Friday, September 19

Cameron's Annekenstein Sketch

Cameron, dressed as Annekenstein for Halloween


I used to be in a sketch comedy theatre show called Annekenstein.  It ran for 7 summers, from 1991-1997 in Charlottetown.  Each summer’s production would have a fair amount of brand new material, so every spring we’d rack our brains, trying to come up with new sketches, and new ways to lampoon the omnipresent Anne of Green Gables propaganda.

In 1995, when Cameron was 3, I came up with an idea to see how a child of his age might create a sketch based on AoGG.  The premise being the question: Is AoGG part of our Island’s subconscious - that is, are we born with an innate awareness of it - or is it something that is learned and then forever etched into our brains.

So I asked Cameron, who at 3 would have had minimal insight into the AoGG phenomenon, to pretend to be Anne of Green Gables, and I would help out in any way I could.

The following is a transcript of what took place (and is, for all intents and purposes, Cameron’s very first improvised sketch comedy attempt).

This never made it to the stage.

Cameron’s Annekenstein Sketch

Cameron, as Anne, is running around the living room. Frantic.

Cameron: Grrrrr, I’m being chased by a monster! A monster’s after me. Help!

Rob: What kind of monster is it? Is it Anne of Green Gables?

Cameron stops running.  Looks at Rob, with serious intent.

Cameron (as Anne): No, I’m Anne of Green Gables. (He resumes running)  Help, a monster!

Rob: What monster is chasing you, Anne?

Cameron stops running.

Cameron (as himself): No, Daddy, you’re the monster. You’re chasing me.

Cameron resumes running around.

Cameron (as Anne): Help, the Daddy monster’s after me.

Rob: (starts to chase, as a monster) Arrrgghh, I’m going to get you, Anne!

Cameron screeches and runs harder, then stops abruptly.

Cameron (as himself): Sonny and Joe are here now, you know.

(Sonny and Joe were Cameron’s imaginary friends.  They were a husband and wife lumberjack team who worked in northern New Brunswick)

Rob: They are? Where are they?

Cameron (as himself): Right here. (points to an empty space, beside him)

Rob: Oh, right. (looks to where Cameron pointed) Hey, Sonny!

Cameron (as himself):  That’s Joe.

Rob: Oh. Hi, Joe!

Cameron (as Joe): Hello.

Rob: Hey, Sonny, I didn’t know you knew Anne of Green Gables.

Cameron (as Sonny): Yeah, I’ve known her for about seventy-sixty months.

Rob: Oh, that’s a long time. Do you like Anne of Green Gables, Sonny?

Cameron (as Sonny): Yeah, I guess so.

Rob: Do you like her, Joe?

Cameron (as Joe, or as himself?): What?

Rob: Joe, do you like Anne of Green Gables?

Cameron (as Joe): I think she’s a poopy-head goopy goop fra la linko head!

Rob: Is that good or bad, Joe?

Cameron (as himself): I want to go outside and play on my bicycle.

Rob: You want to go outside and play on your bicycle, Anne?

Cameron (as himself): No, I’m not Anne, now, I’m me. Can I go out and play?

Rob: Do you know who Anne of Green Gables is?

Cameron (as himself): I want to ride my bicycle.

Rob: Just tell me who Anne of Green Gables is.

Cameron: I don’t know.

Rob: Have you ever seen her picture anywhere?

Cameron: Yeah.

Rob: Where?

Cameron: License plates.

Rob: Anywhere else?

Cameron: The Wendy’s sign. Can I go outside now?

Rob: Okay. Go put your sneakers on.

Friday, July 4

Out Of Guilt, I Suppose

On Facebook today, Kelly Caseley posted some pictures from a couple of Sketch22 video shoots from years ago. That action led me to go casually digging around in the bowels of my Sketch22 scripts folder and came across this abandoned script.

It was written for our Season Six season. The one at The Mack.

For probably obvious reasons, it never got shot. Maybe I was thinking it would be an animated thing?

Anyone want to animate this?



Close-up on a bowl of rice.  Dirty rice, and not much in the bowl.
Impossibly long, frail, skinny fingers dig in and scoop up a small ball of rice.  We follow the fingers and rice up, past a distended belly, flies casually landing and leaving; past a set of ribs that are practically bursting out of the skin; up to the oh-so-thin face.  Fingers and rice disappear into the mouth, only fingers leave.  Mouth chews. 
When he speaks, it's very casual and relaxed.  Comfortable.  As is all the conversation.

As he speaks we pull out to reveal the scene:  Five starving African men sitting on the dirt around a cold fire.  One or two maybe are missing an arm or a leg.  Another looks blind.  The background is a poor-as-possible village.
They are all casually eating their bowls of rice, using their fingers, if they have fingers.

1: But you know who I really feel sorry for in this American bailout?  Those poor auto workers who had to settle for only making thirty dollars an hour.  Thirty dollars an hour!

2: Oh, I know!  I mean, they signed contracts, didn't they, for much more?  What good is a union contract if this is the result it gets you?

3: That'll mean a few less union dues, I'd say!

(pause)

4: Well, did you hear that some of the big Hollywood celebs, when they go shopping at the ritzy stores, are putting their purchases in bags from less-expensive stores. 

1: Out of guilt, I suppose.

2: I would too, if I was there.

5: This is not a time to be flaunting wealth.

(pause)

3: Poor Mrs. Obama!

4:  What?

3: She's in a bit of hot water.  When she and the US President were visiting the British Queen, Mrs. Obama put her arm around the Queen.

1:  Like as a hug?

2: That's a breach of protocol!

4:  I'd say.

3: The Queen didn't seem to mind, though.

2:  She seems like such a nice lady.

(pause)

4: Which one seems like a nice lady?

(pause)

2:  Both of them, really.

(long pause as they all contemplate.  5 looks at 1’s bowl)

5:  You gonna finish that rice there?

1: Yes. (pause)  Otherwise I might die.

FADE OUT

Friday, February 7

Nun's Leggings, Cowboy Chaps, Donkey Cock, and Sperm

One of the challenging, and exciting, aspects of putting on a live sketch comedy show is managing your quick-changes.  Sometimes you have scant little time to change from, say, a punk-cowboy into, say, an old nun.  Often, you barely make it, and are literally are running from the dressing room to get on stage, pulling up pants and adjusting a wig and grabbing the necessary hand-prop even as your cue-line to enter onto the stage is being said.

At the beginning of a run, especially during dress rehearsal, you are positive that at least one of your quick-changes cannot possibly be done - there simply isn't enough time to make that change.  Rather than alter the running order or rewrite something to give you the necessary time, you simply have to find a way to make it work.  You figure it out.  "If I already wear my nun's leggings underneath my cowboy denims and chaps, then that'll save a few seconds" - that sort of thing.  And by the end of the run of shows, usually, you are so adept at making those seemingly-impossible changes that you probably fit a pee break in there too.

After performing 7 years in Annekenstein sketch shows and 7 years in Sketch-22 sketch shows, I have a pretty good grasp of what is possible and not possible when it comes to quick-changes.  In the last few years, I've taken to writing up a list - explaining out exactly how my costume changes need to happen, and where my various costume pieces and my props are supposed to be back stage.

I just found the list I used for the latest sketch show I was involved in, A Very Sketch Christmas. There were a few very quick changes for me (for all of us), but all were manageable.  In the second act, in order to make it work, I had to wear pajama pants under a heavy pair of donkey leggings underneath a shepherd's robe. It got pretty warm up in there.

Anyway, I get a kick out of a couple of items on this list and so that's the main reason for this post.

Thursday, January 30

WhateverMan and Wilson

I am a man who does not know a lot about a lot of things.
One of those things I do not know a lot about is Comics.
When I was young, I read the Archie comics, some war comics (Sgt. Somethingorother?), and the odd Weird Tales comic here and there.  I never had a collection, nor wanted one, and I was never one to wait eagerly, impatiently, excitedly, for the next issue of WhateverMan to come out.  Comics were a casual part of my childhood, and when my childhood ran its course, so too, did my desire to read them.

I think I am a month too old (really, though: years too old) to have been part of the PEI resurgence of the Comic Book as art form or literature (or was it simply a surgence?) in, I'm guessing, the late-'80s, early-'90s.  Could have been earlier, could have been later, I'm not good with dates.
So, when friends who were younger than me, or contemporary-aged friends who were hipper than me, began to read comics and graphic novels, I was aware but not interested.  As the popularity, and culture-significance of this Comic Book World grew, I remained ignorant.  And, at times, as it is with my personality, willfully-ignorant.
I read The Watchmen series sometime around 1990, probably. I enjoyed it.  I am, and have been, aware of, and have read, a scant few other series and publications since then, but am woefully ignorant.  When I am in the proximity of conversations about comic books, I generally zone out, due to my immense lack of knowledge of the topic(s) at hand.

All that to say: I am not in my comfort zone when I walk into a comic book shop.

I have a friend, Dylan Miller, who owns a comic book shop: Lightning Bolt Comics  I've always felt the desire to support him and his small-business enterprise (and feel guilty for not doing so), but a couple of things have kept me from doing so.

The first is (was) the fact that for so long, I was consumed by credit card debt.  The first 20 years of my adult life, credit card debt owned me.  A number of years ago, my wife and I decided to eradicate that debt from our lives, and so we went on a serious spending freeze.  Not that we were spending much on what I'll call frivolous things, but we put a halt on practically all non-essential purchasing, and put all our money towards paying off the debt.  And finally, a year or two ago, we succeeded.  We are debt-free.
However, one of the side-effects of such a purchase-purge, is that now I am very much the type of person who hardly spends any money.  Like, I spend practically nothing.  I find it difficult to justify spending money on new underwear, that type of level of miserliness.  I have become a living example of the Scottish SkinFlint cliche.

The second thing is, when I go into Dylan's store, I feel a bit (a lot) like an illiterate in a library. Imposter!! Looking at the items offered is a bit like looking at things that don't make sense in my world.  It's all a jumble of "I have no idea what I'm looking at, or for", and it's a bit overwhelming and uncomforting.  This, I realize and admit, is a problem of mine.  I should be "who fucking cares", but I'm not.

So, for a long time, I wasn't purchasing anything, and Dylan's store was one of the many that didn't see support from me. Yet, now I am beginning to see a light, and, with a bit of a pleasant balance showing in our bank accounts, I am tentatively putting my toe in the Superfluous Purchase Waters.

I made the decision to buy something!  This may seem like a minor thing to you and your lifestyle, but to me it was a bit more epic.  Furthermore, I decided that the first place I'd go is to Lightning Bolt and support my fellow Popalopalot.  Trouble is, I didn't know what I wanted, didn't know how to go about finding out what I might want.
Then I hit upon an idea:  why not ask an expert what I might enjoy.  Dylan knows me a little (I'm a hard fellow for anyone to know, I know), definitely knows his stuff, and it might be a fun little adventure.  So I asked Dylan to pick out something from his store, around $30 (I know, big spender right!), that he thinks I might like, and I'd buy it, no questions asked.  Dabbling my toe in the water, you know.
Dylan agreed.

And this is what Dylan picked out for me.  This is what I bought.


I had seen the movie Ghost World, based on Daniel Clowes comic, but had to be reminded of the connection.
So, I read it and really liked it.

Yeah, that's a long way to go just to say "I bought a book".

Friday, January 10

The Cat, The Bird, and The Owl (Who Thought She Was A Bear)

Once there was a cat - a lady cat - who would spend her nights wandering the back alleys of her little town. She had a home to go back to - a loving home with plenty of food and a place to do her private business.  It was an okay life, but she was getting bored of it all - the same alleys, the same characters, the same everything night after night.  And so, on this particular night, she made the sudden and rash decision to leave it all behind.
"It totally goes against what I expect from myself, but what the hey!" she said, and started on her way.
By the time she made her way to the outskirts of town, it was almost dawn.
At the town limits sign, the lady cat was observed by a bird who was sitting on a telephone pole.
"Now this," said the bird, "goes totally against what is ingrained in my psyche, but I think I'm gonna go talk to that cat."  The bird flew down and landed in front of the cat, who was momentarily stopped to clean her face.
"Do I need to be afraid of you?" asked the bird.
"Not unless you plan on doing me harm," replied the cat.
Mutually deciding all was good, the two took the rest of the day getting to know each other, as they wandered beyond the town and into the woods.  After hearing about the cat's previous cozy living arrangements, the bird stated he couldn't understand why she would ever give up such comforts.
"Comfort doesn't equate to interesting," she answered.

The two spent the next few days exploring the world together.  They came upon a beautiful lake, and decided to rest there for a while.
"I'd flown over this lake a couple of times," said the bird, "on my down down south or back from down south, but I never thought to stop here.  It's really quite lovely!"
The cat didn't understand the concept of "down south" but didn't let on, and just nodded in agreement about the loveliness of the lake.
The bird decided a fun thing to do would be to pick up stones in his beak - as big as he could carry - and then fly over the lake and drop them.  He loved to watch the stones splash and break the calmness of the lake water.  While he was doing this, the cat was attempting to catch fish by the lakeside, but just wasn't fast enough.
"It's your middle-class upbringing," said the bird, landing beside the cat. "You can't catch a fish because you never needed to catch a fish."

"Maybe we could catch a fish together," suggested the cat.  "You pick up the biggest stone you can, hover over the side of the lake, here where it's shallow, and when you see a fish drop the stone on the deeper side of the lake. The surprise will force the fish to swim closer to the shore, and I'll be there waiting to pounce."
"Sounds like a plan!"

It took them several attempts, and even more hours, to accomplish their task, but finally, the plan worked perfectly.  They caught a fish and sat themselves down to enjoy the spoils of their efforts.
"This is the best meal I ever had", said the cat.
"Because you caught it yourself. That's why.  Maybe, for the first time ever in your life, you earned it. That's why it tastes so good."
"Well, I did have help!"
"We do make a pretty good team!  Who'd have thunk a bird and a cat could work together to achieve such greatness!"

As they continued to feast on the fresh fish - the fish they caught together - they began to make plans on other ways they could work together to make their lives infinitely better and full of purpose.  They got very excited about the prospect of finding a barn somewhere, because such a barn would no doubt be filled with mice and rats, for the cat, and also grains and bugs, which better suited the bird.
So engrossed were they in their discussion that they had let their guards down to the environment around them.

Suddenly, an owl who thought she was a bear, swooped down on the pair and with the expertise and speed and conviction of the wild animal she was, killed the bird and the cat, even before they knew what was happening.
"Because that's what bears do," said the owl.

Thursday, January 9

Further To My Corpsing Post

I've been wondering why the phrase "Akki Akki" might've been in my head, causing me to blurt it out in the middle of a sketch (see previous post), and maybe this provides an answer.
This must've been rattling around up there, even though I'd not heard it for probably years and years.  Great song, awesome band.

Wednesday, January 8

Anatomy of a Corpse on Stage

A Very Sketchy Christmas - December 2013 at The Guild
So, the line was supposed to be:
(to Brodie) ‘Sides, serves you right for breaking up with Destiny anyways. (to Dougie) Every year he breaks up with Destiny right before Chritsmas so he don’t have to get her a gift. Then, coincidence of coincidunces, he hops back on her, right after Balemtimes Day. Smart thinkin', that one!

Trina, Tami & Brodie on the couch


I'd said it, more or less like that, every performance thus far, in the run.  This particular night was our last show, and maybe I was feeling a bit more loosey-goosey than normal. Maybe I wasn't concentrating enough.  Or was concentrating too hard.  I don't know. But I do know that it ended up being one of the bigger instances of on stage corpsing that I fell victim to.

"Corpsing", for those who may not know, is a theater term for laughing on stage when one is not supposed to be laughing.  It comes from the notion that a person who is playing dead, a corpse, should not be laughing, and, thus, when does laugh, is corpsing.

I'll attempt to take us through this particular event, as it happened, kind of as a play-by-play recap.  The words in bold are words I spoke out loud; the words in italics are thoughts I remember thinking as it was happening - my interior dialogue; and (parenthetical words) are my thoughts now, as I write this.

So, everything was going along quite well.  Nice big crowd, everyone enjoying the show so far.  This particular scene happens fairly early in the show, so everyone's energy is pretty high.  I come to my line, totally not expecting what was to come:

'Sides, serves you right for breaking up with Destiny anyway.
(there is a small pause here - a blip - where normally there is not. I assume it is imperceptible to perhaps everyone but me - the pause would be timed in nano-seconds, so small was it, then it hits me:)
Huh, it seems I've forgotten what I am supposed to say next.  That hasn't happened to me in forever.  When was the last time that happened - never mind, that, let's get back to the matter at hand.  ...breaking up with Destiny... hmmm?  What's next? Nope, nothing's coming to me. I've truly and totally forgotten everything about these lines.  Well, this won't do, it's still my turn to speak.  I need to say something.
(this initial pool of thoughts probably lasted no more than one second, so everyone probably still assumed everything was as it should be)
Can't believe I forgot my lines!  When does that happen?  More importantly, what do I say now? Destiny. Funny name, that. What do I say? Okay, breathe.  Think. You are totally in control right now. No, those lines are not going to come back to me, so I have to take other steps. I need to say something. Come on, improv training, kick in and get us back on track.  What shall I say?  Just start speaking, Rob, it'll be great. That's when you're at your best.  At least it'll be something. Just start a sound and see what follows it. Okay, I don't know what this will be, coming out my mouth right now, but I need to speak right now, so here goes, let's see what I'm coming up with.
...Aaaakki akki akki...
(I am experiencing the classic "time slows down" feeling at this point - everything seems to be moving in slow motion, except my thoughts, which are racing)
Akki akki akki? What the hell is that?  Akki akki akki.  Fuck, seriously!  Ha ha, that's awesome!  Nobody could have predicted that!!  Akki akki akki!!!  I just said "Akki akki akki"!  People probably think I just lost my mind.  That's really funny.  That makes NO sense. That makes me want to laugh.  Uh oh, I think I'm going to laugh.  When was the last time you laughed on stage like you're about to, Rob?  Ed Rashed, goatee, third year of Annekenstein?  Yep, I'm definitely going to laugh.  And why not?  Akki akki akki is a totally ridiculous thing to have said.  If ever such nonsense deserved laughter, that is it.
(at this point I start to laugh, and it is probably only now that anyone else recognizes something unusual is happening - the following thoughts come to me through my laughter)
They all see me laughing.  Do they even know? Do people think "Akki akki akki" is part of the script?  I bet some do. That would be a crazy script, if it was. Who would ever write that into that script at that point in the dialogue?  Wow, I'm laughing pretty hard. It's really horrible, and yet really fun.  Laughing is fun. May be, but don't indulge yourself.  Gotta stop.  Did I just really say "Akki akki akki"?  Was it "Akki akki akki"? Look at Lennie.  He's really close to me, leaning forward, waiting for me to finish my line.  He's doing really well, not laughing.  Look at him, not laughing, while you are laughing uncontrollably.  I love how much I'm laughing.  I love even more, maybe, how much Lennie is not laughing.  How can he not laugh.  Good for him. Good for Lennie.  Can't see Josh.  Wonder if he's laughing.  Is Kelly laughing.  I'm letting Kelly down.  Okay, let's get back to business here.  Stop laughing.  This scene won't continue until you finish your lines.  Holy shit, this scene won't continue until I finish my lines!  Balemtimes!!  Balemtimes is the last word I need to say.  Once I get to Balemtimes this wonderful nightmare will be over.  Do I want it to be over?  I'm really enjoying this moment. Alright, enough is enough.  Oh, I remember my lines!  Alright, let's get them out.
...Every year he breaks...
Nope, can't do it. Just noise through laughter.  Just gonna have to ride this out.  Just sit back and let it run its course, Rob. No, just plow through the fucking lines and get through it.
...Christmas...
I am fucking gone! Helpless!!  Awesome!!  Bet Cameron is laughing.  This is a memorable moment I am having right now.  One to remember, for sure.  But, seriously, get through it.
... Coincidence...
I'm just blurting out words now.  It makes no sense.  Is this close to what insanity would feel like? Total lack of control.  I'm laughing really hard. Hard laughing is wonderful.  But stop it.
... hops on her...
I can picture it, him actually hopping on her... I'm pretty comfortable on this couch.  Leaning back so comfortable. I bet people are confused right now. Laughing.  Come on, stop it.
... hops on her...
Just say Balemtimes.  Just the one word and then it'll be over.  Just say Balemtimes.
... Balemtimes Day...
Phew!  Made it. Still laughing.  What will happen now?  Is this over?  I think it's over.

Anyway, that's a little glimpse into my thought process as I remember it.  Yes, the corpsing subsided soon after that, and the scene carried on, more or less as normal.

Tuesday, January 7

Monday, January 6

These Are The Movies I Saw 2013, The Year Of Their Release

These are movies I liked and would recommend to others:

This is The End

John Dies At The End

Place Beyond the Pines

Machete Kills

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Kon Tiki

The Iceman

A Hijacking

The Heat

Prisoners

Gravity

Elysium

 

These are movies that I liked but wouldn't necessarily recommend to others:

Mama

Identity Thief

The Call

Burt Wonderstone

Olympus Has Fallen

42

Man of Steel

World War Z

White House Down

The Lone Ranger

Pacific Rim

The Wolverine

American Hustle

The World’s End

Riddick

Captain Phillips

Rush

Parker

 

These are movies that I watched but didn't impact me very much:

I’m So Excited

Saving Mr. Banks

 

This is a movie I hated, so much:

Iron Man 3

 

These are movies I started to watch, but because they were so awful and/or boring, I stopped watching them:

The Purge

Movie 43



Thursday, August 8

Make 'Em Laugh

Today Plinky asks me why I started writing, and is that still why I write.

I don't really recall *when* I started writing, but my goal, I would say, was, and still is, to make people laugh (or at least smile). I'd like to think I have a pretty good success rate.

Except, you know, for this bit of writing that you're reading now.

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Tuesday, August 6

He's My Son He Is

Today Plinky's prompt to write something says: Tell someone you're proud of just how proud you are.



So, I'll do that now. And I'll tell my son Cameron how I am proud of him, hopefully without getting all mushy and embarrassing and "Geez, Dad, I didn't really need people to read that" and stuff.



I could go on about how you're a smart, level-headed, responsible young person, funny and inventive, and strong-willed and opinionated, and junk like that, but instead, I want to focus on how you seem to be your own person - you don't seem to be very concerned with trends and expectations and perceptions. You're comfortable being, and discovering, yourself, and I'm pretty proud of you for that.

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Monday, August 5

From Purgatory to Heaven - the way it *should* work

Sunday morning I had a revelation. I figured out how Purgatory should work. This is, I suppose, only valid for Catholics, since they're the Purgatory believers - but it should be implemented right across the board, imo.


It involves paperwork.


So, okay, you die.  Your soul goes to Purgatory - a solitary room, white with no adornations of any kind. White table, white straight-back chair. Comfortable enough, but very antiseptic and uninspiring.  You are all by yourself. 


On the table is a stack of white papers and a pencil and an eraser.  And a pencil sharpener.  You are instructed to list everything and everyone and anything and anyone that you would like to see and experience for the rest of eternity while in Heaven.  People from your past that you'd like to see; Memories you'd like to keep; Things you'd like to do and/or try that you never got to when you were alive; etc. 


It is suggested that you be as specific as possible with each item.  And it is suggested that you be absolutely thorough, because once your list is compiled, it cannot be altered.


Basically, once your list is completed to your satisfaction, you sign off on it, hand it over, and then you are transported to Heaven, where the things on your list are available to you, whenever you want them, as often as you want them.


Some people will spend a long, long time (maybe forever)  working on their lists, obsessing and making sure they don't miss out on anything.  Others may think they will be content with just a few basics, more eager to move on to their reward.


This is, I think, an interesting approach, and puts the onus on each individual.


Does anyone see any flaws or improvements that should be addressed before I present this to the Powers That Be?


 



Friday, August 2

From A to Z

"Anyone want to go to The Exhibition?" Terry asked the room.

Beanie wrinkled her nose at the memory of her last time there.

"Can we maybe NOT go to The Exhibition this year?" she replied. "Don't feel like getting my clothes dry-cleaned from all the vomit again, thanks."

Everyone but Gaston glanced away from Beanie, not able to look her in the eye. For maybe ten seconds there was silence, as they each remembered their own complicity in "The Great Exhibition Vomitician", as the event had since been dubbed.

Gaston, who wasn't part of the group last year, looked around at the suddenly sullen faces and broke the silence. "How did you get vomit on your clothes at The Exhibition, Beanie?"

"I don't want to talk about it. Just suffice to say we're not ever going on The Zipper ever again!"

"Kevin hasn't been the same since," said Terry.

"Look," yelled Kevin, "just because a guy vomits and pisses himself AND shits his pants all at the same time, it doesn't make him a bad guy!"

More silence.

"Now I really need to know what happened," said Gaston.

"Okay," sighed Terry.

"Please, no, Terry," pleaded Beanie. "Quiet. Really."

She looked quite serious.

Terry, however, had made his decision. Undeterred, he relayed the story of how everyone who was in their compartment of The Zipper, all threw up in unison, on Beanie mostly, as a result of the smell after Kevin had pissed and shit his pants in fear.

"Vomit!" laughed Gaston. "Who'd'a thunk you guys had such weak stomachs!"

Xerxes, the foreign-exchange student, who, up until this point, had remained quiet and unassuming, in the corner, finally spoke up.

"You should smell MY home town! Zipper-puke all the time!"


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Wednesday, July 31

I, Too, Am an Arthole!!

Some things I can't wrap my brain around.  I find it hard, for example, to imagine people wanting to pay money to see/hear me perform music and songs - especially songs and music I create.  The very idea of me singing in front of people (as myself, not as a character in a play or sketch) weakens me.  Actually doing so has made me panicked and uncertain.


Why, I wonder.


I remember one time at Pat's Rose & Grey, years ago, David Ward (from Island Media Arts Co-Op fame) asked me why I didn't try to direct films (at that time, the medium was still primarily film, not video), and I replied "Because I don't have anything that I want to say right now".


I think that's a large part of my problem - the idea I have that, in certain mediums, I need "something to say".


I have the belief, it seems, that songwriting/performing, filmmaking, and creating art, should require you to do it because you are trying to say something, trying to express something. Yet the same notion doesn't exist for me when it comes to acting, or performing improv (notice that I separate the two) - I suppose because I am relatively at ease doing that - and I believe I'm good at it, perhaps, and I believe I am "saying something" (at least some of the time), I don't have the same hangup when it comes to sketch comedy or similar performance and creation.


When it comes down to brass tacks, I guess the reason I do not consider myself a singer or songwriter is because I don't want to waste people's time with my frivolities.  Leave that to the grownups.


The same goes for art - only moreso.  Whereas I *can* envision a world where I do sing on stage in front of people, I simply cannot fathom myself as someone who creates art - paintings, sculptures, drawing, photography, abstracts, etc.   It is beyond me and my abilities.  Or it *should* be beyond me, perhaps is what I think.


I see lots of art that I like, where it is obvious that the artist has a clear point of view and a talent to express it. "That person is an artist" I think.  I also see art that I consider lazy, boring, unmotivated, pretentious - frivolous - and I think it's this - uninspired art and artists - that keeps me from even contemplating attempting something in that vein.  I don't want to create something where, were an alternate-universe version of myself were to see it, I would consider it frivolous and trite.


Which brings me to tonight.  Tonight, Arthole is opening in the Gallery at The Guild, and I have a piece in it.  Yes, a piece of art.


That damn David Stewart is to blame. And praise, I suppose.  A year ago, he basically forced me to confront my "singing in front of people" fear and bias by having my wife and me sing at his wedding ceremony.  Now, almost a year to the day later, he basically forced me to display "art" that I have created myself.


I like the way it turned out. I expect it will confound some people and I like that.  I expect some people will consider it frivolous and simple and stupid, but for me it is none of those things (well, maybe stupid).


 And now that it exists, I don't even care what an alternate-universe version of me would think of it.


David's objective in curating this Arthole project is to have the artists a) challenge themselves; b) challenge the viewer; and/or c) express or represent themselves as artists.


For a) I certainly challenged myself - even contemplating that I was worthy to be part of the project was the biggest challenge I faced.


For b) it's not really up to me to say whether viewers will be challenged - but I believe the potential to be challenged is definitely there.


For c) I think this piece absolutely represents me, as it is basically a non-descript container that contains hidden and unknown elements that possibly nobody will ever see.



Tuesday, February 12

Dealing With A Zombie Apocalypse, Part One

If The Walking Dead teaches us anything, it's this: during the initial stages of a zombie apocalypse, it's the zombies that pose the biggest threat to your life.  Later on, it's The Living (specifically: egomaniacal insane dictatorial zealots and their posses) who ruin life for each other.

Another thing it teaches us is this: spending any extended period on a farm is really boring.

A third thing is: you will probably go crazy.

Still, in those initial months before one entirely loses oneself in a miasma of hopelessness and despair, one must really do all one can to protect oneself from being devoured by zombies.  Here's one trick:

SECURING YOUR HOMESTEAD

First of all, find yourself (or your small group) a nice house with a nice yard, away from other live humans. Somewhat secluded, but not 'cabin in the woods' isolated.  Make sure it is empty of zombies.  Keep it well stocked with necessities (food and weapons, mostly).  Only go out, sporadically, to restock.

When the coast seems clear enough, carefully, go out and explore warehouses, packaging plants, any type of business that utilized these:

 

The roller tracks, not the box. Bring as many tracks as needed back to your home.  (The next step will take some time, but will be totally worth it.  This is a DAYTIME ONLY activity.  DO NOT WORK ON THIS AT NIGHT)  Set the roller tracks up on your lawn, tightly packed together and radiating outward on a declining plane (higher at the house, lower away from the house).  When finished, the entirety of your home will be surrounded by roller tracks, much lilke rays of sunshine eminating from the sun:

Once set up, this will keep zombies from accessing your home.  AND it will be hilarious!  Watch them constantly stumble and fall as they slip and slide on the rollers.  There is no way they can get up those rollers.

You might need to have one segment of track open so that you can come and go as you need. Or, for 100% security, dig a tunnel from the basement of the house, to a safe distance away.  Use that as your entry/exit path.  Or, set up a speaker system outside the house, a safe distance away from house and, when needed, play noises (yells and whoops, etc. "Hey you zombies, over here!" "Come and get me over here" etc - these can be prerecorded and on a loop) - this will cause the zombies who are congregated around your house to all leave and follow the noise, allowing you to leave in the opposite direction.  (if you don't have access to power for the speakers, set up a long fuse from your home to a pile of firecrackers that are situated away from your house - light them to create the noise diversion)

And there you have it: a perfectly secure homestead.

Next up:  The Demographics of the Perfect Survivors' Group



Monday, January 28

Here You Go, Hollywood: TV Show idea: Food of Job

My friend, Dave Stewart, and I went to lunch on Friday.  The temperature in the restaurant was very cold; we had to keep our coats on.  The experience (cold atmosphere + good food) caused us to come up with a horrible new reality show:  

The Food of Job

The basic premise is: contestants provide a list of their Top Favourite Foods or Meals of All Time. They are then forced to consume their favourite foods in terrible, terrible conditions.

"Trevon, you listed Grape Gatorade as your most enjoyed beverage.  Well, this week, we're flying you to Antartica where you'll undress down to your underwear, be dropped into a Kiddy Pool full of Grape Gatorade.  You must consume the entire pool full of Grape Gatorade before you get rescued, or before you freeze.  This is... The Food of Job!!"

"Tammy, you Love popcorn!!  You said it was your 2nd favourite snack food.  Get ready to... Pop To It!!  We're tying your hands behind your back and putting you in a human-sized popcorn popper.  It's up to you to catch all the popped popcorn in your mouth, while trying to avoid the melted butter and salt raining down on you.  This is... The Food of Job!!"

You get the idea, Hollywood.



Friday, November 9

testing testing

just testing something out, is all.



Tuesday, November 6

Rob's Review of Woody Allen's "Bananas"

I have decided to re-introduce myself to the cinematic works of Woody Allen. I'll be making my way through his directorial canon, in a more-or-less chronological progression, and, when the mood strikes me, or when I remember, I will offer up my "who the hell cares what you think" reviews.

I had recently (in the past couple of years) seen his first couple of directorial efforts (What's Up Tiger Lily, and Take The Money And Run), had mixed reactions to them, and decided to pass on reviewing them.

So, first up:  Bananas (1971)

 

Bananas is a slapstick comedy that, not surprisingly, derives most of its comedy from bits of slapstick.  Some of gags still hold up and are (and, I presume, always will be) funny, and more than some left me waiting for that particular gag to end.

My least favourite moments came during South America excursion, where the comedy was more "miss" than "hit".

I liked the ABC Wide World of Sports bookend, with a game Howard Cosell playing along (and cracking up during the final in-bed interview)

Laughed at a whole bunch of little moments, like Woody's face when he's being accosted by the toughies on the subway (one of which was a very young looking Sylvester Stallone!); the bit where he tries to set the right tone for his romantic interlude with Louise Lasser's character and ends up covered in talc; Woody as lawyer interviewing himself on the witness stand...

Louise Lasser was Dianne Keaton before there was a Dianne Keaton.

What i found most surprising:  there were some moments of actual, honest-to-goodness great acting, especially from Woody.  I always thought that his acting was underappreciated, and was surprised that there were some really nice moments in this broad, slapstick comedy.

So, not a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, but more than enough little snickering moments of comedy that hit their marks, and more than make up for the moments of misses.

 

 

 

 

 



Friday, July 27

Father Son Act Off - The Spit Take

The latest challenge in the Father Son Act Off series.  This time, Rob and Cameron compete to see who does the better spit take.
Have a look!


Tuesday, May 15

Rob's 7-Word Reviews of some IMAF Short Films

I went to Friday night's IMAF 2012 "Funny Ha Ha" screening at The Guild, in Charlottetown.  Actually, just didn't "go", but co-hosted with Graham Putnam.

I thought my hosting got off to a rough start when I said something about how the shorts we'll be seeing aren't necessarily funny... my goal was to point out how "funny" is such a personal thing, and what's funny to one isn't necessarily funny to others.  But I think it may have come out as me declaring that none of the videos were funny.  At least that's how my brain has since remembered the moment.  Probably wasn't quite like that.  My hosting for the start of Act Two seemed to be more smooth, I thought.

So, were the shorts funny?  Well, here's a 7 word review of each of them.

Uptown Charlottetown by Lennie MacPherson and Fraser MacAllum (PEI) - Too long. Edited like a rough draft.

Superscience by Joel MacKenzie (NS) - Sophomoric presentation, amateurish performances. Didn't even smile.

Home Sweet Hell, ep.1 (and ep.2 later on in the evening) by Fox Henderson (PEI): Dated spoof misses the mark. Terrible sound.

The Fourth Minute by Ross Vincent Moore (NFLD): Uninteresting script, uninspired. Two minutes too long.

Buzz Off by Renee Laprise (PEI): Tries way too hard to be funny.

Afghan by Pardis Parker (NS): Smart, interesting, sharp. A bit too long.

PEI Encyclopedia: Intelligence (and later : Fighting) by Dominique Girouard (PEI): Lowest comedic denominator; like cumming into Kleenex.

Goodbye Robot Army by Greg Jackson (NS): Looked good, but that's all. Predictable & long.

Dead Guy Sleeping (or The Quiet Guy) by Nils LIng (PEI): Pointless, predictable, perplexing. Unintersting script, unmotivated delivery.

The Wake by Andrew Winter (NFLD): Hated it. Unlikeable characters. Obvious, unfunny punchline.

Hurricane Harry by Neil Wiley and Richard DesRoches (PEI): A mess. And here's five more words.

Ken Fucks Up by Ruby Boutilier and Sarah Byrne (NS): Interesting idea, funny moments, a bit repetitive. 

Bunkerdown: A Friend For Dinner by Jason Rogerson (PEI): (disclosure: this is a Sketch22 video, and I was involved in the creation of it)  Cartoonish "Jerry" performance distracts from tone. Ambitious.

Was I in a bad mood that night?  Not very many positive reviews. I only smiled a handful of times and laughed only a couple of times.

I guess it's true: comedy is hard.



Friday, May 4

How To Make The Next Season of Survivor Awesome

I'm a big fan of Survivor.  However, I've been discouraged the past few seasons by the routine to the strategies: On Day One, a handful of players from each tribe commit to each other to be a strong, small alliance until the very end.  More and more, these alliances remain strong, and a result is that suspense and strategy about who might be voted out for any episode is pretty much non-existent.  When the contestants walk up to Tribal Council every week, we pretty much know (despite the producers' best efforts to create red-herring possibilities) who will be voted out.

When I heard about this season's "twist", that the contestants would all be sharing one beach, I was intrigued.  I thought it might make for some interesting cross-tribe secret alliances.  But, when the teams were divided by gender, that pretty much smothered any chance for cross-tribe alliances, since it pretty quickly became a Women's Tribe Against Men's Tribe situation.  That Women vs. Men vibe has maintained throughout the season, and as a result, once the numbers were in the women's favour during teh Individual Immunity portion of the season, there's been very little suspense episode to episode as who might get voted out.  We know/knew it'd be a man.  Maybe not *which* man, but it'd be a man.

Anyway, Survivor is still a great show to watch, but it is becoming a bit stagnated when it comes to surprising strategy.

So, I came up with what I think they should do next time to drastically increase the potential for surprises and scrambling by/for the contestants:

EPISODE ONE: Keep the idea of all contestants on one beach.  Day One, Jeff tells them that they are all sharing one camp, and that they'll be divided up into teams later on.

Let them all do what they usually do on Day One - try and scramble to create their small, strong alliances.  This will become much more interesting in these first few hours, because the players won't know what team they'll be on, so alliances will likely be more tenuous.

At the first Tribal Reward Challenge, Jeff informs them that they'll now be divided into two teams.  How they get divided doesn't really matter.  They get divided, are told the team names, and then compete for reward.  One team wins, one loses, and then they go back to camp.

Now that they've been divided, they'll begin to create what they think are more substantial mini-alliances with contestants from *their* team.

Onto the first Tribal Immunity Challenge... They compete as teams again, and the players from the losing team go to Tribal Council where one of them gets voted out of the game.  That's Episode One.

EPISODE TWO:  Bring them to Tribal Reward Challenge, and this is where the bomb gets dropped.  The teams from the last challenges are completely disbanded, and brand new teams are randomly created (must be random).  These two new teams will compete against each other in the next Reward and the next Immunity challenge.  Jeff informs them that this is the way it will continue - random new teams each round - until it's time to switch to Individual Immunity challenges.

They do the Reward Challenge, with these new teams.  Go back to camp and freak out as they realize the implications of the Always-Changing-Team-Members format.  Go to Immunity Challenge, and you might be competing against alliance members, and they might lose, and be voted out that night.... then your alliance is in shambles.  That's Episode Two

The subsequent episodes would continue in the same way:  Every week, they're divided up into new random teams - always switching up who you are competing with/against each time...

If they did this, it would totally change the way the contestants play the game in the first third of the season.  They'd still try and form alliances, but sometimes they'd be competing against people in their alliances, and there'd be more possibiltiy of people in one's alliance getting voted out when they're on the losing immunity challenge team.



Thursday, March 8

How I Would Have Improved This Week's "The Walking Dead"

I cannot count the number of times this season when, about 15 to 30 minutes into an episode of The Walking Dead, I vowed to stop watching the series.  I have been beyond frustrated with the season, ever since they got to that damn farm.  All they do on that farm is argue and debate and complain and whine.

Yet I am still watching. Still hoping that *the next scene* is when the series will become exciting and enjoyable again - only to have the next scene be two characters walking from the house to the camp and arguing with each other about something inconsequential.  There seems to be maybe 2 good (occasionally *great*) scenes per episode, and the rest is just awful.

I understand the characters are rather 2-dimensional (they are based on the comic book counterparts, after all), and I don't really have a problem with that.  2-dimensional characters can be entirely satisfactory if they are put into situations where something *real* is at stake.  But put 2-dimensional characters on a farm where they are relatively safe (*why* they are safe on this farm, I am not entirely sure of) and comfortable, and their problems get pretty shallow and insignificant pretty quick.

So, after 3 paragraphs of setup, I get to the point of this post - I am going to state how I would have improved this week's episode.

First, a quick recap of the episode - spoilers abound for anyone who hasn't seen it.

-we see Bow & Arrow Guy (I'm not good at remembering the names of the characters on this show), beating up the wayfaring stranger kid.  To get information out of him.  I don't know why the kid is withholding info, but he is - until he gets beat up enough to divulge that there's a group of about 30 guys in another group, and they're men of questionable morals.

-the kid of the group (who is a total pain in the ass this episode - made worse by his awful, awful acting) keeps showing up in scenes where he's told by everyone else not to be showing up in (why is nobody keeping an eye on this kid?).  He's ignorant and rebellious, and steals a pistol and goes walkabout until he comes across a walker who is stuck in the mud.  He throws rocks like a girl and, with Fake Stakes Brain (a syndrome I just invented where a character does something so ridiculous and stupid and so obviously wrong and out of character that it is done ONLY to create fake stakes), gets within touching distance of the walker, and almost gets deadened.  He leaves the walker alone and runs off.

-Everyone argues and debates and questions and wonders and debates some more about whether they should kill the wayfaring kid.  It is a foregone conclusion that they will kill him (psyche!!!), but still the whole episode is wasted on them discussing whether it should be done.  Dale, the only one who wants them to NOT kill the kid, walks off in a huff and ends up getting deadened by a walker (on this so-called supposedly *safe* farm? Huh?)  The kid sees that the walker is the foot-stuck-in-the-mud one he had come upon (and subsequently realeased from the mud), and by the end of the episode, blames himself, it is assumed.

-Sheriff can't go through with killing the wayfaring kid because the way the rebellious boy tells his dad to shoot Wayfarer, Dad is suddenly horrified and ashamed by what he was about to do.

That's about it... But let me emphasize how much time was spent this episode with them debating whether to kill or not to kill.

It was another intolerably long and argument-infested episode where really nothing much happened, except in that one scene where Dale died.

So, here's how I'd improve the episode (and the series):

- start with gun pointed at the head of the wayfaring kid, in the barn (we can allude, if we must, to the debates they've had about whether to kill him or not).  He's about to be shot.  In his panic, he divulges the info about the other gang.

-Dale comes in, pleading not to kill him - we get the whole argument (and the point it was trying to convey) over in one scene.  They refuse and Dale walks off, stating he'll not be a party to this (just like in the actual episode).

- Before Dale leaves, the rebellious kid shows up (through a line of dialogue we learn that he's not supposed to be there, and has been a pain in the ass today) and is sent to his room *where he stays for the rest of his time on the farm*.

-Sheriff shoots wayfaring kid. He is dead.  (If future episodes require the wayfarer *not* to be dead, then he doesn't get shot - but it's not because Sheriff can't do it, it's because they get side-tracked by the Dale Gets Attacked By Walker Situation).

- The walker kills Dale (just like in the actual episode - although I have issues about how that happened - how did the walker sneak up on Dale?). The group realizes that the farm is not safe, and they hastily pack and leave the farm. Some can choose to remain.  Who remains?  Any characters from the dozen or so on the farm who haven't spoken a line of dialogue in the past four episodes - I'm looking at you Black Guy and at you, Other Younger Male Guy Who Is Part of The Farm Family, and at you, Suicide Girl.

-The rest of the episdoe (about 20 minutes more, I figure) is about them adjusting to being back on the road again. 

-If we must (and only if there is a later payoff for the kid's guilt), we can see in flashback (while they're on the road), the rebellious kid coming across the walker and setting him free - the same one who killed Dale.

-Something exciting and future-plot-relevant happens on the road, as the final act of the episode, that makes us eager for what might happen next episode.