Wednesday, January 31, 2007

This cryptic message is taped up in the stairwell at work. Everyone in the office wonders what this mysterious valuable thing could be. Whenever I see the sign I become half convinced that I may have lost something important that I've forgotten I even own.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I have a phone at my desk at work but it's not plugged in. I use my cell phone. I can't remember the last time I used a land line.

I was working on a project a while back that involved setting up a fake customer service phone line. Some of the paths callers could go down ended with the operator getting angry and hanging up. The angry hang-up is one of my favorite classic comedy bits. Hang up. Dial tone. It makes me laugh.

But we had to add the dial tone ourselves. People would be calling on cell phones, and the abrupt hang up just isn't as funny without the dial tone. So the audio actually included a fake hang up followed by a dial tone sound, and then it would really hang up on you.

The abrupt hang-up comedy bit is fast becoming obsolete. I think that's too bad.

Right? [Click. Dial tone.] Hello? Hello?

Monday, January 29, 2007

I'm just going to come out and admit it. I watch '1 VS 100.' And when I'm not home on a Friday night (which is often) I DVR it and watch it later. I enjoy the wall of 100 people, and as cheesy as it is, I enjoy that they will be lumped into groups like "six drag queens" and "nine morticians."

Last night, after reading an e-mail about my imminent death, I sat down to watch '1 VS 100.' About halfway through I thought, "Wait, that looks like a guy I went to college with. A lot like him. Hold on... his dad owned a mortuary. He was going to become a mortician, right? He's one of the morticians! That is him!"

Here he is, trying to taunt the contestant into trying one more question.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I received the following e-mail today:

"Yeah, so I don't know you, other than your blog & [an improv message board], although I think I once met you drunk at a party. So this is going to be weird. Really weird. Sorry.


I had a dream that you died. (I'm not sure what this says about me, except that my subconscious wanted to kill someone and you were someone that didn't carry any personal baggage.)

The whole dream, very vividly, centered around your funeral. The place was packed. Young delivered a eulogy. (His hair was perfect.) And everyone was laughing as people shared great tales of 'odd stuff done by Arnie.' Crying and laughing at the same time. It was the funeral anyone would want.

In any case, I've been debating all morning whether I should share or not, but I decided that it was worth knowing that (even in a stranger's dream) people were upset to see you go. So that's something. Hopefully something more positive than creepy.

ps- it was never explained _how_ you died, so I have no helpful advice about avoiding shellfish or checking your brakes. Though, I would appreciate it if you'd avoid dying in the next few weeks. It'd really mess with my head, and I don't need that."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Remember back in October when Young auditioned for a part in a commercial that was described as a "Donald Faison type"? Well, despite being maybe the least Faison-esque person I know, he got the part and shot the commercial.

Unfortunately, about a quarter of a year has passed and it still hasn't aired.

Young: Maybe it won't air. They don't really call you and tell you. Either you see it someday or you don't. It's too bad. I would have liked to have seen it.
Me: Maybe it'll still air.
Young: Maybe. It's the third commercial I've shot that didn't air. Over, like, seven years.... but still. It's frustrating.

Friday, January 26, 2007

We have a new programmer in the office. Her name is Amanda. To avoid confusion with the other Amanda it became an official point of office business to come up with a suitable nickname. The best we've come up with so far is incorporating her middle name, calling her Amanda Lee. But, as Amanda pointed out, "My middle name is Leigh too. Just spelled differently."

Whenever someone in the office calls out, "Amanda" there is a noticeable pause as everyone waits to hear if it will be followed by "Lee." It's a work in progress.

When I introduced myself to Amanda Lee she mentioned that she had read my blog.

Amanda Lee: If you google 'working at Jellyvision' it comes up. I got a peak at the place before I started.
Me: You're the second new person to mention they've seen my blog. So if people are searching for information on Jellyvision it definitely comes up. Is that a bad thing?
Amanda (The Other Amanda, The Boss Amanda): Not really. You don't discuss _____________. It's okay to make fun of the dumb stuff we do around the office. We're people.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

There's a kitchen at work and a dishwasher. Opening the dishwasher used to a be like a game of Russian Roulette. Will they be dirty? Will they be clean?

Someone taped a make-shift sign to the front of the dishwasher, made of post-it notes, a popsicle stick and some kind of chopstick wrapper (I think). When the dishes are dirty it reads, "Dirty. Load Me Up" and you know you can put dirty dishes in. If it reads, "Clean. Please Empty Me," you know to quickly slink back out of the kitchen before anyone notices you are holding a dirty plate.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My old improv group, James Jackson, did a reunion show at the Apollo Theater. It's been well over a year since we did our last show. Beforehand, backstage, we went around in a circle, each of us telling something new about ourselves from the past year that the others didn't know yet (Nick: Arnie, don't tell us something you already put in the blog).

Here's some of the news. Hawley (Journalist) is starting a new job in a couple weeks. Carrie booked a commercial this week. Stegmeyer (Bartender) started a video production company with a friend. Rathjen (French and Italian Department Assistant) is training for a half marathon. Nick had to talk to his daughter, Jane, today about how she shouldn't punch other kids in the stomach. Jill (Accounting Assistant) is buying a second dog.

The show was fun. The stage was a little small, though, making it slightly cramped to perform with such a large cast. Maybe that's why we're all weirdly crouched in this picture, not aware that there's plenty of room in the frame to spread out. We're like caged animals set free, but happy to stay huddled together.

Afterward, we all agreed that we should do it again sometime soon.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Job #13: Charter School Teacher (cont.)

The most recent season of the brilliant HBO series 'The Wire' focused on education. Their depiction of standardized testing as just another racket where the numbers are being "juked" was pretty much dead on.

My second semester at the Charter school, I was told that I was going to be in charge of teaching a class preparing students for the state tests and then administering the test. According to the Administration, my job was mostly to make sure they did a little bit better than last year. Schools are graded and evaluated not so much on how the students do on the test but mostly on whether the students do better than the year before. If you do too well, the school plateaus, leaving no room for improvement next year. Supposedly many schools kick out their worst students in order to keep their numbers up.

There was no real danger of plateauing at the school where I taught. And frankly, it would have been hard for the test scores to be worse. Our students were the ones kicked out of all the other schools.

I tried to teach them basic English skills as best I could. According to the Administration, my main job was to encourage them to actually show up for the test and once there to actually fill out the entire test booklet. "If half the students show up and actually take the test we'll do better than last year." My job was to remind them that there would be doughnuts and juice available during the test, and that everyone who took the test and obviously tried to do well would get to go on a field trip to Funtastiks Family Fun Park. I was also supposed to tell the students that the Administration would be personally going over their tests to make sure they had "tried to do well."

Looking at the tests before sending them back to the state is, of course, strictly forbidden. My respect for the powers behind these tests couldn't be any lower, but I myself never peeked. The Administration did, though, and only a small portion of the students were invited to Funtasticks for go carts and laser tag.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Over the holidays I was standing in a Customer Service line at Best Buy when the man behind me started talking to me.

Man: 6'3''?
Me: Uh... oh, 6'4''.
Man: 6'4''. Christopher Reeves was 6'4''. So is Brandon Routh.
Me: The new Superman?
Man: Yes. They were both 6'4''.
Me: Well, I guess I don't mind being Superman size.
Man: Of course, you'd be short in the NBA. Your height just wouldn't cut it there.
Me: Sure. True.
Man: Frank Sinatra was an uncommonly skinny man. They called him 'the Straw.' Now, you may be asking yourself why I mention this and I'll tell you. Time gets us all. [patting his stomach] Eventually Sinatra became quite thick.

I once read in the book 'Blink' that the majority of American CEOs are tall. About a third are 6'2'' or taller. Supposedly tall people get better jobs and make more money. Studies have shown that each extra inch of height is worth an extra $789 a year in salary.

There are, of course, downsides to being tall. It's hard to get pants that fit, for instance, especially jeans. And as time continues to "get me" my height/gut combination means that most stores don't carry my size. I used to be right on the edge, but I ate my way over it, and now I have to order everything on-line. Even then the selection is limited. I ordered what I thought were some dark jeans (dark is good right?) and ended up with black jeans (black is bad, right?).

Hansen: Take them back. You're not Italian and you don't drive a Trans Am.

Which is all by way of saying that I joined a gym today. There's one right by work. It's a little expensive, but hopefully I can use some of the money my height makes to slow the expansion of my width.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Wonak (Distance Learning Developer), Trupe's wife, is going to Las Vegas soon for a work conference. I told her it will probably remind her of Medieval Times, a giant medieval jousting-themed restaurant where she worked during college.

Wonak: I remember the King and Queen were played by a recently divorced couple. And the knights and squires were all really into it, slowly working their way up over years. I went on a date with one of the squires. We saw 'Mask of Zorro' and afterwards all the knights and squires were like, "Did you see that one horse trick? We have to work that into the show!" I heard there was a coffin on the roof of the place and supposedly someone had sex with one of the serving wenches in it. Or maybe it was one of the photo wenches. Anyway, that gives you an idea of what some of the people were like.

Wonak worked on the sound crew. She didn't have to wear a period outfit, just a shirt that read, "CREW." She would also DJ the dance in the royal hall that followed the jousting match. Patrons could enjoy a brief dance party after dinner.

Wonak: It was fifteen minutes long. There wasn't much music to choose from. My boss would always have me play 'Sister Christian' at the end to give people the hint that it was almost time to go.
Me: Oh... so it wasn't... medieval music?
Wonak: No no.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Apparently there's a big publicity push for People Arnie Knows.

Niki (along with Nicky) is on the cover of Real Chicago, another free newspaper. The layout almost suggests that Niki and Nicky are the best and worst of Amsterdam, but it's actually for an interview with Niki about Second City and comedy in general.

I told Young it was his turn to be on the cover of something next.

Young: [playing 'Elder Scrolls: Oblivion'] Crap. Now I have to DO something.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Went out for drinks last night with Lacy and Chris. I realized I needed to catch up with Chris as much as Lacy, because I rarely talk to him now that he works in the back room.

Lacy has been cast as Cassandra in the upcoming Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of 'Troilus and Cressida.' It's a small but important part and a big opportunity. Lacy seems a little worried that she won't be as good as she'd like, but Chris and I would hear nothing of it. "Quiet. You'll be fine." (Get it? It's a Cassandra joke.)

Chris' on again off again relationship with H is permanently off-again. He found a new apartment to move into and his photo blog about the break-up ("A Year of Healing") only lasted about a week (apparently he only needed a week of healing). He seems to be doing well and is jumping back into single life (i.e. - lots of dry humping).

[I didn't notice until just now that it looks like Lacy and Chris are wearing the same sweater.]

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Woody needed to work from home in the morning so someone had to go on his computer and put a few files on the network so he could access it off-site. He made the mistake of asking Gabe.

Gabe: So... should I put some kind of penis on Woody's computer? His wallpaper or something? [sound of keys clacking] "Penis surface glands"? [more typing] Woah. That's disgusting. Never look at that. Looks like a messed up medieval chicken leg.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Jeanine's band, the 1900s, is on the cover of this week's 'New City,' one of Chicago's free newspapers.

Me: [via IM] are you famous yet?
Jeanine: no i am not famous.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

You'd never guess it, but Michele had three pulmonary embolisms late last year. She seems to be doing well now, but has to take some precautions, like sending out an office-wide e-mail alerting us about what stuff to look for and what to do if something happens. "I was told to pass along the following information to the people I 'spend the most time with.' Unfortunately, that's you."

We're supposed to watch for blue lips, hives, inability to speak and excessive drooling. (Michele: Key word - excessive.)

She wrote, "DO use the automated external defibrillator (Amanda's bathroom) if there is no heart beat. DO start CPR if necessary (please see if someone other than Chris will volunteer). Oh, and if it comes up, I'm an organ donor..."

I asked if she'd mind if I took a picture of her medic alert bracelet.

Michele: I got the necklace, not the bracelet. I don't like bracelets. But it's the ugliest thing I've ever seen, so I ordered the bracelet. Let me get the necklace. I've been keeping it in my backpack.
Me: You shouldn't be keeping it in your backpack, should you?
Michele: Yeah, yeah... okay Mom.

After a few minutes of rummaging...

Michele: ... I can't find it.
Me: That's not good.
Michele: Uh... no.

Monday, January 15, 2007

It's still winter again.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

By the way, I have a new Giant TV.

Trupe came over to watch the Bears game. Young tried to talk us into drinking a champagne toast after every touchdown, to get rid of some of the New Year's Eve leftovers, but we declined.

Trupe: Nick and Meador are at the game right now.
Me: Maybe we'll see them.
Trupe: Yeah, maybe when Meador streaks the field.

I took this picture during the game-winning overtime field goal.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Job #5: Movie Theater

I worked in the box office one Christmas Eve. The manager told me to only enter every other ticket into the computer system, and to keep a written tally of the others. It was then that I realized he was skimming money from the till.

Working the concession stand that night was a little guy of indeterminate age. No one could figure out whether he was willfully child-like or slightly mentally challenged. He had recently rented a room in his apartment out to a stranger who promptly ran up immense long distance charges on his phone and then disappeared.

The little concession guy rolled one of those powerless carpet sweepers back and forth across the lobby, picking up spilled popcorn, smiling and saying, "It's a good thing Santa is coming tonight. I really need him to bring me some money. If it weren't for Santa I don't know what I'd do."

I couldn't tell if he really believed this or not, and didn't know how to ask. Each time I tried to broach the subject with him, I'd stop short of asking him what he was really going to do.

When it was time to bring the manager the money he was clearly stealing, I separated out the price of one movie admission, maybe four dollars at that time. I wish I could say I gave those four dollars to the little concession stand guy, but I didn't. I stuck it in my pocket and went home to celebrate Christmas with my family.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The ‘Kyle’ pilot isn’t an internet sensation, but it seems to be doing reasonably well. Over 4,000 views so far, quite a bit more views per day than anything else currently on DotComedy.

Most of the comments in the comments section seem positive. Many of them single out the laugh track as distracting. So many, in fact, that I believe DotComedy suspects we specifically asked people to say negative things about it. We didn’t. We certainly thought about it, but we didn’t.

I wasn’t sure how my mom would react. Most of the story does revolve around a girl trying to decide whether she should give her comatose boyfriend a handjob. But Mom seemed to enjoy it, even posting a comment of her own on the website.

Me: Wait, which comment was yours?
Mom: Can you guess which one?
Me: I really can’t.
Mom: Candywoman. A college nickname.
Me: What?! Why did they call you Candywoman?
Mom: I love candy.

Of course, there are some negative comments as well. The piece certainly isn’t above criticism and in a weird way, I find it more thrilling to read the few angry rants than some of the bland (but nice) positive stuff. Someone using the name Not Funny At All wrote, “You should be ashamed of yourselves as entertainment ‘professionals’… You’re in a haze of self-denial because you’re so proud that the name NBC is somehow linked to your work.” Later, Not Funny At All posted again, adding, “I don’t want to make this personal, but I did used to work with somebody in this pilot. In comedy. I have not seen this person in a long time and I’m very disappointed that this person is not doing something more inspired… I just don’t want this person’s ego to run wild.”

Steve and Glynn and I talked about it briefly, the tantalizing mystery of it all. Some angry person from our collective pasts.

Steve: It sounds like it’s someone from one of our colleges, but I can’t think of anyone all that mean in my past. The internet sure brings out that weird anonymous hatred. It makes me feel bad that people think our ego might be running high as a result of this webisode. I think that’s my biggest discomfort with this process. I feel weird that people we don’t talk to might think this is our dream vision version of what we would post.

Misgivings aside, I can’t stop checking in with the site, monitoring our numbers as they slowly go up.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Today, at school, Nick had to chaperon the boys at his school during a testicular awareness assembly in the library.

Nick: They showed a video on the big projection screen, and it was just a guy in the shower giving himself an exam. Not a cartoon or anything. Just these big balls on a screen. Everyone was kind of like, "Whoa!" But I was actually kind of proud of the kids. They were pretty good during it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

When Poland's connection to the television in our office gets screwed up, it can lock up in a couple different ways. It can go blank. It can freeze on a picture of Poland. Or it can take a picture of the part of the office in front of the tv (what Poland sees in Michigan) and freeze on that.

Recently, several of us came back from lunch to find this picture frozen on the screen. Gabe drawing in the sketch book on Allard's desk.

Allard: [laughing] Caught red-handed!

So, Gabe is the one who has been doodling penises in Allard's sketch book. Mystery solved.

Gabe: We used to do that in high school all the time. We'd borrow a buddy's textbook and draw penises in it, hoping, you know, he'd open it up in front of a girl or something.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Innis and I sit facing each other all day. There's a mesh screen between us, which is dinky, but effective. Because of that screen I never see Innis, despite the fact that I sit closer to him than anyone else in the office.

In this picture, he's looking at the IM I sent him asking if I could take his picture.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sarah was packing her bags for her flight back to Boston, when Young came out of his room and said, "Hey, the Kyle video is up." And it is.

'Kyle's in a Coma', the 5 minute pilot Whirled News shot for NBC's internet content site, Dot Comedy, is on-line. There are a handful of creative decisions about the pilot that were disheartening, but it's still exciting that our work is out there now.

I signed up and rated the video. (A check mark is positive, and an x is negative, right?) I must have been the first person to rate it because I saw our score immediately go from 0% to 100%. Now we just need thousands more people to do the same, and hopefully we'll get a chance to do more episodes.

You can watch 'Kyle's in a Coma' here.

As you might guess from the description next to Megan's head, the video could probably be considered slightly NSFW-ish.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Job #4: Distribution Warehouse

I spent a summer loading boxes onto trucks to be sent to various Kohls department stores in the area. I stood by a conveyor belt and waited for boxes to come down. Most of my days were spent standing around doing nothing.

I spent most of that summer, standing there, thinking about two things: what CDs I should order from BMG Music Service and if there was any way that the show Twin Peaks could return, despite the fact that the prequel movie had failed miserably at the box office.

[When I was in Los Angeles over Thanksgiving, I was surprised to learn that Natasha had worked as a stand-in for many of the young women on the set of the second season of Twin Peaks (as well as 'C.H.U.D. 2: Bud the Chud'). She asked me if I had any questions about it. (who was nice, who was mean), and I was shocked to realize that I didn't.]

TV-47 had shut down by then and many of the people who had worked there now worked at the Kohl's Distribution Center. It was sad to look over and see, a few conveyor belts away, the slightly sophisticated old man that had hosted Hometown, Ohio's morning show, now loading trucks like me. I remember that no matter where he was, or what he was talking about, he always sounded like he was hosting a talk show.

Ex-Morning Show Host: Well, Arnie, I'm going to... load these boxes onto the truck, and after that...since it's a... slow day... I'm going to... go to the bathroom.... and play some pocket pool... until they come up with something for us to do. I'll be... right back.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Just like last year, I decided to go to Goldies for my birthday. I sent out e-mails telling people to stop by and have a few beers with me if they were free.

This is what I saw when I walked into Goldies.

None of it was for me. Apparently someone else had rented out the place for a private party. Someone's 40th birthday. If you look closely you can see stacks of pizzas on a table in the back.

I sent out text messages to anyone I thought might be showing up and hiked across the street to Grizzlies to have my party there. Despite the confusion, a number of people showed up and had a good time.

There was no cake.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Tomorrow I'll be 31. At work everyone went out to lunch for my birthday. We usually do this for people's birthdays when we can. Sometime the company pays for lunch, sometimes they don't. We usually don't know which it's going to be until the check comes. You can usually notice some of us looking around, wondering, "Are we paying? Are they paying? What's going on?"

This time we paid. Or, rather, everyone but me payed.

Sarah: Did you get a cake?
Me: Uh... actually, yeah. Steve-o ran out and bought one in the afternoon. I'm not a big cake eater, but it was nice.
Sarah: Yeah. Everyone deserves a cake on their birthday.
Me: But wait... I didn't get you a cake on your birthday.
Sarah: Oh, that's okay.
Me: Did you want one?
Sarah: It doesn't matter.
Me: But for future reference...
Sarah: Everyone deserves a cake on their birthday.
Me: Oh man...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Sarah: It doesn't really feel like my birthday.
Me: But it is your birthday. Happy birthday! Today is your birthday.
Sarah: Are you trying to say "birthday" a lot so it will seem more like my birthday?
Me: Is it working?
Sarah: A little.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Year's Eve Stories.

1. We did have a good turn out at our party, thanks for asking. During the champagne toast, Marla and James (who both seem to be doing well considering how bad their hit-by-a-van accident had been) both laughed, hoisted their plastic glasses in the air and said, "Thank god this fucking year is over!"

Alex came wearing his old prom tuxedo. The vest had a strange black and gold pattern that kind of looked like something from an New Year's themed amusement park musical revue. Maybe called, 'New Year's Eve! Exclamation Point!' Still, most of us were impressed and jealous that he could fit into his prom tux.

At the end of the night, Shane played 'Guitar Hero' and Maloney did a keg stand.

2. Hansen couldn't make the party. His wife (Psychotherapist) had to leave town at the last minute for a family emergency, leaving him to watch their daughter.

Hansen: [via e-mail] I spent New Year's Eve with my kid at the restaurant my wife and I had reservations at -- 2 year-old at schmancy restaurant was pretty fun and funny. She'd have her face stuffed with bread and the waiter would stop by and ask if everything was okay and she'd struggle to get out "More bread."
Young: Just like her father.

3. Brett: [via text the next day] Meant to txt you last night, but fell asleep watching ghostbusters

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Meador took the GRE this morning.

Meador: I did okay. I didn't destroy it. I remember doing better when I took it right after college. I'm a lot dumber now.

Sarah and I met Meador in Evanston and we watched 'Pan's Labyrinth.'

Me: Did that remind you of taking the GRE?
Meador: Yeah, I was in my own personal Pan's Labyrinth this morning.
Me: Was it proctored by a creature with eyeballs in it's hands?

Walking back to our cars, Sarah and Meador tried to reenact a scene from the movie, with Meador as Pan. Sarah thought he just looked like someone doing a bad job telling a knock knock joke.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Day.

Sarah and I noticed that some kind of office is being set up in the empty storefront below my apartment (formerly the tragic Mini Flea). We peered in the windows for a long time trying to figure out exactly what it's going to be.

There was a hand-written list taped to the side of one of the computers. As hard as we squinted, though, we couldn't quite read it. I thought maybe the top of it read, "Xtra Delicious Dracula" and Sarah thought it read, "Xtra December Dishes." Only time will tell.

Good luck new office.

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