Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Grand Mystery

A couple weeks ago, a friend and I were doing some brainstorming for sketch comedy writing. I don't know how it came up that we started looking at videos online, but we're easily distracted, and even the best of writers will accept any excuse to not do it. In any event, we came upon something rather jarring. We discovered that people once drank Doctor Pepper hot, and perhaps still do so. This was very troubling to us.

The video in question was an old commercial specifically promoting the practice. it seems that you boil it in a pot with lemon. My friend and I debated a number of points, not the least of which was whether people ever truly did this, or whether such ads were just a fanciful pipe dream. The evidence we uncovered after our curiosity had been piqued suggests the former. I never heard of any such thing in my life. I've heard of warm beer, but that was not even in the United States.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Just A Game

There's an improv game commonly used to warm up which I should do well at but don't. It's called "hot spot", and it's fairly simple. Everyone circles up except for one. That person gets in the middle and starts singing some ideally well-known song. It doesn't really have to be well known, because the point of the game is that someone else seizes on a word or phrase in the song and supplants the person in order to start singing a different song whose lyrics include that word or phrase.

I love music, and am into a lot of types of songs. Under ordinary circumstances, I can recall a fair number of songs and recite their lyrics with accuracy, or at least can recite enough to carry me until someone can begin with a new song. It helps if you can come up with songs people know, because they can back you up by singing alone or anticipating lyrics that you yourself don't know, and I don't have such a good command of known songs, but I should do well anyway.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Big Screen Adventure

A lot of my thinking and writing has been about movies lately, and that continues today. A friend drew my attention toward an event that was to be held yesterday evening. The idea is that once a month a local cafe hosts a screening of a movie on a 16 millimeter print. It is, furthermore, a secret what film is to be screened until the film begins. Before that you receive only a genre and perhaps some clues. It's a neat idea.

It's a novel experience, as I found out after going last night. It is another case of finding out that there are many people with interest in common with me- interests that I thought made me hopelessly unique. Of course, there remains no one with more than a little overlap with me, but there I was in a room full of people who love watching things like the 60s movie version of Batman, which is what was screened last night (along with some trailers and an Incredible Hulk cartoon.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Film In The Yard

A film I hadn't seen in years was "Aliens". It and the others of the series (by which I really mean the first three) are favorites of mine. It was particularly Aliens that I was very fond of and which I watched many times, although I felt a special affection for the less loved Alien 3 and a conventional love for the original. The fourth did not ever grow on me, and I have incredibly enough gotten some pushback on that.

Yesterday the opportunity to watch the second arose, and not just to watch it as I ever have on a TV, but to watch it outdoors projected onto a big screen. A friend was having his birthday party, and he does it bigger than I ever have, renting the equipment to do what I've described and also supplying ample food and drink. He had done the same thing last year, I seem to recall. He is, needless to say, a popular guy.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Small Pastime

I have lately gotten very interested in playing the Sega Genesis game "Streets Of Rage 2'. It is a game I had played when I was in perhaps third grade. It was an exceptionally popular game at the time, and it admittedly looks rather quaint now. It's what you call a "side scroller". You are one of four characters who are purportedly fighting to recover a friend kidnapped by a crime lord who rules an indeterminate city. You move from left to right through a variety of streets and locations, beating up anyone in your path. No one has guns until the boss as the very end of the game.

I never beat the game myself. A friend did. I never played it quite enough to beat it. I never was very good at games anyway. I have decided now, at the age of thirty, to devote a little time to try and beat "Streets Of Rage." I'm making progress. I now can consistently get to level 6, which is a reasonable achievement. If I keep at it, I think I can beat the game. The trick is not working at it to an unreasonable degree.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Big Trip

I made my longest and most expensive trip for VHS tapes so far yesterday. For a couple of weeks, a friend and I were talking about visiting a video store a good distance away. He and some other friends of mine had been there before, reporting back that they had a great selection of cheap tapes, and I naturally was eager to check it out. It being so far away and hard to get to, I wasn't going to go alone. I had to wait on a good time for my friend to go.

The time came, and off we went in the late morning so that we could avoid both the crippling morning traffic as well as the late afternoon traffic, enjoying the relative peace of the merely terrible mid-afternoon traffic. Pleasant conversation eased the ordeal of the trip. How many people can I talk with about the Friday the 13th films for nearly an hour  without either one of us growing wearing of the subject?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Place Of Work

There is a particular casting office that I have been to a number of times now. A casting office, I should say, is a place where various companies contracted to locate actors for various commercials, TV shows and such hold their auditions. This one is about the largest I have personally been to, and over the last few months, I've been to a good number of them. I would say also it's my favorite to visit for a few reasons.

It's fairly conveniently located (in Hollywood), which cannot be said of them all. The ones in Santa Monica are particularly distant, and while they are not impracticably remote, I don't favor visiting them. It's in a fairly good neighborhood, which is also not a universally true quality as far as casting offices go. There is a great grocery store just down the street and another across the street. I like visiting them both before and after auditions.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

To Go Free

I have thought lately about blue material in comedy. By and large, I have not done it really. I have learned to make jokes that are not dependent on foul language or a lot of vulgar reference. I have come up through an improv program which operates that way partly because it's sponsored by a church and partly because it's smart to learn decent fundamentals, which too many people think can be swapped out in favor of the dirty stuff.

In private, I have not have any problem making extreme jokes rife with four letter words, sexual content and a lot of rather tasteless content. Comparing that objectively with the other stuff, I like to think that the blue stuff is pretty solid, and not just comprised of shock value. I've seen how it bombs when someone has nothing more than a list of grotesque sex acts to describe from a comedy club stage, and it's grim.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Heavy Is The Headache

The big news as I write this is that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and wife to Prince William, has given birth to a son. The boy is now in line to inherit the British throne, sitting behind Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles (who it must be said has been waiting a while) and Prince William. The Internet and, it must be assumed, the real world, is aflutter with the news of this fairy tale spawning.

Like many, I am not so excited, although I would be lying if I claimed to be uninterested. Uninterested people don't waste their breath talking about a thing, let alone writing anything well thought out. I am interested. The thrust of my interest is just different. I think back to America's origins. We found the British crown to be tyrannical and oppressive. It was a distant, meddling force which we risked all to be rid of. We hated the British, killing more than a few (and sacrificing plenty of our own) to break the yoke.

Monday, July 22, 2013


I was trying to think of an idea I could use for today's post when I remembered an article I had read earlier by some woman who really loves well-fitting white t-shirts. I thought I could write about how that related to me, and I got through about two paragraphs of rather banal musings about my shirts before I decided that this idea wasn't going anywhere. I had no choice but to start over if I was to write anything decent.

I could have muscled through it if I was prepared to settle for something lousy. I guess I've posted lousy writing before, although I've never looked at a post, known with certainty that it was lousy, and put it out anyway. The thing is that even though I could have compromised and sent something beneath my standards (such as they are), it would only have taken more time than starting over and writing something decent.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Another Haul

In recent weeks, I have not bought so many VHS tapes really. I have bought one here and one there, but no place I went seemed to have very many that caught my fancy. That changed yesterday, when I hit up the used bookstore downtown for the first time in a while. They are richer in desirable tapes than abut any place I would go to outside of the Amoeba record store in Hollywood (which, it seems to me, I am overdue to revisit).

Initially, I grabbed eleven or twelve tapes, but managed to talk myself out of a few and ended up with a mere seven. I appreciate that I have done a somewhat destructive thing, because while it's true that I am being constructive in growing my collection, I am undermining my efforts to get on top of those tapes that remain unwatched. I have made strides, but they were all but wiped out with this shopping trip, I'm afraid.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Setup

I was thinking today about what might be called my online overhead. This is the amount of time dedicated to things online no matter what the day holds in store. Mainly what I mean is reading. This is the time I spend reading online before I get to any actual productivity. I think that there must be some input before there can be any output, and so I don't regard this as lost time so much as an investment in later achievements.

There are my emails, of course, and relatively few of those are ones that require some kind of reply, but that is the first thing I'm looking for. The next most important thing after that is news. I get a few different emails which convey some aspect of the day's news to me. One comes from the Daily Beast and paints a general picture. Several more come from Politico, and cover some part of the political world. After those news emails are a variety of others which are progressively less important.

Friday, July 19, 2013

At Close Sight

The other day I was out and about in the area of Burbank, which is a place I once only knew about because it was mentioned in the opening to the Tonight Show, but which I now regularly go to as it's right down the road. For a long time I've gone over there on Magnolia Boulevard, passing by a particular Chinese restaurant which I've never patronized. There are others closer and somehow it's never the place to hit on the way to Burbank or back.

Outside the Chinese restaurant I've never been to is something else I've never been in, a phone booth. There are not too many pay phones of any kind, let alone phone booths. This being the case, it was my thinking that maybe it wasn't a real phone booth, by which I mean that it might not have been a functioning one. I found that I was not the only one to think this. The phone booth just looks a lot like a decorative thing, as it's bright red.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Something Red, Something New

I love pistachios. I don't know anyone who doesn't, although I'll allow that there probably are some (if only because there are bound to be those stricken with an allergy). Mainly though, I think that they are impossible to hate. For that reason, there has been no good reason to meddle with the formula. Sure, you can get shelled pistachios, but I've always felt that the flavor lost something from the absence of effort expended to open them.

That one thing aside, I've not seen pistachios in any different form until now. A care package from my dear mother arrived recently, containing in it pistachios that were dyed red. I momentarily questioned whether there was a naturally red variety, but reasoned that even if there was (and I doubted it since I'd never seen or heard of one), this could not be it as it was obvious how artificial its coloring was. There were areas of the shell that were not red, and the edges of the dye job showed.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Dream Left For Dead

I have a legal pad and a pencil by my bed most nights, just in case something comes to me. That way, I don't lose it while scrambling for some other means of recording it. I could use my phone, I suppose, but I figure the legal pad is more fool-proof a method. I can decipher hand-writing made worse by sleepiness or something else, but I could have more trouble typing out something under such conditions instead of writing it by hand.

Sometimes I don't manage to get it down by any means. There was a dream a number of days ago that was barely a wisp by the time I woke up. To have attempted writing it down would have been foolish, since there were no words to capture what little I remembered, which was not even as much as feelings, colors or shapes. It was more that I remembered remembering something than that I remembered anything.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Holding Position

There are small things that we do, I think that we privately take great pride in. Perhaps we recognize that they are not truly impressive in the sense that others would not see them in the same light that we do, and so maybe we don't tell others about these things, but we see them at the very least as mildly heroic deeds. George Carlin included such things in his act, calling it the small world. Perhaps much of what I write is in that category.

One of the little things that I do is on the subway. All year long, there are times when train cars may be crowded, but it is egregiously pronounced in summer, when tourists flock to town and seemingly eschew rental cars for LA's long-maligned public transportation system. Perhaps the word is out that it's better than it used to be, but I wish people from out of town didn't know. Anyway, the result is that seats are often unavailable.

Monday, July 15, 2013

No End

It has happened a couple times in the last few days that I have gotten hooked on a song. I have likely described how this happens in the past. I have a way of hearing a song, new or old, and becoming consumed by it. For a stretch of hours or days, absolutely no other sounds are tolerable. I must hear that song over and over again without end until my level of interest in it is eradicated. I sometimes never wish for a return to such a song.

A few days ago, I somehow heard or learned about and then sought out Men At Work's big song, "Down Under". I found it very catchy, and I started listening to it incessantly. I also found it necessary to search for all possible live versions recorded on video. One in particular was their performance of the song at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. Being Australian (and their hit song being about being Australian), they were naturally summoned for the festivities.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Just Small Time

I have lately been getting deeper into the world of VHS tape collecting. I wrote a few days ago about the increasing need to learn the skill of mending worn tapes, and I am getting more familiar with that sort of thing, although so far I have embarked on repairing three and only succeeded with one of them. I credit myself with not making the other two worse. I have more to learn, and perhaps even equipment to acquire.

I feel inadequate in another way now. I have started to connect with other collectors, and it is a classic case of making a leap from a small pond (of one) to a larger one which comprises many people who have been doing it for much longer and who are content to pour far more resources into it than I am. I have read of guys spending hundreds of dollars on individual tapes, which I suppose means that one can make hundreds of dollars from a tape as well.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Alone Again

The last couple of days, there has been a lot of chatter online about the latest B movie from the Scifi Channel (or as they now insist on being called, "Syfy"). It's called "Sharknado", and it builds on the increasing success of increasingly absurd monster movies, most of which seem to involve sharks. I had seen one or two, deriving some pleasure from them, but the level of success enjoyed by this one at the outset displeases me.

Attention spans and life cycles of pop culture are so short now. As of this moment, the film is around 48 hours old, and in half that time it was hailed as an incredible enduring success. Interviews have been conducted with its stars and director, and there is talk of a sequel. This is ordinary with a big movie that has hit theaters, but considering there was no buzz about the film much in advance of its television premiere, I feel as if people are moving a little fast.

Friday, July 12, 2013

By Hand, By God!

Glancing at a friend's handwriting, I noticed that she puts a crossbar on her sevens. I have seldom done that myself, but I know that it's a common thing, if more so overseas than it is here in the United States. I have never been fond of the practice myself, probably only because I was not taught to do it that way in school or by my parents. Undoubtedly I would be entirely in the other camp if I had been raised differently.

As I said, I have sometimes done my sevens with a crossbar, because I am pragmatic. I know that my handwriting is not the best, and sometimes my sevens are not distinguishable from other characters. When I think that a seven of mine does not declare itself strongly enough, I add the crossbar to help it out, but I want to stress that I do this only in situations of severe need. I do not devalue the crossbar by using it heavily.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Another Stab At A Good Start

For the last while, I have not been running at 100 percent. I have at times felt unwell, and at the best of times I have let my standards of discipline and organization slip. It all begins with how I start my day. When I get up at the hour I mean to, that's good. When I blow past that by an hour or two, that's obviously no good. Too often I have been doing the latter, and the blame lies on my consistent failure to get to bed at a decent hour.

Once up, I have not been doing the things that I should. Showers are difficult for me. The time and trouble involved remains a deterrent, and once I'm up and at 'em, it's easy for me to put the shower off until some indeterminate time (which either becomes right before I go out or never). Everything is worse without a shower, but better with one. I must always remind myself of how critical it is that I shower before I have seen or heard anything that might grab my attention. It must be the first thing out of bed!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


When you are an aficionado of VHS tapes, you're dealing with a lot of old, beaten-down specimens. Most tapes are, in my experience, in surprisingly good shape. Ones that were still in shrink-wrapped plastic showed some of the worst deterioration, oddly enough. Anyway, I've had good luck with tapes mostly ( although it's true that I've always passed up ones that I suspected might be trouble), but not always.

For the first time I can think of, I went inside a tape. There was this little bit of plastic rattling around inside of it. That really bothered me, but I might have left it alone except for the fear I had that it would somehow get caught up in the tape as it played and wreck both cassette as well as player. I didn't quite know what to do, but a friend suggested that I simply unscrew the tape open to get the plastic bit. I did so, and that was the easy part.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


I have gotten out to a fair number of movies at that cheap theater lately. Yesterday I did so again with the usual friends. I had wanted to see "Fast & Furious 6" (commonly called Fast 6), as you may recall from my post about seeing the GI Joe movie last week. I was not met with the same level of enthusiasm that I felt, and the matter passed for a few days. Nearly a week later, the matter came up again as the theater held its next half-price day.

"The Purge"- a scifi film which I had some interest in- was the film being advanced by my friends as the one to see. Not one to surrender my position without a word, I brought up Fast 6 again. I was told that The Purge and "Pain & Gain" were favored by the rest of the group to an extend that rendered Fast 6 prohibitively unwanted. I was resigned to seeing "The Purge", but issued a warning that I would be dealing out some violent punishment to my seatmates in retaliation.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Not So Easy Listening

I love music. I have always favored older stuff over what's contemporary, not for any really noble reasons so much as for the reason that old stuff is vetted already, and it's an ordeal to sift the good from the bad without a list of the best albums of all time from Rolling Stone Magazine. Still, I do get into the newer stuff more and more thanks to the influence from today's social networking websites. They tip me off to things I never would have heard of.

I did learn of Kanye West in college without the benefit of new online developments, but his latest album is an example of something I may never have listened to without music apps and websites that are now so prevalent. I was listening to said album yesterday and patting myself on the back for being in some kind of mainstream for a change, but I must confess that the album didn't do much for me as previous ones from Kanye had.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Coffee, Tea, All Neat, Sir!

I have for a while not had any coffee. I have lately suffered occasionally from a sore throat, and what I had heard for a long time was that a particular brand of tea was fairly good for that. I decided to switch from the coffee that I'd been drinking to that very tea, known as Throat Coat. It has been an interesting change. The coffee is prepared in a manner that I have done so many times that it is not exactly a thrilling operation.

The tea is a little different. With the coffee, I would of course insert the coffee (possibly grinding it from beans) into a filter (probably made of paper), dripping through that water which I would pour into the proper chamber after measuring it in the very carafe which ultimately contains the finished coffee. I would then pour the coffee into a mug, adding cream and sugar. It's a process as boring for me to type as it must be to read.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Going Nowhere

I have had cause lately to reassess where I'm living. Presently I'm in the North Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles. It is where I have been most of the time I've lived in LA, with the balance being a year in Highland Park, two months in Glendale, one month in Koreatown and three weeks in Burbank. I have been happiest here, and even more so in the fashionable end than I was in the  rougher end.

I have become very comfortable here, and have found that there is little I need that lies outside of the area. Of course I find it necessary to go all over on account of auditions, shows and activities initiated by friends who have clearly not considered the virtues of keeping things close to where I live. Still, I do sometimes entertain the idea of being elsewhere, but the result is usually that I resolve to stay where I'm at.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Independence Day Now

Yesterday being Independence Day (as I feel the urge to say instead of the Fourth of July), it is maybe too timely of me to discuss the occasion, but I had a passably notable experience. Up until a couple days ago, I had no plans at all except that a couple of possibilities were presented to me. Things solidified the day before, and I would venture to say that the plan played out in a very satisfactory way, although whether alternate plans were superior is beyond my ability to say.

What we ( which is to say myself and four close friends) did was to go out to Northridge, which lies at the northernmost reaches of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley. There was to be found a free fireworks display. As it turned out, the event was under the auspices of a church, but we five did not bear any ill will on that account. Although the fireworks were not to be until after sunset, of course, we  made our way up early.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

I Saw It & I'm Not Sorry

I got out to the cheap theater again last night, and this time it was to see "GI Joe: Retaliation". My friends and I went at my suggestion, although I was motivated by the high level of interest displayed by one of those friends. At the last minute, I expressed a sudden eagerness to see "Fast & Furious 6", but this did not meet with any particular approval, and so we remained with original plan. That was fine too.

Hitting the theater on a Tuesday makes it even cheaper. The tickets are $1.50 apiece, and so that makes it very reasonable to get some refreshments. I believe I spent $6.50 on a ticket, a soda and two hot dogs, and that's pretty good in my book. I'm so well-disposed to like a movie at that point that it's practically a slam-dunk. I'm out very little except for my time if the movie is really that bad. I don't think I've truly been disappointed there.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Too Unique

Once again I am reminded that I am not like anyone else and that I especially don't think like anyone else. I read an item about some police officers shooting a dog. I don't know whether they were justified in doing so out of self-defense as they will likely claim or if they were in the wrong, but other people are not so reluctant to form an opinion. Without praising myself, I think the smartest people are the most aware of their ignorance. When I see a picture or video, I wonder what lies outside the frame, what happened before it was taken and what happened after.

Probably I would be the object of much disgust if my thinking about the matter became especially known. Anyway, it isn't that story that concerns me so much. It's just that thought that I am so painfully unique. There are plenty of people as smart as me or smarter, and naturally I'm bested by many in a variety of other areas, so don't get the idea that I'm saying this entirely in a good way. It's good for me, but it's also bad.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

L'Affaire VCR

I had a VCR incident. What happened is this: I bought a new television. It's a high definition set, and it's in the living room now. The set that was there is now in my bedroom, and so is the VCR that is controlled by the same universal remote. I reasoned that I just had to get another VCR, and so I went out to do it.

I went to the thrift store I deemed most likely to have a good VCR with its original remote, but they did not have anything like that. I picked what looked like an acceptable one, and went to the trouble of locating the cables, TV and VHS tape that I would need to test it. This was a laborious process, but worth it considering that the wares there are sold "as is". I walked away thinking I'd done my due diligence and found a good VCR.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Sitting In

I had a nice improv comedy experience the other day. I got an email from a friend who also does improv asking if I'd like to perform with a team of his the next night. I'm more given to saying yes these days than I used to be, so I quickly agreed. I didn't know at that time much more than the time and place, but I figured it would be a great thing to do, so I said yes and waited for the time of the performance to come.

A regrettable consequence of accepting the opportunity was that it came at the expense of other things I was hoping to do. I had to leave a roller derby game early, and I was left with too little energy afterward to go to a birthday party. Still, I find that it's always good to do things instead of being a spectator at things, which isn't to say that birthdays are less valuable, but there are times when a subsequent opportunity supersedes a prior commitment.