Thursday, February 23, 2012

On The Value of Actually Reading the Book You're Reading

Once upon a time, I was an English major. My homework was to read a ton of novels and write papers on them. At the same time as being an English major, I was doing extracurricular activities that involved theatre and drinking. Not necessarily at the same time, but also not unheard of behavior either.

As such, I became very good at ‘reading’ novels without reading them. I would get the gist of the story; I would skim for details; I would look for connections with other pieces of literature or anything else that I could potentially use for papers, tests and the like.

But did I read the novels? Not in the same way that I used to read, or the way that I read now, where I feel like I’m really ingesting the book. I’m just now, nearly eight years out of college, realizing the difference.

Here’s an example. We have a guy at work who really likes to read. Really smart guy, a writer himself, trying to get published, and he was talking books with my next-door cube neighbor when he mentioned a title he was reading – Pop. 1280. Something about that seemed vaguely familiar, so I ran to my Internets to look it up. Lo and behold, I had read it – rather, I’d ‘read’ it – for a class my Junior year. So I chimed in.

‘What did you think?' he asked.  'I’m only about half way in. Didn’t you love it?’

Frankly, I had no recollection of it one way or the other. Just that I had read it once, that I was required to read it, and that it was still sitting on my bookshelf.

That sensation unnerved me. So, about a month ago, I picked the book back up and started reading it again. It’s excellent. It’s hilarious and psychotic and entertaining and chilling at the same time. It’s the kind of book that I would have loved to read my Junior year had I not been so caught up ‘reading’ for my Junior year. It’s by Jim Thompson and was published in 1964. It’s like crime fiction meets farce. If you’re looking for something to read, I can recommend it with full knowledge that it is indeed a perfectly enjoyable read.

Anyway, I’m not sure what lesson to take from that, other than maybe just to enjoy what you’re doing while you’re doing it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

‘Twas The Morn’ of St. President’s Day, or A Visit from Robot Lincoln’

Once again, President's Day is here and nobody bothered to tell me because practically nobody cares.  This is a shame.  President's Day is a holiday, and should be treated as such.  With that in mind, I took quil and ink to parchment and penned the following poem to commemorate this most vital ritual of February.  I hope you all gather round some children (yours or otherwise) tonight and read them this little piece of verse:

‘Twas The Morn’ of St. President’s Day, or A Visit from Robot Lincoln’

By Nat Topping

‘Twas the morn’ of St. President’s Day at my place,
I awoke in a flurry and washed off my face,
My clothing I picked off a pile on the floor,
I brushed off my teeth and I booked out the door.
I ran to the bus stop and just missed my bus
So I pondered the point of my morning-time fuss.
But twelve minutes on the next bus came around.
In a matter of moments I was office bound.

Well as I softly napped to the bus’ gentle rock,
I was snatched from my slumber in horrible shock,
When, what to my terrified eyes should appear
Than a giant Abe Lincoln in robotic gear!
I escaped to the sidewalk and watched with eyes wide
As he picked up our bus and he threw it aside.
Abe Lincoln, the leader who freed all the slaves,
For some unknown reason was back from the grave!

He pulled up a light post and with a great swat,
He turned a poor biker into nothing but snot.
And then with a tip of a huge stovepipe hat,
He declared with a growl he was looking for Nat.
While wondering why in the world it would be
That Abe Lincoln would hold so much hatred towards me
I must have done something to catch Lincoln’s sight.
He charged and I fled in a terrible fright.

I dodged in and out, through the morning-time frey,
Abe Lincoln demolished what stood in his way.
I ‘scaped round the corner and ran ‘neath the El.
But Abe Lincoln sent the whole Brown Line to hell.
I ducked down Lower Wacker and thought I could hide.
I hoped I had lost him. I let out a sigh,
When I heard a great groan and I turned ‘round to see
George Washington zombies were coming for me!

There was a whole army, a mob of undead,
With wooden made teeth and with wigs on their heads
They groaned and they shuddered and cried out for flesh,
So I set off, with gusto, arunning afresh.
I came up to the surface. Abe Lincoln was there,
With his long robot limbs and his murderous stare,
Behind me the zombies in colonial gear,
I was pretty sure untimely death must be near.

But the strangest thing ever I saw then took place
When the zombie George Washingtons saw Lincoln’s face,
They charged at the robot and with a great clatter,
They took down the monster who with a great splatter,
Crushed legions of zombies beneath all his weight.
I might have watched longer but you see I was late,
So this tragic debacle I managed to shirk,
And within fifteen minutes I made it to work.

You readers may wonder if this could be true,
Well, I swear: every word as I’m writing to you
Is exactly the way I described it to be.
But ‘They’ covered up all this, naturally.
As sure as you’re born and that prattlers prattle,
The Presidents fought a horrific battle.
So heed you this warning: prepare for dismay,
When your work doesn’t take off St. President’s Day!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Performing Schedule - February / March

Performing schedule for the foreseeable future. I’ll update if I add anything further.  Smooches and happy February!  It's a crappy month, but it's short!

I'm helping out for Patrick Raynor’s Come On! We’re All Adults!
Annoyance Theatre, 4830 N Broadway in Chicago
Tickets: $10
This is my good buddy Pat’s one man show, but I’ll be helping out with music and even singing an old Reality Fairy song for that too! I’ve seen Pat’s stuff and it’s very funny, so I plug this in good conscious. OPENS TONIGHT!!

Don't have a photo for these guys...

CRASSUS at Jerry's Comedy Night
Courtesy of Gulp! Productions
Jerry's Sandwiches, 1938 W Division in Chicago
Tickets: FREE
20 Minutes of Comedy Bliss from your friends in Crassus (Me and Geoff).

WEDNESDAY, February 29th, 8:00(ish)
CRASSUS opening for Old West Family Photo
Underground Lounge, 952 W Newport in Chicago
Tickets: FREE, but the stairs are steep
We’re crushing on these guys so hard that Geoff and I are doing a third month in a row. Come hang out. Show’s free, preshow music is good, and the beer is beer.

TUESDAY, March 6th and 13th at 7:30 PM
Crassus @ SketchTest
Pub Theater at Fizz Bar, 3220 N Lincoln in Chicago
Tickets: FREE. Just show up.
We'll be trying out some new stuff.  It could be great, or it could be really great.  Whether that's intentional or unintentional remains to be seen.  Either way, we're gonna have fun.

Things in the hopper: an RvD run and a Crassus run sometime mid to late Spring.  Check back!