Friday, December 30, 2011

Oh, Durang!

I've taken roles in an upcoming production of two Christopher Durang one-act plays: "The Nature and Purpose of the Universe" and "Death Comes To Us All, Mary Agnes". This particular acting turn is going to present a lot of challenges to me. To begin with, I have to memorize conversations rather than extended monologues like I did in "Twelfth Night". Waiting for and giving cues is a fairly new experience for me, one that I had difficulty with during the final scene of "Twelfth Night".

Although I am playing the father figure in both of the plays, they are completely different characters. Steve in "The Nature and Purpose of the Universe" is aggressive and self absorbed while Herbert in "Death Comes To Us All, Mary Agnes" is passive and has been beaten down by life. Oh, and he has only one arm. The challenge here is to present myself in such a way as to ensure that the audience is seeing two different characters, not one actor in two roles.

The most difficult hurdle to get over is the fact that I have been having a hard time understanding the material. I've heard these one-acts described as a blistering commentary on the futility of everyday life, but I'm not seeing them that way. To me, it all reads like an extended improv where a series of outrageous events form together implausibly simply to move the plot along. That being said, I do find Durang's work humorous, but it's not insightful humor. Much of the laughs come from shock. Maybe that's the point. Maybe the audience is supposed to laugh at the absurdity of it all and shake their heads with disbelief, certain that such events could not possibly occur in real life. And yet they can and they do.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What It Left Behind

I'm happy to have had my old Saturn SL-1 hauled out of my driveway. Unfortunately, it left something behind. It looks like an ooze of creeping evil, but, really, it's a mixture of oil, coolant and water. It looks unsightly and has proven to be a real pain in the ass to get rid of. The mixture has the consistency of a milkshake and resists being washed off with conventional methods. I'm going to have to rent a power washer in order to get rid of it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Announcing: Snapdragon Stadium

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Snapdragon by Qualcomm for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

What's in a name? Shakespeare tells us that a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. And, while I agree with that, I also feel the need to point out that a name can convey certain things about the thing being named. It's easy to get excited about something if it has a catchy name. That's why people are so excited that, for 11 days this holiday season starting December 18th, Qualcomm Stadium will be renamed Snapdragon Stadium. It's not just a simple renaming. Qualcomm is going all out for this event. They're even temporarily replacing the Qualcomm corporate logo at the venue with the Snapdragon logo. It's going to look amazing. Snapdragon processors by Qualcomm are the digital brains inside mobile devices made

. Snapdragon processors can be found in devices made by 30 manufacturers including Samsung, LG, Nokia and HTC. The popular phones HTC Thunterbolt and HTC desire both use Snapdragon processors. This temporary renaming comes amidst a number of exciting events during the 11 day period. Snapdragon Stadium will host a Chargers Sunday night game against Baltimore as well as two college bowl games: the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (Dec. 21) and the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl (Dec. 28).

Visit Sponsor's Site

Monday, December 26, 2011

Watch Me Turn Into A Catfish

While cleaning out my house in order to prep it for some renovations, I happened upon a box full of CDs and DVDs. Among them was a CD containing a number of videos from my original Youtube channel. I had deleted that channel for reasons I will explain in another post. When I deleted it, I was sure that I had a backup of all of the movies on it. That backup disappeared sometime during the two years between deleting my old Youtube channel and starting up this website.

The video below is a response I made to an advertiser who posted a video of himself doing a magic trick where he turned himself into a catfish. The challenge was to see who could outdo that trick. I tried a more comedic approach. Have a look.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Santa Claus Question.

This is the first Christmas I have spent with my daughter since she revealed to me that she no longer believes in Santa Claus. In a way, I am relieved, because I hate lying to her, even about something as innocuous as Santa Claus. Besides, why should some imaginary fat guy with an elf fetish get all the credit?

My daughter asked me why adults felt the need to perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus. I was reminded of what my old friend Dave told my God-daughter when she discovered the truth about the Tooth Fairy. He said that parents made up the Tooth Fairy as a means to ease the pain children feel when they lose a tooth. I wondered if perhaps parents continue the tradition of Santa Claus in order to ease the pain of growing up. As children get older and become more aware of the evils that exist in this world, it's nice to be able to think that a kindly old man rewards good behavior, just because it's a nice thing to do.

Earlier this month, I took kiddo to the store to pick out a toy to donate to a local charity. I told her that it would find its way to a needy child who, without people like her, might not have a Christmas. As we dropped the toy off, I said to her "Now YOU are Santa Claus". And, for a few minutes, she believed again.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Pre-Christmas Adventure

I have been so busy with the new job and traveling and acting gigs that I haven't had a lot of time to hang out with Jason lately. So, when it turned out that we both had the day off yesterday, I invited Jason to help me with a little last minute Christmas shopping. We stopped at a gas station along the way in order to pick up some snacks. We were both delighted that Hostess fruit pies were available there because we have both become impossibly addicted to them. The gas station attendant didn't seem too happy to hear us pontificate about the superiority of Hostess fruit pies over all other fruit pies. In fact, the attendant didn't even bother to feign interest. I looked very seriously at him and said "Listen good, bucko. This advice may save your bowels one day."

Eventually, we had to find something more substantial to eat. We decided to try to find the Texas Road House. Thanks to Google Maps and my Droid Bionic, We eventually found it. However, I found myself wishing that Google Maps had an "avoid ghetto" option. We burst into the restaurant ready to have our fill of steak and potatoes. To our dismay, upon entering, we found that the roadhouse would not be open for another few hours. We settled on Hooters instead, which was a mistake because the talent there left quite a bit to be desired. It was all b-cups and bullet wounds. The food wasn't much better. The alcohol flowed like water though and we soon had our waitress collapsing in laughter at our witty banter.

We later scoured toys r us for a few last minute gifts for my daughter. No trip to the toy store is complete without us goofing around by messing with various toys. We probably went a little bit too far when we had a tricycle race down one of the main aisles.

I couldn't find what I was looking for at the toy store nor could I find it at the bookstore next door. We decided to try the mall. Once we got there, Jason made a beeline for the food court. He simply had to have bourbon chicken. The employee where he stopped at didn't even know what he was talking about.

"We'll show YOU," I said mockingly to the noodle-slinger. "We're going over here to your competitor!" We slid one kiosk over to another Asian food place. Jason proudly ordered some bourbon chicken. He was told that once again there was not any to be had. He was starting to get desperate. He was sure that the chicken gods were plotting against him. His suspicions would prove incorrect, for the Panda Express, one further kiosk over, did indeed have bourbon chicken, and all was well with Jason. We went back to the first to kiosk and ate some bourbon chicken in front of the slop-jockeys. "Mmmmmm! Now THIS is mall chicken done RIGHT!" I said as I savored the chicken in front of them. I then wondered aloud if bourbon chicken was named after the whiskey or after the Bourbons who ruled France. I found out later that the name is derived from the color of the sauce that is used to make it.

As we drove home, I couldn't help but think that the sort of adventure is the best thing about Christmas. christmas isn't about presents and cards and decorations. It's about spending time with friends and family, not because you have to, but because you want to.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Off To The Scrap Yard

My derelict Saturn SL-1 had been haunting my driveway for nearly a week while I tried to find a buyer for it. Various "donate your car" charities turned me down because the thing wouldn't run. I eventually found a scrap yard one town over that offered to take it off my hands but it wasn't willing to pay any money for it. I was determined to turn that husk of an automobile into some sort of beer money if it wasn't going to charity. Finally, the car dealership that sold me the Mustang offered to take the Saturn off of my hands for $50 provided that I could somehow get it into their lot. Being less than half a mile from the dealership, I figured that it should be possible to somehow push it there with a minimum of traffic disruption. Perhaps at 2am.

I discussed the matter with a few friends over some drinks Friday night. Putting the Saturn in neutral and towing it from someone's truck was considered and rejected due to safety concerns. Someone brought up the idea of putting the car onto a car trailer, but, it turned out that nobody knew of anyone who had one. We soon settled on the idea of just pushing the Saturn to the dealership. We'd push it through a number of public lots, thus avoiding the street for 95% of the journey. All we had to worry about was a small stretch of main street just in front of the dealership. At 2am, there would hardly be anyone on the road.

We adjourned back to my house and began to discuss which of us would push and who among us would be trusted to steer. I claimed that, since the car was mine, it was my honor to drive it off into the sunset. I likened it to having to shoot my own lame horse. Just as I sat in the driver's seat, my buddy Jim came rushing over. He had struck a deal with his brother-in-law who owns an auto-body shop. He would buy my Saturn SL-1 for $100 plus a case of beer. And he would even pick it up for me.

So, it was with a heavy heart that I watched them drive off with my Saturn on Sunday morning. That car and I had been through a lot together. Still, I like to think that, as its last act for me, it provided me with a little extra Christmas money as a thank you for 10 years of adventure.

Monday, December 19, 2011

An SL1-Memory

I'm on the road this week. I'm driving my Mustang around on this particular trip while my old Saturn SL-1 haunts my driveway waiting for the scrap yard to come and pick it up. While working to sell off the old SL-1 to the scrap yard, I was reminded of the many times that car got banged up over the 10 years that I had it. Below is a video of the damage done to the passenger side quarter panel back in January of 2009. It was eventually fixed good as new, but, at the time, it was quite a mess.

Friday, December 16, 2011

TommyMac Gets A New Ride

It may be fate. As my Saturn SL-1 was sitting lifeless in a puddle of it's own fluids on my driveway Monday morning, I had no choice but to walk my daughter to school. We ran through the grocery store parking lot and into the lot belonging to a car dealership. We weaved our way through the cars in the lot, pretending that we were horse rustlers, careful not to spook the herd. That's when I saw it. The alpha stallion took the form of a red Ford Mustang convertible. I smiled at my daughter and threw an imaginary lasso around it. Eight hours later, I drove it off the lot.

Aside from loving the way this car looks and how it handles, I have to say that I appreciate the little things the most. It's nice to have a car where the heater works, the radio gets more than two stations, the windshield wipers don't flake out and I don't have to constantly replace fluids. I've never been a "car" person, but owning this baby for a few days has gone a long way towards changing that. I'm already looking at a number of after-market improvements to make on it once it starts getting warmer out.

Meanwhile, I drive around, resisting the urge to put the top down in this 40 degree weather and wondering what that feeling is that I feel throughout my chest while I do so. After so many years of shame that came from driving an abject pos, this new feeling was unfamiliar. It's pride. And I think I deserve to have a little of it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cheap And Tacky Apartments

I snapped this ad near Wrigley Field in Chicago on a recent visit. It's creative advertising, for sure and perhaps the intention is to raise customer satisfaction by lowering expectations.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Heading For That Big Garage In The Sky

My car is currently sitting in a large puddle of its own oil and coolant on my driveway. That magnificent purple whelping dragon of a car got me home one last time before completely dying. I had just picked my daughter up from daycare and, when I put the car in gear, the engine shook so hard that it reverberated through the entire car. My daughter asked what the sound was, and I replied that it was the sound of the car being mortally wounded. As I drove away, I could see a trail of oil behind us in my rear-view mirror. I knew this was the end.

About this time two years ago, my car started to act like an old woman afflicted with severe health problems. It started burning oil and hesitating when shifting into the higher gears. I had it looked at and was told that I would be lucky for it to last another six months. It lasted another 18 months past that mechanic's prediction. It wasn't an easy two years, though. The car had a number of minor issues creep up. The driver's side windshield wiper seldom worked despite numerous mechanics looking at it. The driver's side seat belt sensor would intermittently go out, causing the seat belt light to blink on the dash. The RPM indicator would spontaneously cut out at highway speeds and would go into seizures once I killed the ignition.

Late last week, I noticed that the car was leaking coolant like a sieve,oil was leaking into the coolant reservoir and the whole mixture was leaking through the pressure cap. I had been prepared for this. I knew that it was indicative of either a blown head gasket or a cracked block. I did my best to keep the car running. I elected to keep my car trips to a minimum and filled the engine with coolant and oil before running it across town. It didn't do much good and it kept running hotter with each trip. When it finally gave out, it was still able to limp me home before giving out.

Had I been given a choice, a Saturn SL-1 wasn't something I would have bought for myself. I ended up saddled with it after my divorce while my ex got the "cool" car. Still, my Saturn was a good car and gave me ten years of dedicated service. I'm not usually one to personify inanimate objects, but if my Saturn had been a woman, I imagine that she would have been very much like the kindly old nanny who helped look after me when I was a child. Although she was obstinate and difficult to deal with, she always stuck by me, took care of me, and made sure I got home alright.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Muppets: A Review

One of my earliest memories is being at the home of my great-grandparents with my father and my siblings, drinking 7-Up from a glass bottle while watching The Muppet Show on their TV. I remember wondering why Kermit had moved from Sesame Street to The Muppet Show, but was pleased nonetheless with all of the zany comedy and musical numbers. Over the years, Kermit became a sort-of personal hero of mine. He's the long suffering, easily frustrated everyman. He's the underdog who may not always succeed in the end, but ends up better for having tried.

My daughter has grown up having to endure my Kermit impressions which usually involve goofy voice sketches or the spontaneous singing of "Rainbow Connection". Over the Thanksgiving break, we watched the first two seasons of The Muppet Show on DVD and kiddo seemed to enjoy it despite her initial confusion about the variety show format and Miss Piggy looking weird. It was enough to get her excited about the new movie and we were finally able to see it last weekend.

Now that Disney owns The Muppets, I was leery about the movie but still faced it with a cautious optimism. The movie is a metaphor for the state of The Muppet franchise itself: people have forgotten about them and a comeback would seem unlikely. Thankfully, the film is a love letter to the childhood of every Muppet fan out there, old and young alike and is also catchy enough to reel in new fans. Jason Segal's labor of love had me on the edge of tears several times. And, while the film has a few misfires and some pacing issues, it's still classic Muppets with catchy songs and goofy, self-referential humor. If I were to point out any negatives, it's that The Muppets spends a little too much time on the human protagonists and that Miss Piggy is so over-the-top that she seems like a parody of herself. The best part for me had to be the Kermit/Piggy duet of Rainbow Connection. My daughter looked over to me and exclaimed "That's a REAL song? I thought you were making it up for the joke!" (I always said that Rainbow Connection ticked me off because there really aren't that many songs about rainbows as Kermit claimed).

In short, The Muppets is a great movie for both old and new fans alike. What are you waiting for? Go out and see it. NOW.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I Didn't Even Catch Their Name

Whoever these people were, they were certainly persistent. They called a number of times during the hour looking for Mitchua Khan. I was busy the first time they called, and asked them to call back in a few days. Instead, they called back 15 minutes later. I didn't have time to deal with them, so I told them Mitchua was suffering from an acute glueteal cleft injury. They still called back. I finally had a few minutes to record the call. Have a listen.

Friday, December 2, 2011

At Least They're Honest

Telemarketers have been hitting the phones at work hard lately. My own office phone, which is usually silent, has received about a dozen calls over the last two weeks from various telemarketing firms. Usually, on the caller ID, the number comes up along with the city they are calling from. At worst, they come up as "BLOCKED".

A friend of mine had the call below waiting form him when he returned from the Thanksgiving holiday. Pay particular attention to the Caller ID name.