Friday, September 23, 2016

My Laptop, My Novel, and Flash


This is my laptop.  As you can tell from the duct tape holding it together and the worn-out keyboard, it's not doing well.  If I hold it the wrong way, the graphics chip fails and crashes the machine.  The backlight flickers and I have to slap the screen to get it to work.

By now you're asking the obvious question:  This man is so frugal, why isn't he president?
Or you could be asking the other, obvious question:  Why doesn't he get rid of the f-ing thing?

Well...

In the late 70s, I tried to get into programming.  I was very enthusiastic about this new thing called video games and desperately wanted to make some.

I borrowed some of my brother's BASIC books (Hi Jon!) and got in front of our Osbourne 1.  I couldn't figure it out.

Later, I took a programming class in middle school.  I got in front of a TRS-80.  I couldn't figure it out.

Later, I took a Pascal programming class in college.  I got in front of a Mac.  I couldn't figure it out.

I got a copy of Visual BASIC.  I got a copy of Java.  I couldn't figure it out.

Later, I got a copy of Flash (Actionscript 2).  I sat in front of a PC.

I got it.

It clicked.  Everything suddenly worked.  It made sense.  I programmed like crazy.

I bought a new laptop.  Swelling with pride in my new skills, I got a shiny, red case.

Adobe switched to Actionscript 3.  I couldn't figure it out.

Still, I worked at it and worked at it and (eventually) got close to understanding it.  AS 3 didn't come as easily to me as before, but I was stuck with it.  No other language made sense.

My laptop decayed.  The backlight became unstable.  The repair guys said they couldn't permanently fix the problem; I needed a new computer.  I paid to keep it going for a few more months.  I just needed to finish my projects.

I began work on a real game, a game that could make money.  I decided to do it in Flash.  If anything went wrong, I could look into the code myself and help out.

My laptop decayed.  The DVD drive started making grunting noises instead of playing anything.  The battery wore out.  I paid to keep it going a few more months.  I just needed to finish the game.

The problem with Flash is you can't transfer files easily; they become corrupted.  I'd have to upgrade my copy to fix the problem, but I had a limited budget.  It could wait.

I got a programmer.  I got an artist.  I got a sound guy.

I got taken by the programmer.  I got a new programmer.

The artist stopped working.  I got a new artist.  That artist quit.  The programmer got bored and quit.  The other programmer got a job and quit.  I got a new artist.

I hit my budget limit.

I put the game aside.  Someday, I'd do it myself, but I decided to finish my novel first.  I wrote for 3 years.

My laptop decayed.  The hard drive failed.  All my Flash assets were on there.  I paid to keep it going a few more months.

I promised myself I'd finish the novel and then get back to Flash.  I'd get the new version and transfer files and start over.  I'd learn the code myself. I'd paid for the art and programming and I would figure them out.  Then I'd export to web and Android and iOS and even Windows Phone (dammit) and I'd be awesome.

Meanwhile, my laptop decayed.  Microsoft tried to force me to switch to Windows 10.  I paid to keep it going a few more months.

My novel became two novels.  My son started nagging me: he wanted to teach me how to program.  I told him to wait until I finished writing.

Meanwhile, my laptop decayed.  The CPU came loose and had to be "refloated" several times.  I paid to keep it going a few more months.

Flash died.

I'm not sure when it happened, but I just noticed Flash doesn't run on Android.  Remember how people ridiculed Steve Jobs for keeping it off the iPhone?  Remember the jokes about Android being better then iOS?

Meanwhile, my laptop is still decaying.  The graphics chip and motherboard are failing.  I have to turn it off and shake it every few hours to keep it from crashing and losing my work.

The novels are nearly done.  My expensive game art and code are stuck on my fragile computer.  And Flash is dead.  I have to figure out a way of moving them to HTML 5 (or Unity or Clickteam Fusion or...).  Oh, and my old games.  I have to save them, too.

With the amount of money I've spent on my laptop, I could have bought a couple new computers, but I paid to have it fixed again.

I just need it to last a few more months.

Honest.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Cracks


This is a true story.

It happened in the 70s when I was a boy.  I'm not sure when, exactly.  Time is fuzzy when you're a child; it's squishy like a dream.  Instead of years, we measure our childhoods with pivotal events: graduations, the births of those we care for, the deaths of those who cared for us, first crushes, last enemies.

One of my pivotal events was Star Wars.  It's hard to explain what Star Wars meant before it was a franchise, back when there was going to be only one movie, back when your dad had to make your Darth Vader Halloween costume out of a plastic bowler hat, a dust mask, a Giant Tinker Toy, and a flashlight.

Star Wars lit the universe; it made me hunger for other films, other places, other futures.  I waited with trembling enthusiasm for Jodorowsky's Dune, Zelazny's Lord of Light theme park, and the space shuttle.  But Dune shattered into a million pieces, someone embezzled Lord of Light's funding, and the shuttle came and went with the same disappointing finality as my dalliance with my high school crush.

Another pivotal event was moving to a new home.  We left my world, away from friends I thought I'd never replace, away from a school I could walk to, and a window that looked down on the street.  In their place, I got a wilderness of uncertainty I blamed it for every adolescent stumble.  My bullies spit on me, attacked me, tagged me with cruel nicknames.  To this day, I have nightmares about moving from one ghost town to another.

Moving showed me that life was no more secure than the faded construction paper teachers tacked to classroom walls to make displays about the alphabet, numbers, ants' tunnels. Once, a teacher put up a paper solar system, but put Saturn closer to the sun than Jupiter.  To this day, the universe feels wrong.

This happened between those events, after the flush of Star Wars and before the pang of moving away.  It is (as I said) a true story, but the details have faded to the weak colors of 8mm home movies transferred from medium to medium to save them.  Sometimes it's best to lose clarity.

Back then, I kept to my street and the one where my school and best friend lived.  Those two streets were safe.  There were enemies, of course, but I knew them; I knew the limits of what they'd do.  As I got older, my world shrank; I lived on a cramped island off the coast of a dark continent rumbling with mystery.  I yearned for something more.

I wanted to find The Store: my El Dorado, my Lost Dutchman.  Somewhere in the unexplored wilderness was a convenience store where I could exchange my dearly collected dimes and quarters for candy.  They sold Laffy Taffy (banana was the best kind) and Nik-L-Nips (sweet liquids encased in squishy, flavorless wax).

I only had a vague idea which direction it was in, but I was determined to find it.  I would leave my street and wander until I found it.

Half a block off my street was where safety ended.  The boundary of my safe zone was the door to a neighbor's chain link fence.  The ground must have shifted under the sidewalk; the pavement was cracked.  It's been 40 years, but I still remember those cracks.

I still hesitate when I walk over cracked pavement.  Step on a crack, break your mother's back.


I reached the corner and stopped, losing my nerve.  The houses were different.  I already felt uncertainty's vertigo, but didn't want to just turn back.  I turned and headed towards more familiar territory; at the next corner was my school.  One block of exploration would be a fine first excursion.


That's where I met the boys.  Again, my memory is fuzzy.  I remember there were two of them; I remember one was older, bigger than me; I remember they were both white.  I don't remember their faces, their clothes, their names, their ages, or their voices.  I remember what they did; I don't remember why.

If there was a reason.

They grabbed me.  I fought.  They held me down.  I cried.

Nobody came to help me.  Any adults watching would have shrugged and smiled.  A little wrestling never hurt anyone.  Boys have to learn to take care of themselves.

They laughed and held me face down.  They pulled my shirt up and told me they were cutting me with knives while they drew on my back with shards of plastic.

Then they let me go with a parting threat, a last gesture of dominance: I had to walk away slowly, not looking at them.  I couldn't do it.  They chased me down and grabbed me.  They pushed me to the ground, and it started over. This time I walked slowly.  This time I didn't look.

I walked back around the corner.  I walked back over the cracked sidewalk.  I walked back to my street.  I walked back into my house.  That's when I was finally safe enough run.

I never said anything.  I never explored again.  I never saw the candy store.

I still don't go far from home.  Cities merely twenty miles away are dark unknowns.  I never travel on my own.  My teeth clench when I'm anywhere new.

Whenever I see someone in a film head into danger with a curt "I can take care of myself," I give an involuntary snort of derision.  No you can't, I think.  But he always can.  He's the hero, after all.  It's just a movie; it's not real.

Thirty years later, travelling from one safe city to another, I drove near my old home.  My father was with me, or I wouldn't have stopped.


He followed me as I walked to our old house.

I remembered the new front door I broke after being told to be careful with it -- the glass shattered, and I ran to hide behind a tree, then trudged back at the angry call of my mother.  That was when I learned you can't hide from the inevitable repercussions of your actions.

I remembered the garage behind our back yard.  We had a car with a retractable roof that barely retracted, and white paint that formed bubbles you could crush to reveal rust.  That was where I learned there was a quiet joy in a musty room with old license plates nailed to the wall.

He followed me as I walked to my old school.

I remembered the time in P.E. the teacher told us to run to a distant tree and back.  I was last, gasping to a walk while she waited, shouting encouragement dripping with scorn.  That was when I learned I had deficiencies others didn't.


I remembered the time I rescued the red-haired girl (whom I'd pined for since kindergarten) from a boy who wouldn't let her go; she later told me she "liked" me, and I blew milk at her through a straw at her.  I didn't know what else to do.  That was when I learned my emotions could bubble up out of control and ruin things I desperately desired.

I remembered sitting on a playground structure shaped like a shoe and listening to the older boys talking (conspicuously loudly) about reaching their hands into the cage in a zoo to pet a tiger.  I remember how sweet they said Bengal tigers were.  That was when I learned there were people who knew me who thought the world would be better if I wasn't in it.


My father asked if there was anything else I wanted to see.  He'd been incredibly patient of my self-indulgent nostalgia.  As have you.

I told him there was one more thing I wanted to see.  I wanted to find that store.  I wanted to buy the banana Laffy Taffy and Nik-L-Nips I'd promised myself.  Old quests never die; you just have to complete them.

I turned off my street and walked in that same vague direction, not even knowing if the store would still be there.  About a quarter of the way down the block, I stopped and looked down.  The pavement was still cracked in the same place.

"I thought they'd have fixed that by now," I said.


We turned back and drove away.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Amazon's Wishenpoof

My family gets a lot of things from Amazon.  A lot.  We give Amazon gift cards, we get food from Amazon Fresh, we've nicknamed our children "Kindle" and "Jeff Bezos Single-Handedly Destroyed the Publishing Industry."

Hardly a day goes by without United Parcel Smashers (UPS) leaving a box on our doorstop.  Frequently, those boxes are nearly empty.  Just this morning, for example, Amazon Fresh delivered a giant box filled with 3 lbs of dry ice, insulation, a cardboard holder and one small package of precooked sausage.  But, hey, convenience, right?

It was no surprise when a nearly empty box arrived at our house (One of three boxes delivered that afternoon.  Is there a 12-step program for Amazon?).  What did surprise me was that the box was lavender.
Lavender! Also I need a manicure and to reduce my water consumption.

I resisted the urge to open it.  I opened a strange box in front of my son, once, and it turned out to be a gift for him.  Instead, I called my wife.

Her: I told you never to call me at work.
Me: This is important.
Her: They'd fire me if they found out I married into Team Mystic.
Me: It's about Amazon!
Her: (audible gasp)  What is it?!
Me: I got a lavender box.
Her: Lavender?
Me: Lavender.  It's a color.  Kinda between light blue and pink.
Her: I know what lavender is.  I'm just surprised you do.  You're a guy.
Me: What's in it?
Her: I didn't order it.  What does the label say?
Has a disturbing similarity to The Oogieloves.
Me: It says Wishenpoof.  What the fuck is Wishenpoof?
Her: Sounds like an intestinal disorder.  Like "Wishing I could poop."
Me: Maybe it's a gift.  Or a freebie from Amazon.
Her: (squeals with delight) Amazon loves us back!

I left the box in my son's room.  When he got home, he disappeared into his room with a pair of scissors.  Then he let out a yelp of anger and brought the box to me.  It wasn't a gift.  It was a box of yogurt starter we ordered.
Surprise! I got you bacteria.
Amazon just sent it to us in a big, nearly empty, lavender box. It was just some marketing thing.  A creepy, creepy marketing thing.  I noticed these instructions on the inside flap:

Note the inconsistent use of the period (.) and ampersand (&). Everyone needs a good editor.  Or every good editor needs to take a Ritalin.
It says:
MAKE YOUR OWN WISH WAND & WINGS

  1. Draw your own wish want & wings on the box
  2. Ask a grown up to help cut out the wand & wings you drew.
  3. Color your wish wand and wings and go play.
Wow!  What a fun and exciting craft/game for my kids to enjoy/play!  I couldn't wait for my kids to get home and try it out.  No, really, I couldn't wait, so I did it myself.

Sorry, kids.  Daddy couldn't keep the magic in anymore.
Wow, I really have the "Wish I could poop" spirit, now.  Thanks, Amazon!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Gojira Diary

Dear Diary.

That's how this is supposed to start, right?  My parents got me this thing to hold my thoughts now that I'm out of high school and moving to Japan. (Japan!  SO excited!)  They also got me a phone.  Something went wrong with my Instagram filters, though.  Every picture comes out in black and white.

Selfie time!
Pardon the goofy look on my face.
Dear Diary.

First day in Japan.  Man, everything here is tiny.  I can barely fit into my room with the door closed.

Me in my new pad.
Had to get out and ground myself.  Decided to hit the mall.  Everything's expensive, but YOLO, amirite?

Tried some noodles for lunch.  They said it was Ramen, but I ate a ton of that in college and this was completely different.

Thicker than I'm used to.
Went to a spa.  The guy said the oxygen destroyer bath would help me lose weight.  What do you think?

Too much?
Dear Diary.

Made a new friend!  His name is Angiurus.  Hope I spelled that right.  He's also new in Japan.  Thought we'd hang a bit.
Hangin with my new bud.
Dear Diary.

Had a fight with Angi-whatever his name was.  He decided he "needed some space."  Like we're dating or something.  Do I give off a gay vibe or something?

Got a new job working at an ice rink.  The Japanese skate!  Go figure.  Crap job, but at least I don't have to wear a uniform.

Wage slave.
Dear Diary.

Spoke to my parents.  They're worried about me.  I've been pretty morose on Skype.  No friends.  Crap job.  They said they'd pay for me to see a therapist.

I picked someone out of the phone book. (remember phone books?)  Doctor Ghidorah.  Told him how much Japan sucked.  How sad I was.

I don't like the looks he gives me.
He said it was probably culture shock.  I should take time to get adjusted.  Seems like good advice.

Dear Diary.

OMGOMGOMG!  I met a girl!  A HOT girl!  She was walking down the street and I was walking down the street and she looked at me and I looked at her and like.

CLICK.  We just happened.  Spent the whole day talking.

We have a lot in common.  She's from Infant Island.  So we're both new to Japan.

Did I mention she's a model.  A model!  Here's some of her runway work.
10 out of 10 on the hottie scale.
Her name is Mothra.  No last name.  Like Madonna.  Or Moby.

I sent this selfie to all my friends from high school.
Cuddling with my best girl!
Eat that Miss "I'm going to college so I don't want to be tied down" Rodan.

Dear Diary.

Shit.

Thought things were going well with Mothra, but...

Okay, I fucked it up.  She invites me over to her place and just springs it on me.  She's got these two little girls.
They don't look anything like her, either.
Who springs that shit on a guy!?

Anyway, I lost it.  Right in front of her kids.  We had a fight.  She dumped me.

Dear Diary.

Saw Dr. Ghidorah again.  Told him about Mothra.  He says "What part of  'take your time to get adjusted' didn't you understand?"

Dear Diary.

Met a guy named Kong. He was like "Nice to meet you.  How are you?"  And I went all verbal diarrhea over Mothra.  And he was all "Bros before ho's, amirite?"  And I laughed.  First time I laughed in a week.
Dancing with my homeboy!
He's got this weird robot in his apartment.  Looks just like him.  I asked him what it was for and he just winked.
Ew.
Dear Diary.

Ran into Mothra.  I apologized.  She started crying.  We made up.

Okay, we're dating again.  It's hard to accept the kids thing, but DAMN she's hot, amirite?!
Finally got the color filter working on Instagram.
Dear Diary.

Mothra insisted on changing my "look."  Cut my hair.  Made me buy new clothes.  How do I look?
I look like an asshole.  I look like a bag of assholes.
Kinda embarrassed to go out during the day.

Dear Diary.

Mothra dumped me again.  For good.  Said we weren't "sexually compatible."  Guess she saw the robot.
Can't believe Kong got me to buy that stupid thing.
Dear Diary.

I just couldn't handle another day of working on ice, worrying if I'm going to run into Mothra again, trying to make the rent.  I moved back to San Francisco.
Me on the Golden Gate Bridge!  Do I look fat?
It's expensive, but I'm sharing it with two roommates.
I think they're a little... Gay.
Here's to starting over!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Kids Are Back in School To Do List


Things I can do now my kids aren't around all day

Eat in a restaurant
Eat sitting down at a table
Eat with utensils

Read a book that isn't about Ash Ketchum
Watch a show that isn't Pokemon: Indigo League
Play a game that isn't Pokemon Go

See friends
See movies
See friends' movies

Clean
See the carpets again
Exercise
See my feet again
Shave
See my face again
Bathe
See my wife again

Nap in the afternoon
Nap in the morning
Nap in the middle of the night

See the doctor about those voices that tell me to drink cleaning fluid
See the pharmacist about the pills that make the voices stop talking
See tomorrow

Listen to the radio
Choose the channel on the radio
Dare to turn the radio on


Unclench

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ebenezer Macintosh

Today, I'd like to talk about the  Revolutionary War hero Ebenezer Macintosh.  We all know about his activity in anti-British mobs in the 1760s, his controversial appointments as town sealer-of-leather, and his later decline into poverty as he...

Wait, you don't know who Ebenezer Macintosh was?

Neither do I.  Well, I should say "Neither did I."

Let me take you back to the late 80s.  New York Seltzer and Max Headroom were still around.  The Reagan Era was fading into the First Bush Era (or, as we called it, the "Oh my God, I can't believe there's going to be four more years of this" era.)  Member's Only jackets were still almost cool.

I went to Beloit College and, needing to fulfill a history requirement, I took Early American History.  I mostly remember the teacher.  She was proudly and vocally Native American.
She had a poster like this on her wall.
She also had a weird idea on how to give out assignments.  On one biography assignment, she gave us a list of important Revolutionary War figures to write about.  Each student had to pick a different one.  I was nervous about the assignment as I hadn't heard of half of them.  I called my parents.

My parents: Why don't you ask her for a specific one before class?
Me: That wouldn't be fair.

The day came and she read off the names.  We raised our hands if we wanted to write about them, and she picked who got whom.

I raised my hand for Thomas Paine and Samuel Adams.  They went to other students.  Daniel Webster and Pocahontas went to students who raised their hands faster.  Dorothea Dix and Paul Revere also went to others.

I panicked.  I scanned the list of names, but they were assigned before I could remember who they were.  Finally, I raised my hand and just held it up.  I got Ebenezer Macintosh.

I approached my teacher after class.

Me: Who the fuck is Ebenezer Macintosh?
Professor: I don't know.  Why didn't you ask for a specific figure before class?

But I had an ace in the hole: my father, who taught Early American literature.  I called and asked for his help.

Me: What can you tell me about Ebenezer Macintosh?
Father:  Who?

I hit the library.  That was how you did research back in the 80s.  You went to the card catalog and scanned every single book you could find. I spent weeks searching both the Beloit library and the giant one at the University of Illinois.

I found the following information:

  • He was a cobbler.
  • He organized riots.
  • He put a boot in his window as a sign it was time to riot.
Some day, when you're bored, try writing a five-page biography with just those three facts.

I explained the problem to my teacher.  She sympathized, told me she'd remove the name from next year's list, and promised she'd be lenient when grading.

I got a D.

Yesterday, I thought back on my Macintosh Experience (now a software package available from the Apple Store).  On a whim, I did a web search on Ebenezer Macintosh.
Yeah, I use Bing.  Bite me.
Elapsed time: five seconds.  Note how many results.
Oy.
Twelve thousand.  Twelve thousand. Twelve thousand.

Nope, doesn't matter what the font is.  I still want to find my old teacher and kick her in the shins.

And no, those aren't twelve thousand (Twelve thousand? Nope, still in a kicking mood.) results of "He was a cobbler."  There's an extensive Wikipedia page.
"Well, he was a cobbler who organized riots..."
Even the slideshows had more information than every library in the midwest in the 80s. 
"He put a shoe in the window."

"He always complained that they 'Ne'er had enough window boots.'"
I found a reference to his career as a "sealer of leather" that wasn't explained.  It took me an additional twenty seconds to find out what that meant.

This came from my second search.  The first search yielded a list of epoxies.
That additional search in the 80s would have taken me several hours.

When I've been a teacher, I told my students to avoid Wikipedia.  I told them to use the library as much as possible and to get information from books and journals.
 
Yeah, fuck that shit.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Most Awesome Way to Commit Suicide

I understand that while suicide is funny to a lot of people (a heck of a lot of people) it isn't funny to everyone. If this post is going to upset you, feel free to skip this blog post.

No, no.  It's okay.  Go ahead.  You can come back next week.  I'll be talking about puppies and rainbows and things that make me cry at movies.

So, let's say you're going to kill yourself.  I don't know what your motivation is, but (in order to maintain the humorous tone of my blog) let's assume you're killing yourself because you're just too awesome.

Almost happened to me, once.
Selfie.
How do you kill yourself a way that befits your awesomeness in life?  How do you make a mark on the world with your death that's equivalent to the mark you made in life?

Other than the obvious.
I've puzzled over this ever since I was an impetuous youth in a suicide-metal band.

Suicide Metal is like Death Metal with creepier groupies.
At first, I thought the best way to go is to stand on top of a pile of gunpowder-filled barrels and light them.  But there's many logistical problems, the least of which is the visit you'll get from Homeland Security when they realize you're amassing 1000 Metric Tonnes of black powder.

The most of which is that the character Longinus does it in the 90s TV series Roar.
Then I hit upon the idea of freaking out the coroner.  Now, before you get upset at me, keep in mind the following facts about coroners:

  • They need excitement.
    "Hey, Fred.  What'cha doing today?"
    "I dunno.  Maybe sit around and stare at the freezers full of dead guys."
  • They deserve being humiliated.
    "Hey, Fred.  What'cha doing today?"
    "Thought I'd tattoo I'm a loser on this guy's face.  Freak the family out during the funeral."
  • They need to be kept occupied.
    "Hey, Fred.  What'cha doing today?"
    "I've got nothing to do butd rain the blood of seven corpses to perform Satanic rituals."

How do you freak them out?  Easy. Stack so many methods of suicide together they'll never figure out what did you in.  I spent a few minutes reading the available research on suicide and came up with a method.  You'll need:

  • A gun
    With at least one bullet
  • Rope
    A long one, tied into a noose
  • A dose of extremely strong drugs
    Ten times as much as you can safely take
  • A can of gas
    Or kerosene
  • A train schedule

Then:

  • Find a bridge over train tracks and get there half an hour before the train comes.
  • Tie the rope to the bridge and put the other end around your neck.
  • Take the drugs (enough in advance you'll feel yourself blacking out as the train arrives).
  • Pour the gas over yourself.
  • Put the gun in your mouth.
  • Jump.
  • Shoot yourself on the way down.
If you planned it right, the gunshot will ignite the gas.  You should be shot, hung, poisoned, immolated, and crushed by the train all at the same time.  If you did it right, every newspaper on earth will cover your death instead of the five mass shootings that happened that day.  If you did it right, you'll keep the coroners busy for years.

Okay, next week we'll focus on puppies, rainbows, and what makes me cry at movies.

Oh, wait, I already did that.  Back to the offensive humor, then.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Comedy Lessons: Sketches


This week's lesson on comedy (hopefully helping to grow my meager toolbox* of humor tools) is about writing sketch comedy.  I'm a few chapters into Jenny Roche's Comedy Writing, and I've become disillusioned.  There isn't much on how to be funny.  I'm sure there are many people out there who would benefit on lessons on how to sell your comedy, write in the correct format, and so on.  It's just that my problem is I'm not funny, and I need to be funny.

Oh well.  I'll keep trying.  At some point, I will look down at one of the eggs I've laid and see a great chicken of comedy hatch forth.

So, let's get going.

Exercise 1: Study a radio sketch show and a television sketch show.
Me as a 2 year old: Do I have to?
Jenny Roche: You love humor.
Me: I want to finish my novel!
Her: Honey, you've been writing your novel for literally twenty years!
Me: But it's almost finished!
Her: No it isn't!
Me: It's almost almost finished!
Her: No.
Me: Okay, it's almost almost almost finished.
Her: Close enough.  How about you think about sketch shows you watched in the past?  Can you think of any?
Me: Monty Python.  Saturday Night Live.
Her: What about for radio?
Me: Rush Limbaugh.
Her: No.
Me: The Bob and Ray Show?
Her: Close enough.  There isn't much funny on the radio anymore.  Just Michael Krasny.  There's podcasts....
Me: Ugh.

Exercise 2: Come up with premises for five radio sketches podcasts.
Feh.

Who has time to listen to podcasts?

Exercise 3: Come up with premises for five four television sketches.
Made Fresh
A man and a woman meet at a bar.  He introduces himself as "Fresh."  He's upset because he's just been laid off from his cushy job as a chef.  He explains he works for a large food service corporation just sitting on the floor where the food is made.  He legally changed his name to "Fresh Ingredients" so they could claim their food was "Made with Fresh Ingredients."  They fired him because they hired a guy named "Fresh Daily."

First World Nooooo Theater
People from the audience recount their (minor) annoyances from their lives.  Some examples:
  • Getting a parking ticket because the meter was broken.
  • Waiting in line for food and having it run out just as they got to the front.
  • Not being able to go to a movie because the babysitter doesn't show up.
At the end of each piece, a clip from a movie is played where a character screams "Noooooo!"

Stephen King for Kids
Note: Of course this requires Mr. King's participation.  Can be switched with any other horror author or an actor pretending to be creepy and reading made up stories.

Stephen King reads a truncated version of his stories to a group of small children.  When the kids start to freak out, a more cheerful author or character jumps in and changes the story.  Some examples:

  •  The Shining: In the end, the Torrance family throws a big party for the ghosts who go away happily ("Until next year!").
  • Christine: The car has bad brakes and repeatedly crashes before it can hurt anyone.
  • Carrie: After the bad kids dump cherry Kool-Aid on her head at the prom, she uses her powers to spank them.
The author grows increasingly agitated until he storms out in disgust.  The kids reveal themselves to be monsters in disguise and attack the cheerful guy.

Modern Twilight Zone
Stories with terrifying, twist endings that are immediately undone by modern technology.
  • Teens are chased by a monster until they call 911 on their cell phones.
  • A couple lost on an endless, mystical highway, turn on the GPS and find their way back.
  • A man visited by horrifying visions takes antipsychotic medication and they go away.

Aaaaaaand I'm going back to my novel.




*Meager Toolbox was my nickname in high school.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Stupid Interview Questions


When you go into an interview, you expect stupid questions:

  • Are you willing to work long hours?
  • Are you okay with getting feedback?
  • Do you steal office supplies?
  • Why are you threatening me with a letter opener?
  • How much do I have to pay you to let me go?
And on and on.

Of all my interviews, however, there were two that stood out from the rest.  Here they are (with my responses):

Q: If you were a breakfast cereal, what kind would you be and why?

A:  Lucky Charms.  Because there's good stuff (the marshmallows) and bad stuff (the cereal).  If you pour milk in, the good stuff floats to the top.

Note: I hadn't had much exposure to breakfast cereals until college and was unprepared for the sudden availability: Fruit Loops, Cap'n Crunch, Lucky Charms, Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs.  They were all lined up in little machines that dispensed them with a few turns of a knob.  For the first six weeks of my freshman year, I constantly trembled from the sugar rush.

I was rather impressed by how quickly and confidently I came out with this one.  The interviewer even said it was the most creative answer they'd ever had.

Didn't hire me.

Q: If you were a fruit, what kind would you be and why?

A: A pomegranate.  Because they're smooth and perfect on the outside but inside they're complicated and difficult to break apart.

Note: I stumbled over this one.  I said pomegranate immediately, but couldn't get my thoughts together enough to explain why.  It came out eventually, but not with the quick confidence of my earlier answer.  Still, it was a great answer.

Didn't hire me either.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Vote Your Conscience



I've come down with a sore throat and nothing seems funny.  I hate to call in a guest writer, but I'd hate to miss a week, more.  So, let me introduce Wink De Bivouac.  For those of you new readers (Hi Mom!), Wink used to do the occasional column for me.  He was so popular, I asked him to do more columns, but he turned me down, saying he'd already accepted a missionary position in Iowa.

Well, he's back!  Take it over Wink.  Find something funny to say.

Thanks Matthew.  Sorry about the cold.  As they say in Des Moines: Hope the squinteys don't give you a snuggy!

Ever since I came back from the wilderness, I've been having trouble adjusting to the outside world.  I'd forgotten all those amenities the primitive natives don't have access to in Iowa.  It was like remembering a language you hadn't spoken in years.  Every day was a new challenge.  How do I cook food in a microwave?  What is toilet paper for?  Do we really need to wear clothes?

Sometimes I think life was better in Iowa.  Everything is so simple.

Out here, the world is getting worse every day.

Islamic terrorists are growing bolder.  Cops are more vulnerable.  People are spending more time looking down into their phones for Pokemon than are looking down into their Bibles for saints.  (By the way, you can catch a Saint Genesius near any improv stage.)

There is one great, shining hope on the horizon, though.  You probably already guessed what it is: the election.  Things could have gone much worse.  We finally have a clear choice: a strong moral candidate and the spawn of Satan.

Let me lay out the (obvious) differences:
  • One candidate has dubious monetary donations and shady foreign endorsements, and another has a long history of honest success.
  • One has no experience and the other has tons.
  • One candidate has a depraved marriage and the other is in a firm, committed relationship with an intelligent, wonderful spouse.
  • One candidate has been unfairly maligned for past misdeeds, the other fairly maligned for past misdeeds.
  • One is going to terrify our enemies, embolden our allies, and bring about peace and cooperation.  The other is going to.  You know.  The opposite.

I think the choice is clear.  Vote your conscience in November.  For the majority of Americans, that means not voting.

By the way, someone is going to have to show me how voting booths work.  In Iowa they pick candidates by throwing their feces at them.


Thanks Wink!  We should do this again every never or so.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Browser Tab Humor

When you write a humor blog, you get a lot of ideas you never use, but you keep around in case you run out of things to say.  I accumulate ideas by searching on the internet, so I keep them in browser tabs.

You leave the tabs open for months, even years, never using them.  Every now and then you think "I should restart my computer.  Oh, no, wait.  There's that one tab with that one idea for a joke.  Maybe I'll install those updates later. (Suck it Windows 10!)"

If you have enough joke tabs open, it's easier to hide tabs with images of Kate Hudson sunbathing from your wife.

The tab I've had open the longest is a cool vehicle from The Empire Strikes Back called an AT-AT.
"Hey, let's build an impenetrable tank on flimsy legs!"

I've also had a tab for a primitive tool that lets you throw a spear farther and straighter called an at-latl.
Pronounced "Atl atl finatl whatadle? Oh, never mind."

And the joke I've been waiting to tell for over a year?
*DRUM ROLL*
The AT-AT-LATL.
If you look really closely at the one in the back, you can see it's also got an atlatl. Honest.

I wonder what Kate Hudson is up to today...