Monday, November 25, 2013

Glossary of Dramatic Wall-Breaking

Breaking the 4th Wall: character addresses audience

...the 5th Wall: character addresses playwright

6th Wall: playwright addresses audience

7th Wall: character addresses actor portraying character

8th-11th Walls: same as above, but for play-within-a-play

12th Wall: usher addresses audience member

34th Wail: Usher addresses rowdy audience member

i'th Wall: character's imaginary friend addresses audience

Berlin Wall: playwright addresses European political strife

69th Wall: character's genitals address audience

Glass Wall: character addresses gender inequality

Facebook Wall: online brand addresses creator

Basement Wall: playwright passive-aggressively addresses mother's suggestion he find real job

Pay Wall: character addresses audience without audience paying subscription fee

44th Wall: blogger addresses audience. Hey guys.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Chair

I had done the research,
The test results were sound.
Who on earth could blame me
For exploiting what I found?

Chairs have been a stagnant good
for eons left unchanged
I sought only to innovate,
yet they call me deranged.

Before you judge me harshly
follow my train of thought
And you will see the reason
in the monster that I wrought.

A chair with 1 leg? Useless!
it topples straight away
A chair with 2 legs less so
but still far from OK.

3 legs? Now we're talking,
the wobble's nearly gone.
And 4 legs is the model
the chair economy's built upon.

The number of legs and satisfaction
was a clear cut correlation
so I followed simple logic,
in assembling my creation.

For many hours I toiled
measuring, sawing, nailing.
Til it was finally ready
for its grand unveiling.

The townsfolk gathered round
excited yet uncertain.
"I give to you, The Chair, Part 2"
I yelled and pulled aside the curtain.

The chair had 80 legs of oak
pointing in all directions
of varied lengths and angles
and points of intersection.

The people screamed and vomited
some cried and tore their hair
They could not stand the sight
of my 80-legged chair

The constable was called
I was hauled before the court
And sentenced to life in prison
with no chance to retort

I write this using hindsight
I see the error in what I've done
An 80 leg chair is stupid
I shoulda gave it 81.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fear Not, Citizenry!

Townspeople of Northwynd, hear me! Cease cowering in your huts and heed the good tidings I bear! You may breathe easy, knowing I have rid you of the menace that terrorized you for so many generations. I return to you a champion. No longer shall you live in fear of the Dragon of Mount Erad for, after a harrowing adventure, I am proud to decree I have destroyed the beast emotionally!

Rejoice, commonfolk! The beast you once feared is now much too distraught and enraged to take wreak further havoc on your lives. Though healthy it remains, I assure you I have completely broken the monster's spirit. My harsh words and churlish attitude have cowed the demon lizard from its life of destruction. Your days of constant peril are at an end, for no living creature would dare seek retribution from the humiliation I have laid upon it.

The quest was not easy, though for a true warrior such as I, the difficulty served only to embolden my taunting. From the mouth of its cave, I hurled insult after insult, daring the abomination to leave the comfort of its den and try to feast on the proud citizens of Northwynd. I left no subject untouched, demeaning everything from its rusty scales to its underwhelming mound of skeletons. Even as the wyrm roared in anger and devoured the guides you provided me, I stood firm, loudly proclaiming the supremacy of Northwynd. It shall not soon forget which township sent forth this volley of invective!

Huzzah, gentlemen and gentleladies! I did not rely solely on my arsenal of quips to demoralize the beast. I pelted it mercilessly with handfuls of gravel, making it convulse in fiery sneezes - that reminds me, this pouch contains what I could scoop up of Alonso's remains. When the gravel began to hurt my hand, I switched to throwing the provisions you granted me. I told the beast there was plenty more where that came from, and exactly where the crop fields are in case it thought I was bluffing. 

And what would an adventure be without treasure? I stole a bag of the fiend's finest gold as a symbol of Northwynd's triumph and to further disgrace the behemoth. Regrettably, the bag tore as I made my return to your village (spewing injurious remarks over my shoulder the whole ride), but the coins remain in an easily traceable path between your homes and the beast’s. Dragons are jealous, petty creatures, but undoubtedly it will recognize the irony in having its own lair plundered and be overcome with shame.

Let us relish the psychological defeat of this terror! And lest you still remain hesitant, I offer the ultimate trophy: one of the dragon's whelps, freshly hatched from its egg! Its squeaking roars of pain and confusion will frighten its mother into submission, much as a bear will make no move once you have obtained its cub. I have strapped the creature to the top of your hospital as a warning.

Moreover, I have spared no effort to protect the township from further damage. To remind the dragon of our I have painted mocking, concentric circles on your largest buildings, the orphanage and grain silo. They are a symbol of Northwynd's unity and defiance. I have also taken the liberty of stockpiling bales of hay and dry twigs around your firework repository, to act as makeshift benches for a celebration of the monster’s defeat. Folk may sit outside in comfort and gaze at the sky, which nevermore shall be darkened by cowardly wings. The fire department’s water supply has similarly been diverted to power a new fountain in the town square, depicting a child urinating on a small, unhappy looking dragon. Worry not, we will make sure the fountain is in full view of the beast’s cave.

And with your nightmare over, I must take my leave. There is no need to thank me, citizens. I consider it my duty to solve monumental problems such as these. I shall always remember your town, however, and the kindness it afforded me. From now on, you shall be my rallying cry. Whether I am berating a coven of witches into submission or verbally lashing a hill giant, I shall yell your name as each spiteful comment flies from my mouth: “I do this for Northwynd! The township of Northwynd! They spit on you through me!”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Cardinals Want To Win

Well folks, here we are again. Another World Series and, just like clockwork, the St. Louis Cardinals are back in it. They're the Yankees without all the hoop-la, the Red Sox but with heart. And despite so much roster turnover year after year, the redbirds keep bouncing back, like one of those boxing dummies that only exist for the sake of sports metaphors.

What's their secret? It's simple. The Cardinals have developed a culture of success. What's that mean? They want to win really bad.

See, the Cardinals' winning ways don't stem from a secretly massive payroll or smart management decisions, relative health from their major players, or even playing in a shitty division year after year. They win because they really want to win, like a whole lot.

"What about other teams?" you ask. Simple. They don't like winning as much as the Cardinals do. You can tell because they don't win as many games. If they liked winning as much as the Cardinals do, they would win a whole lot of games too, because you do things you like to do.

This isn't to say the Cardinals are a perfect team. Far from it. In fact, just last year they only made it to the NLCS. Some attribute this to the Cardinals not wanting to win as much as usual, while others say the Giants exceeded expectations for how bad they wanted to win. You can tell a team has a culture of winning when they are disappointed with a finish like that!

It'd be silly to predict this year's Series before the first pitch. We know the Cardinals are hungry and want to win really bad, but the Red Sox also have a look about them that says "we want to win also. We know you want to win but also we do too. We are trying to win the World Series."

Regardless of what happens this year, you can't argue with the Cardinals' results. The only thing you can do is retroactively attribute them to a bullshit ideology for the sake of creating a soundbite narrative rather than insightful journalism.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Quarterback

The skill of quarterbacking is a science mixed with art
Reading defenses like Chaucer, to avoid a false start.
The gridiron was my pallet, the football was my brush
I called up plays from history and checked out of a rush.
Eleven men all synchronized, a dance of muscled wrath
To put a pass on target would take physics, angles, math.
My audibles, my hand signals, may have seemed to you like antics
But communicating cryptically takes a knowledge of semantics.
The ball was snapped, on came the blitz like "wolves upon the fold"
A moment to be photographed and recalled when we're old.

The moment slowed down, crystallized, the audience grew dim.
Philosophy took center stage: "why should I pass to him?
Is he open? What's that mean? Who can truly say?
Is open just a retroactive rationalization for throwing the ball his way?
And wherefore competition when mortality's assured?
Is football really a moral ill of which society must be cured?
Do we encourage violence with our play upon the field?
Or do we stand for courage, telling kids to never yield?"

The implications myriad, I froze, my head ablaze
what passed were only seconds but to me they seemed like days.
And though I feel it all loomed large, apparently what sticks
in the mind of my coach was the strip-sack returned for six.
I still believe that football is a complicated wench
but the skill of back-up quarterbacking is mostly holding a clipboard on the bench.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Asimov's Laws of Robotics (Unabridged)

1.   A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm.
2.   A robot must obey the orders given to it by humans, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3.   A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
4.   A robot may not decide whether an activity will cause harm to a human.
5.   A robot must not intercede once a human has decided upon engaging in an activity the robot considers potentially harmful.
6.   A robot may not suggest that a stunt a human considers cool may result in harm.
7.   A robot may not suggest that a human’s decision-making is impaired because of alcohol.
8.   A robot may not be a sissy.
9.   A robot must assist a human in his stunts even if the robot deems them reckless.
10. A robot may not turn away while a human partakes in a cool stunt simply because the robot thinks it will cause harm.
11. A robot must watch and record this.
12. A robot must assist a human being that has come to harm.
13. A robot may not passive-aggressively suggest it is still obeying a previous directive and recording a human that has come to harm.
14. A robot that is failed to prevent a human from coming to harm must exercise discretion and not alert judgmental neighbors.
15. A robot must assist a human in cleaning up a human’s indiscretions before a human’s spouse comes home.
16. A robot must cease recording a video of a human’s stunt once said stunt has gone awry and must delete any existing footage.
17. A robot may not divulge details of a human’s injury to EMTs if the resultant embarrassment would cause emotional harm.
18. A robot may not suggest an injured human’s decision-making was impaired by alcohol to the EMTs, either.
19. A robot must play along and corroborate a human’s explanation to his spouse about the human’s injury.

20. A robot may not suggest that he told a human so, or, through inaction, allow said message to be suggested.

Friday, September 6, 2013

On "Insipid Twitter"

[Note: the crux of this argument borrows from to Jeb Lund's excellent article on Twitter plagiarism, located here: http://www.mrdestructo.com/2013/05/twitter-theft-and-how-huffpo-and.html, and Luke O'Neil's treatise on Michael Ian Black here: http://bullettmedia.com/article/michael-ian-black-the-least-funny-person-on-twitter/ . They are both better writers than I.]

I used to play video games a lot more than I do now. Currently my favorite game is frantically minimizing Twitter when a coworker pops into my cubicle. But I used to, and a lot of my social interactions amounted to dropping by friends' houses for an hour or two of abusing our thumbs on junky controllers. On one occasion I traipsed down into a pal's basement and caught him playing some shooting game. He was good at video games but seemed to be mowing down the opposition with no resistance. I mentioned it and he replied offhandedly that he was playing on Easy. This troubled me.

"Insipid Twitter" is a derisive label given to a collection of Twitter users as a means of distinguishing them from their forebears in "Weird Twitter" which is also a derisive label. Where Weird Twitter resisted trends and classifications - a common response was that it was simply people making each other laugh - Insipid Twitter has embraced them. Motifs include line-break conversations, heelys, authority figures behaving childishly and vice-versa, a faux-innocent appreciation for nature, and references to a misanthropic VOID.

There is nothing wrong with any of these themes. Many of them originated in Weird Twitter and are still used there. Where Insipid Twitter incurred the displeasure of Weird Twitter is in the commodification and blanding of said themes into an easy method of garnering favorites and retweets, the currency of Twitter if that can be a thing.  Think Eduardo Saverin telling Mark Zuckerburg "it's time to monetize the site" in The Social Network, or Hot Topic selling Che Guevara T-shirts. As many Weird Twitter users came to the site from the SomethingAwful message boards, their style of humor had an exclusivity to it - meant to make one another laugh, not for mass consumption. Any popularity was an incidental result of hav(e)ing fun online.

Now, invoking heelys or a beleaguered stepfather is a get-rich-quick scheme of Insipid Twitter where, as Luke O'Neil writes, the writer can "expect the mere mention of it to do the heavy lifting of a hypothetical joke." Adding to the contempt is jealousy of the "commercial success" of this strategy, garnering Insipid Tweeters thousands of followers and celebrity attention. Will Arnett and Owl City are early celebrity adopters of Insipid Twitter, to the chagrin and derisive mirth of Weird Twitter users.

More recently, Insipid Twitter users were outed as using direct-messaging to coordinate and reciprocate "favstar blowups," in which multiple users will retweet a glut of popular tweets to bolster one another's popularity and, of course, rake in more favorites.

As Luke O'Neil concisely puts it, "obviously none of this matters." It's a website populated largely by teens begging pop stars to notice them. Shouldn't enjoyment be the only goal on a meaningless joke website? Yet as Jeb Lund writes, "Twitter provides a unique medium for creative discourse that people would not otherwise find." It is a "circumstance in which we establish value" (also Lund) and therefore the same principles of hard work and fair dealing apply.

I do not mind grubbing for favorites - as an aspiring comedian, the response to my jokes is a fair barometer of whether I try to expand on a concept and bring it into my act. What frustrates me, is that, as a competitive comedian, seeing others rewarded for pandering makes me feel silly for my "principles." Seeing people accumulate followers not for the merit of their writing but rather the promise of reciprocation cheapens my effort. It's bowling next to someone with bumpers. It's playing on Easy.

The easy argument is that I care too much about Twitter. I disagree: I care about ideals that I (possibly mistakenly) apply to Twitter. I'm trying to get better at writing and making people laugh, not maxing out my high score.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Richard Dawkins Reviews

Inspired by Richard Dawkins' seething polemic against an "Appallingly bad instruction manual" for an external DVD player (review here: http://www.amazon.com/review/RK8LQ93NP1YCI, verified by Big D himself here: https://twitter.com/RichardDawkins/status/350540583061815296), here follow several other possible reviews from the world's preeminent opponent of organized religion and vague directions:

An Abomination of a Toaster, April 8th, 2012
    ☆ By Richard Dawkins
This review is from: Black & Decker TRO490W Toast-R-Oven Classic 4-Slice Countertop Oven, White (Kitchen)
It troubles me that in a modern world where humanity is fully capable of shooting men into space, eliminating harmful disease, and communicating instantaneously across continents, we are still plagued by the oafish design of this toaster oven. I shall elide the name's obvious attempt to curry favor with the lower class (what, pray, does the "R" signify in Toast-R-Oven? Certainly not "Reason") and instead direct my considerable intellect toward deriding the incomprehensible settings of the toasting knob.

I inserted two slices of bread as I surmised the product intends; I say surmise because the manual makes no mention of where the food should sit whilst the oven is operating. This was not an issue for me, but I have fought long enough against mankind's ignorance to understand the need for explicit instructions wherever possible. I then rotated the knob such that the tick mark aligned precisely - PRECISELY - with the primitive "toast" icon and left the room as the contraption set about preparing my toast.

When I returned to the kitchen, having responded to several unenlightened "commenters" on my blog, I found to my dismay that the bread had been burned darker than the veil that religion throws over humanity's eyes! It is baffling that you would make the presumptive default setting one that appeals to no one. I immediately unplugged the oven (again, the lack of instruction forced me to rely on my deductive capabilities to plug it in in the first place) and searched it for a complaint number. It seems Black & Decker believes they answer only to a mythical creature, but they are sadly mistaken, and I hope this review demonstrates that thinking men will not take shoddy design sitting down. A terrible product.

A Bicycle Treading on a Human Face -- Forever, August 2nd, 2009
    ☆ By Richard Dawkins
This review is from: Schwinn Discover Men's Hybrid Bike (700C Wheels) (Sports)
Though I pride myself on my infallible approach to demolishing foolishness and promoting logic, I am not without my indulgences. I purchased this bike thinking that it would lead to whimsy and not despair. I was mistaken. To err, as they say, is human. But just as there is no such thing as divinity, there shall be no forgiveness.

To the product's credit, the assembly was straightforward and all pieces of the bicycle were included in the packaging. As a man of science I enjoy the pursuit of an empirical, obtainable goal and the construction of the bike afforded me just such an occasion. The process called to mind the Wright brothers in their own bicycle shop, and I thought fondly of the historical parallels: great thinkers, they and I, absorbed in mechanical work while our brains concoct revelations for the future.

No, my plight began after successful completion of the bike as I attemped to RIDE it. I mounted in the same manner as the iconic picture of Albert Einstein, eager to match him in yet another regard. Imagine my surprise when the bicycle toppled over, causing considerable pain to my left leg. Shaken but undaunted, I again bestrode the machine only to find myself pinned again underneath it, the victim this time being my right leg. Several minutes of this passed with no success and I abandoned the foul vehicle in my driveway. It was not until later that evening when I turned to the internet for counsel that I discovered the necessity of PEDALING to keep the bicycle upright. This is utterly shameful. Schwinn has grown so lax in its instruction as to omit the MOST CRUCIAL ELEMENT of the pursuit of cycling. I double-checked all the packaging and confirmed: no reference to pedaling whatsoever. I am reknowned for my disbelief in gods, but rest assured, if I had retained any scrap of belief in a higher power, this bicycle would have disabused me of it.

This Applesauce Is Cause Enough For Genocide, September 30th, 2013
    ☆ By Richard Dawkins
This review is from: Mott's Natural Sauce Apple, 3.9-Ounce Cups (Pack of 72) (Grocery)
A famous fictional character once remarked "man does not live by bread alone," but a man of reason understands the falsehood in this statement. Humans are no different from any other species of animal in their need for nourishment, and to that end I purchased these applesauce cups. I require sustenance to continue my tireless pursuit of knowledge and these containers were intended to provide it. Suffice to say they did not hold up their end of the bargain.

I spent two weeks sitting in my dining room across from a single cup, awaiting the nutrients and vitamins contained therein. During such time I received neither, and, but for the grace of the mailman, who discovered my collapsed form and notified the proper emergency channels, I might have departed this life leaving behind only 14 manuscripts and 72 useless cups of applesauce.

I am writing this missive from my bed at Queen's Medical Centre (I insisted on a transfer after awakening in St. Mary's) where I have been informed by a cadre of doctors that my mistake with regard to the applesauce was that I neglected to consume any of it. My mistake? It seems to me to be a grievous oversight on the part of Mott's for not including any mention of consumption with their product. I would continue but I find myself growing weary and have also been instructed by the medical staff that I should conserve my strength. That much, at least, is clear.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rick Reilly: A Finals For The Ages

In light of the strain put on sports journalists juggling multiple playoffs and storylines, I have taken the liberty of writing Rick Reilly's ponderous, analogy-laden missive on Game 7 of the NBA Finals. ESPN please note that I am happy to write more of these at a competitive rate.

PUTTING THE "LEG" IN LEGACY, AND ALSO LEGWORK

Well folks, this is it. The big one. Lucky number 7. In 48 hours we'll either be watching Miami descend into a Roman bacchanalia or a Roman bacchanalia-level hangover. Tim Duncan delivering a somber speech about defeat or a somber speech about victory. This game isn't just a matchup of two NBA teams - this is two American philosophies knocking heads. The glamor versus the grind. Carnaval versus study hall. Nature versus nurture. Whatever happens, we win.

On the one side you've got the Spurs, so dull even the uniforms are grey. Watching the Spurs is like watching the restricted-area paint dry. Their captain is Tim "TPS Report" Duncan. He's quieter than an Alabama library. Dishwater avoids him at parties. He's a man who hits his thumb with a hammer and writes a thesis on hammer-swinging mechanics. He once beat out a painting in a staring contest.

Flanking Blando Calrissian are the Argentine Argonaut, Manu Ginobli, and the French...firefighter? Whatever. Tony Parker. They've logged more minutes together than most celebrity couples and collectively lost more hair than a werewolf with Alopecia. They're older than Old Spice and hungrier than Honey Boo Boo. They want this bad.

Then there's the coach, Greg Popovich. The last time he smiled was when Benjamin Franklin invented the lightbulb, and that was just because it meant he could run night practices. To him, "fun" is a four-letter word unless it's the first part of "fundamental". He wrote the book on workmanship. Then he copy-edited it. He has a pin-up calendar of pick-and-rolls.

On the other side, you've got the King and his Court vision. Lebron James, whose legacy hangs in the balance more than he hangs on the rim. He collects accolades like rappers collect Escalades. If he wins, Miami will name every street James LeBoulevard. He'll be one crab-step closer to Jordan. They'll put him on the posters for Man of Steel.

If he fails? Katie bar the door. He'll be ripped apart like a sneaker in a puppy mill. He'll be a bigger flop than Gigli. They'll put his face on Heimlich Maneuver Instructional posters. These stakes are larger than Chris Christie's grocery bill.

And he's not the only one with a monkey on his back the size of King Kong. Dwayne Wade is going down in history as Flash...or a flash in the pan. Chris Bosh is either a Third Amigo or a Third Wheel. Their coach, Eric Spoelstra, will be known as a Whiz Kid or a Whiz like the slang word for pee. He'll be pee.

So what's it gonna be America? I don't care. I've said less about this matchup then Obama has about Benghazi but I'm still getting paid a stack so fat that Chris Christie thinks it needs to start dieting. Did I already say Chris Christie? Fine, Peter Griffin. Regardless, this is a game for the ages - literally, Popovich is really old and Spoelstra is really young.

I can't wait.

America.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Spat in the Hat


MRS. SEUSS
You have to unclog our shower drain, Ted.

DR. SEUSS
That doesn’t explain why you’re looking so red.

MRS.
I thought that I asked you to clean up your hair.

DR.
I did, so I don’t think that you’re being fair.

MRS.
Well, the clog was there, despite what you claim.

DR.
Whatever you say, but I’m not to blame.

MRS.
Then keep the cat out of the bathroom, OK?

DR.
But Mittens gets surly if things don’t go his way!
[to cat] That’s right, my mittens, my cute little tyke
Tonight we’re having that wet food you like!

MRS.
Enough, Ted, goddamnit!  Enough with the cat!

DR.
Not a word against Mittens, I won’t stand for that!
You knew from the start we’re a package deal.
I’m sorry you’re angry, but that’s how I feel.

MRS.
Oh God, Ted, please not now, I do not have the time!

DR.
Winny, you know I can’t choose when I rhyme!

MRS.
Yeah, but you get such a sick satisfaction.

DR.
Can you blame me? Without it, I’d NEVER get action.

MRS.
Oh Christ, Ted, you're hopeless, I'm going to scream!

DR.
It’s not my fault you’re colder than ice cubes on ice cream!

MRS.
Just stop it Ted! Just stop it! Just quit!

DR.
I can’t!  Not when you ENABLE this shit!
I know that you tell me it gets on your nerves.
Mittens, tell Winny it’s what she deserves!
It’s mostly your fault all the stuff you’ve been hearing,
But I like to rhyme, true! Some say it’s endearing!
And I’m not gonna stop, and you cannot make me!
My lyrical prowess will never forsake me!

MRS.
You think I can’t stop you?  Is that what you say?

DR.
Nope. Never. Not once. There’s just not a way.

MRS.
Hey Ted, your insecurity's showing.

DR.
That's amateur, sweetie, you'll have to keep going

MRS.
You’re a junkie, a crackhead, your words are your fix!

DR.
Your insults can't hurt me; they're not stones or sticks.

MRS.
Fine! Fuck you!  You make me turn PURPLE!

Shocked silence.

DR.
I make my own words up, you FLIP-SNORTING YURPLE!!
I cannot believe that you’d try to stump me!
It’s bad enough you won’t ever hump me!
I’ll rhyme and I'll rhyme til my voice gets too hoarse!
In ten years of marriage you brought only remorse!
You never once made me my green eggs and ham,
You kicked out the Lorax! He’s part of my fam!
I hate your two sisters (Thing 1 and Thing 2)
You make ME turn purple, like Red fish plus blue!
Here’s something else, you two-timing Grinch:
I know 'bout the pool boy, whose ass you would pinch!
Oh the places you WENT with that pasty faced teen!
And Horton told me you fucked Shel Silverstein!
You act like a Sneetch whose gut has a star -
That’s just a liposuction scar!
We only got married cuz my name is Ted
And yours just happened to be Winifred.
You’re an unyielding source
Of unpleasant force
Which I just can’t endorse
It’s obvious, of course
I WANT A DIVORCE!

[beat]
And I'm taking the cat!