Thursday, April 30, 2009

How is this a scam, and who is falling for it?

Craigslist is a pretty good place to do job hunting. Problem is, it does sometimes get riddled with job posting scams. Sometimes the job posting looks legitimate, sometimes its obvious something is wrong. In either case I just don't get the scam. Maybe it is because I haven't gone far enough into the application process to see where the scam part comes in - "The interview went great, now we just need you to emails us your social security number and FedEx us a credit card and your license" - or whatever it is that happens. I also feel bad for people that get caught by a scam like this. Maybe these people are naive or to trusting or perhaps they are just plain stupid, but in any case these poor people have been taken complete advantage of because at some point in their life they didn't get the necessary tools to sniff out a scam like this. Or perhaps they just consumed to much yellow # 5 as a kid. At some point in the scam though you have to have some awareness that something isn't right.

I'm pretty good at picking out these scams right away, but apparently I missed one. I have applied for almost 30 jobs. Today I received my first response back and it came via email. This is what I received:

"Dear Candidate,

We got your resume and your application for our ad. We are
sincerely sorry to inform you that the position for the Customer
Service Rep has been occupied. Our manager went through your resume
and you have been picked for an alternative Job which is the Payment
Personnel. The Customer Service/Receptionist position has been
occupied and now what we need is a representative and Account
Receivable / Payment Personal manager for the company on financial

About The Company : Hullbullgti Limited

(Hullbullgti Limited) is a U.K Company and with
established, leaders in innovative Art Works Technology, providing art
materials worldwide. We serve the entire United States and a growing
export market. Your primary task for now, as a representative of the
company is to coordinate payments from customers and help us with the
payment process. You are not involved in any sales. Once orders are
received and sorted we deliver the product to a customer. After this
has been done the customer has to pay for the products but in most
cases we make our clients prepay for orders or items they ordered for.
About 90 percent of our customers prefer to pay through Credit Card
Transfers,Cashiers Check , Certified Checks or Money Orders drawn from
the United State based on the amount involved why Only few decides on
Bank Transfers which is not also a Suitable. We have decided to open
this new contract to hire job position for solving this problem. Your
First Primary task (Collection of Payments)


1. Receive payment from our Customers or Clients.
2. Cash Payment at your Bank or Deposit payment and let us know how
long its going to take before it clear the Bank
3. Deduct 10 % which will be your percentage/pay on Payment processed
4. Forward balance after deduction of percentage/pay to any of the
offices you will be instructed to send payment to, You'll have a lot
of free time doing another job, because this is a part time job,
you'll get good income. But this job is very challenging and you
should understand it. We are considering your application because you
satisfy our requirements and we are sure you will be an earnest
assistant till we start running our branch office in your state. For
example if you receive 4000.00 USD and your 10% should be 400.00 USD
Plus your basis monthly salary is 1000.00 USD here are the information
you are to provide then we will get back to you after we must have
gone through it all. Get back to us with information below
information, so that we can add your mailing address to our Regional
database and forward it to our customers as one of our Payment
Personnel and Account Receivable Official.

Please Apply by filling the Requirements Below:

* Full Names:_______________
* Address:__________________
* City:_____________________
* State:____________________
* Zip Code:_________________
* Home Phone:____________________
* Cell Phone:____________________
* Email:____________________
* Present Occupation:_______
* Sex:______________________

Thanks for your anticipated action. And we hope to hear back from you.


Hullbullgti Limited"

For a UK based company they obviously have a very loose handle on the English language, which is clue number 1 that something isn't right. Clue number 2 is a quick Google search that reveals there is no company named "Hullbullgti Limited". I went back to the original job posting on craigslist to flag it as a fraud, but someone already beat me to it.

How could a scam artist think sending out an email like the one above could result in anything? It's obviously pure crap. But I can only assume there are people out there that would get this email and respond back, hoping to maybe land their or any job after being unemployed for a long period of time, otherwise scams like this wouldn't be everywhere.

It just doesn't make a lot of sense to me, from either side's perspective. One thing I do know is that the human brain allows us to be more evil and bigger jerks then any other creature in existence. Luckily the human brain also has the capacity to make people wonderfully kind and smart an compassionate and funny and just plain great. And if one chemical message is a little off you can find yourself in the grocery store yelling "You fucked my ass shit for fuck" and a bottle of fish sauce. Truly amazing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Collaboraction's 9th Annual Sketchbook

The 9th Annual SKETCHBOOK Festival

April 16 - May 10
The Building Stage l 412 N Carpenter

A lively celebration of staged theatrical works, music and fine art, SKETCHBOOK is a short play festival like no other. Each year Collaboraction guides more than 200 artists through an exciting collaboration where 10-20 short performances, each seven minutes or less in length, mingle with visual art and music. The SKETCHBOOK Festival is Collaboraction at its best: breaking down the walls that divide theater, music, visual art, video and the Internet, transforming the space into a singular world where audiences can be both spectator and artist, contributing to dynamism of each performance.

There are two things you can do to become a better writer...

1) Write.

2) Go see stuff that was written.

That second one is the one most frequently dropped by writers, yet it is as important as the first. Seeing the work of others helps one discover what they like and dislike and what they want to avoid or aspire to. Seeing bad stuff can be as educational as it is torturous. Seeing great stuff can be inspirational.

I saw Collaboraction's Sketchbook - Program A two weeks ago and it was inspirational. For me, it was a reminder that there's more than one way to write a scene. And that the simplest ideas are usually the best.

It started off a little squirrely with "Constriction" by Jennifer Barclay and directed by Devon de Mayo. Four teenage girls that speak their own version of gangsta valley girl end up in hell. A fun concept, alienating by the lack of sympathy for the girls. It used the whole rave-like theater space and moved backward in time. It came across more high concept than substantial. A good way to kick off the evening as it lets us know this is not your father's "Desire Under The Elms."

Sketchbook shows what it does best in the polar-opposite simple second piece, "Who Put The Dead Bird In My Mailbox" by Sarah Hammond, directed by Karen Kessler. A simple story about a young girl, portrayed with just-barely-post-teen angst by Jennifer Waldrip. A girl finds a dead bird in her apartment building mailbox and leaves a note to the offender filled with anger, hurt and wonder.

Sketchbook is a festival, as such, the quality goes up and down, but not by much. A few of the pieces set the bar pretty high and the ones that don't match are still worth seeing. And from a writer's point of view, it reminded me that there's more than one way to tell a story and reality is what I create it to be in a scene. If I want a character to be followed around by a chorus of Indigo Girl fans who sing about the side effects of allergy medicines, then I certainly can.

Become a better writer. Go see Sketchbook.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Making A Run For The Roses

I have been going to the Kentucky Derby for 11 years now. It’s my wife’s family’s annual trip (her parents have been going for about 40 years), and it’s a lot of fun--if you are into overpacking suitcases, wearing funny hats, eating, drinking and gambling too much, and generally partying/getting on each other’s nerves while laughing at the way Kentuckians talk once a year. It really is a good time.

Last year I finally picked my first Derby winner, Big Brown. In 11 years I have chosen the second place finisher once, the last place finisher once, and everything in between. With nearly 20 horses in the race every year, it’s a lot harder to pick the winner than you think. So this year, instead of focusing on the horses, I’m going to give you the odds on what really happens at the race. These odds have been scientifically calculated, by me, based on 11 years of observation, experience, careful note taking, and heavy drinking.

True Kentucky Derby Odds

Odds that people will wear funny hats: 1 to 1000 (That means if you wagerd $1000 dollars on this bet, you would win $1. It's that much of a sure thing. For an explanation of how odds work, go here.)

Odds that I will wear a funny hat: 0 (my hat always looks good and classy.)

Odds that I will drink my annual mint julep: Even

Odds that I will enjoy my annual mint julep: 10 to 1 (This drink really kinda sucks--it’s basically sugar water, cheap whiskey, and mint. Honestly, the ice is the best part.)

Over/under on how many beers I will drink at the Derby: 8 (take the over)

Odds that Churchill Downs will take all of my gambling money: Even (Really, I am a horrible horse player. I would do better standing outside the port-o-potty area and betting on which person would come out of the toilet first. I have actually become a great predictor of this, based on a few factors I have noticed through the years--but that is another blog for another time. As for horses, I know nothing.)

Odds that the diminutive size of the jockeys will freak me out: Even (I don’t know why, but little people have always had this effect on me. Really, I have nightmares about this, like one time I dreamed of a tiny Jason Vorhees chasing me down a hallway. It was terrifying. Regular sized Jason Vorhees doesn’t scare me at all, but tiny Vorhees has me scrambling out the nearest window.)

Odds that any of the jockeys will look as good as Kristen Johnson does in this photo: 0 (Really, this is Kristen Johnson? The chick from Third Rock from the Sun?)

Odds that I will wear this awesome bowtie with a lavender colored shirt and matching purple suspenders: Even (My wife and I dress up every year. I used to fight it, but now I just go with it and it’s actually fun and I’m even becoming a bit of a whore for Kentucky Derby fashion. I own 4 hats, including a boater, a seersucker suit, a madras coat, a $200 pair of shoes and purple suspenders, for crying out loud.)

Odds that I will be able to tie this awesome bow tie: 12 to 1

Odds that I will spill food/condiments on my lavender shirt: Even

Odds that I will spill beer on my lavender shirt: 1 to 4

Odds that I will make it through the day without spilling anything on my lavender shirt only to have some random drunk do it for me: 1 to 10 (This happens every year.)

Over/under on how many times I will stare inappropriately at abundantly exposed cleavage: 247 (Take the over as it is my contention that after the long, cold, overdressed winters of Chicago the first Saturday of May in Kentucky is really and truly the first day of SPRING(!) as far as I'm concerned.)

Over/under on how many times my wife will catch me staring inappropriately at abundantly exposed cleavage: 7 (take the over)

Odds that I will care that I have been busted: 1 to 3

Odds that my wife will care: Even

Odds that I will care the seventh time I am busted: Even

Odds that my horse pick this year, I Want Revenge, will win the Derby: 6 to 1

Odds that my pick will get his revenge: 0 (Do horses ever get revenge?)

Odds that Khan will get his revenge: 0 (He did kill Spock, indirectly. Does that count?)

Odds that my wife’s pick, Dunkirk, will finish ahead of my horse: 1 to 5 (Take this bet, she is a much better horse player than me.)

Odds that my wife will secretly think she is a much better horse player than me: Even

Odds that my father-in-law will openly think my wife is a much better horse player than me: 1 to 2

Odds that my wife will secretly think I look better in my Derby outfit than she does in hers: Even

Odds that she will loathe me for this: 1 to 10

Odds that she will loathe me for this after she has had too many mint juleps: Even

Odds that I actually do look better in my Derby outfit than she does in hers: No chance

Odds that a poor, unfortunate horse will have to be put down after the race, like Eight Belles did last year: 30 to 1

Odds that I will make a poor, unfortunate comment immediately after this happens and everyone will hate me: Even

Odds that I will have a great time: Better than Even (I’m already having fun!)

Review? What?

(Imagine this was posted yesterday.)

How did the show go Friday? No idea. I was busy running around back stage. I thought I heard laughter, which is a good sign, but I really just wanted to make sure that the lube and magazine floated out at the right time (come see the show and you'll find out what I'm talking about).

Luckily, we have a review with

People review sketch shows? This is news to me. But we're happy to have it, so go check it out.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

First night down/Reaction shot soapbox

First of all, congratulations to the cast and writers on what I hear was a great opening night for "(Upside down exclamation point)Run Palindrome Nur!" For those of you who haven't seen it, it was built on a novel concept, and it turned into a completely cool show. I missed out on its debut due to previously set obligations in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. But I will be there next Friday and the Fridays after that, and you should be there too! Or else. I will pee in your shoes.

So everyone has something they like that they feel no one else likes and believes everyone else should... like. Sometimes it's a band. Sometimes it's a food. Sometimes it's a TV show. In this case, my show is How I Met Your Mother. I made fun of a friend for watching it for an entire year before I sat down and actually watched it. It's funny in a quiet chuckle type way, and it's a relateable in an "I do that universal thing that soul-searching mid-to-late 20-somethings do too!" type way. Plus Neil Patrick Harris can do no wrong, unless he murders more than five people, and even then I would have to know more details before making a final judgment call. But every diamond in the rough has a piece of poop clinging to it, and in this case, it's the reaction shots. Like, when someone says something funny or someone does something funny. The best sitcoms gloss over it and keep the ball rolling. they live in an alternate universe where everything said is witty and therefore unlaughable. You just said something funny? Of course you did! That's how we talk to each other! Pass the salt. But in the case of HIMYM, the camera reserves a few seconds after every humorous comment for a shot of someone across the table laughing, or smiling broadly, or nodding their head in approval/disapproval. It's really awkward, and it interrupts the flow of whatever's being said. You'd like to think they would've learned this after three seasons, but it's season four and the nods are just getting more exagerated. It's to the point where I close my eyes and take a big bite of sandwich when I see it coming. Long soapbox short, save the laughs for the audience. I've got nothin'...

Congratulations To The RvD Flash-Fiction Contest Winner!

The title says it all. Except who the winner is.

So congratulations to Lawrence A. for his winning flash-fiction story that we at RvD have decided to call "American Soldier Dance Shoes," unless you have another title in mind. Please contact us at rvdchicago[-at-] with your contact information so we can get you your $5.

We the committee members would just like to add that it was an extremely close competition, and we must heartily recommend the two finalists, Gamer18548 and Margie for their highly entertaining and literary entries. To read all the brilliant entries, click here.

We now bring you Lawrence A's winning story:

"American Soldier Dance Shoes"

“Gettysburg? Goddamn cakewalk. Antietam? Weren’t nothin but a high school dance. Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. Now. That there was hell, son.” With that, Gramps was gone. His last breath lingered in the air, smelling vaguely like Grace’s shoes the day Dad shipped out for Pusan.

Funny how you remember those details. Never saw him again; just some black and white photos, and a few postcards. He lost both feet at Incheon; ended up staying there; shacked up with a nurse named Soo Kim.

Guess he couldn’t face life without war; or maybe it was war without him he couldn’t face. Or maybe it was me; his first born son, run off to Magill to sit out Vietnam teaching Hemingway and Faulkner in Toronto, he couldn’t face.

Starkmoor men lie rotting under crosses in Margraten and Omaha Beach, or were forever lost off of Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal. Whenever Uncle Sam needed foot soldiers, we, no, they were there. Even my brother Ulysses S. came back from Viet Nam with medals for valor at Phouc Long and Loc Ninh, and a dragon tattoo and a fatal taste for heroin was buried in Arlington. That’s why I had come back. To see him buried. All those brave Starkmoor men. All dead. All so I could read Faulkner or sit in my underwear and think about the smell of Grace’s shoes while I wait for the bottle of demerol to put me out of my pain.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Opening Night

Last night was the opening night of our new show. Here is a not-at-all live blog of my experience:

(all times are CDT)

4:45p - Change my choice of pants from black Dockers to gray not-Dockers.

5:08p - Catch the inbound Brown Line train. Only one homeless guy grunts at me.

5:30p - Call my mom to tell her about the horrendous scene I wrote. She makes her peace with her God.

5:53p - Exit the Sedgwick CTA stop and am handed a postcard advertising several misspelled drink specials at a local bar.

6:00p - Arrive at Piper's Alley. Only one homeless guy grunts at me.

6:02p - Arrive at Donny's Skybox. Sugar Babe asks why I shaved my beard. I haven't grown a beard since 2005.

6:10p - The pre-show pizza arrives. I decline because I'm a fat person and, therefore, always end up with 15% of my meal on my shirt.

6:23p - While assembling the show programs, I realize that I haven't accomplished any of the things listed in my bio.

6:58p - A final runthrough of "The Post" results in great pain.

7:15p - Our audience begins to arrive.

7:30p - Showtime!

7:32p - Forget the one line I have in the opening scene. I instead recite Iceland's national anthem.

7:46p - For the seventh time, I ask George, "which scene is next?"

7:59p - My acting in the Restaurant sketch results in great pain.

8:11p - I forget my lines in the last scene and instead read The Great Gatsby to the audience.

8:16p - Final bows. The show ends. I ask George, "which scene is next?"

8:45p - Drinks at the Old Town Ale House. I tell the hot woman behind the bar about how great I was in the show. The bartender informs me that I've been bragging to the nude painting of Rod Blagojevich.

12:23a - Finally get to bed. I ask my wife, "which scene is next?"

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Come See Our Show!

So our newest show opens tomorrow night. You have 5 Fridays to see it. It is wonderful and funny. Look to the right side of this page for all the details. There is nothing more important happening in the world right now, trust me. So come see the show!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This Man Could Kick Chuck Norris' Ass

A little something to get you ready for our show.

FACT: In his movies he has beaten up or killed the likes of Mr. T, Dolph Lundgren, Wesley Snipes and John Lithgow. John Lithgow!

FACT: You can easily immitate his voice by talking like you are a zombie and staring vacantly at nothing.

FACT: More than just an action hero, Stallone has held his own against such great comic talents as Rob Schneider, Estelle Getty and Dolly Parton's boobs.

FACT: Single-handedly ended the cold war with the pure force of the ending of Rocky IV. "If you can change, and I can change, we can all change!"

FACT: Hands down the greatest actor of his generation!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

72 Things....

Sitting in front of the Lincolnwood Mall's Waldenbooks was a book titled 72 Things Younger Than John McCain. The idea is that John McCain is incredibly old - 72 years-old (as of the book's publication). Imagine the everyday things in our lives that have existed for less time than Senator McCain!
That got me to thinking about my own life - how do I compare to the world around me? With that in mind, I present:

4 Things Larger Than My Penis

1. The Great Wall of China
2. The Empire State Building
3. A 2005 Toyota Corolla
4. Everyone Else's Penis

Next week: 47 Things Larger Than My Penis-Size-Induced Self-Esteem.

Friday, April 17, 2009

To Greg Wendling's Post From Earlier Today

At the end of Greg Wendling's post from today he wrote; "OK, Crump, go ahead and post the entry you should have written yesterday on top of this one". Well Greg, I refuse to give you the satisfaction of being right. So I will not be posting anything on top of your post from today to make up for the post I failed to write yesterday. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.


The Pulitzers - Plus a Flash Fiction Contest

It's that time of the year again. The 2009 Pulitzer winners and finalists will be announced this Monday.

This will be the first time the Pulitzers are announced since I began my project of reading all the Fiction winners. I wanted to read more good books, and the Pulitzer list seemed like a good bet. But reading only Pulitzers is a little like watching only the Best Picture Oscar winners. After reading a few you start to get an idea of what kinds of writing and stories the committee favors. (Though thankfully no books so far have been as bad as "Crash.")

If you think your novel might be the next Pulitzer, here is a helpful checklist to increase your chances dramatically. Every book I've read so far meets at least 80% of the following criteria.
  • Make sure you're American. This is a stated requirement. U.S. Citizenship is a little over $1,000. You might be able to get a better quote in another American country.
  • Preferably your book is about life in the United States. (And since you should write what you know, it helps if your primary domicile is in the continental 48.)
  • Your book should either be about or contain no less than 30 references to U.S. American wars. References to the U.S. Civil War count double.
  • You desperately need a character named Grace. She should be a peripheral character, talked about more than she is seen, and should represent everything good to your main character.
  • Include a handful of paragraphs devoted to descriptions of smells associated with sex or sexuality.
  • Your central character should have a stated enthusiastic enjoyment of literature. Triple points if the character is a writer who is narrating her/his experience.
  • Someone must die. Bonus points if your central character dies or is near death.
  • Your character must travel or, if your character is dying, talk at length of their time spent traveling.
  • Your story should span no fewer than 3 generations.
  • Double your chances by legally changing your name to William Faulkner, John Updike, Norman Mailer or Booth Tarkington. Or turn your book into a play and change your name to Eugene O'Neill to quadruple your chances.
Oh, and try use some foreshadowing and symbolism. Sad and true brush-with-greatness story: When I was a Sophomore in high school, my mom, an English professor, took me to a very small and intimate reading and Q&A session with Tim O'Brien, the author of "The Things They Carried", Fiction finalist in 1991 (he lost to John Updike--what did I tell you?). What did I, a young person, annoyed with his high school English teacher's drab teaching style decide to ask the near-Pulitzer winner? Winner of the 1979 National Book Award? Future winner of the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Historical Fiction? In a room full of aspiring writers and students and professors of American literature, I intended to nip all this high school English bullcrap right in the bud. I raised my hand and patiently waited and finally asked "Do you actually use foreshadowing and symbolism?" And the answer, which might surprise you, was a resounding "Yes", complete with a stunned expression and just a hint of the restraint of an eye roll.

CONTEST: Write a flash-fiction story of 250 words or less that incorporates everything in the Pulitzer checklist to qualify for this RvD flash fiction contest. Post your submission in the comments section of this post. Deadline is next Friday, April 24, 5:00 pm. Winner gets $5 and possible distribution of your story at a future RvD event. (RvD members and their families are encouraged to submit since they comprise nearly our entire readership base.)

OK, Crump, go ahead and post the entry you should have written yesterday on top of this one.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The BBC Writer's Room

I love British humor. They are always schooling us in the ways of sketch comedy (Beyond the Fringe, Monty Python, French and Saunders, Fry and Laurie, Little Britain, Mr. Bean, etc) and sit-coms (Coupling, The Office, Is There A Doctor in the House?, Fawlty Towers, etc).

They are inspiring in their creativity and bravery in this medium.

What I am most jealous of culturally is their love of radio. Our radio landscape has been reduced to shock jocks, blabbermouths and manufactured hits. British radio has their crap, too, but a good chunk of it is filled with high quality radio dramas and comedies. Nobody told them that Old Time Radio is over and done with.

A dream of mine is to write something that is able to cross the pond and work well on BBC radio or television.

Here's where I go to dream...

The BBC Writer's Room

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Masters: We're Talking About Golf, Right?

My father-in-law’s birthday usually falls around the Masters, so it has become a bit of a tradition that we are all at my in-laws’ house on Masters weekend. We generally celebrate golf’s greatest major by eating too much cake, drinking too much beer, watching baseball and golf, and having "sports" conversations like the following:

Mary Liz (my wife): (As Angel Cabrera makes his winning par during the playoff holes.) So, do they all place their orders before they tee off, and then the winner gets his dinner?

Me: (reacting as if I just took an Ali jab straight to the head) Wha?

Mary Liz: You know, the dinner. Do they place the order and now they are making the dinner?

Don: (brother-in-law) You mean the winner’s dinner. That’s next year.

Mary Liz: Oh, they eat it next year?

Don: Yeah, it’s the Champions’ Dinner. The winner from the year before gets to choose the food.

(Then we have a lengthy conversation about how we know this because of the Tiger Woods/Fuzzy Zoeller flap a few years ago. Then . . . )

Mary Liz: I wonder what they will have next year for dinner.

Me: (Taking the bait.) Probably Argentinean food. Cabrera’s from Argentina.

Mary Liz: What is that? What kind of food is Argentinean?

Don: Maybe steaks. Churasco? Is that from Argentina?

Me: [shaking my head back and forth slowly]

Mary’s Mom: Plantains? That’s South American. I bet they have plantains.

Me: [Hiding my head in my hands.]

Mary Liz: Hmmm. Will that be on the internet? Will we be able to look at the menu? I'd like to see that.

Me: [banging my head against the coffee table.]

Mary Liz: (As Cabrera is presented with his green jacket.) Do they all wear the little green jackets at the dinner? I bet that looks odd, all those guys in their green jackets. Like a fraternity.
Me: [Sticking a fork in my eye.]

Mary Liz: So do they have a tailor on the premises or do they just get a jacket off the rack when they win the tournament? Is there a big closet with a bunch of green jackets in different sizes? His jacket looks a little big. Doesn't his jacket look big?

Mary's Mom: That jacket is a little big.

Me: [Head explodes.]

Angel Cabrera gets his "fitted" green jacket and wonders "What's for dinner?" 2.5 seconds before Chris’ head explodes.


If you think this is an isolated incident, here is a story I was telling people last year during the Ryder Cup team event. As always, 90 percent of this is actually true.

Last September the Americans won the Ryder Cup golf team event, beating the Europeans 16½-11½. I saw the end of the matches with Mary while perched on a bar stool in the Irish Oak, drinking a Guiness. Here is the “sports” conversation we had during those matches:

Mary Liz: So, who do you think picks the shirts?

Me: The shirts?

Mary Liz: The shirts they wear. The guys on the teams are all wearing the same golfing shirt.

Me: (Taking the bait.) I don’t know who picks the “golfing” shirts. The captain, maybe? A committee?

Mary Liz: (Thinking for a moment.) I bet it’s the wives.

Me: The wives?

Mary Liz: I like the Europeans’ shirts better. Their wives have a better fashion sense.

Me: [Pounding my head on the bar.]

Mary Liz: And they are wearing white belts. I like the white belts. They’re fun.

Me: [Sticking toothpick in my eye.]

Mary Liz: I wonder what color their socks are. I wish they would show the socks.

Me: [Setting myself on fire.]

The wives of the 2008 European Ryder Cup Team displaying their fashion sense. Mary would like to know, "Where do they shop for their sunglasses?"

Monday, April 13, 2009

NUR Postcard! And a Boringly Lengthy Explanation of How It Was Made

Hey Everybody! Here's the postcard for our new show! Hooray postcard!

So as not to appear like I'm just throwing this up on the ol' robo-blog because I have nothing else to write (which may or may not be the case) here are a couple of boring words about postcard making.

When you are making your postcard, you want to make sure that it ties in with the show concept. You want to make sure it is different enough to draw the casual observer's eye. And finally, you want to make sure everything is legible.

For this particular show we are experimenting with the amount of people that can reasonably be used in a sketch show and to see how that affects the energy of the performance and the experience of the audience.

The cast size affects the postcard design in two ways. First, from a production standpoint RvD has been trying to simplify everything in order to make the logistics as smooth as possible. We're trying to use less props and less costume and really focus on the performances of the talented cast. Second, we have a gigantic list of actors in the show and wanted to make sure we were able to fit all of the actors' names on the postcard.

As a result, we decided to go with a simple layout - title at the top, a stick figure graphic of some type below, and then location information, cast list, and ticket information below. There is very little extraneous information - no show blurb, no clever little jokes - which allows us to use the space effectively and to let the title, graphic and cast size speak to the type of show we have created.

Speaking of which, we decided on the title "¡Run, palindrome, nuR!", which could charitably be described as a unique title for a sketch show. It does require that you know what a palindrome is, so it is just a little bit heady (albeit in a completely stupid way). We were looking for a means of integrating the title with the simplicity of the production and decided on a simple stick figure graphic.

We settled on two stick figures running at one another. The graphic is like a visual palindrome in that the two stick men are mirror images of one another. We also considered trying two stick figures running in the same direction, which would have been fake-clever in the same way as the title, however I think that would have been just a little too clever. So we opted for the collision course stick figures, which I think looks a little more balanced anyway.

A word of caution: if you are going to hand draw your postcards, we certain that whatever text you are writing is correct. I made the mistake of not putting "Fridays" on the original draft of the postcard, as well as making the year 2008, and as a result I had to redraw the whole thing. Luckily, because the postcard is so simple, it didn't take me too long.

So there you have it. Back to your regularly scheduled smart-assed posting tomorrow.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter. Here is an egg.

As Easter Sunday comes to a close, I'd like to take a moment and (briefly) reflect on its spirit and meaning. But instead of providing a long diatribe about fighting over pews, stepping on babies, eating Peep casserole and rising from the dead, I've stumbled upon a more appropriate (visual) metaphor.

This, my friends, is an Easter egg. It was laid, boiled, dyed, hidden, found, gawked at, manhandled and eventually disposed of... but not before being photographed for posterity.

Wild speculation stemmed from its discovery, involving everything from tiny Easter dinosaurs to chicken STDs to the still-missing leftovers from Easter Egg Hunt 2002. Bets were made about eating it, but in the end, no one could bear the sight of it. It was, after all, the most hideous thing any of us had ever seen.

So, with that, Happy Easter. I hope it was hideous.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Tip for Writers

You've come up with a fantastic premise, great characters, and dialogue that rivals Shakespeare's, but you can't figure out how to end the damn thing. Ending a piece is perhaps the most difficult part of writing. Many a hair has been pulled, many a bottle of scotch has been emptied, many a nanny has been savagely made love to because of the frustration of conjuring a cogent coda.

Worry no more, my friends! I have solved the vexing vat of something beginning with"v." My technique is called "...And Then the World Blew Up and Everybody Died." I call it that because, at the end of the story, the world blows up and everybody dies. It's an all-purpose ending, perfect for any occasion. Frank and Matilda have gotten back together after a ten-year separation - what is the perfect end-line that encapsulates both the ecstasy of renewed possibility and the agony of missed opportunity? We will never know because Hayley's Comet slammed into the Caribbean Sea and then the world blew up and everybody died.

What's that feeling? It's the satisfaction of the perfect resolution. Try my technique the next time you get stuck on en ending. I guarantee success. Hey, it worked for the Bible!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Results Suggest "Annie Hall" a Gateway Film

A recent study conducted by the scientists at The Netflix Institute for Neuroscience (NIN) has shown early evidence that people who watched and enjoy Woody Allen's 1977 romantic comedy "Annie Hall", along with two other variable films, may go on to demonstrate enjoyment of any number of other films.

For example, of "Annie Hall" lovers (AHLs) in the study, those who also enjoyed "Hannah and Her Sisters" (another Allen film) and "City of God" (director Katia Lund) have been shown to have an appreciation for the critically acclaimed 2007 German film "The Lives of Others." Dr. Phillip A. Nunemaker, MD, MPH of the NIN explains that "Neural firings in the brain allow AHLs who enjoyed the ingenious film-editing in 'Annie Hall', the tumultuous marriages in 'Hannah and Her Sisters,' and the similar poster art design for 'City of God' are likely to enjoy the havoc that the KGB inflicts on a loving couple in this powerful but quiet film, constructed of hidden thoughts and secret desires."

Interestingly, removing "City of God" from this equation and substituting it with "Do The Right Thing" will produce an AHL who may also enjoy "The Life and Times of Harvey Milk."Leave in "Do The Right Thing" and swap out "Hannah" for Wes Anderson's "Bottle Rocket" and the subject is likely to enjoy "The Devil and Daniel Johnston", a documentary about the eponymous troubled musical genius.(1)

Why "Annie Hall," the crown jewel in Woody Allen's film career? Scientists don't have a conclusive answer yet, which is why the research must continue. "There's definitely something to it," says Merriwinter. "The participants of the study each ranked over three quarters of a thousand (750) films on a 5-star ranking system, and those who ranked "Annie Hall"at below 4 stars were shown to dislike most other films.

Good news is on the horizon for those who find themselves unable to enjoy "Annie Hall," a film filled with poignant performances and devastating humor. As diagnoses and gene research improves, scientists are consistently finding that enjoyment for the creative milestone that is "Annie Hall" begins at the genetic level. While surgical procedures are not yet available for humans, in early experiments on lab rats, Merriwinter and her colleagues have effectively shut down gene expression in rats who dislike the film which marks the beginning of the second phase of Allen's career. The studies are the most definitive to date showing that a love for "Annie Hall" is accessible and can be controlled by synthetic and natural molecules.

"With this information, one could easily turn on or off an individual's love for "Annie Hall",
winner of the 1977 Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as enjoy new films by changing mutant gene sequences back to normal," Merriwinter said, adding that, "Lah-dee-dah, lah-dee-dah. La la."

Interference with expression of injected synthetic "Annie Hall" gene ("AH"G). Wild-type "AH"G at the one-cell stage; b, "AH"G together with "TI"G ("The Insider" gene); c, "AH"G together with "TI"G and ("Being John Malkovich" gene) produces a love for "Good Night and Good Luck." Scale bar represents 20 µm.
What can you do to support the research of Netflix? Visit and a pledge your donation. $4.99 is enough to provide meals for one AHL for an entire month (they mostly eat lentils and rice). $47.99 per month is enough to cover the expenses of one AHLs' subscriptions to the New Yorker for two weeks (the average AHL reads the magazine with such vigor that they will have destroyed three copies before making it through "The Talk of The Town" section. To show their gratitude, Netflix will allow you to borrow between one and eight copies of "Annie Hall" at a time for you to enjoy this Woody Allen classic which evinces a sophisticated understanding of the potential for editing and camera movement for comic potential.

1 - An anomaly in the study revealed that a viewer with these exactly three preference will also inexplicably enjoy "Amores Perros" (Director Alejandro González Iñarritu's internationally acclaimed debut film which recounts three tales that unfold and intertwine on the brutal streets of Mexico City) and "In The Mood For Love" (Kar Wai Wong's delicately mannered tale of platonic romance set in 1962 Hong Kong).

New RvD Sketch Comedy Revue - "¡Run, palindrome, nuR!"

"¡Run, palindrome, nuR!"
An Experiment In Numbers

What happens when you throw 18 actors all on one stage, jam them into uncomfortable positions, and bounce them off of each other until they don't know whether they are going forward or backward? RvD will show you! And no matter what happens, the experiments won’t stop until you look over your shoulder and shout "¡Run, palindrome, nuR!"

Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
April 24th through May 22nd

Donny’s Skybox Theatre
1608 North Wells Street
Chicago, Illinois


$12 General Admission
$10 Students
$6 Training Center Students
By phone: 312-337-3992

Or on the web at The Second City Box Office

Written and Directed by Robot vs. Dinosaur

Sugar Babe
Mike Bauman
Zoe Daniels
Chip Davis
Jules Duffy
Courtney Fontaine
Anthony Greene
Susie Gutowski
Martha Hearn
Claudia Henao
George Hubbard Jr.
Andrew Kraft
Jim McDoniel
Bethany Remely
Sarah Shockey
Connor Tillman
Mary Cait Walthall
Douglas Werder

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A show? Why I do beleive we have one.

Before I begin I would like to reiterate:

The Return of the Maginicent RoboWriters
RoboWriters is a weekly drop-in workshop for sketch comedy writers of all levels. Come to get feedback on a scene you are already working on. Come to get ideas for new scenes. Come to hang out, read scenes, meet other writers.

Kick off is Sunday, April 26th from 6-8ish. This will be in room 101 of The Second City Training Center (first floor of Piper's Alley, past the security desk near the escalators). Like the normal coaching tradition, everyone will be asked to throw in five bucks for the workshop leader. All workshop leaders are members of Robot vs Dinosaur. The leader for the 26th will be Joe Janes. If you have an interested friend, feel free to bring them along!

So do that stuff up.

Last evening we had our first full cast rehearsal for our upcoming show, Run Palindrome Nur (yeah, I know my grammar on the name is wrong but I don't know how to make those backwards Rs and stuff). The rehearsal was a success! This whole experiment is going to work! What a country!

Seeing the scenes I haven't been a part of since the read through was really exciting, and having an actual crowd during crowd scenes is a blast and a half. The stage picture at the top of the show was enough to blow my mind. The cast works great together. The rehearsal couldn't have gone much better.

So that's about it. Not really articulate today I know, but there isn't much more to it really. Rehearsal was a blast, the show is going to be a blast, and you're a damn fool if you don't come see it. That's the news, and I am out of here *scribble scribble scribble fling!*

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Return of the Maginicent RoboWriters

RoboWriters is a weekly drop-in workshop for sketch comedy writers of all levels. Come to get feedback on a scene you are already working on. Come to get ideas for new scenes. Come to hang out, read scenes, meet other writers.

Kick off is Sunday, April 26th from 6-8ish. This will be in room 101 of The Second City Training Center (first floor of Piper's Alley, past the security desk near the escalators). Like the normal coaching tradition, everyone will be asked to throw in five bucks for the workshop leader. All workshop leaders are members of Robot vs Dinosaur. The leader for the 26th will be Joe Janes. If you have an interested friend, feel free to bring them along!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Opening Day! It's Opening Day!

Okay, yesterday was officially opening day, but Nat was too busy bitching about the weather to acknowledge this, and if you live in a Midwestern or Eastern city with an outdoor baseball stadium, today is opening day--unless your games get cancelled again due to cold and snow. That’s also why I refuse to go to any games in April--unless someone has a free ticket . . .

Anyway, as a life long Kansas City Royals fan, opening day is usually the most enjoyable day of the season. Hope is still alive. All of the hitters could be potential All-Stars, the pitching staff may feature a Cy Young winner, and the bullpen has yet to start blowing games left and right. Yes, opening day is the day I let myself believe the Royals are going to do it this year and go all the way (to third place in their division).

My predictions for this season:

The Royals will win more games than the White Sox.

I will still somehow manage to lose money betting on the Royals.

The Cubs will win their division and somehow blow it in the playoffs. Cubs fans will be surprised by this.

Carlos Zambrano will say a lot of stupid things, but everyone will still love him because he is a dummy and can pitch really well.

Ozzie Guillen will do the same thing, except replace "pitch really well" with "manage really well and is entertaining as hell."

Some moron will pee in my yard after a Cubs game (I only live a block from Wrigley Field). That moron will possibly be a Robot vs. Dinosaur writer.

Lots of people will hate the Yankees.

Boston fans will continue their steady march to being as obnoxious as Yankees fans.

I will ignore my wife approximately 247 times while she talks to me during an “important” at bat.

My wife will get mad at me approximately 247 times for ignoring her during an “important” at bat and will point out that she is more “important” than any at bat.

We will eventually argue over various situations in which an at bat might actually be more "important" than my wife (I can think of a couple).

I will win approximately zero of these arguments.

I will find every excuse I can to wear my powder blue Royals jersey, and I will look great wearing it.

I will make it to a Brewers game and eat for the cycle (hot dog, bratwurst, Italian sausage and the Polish). I will also drink too many beers while eating for the cycle.

While eating for the cycle, I will get mustard on my powder blue Kansas City Royals jersey.

At some point I will throw my remote control across the room at the end of an "important" at bat.

I will use the greatest bottle opener of all time (at left) to open many, many beers as a misguided coping mechanism.

The Royals will lose way too many games, will get their one allowable "little league" All-Star, and will not win the World Series again and I will love every minute of it!

Monday, April 6, 2009

76 Degrees?! That's Freezing!

Anyone who has lived in Chicago knows that late Spring - early Summer is absolutely beautiful here. Unfortunately, getting there is a royal pain in the ass.

Yesterday afternoon was an unholy mixture of rain, thunderstorms, hail and snow. The high today is 36 degrees.

It is April.

It's at times like this where I like to hop on the old and look at exotic locales with more fortunate weather.

Places like Kahului, Hawaii. Here's the 10 day:

4/6 76 degrees
4/7 78 degrees
4/8 78 degrees
4/9 78 degrees
4/10 79 degrees
4/11 79 degrees
4/12 79 degrees
4/13 78 degrees
4/14 78 degrees
4/15 78 degrees

That would be a pattern. A lovely, lovely pattern.

Of course, to get that you would have to live in Hawaii. So, you know, you would have to put up with pineapples and luaus and surfing and constant sun and lazy afternoons at the beach and...

...I've depressed myself.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

And the show starts coming together

I got an update type thing here - please see below for Joe Janes' Wednesday blog entry, lovingly posted Thursday (we've all done it, so back off the guy! You try writing a sketch a day for a full year!)

We have been rehearsing for our upcoming show, Run Palindrome Nur!, and things have been going smashingly. Next week will be the first time the entire cast rehearses together. What's that you say? Doesn't the show open in 3 weeks? Shouldn't everyone in the whole cast feel connected to everyone else by now and be going out for drinks every night and sharing stories and holding hands?

One of the obstacles of producing a show that has 18 (technically 19) actors in it is how to go about rehearsing for the show. Being that RvD has produced shows before and all of the members have been a part of other shows around town we all realized that trying to get 19 + people all together at the same time, even on a weekly basis, would guarantee a complete implosion of the show. It might work for your local high school musical, but that type of coordination and scheduling ability in the sketch comedy world is essentially unheard of (unless you are working on something like SNL).

To keep certain doom from destroying the show we broke up the cast into 3 different groups. 2 members of RvD were assigned to direct each group. Most of the cast has not seen each other in weeks. Basically we did a read-through at the start of the process with as many actors as we could get (yeah, we couldn't even get all 18 people to the read-through, although we never expected to) and then said "All right everyone. Say goodbye to most of these people because you probably won't see them for a month." The groups have been apart ever since.

Next week we have our first all cast rehearsal, and we are very excited. It is very interesting not having seen essentially 2/3s of the show at this point. Will the 3 groups get along? Will there be turf wars? Will I be able to bring the whole thing together into one big well oiled machine? I say "yes", "no", and "Where in the devil is my bourbon!?"

Even though I really feel like everything is going to come together great, a little bit of me is still nervous simply because RvD and myself (as well as most sketch producers I would assume) have never tried something quite like this. I'm really interested in seeing all the different directing styles of the RvD members come through in each scene and meld together into the whole of the show. This is going to be a great example of true group effort, and I have high hopes for it.

There is an old saying that goes something like "Too many cooks in the kitchen make the soup turn sour". Well I say your soup can kiss my ass, ‘cause our soup is going to cure the common cold!

I may have fallen off a bit at the end there...

Questions About Writing

Sometimes I'll get e-mails from aspiring writers that I think are worth sharing because they ask some valuable questions. Here's one I received from Zach Meincke.

Hello Mr. Janes,

My name is Zach
Meincke, and I'm currently a student in the Second City writing program. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind answering a few questions for me.

First off, the link I found was to your 365 day sketch page, which is pretty cool. Obviously being a new student in sketch comedy got me looking for sketches to watch and read. My main aspiration is to make a career out of writing (
tv and film mostly), but I find myself having trouble starting off. I was wondering if you had any pointers on how to get my work out there, and if a sketch is good enough, maybe sold.

Answer, Part A: Well, Zach, if I had the answer to that, my personal assistant would be answering your e-mail instead of me. As of now, I have not made any money from the sketches I have written. The only time I have been paid for my written work is when it has been commissioned, usually for a corporate training project. While I am proud of my work in this area, it involves a lot of client and producer input and the product is not anything I regard, personally or legally, as mine. I do enjoy it and it is fun. I have been able to do this through The Second City and Fig Media. And given what I know to be true about working in Hollywood, it's probably good training for that. How does one get in to that? Hanging out, meeting people, schmoozing and networking. It also helps to be getting your own work out there as much as possible so people have a reference point for you.

Answer, Part B: So, how do you get your work out there? By any means necessary. Form associations in classes and put on your own shows at the Skybox or Gorilla Tango. Be on the lookout for opportunities through Chicago Dramatists, PerformInk, The Reader and Craig's List for people looking for short works. There are many short works festivals around the country and in Chicago. You also have a film background, so get your stuff on YouTube and Funny or Die.

Answer, Part C: If you really want to writer for film and television, get thee to New York or LA. Learn what you can here, but you'll probably have to load up the truck and move to Beverly... Hills, that is. Swimming pools. Movie stars.

Last term I had Glenn Earich. He told me the best thing to do is produce my work. Would that be doing something like you are on your site?

Answer: Yes. It's one way. I am totally writing 365 sketches to draw attention to my skills as a comedy writer, but the real pay off, for me, will be when the scenes are produced. Not sure how that's going to happen, yet.

Also I saw your banner said it was copyrighted to you. Is that just something you wrote on the banner without registering your work? Doesn't that mean nothing? Just curious.

Answer: There's no way I could afford, or would want to spend the money, to register each piece. The thing about copyright disputes boils down to being able to prove when a writer wrote something. When I publish a piece on my blog, it is time stamped. I also send an electronic copy of it to a group of friends of mine and it also gets posted on Facebook. My ass is covered. Whenever you write anything, make sure you are tracking the dates from rough draft to subsequent versions.

I guess all I'm looking for at this point is any advice you might be able to throw at an aspiring writer like myself. I would find it very helpful. Who knows, maybe you'll eventually be teaching one of the writing classes I'm in.

Answer: The smartest thing I've been able to do is find the right people to hang with and work off of. I do a lot of writing with WNEP, a theater company which formed out of a Second City class. But I don't get enough of a writing fix through them, so I also formed Robot vs Dinosaur (formerly, Teatro Bastardo) which is geared towards writing high quality sketch comedy. Most of the people in RvD have been through the Second City writing program. The two guys who haven't been through it, I met at ComedySportz. So, meet people and get with people whose writing you admire and you feel you can learn from.

Hope that was helpful, Zach. There's also some stirrings about us restarting
RoboWriters - a weekly drop-in sketch writing class RvD used to host that I frequently lead. I have a small group of students committed to making it happen. They are currently trying to nail down a day, time and place. We'll announce it here when everything's ready to go.