Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Happy End-of-the-Gregorian-Calendar-Year Festivities!

Hi. Been a while. Sorry.

Let me just get this out of the way real quick: Rex Grossman can hold onto my seventy dollars for a little while longer. At least until his next boo-boo makes him sit out another 80 percent of a season.

In the few weeks since my adventure in X-Treme Hardcore Novel Writing, not a whole lot has happened. If it had, I might have more to write about today. I am ashamed to say I have not really even begun my Christmas shopping this year. Mandy? She's all done. Figures. And of course the weather this week has gone all Arctic, which will make the actual shopping oh so much fun.

There is one bit of interesting news: Mandy and I have joined in on a new business venture. We (and a handful of close friends) are starting a theater company. Now, we attempted this about six or seven years ago, with HILARIOUS results. Really. Friendships were destroyed. But last night we had our first meeting for the School of Night, wherein we outlined a business plan for 2006, and we accomplished more in those three hours than we did in six months' worth of pointless meetings for the old Accidental Theatre Ensemble. I am still amazed at just how little we understood about what we were trying to do back then. This time, however, it's very different. Everyone involved is a little older, a little more mature, and we all have some genuine experience to bring to the table. Mandy is providing her graphic design expertise, and I am applying my writing and research skills to grant-writing and development.

In the more immediate future, my good friends Dan and Vicky get married in less than two weeks, and I am hard at work composing sound words of wisdom and encouragement in my role as officiant. For those of you who are curious to know how an average schmoe like myself can be given the awesome power of joining two people in holy matrimony, more information can be found through these guys here.

Anyway, if I get something exciting to mention in the next week and a half I'll post it here. If not, merry whatever and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bragging Rights (Part 2)

In my delirium and exuberance, I forgot to thank a couple of people without whose help I would not have reached my goal.

First, my writing buddy Dan made Mondays and Thursdays fun, and kept me motivated. Thanks, dude!

And second, my lovely wife Mandy was kind enough to leave me alone when I needed to plug in and get some typing done. Thanks, sweetie!

I feel like I just got an Oscar. Yeehah!

Bragging Rights

The Bears have won seven in a row, and their defense is being compared to the 1985 "Monsters of the Midway" defense that helped win the Super Bowl. I think such comparisons are a bit premature, but it's still a lot of fun to hear. I just hope our offense can keep up.


I am not writing about the Bears today. Today is a day to celebrate ...

... ME.

Why, you ask? Because (drumroll, please) I have successfully completed my 50,000 word novel for National Novel Writing Month! You will note that the icon I placed in the left-hand column has been changed from "Participant" to "Winner."


The next step is to print the whole damn thing out, stick it in a drawer and let it mellow for a month or two. Then I will take it out and read it. If I am completely embarrassed by what I find, it will go back in the drawer, never to see the light of day again. But, if I manage to remotely entertain myself, then I will break out the fine tools and begin the process of editing and rewriting.

But that is in the future. Today, we dance!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Just Checking In

Hey, everybody! Just wanted you all to know I haven't forgotten about you. I am at work right now, but as you can see it is the calm between storms, so here I am.

My participation in National Novel Writing Month is on track. I passed 10,000 words yesterday, which is pretty exciting. Week Two--the most difficult week of the month, according to NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty--officially begins on Tuesday. So far I'm having fun, and feeling pretty good about the work.

My awesome Halloween costume turned out to be a bust, as a result of me buying shitty makeup. Serves me right for being cheap. I was gonna be the Joker. I even had this cool idea of using rigid collodion (a special thing used for making fake scars) so I could make the Joker's smile look good and hideous. But alas, I ended up looking like a convention-attending dorkwad with cheap white and red makeup smeared all over my head. The green hair worked out pretty good, though. Anyway, maybe I'll be better-prepared next year, assuming I'm still on this retarded Batman kick.

In other news, the Chicago White Sox won the World Series. I don't know if you heard. That makes us better. Hah. I, unfortunately, am more of a Cubs fan than a Sox fan, but if you live on the North Side of Chicago it gets complicated. (On the South Side things are much simpler: You support the Sox and anyone who beats the Cubs. Days when the Sox win and the Cubs lose are called South Side Double-Headers.) We on the North Side are a little more liberal with our baseball support. We want the Cubs to win, and we also want the Sox to win, just not when they are playing the Cubs. If the unthinkable were to happen and the Cubs were to meet the Sox in the World Series, the North Side would call it a win-win situation. The South Side would call it Armageddon.

It was easy to root for the Sox this year anyway, because the Cubs roster has been filled with douchebags for the last few years.

But most important is that the Bears have won FOUR GAMES STRAIGHT! And they are in FIRST PLACE!!!! Granted, they are in first place in the NFC North, which almost doesn't count. But if the Lions, Vikings and Packers all keep sucking as bad as they are, we're a shoo-in for the playoffs. Yee-hah!

Eh, I gotta git back to work now. Storm's a-comin'.

Friday, October 28, 2005

No, Seriously, What is Going On?

The Chicago Tribune's review of Hamlet came out today. You can read it here. It just proves two things:

FIRST: I have no idea what's good and what isn't. Maybe I need to go finish college, or something.

SECOND: I might be a theatrical lucky charm. This is the third of the last four shows I've been in to be a critical success. Unfortunately for my ego I rarely get mentioned in the reviews, but perhaps my awesomeness is a more subtle and pervasive kind--the kind that seeps into the cracks and settles into the foundation. Kind of like mold spores, but, you know, cooler.

Also, I think I have my costume all planned out for Halloween. It's not that cool, but maybe (if I can figure out how) I'll post a picture or two.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


The gift I got Mandy for our anniversary was indeed a big hit. For those of you who asked, I got her an iPod. She got me two tickets to see one of my favorite bands, Dropkick Murphys. They're playing at the Riv next month. Sweet!

Plus, the Bears and the White Sox won on Sunday, so all the way around it was a good anniversary weekend.

So, there is a good chance that after next Monday I won't be posting much here for about a month. This is because my good friend Dan and I will be participating in the grueling endurance challenge known as National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. During the month of November participants in NaNoWriMo attempt to write fifty thousand words of a single story. The idea is not quality, but quantity. In theory, the quality part comes in after November, when you finish whatever you kick-started during the month, and then begin rewriting. I'll have to spend a few hours a day writing in order to meet this goal. (With occasional breaks for things like the Dropkick Murphys concert, or perhaps Thanksgiving. Oh, also, Bears games.) Dan and I are going to get together twice a week or so and write together (or rather, separately, but in the same room at the same time) as sort of a support group.

I am announcing my participation in NaNoWriMo on this blog on the advice of the contest's Bible, No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty. In it he suggests that participants inform their friends and loved ones of their goal, so that whenever they see them they will be asked about their progress, and when can people read it, and blah blah blah, as an attempt to shame the participant into getting back to work, just so they won't have to tell people they quit.

I figure I could use all the help I can get.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

O Happy Day!

At last, something that is NOT a complaint.

Today is my (and my lovely wife's) first wedding anniversary! My mother-in-law is throwing us a little family shindig today out in the 'burbs. I'm told we're even getting food from Maggiano's where we had our reception.

I hope Mandy likes the present I got her.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I Know Nothing About Good Theater

This, from the Chicago Reader:

* * * * *

HAMLET Though this production inaugurates a space for "artists working outside the traditional methodology of the text-based theater," director Blake Montgomery's elegant, clean-lined Hamlet is radical only in that it returns the play to its roots, stripping away centuries of convention and received wisdom. There is one departure from the text, however: the final scene is played first. This produces a kaleidoscope effect--one little twist, and all the pieces fall into a new pattern. A first-rate cast of eight, led by the extraordinary Christopher Johnson as Hamlet, performs on a bare stage in modern dress with only a change of coat or glasses to indicate a new character; between their scenes, the performers watch the action from either end of a runway-style stage. Hamlet may let ego interfere with duty, but this production never does; it keeps perfect faith with the ghost of Shakespeare. And of Joe Papp: all performances are free. Through 11/19: Fri-Sat 8 PM. Building Stage, 1044 W. Kinzie, 312-491-1369. --Kelly Kleiman

* * * * *

Yeah, that's the review of the show I was just complaining about in the previous post. We are listed as one of this week's Critics' Choices. On top of that, last night I saw a production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, who until last night was one of my least favorite playwrights. Now I have to go back and re-read all the stuff I said I hated, because I didn't realize just how funny the guy really was. Everyone always plays his characters as these monstrous founts of melodrama, when really they are normal people with normal problems, who, like characters in plays by Chekov, use humor to cover up their unhappiness.

I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Play's the Thing

This play I'm in? Maybe I mentioned it before? It's called Hamlet, by this dude named William Shakespeare. Maybe you've heard of it. I play the Ghost of Hamlet's Father, which is not to be confused with The Courtship of Eddie's Father. My show has far fewer moments of unvarnished terror.

So, yeah, I'm in a production of Hamlet, which was one of my life's ambitions. Actually, my ambition was to play the role of Hamlet, but you don't see too many two-hundred-eighty-pound Danish princes treading the boards. I am cool with this, however, because the dude playing Hamlet is a friend of mine, and he is fucking awesome. As a bonus, this other guy I know, Kelly, is playing Claudius, and he is freakin' brilliant.

Too bad this production totally blows.

Did I say that out loud?

I can't really say it blows, per se. People who have seen it, whose opinions I trust, and whom I think will not bullshit me, have told me they enjoyed the show, or at least enough of it to make the whole experience of watching it worthwhile. I suppose that is something. No reviews have been published yet, so there is no official statement on our show's quality, but I'll be sure and let y'all know when that comes down.

The problem is that we are just not having fun. At the very beginning of this whole thing we, the cast, were led to believe that we would be embarking on a unique theater experience, with a different take on the rehearsal process. I expected to do a lot of work based in physical theater. Also, a buzz-phrase frequently used by our director is "actor-creator," which led me to believe that I and the rest of the cast would have some say in the direction of the show, or at least be able to discuss what themes we felt our production should address.

But no. First off, there was no table-work. For those of you who don't know, table-work means the cast gets together and combs through the script to make sure everybody agrees on pronunciations and definitions and that sort of thing. It is also the beginning of the character work, where the actors begin to feel each other out, and with the director's guidance begin to get an idea of their characters' relationships. We did none of that. Worse, we were forbidden to have any discussions of any kind relating to any of this. Whenever such a discussion would begin, the director would get all flustered and say, "Why are we discussing this? I don't find this interesting."

I will admit that certain aspects of table work can be tedious, but that doesn't mean they are any less essential to the process. But alas, that essential step was left out. Instead, we went straight into the blocking. And we never left.

It took us almost two weeks to completely block every scene in the show. Unfortunately, scheduling issues made it necessary for us to work on the scenes out of order, so that on Day One we might work Scenes 3, 7 and 12, and on Day Two we might tackle Scenes 2, 5 and 14, depending on which actors were available. Normally this is a frustrating but not unexpected problem at the beginning of a rehearsal process. However, since our director came in with absolutely no pre-conceived plan for blocking, the process took longer than it normally should have, and, since there was no table work (or indeed, even a read-through of the script) we had no greater context in which to put any individual scene.

Finally we had worked on every scene in the script, and when we had all of the actors in the room at the same time we started going through the play in order. And everything plopped like a turd.

See, because of the way the stage is set up in this particular theater, where an actor exits after one scene determines where he must enter for his next. Alas, that was not taken into account even a little bit during those first two weeks of blocking rehearsals. So we had to start from scratch. The re-blocking took another week. By then most of us pretty much had our dialogue memorized, so we could start doing some real character work if only our director would allow it. But of course, he would not.

Scenes lasted an average of about three to four days. During that time the peformance of the scene would grow stale and uninteresting because we actors had nothing to back up what we were saying. We had little concept of our characters beyond what had elicited a vocal response from other people in the room during the running of scenes. We had no notion of our characters' relationships to the other characters. Essentially, we were eight actors performing eight different one-man shows on the same stage. It soon became apparent that our director would have to take steps to move us back in a productive direction. Unfortunately, he really only seemed to know one solution:

We re-blocked it.

Last Sunday was opening night. Saturday? We re-blocked some stuff. During the last week or so of rehearsals our director did finally start giving us some actual character-based notes, but in some ways it was too little too late. It was like trying to write a short story, but instead of actually writing, you just made an outline, and every time you got a new idea you stuck a Post-It Note on there.

At any rate, the show has finally opened, and while I am not particularly thrilled with the end result, it still has some watchable moments. I can at least say I am proud of my own contributions, and those of my friends. So that's something.

Friday, October 14, 2005


I have no idea what the above word means. It came up at work, by accident. I think it is worthy of being inserted into the English language provided a suitable definition can be found.

I am open to suggestions.

Also, a couple of people have asked me about linking to this blog. Hell, link away! The more the merrier.

I could use a nap.

And also, more money.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

And You Thought Columbus Day was Important

Or did you? I never really got the point of it. I mean, the guy was lost, and managed to find a place that had already been "found" by some twenty million Native Americans on two continents, not to mention a shitload of Vikings, and (if certain rumors are to be believed) even the Egyptians managed to swing by our neck of the woods a few times before old C.C. blundered his way over here.

But today we find an anniversary truly worth celebrating. Today we mark the end of oppression and tyranny, and the beginning of justice. For today, October 12, 2005, is the 146th anniversary of the Dissolution of Congress by His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Norton I.

Everybody understands Mickey Mouse. Few understand Hermann Hesse. Only a handful understood Albert Einstein. And nobody understood Emperor Norton.

Words to live by, my friends.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I'd Like Some Cheese With My Whine

So, I've got some stuff on my mind. Nothing major, really. The usual stuff people complain about in their blogs. Job issues, that sort of thing. But I realized that I have gone and done something really stupid, which limits my ability to vent the way I'd like.

I've gone and plastered my name and likeness all over this damn website.

Now, I have no real reason to assume that certain people about whom I would like to complain know about this blog, but really, how do I know that for sure? You guys remember that one chick? She called herself "The Washingtonienne" online, never published her own name, only used initials to refer to anyone else. She worked in some congressman's or senator's office, I believe, and she wrote about all of her crazy sexual escapades for the amusement of a couple of her friends from high school. But then, some journalist found it, and managed to track all of the clues in the blog to the source, and published it. The Washingtonienne, whose real name was Jessica Cutler, ended up losing her job. It was quite the little Beltway scandal.

So you can see why I hesitate to vent my frustrations the way I'd like to. Of course, I doubt any journalist would give a crap that I thought I was getting screwed over by the business I work for. And I doubt that I would be so fortunate as to receive a book deal and a spread in Playboy for my trouble.

But then, I haven't even STARTED whining about this play I'm in. Hoo boy. This one's a winner.

In other news, the Snizz's new album, "The ReBirth of Snizz," just dropped. I have heard it, and what can I say about it besides, "The Snizz"? Anyway, if you're interested in checking it out, I'm told that a quick e-mail to the Snizz's business partner, Walshington, I.C., who of course has nothing to do with me, will get you all hooked up.

So that's all the news that's fit to print. At least without getting me in too much trouble.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Look What I Can Do!

Sorry about that last post. It's been an unpleasant couple of weeks. But I'm feeling much better, now.

The whole Hurricane Katrina issue got me really down. I know, that is probably the shallowest, most trite thing anyone has said about it. But I don't really want to get into detail on it here, nor do I feel like making big political statements. I have strong opinions about a lot of stuff, but I'm not nearly as well-informed as I'd like to be. So I'm gonna leave the heavy political blogging to the people who do it well.

In the meantime, I'm gonna talk about stuff that makes me happy.

Some of you who have checked out my profile may have noticed one of my musical interests, the Snizz. The Snizz has a fascinating history, and I am proud to say that I played a small part in it. For those of you who have never heard the Snizz, well, all I can say is that you are missing out on some of the finest bad DJing in the land. He is really, truly awful, but he has raised his lack of talent to an art form all of its own.

Now, you too can follow the adventures of the Snizz at his very own website, The Weekly Snap.

Lastly, I just found out how to add links into the text of this blog. I hope it works. If you're curious how to do it, you can find a bunch of nifty HTML tips here.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Feelings of Insignificance

I haven't posted anything for a couple of weeks. No excuse for it, really. I just didn't have much to say. I was in a play that closed last weekend, and start rehearsals for another one next week. The Bears played their final preseason game last night. Their first play from scrimmage was a forty-seven-yard bomb from new starting quarterback Kyle Orton to wide receiver Mushin Muhammad. That was really the highlight of the game. The starters only played two series, and then it just got dull, dull, dull.

I had planned to write something brilliant about the plays I've been working on, and my whole theater hobby, which may or may not turn into a career, and blah blah blah. But I've done little this week other than watch the news, and I can't help but feel that anything I have to say about my life is just not that important right now. At the very least, it could wait a little while.

A few weeks after September 11, 2001, the Onion ran a headline that said something like, "America longs to care about stupid shit again." And I don't know what this says about me, but that pretty much sums up how I have felt about world affairs for the last four years. In the '90s, I was aware of politics and current events. I saw the headlines. I was reasonably well-informed. I knew that our government probably did some things that they should not do, and it was probably for the best that the general public didn't know about it. The worst thing anybody could say for certain, though, was that our President couldn't keep it in his pants. Hell, I know plenty of guys who can't keep it in their pants, and I never thought that alone made them bad people.

My point is that back then I didn't feel that the state of the world colored every aspect of my daily life. But I feel that way now. And I hate it. When I read about New Orleans, or Iraq, or Pat Robertson, or just about anything having anything to do with our current administration, I get a knot in my stomach and I can actually feel my brain tugging at itself, as if it is trying to force me to find something light and entertaining to look at. It's as though reading the daily news briefs on the Internet Movie Database will make the headlines in the Guardian a little less real.

So, to sum up, I just finished a play, which was good, and I'm starting a new one, on which the jury is still out. And the Bears' opening day is a week from this Sunday. Why should anyone care? I dunno. Maybe you'd just like something else to think about for a few minutes.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Rex Grossman Owes Me Seventy Bucks

Those of you who have clicked on my profile may have noticed that among my interests I included the Chicago Bears. I am a big football fan. I played back in junior high and high school, and I have been Bearing Down since I moved here. I am extremely fortunate to have a wife who enjoys the game as much as I do.

A year ago my friend Clayton managed to score two tickets to a preseason game against the 49ers. The Bears won, not that it matters in the preseason. We had fancy seats in the fancy section (the "Cadillac Club") which basically meant there were more opportunities to spend money than elsewhere in the stadium. To commemorate the momentous occasion, we made our way to the gift shop and threw down a big hairy shitload of money on jerseys. Clayton got himself a Mike Brown, I bought a Brian Urlacher for Mandy (my wife) and I got #8, starting quarterback Rex Grossman, Sexy Rexy, for myself. And all was right with the world.

The season started well. I was in a play at the time, but a number of cast members were also football fans, so a bunch of us got together at a bar near the theater every Sunday before our matinee to watch the first half. We also had a crappy television with awful reception in the theater's green room, and we would run offstage between scenes to get updates on the games. I seem to recall we lost the first game of the season in spite of a pretty fantastic showing, but then we beat Green Bay, which really was the pinnacle of the season. Then we played Minnesota. We should have won. Could have, in fact, but old Rex, in only the sixth starting game of his career, went down with a leg injury bad enough to sideline him for the rest of the season.

The rest is just depressing history. The Bears had one of the worst seasons in recent memory. We started three more quarterbacks, lost about half the starting lineup to injury, and managed to finish the season with a 5-12 record. The one shining light was the knowledge that next season, all of our starters would be healthy and ready to play.

And now, the punchline:

Last night, in the second preseason game of the 2005 season, Bears starting quarterback Rex Grossman BROKE HIS ANKLE in the second quarter, and will be out of the game for three to four months. Again, I am in a play, but this theater does not have a television in the green room, so I did not find out what had happened until this morning. Mandy is still in bed, and I can't wait to see her reaction to the news.

And to top it off, the Bears once again failed to pick up a veteran backup quarterback in the off-season, so we're stuck with one of the backups who sucked last year, and a guy out of college we just picked up in the draft. Granted, the draft guy, Kyle Orton, has looked pretty good so far this preseason, but he's been playing in the fourth quarter against other teams' third stringers, so we really don't know how good he is yet. But that doesn't matter. The first game of the season is still a month away, and I've already got a bad feeling about the whole thing.

And if Grossman doesn't manage to at least come back in November and finish the season on a high note, I am gonna start to feel like all those poor bastards stuck with Cade McNown jerseys.

You Bears fans know what I'm talking about.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Urban Heat Island

As some of you may have noticed, it's been a tad warmer than usual these past few weeks here in ... the world. Also, the number of hurricanes and tropical storms have almost doubled. But I'm sure it's nothing to be alarmed about. If there was a problem, our stalwart leaders in Washington, DC, would be on the case faster than--

Sorry, I couldn't keep that going any longer.

In the wake of this global-warming-induced drought, I learned a term I had never heard before: Urban heat island. An urban heat island occurs when there is not enough wind to disperse the heat energy absorbed by the asphalt and metal of large cities. These materials absorb the heat from the sun quickly during the day, but release that energy slowly overnight. If there is not sufficient air flow, the heat energy just accumulates, making conditions a little hotter every day. This is what happened here in Chicago in 1995, when a five-day heat wave killed almost 740 people.

When I first learned about this phenomenon I found, in my own self-centered way, that it made a decent metaphor for the way I handled my job. Until a few days ago, I worked in customer service for a company that specializes in foreign and independent films and documentaries. It sounds cool, but let me assure you it is not. It may have been cool once, back when it was the only place that did what it does, but now there is nothing my company provides that cannot be gotten faster and cheaper through Amazon.com. My company pretty much completely failed to keep up with the times, and now the only people who call are extremely pretentious film twats or people to old or too stupid to handle the Internet.

I sat at the same desk doing the same job for four years. I enjoyed it for a while because I dealt in movies, and how fun is that? But soon I learned that I didn't quite have the patience necessary to make this job truly enjoyable. The type of customers who called, combined with the shoddy way my company is run, made for a number of very stressful phone calls. Unfortunately, I was never able to just shrug off the frustration from one call gone sour before the phone would ring again. My patience was like the asphalt and metal of the city, and the customers would radiate heat that wouldn't begin to dissipate until the weekend. Occasionally, there would be deaths.

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

I suppose I got burned out. It reached the point where I felt my pulse elevate every time the phone would ring. I would slam the phone back into its cradle at the end of every call, no matter how the actual call went. Sometimes I would just stand up and announce to anyone within earshot that I had been sitting at this desk too long and I need to find another job before I killed someone.

For some strange reason, the managers decided it might be time for a transfer. They called me into a meeting to let me know that "some changes were coming down the pipeline." I would finish the week on the phones, then make a permanent switch over to our warehouse.

At first I was indignant. They gave me no choice in the matter. I stewed overnight, and was still simmering the next morning, until I completed my first phone call of the day. After slamming down the phone once again, I thought, Well, I don't have to talk to that asshole ever again.

I have been working in the warehouse for a week now. It is not air-conditioned. It involves a great deal of paperwork and heavy lifting. Occasionally trucks need to be unloaded. My dad will probably think I'm not living up to my potential, or some such thing. But I gotta tell ya, ever since I ended my last phone conversation with my last idiot customer, a cool breeze has been blowing, and my own personal heat wave is lifting. I think there will be more temperate days ahead.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Addendum to the Whole Moving Thing

To be fair, I should point out that I got off easy with the helping of the moving yesterday. My good friend Christa, who is in all ways a bad mammajamma, was there all day long. Oh, and I imagine Fraser and Jen also continued to participate, what with it being their apartment after all. I was lucky enough to have somewhere else I had to be.

Moving blows. I've done it a few times since I came to Chicago, and I always approach it with dread. However, there is an undeniable sense of accomplishment when the last box or piece of furniture comes out of the truck, gets humped up the stairs, and is deposited safe and sound inside the movers' new home.

Plus, Jen and Fraser are awesome people with a fantastic relationship. Their moving in together can do nothing but good for the future of humanity. So, it's all worth it in the end.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

We Will Serve No Wine Before ... We Move This Couch

Once on the El a girl I'd never seen before told me I looked like a young Orson Welles. As you can imagine, I was quite flattered. I mean, Orson Welles was cool as shit. Of course, I also heard a story that Welles was strapped into a girdle for all of the young-and-dashing scenes in Citizen Kane, and he gradually loosened it as the character aged, so that the immense, bloated figure who whispers "Rosebud" with his dying breath is Orson Welles closer to his natural girth. It would make sense. Remember when he did those wine commercials in the '70s? That dude was immense. So, when this girl told me on the train that I looked like Orson Welles, that may have been a very backhanded complement, especially since I have long since surpassed my ideal fighting weight.

(Just a warning: If you plan on reading this blog regularly, there is a good chance you are going to catch me whining about my weight a lot. I apologize in advance for my annoying Bridget Jones-like behavior.)

I am not a small man. I am about six feet tall, and weigh around two hundred ninety pounds. I have been told that I wear it well, whatever that means. Oddly enough, it hasn't hurt me finding acting jobs lately, but it does prevent me from getting the specific roles I'd like to play. I know, I have nobody to blame but myself. Hey, I tried Atkins, and got a kidney stone for my troubles. I'm open to suggestions provided they are low-budget, and don't require me to actually, you know, do anything. I hate, hate the gym. And I haven't run farther than a block since high school. I do ride a bike to work, which I enjoy immensely, but that's only good for about a third of the year, and it only takes me twenty minutes to get to work anyway, so I barely even break a sweat.

I did manage to break a sweat today, however, because I spent a couple of hours helping my friends Jen and Fraser move. Honestly, I don't know what came over me. They didn't ask me to come help. For some reason I just thought I ought to. I don't think I'm as smart as my parents keep telling me I am. After the fourth of fifth trip down one set of stairs and back up another, my lungs started to question my sanity.

"Dude," they said in unison, "you gotta warn us when you're gonna pull shit like this. Seriously, you haven't done any strenuous physical activity since October. Do you have any idea how sore you are gonna be in about four hours?" And boy, were they right. Jen dropped me off back at my place at about one o'clock this afternoon. It's pushing four now, and my shoulders and calves have turned into bricks. My neck pops every time I move my head.

I know what you are thinking: Chris, what exactly is the point of this blog entry? The answer is, none. It just amuses me that I can dump whatever I'm thinking onto my keyboard, and with a few clicks subject it to any poor bastard who stumbles across this site.

I have a show tonight (I'll probably tell you more about my illustrious theater career later), but I don't have to leave for another hour. So, I'm gonna kick back, toss on the new Dropkick Murphys album, and hope those boys from Boston can drown out the screams coming from my own arms and legs.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

George Lucas Deals a Crushing Blow to My Childhood

(Wherein I finally get around to doing what all good nerds with blogs do: Reviewing Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.)

As you may have guessed from the name of this site, I consider myself to be something of a nerd. I have a lengthy résumé to back this up: I play role-playing games, I enjoy science fiction and fantasy novels, the best movie I've seen in the past year is Batman Begins. That being said, I have a few qualities that count against my official nerd status, as well. I am a big fan of football (Bear Down!), and I am married to a woman who is quite hot.

Perhaps my greatest transgression from nerdhood (Nerddom? Nerdism?) is the fact that I did not see Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith until last night. And worst of all, I was disappointed.

No, not disappointed. Depressed.

Like, well, pretty much every American male in my demographic, I grew up on Star Wars. The original film was the first movie my parents ever took me to. I had a bazillion toys. Star Wars did not just spark my imagination; it made me realize there was such a thing as imagination, and gave me my first ideas of just what could be done with it. Of course I developed other passions over the course of my childhood (most notably Legos and G.I. Joe, and later baseball and football), but Star Wars is where it all began.

Part of the thrill, for me, was the back-story. Before Star Wars it did not occur to me that fictional characters might have had lives before the events of the story. (Please keep in mind I was three years old when the first Star Wars movie came out.) But my mind reeled at the notion that Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader knew each other, had been close friends, and had a falling-out so catastrophic that it led to a climactic duel brutal enough to put one in a permanent life-support suit and send the other into a twenty-year exile on a planet made of sand.

As the second and third films of the series appeared, more tantalizing details floated up from the mists of the past. Is there anyone who doesn't remember the first time they witnessed the jaw-dropping, pants-crapping moment when Vader told Luke they could fit into each other's genes? 'Cause that meant ... Darth Vader had sex! Probably with a chick!

Okay, that last bit actually didn't occur to me until a few years later. But still, I mean, who was Luke and Leia's mother? How did she fit into the story?

And then, of course, there is the whole history of the Empire, and the Rebellion, and the Clone Wars, and the extermination of the Jedi, and the Sith. These were all nebulous concepts, shelves to be filled in by my own imagination.

Did I stay up nights, wondering about the minute details of Darth and Obi-Wan's first duel? Or did I ponder the role Vader played in the Emperor's rise to power? Yeah, probably. I was that much of a dork. I don't really remember, though. What I do remember is a handful of images, drawn completely by my own brain that managed, incomplete though they were, to create an entire history of the universe George Lucas invented. And it was all for me. The fact that I got to fill in the blanks, that Lucas left pages for me to fill in with whatever my prepubescent imagination could think of, made the entire experience of Star Wars that much more personal for me.

Until now.

First off, let us briefly discuss the two previous "prequel" films, Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Most of us can agree that, a few interesting moments aside, these are not good movies. Rumors abound on the Internet of fan-edited versions of these films that are superior to the official studio edits. I'd give a kidney to see one of those. However, both of these movies can be dismissed as irrelevant, because neither of them addressed the specific plot points that I had dreamed about for the last twenty-odd years. Instead they focused on characters no one had heard of before (like Qui-Gon Jinn and Jar Jar Binks), or storylines that had not been introduced before (like the Trade Federation and Count Dooku's separatist movement). As a result, I was able to give them a pass (barely) because they were essentially new stories that took place in the same universe.

Of course, that meant that everything had to go into this, the last installment of the series. Frankly, the finished product could not come close to living up to the cloudy, faded pictures in my head.

Almost like adding insult to injury, the movie starts with probably the single most brilliant shot in the entire series. The camera moves from the opening scroll down to a massive ship--obviously an early version of a Star Destroyer. As we glide in closer to the ship, two small fighters appear, and the camera shifts to follow them as they zoom across the body of the larger vessel. The camera slides gracefully into an overhead shot, and we see the two fighters drop into the midst of a massive space battle taking place in the skies above the city-planet of Coruscant. We follow the fighters as they zip through the fight, and gradually the camera closes in on one of the small ships. Our point of view moves slowly to the front of the fighter. Glare from the sun obscures our vision for a moment, but then the fighter moves into the shadow of the planet. The glare disappears to reveal the pilot, Anakin Skywalker.

The whole sequence probably takes about a minute and a half, which doesn't sound like much until you consider it is one continuous shot. Absolutely brilliant.

After that, unfortunately, we get one letdown after another. You've heard all the usual complaints: Bad acting blah blah worse writing blah. To that I say: Meh. Neither the acting nor the writing is as bad as Clones, which is by far the worst of the bunch, or even Phantom. Which is not to say it is good, because it's not.

The scenes between Anakin (Hayden Christiansen) and Padmé (Natalie Portman) are not poorly written so much as over-written. If they would just shut up once in a while, we might take them seriously as lovers. In fact, the only scene in which I actually felt any spark between them in this movie (or any of the movies) takes place with the two characters in separate locations, saying nothing at all. And then C-3PO (Anthony Daniels, written in for no reason other than you can't have a Star Wars movie without this character) blunders in and ruins the moment.

Ian McDiarmid has probably the most enjoyable performance as Chancellor, and later Emperor, Palpatine. He seems to appreciate more than the other actors that the green-screen is a stage filled with scenery meant to be chewed upon. Unfortunately throwing the character into fight scenes decreased the authority and menace he exuded throughout the film.

My biggest complaint, however, would have to be the final duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan. This is the moment I had been waiting for my whole life. I was ... so ... disappointed. The problem lay in the editing. For reasons passing comprehension, Lucas opted to inter-cut an entirely pointless fight between the Emperor and Yoda with this scene. All I could think was, "What the hell?" Why would you do that? This is only the one moment that your entire film series has been working toward. Everything was focused on this one scene. Why would you cut it off at the knees by cutting over to a fight between an old man and a muppet? (Yeah, I know, Yoda's not a muppet anymore. My point is that while his crazy Tasmanian Devil fighting style was cool briefly in Episode II, now it's just silly.)

So, now I'm depressed. I realize now that the reason I put off seeing the movie for so long is that I wanted to avoid this exact feeling. I'm depressed because it's over, but mostly I'm depressed because I don't get to play make-believe anymore. I'll have to get a new hobby.

Change of Plans

All right, so, I pretty much dropped the ball with this whole blog thing. My plan was to document the amazing adventures of a few friends and myself as we dorked it up over role-playing games. It started off okay, and everyone involved really seemed to enjoy reading the prose-ification of the game sessions, but keeping up with it all proved to be more trouble than it was worth. Besides, we only managed about six game sessions before everyone's schedules got in the way and we just started postponing and postponing …

That being said, I'm still interested in this whole blog idea. All the cool kids are doing it. But for now, I think Nerdfest is gonna be just a normal, everyday, hey-everybody-come-read-about-my-boring-life kind of blog.

We'll see how it goes. Comments are always, always welcome.

For those of you who were actually interested in the game story, at some point in the near future I will post a little something to tie up a few loose ends.

Thanks for listening!