Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Just Think This Is Brilliant

The above is a graphic that the British street artist Banksy originally sketched on a wall in Israel.

This links to photos of someone who used this graphic as the inspiration for a Halloween costume.

Just wow.

As a side note, I whole-heartedly encourage anyone reading this to watch the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop which features Banksy. It's a slippery slope of identity, and there are some who think the whole thing is a joke/prank/hoax by Banksy. It's interesting, albeit sometimes foul-mouthed, stuff.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

An Open Letter

Dear Chinese Food Restaurant Who Delivers to my Apartment,

First off, thanks for delivering. It really helps bridge the gap between lack of exercise and excess caloric consumption. Soon my goal of becoming the world's fattest man will be a reality.

Here's the thing though: I know that many of your dishes are perhaps unfamiliar to most palates, so believe me, when you put a little star by your menu options that says "Must Try!", I give those foods some serious consideration. I want my palate to be cultured, and not with bacteria.

However, when I order one of those items, and it turns out to be an inexplicably bony, cold (!) piece of chicken, I get a little grossed out. Okay, a lot grossed out. I guess I'll stick to fried rice from now on.

Love and Bony Kisses,

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Day of the Dead (A Dead Day Late)

Although I didn't participate this year, last year I went and walked along the route of the Day of the Dead parade up here in San Francisco. Although its proximity to Halloween might make people think that it's a scary holiday, it's actually more of a night to celebrate life while at the same time remembering those close to us who have recently passed away.

As something of an homage to the holiday, below is something that I wrote for a storytelling class as part of an exercise called "Ancestral Evocation." It's about one of my grandmothers who passed away a couple of years ago. I miss you, Gramma.

When I took part in the ancestral evocation exercise in class, some phrases by my family members came very quickly to mind, whether it was my mother’s inappropriate comment to me before one of my first dates, “Keep it in your pants,” or my grandfather softly signing, “Don’t let the smoke get in your eyes.” But for one of my family members, the words were a little more difficult to hear. When it came time to evoke a phrase from my grandmother, the first thing that came to me was my remembrance of her little giggle.

I’m sure many of us have or have had grandmas that interact with us in this way. If our parent’s job is to raise us and to discipline us, many grandparents’ job seems to be to spoil us and to be amused by us. My dad’s side of the family was loud and joyous and loved to have a good time, and my grandmother was always there, loving every minute of it, and expressing her love for it by her giggle. One of the first times that I remember her laughing was when I was really little, maybe four or five years old. She had this ceramic, blue cookie jar that was in the shape of a very rotund chef, complete with chef’s hat and hands on his belly, ostensibly to keep him from exploding from being too full. I looked up at her (you know how everyone looks so big when you’re little?), and, I said, “Grandma, can I please have a cookie?” Her first response was just to giggle her little giggle, in the way that grandmas do when you’re being a cute little kid, and she went over to the cookie jar, pulled me out a cookie, and handed it to me. It was just a Fig Newton, but beggars can’t be choosers as far as cookies are concerned.

One of the next times I remember her giggling like that was when I was in high school, and we were celebrating Christmas at her house. In the middle of everything, she got up, walked back to her room, and came back with a box from a department store. She opened it up, and what my 80 year old grandma pulled out wasn’t lingerie, exactly, but it was silky and pink and pretty definitely designed for wearing to “bed.” Her pronouncement about this garment was: “Look at what grandpa got me for Christmas.” And again she giggled. Though this one sounded the same, this was more the laugh of someone who knows they’re being funny; this was the laugh of an equal who was letting me in on the joke.

One last scene with my grandma was a couple years after grandpa had died. After his death, her health got worse and worse, and the family put her into house with a couple of other older people who couldn’t take care of themselves like they used to. The night before I saw her, my dad had a dream that featured Grandpa, and in the dream, grandpa had told my dad to go see grandma. So, we piled into the car, and drove up to see her. Grandma wasn’t giggling any more. Though she had been a healthy, somewhat plump woman, my grandma now weighed less than ninety pounds. She was lying, crunched up on her bed, sleeping, with her mouth almost gasping for air, like a person coming up from under water. Now I was the more physically powerful figure, but there was no way that I could help her like she had helped me when I was little to get that cookie. As I watched her, and as we said our goodbyes, I remembered her giggle, and what that had meant to me. She passed away two hours after we left.

But her death’s not what I want to remember about my grandmother. I want to remember her joy for life and her family that was expressed in her little giggle. I haven’t imitated it in this story because I don’t want to taint my remembrance, because if I sit still and think for a moment, I can still remember how it sounded. That laugh is how I want to remember her.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A Couple of Links

High Brow:

I've added this to my blog list over on the left, but it bears repeating over here: the New York Times is trying blog the events of the Civil War in a real time fashion. It's interesting to check out.

Low Brow:

Somebody built a tiny catapult and is using it to throw even tinier pies at insects. Enjoy.

Monday, November 01, 2010

On the Eve of Election

With all of the political ads on the television of late, it's getting more and more difficult to forget that there's an election tomorrow. Nevertheless, these ads got me thinking: if I were running for office, what would I need to do to get elected (other than "silencing" the scores of arms dealers I have illegally dealt with in my brief tenure as gunrunner* for various juntas down South America way)?

These are my ideas for how I would run my campaign:

1) My slogan (and platform) would be: "Vote for AC -- He'd Vote for You!"

2) I would purchase ads on bus stop benches that just had my smiling face. I might also include a website address, but that site would have little to do with the campaign (such as

3) I would change my last name to something difficult to spell, and then run as a write-in candidate in Alaska.**

4) I would move to Alaska.

5) I would win. Boom.

*Oddly enough, this is also an elected office.
**I wrote myself in as my vote for President in 2004. True story. I did not win.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Defective (Also, This Isn't Really Funny, or Well-Written, So I'd Skip It If I Were You) (Don't Be Fooled by the Opening Lines; It Goes Downhill Fast)

Because we are part of the genteel, leisured class, my wife and I sometimes go to do crazy expensive things, like instruct our servants to engage in small-arms combat for our amusement, purchase diamond-encrusted monocles with diamonds for lenses, and pay full-price for a movie in the theaters.*

Such was the case this very Sunday evening. My wife and I went on a date night to go see Date Night. While it was amusing, it was not near as funny as she or I thought it would be.

Today, I was speaking with a coworker, and I told her my opinion of the movie, and she said that, while my reaction was very similar to her husband's, she actually thought that the movie was hilarious. Her explanation was something along the lines of how "if you're more boring like me, some of the jokes really hit home." Further, she said that she hadn't heard a lot about the movie beforehand, so going to see it was a pleasant experience.

This got me to thinking a couple of things. One, the movie clearly worked for at least one person. However, the more that I thought about it, I realized that the movie had worked for me as well, just not as much as I would have liked. My question out of this, then, is: is it a fair criticism of any work to art to say that something was not as _______ as you would have liked it to be? A comedy is trying to be funny; if it makes you laugh or smile at all, in a sense, it has succeeded. Saying that it is not as funny as you thought it would be implies that you had a set understanding about it before going into it, and it further implies that you were either misinformed about the movie or else you misperceived the data regarding the movie you had previously been given. Is it possible that the movie trailer misrepresent how funny it would be? If so, isn't it the trailer's (and not the movie's) fault for misleading you? Shouldn't my criticism be, "The movie was funny; however, the previews for the movie lead me to think that it would be riotously funny; therefore, my perception of the movie was skewed unfavorably by disingenuous advertising, and I cannot fully articulate how I would have enjoyed it going in blank."

I know that this is making a mountain out of a mole hill,** but it seems like a) it's impossible to effectively trace an emotional (or even intellectual) response back to why we feel/think it, and b) if we accept that art is designed to promote a response in the viewer, how can we really ascertain why we think that way or whether our conclusion is worthwhile.

Dear Internet: please help.

**P.S.: This phrase is hackneyed, trite, and asinine, but I will not change it because now I have a footnote, and heaven knows how I love footnotes.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I Am the Center of Narcissism

This is not something that I am proud of, but let's spend a little time sharing, shall we? Perhaps sharing will let the metaphorical* crazy out.

Sometimes, I am concerned that people can hear what I'm thinking. Like, really. Like, for real-real, not for play-play. This happens particularly in my grad classes, where I would like to keep up the facade that I am a reasonably intelligent person, and not someone who occasionally lets his mind wander to favorite Ren and Stimpy episodes when we're discussing the ramifications of a writer's ethnicity on the work that he/she produced. Nevertheless, I will sometimes provide some unspoken color commentary,** and another member of the class will look at me, and I swear that they have heard what I thought.


And so, what I do, is to pretend to scream at the top of my lungs in my head under the assumption that if everybody can hear me that everyone will look at me due to this outburst.*** I will then have solid evidence that I am not crazy. This looks like this:

Student A: I think it shows an obvious sense of imperialism for Peter Brook, an Englishman, to adapt the Mahabharata, an Indian set of scriptures, for the stage.
Me: (in my head) It's log! Log! It's big, it's heavy, it's wood!
Student A: (Glancing at me)
Me: (in my head) AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!
Everyone else: (Nothing. No response. They're very tricky.)

This line of thinking is not normal, people. This is not normal.

P.s.: Dear Sweetspotsweetie: I will happily accept a diagnosis from your husband. Very happily.

*Read: actual.
**Even some that is irrelevant to the discussion! Zing!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

If the Blog Fits, Wear It...wait, what?

So, I'm six months into grad school, and I have found that I am specifically good at one thing: coming up with titles. Bear in mind that I am only adequate at writing papers and formulating analyses and wearing corduroy, leather-elbowed suit jackets while pontificating on Marxist theory in My Fair Lady and all other things that one would assume that a grad student in drama would be good at, but I'm loving imagining titles.

As an explanation, from time to time one of my professors will give us an exercise where we'll, in class, come up with titles for papers that we'd like to write. I think that this is a lot of fun, and my classmates are amused at what I come up with (though I remain concerned about the laughing at/laughing with dynamic). However, I feel that the papers that come out of these ideas are a little cumbersome.

But, still, I am pretty good at titles, and I even enjoy daydreaming about titles of papers I will someday write. To break the silence of AC*, here are a few titles that have been rolling around in my head the last couple of days.

"A Reevaluation of Prominent 20th Century Female Playwrights: Is that what she said?"

"She's So Heavy: Fat Folk in Theatre"

"Analyzing Improvised Theatre: Is the Play the Thing?"

For one of the exercises from the professor, he asked us to come up with a title for the paper we were working on as if it were on the front page of a tabloid. My paper concerned similarities between the time periods of Sophocles and Shakespeare as evidenced through their work. My tabloid title was "Shakespeare Steals Sophocles Stories? Survey Says: Sorta."

There was a playwright/critic named Brecht who emphasized, among other things, that plays needed to "alienate" so that the audience wouldn't get as caught up in empathizing with the characters and the audience would spend time intellectually evaluating what was being presented. This sounded like something that I saw in popular culture, so my idea for a paper was "Brecht's Alienation: Is Family Guy What He Intended?"

Trust me, people think this stuff is great in grad school.

*Doesn't this sound like a Spike Lee movie? Also, it seemed like you all were having fun writing on your own blogs, so I decided to get in on that fun.