At least you're not pulling human heads out of a package.  I may be pulling a Cutbert today, but maybe I shouldn't complain.

SOCCER MANIA? MORE LIKE SOCCER LAME-IA!

Sorry, folks. I know it’s an international event – like the Olympics – but I just can’t get behind the soccer.

The other day, we were watching it at lunch. I was transfixed for a while, watching the ball bounce back and forth and back and forth in a triangle, waiting for something to happen. Thirty minutes passed and finally someone scored. The first thought that came to my mind was, “That’s it? That’s what I’ve been waiting for?”

I don’t know. Maybe my patriotism is defective. I’ll get behind Olympic hockey. Soccer is one unnecessary pass too far for my taste.

SOCCER TASTY TREAT

Courtesy of the Onion. Enjoy:

Soccer Officially Announces It Is Gay

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fuerza Bruta: Running Through Walls

Story?  Meh.  Character development?  Meh.  Sometime, you just need to watch somebody run through a wall of paper boxes. 

Kaboom!

If you have a taste for that and a host of other bizarre sights, then Fuerza Bruta's show Look Up is right up your alley.

The show is called Look Up because there are literally people swimming in a giant see-through plastic container above your head for a good chunk of time.  That's about as subtle as it's going to get in this show that is unabashedly about spectacle and the audience's response to crazy shit.

Basically, they herd the audience onto the stage of the Auditorium Theatre - no, you don't get to sit down - and make you move around in a giant mesh box while a guy runs on a treadmill and people break styrofoam boards over one anothers heads.  And then the crazy shit starts happening.

If you're looking for a nice musical with a safe story (or any story) and some nice musical numbers for you to hum on your way to your BMW then this is probably not the right show for you.  I know this because I benefited by getting comps precisely because those people apparently have no interest in crazy Argentine dance parties.

But for pure spectacle and just general coolness, it's a good time.  And sometimes you just need to see something that doesn't give a damn about conventions and just goes out to have some fun.  I thought the idea of putting the audience on stage was a great one, and for my taste they could have gone even further - there were moments of dragging and moments standing in the dark for just a bit too long wondering what was coming at you next - but all told it was a good use of a Sunday afternoon.

You should be able to find info over at the League of Chicago Theatre's website if you're interested.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Exit Through The Gift Shop - Hey, I Really Could Do That!

Saturday was a bit gloomy so instead of running off to Chicago Bluesfest, the lady and I took in a screening of Exit Through The Gift Shop.

If you have not seen this movie then I highly recommend it to you.  It's fascinating, educational and sweetly yet bitterly funny.  I'm going to try not to ruin the movie for you, but if you're afraid that might happen I recommend clicking somewhere else and coming back later for your usual dose of dick jokes.

Exit Through The Gift Shop is a documentary about compulsive filmer Thierry Guetta - basically a French guy with a camera and a whole mess of tape - who infiltrates the world of graffiti artists by claiming he's a documentarian, and his gradual transformation from voyeur to eager participant to counterculture artist in his own right despite having no discernible artistic abilities of his own other than perhaps enthusiasm and an entrepreneurial spirit.

The tale is told by Banksy, the famous British pop graffiti artist responsible for such works as this:

Banksy, once the topic of Guetta's fake documentary, essentially uses the Guetta's own film to tell the story of the transformation into Mr. Brainwash.  The film in it's telling is very cool and interesting much in the way that that general style - counterculture, pop and street art - is very cool and interesting. 

However, the most interesting part of the movie is Guetta's transformation and the ramifications for Banksy and artists of his ilk.  One of the tenants of this type of art is that anyone can be an artist anywhere and at any time.  Banksy himself tells of how he used to encourage people to make their own art.  Following the story of Guetta's strange metamorphosis, Banksy tells us, "I don't really do that anymore."

At the end of the movie, those artists responsible for Guetta are left wondering what they've wraught in Mr. Brainwash and what it means for their art and it's worth.  There aren't any answers really; just some worthwhile questions and a generally disturbed yet satisfying feeling that is entirely fitting.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday: Phalluses and Felicitations Abound

Well it's Friday again, which during a show run can mean one thing and one thing only.

Show plugging time?

You betcha!

RvD presents:
12 Angry Sketches
Justice Gets Served

Fridays in June at 9:00 PM
Donny's Skybox Theatre
1608 N Wells St
Chicago, IL

We opened last Friday to much laughter and enjoyment and guess what?  The show is only going to get better!

Anything else you want to mention?

But of course.  365 Sketches wraps up this weekend.  RvD already done did their show, but there are still a few left, so when you aren't watching 12 Angry Sketches you should go drop $10 on some very funny sketch comedy.

What else?

Uh.  I read a story about a group of ninjas fighting off a mugger in Sidney, Australia.  Note to self: if you're going to mug someone, be aware and make sure there are no ninjas around.

I love that when one of them gives a quote to that article, they are referred to as Ninja Steve Ashley.  Evidently, Ninja is an honorific on par with Doctor or President.  It almost makes "I want to grow up to be a ninja" sound honorable vocation and not the sweetly naive wishes of a child or grown Australian male.

What else?

Uh... this article about a prehistoric stone dildo that was also used to ignite fires?  Please note, all puns intended in any potential follow up jokes.  Carry on, comedians.

What else?

What do you mean 'What else?'  I've exhausted my backlog of stupid articles.

Happy Birthday to you!  Happy Birthday to you!

Oh God...

Happy Birthday, Nat Topping.  Happy Birthday to you!

That's right.  My birthday is tomorrow.  I'll be 28.  Blah blah blah.

Make a wish!

Oh shut up.

SPEECH!  SPEECH!  SPEECH!

Okay, well, I guess thank you to friends and family for making the past 28 years great, I look forward to another great 28 years, which would be a great sentiment except that it implies that I'll be dead by 56, so instead I'll just say thanks for coming to the blog and I love you all.

Blow out your candles, and PREPARE FOR SPANKINGS!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Email Style Guide: Part 2

Last week, we tackled some of the basics of structuring a professional, non-dickheaded business email.

In today’s installment of the Professional Email Style Guide for Complete and Total Morons, we will cover a couple of simple stylistic conventions that will prevent you from looking like a babbling preteen imbecile.


Once again:

The Hypocrite's Caveat: Just because I'm writing about writing doesn't mean I will use perfect English. So if you find a mistake, eat me. It's a blog. Do as I say, not as I do.



THE ROLE OF CAPS AND ITALICS, ETC


There should be none. This is not a text message to one of your man-slut friends about how much you drank last night and whoah I saw you making out wit the Lithunanian chik did u getrdone? There should be no “LULZ LMAO :-).” If you had any ability to recognize when something is appropriate and when something makes you look like an ass or a fifteen year old then you would know this already.

BOLD. There is no reason for you to use this, unless you are talking to an absolute idiot whom you must lead to important details like a dog to his own waste matter. The result of this sort of condescension is to make your target audience hate you. If you are trying to coerce someone into doing something for you, this is absolutely 100% the wrong way to go.

CAPS. Capitalized words are acceptable only in the event that you are using an acronym, which is a word made out of the first letters in a proper name. An example would be NAMBLA, the North American Man / Boy Love Association. We’ve already established that you probably spend a lot of your time there. Please note that if you do use an acronym you should be consistent with capitalizing it. Writing nambla now, in lower case, shows that I have the attention span of a hummingbird on uppers, or Gary Busey. Coming across like Gary Busey should be avoided at all cost.

Outside of acronyms, all caps just makes you sound like a Tourette Syndrome patient or someone with extreme anger management issues. Yes, you may be very mad about something. The appropriate means of expressing that anger is traditionally with back handed compliments, not shouting like a buffoon into a text box.

ITALICS. Why the hell are you using italics? Are you speaking in another language? Do you just like the way slanty words look? Knock it off. This is not a Harold Pinter play. If you knew who Harold Pinter was, you might think that comment was amusing.

UNDERLINING. This is as bad or possibly worse than the all caps simply because there is no appropriate time to use underlined words.

DIFFERENT COLORED WORDS. Don’t. Stop doing that.

The role of blind, seething rage in your professional email will be discussed another day. For now, just try to avoid highlighting your stupidity for all the world to see.



PUNCTUATION


We’ll leave semicolons, colons and commas out of the discussion. I would advise you to avoid using semicolons and colons until such time as you actually know how to use them properly. Using them improperly will just reveal the fact that you paid no attention to your high school level English classes. It seems like commas you can, literally, use anywhere you like, anymore, even though there are, rules, about their usage, so, just try not to over, use them.

Instead I’ll focus on how you end your sentences.

ACCEPTABLE PUNCTUATION:

Periods.

Question marks. For questions.


UNACCEPTABLE PUNCTUATION:

Exclamation points! ARGH!!!! I’M SO ANGRY!!!!!! AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!! Stop it. You’re not a toddler. Unless you are, in which case get off the Internet before NAMBLA finds you.

Ellipses. This is the word for “dot dot dot” or “…” and in dramatic writing (the one for the tv!) is meant to denote when someone trails off before they can complete a thought. In a professional business email, using ellipses means that you are unable to complete your own thoughts. If you use more than three periods in your ellipses, it means you can’t complete your own thoughts and also that you cannot count.



An example of poor writing: “OMG we need these crates of sausages NOW and cannot wait……. There WILL BE HELL TO PAY!!!!! Do you know, who I am????? I’M SO UNHAPPY WITH MY HOME LIFE!!!!!”

An example of proper writing: “Please calm down. Your crates are in transit. We understand your desperate need for sausage and hope that getting your hands on some might finally calm you down. Cheers!”

Next week will be etiquette.  If anyone has any recommendations, please leave them in the comment section.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

RvD Does 365 Tonight!

I've been plugging this for a while now but here goes again.

My friend and fellow RvD member Joe Janes spent an entire year writing sketches - one a day.  As though that isn't a herculean enough of a task, he's in the middle of a ten night festival - 365 Sketches - showing all of those works in their entirety.

Tonight, RvD does their part by performing "A Thing I Wrote," consisting of weeks 31 & 32.  If you are able to make it out tonight, you should come.  If you are busy tonight, you should still try to make a show or two before the festival ends on Sunday.

Yes, I am biased because not only is Joe my friend but I'm also in the show.  That said, I think 365 is incredibly important for a couple of reasons:
  • It's an acknowledgement of the sheer amount of work Joe put in for an entire year.  As someone who writes sketch comedy, I can attest to the fact that it's not always easy.  The fact that Joe was able to write a new sketch a day for a year is a testament to his dedication and his ability.
  • The sketches are all good.  I've seen a few of the shows now and I have yet to see a sketch that I thought was terrible.  Combined with the breadth of the project, that's an amazing accomplishment.
  • These sketches are a vessel holding decades worth of sketch comedy writing experience.  Are you learning to write sketch comedy?  Do you want to know what a fish out of water scene or a relationship sketch is supposed to look like?  Do you want to know what works and what doesn't work?  Do you want to know how to get away with a shock-joke without alienating your audience?  365 is the place to benefit from Joe's vast experience as a teacher and as a Second City alumnus.
  • Since each show is directed and performed by a wide variety of people from different parts of the sketch comedy landscape, the show is essentially a meeting of comedy minds from across the city.  The show is the perfect combination of Joe's writing prowess and this city's interpretive creativity.
If you love sketch comedy, this is a show you will appreciate.  If you are learning sketch comedy, this is a place to learn.  If you perform sketch comedy, this show is as much about us and our love for what we do as it is about Joe and the impact that he has had on those of us lucky enough to learn from him.

*  *  *  *

When Joe finished the writing process back in January, a bunch of people got together at Goose Island brewery on Clark and celebrated.  As part of the celebration, RvD wrote him a scene entitled "Sketch Zero."  The scene is basically an excuse to give Joe a good natured ribbing and drop a 'pants on the ground' reference back when that was still topical.  Chris (another RvD member) posted it on the blog today, and I still got a chuckle reading it through five months later.  If you're curious, you can read it at the link.

Show starts at 8:00 tonight at the Straw Dog Theatre, 3829 N Broadway in Chicago.  Let's do it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

FRIDAY PLUGGERY: 12 Angry Sketches and 365

Oh baby, it's time.

What are you talking about?

Time to plug some shows coming up for yours truly.

SHOW THE FIRST: Opening tonight, babies!

Robot vs Dinosaur presents:

12 Angry Sketches

Justice gets served.

Fridays in June (4th, 11th, 18th, 25th) @ 9:00 PM

Donny's Skybox
1808 N Wells, 4th Floor
Chicago, IL

For tickets call the Box Office at 312-337-3992

Dogs will be shouted at, aliens mocked, babies thrown and laughs had by all!

SHOW THE SECOND:

365 Sketches
Written by Joe Janes

The festival started yesterday; I was there, it was awesome and hilarious.  Some of us RvDers (myself included) are performing the second Wednesday night show.  More information can be found here.

Man, that's a lot of good lookin' comedy.  If I was a person and not a type of text, I would totally make it out.

I appreciate that, Boldie.  I really do.

Give us a kiss?

Not that much appreciation.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Email Style Guide: Part 1

As someone who spends a lot of time – arguably too much time – reading and writing emails, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are too many people working in the business world who are, quite frankly, morons. As proof, I would like to submit the fact that these people are unable to write an email that does not make me want to stab my eyes out with a spatula.


The Internet is a wonderful invention that has accelerated the common man’s ability to communicate and share information. The downside is that it has become easier for asshats to mouth off about subjects on which they aren’t really qualified to blather.

Hey, freedom of speech and all that. But if you want other people to take you seriously, you shouldn’t sound like an asshat when you abuse that right.

So, in the hopes of helping to correct this widespread inability to communicate (and maybe to blow off a little steam), here is a style guide I have put together for writing business emails. Hopefully by using these techniques, idiots will be able to pass themselves off as real people with actual valid thoughts and not as idiots.

This is a working document so I may add things as I go, based on further experience in the field of dealing with jerkoffs or based on suggestions from my more intelligent and sympathetic readers.

First, The Hypocrite's Caveat: Just because I'm writing about writing doesn't mean I will use perfect English.  So if you find a mistake, eat me.  It's a blog.  Do as I say, not as I do.
 
And now, on with the show:
 
 
BASIC STRUCTURE



The goal of your email should be to clearly express thoughts, opinions, concerns and requests in a coherent manner. This is not Facebook, nor is it a Red Sox fan site nor the Nambla message board you frequent so very often. Your goal should not be to write a rambling monologue in which you sound like a lunatic nut-job with a fresh case of road rage. If what you really want is to cover your keyboard in the rabies froth spewing out of your malodorous pie hole, then you should just do what everyone else does and get a blog.

Theoretically, you are being paid to conduct business over the internet. As such, you are expected to organize your thoughts, opinions, etc. in a manner that is actually comprehensible to other humans.

In a moment, I will break down methods for organizing your words into the manner used by all semi-intelligent to intelligent people. However, before undertaking your composition, I would strongly recommend that you do the following:

  1. Determine what the point of your email is before you write it. Nobody likes pointless emails, and nobody likes an email that rambles on and on and on and tries to do eighteen million things and fails at all of them.
  2. Read the other emails pertaining to the issue first that were sent to you by more intelligent people. That way, you’re not writing for something that you already have but were too stupid to understand when you ignored it the first time around.
Once you have determined that you will not be wasting other people’s time, not to mention your own time and thoroughly limited brain power, you should consider organizing your thoughts into the following basic structures:

  1. Actual Words. Words are made up of letters, which are marks that describe what sounds you make, and are meant to express specific thoughts. Examples would be ‘Dog’ or ‘Red’ or ‘Intelligence’ which is a longer word but one you should hopefully still at least recognize. When writing, be sure to use actual words recognized by the English language and not a scramble of syllables and sounds that you made up because it seems like it should mean something. It doesn’t.  
  2. Sentences. These are collections of words that express a whole thought. Try to limit your sentences to one thought per, and also it is customary to end sentences with a period. Like I’m doing right now. It’s the dot at the end of the sentence. Look for it; it’s coming right now. Now. Sometimes you end sentences with a question mark because you are asking a question. Here is an example: “Papa, why don’t any of the other kids like me? Is it because I’m dumber than a sack of my own excrement?” Exclamation marks will be discussed at a later date, along with the use of ellipses. 
  3. Paragraphs. These are collections of sentences meant to combine all of the thoughts contained therein into one big thought. An example of this phenomena would be this paragraph. This paragraph is about paragraphs. Suddenly launching into a deranged rant about how you don’t respect me and then making analogies that don’t make any sense and are not germane to the conversation would completely invalidate the point of this paragraph, thus turning all of my hard work into a ridiculous collection of words that only serve to make me look like an asshole. So use paragraphs. Once you are done with your paragraph, hit the enter key until there is a space between each paragraph.


EMAIL FORMATTING


Now that you know the basic structures for expressing yourself, it’s time to learn the structure of an email as a whole. Please note once again that this is a business email and not one that you might send to one of your idiot friends about how much Milwaukee’s Best you consumed the night before, or how you slept with some sleaze ball and are now feeling an itch in your various nether regions. Those emails can be written in your usual collection of monosyllabic grunts and expletives.


In a business email, you begin by (a) naming the person to whom you are addressing your email, (b) informing them of what you wish them to know – called the body, (c) thanking them for the time you likely just wasted or at least saying goodbye, and finally (d) letting them know who wrote the email – called your signature.


A couple of quick notes:


Please separate these with the enter key so that they don’t run together. It’s not the end of the world, but good God it will irritate people if you start your email with “Fred I was thinking maybe and…”


It is customary that the body of your text actually be worth the time and effort of the person on the receiving end of your email. If it’s too short and glib then you’ll piss people off and if it goes on and on when you could very easily have been expressed in four sentences, you’ll piss people off too.


If your signature already includes “thank you” then you can skip (c). Otherwise, you’ll get something like:


“Thanks.


Thank you,


Best,


Monica Moron”


Now that you are aware of the proper form and structure of an email let’s put it all together into a nice example for you:


Dear Moron,


Human resources has noted a history of incompetence in your employee file. I have also noticed your inability to express yourself in anything other than monosyllabic grunts and expletives. I see now that hiring you was a huge mistake. You are hereby fired, effective immediately.


On a personal note, the fact that you are my cousin embarrasses me; both in the fact that you are incompetent at your job and the fact that somehow we share the same gene pool.


Please vacate your desk before the stench seeps into the desk to the point where it can’t be bleached out of the expensive office furniture.


Thank you,


Your Boss


It’s just that easy

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June

It's one of my favorite months of the year.  Why?
  • It's my birth month which historically means presents.
  • It's the first summer month.  Gone are the days when the threat of random snow hung over our heads.  And we're still early enough in the year that summer's most oppressive heat is a little way off.
  • Memorial Day just finished up, which means that we're all rested (thank you, armed forces and service inclined persons for that) for the first time since probably January.
  • This June means shows.  12 Angry Sketches opens on Friday, and I'm in 365 Sketches next Wednesday.  Yeah, I'm busy, which can be a little stressful, but this is the good kind of busy and not the punch-my-work-monitor kind.  Come check them out.
And yes, this was a thinly veiled excuse for a plug.