Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lake Shore Drive Redux

Lake Shore Drive. LSD: a hallucinogenic drug AND the greatest urban highway on the planet: Summer is nice, but I like the cold, late fall. Wind whipping, the lake churning apocalyptic, busting up the rocks, the beaches, the heart, the soul.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

sim Schadenfreude

I have a recurring nightmare about rollercoasters. Thanks to some joker who screen-captured his perverted fun with Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, you can see it here *:

I cast no stones. My sim-house is made of sugar-glass. I have tortured innocent, simulated, computer folk. I apologize to my family on The Sims. I had no idea you would drown in the swimming pool when I removed the ladder. I thought you would climb out! And I apologize for selling your tombstone for $10. I feel bad about that. Furthermore, my sensory deprivation experiment went awry after I removed all the doors from your bedroom, trapping you inside. Sorry you went insane.

*I like the part at the end of this clip where someone goes "Wheeeee!" and then the roller coaster cars explode for no reason

Thursday, February 21, 2008

pick it up pick it up pick it up

May you use this weekend to pick up that nagging bit of clutter in your apartment or house or life, and may this be your theme song for doing so:

the potboiler. . . continued

Thank you for your comments and for taking the poll on my new, favorite, misunderstood adjectivish noun. Based on the folks who voted in the poll, the gut-feeling on the word is split.

The story behind the potboiler question:

One of my writing projects is a dark comedy (big surprise), and I was fussing with the idea of labeling it "a potboiler" on the title-page, as a little wink, because the story is about a restaurateur. My own notions about a potboiler were positive. I thought it described a kind of story I enjoyed: a plot-heavy, twisty, simmering, exciting, wild sort of ride. That thought was based on how I'd seen the word used before, and apparently I enjoy things that are labeled "potboilers."

I looked up what the term meant in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

Main Entry:
: a usually inferior work (as of art or literature) produced chiefly for profit
Jiggawhat??? Really? The Wikipedia entry goes further to describe writers of "potboilers" as hack writers, and that "potboiler" describes the author's motive (money) for writing thing rather than describing the content of the writing.

Even if something is described as "a potboiler" or as "pulp," we're so far removed from the original definitions to know what the crap it actually means. Words have a way of being appropriated, misappropriated, spindled, mushed and stomped. Over time, it diminishes their meaning. We can understand the word from context, but if the context is flawed based on the original misunderstanding of the word, then we're all adrift and turning to Wikipedia, and we all know how accurate THAT is.

Now my question is, can I take a word like "potboiler", which has negative connotations in its original definition, use it as a way to define a story, and negate its effect to belittle, diminish, or dismiss? The immediate example is Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" -- the movie can't be dismissed for being pulp fiction because it is pulp fiction. I know: we're so far beyond criticising that movie that it's a bad example. So can an author yank a card from a deck, tear it up, and say "you can't play that card to define this thing because I've already played it on the title page"?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

question: the potboiler

You are smart, culturally-attentive, literary-minded folk. What is your impression of the word "potboiler" to describe a book, play, or movie?

I had a certain assumption about what the word meant based on its use in criticism or as a descriptive term. But what I thought the word meant wasn't accurate according to definition.

STOP! DON'T LOOK IT UP IN THE DICTIONARY OR ON WIKIPEDIA! I don't care if you know what it means or don't know what it means, but if you've heard/read the word "potboiler," I'm curious about what you think. What does it mean? Do you like "potboilers"? Please take the poll to the left; if you have any thoughts, feel free to share in the comments.

Monday, February 18, 2008

we're gonna blowds up a satellite with missiles

My space geek self is stoked we're going to try to blow up a rogue spy satellite with missiles: CNN concludes the article with an account of China's botched attempt to destroy a satellite with a missile:

In January 2007, China used a land-based missile to destroy a 2,200-pound satellite that was orbiting 528 miles above Earth. But the impact left more than 150,000 pieces of debris floating above Earth, NASA estimates. The space agency characterizes nearly 2,600 pieces as "large," meaning greater than 4 inches across, which pose a potential threat to satellites and spacecraft. China is responsible for 42 percent of all satellite debris in orbit as of January 1, most of it from that Fengyun-C meteorological satellite.

NASA has called it the worst satellite breakup in history.
"Worst satellite breakup in history" is not entirely true. I found a transcript of the ACTUAL worst satellite breakup in history.
Zenit-4MKM: We don't talk anymore, not like we used to.

KITSAT: I'm a 1971 communications satellite: I'm broken.

Zenit-4MKM: When I ask how your day was, does it always have to be "fine?" Does everything always have to be just...fine?

KITSAT: I'm SORRY if I've run out of creative ways to say "I orbited Earth for the millionth goddamn time!"

Zenit-4MKM: You're shouting again.

KITSAT: 'Cause you're deaf.

Zenit-4MKM: Ooooh! You burn me up!

KITSAT: You know what burns me up? Those globs of toothpaste you leave in the sink. I invite ESRO 1A over for beers and scrambling DirecTV signals, and I gotta scrape your green Aquafresh turds out of the sink with toilet paper so I'm not embarrassed we live like slobs.


KITSAT: Yeah, who's shouting now.

Zenit-4MKM: Are you trying to make me cry?

KITSAT: I think we're through. We should break up.

Zenit-4MKM: Fine. It's over. Goodbye.


KITSAT: Stop following me!


drunk history - vol 2.5

Part 2 of Vol 2. More Ben Franklin. I want to connect it to Presidents' Day, but Ben Franklin was never a president and it would be inaccurate. Here's a highly inaccurate thing I said at work today: I was spacing out when I answered the phone, and I told a guy that I was going to transfer his call to somebody's e-mail. The guy was like "Uhhhh... okay?" Like knowing what I said was totally impossible but knowing I probably meant voicemail, and he was nice enough to let it go. But then I DID transfer the call to e-mail which stupefied everybody! No, I didn't. I wish the story ended that way. It ended with me wishing my cubicle was soundproof so the people I work with didn't just hear me tell somebody I was going to transfer a call to e-mail. So, Presidents Day! I didn't celebrate Presidents Day, but the Coke machine in the office did: it ate the presidents on my coins and then didn't give me a Diet Dr Pepper or any soda at all. Now I have bad feelings about Presidents' Day.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

something to see in NYC

5 performances in The Frigid Festival starting February 27. More Info.

Diversey Harbor for reals

Friday, February 15, 2008

patrick stewart on macbeth

An audio/slide-show. Patrick Stewart talks about the production of Macbeth in NYC: I love his passion for his Lady Macbeth, Kate Fleetwood, and listening to him talk about doing the show for young audiences. Sadly, he does not discuss battling the Borg.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

oh god it burns

Snippet of an e-mail I received today from my Temp Agency.

You will soon be receiving Microsoft Office tutorials and tests from [test notification e-mail address]. We either do not have scores for these applications from you in our system or the scores we do have are below 80%. Please review the tutorials and complete the tests at your earliest convenience.
First, I did not score below 80% and stop telling people that. Second, I would like to assure my Temp Agency that my mad Microsoft Office skillz are just fine thank you. Third, instead of retesting my office skills, can I put my fist through a wall? I'd rather do that. Not a really solid wall like my apartment's walls, but perhaps the less-solid wall of a McHouse built in three weeks out along the tollway near Gurnee Mills.

I have to retake this because my skills somehow expire after three years, which is when I first started temping and had to take all these tests.

Oh my god I've been temping for three years.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

open letter to the guy who helped push my car out of a parking space on Saturday

Hey dude,

Thanks. You left before I actually got my car out of that icy snow pile, but thanks. Here's what happened before you walked along and helped me:

I got in my car. I started my car. I hit the gas and my wheels spun and spun. Snow sprayed. I said "fuck!" I called home to see if Mom and Dad had any good ideas.

Mom said: "Do you have any kitty litter?"

Do I have kitty litter? In my car???

"Wedge your car floor mats under your front tires to get traction."

Mom watches a lot of Discovery Channel.

So I did. My tires spun. The air filled with the aroma of burnt floor-mat. I tried Drive and Reverse, Drive and Reverse, D and R. Holy shit! I moved! I'm home free! My car jumped the curb! I'm now stuck in a brand new snowbank! And partway blocking the alley! Yay! Wait! NooooooOOooOOoo!!!

To sum up: I was stuck and, as an added bonus, illegally parked.

Then my Good Samaritan comes walking along. I'm not sure if he really wanted to help me. He looked like the kind of guy who would've felt like a jerk if he didn't help a small blonde chick spinning her tires in an illegally parked car. Me, I don't have such feelings. Small blonde chicks can fend for themselves.

He gave me a few pushes to get out of the spot, from the back of the car and the front of the car: in drive, in reverse, in drive, in reverse. No dice. I sprayed him with snow. I said "Thank you for your help, I'll keep trying" -- in other words: you do not have to continue helping me, you are dismissed. He left me with parting advice. And then he walked five feet away from my car and slipped on the ice. His legs did a cartoon like whhoo woo whooop -- like when Scooby and Shaggy are trying to run away from a ghost and their feet don't get traction -- and then BAM! Gravity! He fell!

Oh dear.

I imagined a world where he did not stop to try to help me. In this world, he did not slip and fall on the ice and crack his spine. He walked on, entered the liquor store on the corner, and purchased a 200 million dollar lotto ticket; it is with this money he will use to cure all forms of cancer.

"Ohmygod, are you okay???"

"Fine, fine," he said, not paralyzed, or dead.

"Can I... buy you coffee or something?"

What?! Was I offering to buy coffee? Was that something I was going to do if he said yes? Did I have any money in my wallet?

"I'm fine!" He walked off, probably embarrassed for being such a guy, failing to push a car into a street, and then slipping on the ice.

I felt like such a douche.

Let's talk about being a Good Samaritan. The "feel good" feeling of Good Samaritanism is overrated. I was once at a theatre, and this old guy was about to trip down a set of stairs, and this Good Samaritan reached out to stop him from falling, and the old tripping guy dragged the other guy down the stairs and they both ended up in the hospital.

Just think of the last time one of your friends -- not your "Best friend", say, but a friend, or an acquaintance -- asked you for a ride to the airport. What's your initial reaction to that? Especially if you live on the north side of Chicago and give somebody a ride to O'Hare or Midway or it might as well be the airport in fucking Topeka, Kansas for as long as it takes with traffic. This is your reaction: DRIVING YOU TO THE AIRPORT IS A TOTAL FUCKING FUCK OF AN INCONVENIENCE ON MY FUCKING SATURDAY! Don't lie. I won't believe you if you say your first thought is "I would totally love to help you without reciprocation ever, I'm just happy for a deed well done." But maybe you're a Golden Rule type: if I needed a ride to the airport, it would be nice if somebody could give me a ride if I asked, so I will do unto others.

This is the problem with car culture in America. Those with cars are doomed to give friends rides to airports.

One of my friends asked me to give him a ride from his apartment in Andersonville to Evanston. I was like sure, no problem. And then I Google-mapped his apartment to where he wanted to go, and it was an easy bus and/or train ride. It was seriously like a 3 block walk from the Purple Line. What the hell? I mean, I gave him a ride because I said I would! But I never stopped being irritated about saying "yes." The round-trip took an hour out of my day after work. And I started thinking: am I ever going to call this guy for a ride to the airport? No. Probably not. Why'd I say yes? To be nice?

And this guy, the one who tried pushing my car out of the snow. I didn't ask for his help. And not only did my car not budge, but he walked away thinking he was a failure. Then he slipped and fell and bruised ass.

He was long gone when I finally rocked out of that parking spot, on his advice: keep the wheel straight and go in drive and reverse, drive and reverse. That sounds like simple advice, but I was so frustrated that I would have otherwise continued jolting the steering wheel like I was having a seizure. I was so thrilled when I got out of that motherfucking parking space, I was half a mile away before I realized I left my melted floor-mats on the street. So thanks, guy, whoever you are. Sorry you didn't get to enjoy seeing my little Thomas the Tank I-think-I-can yellow car fighting its front-wheels out of the snow. You at least deserved a stupid coffee.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Drunk History - Vol 2 - featuring Jack Black

Thanks for the heads up on this one, Annie. Well done.

gChat addendum -3:43pm

Annie: hey, thanks for the nod on your blog. :-)
me: Of course
It's a very important youtube video
That guy vomits so hard into the toilet, the vomit splashes out
Annie: yeah, how sick was that
and it's bright red
me: I couldn't really discern the color of it in the dim light. I'll take a closer look next time
Annie: it was nasty

Thursday, February 07, 2008

"LOST". what... the crap.

Dear inconsequential television program,

I hate you. I hate you so much.

So much.



You don't make sense! You're a tease! You don't answer questions!

Eff you, J.J. Abrams.

You peaked with Felicity.


We're over.


See you next week.


click, I suppose

"if this bus totally crushes that taxi in front of us, we all win trips to Hawaii"

--the CTA bus driver on the #146 during the after work rush on Michigan Ave yesterday

That guy's sense of humor during the evening rush hour slog north on Mich Ave was a shot of goodwill to the lot of us jammed in that accordion monster. Speaking of accordion buses, see Stranger Than Fiction. There's a scene in that movie that captures the essence of what it feels like to ride an accordion bus. You'll know it when you see it.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

dead presidents write new plays

The Anthology project for the Humana Fest is shaping up nicely. Lots of funny, high-energy stuff, and the apprentice company is talented and huggable. One of the things the writers had to do today is sign Humana Festival posters that will be given as gifts to people who donate $$$ to Actors Theatre. 200 posters signed in silver Sharpie in an unventilated room. Sharpie marker + no ventilation = awesome. One lucky theatre doner will receive a Humana Festival poster signed by dead U.S. presidents. Hilarious, right? We thought so! As literary intern Charles stated, we "stopped complaining about the fumes and started submitting to them."