Friday, February 28, 2014


A number of weeks ago, a friend of mine asked if I was interested in doing a trivia competition with him. I had been in past ones with him before. They were relatively casual ones at a local bar. I do fairly well at things like history, movies and sports (though with the last one, I do well only by comparison with the non-sports fans who are so numerous here in LA). This trivia night was a little different. Just getting a team in it was a competition in itself, I gather.

When the big night came, I'd already had a plenty long day encompassing a Toastmasters contest and matters of supreme domestic importance. I was tired and frazzled. Still, I dragged myself out to the place, where I'd been before for special screenings of movies on 16 millimeter film. I found myself waiting for my friend some thirty minutes. The rest of the team had already been there for much of that time if not more, but not knowing them by sight, I was at a loss (in spite of having their names, or at least one name and one apparent alias).

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Oscars Road

We are here in Los Angeles coping already with the Academy Awards preparations, though the show is not to happen until Sunday. They shut down a stretch of Hollywood Boulevard a week in advance, which is naturally an inconvenience to people who live, work and recreate in that area. it's not a horrible problem for me, though the buses must detour just as the private cars do. Still, it's not a big deal for me except for if I should have an audition at one of the casting facilities south of there.

A problem on the day of the ceremony for me is that they shut down the subway station that falls within the security perimeter. Trains pass through in both directions without stopping. That is, I should say, only a problem if I actually need to be somewhere around that station. The odds are that I won't. I could need to be in Hollywood, but it would be to visit iO West nearer to the Hollywood and Vine station.That shouldn't be a problem.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sad Guy

I begin every post that delves into what I perceive to be my depression with a caveat that, not being a licensed mental health professional, I'm technically in no position to make such a judgment of myself. If it is true, then my opinions are even more suspect. Who could trust the word of a crazy person that they're crazy? They're just not credible. In any case, I feel sure that I have at least periods of legitimate depression.

I always think of a broken compass. Just as an actual broken compass would leave you ignorant of north and south- ignorant, let's say, of whether you're blundering further into a lethal desert or heading back to civilization and salvation- I often feel that my emotional compass, which keeps me connected to what's happy and what's sad, is off. Just being sad is not sufficient to declare that one is depressed, I think. You've got to be sad with no pathway evident to happiness. Everything seems to lead deeper.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Morbid, Unhappy, Bitter

Yesterday, Harold Ramis died. He had written, directed and appeared in numerous classic comedies, and certainly the world is absent one of the better there ever was upon his death. Still, I find myself stopping somewhat short of the grief exhibited by others online. I read of his death, thought what a shame it was, and was prepared to carry on with dry eyes and the same level of focus with which I had begun the day.

Other people, it seemed, were wailing and gnashing their teeth; they were torn over whether they should leap off the ledge or instead thrown themselves on Ramis' casket and plead with him not to leave them alone. This is another of those situations where I realize how different I am from people. I wonder even if I could be a damn sociopath, so little do I feel by comparison with people I otherwise find respectable and intelligent.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tie Loosening

The other day when I went to a standup show, the very same comedian who I denounced as a dumb loudmouth and later warmed to did something else that left me not well disposed towards him at first. In recent years, it has become more and more common for my home state of Arizona to be featured in the act of comedians. It's funny to think that I should be perturbed, because I grew up sorry that Arizona was relatively obscure in the national scene. It sure isn't any more.

One controversial law after another has ensured that the state remains a figure ripe for the sharp words of comedians eager to be topical. When I was a kid, it was the Martin Luther King Day issue. More recently it was the SB 1070 issue. Now there's the bill that supporters would say is a boost to religious freedom. Detractors call it a license to discriminate. I'm inclined to side with the latter group. Boy, who knew there was reputation and business left to lose after the last thing?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Comic Con?

I went to a standup comedy contest to support someone recently, and there was an interesting subplot to it for it. There I was, standing in line to get in. I'd been through the ordeal of a late subway train and speaking with two different people to get my comped ticket, which is more onerous for me than it sounds. Ahead of me in line is this loudmouth who is going off about how he has all this experience and wisdom about improv comedy or some such thing, and how he wants to impart it. It's sounding like he's been frustrated in this ambition. The guy sounds like he's full of shit.

We all go into the show, which starts wildly late (showing me again for being worried about tardiness). A number of comics perform, including the guy I was there for, but who else should be among them except the loudmouth. I was rather surprised, and also sure that he would be terrible. He wasn't, or at least he wasn't entirely. The memorable moment was the host initially misstating his surname as "Zulu" (when it was "Zullo", or some such thing.) He proceeded to do a quasi-African song/chant that sounded like the intro to "Kung Fu Fighting", dramatically turning the mic to the crowd. I enthusiastically sung the next part, and even though I don't feel I was alone in that, I somehow felt embarrassed.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


I have been sick the last couple of days. Being sick is considerably less fun as a grown man than it was when I was a boy and it meant staying home from school to explore the world of daytime television. It's never felt good to be sick, but the break in monotony was then pretty well worth the pain. It helps also that then I was a minor under the care of someone else. All I had to do was loiter around the house and take pills. In an extreme situation, I might need to visit the doctor, and roaming around town in the middle of a weekday was its own thrill.

This particular illness is fairly mundane, but it struck with alarming suddenness. There I was, entertaining friends with some VHS tapes at my apartment. They left, and I made myself some spaghetti. I started to feel not great, but as it was now after two or three in the morning, it seemed reasonable to attribute my condition to simple fatigue. I woke up feeling significantly worse. It was all the classic, timeless symptoms. I had sore throat, coughing, runny nose and headaches.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Another Night Of Tapes

A couple nights ago, I had my latest VHS movie night. We watched two movies, which was a nice little dent in the backlog of tapes I have been wrestling with. Admittedly that only puts me at 67 tapes to go, but it is better than where I was and gives me a little momentum to build on. So long as I don't buy or accept for free any new ones soon, I should make some real progress. Watching two a day would still take over a month to get me out of the woods, but you can't keep your eyes on the far side of the river while you're swimming.

The first movie we watched was "Amsterdamned". I bought it, of course, only because of the title. That is an amazing title and an amazing example of wordplay. It was a Dutch action movie, so that was of course not its original title, but I doubt whether any other title it has been known by in any other language is that good. In any case, the movie concerns a cop who is after a serial killer who wears a wet suit and travels by means of Amsterdam' canals. The cop is a lackluster father who does well with the ladies and, contrary to the conventions of cop movies, is highly appreciated by his superiors for getting results. It was a good movie.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

On "Big"

After recently watching "Braveheart" for the first time at the behest of a friend, I have now seen "Big" at long last. I had lent out my VHS copy of "Turner & Hooch" (which I will admit gave me some pause), and it came out that I hadn't seen Big. The friend I lent Turner & Hooch to in turn lent me her copy of Big. Of Hanks' early films, I've seen the aforementioned Turner & Hooch, I've seen "Joe Versus The Volcano", and I guess I've at least seen most of "The Money Pit".

Finally I can add Big to that list, and it certainly is good. Hanks is, it's no secret to say, exceptionally good at taking on the qualities of a child. His moves and his delivery of lines feel right. There's an awkwardness and an exuberance at the same time that work very well together. The rest of the cast is at least good, but Hanks is really great. It's a hell of a thing to think of him being more or less out of comedies within a few short years of this film's release.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Ongoing Struggle

Two nights ago, I was stocking the most recent VHS tapes I'd bought. They had been sitting around a little while, because it's a very tedious and tiresome task. I have some six boxes of alphabetized tapes, and keeping the order straight is just the beginning. I have given up on alphabetizing them in my head. Instead, I bring out my laptop and order the tapes to reflect their placement in my spreadsheet. I'm very glad I started doing that.  I'm apt to throw the order off every time I put a tape back that I've been watching.

The alphabetizing is only the beginning of the inconvenience. When I stock a new tape, it begins a cascade from that box all the way to the last one. If it goes into the first box, which contains A and B, that means that one of those must move to the second box, thus displacing a tape into the third box, and that goes on until the final box. Over time, I watch with growing concern as the final box fills, mindful that I will need to locate (and place somewhere in the living room) yet another box. For now, my roommates are tolerant.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Preference

Something interesting about doing live comedy is that you move to LA to do it, often enough, but that you only make money at it by leaving LA. There are so many opportunities to see premier comedians and improvisers in LA, but these are gigs that largely do not pay in any significant way. That's not to say that there aren't such gigs in LA, because you can certainly pay a ton to see the big name people do their thing, but the proportion has got to be lower than someplace like Kansas City.

Comedians do these no money gigs for certain reasons. They do them for some notion of being visible, to be with and to make friends, and they do them in the hopes of getting better at their craft through repetition and experimentation. The upshot of all that is that a fan of live comedy can, as I said, see the best there is and pay little or nothing for the privilege. It's a pretty cool thing about being in LA, I have to admit. There is a downside.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Training A Camera On Who?

I saw something unusual on the subway last night. Maybe this already begins to sound like something you've read a thousand times from me alone, but there just is no end to the weird stuff that happens there. This time, there was something old and something new. I'll just take it in the order that it came. I was heading home from Top Story Weekly, the show I regularly submit news jokes to. This time I got four in.

I was feeling a mixture of the happiness from that achievement and the anxiety of having been in crowds of people as I descended into the subway station, where I saw signs warning of some kind of filming going on. That isn't the first time I've seem filming going on at such a place, but not like this. The signs purported to be a kind of waiver. If one didn't want to appear in whatever this was, the only recourse was to not use the train.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

At Last Seen

I've finally seen "Braveheart", for which I can thank a dear friend and tireless proponent of the film. I had, for whatever reason, never seen it during its run in theaters (which came all too early for me to gain entrance, though I can't recall having any burning urge at the time) or any time since on home video. It was one of those movies which I periodically would have to say I've never seen, often drawing feigned gasps and incredulous looks.

Titanic was another movie like that, and I definitely could have seen that one in the theater if I'd wanted to, considering it was not rated R. I think I really had no interest in that one, playing as heavily as it did on the love story. When I finally saw it, I appreciated it fairly well. It had its flaws (which were all the more apparent watching it recently with all the hype built up), but I did like it well enough. No one even had to push me into watching it.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Under Consideration

It was suggested recently that I might alter the focus of this blog. From the very beginning, it was my intention to let myself run free in subject matter, but to ultimately narrow down to whatever presented itself as the thing I was most naturally disposed to write about. That was now four or five years ago, and nothing really did rise above the rest. Indeed, a dearth of time and energy led me to relax my discipline of presenting true essays and instead simply write the sort of online diary of which there are all too many.

It was observed that I have an endless enthusiasm for- really, an obsession with- collecting VHS tapes. Why not, it was asked, write about the individual tapes as I buy and view them? Certainly, I could go on for some time just with the ones I have bought and viewed already, to say nothing of the ones I have yet to watch and those that I have yet even to buy. Other blogs given to reviewing movies there may be, but how many confine themselves to the VHS format in addition? I have admittedly only done some cursory investigation, but I can find none.

Friday, February 14, 2014

After Hash

It remains to be seen whether anything will come of the audition I wrote about yesterday. A few days with no word will probably signify that I didn't get anything out of it, but for now anything is possible. I can say how the trouble I went to in advance seemed to do any good. I can say this not because of the outcome yielded (since I probably will never know no matter what happens), but more because of what other people chose to do.

That doesn't really prove anything, but let's roll with it. I bought a long white women's jacket that resembled a lab coat. Does that seem wise in retrospect? I can say that a fair number of the other men auditioning were wearing lab coats. It may have been half and half, so had I not gone to the trouble, I would have felt a little ill at ease, but I probably would not have felt fatally unprepared. Once I got in there and started doing my thing, it wouldn't have been on my mind anymore.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Clothes For The Job

Most of the time, I don't go to a lot of trouble to prepare a look for an audition. I do what's necessary, but that doesn't entail procuring a lot of new items every time one comes up. Often something subtle and vague creates an adequate effect. They say that what matters is the performance. For what I do, it's my look, which would suggest that the outfit matters a lot, but that's only true to a point. I think that, at least. I haven't conquered this world yet, so I could be wrong.

I have a fair number of costume pieces at home to work with. There is a whole box of props and costume stuff that I am really only a custodian of, but in the absence of constant use for its intended purpose as a supply cache for comedy sketches, light use for auditions seems entirely reasonable to me. I've used things from it to great effect in the past, including part of a nurse uniform that I wore in one of the commercials that I booked.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hot Air, I Swear

It would be pretty neat to ride on a blimp. This is one of those fantasies about life in the past that I concede may not be as great as it seems, but I do think I'd like it. This is especially so if we're talking about the era before plane travel really got going. I gather that there was a time when planes were just too rough, and dirigibles were as smooth as could be. They didn't go too fast, but they were pretty steady in the air.

I always think about the way it seemed aboard the zeppelin in "Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade". It just seemed like a big floating lounge, with people drinking, eating and reading newspapers. Everyone was dressed very elegantly, and of course there was a lot of action between Indy, his father and the Nazis. Somehow that just manages to make it all seem even better. I definitely wish I were on board for that.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

An Actor Deserving

I'm fond of the actor Neal McDonough. I believe, of course, that I saw him first in the HBO miniseries "Band Of Brothers", where he played one of the more memorable characters. I regretted not seeing more of him, but then there was an enormous ensemble of mostly very good actors who demanded attention of their own. It was, I though, a fine launching point for McDonough, who surely was off to bigger things.

That has not really come to fruition in the years since then. It's not clear to me why not. He has worked a ton, but often in projects unworthy of him. The best thing he's had was probably his bit part in "Captain America". He also played a villain in the "Walking Tall" remake. He has not had anything like the starring role in a prominent film that he deserves. It may not be too late for him, but if he couldn't get it off Band Of Brothers, then I don't know.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Moron Names (More On Names)

I have one or twice addressed the matter of my name, Calder. I was, as you may recall, named after Alexander Calder, an artist of note. Having that as a first name made it even more distinctive than it would have been as a last name, and considerably more so than Alexander would have been as either a first or a last. It took some time to come to terms with the name, but I eventually became very fond of it. It still seldom appears anywhere, though it is a touch more common than it once was.

I have met another Calder (online, if that counts), which was an odd but not unwelcome experience. It being a woman made it more peculiar still, though it's hard to say that it ought only be a man's name considering it's primarily a surname in the first place. She appears on Facebook by a derivative of Calder presently, which makes it easier to take. It was rather jarring every time I saw it before, and I don't know when that was going to improve.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Process

Ordering from a menu can be hard. There is the matter of overcoming the paralysis by analysis that is brought on by very many choices. One must discard many choices right off the bat by seeking out something more than food that merely seems good. I luckily am very good at introducing other factors, of which cost is merely one. Most of them are less reasonable factors than that. Cost is a very useful thing to consider.

It's nice when the cuisine derives from a culture whose language I am especially inexperienced at pronouncing. That way, I can discard as a possibility any food item I am unsure of being able to pronounce correctly. It feels important to me that I look smart and not stupid in such situations, and this feeling helps me further winnow down the options before making my final decision. It may not matter to other people, but it need not.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Assorted Activities

This past Thursday, like the Thursday before it, was an eventful one for me. It began with an audition. It was an absurdly easy one, so if I get the part, it will be because I was born to play it. It was purely based on looks, to the point that it might have been for a print ad instead of a TV commercial, and they hardly needed to have me physically come in. I didn't mind so much, since the audition was one of maybe three to take place in my own neighborhood.

I didn't have plans after that, but because I was in and out of the audition so quickly, I reasoned that I ought to go to my Toastmasters meeting as I would have if the audition had not come up. The best and only way to reach the meeting in a reasonable amount of time was to walk, as I have plenty of times in the past. I actually made the meeting on time, and it was a good one. They say it's good to have an activity to take your mind off an audition right after it happens, and so I was well taken care of on that score this time.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Olympian Conflictedness

As I write this, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia have begun. The opening ceremonies aren't until later in the day today (Friday), but somehow events are already underway. This year the games are especially marred by politics and controversy. It seems worse than it was in Beijing, where it was not inconsiderable. There's also the actual series of athletic competitions, and I guess I have thoughts on both of those things.

I've always enjoyed the winter games. It's funny to me that people consider them lesser than the summer games. The winter events are admittedly more obscure to Americans on the whole, and the entire event is a smaller, quainter affair (which is also anathema to spectacle-minded Americans), but I don't really see how those are bad things. I like a smaller, more manageable Olympics. Maybe that's just my personality.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Pet Affection

I had plenty of pets growing up. There were snakes, rats, hamster, ant farms and dogs, of course. I loved all of them. Some of them were none too well behaved. This was when the newspaper had a robust classified ads section, and we often scrutinized the section offering pets for sale. I don't know if the online successors of the printed classified ads have all that. It's been a very long time since I went and looked for a pet. I suppose these days you're supposed to go to the pound.

My point was that I was very fond of pets, and especially dogs. I was a typical boy in that regard. I loved every dog I had, and since I didn't have power over life or death, I eventually lost every one of those dogs. Each one was a heartbreak. Some of them maybe could have lived, if no expense was spared. I bore no ill will over the fact that expenses were spared. In retrospect, it seems like the right decision to have made.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Performance

I had an interesting improv class last night. I must remind myself to distinguish between improv class and improv practice. There is my team, which has practice on Saturdays. I chose to be with each of those people on a team, and I chose to learn from our coach. What I had last night was class. It is not up to me who goes and who teaches us. I do choose to remain a part of it, because it's great. It does have drawbacks.

Last night had the good and the bad. There were relatively few opportunities to perform since we have been joined with the next lowest level. Still, as I think I've said, I do like many of those people. Sometimes we get to perform with them. Last night we did not much.  We in "The Barrel" did our own long form. I entered the first scene, and it was dicey for me. My scene partner was giving good stuff, and I was not returning it well.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

All Access

Something that has always been a special and cherished experience to me in live has been when I was granted access to someplace exclusive. That's a natural thing, I think. Maybe people are perhaps eager to get into someplace like a nightclub where they are rather discriminating. For me, it need not be such a spectacular example of an exclusive place. I like just being able to be in the back room of a store, which employees of the store will probably tell you is not special.

The other day, I had a reasonable excuse to enter one of these protected realms. I had that sketch in the show on Sunday night, and I had props and costume items that people needed. My friend and I went into the bar area of iO West, which is how you get to the main theater where the show was to be. The guy checking IDs tells me that props have to go around back. I was not at all sure how to handle that, but I did know the way to the main stage and green room from the back.

Monday, February 3, 2014


Yesterday, in the course of describing the Super Bowl party I was to attend, I also mentioned the comedy sketch I'd written that was to be staged that evening at iO West in Hollywood. I was optimistic about its prospects for success, and somewhat fixated on the practical consideration of acquiring some props for it. I was giddy about being at least temporarily in the number of those hardy professionals who write and act in the show weekly.

The show is now over, and my sketch has come and gone. Tomorrow, the video of it will be made available, but for now it lives only in my memory, as do my impressions. The idea of the sketch was about the one member of the president's cabinet who each year must skip the State of the Union speech as a precaution in case tragedy were to strike and wipe out the federal government wholesale. I imagined that person might feel left out, and I related the whole thing to being an unpopular high schooler.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Half And Half

It's the Super Bowl today, and indeed by now it may have started already. More likely is that the endless pageantry will delay kickoff well beyond what it would have been. The humble game buckles under all the weight of the spectacle that is heaped upon it. In any case, it's a very happy day for me. I have, as I said yesterday, a comedy sketch that I wrote being staged at a major comedy theater in Hollywood tonight. As I write this, I'm planning to be at a Super Bowl party hosted by friends, but I will probably have to leave it well before I'd like to in order to get to the show.

Before I go, however, I will have made and presented the jalapeno poppers that were a success at a couple of previous social engagements. I must thank my mother for getting me to make them once back home, because having that as a go-to for a party is a real feather in my cap (as they incessantly said in "Catch-22"). I feel it may even be somewhat expected that I make the poppers, which (if true and not fantasy) is gratifying.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Sketch That Landed

I had a pretty good day on Thursday. I had an all right Toastmasters meeting, during which I learned that I got a callback for an audition. Later in the day, I had an interview for something else that could prove very interesting if it comes to fruition. After that, I had a very successful run with that Hashtag Wars thing I described the other day. The day effectively concluded with word that I'd gotten a sketch into the news-based sketch show I've been submitting two line jokes to for so long. I couldn't sleep for hours after that, but that's beside the point.

Most weeks I've gotten two line jokes into the Top Story Weekly show. There's some reward to if if a joke is very well received, or if I get a lot of them in there. My personal bests are five jokes total and a joke that killed so well that the woman delivering it could scarcely get it out through her laughter. There's a bad side to those jokes. There's much uncertainty about getting them in there and having them stick. They're over all too quickly, and the memory of them fades quickly.