Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Do You Understand the Words Coming Out of My Mouth

Depending on the situation, language can be quite predictable. For instance, you could learn 20 words in Russian that have to deal with going to the butcher and as far as your Russian butcher is concerned, you speak Russian. The train would only go off the track if one of you didn't stick to the script.

(in Russian)
YOU: Hello, a pound of corned beef please and half a pound of potato salad.
BUTCHER: Ok, Anything else?
YOU: And a pound of smoked turkey cut very thin.
BUTCHER: Here you go. Pay at the front.
YOU: Thank you very much.
BUTCHER: You're welcome. Have you heard the news coming out of the Kremlin? Where does Putin get the gall.

And next would be the sound of the train derailing. And now your butcher knows you don't speak Russian and/or don't watch RT.* By the way in the above sketch YOU spoke exactly 20 distinct words.

So basically in certain scenarios, you can communicate without using the same language. I say all that to say I had a nice exchange with a Chinese cab driver. We laughed and agreed without understanding a word of what the other was saying. See, he was following another cab and I was sitting in the front with him. The cab we were following must have confused following for being chased. He drove like a bat on work release from hell. His driving was reckless in and of itself. The fact that he drove that way while being followed was unconscionable.

Finally his antics simultaneously got under my and my driver's skin. We literally both put a hand out in disbelief and both said "we're following this guy, why is he driving like a jackass." And then we both laughed. (I'm paraphrasing his part of course as it was in Chinese) Other than the language, our reaction and level of incredulousness was exactly the same. We exchanged a set of thoughts and bonded without digesting each other's actual words. And that is how you have a conversation with someone you don't share a language with.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Day The Laughter Died

We have lost a comedy legend. A man who is undoubtedly on every working comics top five list. When you saw Patrice O'Neal perform you instantly knew you weren't doing enough. Patrice incited two reactions within comics, inspiration to be better or a nudge to flat out quit because compared to his, most efforts were futile.

In comedy, it's often hard to distinguish the man from the comic. As it should be. At it's best it's an incredibly personal and intimate art form. Patrice wore it on his sleeve. He lived it. He walked the walk. After you saw Patrice perform you knew him. For better or for worse you knew where he stood. Patrice tapped into the human condition unlike anyone has in the last twenty years and maybe ever.

On stage Patrice was compelling and hilarious. Off stage he was a guru and his impact on comedy extends far wider than people may know. I was in Belfast, Ireland when I got the news and the comics in the green room instantly started quoting their favorite Patrice O'Neal bits. In the early days I was Patrice's sidekick, well disciple is probably a more fitting word. Every where Patrice went comics flocked to him. His brand of truth and uncompromising defense of truth was a marvel to other comics. We wanted to tell bookers where to put it but we were scared the Chuckle Hut in West Bum wouldn't book us anymore. Patrice would tell the booker to stick it where the sun doesn't shine, then proceed to kill so hard that the booker had to bring him back anyway.

In those days bookers would ask Patrice to send them a tape of his performance. He would respond by asking them to send him a tape of their audience. Bull shit never stood a chance in Patrice's presence. If he rubbed a comic the wrong way it was probably because he wanted to make sure you were in it to give to comedy and not simply take from it. Patrice would constantly tell me to not be selfish on stage. Laughter is the comic's air but Patrice would suffocate before he got laughs that weren't inspired by the truth. Everyone else just had to be funny. Patrice had to be funny and honest. A burden he carried with the greatest of ease and skill. Patrice has stopped doing bits that other comics could make a career out of, simply because those bits had run their course in his development as a man.

Patrice could size most people up in seconds with amazing accuracy. Sometimes he would give someone grief and only later would I see why but Patrice would know the person was a dweeb from jump. There was no pretense with Patrice. This was off putting to many but the world Patrice lived in is a lot better than the world most of us live in. He was free from living the double and sometimes triple lives most of us live. Even I could be more biting on stage given my background. Patrice was constantly helping comics around him find their truth. Even more established comics knew there was a guy out there doing something very special.
When I read the Fountainhead I casted Patrice O'Neal in my head as Howard Roark. Patrice is the only person I've met to meet the standards of quality and unrelenting ethics that the fictional Howard Roark attained.

I've only known two comics that I would give my entire catalogue of jokes to just to hear them say my words and see them do my jokes way better than I ever could. Those two comics are Dane Cook and Patrice O'Neal. I feel sorry for people who didn't know Patrice personally. However, his comedy provides a good sense of what it was like to be in the presence of his greatness. To be humbled by his kindness enveloped in truth.

I had to write this because never talking to him again and never seeing him take life's most awkward, taboo, even mundane moments and bring them to the stage with hilarious flare and poignancy, is going to be very hard to come to terms with.

Patrice didn't choose to be honest. He seemed to not have a choice in the matter. It's like he was ordained to be the kind of person most of us wish we could be. Patrice didn't achieve his industry success because of his immense talent. He attained it in spite of his uncompromising honesty.

In the past few years I lost close touch with Patrice. I was in LA. I don't think Patrice really condoned comics going to LA. Again, he was right. LA is great but the industry hustle can take away from the art form. But no one could be a friend of Patrice and not have him rub off on them. And no comic could become close to Patrice without their approach to comedy being elevated.

I tried to keep it real Bruiser. And now that you're gone you leave an unfillable void but your spirit lives on thru all the people you impacted. We know you're watching and we will champion for truth. Please don't be upset if we're not as good at it as you were. You're one of a kind. Rest in Peace brother. You left an indelible mark on Stand-up and on me as a person. Thanks.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Dear Coffee Shop,

I’m sorry to send you this by letter but I thought it would be best. Please don’t try to change my mind. We’ve had really fun times together that I will cherish always. It’s just that, well, I need more. It’s over now. I’ve found something else, an office. It’s not as spontaneous and funny as you are but I need stability and support now. The office’s wifi always works and there’s always a place for me to sit. Office is introducing me to its friends. They're all so nice and sophisticated. Even when I go away, Office has arranged places all over the world for me to sit and work. Office doesn’t play music or have a parade of beautiful women go by but office doesn’t charge me extra for tea either.

Coffee shop, we both know that you’ll never change. You’ll never really be about grown up business. Sure you’re good for occasional great conversation and awesome people watching but I need a place where I can mail things and Fedex things and print things out and have meetings and have climate control.

I think we both knew this was going to happen sooner or later. And I really appreciate all you’ve done for me. You helped me get out the house when I was watching too much TV. You helped me write sooo many blogs. We’ll always have the retired “porn star” contemplating a comeback. I know you remember the homeless woman who gave me money. And who could forget the barrista who did, ahem, “adult” foam art.

I was doing comedy in a cocktail bar, that much is true. But even then I knew I needed a more professional work environment, either with or without you, Coffee Shop. Please don’t be too sad. You’ll find someone else. A new comic/writer on the come up who likes your drinks and wants to sit in you and work. I wish you nothing but the best, Coffee Shop.

I hope that we can still be friends and maybe I can visit you every now and then. If you’re not okay with that, I totally understand.

Thanks for everything.

Love Always,


(written from the business lounge from a London Branch of my office space)

Monday, November 21, 2011

At The Diner On The Corner...

As I sat looking out the window in the iLost cafe in Suzhou, China, l thought to myself, “China just may have more scooters than the US has people.”

I was about go down the Google rathole of finding out just how many scooters are in China when I realized country music was playing in the cafe and had been since I walked in. I mean songs straight from the Country Music Channel. I thought that was odd but was it odder than me sitting there? I was an hour outside of Shanghai and I hadn’t seen another black person in 3 days. In fact I can count the non-chinese on one hand. Including the 3 English blokes I travelled with. The whole scene felt like a simulation created to get operatives ready for the field. Like a picture they get to see for an instant and then must tell everything that’s wrong with it...

Operative: Black guy by the window, country music playing, the cheese cake the black guy is eating, the english novels on the shelf and I think the black guy was reading “The Sayings of Confucius” but oddly enough he was writing a bunch of sayings by someone called Dwayne-Fucius...

I definitely stood out but no one came up and touched me or anything like that. They get to see black guys play in the Chinese Basketball League. Since I stand at 5’10’’ and probably could stand to lose a few no one thought I was a basketball import. I remember when I lived in Boston this one white guy would be at every black club. The Chinese people who saw me must have felt the same way I did when I saw that guy.

EVERY ONE WHO SAW ME IN SUSZHO, CHINA: Hmmn that’s odd...oh well....

I felt like I could move there, if I had enough money to sustain myself, and just cruise. Even if I didn’t learn a millimeter of Chinese. (out of respect I went metric. Obviously “ounce” still works better.)

I want to learn another language but I’m simply too good at charades to be forced into arming myself with a foreign vocabulary. I could seriously walk into a restaurant and mime a request for Chicken and Broccoli and Shrimp fried rice with no onions and get it, no problem. You’re trying to picture how but trust me I could. Next time you see me ask me to act it out for you. Or, speak to anyone who’s played “Guesstures” with me. I’ve never lost. Yes, I had a get together and play board games phase. I don’t really like to talk about it too much.

I never did google “number of scooters in China”. Excuse me I’ve got some research to do.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It’s Not Over Til I Say So

I am sitting in a tea shop and just heard a song lyric from the PA system that made me whip out my Ipad and jot down a retort. The line that activated my opinion gland was in a pop song. I don't know the song but the line was, "we argue and then forget what we're fighting about." Huh?If it was worth fighting for then how could you forget it? For the sake of this blog I will take the singer’s words on face value. I assure you I have never forgotten why I was arguing with someone, while I was arguing with them. I find arguing to be unpleasant so if I’m engaged in an argument it’s for a reason. Maybe not a good reason but a memorable one at least. If I'm arguing it's to make a point, relay a sentiment. And that's it.

Romanticizing fighting is a dangerous slippery slope. People who forget what they were arguing about were probably arguing about something that didn't matter or arguing on a platform that didn't really address their true concerns. Either way it's arguing for sport and although the adrenaline rush then make-up may feel good, the scars from the fight, not to mention the unresolved real issues that still loom, don't go away.

Arguing for sport is like taking a drug. You'll need more and more just to level off. Arguing and stopping before resolution is like taking antibiotics but stopping too soon. The sickness is still present and now it's stronger, even more resilient and harder to stop.

I realize that things can escalate unintentionally. But the trend is for people to say anything to save face or hurt their "competitor". I'm sure I've had an issue or two that I was either incapable or scared to address with someone head on. I'm only human, flesh and blood, a man. But folks words were created for a reason. As someone who dabbles in words for a career I'm becoming increasingly frustrated with our wishy-washy relationship with the words we speak. Often times, people say what they don't mean to seize power. Two people forgetting the argument, during the argument, are admitting it was about power and calling a power stale mate. Kudos on them for gaining perspective but how about gaining it before the plates start flying.

Usually, if I’m in an argument, I don't stop because in most cases it was never about power with me. It was about truth. How can two people be diametrically opposed on a subject and then drop it without at least an acknowledgment? Probably because one or both of them never really cared that much about the said subject to begin with. Stress for stress sake. I'm okay with agreeing to disagree. That's an acceptable resolution because it's not saying you forgot what you were arguing about! Remember if you argue with me, it's not a game for me. I really believe everything I'm saying. Feel free to try and change my mind but know that I will try to get some form of acknowledgement from you and simply stopping is not an option.

It's not about winning it's about picking your fights and if you never have to actually fight or see your fight thru, chances are you will be quite irresponsible about how many "fights" you start.

Let's fight ‘til the end folks. Trust me, it will result in less fights.

*i'm talking about friends with issues not politics and definitely not the abortion issue. The former people know not what they speak and the latter is one side or the other and offers no middle ground.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

That's Not The Spirit

I wouldn't normally speak badly of an airline with an open flight still pending but I must make an exception. If the brass at Spirit Airlines get wind of this and try to hassle me on my return flight from Chicago to LAX then so be it. I can't imagine whatever they cook up could be worse than my outgoing flight to Chicago.

I booked the ticket a few weeks back. And yes it was cheap but not alarmingly so. I paid what you could reasonably expect to pay for a 2nd tier airline but not so low an amount that I expected to get out and push or sit next to a chicken. I didn't have to help jump start the plane or suffer loud poultry but they did nickel and dime me every step of the way. $10-50 dollars to pick a seat assignment (any seat), $45 to bring a carry on, $3 for water or soda and the tiniest seats imagnable on a plane. I've ridden vintage roller coasters, constructed when people were a foot shorter, with more leg room.

45 dollars to bring a carry on?! I can't dream up too many scenarios where you'd need to travel from LA to Chicago and also only need to bring just a fanny pack. This tactic is called price discrimination. They're trying to breakdown the airline experience into smaller fragments and identifying who will pay what for certain "services" in the process. I think some things are implicit to an experience. Can Starbucks start charging more if you want a cup or a napkin? And if they did, what price should they list given the fact that most people will need a cup? Obviously they should quote the "coffee with a cup price." (just figured I'd spell it out for a folks too sleepy or hung over to connect the dots :-) Maybe there should be a surcharge for sitting down at a table. It's a slippery slope and soon you'll be charged per breath or per heartbeat. Poor people will be forced to keep their life functions at a bare minimum.

Ultimately, this becomes yet another oppressive experience for the have nots. A company that hides a dozen charges can not have super friendly service. Even if they try the whole exchange is an oxymoron and the disdain they have for their customers is clear whether accompanied by a smile or not. Everyone doesn't need plush accomodations but no one is really being spared anything, except a bit of dignity, when they signed up for a cheap service that then tries to gorge you every step of the way reminding you every step of the way of your financial situation and institutionalizing you in the process. Slowly making you okay with the inferior treatment.

How about you tell me how much it costs to fly on Spirit air from the beginning? A carry-on isn't a premium service it's mustard on a sandwich, doorknobs in an apartment, laces with a pair of shoes. To strip certain services is to do a disservice. I promise not to cry foul ball if I ever fly from LAX to Chicago with no bags and I pay the same as someone who does have a carry on. That's okay. I don't want 5 cents knocked off my sandwich if I don't get mayonnaise.

3 weeks ago I traveled 14 hours on KLM in World Business Class. And yes that was over the top in terms of offerings but the respect and friendliness was right on and free and something that can be afforded to everyone. Spirit air will now be known to me as "Only In an Absolute Bind"...Airlines.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Our Song Reclaimed

A while ago I wrote a blog about being at a family outing. The proceedings were a love fest but the ghost of lost promise seemed to haunt our collective psyche. This was highlighted and perhaps facilitated by the song “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” being played. The song is a black anthem, my favorite song, but also a reminder of the promise 1979 held. Promise that the tumultuous and drug riddled 80’s and 90’s denied urban folk all throughout our great nation. Many of my oldest and most faithful readers say it’s my best blog to date. I guess what I’m trying to say is…read it!

On another note: I felt bad that I had a bitter sweet connection to my favorite song of all time. Alas, a song is not a destination but a journey and “Ain’t no stopping us now” is a battle cry for all people for all generations. I didn’t envision that not even 4 years later a new context would be forged to and by my favorite song. An association that provides a new promise and a new more pleasant and less ironic mental imagery that my favorite song will conjure up in my mind.

I am truly my mother’s child in that I share her aversion to sharing certain bits of information, especially anything pending. I barely told people about my pilot I shot for Comedy Central last year. (I’m getting better ;-) I also told few people that my little brother was in Medical school. A fact that warms my cockles way more that my very own pilot could, even if it had been picked up.

So, last Friday, my brother graduated from Medical school and he starts his residency in a month. We don’t come from the type of family that produces doctors but now because of my brother’s ability to conceive it and will to achieve it, we do. You couldn’t measure how proud I am of my brother or how grateful I am to him, my family and God with all the rulers in Staples and Office Depot combined. (or all the tea in China for that matter J)

The graduation was almost anti-climatic given the gravity of their accomplishment. We took pictures of the dignified ceremony, ate at Pio Pio and went home. We partied Brooklyn style the next day. We topped off the music and starch-a-thon with a slide show of pictures from the graduation and our families’ “journey.” Windows Media Center provided the snazzy transitions and Youtube provided the background music…”Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.” Thirty years later and the song was right…. And now it looks like things are finally coming around.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Please Don’t Pass Me By…

While cruising down Queensway in the Bayswater section of London, I was handed a flyer buy a guy dressed like a court jester or maybe a flying trapeze artist. Either way, he was dressed to get your attention for the purpose of handing you a restaurant flyer.

This kind of folly is common place in the US but I was a bit surprised to see it in England. And I wasn’t in a high tourist area where you could kind of understand it. I also wasn’t in a theme park, where this sort of spectacle should be confined to. I guess that’s my issue. These flyer businesses are trying to bring out the little kid in grown-ups. But I refuse to be excited by a drunk guy in a Statue of Liberty suit giving out flyers for a check cashing place that offers barely legal payday loans.

The amount of vomit you encounter near any English bar row on any Saturday night should have been proof enough that England isn’t too proud or dignified to make people dress up in 2nd rate mascot outfits to push lunch specials.

I wonder if dressing up to give out toothpaste promo cards is a stepping stone to being a proper mascot in Disneyland or for a sports franchise. Work your way up to the big time. More likely though your local leaflet presenter is on the way down. Guys who can’t cut the mustard at Six Flags any more but miss the rush of dressing like a bug suck up their pride and find a new outlet for their shtick. Albeit one that requires them to give handouts but at least keeps them from asking for handouts.

No matter where I am in the world, no matter what their selling, I always take the flyer. The quicker that person can give out all those flyers, the quicker they can lose the outfit and rejoin society. Do unto others…

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dances for Wolves

Throughout history sociologists have tried to find barometers, tell-tale signs for how a society is doing; signs to gauge if a society is thriving or in decline, fair or corrupt, free or oppressive. Some look at economic indicators. Others say look no further than how a society treats its women.

I say the above metrics will surely give tremendous insight but I would like to throw my indicator into the judging ring. I think a society is in big trouble when full-fledged adults have no choice but to do jobs previously reserved for teens and seniors. When your ex-boss is delivering newspapers, it probably means times are hard on the boulevard. Some 45 year old, ex middle management guy giving out smiley stickers at wal-mart, time to brush up on “Living off the Land” 101.

So I’m walking with my mom on Steinway street in Queens. (Big up to Astoria, my second favorite place in nyc after the entire borough of Brooklyn) and we spied a woman dancing. She was cutting cement in front of a cell phone store. My mom told me she’s there all the time, a local favorite.

We chatted her up and it turns out she’s on contract to dance in front of the Metro PCS store. I think she used the term “contract” extremely loosely. Metro PCS: Everyone in cities with Metro PCS knows about you! And people who don’t mind spotty coverage for $50 less a month than the big boys (myself included.) will surely get with you whether there’s a dancing lady out front or not.

You know they pay her a mere pittance to dance like Queens is not watching. A job that could be done by a teen or one of those air tube doll thingies that wiggles around when there’s a slight wind. So, the economics are off balance and now grown-ups are forced to do jobs that inanimate objects could do. Probably for the same money the inanimate object would make.

The Astoria dancing queen seemed quite happy with her work and her enthusiasm was definitely infectious. All that notwithstanding though where do we go from here?

Monday, May 02, 2011

Smell You Later

I videotape or audiotape about half of my comedy sets. I listen to or watch maybe half of those. So I review a quarter of my sets. A number that should be higher but between writing a blog per week and status updates I don’t get to critique the magic as much as I would like. I also don’t love hearing myself.

To improve however, one must honestly assess where they are to determine where they must go. So for ¼ of my sets I bite the bullet and listen to my own comedy. It’s actually never as bad as I thought…or as good as I thought.

While reviewing a set I did in El Paso I was treated to a golden nugget from a heckler in the crowd. I was asking where I should go hang out afterward. Apparently the place I was heading to was a known hang out for Cholos. (Mexican Gangsters) Some in the audience discouraged me from going there. A black audience member suggested another club. Apparently, that spot is a known hang out for…black gangsters.

I told them I felt I was in a pickle. It seemed I could get shot in either place. Then came the heckle of the century. I couldn’t it make out during the show but heard it on the playback. A boisterous but supportive audience member screamed out “No one’s going to shoot you Will Smith!”

Clearly there are a few ways to take this. I choose to focus on my universal appeal that the heckler was clearly alluding to. As far as he could tell my demeanor would make me okay in both places. He wasn’t taking a jab at my street cred as much as he was succinctly and hilariously stating that those gangsters probably wouldn’t be interested in messing with me because of my disarming nature. If only that heckler ran one of the networks.

The heckler, who seemed to know his way around a street or two, had basically given me a pass to run amuck in El Paso. A pass for Juarez, Mexico however, just over the boarder, is a different thing all together. (I ain’t that universal!) El Paso is said to be the safest city in the country*, while Juarez, Mexico, just over the border is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. There’s a thin line between “shoot the breeze” and “please don’t shoot.” I was on the good side of that line so maybe that heckler was right, universal appeal notwithstanding.

By the way, heckling at my shows is still frowned upon.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Unusual Suspect

Shout out to Jolly Old London. I come here more often now and when I’m here the blogs just fly off my net book. Now, I try to stick to my regimen, no matter where I am in the world. If I’m in Paris, Georgia or Brooklyn, Michigan or London, Ohio it’s Coffee Shop, workout, solitaire and Law and Order if available (Seinfeld goes with me everywhere.)

Back to THE London…So I did my Coffee Shop hours and was trying to get a workout in before channel surfing for Law and Order: UK (yes, it exists.) I planned on doing push-ups and pull-ups and with the pound to dollar ratio at 1.7; I wasn’t in the mood to pay a gym 25 dollars to not use any of their equipment.

So I decided to keep it old school and workout in the park. In NYC we do chin-ups using the walk sign on the corners. That’s how you get ghetto diesel…and really dirty hands (see pic.) I put on my track jacket and shorts and headed out looking for some reachable apparatus that could support my body weight. I passed some sturdy looking scaffolding but there were men at work so I didn’t break my stride. I made my way to Hyde Park. A lovely park with ponds, wide open space, trees, running and bike paths and yet I didn’t spy a vertical pole I could use to bring by biceps and back to fatigue using my own body weight against gravity.

I finally saw a playground. At the playground, ya know, that’s where I’ll do my pull-ups… It was fenced in and lined with trees but I could see a monkey bar thingy thru a space in the trees. I made my way to the entrance where an official park person stood guard. She told me that you need to be with a child to enter the playground. What? Do a google image search on “chin-ups” and I guarantee pictures of adults doing chin-ups in a park somewhere will be returned. That’s what playgrounds are, workout centers. Just I wasn’t planning on giving my workout a back story of cops and robbers or making gun sounds while pointing with my finger. Now I have to walk away looking like a suspect? Well, put an adult chin up bar right next to the playground and then if I journey into the playground, fine, paint me suspicious.

QSN: Do that search on Chin-ups not pull-ups. Pull-ups might also return babies in pampers pics and land you on some list. Which would be ironic.

Aren’t young kids in a playground with their parents? Two women tried to go in after me and were also denied. (I think because I was still close enough to witness the potential double standard.) At some point our protective measures will lead to children being put in incubators until their teenagers. We’ll call it 2nd birth.

So, I did my push-ups in the grass and my pull-ups on a tree branch I could barely wrap my hands around. Which, given the close proximity to a functional playground should’ve scared people more.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thai a Yellow Ribbon

I’m sitting in my Bed and Breakfast in Johannesburg, South Africa and dreaming of faster internet service, and Thai food. Decent Thai food, faster internet are both a long but doable walk away. In Los Angeles is Thai food is always a notion away. In LA, the Thai food twinkle in your eye and the delivery of a bouncing bowl of Tum Yum at your table are never more than 15 minutes apart.

Los Angeles’ Thai town sports almost as many Thai restaurants as people. Before I left LA I stopped by my favorite late night Thai spot. It’s in a plaza with 3 other Thai restaurants. Think of a 7-Eleven parking lot with 3 adjacent 7-Elevens, now replace those 7-Elevens with Thai eateries. Throw in a Thai dessert place, A Thai spa and a donut shop and the picture is complete.

Breaking news: The donut shop has been replaced by….(drum roll please)…another Thai restaurant. That is so “thinking inside the box” that it’s actually “thinking outside the box.” That’s 5 restaurants if you’re keeping score. Now that’s a market place! How people choose which one to go to is beyond me. I think I simply favor the one I walked into first. Two of them are definitely more crowded. One seems to be hip and the other busy one seems to cater to Asian people. The one I go to caters to me. Never too busy and yet it seems even more “authentic” than all the others (mostly Thai patrons).

I suspect the question is moot. I haven’t done any investigative work but I wouldn’t be surprised if all 5 were owned by the same person...okay maybe 2 different owners. Either way the semblance of choice combined with great food has them laughing all the way to the spa, which they probably own too but might be turned into another restaurant if its numbers slip.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Shutter To Think

I’m always tickled by the shutter noise my digital camera and cell phone makes when I take a picture. It’s hilarious to me that the designers thought it necessary to add the analog sound. It would be like adding an engine revving sound to an electric car to give drivers the sense that there’s massive horse power cranking under the engine; As if that could completely hide the fact that they can only do 80mph and have to charge it up along with their cell phone every night.

I’m pro electric car and I’m also pro digital photography. I’m not pro adding superfluous features to make these products conform to some notion of the technology they replaced. If you’re going to go that way then why not add a “rewind” switch and a “forward” wheel. We could go all the way with the silliness and make SD memory cards in the shape of film and have people drop off their “film” to one hour photo shops. Or maybe your photo printer should come with a cardboard “one hour photo” mobile kiosk.

Facetiousness aside, pretty soon most young people won’t remember that shutter sound. To them it will be the sound that digital cameras make…for some reason. I’ll either have to explain the sound to them or pretend that I don’t know what that sound means either. While I’m at it I can pretend I don’t get the Lady Gaga-Madonna comparisons and can’t remember when rappers used to say “rahhhh!”

I wrote the preceding text and then hoped on a subway where God provided the button to this blog. I saw a guy playing Pong on his Iphone.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Virtual Insanity

I was practicing typing while listening to the Economist magazine on line. I type blogs, scripts and jokes but I’m far from a typist. I read the Economist magazine but I’m far from an economist. I actually think the entire study of economics is a bit flawed. Technological advances along with good old fashioned human nature seem to necessitate changes in economic theory and wealth distribution that haven’t taken place yet. My support of the previous statements goes beyond the scope of my light hearted feel good blog. But I offer you this video I watched on the Economist online as snack for thought. Dr. Michio Kaku is predicting where technology will go in the next one hundred years. He describes a world much like that in the movie Terminator but thinks it will be groovy. If you have 4 minutes please watch and see if you were scared silly like I was.

Some Questions/comments for Dr. Kaku:
1) If computers can read your mind and robots can build cars then why can’t they pick up trash?! (Mr. Kaku seems to think the robots will eliminate many jobs but not trash removal. Huh?!)

2) Robots will be able to do construction. If they’re that advanced wouldn’t they be able to do anything we do?*

3) When we no longer have to work, when there’s no labor, how will resources be distributed? People either have to be paid based on a new set of criteria (funny blogs perhaps) or we slip into some weird high-tech welfare state.

4) When people can live forever and don’t have to work, will it make sense to let useless people live forever? After we eliminate all reality TV stars how will we determine who else is useless? If you think this video is scary the one before this was about the production of human-like robot eyes that can zoom. *I recently blogged about a supercomputer on Jeopardy. IBM’s Watson dominated two former Jeopardy champs. If fcomputers can dominate on Jeopardy, they can be taught to pick up trash!

Economist Interview:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Push The Little Pastries And Make'em Come up

I was recently in a Coffee Bean in Beverly Hills. Coffee Bean is the 2nd largest Coffee shop chain in Los Angeles. Of course Starbucks is the biggest. Coffee Bean is the runner up to Starbucks much like Sandisk is the 2nd top mp3 player after The Ipod. What’s Sandisk?...Exactly.* But I felt good being in number 2 on this day as the Coffee Bean was directly across from a Starbucks. Shunning a corporate giant for a smaller corporate giant isn’t exactly sticking it to the man but you have to start somewhere. Given the option at least I went with what was closer to Mom and Pop on the Mom and Pop-Evil corporate giant continuum. For the record Coffee Bean has better tea than Starbucks. Starbucks has better food, mainly because Coffee Bean doesn’t serve food. It’s a push on the pastries. QSN: Doesn’t “Push on the Pastries” sound like the name of an Indie rock group? Eventually people would just call them POP and that would be coincidental but we would call it ironic. I guess I’m all about the underdog as long as the underdog is directly across the street. A brilliant strategy when you think about it. Want to open a small independent coffee shop? Well, set up shop near Starbucks. Some traffic will be diverted your way out of pangs of guilt. Why be cliché when you can cross the street and be self righteously cliché? Others will head to get some indie brew to avoid long lines and no place to sit. Either way you’re siphoning off the man and championing small business. Who knows Starbucks may even pay you off and give you more to scram than you would’ve made in business. Sure, that’s the classic definition of selling out but…if a thousand Mom and Pops do this then… Well, I would like to say it would bring Starbucks to its knees but it’s more likely that scones will go up 5 cents. (in Robot voice) …Resistance is futile, Just go to Starbucks sip on your frap and enjoy Norah Jones on the PA system… QSN - Quick Side Note *News story on Sandisk being number 2

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Close Encounters of the Crazy Kind

At this point my brushes with eccentric characters have become much like the “chicken or the egg” conundrum. Do I write about these types because I run into them or do I run into them because I write about them? I don’t think I’m seeking out these encounters but maybe the mere act of writing about them, attracts them.

Cut to me walking into a Ralph’s supermarket to ¬¬¬scoop up some Almond milk. I usually get soy milk from the ninety nine cents store but apparently soy milk has too much of the female hormone, estrogen. I don’t sob while watching Seinfeld reruns and I haven’t told anyone that it’s not what they said, but how they said it. Still, I figure I should take a break from using female hormone milk to mix my very manly protein powder after my very manly workouts. (Resistance bands are manly right?)

I walked past a guy in the parking lot and we had this exchange:

APOCALYPSE DUDE: You going in there?
ME: Yes
APOCALYPSE DUDE: You better hurry! They’re running out of food!

It took everything in me to not ask him some follow-up questions. Was it a certain section that was depleted? Were they also running out of toiletries? How about cashews?

I hope my doomsday soothsayer wasn’t offended that I didn’t speed up after his warning. It’s not that I wasn’t taking heed but no one else was heading toward the mega mart so at least I only had to contend with the mayhem already inside the store and those people already had the drop on me so keeping my leisurely pace seemed to make sense.

Of course Ralph’s was loaded. There were enough provisions to feed a city. To be fair, he didn’t say when they would run out of food. 2025 would be my guess. Almond milk is too thick for my protein powder to fully dissolve. I wish he would’ve warned me about that.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Money Where My Mouth Is

My love/love relationship with the 99 cents store is well documented in my blog. If you’re in Los Angeles, call me up and tell me your cross streets, I can tell you where the nearest 99 cents store is*. Yes my mom is very proud of me, in case you were wondering.

My local noventa y nueve store is in a parking lot with a really hip organic market. This market is the real deal. They sell grass fed beef. I’m told that’s much tastier and a lot better for you than beef that’s fed grain. The market is great and relatively inexpensive but at a huge disadvantage being right next to the 99 cents store. The 99 cents store has an extensive grocery section to go along with stuff like, “Hello Smitty” knockoff coloring books. I occasionally wonder into the local organic market when the 99 cent store doesn’t have eggs. I like local market but not enough to shop their exclusively or go there before I poke my head into the 99 cent store. I do however want the organic place to stay in business.

I have decided to go in the market once every other week and purchase one or two offerings to help them stay afloat. Last week it was a 5 dollar bag of Farina. Week before some tasty but “send you to the poor house” prawns. I’ve got my eye on beef with grass between its teeth. Basically, the local market will be where I go to buy my metaphorical sneakers.

I learned a long time ago that you can skimp on your outfit as long as you kill’em with some fly sneaks. I’ll skimp at the 99 cents store but go to the market to make my cupboard seem flyer than it really is.

VISITOR 2MY CUPBOARD: Wow, high end Farina, Prawns…somebody has stepped their game up. By the way…you should probably keep those Prawns in the freezer.

* I can also do this for Starbucks locations and I’m not too shabby on Ross Dress For Less locales as well.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Gotta Idea...That I Wanna Share

A teenager in Mexico City is on a Hunger Strike until she gets an invite to the Royal Wedding. Kinda crazy but I think I now have the perfect plan to get my own show:

See me starve in front of CBS.
And know, that ‘til I get my own show, I vow not to ingest.
Talk show is cool but a sitcom is best.
Is that a Wetzel Pretzel?!
Ahhh...screw it I guess…CRUNCH!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Overhead Dread

We often hear stories of heroism so selfless that they fill us with hope that maybe just maybe we humans will make it on this planet after all. Someone jumps on a train track to save someone else or shares a kidney with a stranger, or “likes” one of your wall posts.

For me, these stories don’t exactly restore my faith in mankind. For I travel and I believe that until we can share overhead space on an airplane, we can’t really expect any type of peace on earth. How can countries compromise on borders when individuals can’t even team up to ensure no one has to check a bag? When people put itty bitty bags overhead or put their bag in sideways against the constant urgings of the crew and the big instruction label inside the bins, they’re not screwing some stranger out in the ether. No, they are sticking it to someone they’re about to spend 5 hours with. There’s no I in “fellow passenger.”

It’s just amazing that 100 people with enough money to fly on a plane need to get to territorial and petty. I have no qualms about moving someone’s bag or loudly saying, “who’s tiny under the seat bag is here taking up precise luggage space?!” And how lazy and uncaring do you have to be to not turn your bag 90 degrees?! It would be okay if the flight attendants didn’t plea with people to put their bags in wheels first 10-20 times while boarding.

Come on folks. Let’s ensure human existence on this planet. Let’s share overhead space. And after we do, we can work on people who take up two parking spaces.

All this, of course, is contingent upon the machines not taking over. 

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Icing Like Tyson

For a boxer, being bequeathed a nickname is a sure fire sign that you’ve arrived on the boxing scene. If Mac “The Killer” Jones is fighting Ralph Henderson, “The Killer” has to be the prefight favorite. A sure fire sign that you have completely permeated pop culture is having a dance named after you. Iron Mike Tyson has both.

I was reminded of the reason why today when I watched a bunch of his early knockouts. A barrage of extremely powerful but even more accurate blows turned men into drunken incoherent mice. My amazement shifted from how can he hit that hard to why would anyone let themselves be hit that hard. I derived amusement from Mike’s competitors, dead men walking, realizing only at the moment of first impact, just how hard Tyson punched. There’s something purely entertaining about seeing the exact moment when a person accepts truth. That moment is even more entertaining when it’s accompanied by an uppercut that lifts them off the ground. The truth hurts.

Brutality aside, there was beauty in Tyson’s precision and raw power. Boxing is called the sweet science and Mike Tyson’s practice of the science turned the ring into a revolving lab where grown specimens could visit but not stay longer than a round or two.

I think my buddy and I enjoyed seeing Tyson’s targets drop a little more than we should of. Partly because of an innate desire to witness anything shocking but mainly our laughter was that of the nervous variety, knowing full well that we would have met the exact same fate and probably in half the time.

With fear comes intrigue and Mike Tyson had intrigue to spare. It’s a shame that his quest to legitimately be considered the greatest was derailed by all of his troubles.

Our attraction to beauty and perfection is even greater than our infatuation with shock. When all three are in the same package, it’s unlikely that purity will be left alone to fulfill its promise (see Michael Jackson). There’s also the sadness that most people extremely gifted in one area are necessarily deficient somewhere else. We don’t celebrate balance and consistency. We exalt talent and then feign shock when the other shoe drops.

But now twenty years after he first burst unto the scene, we are still intrigued with Iron Mike; Of course partly because of his antics but always because will be forever indebted to him for blessing us with his talents.

Mike Tyson is from Brooklyn by the way.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Broke Down Communication

I think there’s some benefit to wearing sunglasses all the time. Sure you’re “that guy” and you lose out on some quality interactions with people who’ll have none of your pretentiousness. On the flip side though, you avoid uncomfortable exchanges.

I don’t wear tinted bifocals, more out of a fear of losing them than a fear of looking like a jerk. I have a practical work around but having your sunglasses hang from your neck like a granny in between crossword puzzles is even too un-cool for me. So as I passed through security at Cleveland International with the windows to my soul exposed, I made eye contact with a friendly airport staffer. This gentleman was African American so there was the obligatory “Keep fighting the good fight” nod that black people often give each other in non-black environments. Also, I had just done 6 sold out shows and already established during my last show that an audience member would be on my flight. So it’s possible that the staffer was at one of the shows is all I’m saying.

All the aforementioned factors led to me nodding and that leading to small talk: Something about me going to a warm place and him wishing he could get away from the cold. So far so straight. Then he asked me if I had had a Cleveland tour guide. “Uh… No” Now I’m thinking Cleveland airport is all about hospitality. Like Cleveland is banding together as a city to make sure visitors leave with a good impression.

Then the airport staffer offered to show me around next time. I still wasn’t sure if he was at the show or making small talk or what. Since I was on my way out of Dodge I said “Sure, thanks…I guess…” I still didn’t know what was happening. Then he said he was on Facebook and I thought “Oh, he is a fan…whew…” Then Mr. Friendly proceeds to write down his Facebook url, number and email. And as I walk away he says “Call me anytime!”

Finally, I knew what was happening. He was a fan alright. Now readers, in my defense, black people can be very informal with each other and I’m constantly trying to make sure I’m not being standoffish like some snobby New Yorker or even worse an aloof Angelino. So I thought this was an example of down home folk being down home folksy.

To each his own but not my own. I’m straight like Indian hair. I suppose women go through this all the time, never knowing if a friendly guy has an ulterior motive. Well that’s easy. Of course he does. But for same sex encounters in non-gay situations how is the straight person supposed to know? It’s not like this guy wore a pink boa and flashed jazz hands. Maybe gay guys need a sign to identify each other. There’s the rainbow but that might lack the subtlety needed by some. Also, Hawaii is still all WTF about their beloved rainbow being co-opted by gay bars. There’s got to be at least one bar with a rainbow outside of it that is really just a straight Hawaiian spot.

Perhaps some odd sequence of words might better serve as the gay sign and something far more intricate than “how’s it going?” Maybe something like “Cream style corn is better served warm” and the response to let the other person know it’s on would be something like “And French Cuff Links shine brightest at dawn.” Now there’s still a chance that a straight person could say the cuff link line without knowing it was a code but in my case there was no exchanges of non sequiturs.

To avoid straight guys with tourette’s getting hit on. The best thing to do would be to have a secret gay handshake. Of course this would have completely shot holes in the otherwise very believable movie, “I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Steve”

I now pronounce myself a sunglass wearer.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

“Jeopardy” in Jeopardy

I’m told a super computer called Watson will soon be a contestant on Jeopardy. “I’ll take signs the machines are taking over for a thousand, Alex.” Does this feel like the beginning of a Sci-Fi movie with a very unhappy ending to anyone else? I’m sure the Terminator’s back story was that he debuted on a game show before crushing mankind and then traveling back in time to stop the head of the resistance from being born.

QSN: How the man from the future, sent back in time by the Humans to ensure that the rebel leader is born, is the rebel leader’s father is a prime directive nightmare that still bothers me. I hate it when time traveling movies get cute.

Man won’t be happy until he completely makes himself obsolete. The day we say…

US: Look the machines can do all the work…

Is the day the machines say…

MACHINES: Then why do we need you. Human existence does not compute…

Why not let a computer host Jeopardy? Many movies already use computer generated actors. If the computers are doing everything we used to do then what is there for us to do? Spoken not like a technophobe but more a person who loves computers but loves people more.

Wouldn’t it be wonderfully terrifying to find that the most major share holder in the top 100 companies in the world is actually a computer that embezzled a nickel from everyone in the world back in the 80’s and invested it all in corporations. Crazy, but it would explain some things wouldn’t it?

Perhaps the human spirit will continue to reign over machine. Perhaps humans have that indescribable quality that Je ne sais quoi to win the battle against machine. John Henry beat the steam engine and then victoriously dropped dead. I hope we get to enjoy our win.

QSN = Quick Side Note

The Watson Super Computer competing on Jeopardy will air on February 14,15 & 16, 2011.

Monday, January 03, 2011

What’s My Queue

If patience is a virtue, nothing offers more opportunity to get your virtue on than standing in line. Be it the post office, airport, bank or butcher*; it just seems like people being serviced at the window judge the quality of the experience by how long they get to stand there. This is very interesting considering they were in line just moments ago when their quality gauge was strictly based on how little time the people being served ahead of them took. Classic case of the oppressed becomes the oppressor.

I’m okay with people needing to perform complex transactions but sometimes there’s over the top self indulgence at the window. Like when you’re in the bank and you catch wind of the conversation a person at the window is having with the teller and he’s asking the teller how inflation works and doing Eany Meany Miny Moe to decide if he should get cats or flowers on his checks…best two out of three.

That time is your time. I’m not telling window person to rush lest they forget something and have to re-enter the queue. I’m just saying don’t forget where you came from…THE LINE. It was you window person just minutes ago sighing loudly and shifting your body weight side to side like a restless six year old. Don’t get to the window and act like it’s a spa.

I apologize to anyone who’s ever been behind me in line at a post office. In my defense, mass mailings take mass postage. In a check in line at Heathrow airport, I timed a guy with one lousy piece of luggage took 5 minutes to check in. That’s an eternity. There’s not 5 minutes worth of things to do at an airport check-in counter. I checked in minutes later. I checked a bag, gave my frequent flyer number and confirmed my aisle seat. The whole thing took just over a minute.

What I taketh from the post office I giveth back at the airport. I tried to tell them, we’re all in this together**

* Butcher? Just wanted to make sure you were paying attention and appeal to any readers who live in places with butchers or any time travelers giving my blog a gander…How about this internet huh?!

**Line from KRS-One song. “I’m still Number One”