28 January 2011

My Brother Woke Up a Bear

Comedian Darren Millar acts out Photo: Kreddible Trout

I wrote a short story a couple of years ago about a guy who turns into a bear. It's pretty good. As I sometimes do with writing I'm proud of, I sent it to my brother Darren Millar, a very funny comedian and writer in his own right.

Last week Darren performed an adaptation of that story at Victoria's Big Rock Showdown.

He didn't win the $100, but his story and performance won the hearts of the attendees.

Click through for a short excerpt from the story. It's not the adaptation of course, for that you'll have to see it live.

Consciousness lifts me into an irritable haze. Light and pain spasm in my head, my guts are roiling fire, brimstone and hunger in my belly. I struggle for a moment to open my eyes. Can't. My eyelids are glued shut with crust. Heroically I push them on.

Man, I am tired. Exhausted. And dizzy. And hungry. As I stretch and yawn I feel an overwhelming craving for salmon. Or rabbit. Or berries. Wha- where am I? This isn’t my bedroom! This isn’t my bed! These aren’t my furry arms, or my beclawed hands – Oh Jesus Christ, I exclaim in my mind: I’m a monster. Some sort of giant furry beast. Or maybe a werewolf... maybe it’s a full moon.

Nope. That’s not it. I lumber to my feet in a panic, and that’s when it hits me: I’m a bear. A fucking bear! Fuck! Panic hits me like a bee sting on the nose.

My second thought is more upbeat: this is awesome! This is totally bad-ass! An image of me rampaging through the streets of Baltimore flashes through my mind. The next instant a rush of conflicting ideas crowd my hungover, bear-like brain.

Desperate for something to keep me from puking, I focus on my surroundings. I realize this isn’t my bedroom, or a park bench; it's a facsimile of wilderness. I’m in the bear habitat at the Baltimore Zoo! It was just on Sunday I took my nephew here. That was a good day. He really liked the monkeys. Usually he cries at least once when we spend the day together, but not Sunday. Shit, that was just what, well last night was highball Wednesday...three days ago. I hadn’t been to the zoo in years, and then all of a sudden – twice in one week. Once as a person and once as a fucking bear!

The zoo looks a lot different from behind the bars. I throw my head back and a huge roar blasts from my massive, muscular jaws.

Having emitted a pleasantly satisfying roar, I take a better look around my environment. I can clearly take stock of my situation: a cage. But a nice cage, much bigger than my apartment. Like a giant terrace. And hey! A pool. My new place has a pool. This is the big-time. I lumber up to a four-legged stance, which is more comfortable as a bear than as a human. I amble out of the cave entrance and rub my belly on the artificial stump to the right of my cave opening. I believe the correct term is ‘mouth’, as in ‘cave mouth’, but at this point, who gives a fuck?

I use my massive neck to point my impressive snout into the air. The sky is newspaper-ink gray. It's early morning. I guess I’m not hibernating. Do bears even do that anymore? Did they ever? Is it possible to sleep for months at a time? I hope so; I feel like shit.

Wait. Back up. What happened last night? Last thing I remember I’m buying a last round of shots at Madison’s. Then there’s a blackout. Next thing I know I’m here. A bear.

Hold up, what’s 7 x 6? 42.


I’m a bear that can do math. I’m going to be rich! The richest bear in all of the animal kingdom! If I could just get out of this cage.


24 January 2011

Improvathon – not heroes, but close


I went to London’s Improvathon for the second year in a row, only this time I not only watched an episode, I also joined in for an episode. All I can say is: it was too short a time watching and playing.

The improvathon concept (and some stalwart performances) has been imported from Edmonton, home of the Die Nasty improvised soap opera.

The scenario of this year's event was a dance competition at the fictitious and legendary Studio 50, run by Andy Warhol. And from that premise, all sorts of funky madness unfolded.

I joined in for Episode 22 as Billy Spearwood, a golly-gee smalltown boy with bigcity dance dreams. It was a blast, and involved a lot of dancing. In fact, my part was mostly just dancing.

But I was amazed by the concentration of the exhausted cast, and the ability of the shattered and sleep-deprived to be not just lucid, but compelling and funny. And friendly.

It also refired my own brain on the idea of improv endurance, inspired by the shades of brilliance that can colour overtired imaginations.

Marathon improv is something I'm keen to have another go-round on. Although just my proximity to that many super-pooped people meant I myself felt a little out-of-sorts and dazed afterwards. I wish I'd pushed it that much further.

I also regret that I left as they were ramping up towards the final push. I have it on good authority that the storylines wrapped up in ways that were both hilarious and profoundly emotional.

These kudos go all the way around.


17 January 2011

Antarctic Whisky Comes Home, Leaves Again


Last year, five cases of 100-year-old Mackinlay whisky were discovered beneath the floorboards of explorer Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic hut. The temperatures there apparently keep it chilled, perfect conditions to store Whyte and Mackay's now-forgotten malt.

Now three bottles have been flown out of the southern hemisphere and back to Scotland on the private jet of billionaire owner, Vijay Mallya. Once triumphantly home, a few precious drops of the whisky will be meticulously tested in an attempt to reverse-engineer the recipe. Then it will all be flown back to Anarctica and stuck back under the floorboards of the hut, to remain there forevermore.

And nobody is going to try any - not even a drop. Nope.

Not even a teensy-tiny little sip of the perfectly-preserved hundred-year-old long-lost vintage left beneath the floorboards of the hut of revered Antarctic explorer and hero Shackleton.

Certainly not once it's in the hands of men who have devoted their lives to appreciating and understanding whisky. They are definitely just going to take a couple of scientific drops, reseal it right back up, and send the bottles back to Antarctica to be tucked back into the ice, as per the agreement.

I call bullshit: on the grounds of sheer implausibility, and also because I can't help but think that if Shackleton were put in that situation, he might put that fearless maverick spirit to work sampling some of that ancient hooch. And if those men want to show their respects, they'll do the same.


14 January 2011

How to Date Sea Captains

I've explored a lot of nautical issues recently: Life, Death ...and now Loneliness.

Being the captain of a ship means you're married to the sea; the occasional siren call of a mermaid is about all you're really able to hope for in terms of companionship.

Until now.

Say goodbye to the crushing loneliness of life at sea, and say hello to Sea Captain Date, a dating site that only has "Grade A, top-quality sea captains."

Click through to check out their promo video. It's pretty amazing.

I can't decide whether it's better if it's a hoax or real. But I think it's real, which is probably just slightly awesomer.

That's right, it's pronounced "Sea-Captain-Date-The-Fuck-Dot-Com."


07 January 2011

Enlightening Microlectures Next Week

Next week I'll be giving a lecture (of sorts) entitled Life and Death at Sea. It will be an ideal opportunity to: learn about the risks and rewards of tempting a watery grave; hear of the creatures real and imagined who populate Davy Jones Locker; and discover the full title of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Among other stuff.

These are things that I've not only been researching, but am prepared to educate the public on, possibly using a very authoritative and professorial tone. Or my pirate voice. Or both.

This edifying talk, is my contribution to the very cool Camden School of Enlightenment. An event that features microlectures, poems, stories, stand-up, and songs.

The next installment of the night (which occurs regularly on the second Tuesday of each odd-numbered month) is Tuesday, 11 January 2011.

Other smart and entertaining guests include Fran Isherwood, Jon Stone, and Racker Donnelly.

As always it will be at the Camden Head. And it's free. Be smart and come get enlightened.


04 January 2011

A Holiday of Sharing


If there’s one thing I’ve learned about people, it’s that they love a good whinge. Especially here in the UK, where complaining is considered a national pastime. The weather is a good go-to moaning topic, and with temperatures this week across the UK returning to sub-zero iciness, people are giddy with anticipation of great opportunities to let loose a stream of weather-related grumbles.

There are of course plenty of things to complain about: joblessness, homelessness, listlessness, the list goes on.

But, regardless of content, at the core of each of our mini-rants is the very human need to connect with other people; our desire to feel that the way that we feel about things – and by extension who we are – has an impact on them. We want empathy, sympathy, and outrage, but most of all, we want to matter.

Which is why I love cold and flu season. With all of the sniffling, sneezing and attendant traveling of germs from one sickly orifice into another, people finally start to truly communicate – even if it’s only through the medium of infectious diseases.

It may seem insignificant, but a single well-timed sneeze on the bus and you’re influencing literally dozens of other people in a very real way. Poking ex-lovers and friends-of-friends through the impersonal medium Facebook does not compare to the very primordial interface of germ transference via sweaty bus poles.

And, as a further minty vapo-rub on the chest cold of our alienation, having a fever and runny nose gives the people you’ve infected something to kvetch about.

And there’s nothing people love more than grousing about a very personal inconvenience. None of this, “I have a neighbour who had a four-hour sneezing fit!”, or “My Nan took so much cough syrup she hallucinated a scene from Inception,” or some other once-or-twice removed complaint. No. Thanks to you, this shit is now real – it happened to them!

What’s more, you’ve given them an infection that they, in turn, can also pass on. To friends, loved ones, strangers, and co-workers. Forget the Christmas Cuisanart or flop-eared puppy, the flu is the seasonal gift that truly keeps on giving.

I’m currently nursing a hodge-podge of flu-type symptoms: runny nose, head cold, and a deep chesty cough. Concurrently, I am trying to get as much time on public transit as I can, bravely putting myself out there into this cold and impersonal city.

What’s more, to anyone who doesn’t mind listening, I’ve got a stream of viral laments I’m more than happy to share with you. Whilst coughing in your face.

Pass it on.


03 January 2011

Colour Me Optimistic


I'm not making any judgment calls yet, but the above picture, depicting pencil crayons carved by artist Harwinder Singh Gill, seems a pretty good indication that 2011 is going to be a colourful year full of whimsical artistic accomplishments and some surprising uses of writing instruments.