At the microphone

Is this thing on?

Not too long after I started doing stand up comedy, a fellow comic and friend asked if I was going to sign up for The Velveeta Room Open Mic. I told him that I didn’t feel like I was ready, that I wasn’t good enough to go. He pointed out several people who “weren’t ready” and they’ve been going for quite some time. And I signed up for the next week’s open mic.

Recently a friend of mine told me he was thinking about doing stand up comedy. He said that he’s been told to try it out, but has been afforded the privilege of not having to due to there not being any venue available for him to start out. That is, until recently. He found out that there is a place near him that does open mics and he’s considering going. He’s known that I’ve been doing stand up for a while and asked me if it was “worth it?”

Spice Mining?

This isn't the spice I was looking for.

My wife had been watching “American Idol” recently when Ryan Seacrest mentioned that a contestant was “putting it all on the line.” I thought that was really odd, because it wasn’t like losers get shot or sent to the Spice Mines of Kessel. If a contestant doesn’t make the cut, that person goes on with life like it was before the audition. The “putting it all on the line” was really stretching it in my opinion.

Like American Idol, getting into stand up comedy isn’t something that you really have to think about. You show up, you put your time in, and you see if you can keep it going. The cool thing about doing stand up is that you can keep going back week after week. But with comedy, there aren’t any judges to keep you from going to Hollywood. Or New York, for that matter.

While I got excited about my friend looking into doing comedy, I thought about the ‘worth’ of comedy.

I know a lot of aspiring comics. I know many working comics. I’ve met some big name comics. But I’ve never thought to ask if it was worth it. I know comics get into it for different reasons – I did it as a chance to realize a dream. Another friend of mine did it because his Facebook friends suggested he do it. Some do it to test out their writing. Some do it to overcome stage fright. A few comics I know are theater majors and use the stage as a chance to try out ‘characters.’ The value of the stage to them I would imagine varies greatly. I can’t speak on the others, but for me I would say stand up is very much worth it.

Flinstone bowl

Thankfully Fred picked bowling over stand up comedy.

I think of stand up like a hobby, like bowling. You get into it because you’re curious, interested, and possibly have some talent. You try it out, you hang out with people who have a similar outlook on life. You spend a night or two a week honing the craft, and if you get good enough and someone notices, then you get a chance to move up. In bowling, maybe you move to a bigger, better league. In comedy, you move into an opening slot or a hosting gig somewhere. You get paid to tell jokes for a few minutes. If you keep at it, you can move up to a feature spot, and eventually a headline gig somewhere. I suppose in bowling, you could eventually start entering tournaments and become something like a pro. I’m not sure. My grandfather bowled, but it was always the senior leagues. Not too much TV coverage there.

I really can’t think of a time when comedy wouldn’t be worth it. The absolute worst that could happen is that you do so horribly that the club owner/manager asks you to never come back. But that rarely happens, because the stage is one of the last bastions of free speech. I’ve seen a guy make horrible racist comments get heckled off stage and he still came back months later. He may say that “joke” wasn’t worth it, but obviously comedy was worth him coming back to stage.

I can safely say stand up comedy is worth it. Jump in with both feet. Get out and perform. And then do it again. Keep doing it, until you’re done! Or, pick up a bowling ball and hit the lanes. I can say, however, that stand up is a cheaper hobby than bowling, mostly because there aren’t any stand up leagues.

Comedy League

Welcome to NSUCL, The National Stand Up Comedy League.

 

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For well over a year now, I’ve been playing racquetball on Tuesdays with a former professor of mine. I can’t remember exactly what got us into playing together, but it’s been quite enjoyable. What makes it great is that we have a good time, are exercising, and while we are competitive, we’re not overly so. We can appreciate each other’s shots, congratulate each other on a great game. At the end of the hour, we’re both sweaty and well exercised.

I had played a few times before – when I went to UT I played every so often. When I was in the Air Force, I’d occasionally head over to the gym and play. When we started playing, I had the basics down – hit the ball before the second bounce, hit the front wall before the floor, serve past the second red line, try to take the middle center of the court, etc… I knew what to do, I just wasn’t good at doing it.

One evening, my partner brought a flip cam and recorded a couple of games. He shared it with me, and it was interesting to watch. I think that was about a year ago. Most of those matches were horribly one sided. He’d win easily, and we’d get 5 and sometimes 6 games in each week. I’d usually get a couple of points, but that was it. Eventually I got into the double digits, and that was a great accomplishment for me.

Last night we played again. I know I’ve gotten better, but last night really drove it home for me. It wasn’t easy for either of us. We both worked each other to the point of exhaustion. In the past, two games would take us 20 minutes tops. Last night, it was 40 minutes before we got done with the second game. And the score was close – 15-14 and 15-13. I lost, but we both played hard!

Usually we take a break at the halfway point – typically after the second game. And after that little break, I am dead. I can’t score. I can’t defend. For some reason, I just can’t play to save my life. It happens just about every time. Last night was no exception – I lost that game 15-3.

But the last game I got back into it. I didn’t score as much (15-12), but it was a hard fought game again. Both of us practically sacked out once we left the court. I know I slipped into a deep dreamless sleep and woke this morning feeling pretty good. Except for my knee. For some reason, my left knee feels like I hyper-extended it. I don’t remember doing anything to hurt it last night. Hopefully it’ll get to feeling better today.

Now I need to get back into playing more. I was playing some guys from church fairly often, but I think December rolled around and we haven’t gotten back into it. The biggest problem with that is getting out to play – scheduling. I can’t take my two youngest with me because they need supervision. But I’ll figure it out.

Now on to next week!

When creativity and love made magic.

I loved Star Wars. Lived, breathed, soaked in Star Wars. I was an authority. I could tell you every detail there was to know about Star Wars, and this was 15 years before the internet was available to nerds everywhere. I can still tell you who had which gun on the figures. I could tell you what accessories went with which toy. I can also tell you that the Millennium Falcon was a fantastic toy that didn’t hold up well to rough play. Everything about Star Wars was magic to me. I can’t tell you how many hours I played Han or Luke in my backyard with my friends. How many times we killed Vader, or were captured by Stormtroopers. Despite having grown up in Pasadena, Texas, I had a fantastic time as a child. And for that, I must thank George Lucas. Without Star Wars, there is no telling what my childhood would have been.

As I grew up, I still held on to that love. I clamored over anything Star Wars. I might not have been able to buy it, but I appreciated it. My parents were very loving and helped me with my passion, calling me out of the tub to show me a small bit on some TV show that was talking about Star Wars for a minute. They let me wander over to the toy section at the department store and drool over all the Star Wars toys. They knew that a kid needed multiple Stormtroopers, Sand People, and Jawas to really have a great time in the Star Wars Galaxy.

Mine never saw snow. 😦

Some of my toys broke, but fortunately Kenner had a policy that they’d take back broken toys and replace them if possible. If not, they’d give credit and you could get another toy. That’s how I got my AT-AT. Enough toys had broken and weren’t replaceable that I had enough to get it! And, a couple of accessory kits as well. I was a happy boy when the AT-AT came. My parents also sent off for all those mail-away offers. I got my Boba Fett that way, and even my Blue Snaggletooth figure. I owe my parents just as much gratitude for providing me Star Wars as I do Lucas.

But eventually that magic wore off. It was a dark time – it was the mid-80s and the best one could do with Star Wars was watch Droids or Ewoks on Saturday mornings. In 1984, Star Wars (now dubbed Episode IV: A New Hope) was release to VHS and those with VCRs could watch Star Wars whenever they wanted. The rest of us would hope for the cable release.

By the time the 90s rolled around, my love for Star Wars waned, but I still held out. I watched a Trilogy showing at the Paramount Theater in Austin one weekend. What a great experience that was.

Then in 1997, Lucas released the Special Editions to the theaters, and it was neat. Sort of. My memories had been manipulated. Things were different, and that was okay in some instances, but not in others. Jabba’s Palace was completely ruined, in my opinion. There was too much going on in Mos Eisley. And at first I was disappointed that Empire didn’t get more in the makeover. But I watched them all and loved them just the same.

Shoot AT-ATs. Rinse. Repeat.

I had video games too. Empire Strikes Back on the Atari. I loved it, repetitive as it was. I even appreciated the lame Return of the Jedi game where one would shoot TIE Fighters and zoom through the shield opening to blow up the Death Star. Over. And Over. While I thought it was fun to take on an infinite onslaught of AT-ATs, blowing up countless Death Stars was a bit removed from the ‘authenticity’ of the movie.

Later I’d get into the X-Wing series. While I had to really max out my computer to play, I loved it. Joystick in hand, I took on mission after mission. TIE Fighter was released and I loved it too. Then X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter and we were given MULTIPLAYER!!! It was awesome and I played for hours at a time.

But at some point, the magic died. It wasn’t a fantastic world of wonder, but nothing more than a profit machine. Lucas knew what he had before he made Jedi. He had merchandising rights. Gary Kurtz in a recent interview noted that this is why he left after Empire. It wasn’t about the story or the creativity, but about cramming as much into a movie as possible – all in order to make toys for each one. I had an inkling of this before I read the interview, but afterwards, that thought was brought to the forefront. It’s when the decline began for me.

Just think, the cost of the troopers alone would feed a village for a year.

One of the things about being a fan of something is that you have to have some sort of tangential evidence. You can’t be a fan of a sports team if you don’t at least have a cap or a jersey, possibly ticket stubs to prove you were there. It’s the same with Star Wars. You can’t be a fan if you don’t have some of the merchandise. Posters, toys, movies, anything that will prove to others your undying love of the films. I’ve seen shrines built to encase the ‘love’ of these fans. And to be quite honest, if I had the money and the merchandise, I too would have built some sort of elaborate display case and theater room that encapsulated my love of the films as well. Fortunately, I never had that money.

I say fortunately, because Star Wars is bitter to me now. It’s not about the magic that was produced in the late 70’s and carried into the early 80’s. It’s now about how much money Lucas can pocket on his masterpiece. At some point, and I say it has to be around 1979 or 80, Lucas realized it wasn’t about the movie itself, but how to capitalize on the movie.

I can’t blame him – the whole point of capitalism is to make money from your creations. I don’t blame him for becoming a successful businessman. That isn’t my point. What I am upset about is that the businessman Lucas killed the creative genius writer/director Lucas. Sometime in 1980, he began strangling the latter to become the former. The evidence abounds. One only needs to open one’s eyes and look around. For me, it was almost like the end of “The Usual Suspects” where the detective looks around his office in shock as he realizes he’d just been taken for a sucker.

Nunb was no Fett. He wasn't even as cool as Piett.

If you watch Star Wars, you’ll see that yes, there were quite a few characters filling the scenes in parts, but overall, there was a bare minimum cast. Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Kenobi, Vader, R2, 3PO, Stormtroopers, Tarkin. That’s about it. And the initial run of action figures were 12. Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Kenobi, Vader, R2, 3PO, Stormtrooper, Jawa, Sand People, and Death Squad Commander. Death Squad Commander, Really? Eventually there would be 21 total figures made in 1978-9. For less than $100, you could own all the figures made for Star Wars.

Now let’s go to Empire Strikes Back. Twenty-seven figures were released, more than doubling the total amount. Return of the Jedi added another 31! Some of those figures saw less than 30 seconds of screen time. Total amount of figures by 1983? 79. At $4 each, that’s a grand total of over $300 just for the figures. That’s not including the playsets and vehicles. And not including the die cast metal mini figures…

Then we go into the Droids/Ewoks cartoons that produced figures as well. I have no idea what was made and how many there were, because by that time, I wasn’t interested and quite frankly, they looked really ugly in comparison. And there was the “Power of the Force” figures – which reissued all 79 figures along with more – all of which were from Jedi (except one).

Ten years later gave us the “Power of the Force 2” line. These were all re-sculpted figures who seemed to be body builders. And yes, I collected them. Until I realized one day that around the world, collectors were doing exactly what I was doing and buying multiples of each figure. So I pushed my basket aside and swore off figures for the mean time.

Then 1997 saw the release of the Special Editions. And more figures.

I thought the SW/Transformers crossover was bad.

In 1999, Episode one was released. And the merchandising was absolutely nuts for this. I don’t think you could buy Episode I Goodyear tires, but I’m pretty sure that something Star Wars was involved on some level. If you could buy an item, then you could buy an Episode I version as well. It was everywhere. And we all just sucked it in. I did not buy many figures from Episode I, because I was still swearing off figures. I did get a few Episode II and III figures, but for the most part, I only get what I want now – which is almost none now.

As for the video games, I’m not sure where it fell off, but I want to say “Force Commander” really hurt LucasArts. Star Wars has had games in all genres, and there is not a shortfall of games available on all platforms. None of them have captured Star Wars for me like the X-Wing series. I’ve tried a lot, and a lot of them had such potential. Dark Forces was the first foray into the FPS genre, and it was good. It was followed by Jedi Knight, Jedi Outcast, and Jedi Academy. All of which were a good fun twist on the FPS by adding Sabers. I played a whole lot of Jedi Knight online and it was such a blast! I eagerly awaited the release of Republic Commando – a more military style FPS played from a Republic Commando and started off in the Battle of Geonosis.

TFU2 - guaranteed to occupy most of a Saturday Afternoon

But that started a trend of lack of follow through. The multiplayer lacked. The solo campaign was so short that I played it twice to make sure that was all. I didn’t get another SW game until “The Force Unleashed,” mostly because I wasn’t interested in the genres of games being released. I bought copies of TFU for the 360 and the Wii. The 360 version was great – but lacked multiplayer – something that I think the 360 excels at. But the duel mode in the Wii version was awesome. The motion controller coupled with saber attacks was great. But unfortunately for Star Wars games, this was the exception and not the rule.

I should also mention that during this time, many other toys and figures were released as well. The multimedia extravaganza that was “Shadows of the Empire” gave us figures and toys, along with other “Expanded Universe” figures, including video game characters.

Recently LucasArts released “The Force Unleashed 2.” Which takes 4 hours to beat – and for many gamers, that’s one sitting. No multiplayer either. Didn’t stop them from releasing virtual items online as well as more toys.

So when someone says that Lucas destroyed their childhood, I tend to agree, but not for the same reason. Most cite the prequels for ruining it – but it wasn’t the prequels directly. It was the greed that replaced the imagination and creativity that killed their childhood. I personally believe that this is why Lucas directed all three prequels. I believe it’s why we had 400 Jedi in the Geonosis Arena. It’s why you can buy Clonetroopers not only in multiple colors, but armor as well.

Just in case Blue isn't your favorite color.

Remember the scene in Episode 1 where R2 repairs the escaping Queen’s ship? You can buy each one of those droids that got blown away. Yes. You can. In fact, you can buy every single R2-esque droid ever seen in the movie, as well as those who are shown in comics and video games, or even mentioned in the novels. It makes me sick, really.

I haven’t even touched on the lawsuits that Lucas has engaged in order to protect his intellectual property. It’s one thing to sue someone who is using your property to make money (like when Gerardo Fellano sold copies of stormtrooper stunt suits), but suing someone because they made an item that resembles something from Star Wars? That’s absurd – especially when most of the props used for the movie were made of various found parts (old UK guns, flash bulbs, etc)

None of this takes away that magic I had for so many summers in my backyard. It doesn’t cheapen the toys that I still have from all those years ago. It doesn’t change the fact that I will still pop in “A New Hope” and reminisce about that morning when Star Wars debuted on Showtime (I got up at 5am or so in order to see the first viewing. I didn’t get to watch it all because I had to go to school, but I was watching Showtime as much as possible while it was on!)

Inform Lord Lucas that we need more useless merchandise.

The only thing that any of this does is not promote Star Wars as much. I don’t care to put my scratch made Vader costume on as much. I don’t mind when my kids prefer Halo over Star Wars. I don’t mind not having access to “The Clone Wars.” And I don’t put any money into Star Wars anymore.

I only post this video because he poses some questions that would benefit Christians. I was going to write a rebuttal to his video, but then I realized that he only means to goad people into an argument which cannot be ‘won.’ From his standpoint, the question may as well be “Can God create something so heavy that he cannot lift it?”

The way the author responds to his own questions makes me believe that any answer will be a “convoluted, rationalized excuse.”

I say this for the simple fact that a non-believer would see something as a coincidence, whereas a believer would see it as a message or part of the plan. There’s a tale of a boy who takes a bird to the wise man. He hides the bird behind his back and asks the wise man if it is alive or dead. “It is what you want it to be,” is the wise man’s response. The wise man knew that the boy would do what he wanted to make sure the wise man is wrong. And that’s what I think this man is doing with the video. He uses the questions as the bird, and will do his best to make sure that the answer is always wrong. Hence his “convoluted, rationalized excuse” statement.

Basically I find the questions interesting (not fascinating – that’s just pretentious) because they’re things that Christians don’t really address on any regular basis.  And personally, I think we as Christians should question our faith regularly.

There is a link under the video that takes you to a website that deals with faith. I’ve read through some of it, and all I can come away with is that the man misses the point of Christianity. The website is titled “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees? <- The Most Important Question That We Can Ask About God.”

Now I’m not sure that’s the most important question we can ask about God, but I think it’s a fair question. Where the author gets it wrong is that he’s assuming that the best thing for an amputee is to grow back their limb(s). I find that selfish at best.

I know a man who survived an explosion of a roadside bomb. Four others died in that explosion. He lost his left hand, and was burned over the majority of his body. I’m pretty sure he wishes that it had never happened. I know I would. But since that day, he’s gone on tours doing motivational speeches and doing stand up comedy. He goes to burn units and rehab facilities and inspires not only disabled veterans, but families and others as well. The man inspires me, quite frankly. But if we were to take away that one event, that one moment in time that changed his life forever, then the lives of others would never be touched, and I would never have met this man.

Or, what about Candace Lightner, who lost her 13 year old daughter to a drunk driver? She used that experience to create Mothers Against Drunk Driving, MADD. An organization that has probably saved the lives of countless people simply by drawing awareness to the problem. I’m sure that Candace would love to have that moment back and keep her daughter safe – but look at the outcome? How many lives were saved because Candace’s daughter died? Yes, it’s a tragedy, but the inspiration that came of it was much greater than keeping her daughter alive.

The author goes on to ask 9 other questions. And while they’re important questions, the problem lies in the fact that all the ‘correct’ answers are selfish. To me, Christianity is about helping others while showing them the love of Christ. That’s it. Ask Jesus into your heart, live for Him, and ask for forgiveness, and your life will be fulfilling. I don’t mean that you’ll be rich, or your life will be easy, but that with the peace of Christ,  life will be more tolerable. The strength of God is found in our weakness. It’s a bit sobering, but also uplifting. To know that God will be there in our lowest moments is such a great feeling. It’s hard for a non-believer to understand. Sometimes it’s hard for Christians to understand. But it’s there, and I’ve been a part of it. I’ve witnessed the power of prayer. I’ve seen the strength of God in our weaknesses.

So watch the video, think about it, and see where it can help you in your faith. I’m open to questions and discussion – as long as my side is not dismissed as a “convoluted, rationalized excuse.”

 

If you know me, then you know that I like to play dress up. The more refined nerds call it ‘costuming.’ If you’re not one, then you’ve at least seen one. You know, they’re the grown folks playing dress up, as if any day is Halloween.

Adam and Eve

This costume looks even worse on black people.

I came across a comment made by a friend of a friend (on Facebook, where else?) who said that he wished he could afford costuming. I have to admit – that’s the worst excuse I ever come across when it comes to playing dress up. I suppose what these people were saying is that they really wish they had the money to do a really great, detailed, “screen accurate” costume. But still, I find it disturbing.

First, it’s a bit of a misnomer to believe that expensive costumes are good, and that cheap costumes are, well, cheap. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you’ve ever been to one of those Halloween shops, you’ll know that they’re shoddy (at best) and expensive for what they are. And yes, I’ve bought costumes at those places (for my kids, FOR MY KIDS!!!) Mostly because I didn’t have the time to make my son an Optimus Prime costume.

Sure, it looks like I'm defecating, but I'm really chasing a bounty.

On the flip side, there are plenty of ‘cheap’ costumes that don’t look cheap at all. I know a girl that made a great Zam Wesell costume and she did it fairly cheap. I don’t remember what she spent on it, but for roughly what she would have paid at a costume store, she got something immensely more ‘realistic.’ Not to brag, but I made my own Vader costume. Yes, it cost quite a bit (around $600 total), but only because I spent $100 on a helmet, $100 on a saber, and $40 on boots. I suppose that still sounds like a lot of money, but it wasn’t all at once. I bought pieces here and there. And in the original version, I used a turtle neck tshirt and sweatpants for the undersuit. I upgraded to vinyl a few dollars later.

My point is that you CAN spend a lot of money on a costume, but why? If you have the time and patience, you can really knock out some good looking costumes for relatively cheap.

The balance is where to put your time and effort, and where to spend your money. If you’re looking to make a Jedi costume, you could make your own saber, but it may be worth the time and money to order something online. Unless you’re a whiz with circuits and batteries and stuff…

A Jedi costume is probably one of the easiest costumes to put together. My biggest suggestion is to shop around at fabric stores until you find the fabric you want at the price you don’t mind paying. I know some guys won’t settle for less than wool lined with silk, and that’s going to be expensive. But you can get some cheaper material and not line it and come out with a tunic that is less than $20! Compare that to the Halloween shops, and you’ll soon realize that this is the way to go for anything resembling a ‘real’ costume.

I’ve done a few Jedi tunics, and I have some suggestions. If you live in an area that’s typically warm and possibly humid, I’d really suggest that you stick with natural fibers. They breathe, whereas the synthetics get stuffy quick – especially if you’re working on your jump flips and saber twirls.

Oh, and look for fabrics with texture. They really add a lot to the look. Steer clear of broadcloth. It’s synthetic, hot, and looks really plain. Trust me on this – my first one was made with some beige broadcloth. But, I spent all of about $10 on fabric, so not a total loss.

Dresses. Jedi's love 'em.

One of the benefits of the Jedi costume is that you don’t have to go with one look. If you watch the Geonosis Battle in Episode II, you’ll see that the overall look is similar, but they’re all different. In fact, that one Jedi is wearing a DRESS!!!

The thing to keep in mind is that Jedi need to stay with neutral, earth tones (I disagree with the greens, but hey, it’s your Jedi.) The main thing is that you have a tunic, tabbards, sash and light saber. It’s also smart to match the colors. Have different colored tabbards and sash, but make sure they go with your tunic…

Pants. This should really be the easiest part of the costume. Grab some khakis and go with it. I have a pair of thin piped corduroys that work well for a Kenobi costume. But just about any khakis should work. I saw a guy at Celebration III who had a fantastic Jedi Tunic, but was wearing blue jeans. WHAT? The kid could have just headed out to Goodwill and picked up some khaki pants! I dubbed the guy “Casual Friday Jedi.” Don’t be that guy.

Now, there are a couple of pieces to this costume that can be done cheaply, but can be expensive as well.

BOOTS: I was able to pick up some Frye boots for $75 on ebay. I’ve worn them a lot, and they need to be resoled (bonus to ‘real’ boots.) But I’ve seen plenty of costumes that use the cheap $20 vinyl pirate boots that typically show up at those Halloween stores. The downside is that they aren’t very durable and will ultimately crack and fall apart after any extended use, but for the price you could get about 6 or 7 pairs for what you’d pay for cheap ‘real’ boots. And then there’s the whole “detail” part. If you look at Anakin’s and Obi Wan’s boots, you’ll see that they have some neat details that you don’t get with the cheap boots. That’s the trade off… Unless of course you’re a boot maker.

BELT: I’ve seen belts on ebay go for over $100! Which is insane, considering it’s just some leather strapping with some detail parts. I made my first belt. I looked through women’s belts at various stores until I found something that would work. One side had a suede texture, and the other was a marbled leather look. So I separated the front and back and then cut the belt to the size I needed. And, I was able to make pouches with the left over material. I used a buckle I found at a fabric store, and never got around to putting the food capsules on, but no one’s ever noticed. Except the guys thinking I should join one of the bigger costuming groups.

Hopefully you’ll be on your way to making a Jedi costume soon. If you are and need some advice, ask and I’ll be glad to help out.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money, you just have to know where to spend your time, and where to spend your money. I suppose if I were to make a Star Wars analogy, I’d say that buying your costumes is like the Dark Side – quicker, easier, more seductive. Making your costume from scratch is like the Light Side, patience, my young apprentice.

A few months ago, a comic asked if I would tape a show they were planning on doing in Crowley, LA. Soon the day came and we headed out on the road. Things started out a bit hairy, because I met the guys at a gas station where they’d just got rear ended by a lady in an MG. Fortunately, we weren’t held up too much.

I got to spend the next five and a half hours with two comics that I have met in the past and would consider friends, but we weren’t great friends by any means. All that changes when you’re trapped in a vehicle for an extended amount of time.

I first met Anthony Torino and Bobby Henline at the first location of Corridor Comedy Club. We had talked briefly, as most comics do at comedy clubs. Off and on over the next year we’d see each other and chat for a bit. I had taped a couple of shows for both of them, which is why they’d asked me to tape the Crowley show.

Over the course of the almost 400 miles, we talked about just about anything and everything one could talk about. There were moments where we just sat there. And there were lots of moments when we cracked jokes – we’re comics, what can I say. We got to know each other better, and because of it, I feel closer to both Tony and Bobby.

On the way back to San Antonio, we picked up another comic, Dave Evans. I had only met him briefly once outside of the Velveeta Room before this trip. So the trip back to SA was even better. I gave Dave a lift to his car, at which time he asked if I wanted to go to Corpus on Wednesday.

And so Wednesday, I went to Corpus.

Originally, I thought it was just going to be Dave, but when the car pulled up, it was Derek Phelps, Taegon McLaughlin, as well as Dave. I was excited to go, but when Taegon and Derek were added to the car, I was even more excited! Why? Because both Taegon and Derek are some of my favorite guys from Austin. I’d say Dave too, but I had only known Dave from the trip back to SA (I forgot to mention we spent an extra hour or so in Houston because they shut I-10 down to one lane to paint stripes. On a Saturday afternoon? sheesh.)

It was about a 3 hr trip to Corpus, and Taegon slept a good portion of that. It was a great trip down and a great trip back. And the comedy show was “The Beer and Berto Show” hosted by Berto Garcia. Berto’s another comic that I’ve known about through other comics, but had only met briefly outside the Velveeta Room. I have to say, even though I didn’t get to go on a long road trip with Berto, I hope that one day I do. He’s a very positive and encouraging person.

I learned quite a bit on these trips. Tony and I have similar beliefs and get along great. We disagree on a few things, but we’re both mature enough to understand that having disagreements are just part of being human. Bobby is a great guy, and despite having endured a tragedy that would have ended most people’s lives, he’s an incredibly fun person to be around. Even if he was in the Army. Dave is a quiet guy, for the most part, and blows me away when he makes little comments. He just cracks me up, and I do my best to say funny things around him because he has this funny head shaking laugh thing he does…

Taegon slept a lot, both down and back to Corpus. Despite his unconsciousness, he was a lot of fun – as I’d come to understand about him. Derek is another quiet man. He talks, but quietly. Most of the trip down, I had to lean in to really hear what he was saying. Fortunately on the way back, I sat in the front and didn’t have to miss what he was saying.

But what I learned the most on these road trips is that I talk a lot.

Some website has posted the “15 Anticipated Movies of 2011.” I’m not sure if they’re “Most Anticipated” or just “upcoming.” The article doesn’t really explain. I can’t really take it seriously, because it says in the first paragraph, “their is” rather than “there is.” But here’s my take on these…

1. Green Lantern.
I’ve always been more of a Marvel than DC guy, and to be honest, Marvel has put out a whole lot of movies in recent years. And I’d have to say that all DC has really banked on was the renewal of Batman. Sure, Jonah Hex was a DC comic, but who knows anything about that guy?

When I see the trailer, I think to myself, “Hey, this looks like it’d be a great rental. From Redbox.” Nothing makes me excited about this movie enough to lay out the bucks to see it in the theater. Even better, it’s undergoing a ‘conversion’ to 3D. Even less of a reason to go see it. Yeah, I’m not a fan of 3D. I wasn’t when Jaws 3D came out. I’m not a fan now.

Let’s hope DC can start making decent comic book movies, so that Marvel doesn’t have a monopoly on this.

2. Red Riding Hood
I saw the trailer at the front of the latest Harry Potter movie, and I was both annoyed and intrigued at the same time. It was fairly obvious it was going to be Little Red Riding Hood on the big screen. It was fairly annoyed. That is until they threw in the Werewolf aspect. Then I was intrigued.

I might make this an excuse to get out to the theater to watch. If you know me, then you know that I’m a zombie man, but I’ll allow werewolves as long as they’re not in movies with sparkling vampires. Something tells me there will be a twist in this where the werewolf is somehow related to Miss Hood.

3. Immortals
I haven’t heard of this until I saw this list. It has Mickey Rourke and John Hurt in it. It’s a Greek tale about Theseus. Theseus apparently the founder of Athens, and is on the same level as Heracles and Perseus. Also Cadmus. I’ve never heard of Cadmus or Theseus. Which is probably why Hollywood decided to make a movie out of it. Clash of the Titans did fairly well, right?

This may be another rental for me. Who knows.

4. Sucker Punch
All I know about this one is that they’ve put a lot of pictures of the women in the movie. Had they been dressed in Jane Austen attire, I probably wouldn’t have paid any attention or been able to tell you anything about this movie. They were, however, scantily clad warrior women (think Heavy Metal). Not that made me interested in the movie, just that I knew that there were women in it. Something tells me this movie is really about skin and fights, so that men will go see it. It’s a good thing Women’s Lib is dead. Otherwise, we’d not get to see naked warrior women.

Again, a rental for me. Or something…

5.  X-Men: First Class
There is really no reason for this movie. It’s a prequel. It tells how Professor X and Magneto came into being. It shows us how they went from ‘normal’ to ‘mutants.’ And, I’m pretty sure it is going to cause big continuity issues with the rest of the X-Men movies.

I’ll watch this. Probably sometime after this movie hits the five-dollar bin at Wal-Mart.

6. Rise of the Apes
I had no idea this movie was even being considered. It’s another movie about how things began. In this case, it shows us how we got “Planet of the Apes.” Not the cool Charleton Heston one. The not as cool Marky Mark one.

I’ll watch that X-Men movie before I watch this one. But at least Andy Serkis is getting work.

7. Cowboys and Aliens
I had heard something about this before I saw the preview before Harry Potter. I didn’t know what to think, but after the preview, I was wow’d. Daniel Craig wakes up and has no memory, and some device on his arm. Then Harrison Ford shows up. This is another one I’d like to see in the theater. I might even be able to drag Christy to go with me.

Special Note: This movie is set in 1873 Arizona, and probably shows us why they’re so against aliens, illegal or otherwise.

8. Battle: Los Angeles
I promised my kids a movie if they behaved well one week. The movie they picked was Skyline. I read that this movie took less than a year to go from concept to script to screen. It showed. I also think the reason that happened is because of this movie, Battle: LA. I’ve seen the trailer online, and it looks interesting – but the motion tracking seemed a bit off. Of course, part of what I do is in this line – so when I see mistakes like this in a big budget film, I get miffed. It doesn’t bother me when it’s low budget indie films, but it’s inexcusable when it’s a multi-million dollar feature film.

rental.

9. Super 8
This is a JJ Abrams film, written and directed. I’m not sure if this is good or bad, because Abrams isn’t as hot as Hollywood makes him out to be. Cloverfield, anyone? This is not tied to Cloverfield, but rather an homage to the late 70s and early 80s sci-fi movies. Something escapes a government train. I’m always down for a sci-fi flick, but with Abrams behind it, I’m tempted to wait till the dollar theater.

DOLLAR THEATER.  Unless someone takes me on a date and buys me soda and popcorn at the non-dollar theater.

10. Transformers 3
The last Transformers movie was so bad that it ruined the first one. I liked the first one. Until I saw the second one. And then I re-watched the first one and realized all that bad stuff was in the first one – we just chose to over look it because it was Transformers. So what does that mean for 3? It means the pit is deep and there will need to be a lot of crawling to be done to rise out of the ‘fallen.’

Something tells me my son will want to see this. And something tells me I’ll take him. And something tells me I’ll regret it soon afterwards. At least I didn’t have to explain what a scrotum was last time.

11. Thor
At the end of Iron Man 2, we were treated to something fantastic: The Avenger Initiative, and Mjolnir – Thor’s Hammer. Now, I’m all for Marvel expanding out into the movies and incorporating other franchises, etc… but to go from Iron Man to Thor…. hmmm. Maybe that’s what happened in the comic books, but I’m not sure I’m going to really enjoy Thor. Who knows.

I’m sure I’ll see this, but I’m not sure where. Maybe a rental… or if someone gets me a bootleg.

12. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Tom Cruise doing impossible missions.

13. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tide
They really should just start calling this “Johnny Depp: Pirates.” Because that’s all it really is, right? Johnny Depp acting mildly humorous as dressed as a pirate. Don’t get me wrong, Capt. Jack Sparrow gets all the chicks at Magic Time Machine and the comic conventions, but in the movies? Meh. Yo ho ho and I haven’t even seen the third one yet.

14. The First Avenger: Captain America
Oh, hey, two Avenger movies from Marvel in 2011. I guess this has to happen because Cappy happens in the 40s. Thor has to travel through time to land in Tony Stark’s world.

I think I’ll make an effort to go see this. First, the costume looks fantastic – a great mix of the original Cappy and modern technology. It’s got me psyched. I’m psyched that we’ll see him fighting Nazis. I’ll be more psyched if we get to see him fighting Nazi ZOMBIES! Oh yeah. Plus – I’m pretty sure this will be 2011’s Joker costume. So many people will dress like this. And they’ll look nothing like Cappy.

15. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt. 2.
The last of the Harry Potter movies. There are seven books, but they managed to pull an extra movie out of this by splitting the last one into two. Not bad, really. I did see Pt. 1 at Thanksgiving and enjoyed it. I just hope they don’t screw the pooch on this.

Yeah, we’ll be watching this. Won’t be standing in line for it, but we’ll be watching it. I think they are doing 3D, which I’ll skip out on.

Oh, I was going to put pictures in this, but I put pictures in the last one and it didn’t get a whole lot of views. So do what we did before the internet, use your imagination.

This is what my imagination looks like now with the internet.

Special thanks to the First Grade Class at Brentwood School. I completely stole a student’s picture for my own personal gain. I hope Mrs. Silvers and Mrs. Gursky don’t mind too much.

Superwhy did I volunteer for this?

Quentin likes watching PBS in the mornings. He loves starting his day off with the “Abby’s Flying Fairy School” on Sesame Street. He loves watching “TCITHKALAT” and “SuperWhy.” Today’s episode of Superwhy started out with the three pigs fighting over how to build a house. The message at the end of the episode is “work together.”

This got me to thinking about things. Those three pigs reminded me of David and Zada. They fight and argue all the time, as if in some sort of power struggle. Overall, they behave very well, but far too often it seems they argue and fight. It’s a real challenge, because I can rarely ever prevent it, and usually it ends up with me yelling at them and sending them to their rooms.

Two positive things about Roy. This was one.

Both have gotten into this bad habit of correcting each other, which is usually how the arguing begins. And it usually ends up, if I’m around, with me giving the correct info followed by one kid pouting and one kid gloating. Then it ends up with two kids pouting. And me thinking of Roy.

Roy was a chubby toe head who wore glasses. I met him through Cub Scouts. I went over to his house one day to work on some projects. I don’t remember the projects, but I do remember playing Boxing on the Atari.

The only lovable Jerk in the entire world.

Roy lived with his mom. I think his parents were divorced. I don’t think his dad had died. Or maybe she was just a single mom. I was 7 or 8, and didn’t pay too much attention to these things. What I did remember about Roy and his mom was that she let him get away with quite a bit. He talked to her in a way that I’d never talk to my mom – if I did, I’d pay for it, not unlike Atari Boxing. I think I only spent one afternoon there, but that was enough.

Some amount of time later, maybe a day, maybe a week, I corrected someone on something. Either I corrected my dad, or corrected someone in front of my dad, but my dad pointed out that Roy corrected people. He pointed out that it made me feel bad – it did, when Roy corrected me – and that I shouldn’t do that to other people. He also pointed out that Roy was rude and a bit of a jerk. At that very moment in time, I made a vow to never be like Roy. And it has stuck with me ever since.

I’m not sure my dad would remember Roy (he didn’t even remember the cake, and that was more recent), but I do. He has been etched into my memory, forever to stay. Funny how one afternoon can have such an everlasting effect on a person’s overall personality? I’m betting Roy probably never even thought of me after that day. He probably didn’t even think of me when I was there, to be blunt…

These two probably needed a Roy in their lives as well.

Now I’m in the position my dad was in – trying to teach my kids how to behave, and how not to behave. Unfortunately, I don’t have a ‘Roy’ to introduce my kids to. I can’t say, “Hey, you don’t want to be a jerk like Roy, do you?” Because they’d look at me funny. No one names their kids Roy now (skip to the 3:00 minute mark).

I suppose now I’ll have to ask at the parent teacher conference who the real jerk of the class is, so I can point out these kids to my kids with the insightful message passed on to me from my father. “Hey, you don’t want to be like that kid, do you?” I’m just hoping that it isn’t my kids who are the “Roys.”

At some point in my youth, my brother and I were left alone at the house for long periods of time. We would get bored quite often, because we lived in the country and there wasn’t much to do. We did our best to stay out of trouble, but that didn’t always happen.

One afternoon, John and I thought we’d make a cake. I’m pretty sure it was summer, because I don’t think we’d have had time to make a cake in the 45 mins between us getting home from school and dad getting home from work. So John and I mixed it all up and baked a cake.

While we were mixing, we discovered the food coloring. And we put food coloring into the mix. The yellow cake mix. We used all the colors, but by the time we put it into the oven, it was GREEN!

We got the cake out, let it cool, and then frosted it so that none of the green showed. When dad got in, he saw the cake and got excited. John and I were pretty excited too, but for a different reason.

We had dinner that night and afterwards, dad got a knife and sliced into the cake. When he pulled his slice out, it was green and he was disgusted. I don’t remember what he said, but he wasn’t happy. I know he said he wasn’t going to eat it. John and I laughed pretty hard, but we didn’t understand why he wasn’t going to eat it – it’s not like we did anything bad to it, it was just green. Anyway, we didn’t mind, because it was John and I who ended up eating all the cake.

It was good. Although it was a bit disturbing because we had green poop for about two weeks.

Fast forward to this past Saturday. John reminded me about the cake, so I decided to do the same thing. I was having people over and so I made the cake. Green. Christy frosted it and I decorated it. I was pretty stoked. So when it was time to cut the cake, I had a friend do it while we recorded it. I was hoping for some good responses, but there wasn’t anything really. Not much more than, “oh.” I was disappointed, because I wanted to get some serious “WhAT?” responses. Nope. Everyone just grabbed a piece and ate it. Sheesh, all that pranking and not even a “GROSS!!!”

But then again, I think my friends all know me and know that this is just typical. Sad, really when you think about it.

On Sunday, we headed up to my dad’s house. He and his girlfriend have their Thanksgiving the Sunday before, so that everyone can get out and enjoy a nice Sunday Thanksgiving dinner. I brought some of the cake with me to show my dad. Again, I was excited.

He didn’t remember it. All this work, and he didn’t remember John and my hard green cake work. I was disappointed.

But that’s okay. I have lots of green cake to eat over the next week or so. And lots of green poop ahead…

God Bless Dinner

I really hope everyone washed their hands first.

Well, it’s almost my birthday, and that means Thanksgiving will be here soon. For years, I enjoyed Thanksgiving because it not only meant that I got to see family that I hadn’t seen in sometime, but because it usually meant I’d get a few more presents.

Unlike people who have birthdays around Christmas, I didn’t get that “two for one” deal. Instead, I’d get presents on my birthday and then a few days later, I’d get more!!! This was especially awesome when I was a kid and the ‘norm’ in presents for me were Star Wars toys. Those were the days, my friend, and we thought they’d never end. But they did. Thankfully.

Birthday Cake?

What's worse than getting a 2-4-1 present? A 2-4-1 cake.

So here we are again, Thanksgiving is just over a week away and the weather is definitely feeling more like fall. The mornings are brisk, and the afternoons are just as nice as they could be. The trees here in the area that do lose leaves are doing that. Or they’re dead. I can never really tell. But I did notice a bunch of big brown leaves in the street last night when I returned from playing r’ball.

Growing up, we’d always alternate our Thanksgivings and Christmases. If we went to my mom’s family for Thanksgiving, we’d go to Christmas at my dad’s family. Then the next year, we’d switch. This is what I grew up with and that’s what I’d been used to.

The Holidays have really changed over the years, and especially for me. I think things are different with Christy too, but I’m not entirely certain what her holidays were like. My dad does Thanksgiving the Sunday prior to the actual Thanksgiving. My mom doesn’t have a place to do Thanksgiving. All my grandparents are gone, except my dad’s mom – and as stated before, we do that this Sunday. As for Christy’s family, we never see her dad, or her dad’s parents because they live in Florida. It’s not that we couldn’t drive out there, but it’s just a hard thing to do. And then there’s her mom and her mom’s mom. Christy’s mom lives here in San Marcos (as does mine), and Christy’s G’ma lives in Abilene (technically Merkel). And again, neither of them are very T’giving type places to do things.

Xbox

This is a representation of Brad and myself at some point in our lives.

I guess what I’m saying is that the family structure for both Christy and I have changed dramatically from what we were accustomed to when we were growing up. It’s not like it was for me, where we’d leave for my grandparents’ house and get to see my aunts, uncles, and cousins. My dad had two brothers, and they each had two kids, so we could have some really decent touch football games in the back yard. My mom had two brothers and a sister, and all my cousins would usually do something together.

But I only have one brother, who lives in Florida. They have two kids, but there’s almost 10 years between Kyle (the younger) and David (my oldest), so even though they’d have fun, it’s one of those things. Christy has two half brothers and a sister. The brother situation is a bit odd, because we don’t see Christy’s dad often (half-brother Mat) and Christy’s mom lives here (half-brother Brad). I guess what I’m saying is that we don’t go to Florida often, and we’re not really going to spend a holiday with Brad’s family. His dad and step mom are really cool, but it’d just be a bit awkward. Especially when Brad and I would spend the entire time playing Xbox.

This will be the fourth Thanksgiving we’ve had in our house since we bought it. Each year, we do it a little different. We’ve always had Christy’s mom over, and some years we get G’ma and McKinzey (our niece), as well as Brad and his family. But more often than not, we open our house to friends. In the past, it’s been people who work with either Christy or Reneé and aren’t able to get home for the holidays. Sometimes it’s someone who just doesn’t have family nearby and aren’t doing anything. We always invite people over, and we always have enough food, and we always end up having a good time in our little warm home.

What are you doing for Thanksgiving? Are you traveling to a family gathering? Are you staying home and hosting a gathering? Are you staying primarily with family, or are you including some friends who can’t make it home?

And if you’re in the San Marcos area and want to swing by – you’re more than welcome!

Family Gathering

These people have nothing to do with anything I've written above. They're French and at a table. That is all.