Saturday, March 31, 2007

Marla, backstage at the Whirled News show.

A while back, Marla gave a monologue in one of our shows about the time she worked as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. One article she wrote focused on kindergarten students and what they wanted to be when they grow up.

Marla: We got these surveys back from all these schools around the country. The teachers must have all written the answers down in the order the students gave them. They would start with the kind of things that the kids' parents probably did. Nurse. Office Manager. Accountant. But then you could tell that one of the kids said something, and suddenly all the kids wanted to be that too. So it would go, "Nurse. Teacher. Spiderman. Spiderman. Spiderman. Spiderman. Princess. Princess. Spiderman. Green Goblin. Spiderman." The first Spiderman movie had just come out that year. But they were all like that. Every single survey.

Friday, March 30, 2007

This is what I look like with my new(ish) haircut.

A few weeks in, I'm still on the fence about it.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Lunch with Nicky (not to be confused with Niki).

Nicky: For years, I was here in Chicago and everything I did was leading to the goal of doing Second City. And now I'm doing it. I'm getting ready to start my third show. And it's great. But what's next? What do I look forward to now? Whatever it is, I want it to have holidays and weekends off.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

New phones in the office. We all had to sit through a meeting where a phone guy showed us how to use the new phones. I immediately forgot most of what I learned.

Like a cell phone, you can change the ring tones on these phones. There are choices like Classic Ring 1, Classic Ring 2, Clock Shop, Jamaica.

Meyer set his ring tone to Saxophone 2, so when he gets a call it lets out a sultry wa-wa-wa-wa sound that makes everyone laugh. He picks up the phone and says, "Well hellllloooo there." This is invariably followed by a pause and then, "No, it's nothing... it's just my phone. The ring makes a sound that... nevermind."

We don't have a receptionist here, so when someone (like Peapod) buzzes to be let in the building it makes all the phones in the office ring. Before, it wasn't a big deal because we all had the same ring, but now it sets off a startling chorus of different novelty rings coming from every corner of the office. It reminds me of the end of the movie 'Lawnmower Man' when every phone in the world starts ringing at the same time.

It took me a while to figure it out, but I've set my phone to go directly to voice mail.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

March is almost over, and so Zabor's featured month on the Men of Mortuaries calender is coming to a close. As I said before, his picture is pretty tasteful, although Sarah pointed out that, "it does say 'HARD' behind his head."

The bio next to his picture explains that, "besides being a funeral director for over five years, Zabor is also a professional motivational speaker for corporate events, golf tournaments and outdoor activities."

Me: Do people ever find it ironic that you're a mortician and a motivational speaker?
Zabor: It's that wave of irony that I hope to ride to the top someday based on its uniqueness. I use the tag line, "the Director of Death who speaks the Language of Life." It's sort of a carpe diem type of theme. "I know what it's like at your funeral if you haven't lived a well balanced life so here's 5 steps to improve."

This past weekend Zabor spoke in Vegas ("Business Lessons Learned from Modeling, Mortuaries & Motivation") afterwards selling and signing over 150 calendars.

Monday, March 26, 2007

This is the doorknob on the inside of the bathroom door at work. If you look closely, the top of it reads 'bottom' upside down. There's a matching upside down 'top' on the bottom. So... the doorknob was put in wrong. It actually works just fine, it's secure, it locks, but sitting on the toilet, your face right next to the doorknob, it's hard not to think, "That doorknob was put in wrong."

From outside, most people in the office knock on the bathroom door before trying to open it. It's a polite thing to do, but it's not like someone inside yells out, "Occupied!" I suppose the knock is meant as a warning, "I'm about to try to open the door." But when I'm sitting on the toilet, I prefer the lone doorknob jiggle without the knock. You hear the jiggle and it's done. When I hear the knock, I know the jiggle is coming, and I know that doorknob was put in wrong.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

But what has Steve been up to on his cruise? So far, not a lot of actual being on the cruise.

Kind of like how, when you're in a restaurant, as soon as you get up to go to the bathroom, the food arrives, the second Steve committed to being on a cruise ship for four months, he started getting a lot of callbacks for sitcom pilots. So he's been in LA about as much as he's been on the boat.

This is a picture Steve sent me of his make-up test for an in-the-works-sitcom based on those Geico caveman commercials.

Me: I feel like you're going to get this one, if for no other reason than that it would be completely ridiculous. You'd be sitcom Worf.

Steve got very close to being cast in two pilots, but in the end, didn't get either. So he's back on the boat.

Steve: I have mixed emotions, but I am glad I get to come back to the ship and that I don't have to spend four hours in a make-up chair everyday.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Last night was Otis' last show at iO.

The suggestion from the audience was, "rebel flag." Among other things, Joe played a man forced to sell his cranberry farm, I played a young boy who found out that if he doodled swastikas on his textbooks he got a lot of attention at school, and Shotts played a man named Evil Thompson.

It was a good show. Last shows are usually good, something in the air makes things a little funnier, but my biased opinion is that it was good even by last show standards.

Afterwards we all went out drinking until pretty late. Conversation, of course, kept circling back to the show. We'd repeat some funny line or character, or just say, "You know what, that was a good show. That was a good show." And everyone knew that by morning the show would be just a memory.

Sarah took this picture during the show for me. I honestly don't know what we're doing at this moment. Is it the part where we were all slaves building a pyramid? Is it the part where we transformed into Truckasaurus? I don't think it's either of those things, but, again, I can't for the life of me remember this part of the show. I bet it was funny.

It may not look like much, but, like with most improv shows, I guess you just had to be there.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Spring is coming (technically here) and the weather is getting nicer. I know this, because of the seasonal sun-glare on my work monitor from the window down the hall behind my desk

Thursday, March 22, 2007

We don't have a March Madness pool in the office this year, but Steve-o did put together a Miss USA Pageant betting pool. He cut out pictures and stats for all the contestants and glued them to poster boards for today's draft (a serpentine draft, in case you're curious).

I didn't have time to read any of the bios or even look at the pictures, so when it was time for my first pick, I just yelled out, "I'll take Illinois! Sight unseen!"

Woody: [who's first pick was Indiana, where he lives] Oo. That's what I call state-triotism.

My other picks are New Jersey, Connecticut and Oregon.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Dinner and drinks with Tom.

Tom: It's weird to think that I'm a copywriter now. How did that happen? I didn't study advertising or anything. I lucked into one job, then got a different one from there, and now I guess I have a career. [pause] I hope I can get out of it someday.

We also talked about the baby he and his wife are expecting.

Me: You still don't know what it's going to be?
Tom: Nope.
Me: When you told me that you wanted to know but Steph didn't... that surprised me. I would have guessed it would be the other way around.
Tom: Yeah. But it was her idea to not know. Although, now I think she does want to know and I don't. She did such a good job of arguing that we shouldn't know that she convinced me. So now we've switched sides.

Beer. Wings. Burgers. It was a nice time.

Tom: I wish I saw you more often than I do.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The new iO schedule is out, and, as promised, Otis is not on it.

A couple of teams were talked about as potential new homes for me at iO. The one I eventually landed on is The Diplomat Motel. They're a newer team and don't get the high profile slots that Otis used to get (no weekend shows), but the roster includes some of my very good friends: Young, Trupe, Meador and Martin. It'll be nice to perform with them regularly.

Sarah has also been placed on a new team at the theater.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The storefront below my apartment, formerly occupied by the Mini Flea, is now home to a Chamber of Commerce. I have a limited understanding of what a chamber of commerce does, but I believe it's meant to help businesses in the area succeed.

Unfortunately, it showed up too late to help the Mini Flea.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Job #13: Charter School Teacher (Cont.)

One of the nice things about the high school where I taught was the fact that all of the computers in the school were built by students (and then other students spent the rest of the year slowly tearing them apart).

The computer class, taught by the son of the married couple that ran the school, was very popular, partially because students were naturally interested in computers. More than that, though, it was popular because 99% of the class time was given over to playing 'Call of Duty.' If you peeked in the window you'd see every screen lit up with gunfire as the students stalked each other through war torn Europe.

This really upset the history teacher.

History Teacher: They're in there shooting each other all day. It's just wall to wall violence.
Computer Teacher: Well, at least it has a historical element to it.
History Teacher: They're Nazis! They're playing as Nazi soldiers!

I'd be lying if I said I didn't occasionally pad my own classes with movies (I screened all 18 episodes of 'Freaks and Geeks,' for instance), but I generally agreed with the History Teacher that what was going on in the computer lab was unsettling.

Then again, I've since learned to enjoy the pleasures of 'Call of Duty 2.' In fact, during Jellyvision's regular Friday afternoon game last week, I helped lead the Axis forces in a victory over the Allies.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Shelly shows off a picture of Seigfried and Roy on her phone.

She flew in from Vegas for the weekend and performed in Otis's second to last improv show at iO.

Shelly: I have a friend who says that every job eventually turns into McDonalds. Whatever it is, no matter how great it is, eventually it's like working at McDonalds. I mean... things about working in Vegas aren't great sometimes, but I want to prove him wrong. Let's prove him wrong.

Later she talked about the possibility of her working for Cirque de Soleil.

Shelly: I had an hour long interview with them where I'd say things like, "I know how improv can save Cirque du Soleil." That's crazy!

Maybe not so crazy. Cirque has offered her a job as an acting coach for one of their shows. Commitments to her current job, performing at Second City Las Vegas, may stop her from taking it, though.

Shelly: We'll have to figure out if I can do both. Probably not. Who knows. Scheduling. [beat] Cirque de Soleil! Isn't that crazy?

Friday, March 16, 2007

I got a DHL package at work today.

Jarecki: Is this another clean room outfit?
Me: Oh no. This is far weirder.

Apparently when my college friend, Zabor, was on '1 vs 100' with a group of morticians, it was part of a promotional push for their beefcake calendar, 'Men of Mortuaries.'

Zabor's picture, for March, is fairly tasteful, a normal headshot. You'd barely notice that there's the edge of a casket in the background.

The pictures get stranger as the year progresses, though. For August, a mortician (with muscles so big he probably couldn't be buried by conventional means) is covered in sweat and grease while changing the tire on his hearse. According to the calendar, "his hobbies include weight-lifting and body-building."

For October, a mortician hands over an urn of ashes to an anonymous widow, while looking past her to give some serious bedroom eyes to the camera. It's as if he's saying, "I've got to wrap this up, but I'll get to YOU next."

Each month also offers informative tidbits like, "The practice of using caskets in order to keep the disease of death with the body and not allow it to spread into drinking water systems goes as far back as ancient times," and, "Embalming is not required by law."

They accidentally sent me two copies of the calendar, so, if anyone's interested, I have an extra one. Better yet, you can order one here. Money raised by the calendar benefits a breast cancer charity.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I've given up on 'Hard Times.'

I only ever read 15 e-mailed daily installments. 81 more accumulated in my inbox before I finally had to cancel the service. Even then, I kept them in my inbox as a constant reminder that, hey, I should read this book. Maybe I'd catch up eventually.

Today, I deleted them all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It's usually pretty dark and cave-like in the office. The bulbs in the old fashioned light fixtures in the middle of the room are always burning out. Over time you just get used to things being very gloomy and hard-to-see.

Today, Meyer and Nate decided to replace all the bulbs and organize the haphazard wiring. When they were done the office was surprisingly bright.

Me: Oh my god! We look horrible!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Until she moves into a more permanent place next month, Sarah is staying with her friend, Jana (hairstylist).

I mentioned back in late 2005 (on my old blog) that the wall next to Jana's porch is tagged with my name. No one there knows where it came from or knows anyone else named Arnie. It remains a mystery... a mystery that I'm probably the only one that cares about.

Further down the wall, two other names have recently appeared in the same white spray paint scrawl: Jose and Lippy.

Somewhere my doppelganger has begun to form a gang of equally ridiculously-named taggers.

Monday, March 12, 2007

There's a bit of a trade-off required to be an improviser at iO, the theater where my group (or in the iO language "team"), Otis, performs. You give up a lot of autonomy for the honor of performing there and the opportunities that often come along with it. The theater, for the most part, decides who performs when and with whom, and the theater creates and cuts teams at its discretion. The new schedule comes out every two months and that's generally when performers find out if there team still exists or not.

With few exceptions, none of the performers are paid, but they have a theater to perform in and mostly consistent crowds to perform to. And if you perform there long enough you get to know people who know people and you may get to participate in industry showcases.

After a team is cut from the iO schedule it is certainly free to continue performing elsewhere, but most don't. Most performers simply move on to a new team at iO, or quietly start over at one of the other theaters in town.

The reality of performing at iO is that eventually your team will be cut. And the team after that. And the one after that too. For better or for worse, that is the framework that keeps the theater running.

Most years the theater has an awards ceremony. One of the standard bits from year to year is the Dance of the Fallen Teams. A team currently performing at the theater does a fake interpretive dance piece in honor of all the teams that have been cut the year before, holding up signs for each team, so people can clap for the team or teams they were on that didn't make it. During this last summer's award ceremony, Otis performed the Dance. One of the signs I held up was the sign for James Jackson, my old team that has only performed together once since being cut last September.

There's an old joke at iO that the team that performs the Dance will end up being cut themselves in the coming year. Same goes for teams that buy promotional stickers for themselves. You buy stickers, your team will get cut. They're not superstitions exactly, but maybe shared bitter ironies.

The new schedule comes out in a few weeks. We have been informed that Otis will probably not be on it.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mom: [via text message] We got beat by 4.

Basketball season is over in Hometown, Ohio.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sarah: I had a dream that I was still in Boston and some friends visited me and the city was hit by a tsunami. Every time I have a dream about Boston now, something wonderful or something tragic happens. But it's always something big.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Went to see a high school production of 'Babes in Arms' that Nick directed. In case you're not familiar with it, it's a musical of the "Let's put on a show; we can put it up in my barn" variety. When things look bleak, or at least as bleak as things get in breezy 50's musicals, the young performers contemplate quitting the theater to go into business or to "marry someone rich." Luckily a traveling producer happens to see their show and buys it right there on the spot. Cue rousing finale.

Afterwards, some of us talked about musicals we'd done in high school and college. I was the King in 'The King & I.' Trupe was the silent King in 'Once Upon a Mattress.' Young and Martin both played A-Rab in 'West Side Story' and the judge in 'Oklahoma' (among other parts). Wonak ran a lot of tech.

There are pictures of past productions in the lobby of the theater. Nick is in several of the pictures, from back when he was a student at the high school where he now teaches.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Job #12: Texas Instrument Clean Room

I baked wafers of microchips on glass holders called boats. If there was an empty space on a boat, I would fill it with a dummy, a blank wafer. Packages of dummies had letter and number designations that I never really understood. A4, C3, etc.

There was a shelf full of dummy packages with the designation H1, right inside the entrance to the clean room. I stood in the air lock at the beginning of each 12 hour night shift, air jets blowing potentially destructive dust particles off my bunny suit, and I would stare at the rows of packages labeled "H1 Dummies." Through my goggles it always looked like a dozen little signs taunting, "Hi dummies. Hi dummies. Hi dummies."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Lots of paperwork for Chris and I to fill out as part of the "becoming official at Jellyvision" process.

Filling out forms always makes me feel a little stupid. I think, "A real adult would know what this box is for."

Still, I had to pause a moment to enjoy filling "writer" in as my occupation. I guess I've been more or less a writer, even a paid writer, for years now, but whenever I'd say it out loud (which was rare), it always only felt half true. But now there are several very confusing tax and insurance forms that back up the claim.

Chris: Oh. Yeah. That would have been a nice moment. I missed that. I just filled it all out like paperwork. Ones, zeros, allowances. It didn't occur to me to appreciate that part.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Meyer: [via office-wide e-mail] We've worked next door to Krull for years. But who or what is Krull? For the answer, I have turned to Netflix.

After work last night, a number of us gathered in the main conference room to watch "Krull" on the big projection screen. By the end of the movie we still weren't sure what exactly Krull is.

Innis: Isn't it the throwing star thing?
Meyer: That's the glave.
Amanda Lee: [looking at the sleeve the DVD was shipped in] It says on here that the monster is Krull.
Chris: Netflix is wrong. That's the Beast. Krull is the planet.

The only thing we learned for certain are that Cyclops have trouble making contact with their handshakes and, as Meyer wrote the next day, "The Krull offices across the hall must resemble an ear canal."

Monday, March 05, 2007

The You Don't Know Jack weekly game is up now. Seven questions (including a DisOrDat and a Jack Attack).

The writers are at the beginning of the process (Meyer: I just put the radio in the dashboard and send it on down the line) so it's neat to see the finished product with animation and sound effects.

I wrote four of this week's questions. Can you guess which ones?

Check it out here.

[Added later: The game has immediately started getting some attention on the internet. It got up to number 2 on Digg... and immediately crashed the servers due to an overload of traffic. Short term patches and long term fixes are quickly being worked out. Meanwhile, some of the comment on Digg include, "I guess they don't know jack about running a web server," and, "Their server don't know digg."]

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Dad's basketball team has been having a great year and that success is continuing into the post-season tournaments. This weekend they were the Great Lakes champions.

Mom sent me this picture of Dad being interviewed after the game.

Mom: [via e-mail] Dad is pretty whipped from the stress of three games this past week and is napping. He felt mostly relief that they won the tournament last night. The more you win, the more pressure on you to win. I had two people yesterday already tell me that they are going to Massachusetts [for the Elite 8]. Now, we still have to win 3 more games for that to happen. One lady & her husband have checked out taking a train there. If only it was that easy.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Steve's going away party before leaving for his four month cruise.

It was the first time he'd seen Sarah since she'd moved back to Chicago. They traded notes on what it's like to go away and what it's like to come back.

I tried to subtly take a picture, but Young said, "Uh oh, you're about to be blogged!" Sarah immediately kept trying to block my camera with her back, yelling, "Stop taking pictures!"

Steve: That maneuver is called the Blog Thwart.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The You Don't Know Jack weekly (tentatively weekly) game is on schedule and ready to launch very soon. To celebrate, Amanda took everyone out to lunch at Uncle Julio's on Wednesday. Except for Poland. Poland is an important part of the team, writing questions and recording music, but since he telecommutes from Michigan via TV screen, he can't exactly join us for lunch.

He wrote on his blog, "They all paraded past the TV and headed out the door, as I sat there in my basement with my freezing thumb up my icy asshole. I hope they all choked on their goddamn chimichangas."

Today, Steve-o took the Jack team out to lunch at Peaquods. And he had a pizza and buffalo wings delivered to Poland's house in Michigan.

Poland: There's not much to choose from out here.
Me: What did he get?
Poland: Papianos. It's right next to a Papa Johns and it has a very similar logo.
Me: So they're going for the "people who like Papa Johns but don't really care" market.
Poland: Or the legally blind crowd. Oh my, he ordered the wings with extra gristle. The pizza's pretty good, though.

And then we all filed out the door, leaving Poland to eat pizza by himself, staring at an empty office on a TV screen.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Things aren't looking good for 'Kyle'. Not bad, just not exactly good.

DotComedy in general doesn't seem to be pulling in much traffic, forcing it (I suspect) to tighten its belt, reducing its budgets. The official word is, nothing gets a second episode unless it brings in 50,000 views. 'Kyle's in a Coma' currently has just shy of 10,000. That's more than most of the videos on the site, but, obviously, nowhere near 50,000.

Still, we have other projects in the works, and we've built an exciting relationship with a great local production company. Also, NBC expressed interested in shopping 'Kyle' around to other venues. We'll see. I'm not savvy enough to know whether I should be optimistic or pessimistic about its chances.

For now, 'Kyle's in a Coma' isn't quite dead, but it's not alive and kicking either. Ironically, 'Kyle' is currently in a coma.

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