27 December 2007

Post Xmas

We've just arrived home after another night on the train, preceded by two nights in Italy, preceded by a previous night on the train. Things have steadily improved since that first night on the train, but the best night of our holidays will likely be tonight, at home sweet sweet home.

Italy is fantastic and visiting family is wonderful, but I now realize why the 'stressed-out anxiety of family holidays=hilarity' subgenre of film resonates with so many people: It's so nice to laugh when you're not involved. When you are involved, it's mostly just tiring. Especially if you have to sleep on a train on either side of those holidays.

Of course, it was also filled with drinks and laughter and presents and much delicious food, but mostly it's good to be home again.

Here's to the holidays!


21 December 2007

Urban Camo

Street art isn't all about 'getting up' or being seen. And I'm not talking Banksy anonymity here, I'm talking being seen without being seen, like the answer to a Zen koan. Urban camouflage: new and awesome ways to be unseen.

Including a tent shaped like a car cover, and a skirt that zips into a coke machine disguise. From WebUrbanist.


20 December 2007

No Military Base in Vicenza

There was a multi-day protest in the Northern Italian town of Vicenza against the development of a military installation known as 'Dal Molin'. The United States Military has been trying to build a new military base there, because they definitely need another one.

The efforts have been thwarted by activists. And just a few days ago a protest and march expected to attract 40,000 people was attended by double that amount. The massive march culminated in a square with speeches by, among others, playwright Dario Fo and 80 year old Catholic priest Don Gallo.

Read an excellent report about it on AfterDowningStreet. Of course US Citizens for Peace and Justice were among the ordinary people standing up for the cause of peace.

Nice to see that protest politics are alive and well, and the people can make their voices heard when 80,0000 strong join together to march, sing, and gather: that's what the holidays are about.

Bonus link.


Science Refuted!

It's so shitty that science has totally monopolized the concept of 'museum.' Particularly in America.

If American kids wanted to go somewhere to be fascinated by the marvels of nature and history they previously would've had to go and be brainwashed at someplace like the Museum of Natural History or the Smithsonian. Admittedly fascinating, science can also be very frustratingly short on 'Answers'.

There's so many points of view, papers, theories and telescopes, mathematical equations, and intense rational speculation based on ongoing empirical research and physical evidence that it all inevitably leads to a number of different (and evolving) ideas about the origin of planet Earth. And the origin and development of life on this planet. Yawn.

Fortunately the impressionable young now have the Creation Museum, where they can go see dinosaurs and zebras in the Garden of Eden hanging out with Adam and Eve.

Dinosaurs? Zebras?

Well, d'uh! How could millions of years separate these animals if God made them all in six days? You want answers, instead of all that speculation and reasoning goobledygook? The Creation Museum is for YOU!

In this very special place visitors can learn about these mega-awesome six days I would go so far as to call the best six days EVER! In these six days God whipped up light, dark, existence, planet Earth, and all life forms, before kicking back to take a well-deserved day off on Sunday.

Speaking of Sunday: Middle-American children and their ignorant parents should take pains not to be ignorant of the museum's schedule: do NOT plan on coming here on Sunday. Naturally Sunday will be spent in God's house, thanking him for the 40 day-and-night flood which gave us such awesome natural monuments as the Grand Canyon and Mt. Everest. Obviously those massive rock structures could only be formed during weeks of kick-ass rainstorms. The 'hydrology of instant canyon-making', conspicuously absent from other museums, finally gets its due here.

Like any good museum, the Creation Museum, and its parent organization Answers in Genesis, employ researchers. The Creation Museum's researchers bustle around behind the scenes, tackling such pressing questions as: "What kind of fruit did the snake offer to Eve?" And, "What form will The Rapture take?"

Best of all, this alternative museum doesn't suffer from the same funding problems known to plague other educational institutes. They managed to open the $27m complex without a penny of debt. Of course, you can't really put a price on this type of educational experience, but the good people have had to: just $20 a head.

I know, cheap right?

In fact, so compelling is this museum, and so affordable the price, that the Creation Museum has more than doubled attendance projections, vaulting it onto Time's 10 Biggest Religion Stories list.

With a massive hyper-popular exhibit charging $20 a pop you can be assured that Creationism can further validate and fund its position.

Floods of Cash!

God Bless America!

Earth=6,000 years old!


19 December 2007

Internet + Book + Crack

Long overdue spoof, see for yourself at 'the internet! Now in handy book form'

Apparently paper is a great way to enjoy web surfing. Now you know.


18 December 2007

The Power Force

What is a blog for, if not to toot my own horn, or to amplify the toots of others?

-toot toot-

I wrote a one act play this fall. Entitled 'The Power Force,' it is a misogynistic, imperfect, and hilarious snapshot of a publishing company. I drew on my inconsequential knowledge of the publishing world and coupled it with my years of inexperience as a playwright to produce a rough diamond I'm proud of.

My motivation for this act was partially the muse that lives in my brain, urging me on to ever greater heights of creative self-expression. The knowledge that if I completed it within one month I could enter the finished product in the American Theatre Company's 'One Act Playwriting Competition was also crucial.

I wrote. And rewrote. I finished. I entered. And my play won!

I am the winner of the ATC's Playwriting Competition 2007.

I now have the opportunity to direct this show, or find someone to direct it, and have it performed this April. For a real live audinece.

I also win a certificate. And the encouragement that official recognition offers one who cares what other people think.

Here's a sample:

ALICE: Sure. And this boyfriend… you’re going to need a place to hide out from him eventually, so it’s best you don’t live with him. But for now a place where you can have noisy, experimental sex without disturbing anybody will suffice. It’s a no-brainer really. Get a place on your own.

STACY: I guess you’re right.

ALICE: Of course I’m right. Truthfully though, do it. Get the studio. (Pause) How’s living at your aunts place? Tired of living out of your suitcase yet?

STACY: Yeah. Well, I do have a closet. But still, I don’t want to settle in out there; I didn’t move to the city so I could live in a distant suburb with people who are like my parents.

ALICE: No. You even lived at home while you were at college, didn’t you? (Stacy nods) It’s time for you to spread your wings.

STACY: Exactly, I can’t wait to get out of there. Plus it’ll be closer to work if I move to the city.

ALICE: Remember Stacy: this is isn’t work. It’s an internship.


16 December 2007

Lego Bombs!


15 December 2007

Racist Belgian Radio


Shit. In all my ranting about politics I forgot a particularly fucked up country with retards trying to run it. It's called Belgium and I live here. Belgium has gone over six months since their general election and have been unable to form a government. Nice work guys. It's called compromise. Why can't they get their shit together? Here's an idea...

The man responsible for bridging the linguistic divide was a Flemish man (with a French name) Yves Leterme. You think he made that task a little more difficult when a few months ago he publicly expressed the view that the French speaking Walloons were too lazy and/or dumb to learn Flemish?

Yeah, that probably didn't help. Not a great way to build consensus by insulting the entire population your supposed coalition partners represent (ie. their constituents). I realize you, dear reader, are thinking: "what a dumb thing to say."

But check this out:

just recently he compared the French-language state broadcaster RTBF to Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, the Rwandan radio station that stoked the racial hatred and played an instrumental role in the genocide of 1994!

How's that for completely and utterly out-of-fucking line! And also perhaps ill-advised. And not very politic. A little bit in poor taste. Perhaps borderline retarded. I'm not even sure what the RTBF did, but I am dead-certain it wasn't call out all French speaking Belgians to "exterminate the cockroaches."

That egregious and unfounded incendiary comment did very very little to mend those broken fences. Nope. Some call it lunacy.

The countdown to a government continues, and with these types of completely mental jerk-offs you can bet it'll be a long wait still.

Go Belgium!!


Hot Hip Hop in The BRX

After the fantastic time I had at the soso/DJ Flip Show a couple of weeks ago I'm thinking Brussels could really use more of this. I think us Bruxellois/Brusselaars should get DJ Flip to come back with Bay Area awesomeness Prozack Turner and the Foreign Legion. I'm gonna work on making it happen for their spring tour. In fact, I already demanded it. Try it.
Demand it!

Theoretically that 'demanding' should help. If you're not convinced watch this video:



14 December 2007

Impromptu! Impro(v) Workshops SOLD OUT!

Well it's a full month before they're scheduled to begin and yet already the improv workshops I'll be giving through the American Theatre Company are sold right out. Some participant's come from the Amdram community in Brussels, but some others from I-don't-know-where. I'm quite looking forward to spending two consecutive, and rapidly approaching weekends elbow deep in some serious improv. As a bonus, the massive demand (200% subscription) has encouraged us organizers and presenters to schedule another go-around for June. Watch for it!

I also met last night with the good folks at Tightrope. We're looking at some collaborations and future projects in the near spring. These are both things I'm very excited about. Some acting, teaching, performing and collaborating. It's nice to have a new year approaching that's only got small elements of uncertainty on the fringes, but is mostly filled with good creative goodness.

I'm also looking for a video camera. For more creative goodness of a filmic nature. Just so you know.
Santa, I'm speaking to you.


Politics as usual

Let's just take a look back over what's been going on with some of the heads of state in the western world. Just sort of a quick look-over of some threads of interest.

Vladimir Putin held 'democratic elections' that were generally regarded as a poorly stage managed charade. When the people you hire to stuff ballot boxes complain to western media that they haven't been paid, it's a bad sign. It's almost as if he didn't really give a shit about the west's perception. Perfect, Russia further distancing itself from the west, under the direction of a shrewd, ruthless, incrdibly popular and feared politician. That's good news.

Not one to mince words, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, called the elections "neither free, nor fair, nor democratic." In an unusual sign of European solidarity, everybody's buddy and all-around keener Nicolas Sarkozy immediately telephoned Mr. Putin to say "right on brother!" Way to be united Europe. And way to stand up for democracy. Jackass.

Speaking of European Solidarity, Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of Britain. continues to show that his reputation for competence gained as finance minister and second-in-command for Tony Blair's three terms has not prepared him to be anything but a bumbling buffoon during his time at the helm.

I'll just skip the laundry list of debacles and scandals and misplays and get right to the latest gem. In an effort to distance himself from the ratification of the new EU Reform treaty, Brown showed up three hours late to the signing ceremony and signed it all by himself. After many of the other leaders had left(!)Thus drawing a not-unsubstantial amount of negative press and alienating himself from his continental allies. England the most euro-skeptic of nations, wants Europe to work for them, and the strategy appears to be: "let's deepen this rift by absenting ourselves from major discussions and events. Maybe that will increase our influence on policy!"

We'll see if that changes your rapidly developing reputation for incompetence, Mr Brown.

Speaking of incompetents. George W. Bush was recently forced to stand down from the sustained sabre-rattling he'd been engaged with against Iran, after the American spy agencies revealed that Iran had ceased trying to develop weapons grade uranium in 2004.

Where does he get his information from, if not the spy agencies whose sole raison d'etre is to gather intelligence to inform the government? Is it Jesus? Maybe Miss Beazley, his Scottish terrier? A magic 8-ball?

I don't know, I'd probably ask my gigantic, well-placed, network of spies before I started shooting my fucking mouth off about attacking a volatile country smack-dab in the middle of a region in deep, deep crisis thanks in no small part to my last invasion and subsequent occupation caused by faulty, false, and misleading information. But maybe that's why I'm not president of the UNITED FUCKING STATES OF AMERICA!!

Seriously. What's wrong with these people?


11 December 2007

Motion Picture Producers

The American Motion Picture and Television Producers have taken the information battle on their side of the writer's strike to the internet at www.amptp.com

A helpful excerpt from the FAQ Section:

What is the AMPTP?

The AMPTP, or Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, is a collection of kindly gentlemen who create and distribute all of your favorite screen-based entertainment. Did you like Snow White when you were a kid? The AMPTP made that. How do you feel about "American Idol," The Bourne Ultimatum and everything Will Smith has ever done? That's the AMPTP, too.

You're welcome.

What is this disagreement you have with the Writers Guild of America?
It boils down to a difference of opinion. They want us to pay them for their work, which would literally* bankrupt Hollywood and prevent us from creating these movies and television shows. We, on the other hand, want to keep making movies and television shows, so that people can be happy, and violent crime will fall.

* Not literally.

The damning evidence and persuasive argumentation counteracts the writers' absurd demands that they be paid for their work.

And all the lousy writers can do is (among other things) come up with is a collection of clever and compelling short films showing a world without writers.

Nice try guys.


08 December 2007

Regular Everyday Normal Guy

This is great: hot flow, slick hook and straight up keeping it real. Fo' real.

Check it.

Canadian hip hop and Canadian comedy are both so hot right now. Two of my loves collide and instead of fighting, decide to work together.


07 December 2007

Grizzly Holidays

Tomorrow I will wrestle a grizzly bear, and let him (or her) win, because that is the spirit of the holidays.

First I'll need to find a grizzly bear. One that is not hibernating, because hibernating bears are actually not that scary. However, if I do find a hibernating bear and wake him up, he will be seriously pissed. So much the better.

Failing that, I may have to settle for someone wearing a bear suit. If I'm lucky, the bear suit will have hard plastic claws. At least then I will sport some ferocious scratches. If I must wake this person up and force him into a bear suit he will surely be angry enough to attack.

Once suitably antagonized the bear will become blind with rage. Whether it is an actual bear, or a human in a bear suit 'blind rage' is a guaranteed response to bear-directed antagonism. Especially if aforementioned bear is antagonized from a sound sleep.

Then, as mentioned, I will let the bear win. With this single gesture of goodwill I expect to receive a mountain of presents and sympathy cards to keep me comfortable and loved during the holidays.


03 December 2007

Album Review: soso- 'Tinfoil on the windows'

It didn't take very long for this album to grow on me: only one listen, really. Since then I've been almost physically unable to not just press repeat when the album finishes. The simple melodies, captivating imagery and simple instrumentation keep it repeatably listenable.

soso is an MC from the flat and windy prairie town of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Though he may not match your perception of what a hip-hop MC should look or sound like, he perfectly matches the Canadian ideal of singer-songwriter. At once confessional and humourous, he is above all honest. The album is layered with lo-fi orchestral melodies (courtesy of fellow prairie musician Maybe Smith) over which he raps bittersweet images of nostalgia and angst. Recurring ideas of family and self-doubt permeate the album. And when soso switches from spoken-word style verse to haunting singing on the chorus one senses that the raw emotions might just need to come across in a frustrated scream thinly veiled as singing. There's no other vehicle.

On the second track "Company of Chairs" one gets a window into artistic frustration. The spare opening strums of an electric guitar give way to some frenetic drum programming. He goes on to explain "I've made promises that I knew I couldn't keep, and I've abused confidences and exhausted second chances, frittered away like a petty cash advances." The chorus is a reminder that he will "not look back on this fondly and reminisce."

The raw and confessional nature of this album translated into an interesting and unusual live hip hop performance. When soso came on his European tour he stopped in Brussels and I had the chance to enjoy, if not so much the local opening act, then certainly the main event. His tour DJ, DJ Flip, former scratch champion from Ireland, and himself, gave a stirring show for a very small crowd. The intimate nature of soso's work lends itself well to an intimate environment. At one point he ironically referred to one of his tracks as his "club anthem."

It's clear that the audience (all 15 of us) at the show on Tuesday 24 November weren't sure what to expect, but the disarming confidence he exuded on stage, as well as the extremely capable DJing of Flip provided us with a show worth remembering. If we were smart enough to pick up the album afterwards (as I was) then we can continue to enjoy. The hip-hop that soso is making these days only debatably qualifies as such, but it is definitely engaging.

'Tinfoil on the windows' is out now.


Adjectives & nods - life tips from Denny's

From notifbutwhen

My first experience with really understanding sales language came (as so many good things do) from Denny's®. I worked there for a misadventure-filled summer as I tried to, but consistently failed to be, a decent server.

In my training shifts I learned some valuable tips. Tips that have in fact become life lessons; nuggets of wisdom for which I had to suffer a summer at Denny's, but which you can have for free:

1. "The Sullivan Nod" This compulsory training video preceded "Safety is Job One!" and was followed by "Teamwork: there's still no 'I'." The video was hosted by an overly confident, avuncular cheeseball named Sullivan. He advocated nodding your head vigorously each time you offered a menu suggestion. This "encouraged" the diner to agree to that soup, or starter, or cup of coffee... eg.

Server to 'guest': "Would you like curly fries with your Moons Over My Hammy, sir?" (nodding like a bobblehead)

Customer: "Though I'm not sure I do, I feel strangely compelled to accept."

And so on...

Uncle Sullivan also helpfully provided a visual comparison of the tips one would be entitled to if, say, the customer orders a grilled cheese sandwich and a coke, as opposed to that same customer who has a soup, then sandwich with side Caesar salad and curly fries, and an apple pie with coffee for dessert.

As you can imagine the difference was staggering. Never mind the fact that Denny's clientele are not known to splash out on big tips, this furious nodding policy made sound economic sense. Just as applicable in real life, it served me well on more than one encounter with an attractive member of the opposite sex.

2. Lovingly drizzle sparkling adjectives into your elegant, persuasive, descriptions of menu items. The freshly ground descriptors will delicately zest up the exchange and encourage the oh-so-tender customer to help themselves to an oversized portion of heart-stoppingly delicious Denny's® cuisine.

This even involved a written test in which a server was required to cram as many adjectives as possible into a description of a given menu item. The minds eye can be a powerful tool: influenced properly it can increase your takehome pay up to 7%.

All of this is just lead-in to say I've just spent the weekend writing descriptive phrases for a cavalcade of Levi's® products, nodding my head the whole time. Its made me think about the persuasive effects of the written word, and the ability of language to frame our perceptions.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but a few well chosen words can be worth, oh I don't know, alot.