Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph Review

I don’t like to feel feelings. It’s one of the only things that makes me even remotely male. That’s not to say I don’t feel things. My wife will tell you, primarily if I’m trying to act tough in front of the other apes, how often I cry. But if there’s anyone who knows how to crack into my hardened and cynical heart and squeeze tears out of me, it’s Disney and their subsidiary Pixar. This movie was no exception.

Wreck-It Ralph is about video game bad guy Wreck-It Ralph, who is something of a humanoid composite of Donkey Kong and the characters from Rampage. Even though he is as integral to the game as his hero counterpart, Fix-It Felix, he feels under appreciated in the video game world. Everyone is afraid of the bad guys and nobody wants to be around them. In an effort to gain some appreciation, Ralph ventures out of his game and into Hero’s Duty (a Halo-esque game) where he tries to win a medal and become a hero. His misadventure leads him to Sugar Rush (a Japanese anime styled Mario Cart). Where he meets Vanelope, who is just as misunderstood as he is. They bond, things happen, and then everyone learns their lesson. That sounds really dismissive, but I’m really just trying not to spoil anything.

I knew I was going to love this movie when I first heard of it, months ago. I ran into the bedroom where my wife was trying to relax and read and I said “LOOK!!! DISNEY MADE A MOVIE FOR ME!!!”. I was met with the usual eye-roll that follows when I want to show her a video on the Internet, but she agreed it looked good. I had no idea what we were in for though.

Wreck-It Ralph is “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” meets “Toy Story” in an arcade. That’s essentially the formula for a great Ryan McGillen movie. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is my all-time favorite movie and I love Toy Story. Really I love any movie where I get to see what life was like for the things I loved as a kid when I left the room.

Needless to say, I loved this movie. It had a lot of great little cameos from classic video game characters (my favorite appearance being Kano from Mortal Kombat. I won’t tell you what happens, but I laughed out loud while everyone else just stared) and hilarious references to arcade game culture. The voice cast is terrific and the dialogue is great. It’s hard to hold a grown-ups mirror to a kid’s movie, so I try to give it a little leg up and not be too hard. There are flaws that would be less forgivable if this was a grown-ups movie, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it. You definitely should.   

My opinion might've been swayed by meeting the stars last week.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Adrian Chen Is A Piece of Garbage….and So is Violentacruz

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you have no idea what I’m talking about (hi Mom). Let me set the scene from the point of view of an interested bystander.

There’s this online community that I’ve grown quite fond of called Reddit. They refer to themselves as the “front page of the internet” and essentially, Reddit is a place where people can post news articles, pictures of cats, naked photos, and funny videos and discuss them. To the media, it’s a breeding ground for pedophiles and racists. I’ll admit that the anonymity that the internet, and especially Reddit, provide can bring out the dark side of people. But Reddit is also the community where I participated in a “Just for the hell of it” Summer Secret Santa exchange where I sent an awesome Zombie Whiskey Decantur to someone I’ve never met in Texas and received some awesome books from a stranger in return. It’s a community that has a whole page dedicated to people who have fallen on hard times or maybe just having a shitty day saying “You know, I could really use a pizza.” and about 75% of the time, someone comes through and has a pizza sent to their house. As much as there is terrible stuff being posted in some of these “subreddits” as they are called, there’s some amazing things that happen on Reddit as well. It’s a community I’m proud to be a member of.

So there’s this guy, Violentacruz. He’s what’s called a troll. He makes posts and creates communities specifically to offend people. He’s most well known for /r/creepshots (where people can post pictures of attractive women’s bodies, which are taken in secret), /r/jailbait (self-explanatory), /r/hitler, and the list goes on and on and gets much grosser. He’s the epitome of the negative side of the internet.

Then there’s Adrian Chen, a blogger for the website Gawker. Adrian takes exception to the disgusting stuff that VA (the troll) is doing. Reddit, being a staunch supporter of people’s right to free speech, has a policy of allowing any content that is not illegal. Hell, there are even subreddits to discuss marijuana use and file sharing, which are illegal, but discussion of these topics are not. As the content being posted in these groups are not illegal, Reddit does not intervene, as they would have in the case of something like child pornography. So Chen decides to take matters into his own hands. He is writing an expose on VA. As a part of the expose, he contacts people who know VA, is able to learn his identity, where he works, his personal information, etc. (in the hacker community, this is called doxxing) and considers this to be pertinent information to his story about the internet’s biggest troll. He includes this man’s real name, picture, etc in his story. The result: VA, who in real life is a father with a disabled wife, loses his job.

I had to think really long and hard about my opinions on this. I’m a big fan of free speech. I think it’s the most important thing in the world and sometimes it’s a hard thing to advocate for. My prime example is the Westboro Baptist Church. These people are the worst. They are scum and they are media whores. But I would oppose any legislation that attempted to stop them from saying whatever they choose to in public or private. If I fight to take away their right to say such hateful things, then I’m also fighting against my right to oppose them publicly. But for dumb people, that’s where it gets sticky. That’s where people who have the intellectual level of say, a dead clam, would say “So you support the WBC?”

I ran into this same quagmire on this issue. I don’t support the subreddits that VA created and moderated and possibly even posted in. But the glory of Reddit is, I don’t have to subscribe to them. I don’t ever have to see them if I don’t want to. Beyond that, the reality is that only certain subreddits appear by default and anyone who wants to discuss how awesome Hitler was or look at blurry cellphone shots of some girl in yoga pants on the bus really has to seek the appropriate subreddit. What I do support is their right to exist, being properly monitored for any sort of illegal behavior (posting of child pornography, etc.).

What I can’t abide (without fighting someone’s right to free press) is a blogger who ruins someone’s life in order to drive traffic to their website (a website I might add, which has a section devoted to celebrity upskirt photos. Hypocrisy, thy name is Gawker). If Adrian Chen was the vigilante that I think he’s trying to portray himself as, why not go to the police if he thought something illegal was being done? How effective was ruining this guy’s life as a part of his story? The expose that he wrote would’ve brought the problem to light just as easily without ever giving out any of this guy’s personal information. But it probably wouldn’t have hit national news levels unless it was something extreme. To me, Chen is just as much a troll as VA. He used the internet to get a rise out of people and he wrecked a real human beings life as well.

The reason that I’m harder on Chen then I am VA is pretty simple. Chen claims to be better. VA is unapologetic for his gross ways. He’s like “Look, I like offending people. Deal with it.” He’s not out there pretending he’s some free speech advocate or that there’s a nobility to posting pictures of dead children. He knows who he is. Chen is pretending to be Batman. I find that insulting to Batman and anyone who knows me knows, you don’t…insult…Batman.

There’s also a bigger issue at play. Anyone who is advocating for what Chen did has to understand that, unless they are going to hypocrites, they’ll have to advocate for some other things that could occur as well. If some right wing Christian blogger decides to doxx a bunch of gay kids who are using their Reddit anonymity to find support as they work up the courage to come out of the closet and decides to post their names and addresses as a statement of moral opposition to their homosexual lifestyles, people who support Chen have to support that as well. I’m not going to be one of them and since I try not to be a hypocrite as often as possible, I won’t be lining up behind Chen.

Free speech is a beautiful thing and the internet is the most amazing invention that our generation has ever known. Obviously, people are going to take advantage of that for evil and that’s going to get press. I urge you to investigate further, to see Reddit for the community of charitable, hilarious, and creative people that they are and enjoy some cat pictures while you’re at it. There are dark and seedy sides to Reddit, but you don’t have to go there unless you want to. If you want to, more power to you. Just don’t do anything illegal and don’t support whores like Adrian Chen and trolls like Violentacruz.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Film Review: 7 Psychopaths

I’m taking the blog in a bit of a different direction. I’ve gotten tired of just writing about what’s going on in my life as there’s not much to write about most days. I’ll still be writing about whatever is on my mind, but I’ve decided to lean a little bit towards the pop culture world as that’s what I’m really passionate about. So interspersed with my ramblings about this weird thing and that, you’re going to start seeing film reviews,  probably a song of the week column, comic book news, and much, much more. I mean, who needs focus anyway?

And so, I present to you my first film review. Keep in mind, I know nothing about the technical aspects of film making (which is why I didn’t like the Master I suspect), I’m just a fan of movies of all kinds.
Now, I’m not going to bury the lead here. I loved this movie. I loved this movie before I ever sat down in the theatre. I saw a cardboard stand up ad while walking through my local Cineplex. Images of Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, and Colin Farrell went through my pupils, down my ocular nerve, and hit my brain and stimulated my pleasure center. Like a robot who had suddenly discovered the ability to love, I shouted “I want to see that movie so much!!!”

The wife and I went to a free screening last night put on by Vice magazine. We’re real movers and shakers, the wife and I. By which I mean, I sign up for contests for the free screenings put on by the marketing departments of movie studios in which people who read film and entertainment blogs can see this movie for free and take to the Twitterverse (or their blogs as the case may be) to rave about the movie if they like it and hopefully keep their mouths shut if they don’t.

So what’s this movie about? Well, there’s a ton of surprises that I don’t want to give away so here’s the base level plot. Colin Farrell is an alcoholic screenwriter. Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken are business partners. What business you ask? Well Mr. Nosey, it’s the dog kidnapping business if you must know. They take dogs from people when they aren’t looking and return them a few days later to collect a reward. Seems like a pretty good racket right?

Well one day, they steal the wrong dog. They steal the dog of a mafia crime boss played by Woody Harrelson. You know he’s a bad dude because he’s got a scorpion tattooed on the side of his neck. He has a soft side underneath his gruff and violent exterior. He loves his little Shitzu more than anything and he’ll stop at nothing to get her back. This kidnapping sets off a whole chain of events and things get way out of hand. You and me, we’re just along for the ride. 

So that’s the story, but what is this movie about? Truthfully, it’s about friendship. It’s about best friends who just want to see each other succeed and will push each other to the limit to get there. That’s really the long and short of it and it’s incredibly effective. We spend the whole movie thinking that Sam Rockwell’s character is a complete wackjob. We’re not wrong either. He’s definitely an eccentric to say the least. But through it all, he knows what he’s doing and his motivation is actually pretty pure for a con-man. He’s doing it all for Colin Farrell. 

This movie has whip smart dialogue and it never really drags. It takes twists and turns, some of which you could predict, but there’s still a ton of surprises. It’s a powerhouse cast and everyone turns in really great performances. Some might call Sam Rockwell a bit cartoonish, but it works for me and it ultimately works for the character. Christopher Walken is Christopher Walken and he’s never going to play any character in any other way. But who cares!? We love him anyway. Woody Harrelson and Colin Farell are great as always. The big surprise award goes to Tom Waits, who plays a small, but integral role that I don’t want to give away here and turns in a great performance as well. 

As we were leaving the theatre, some mustachioed hipster behind us said something to the effect of “I guess this guy never heard of Quentin Tarantino”. It’s true, this movie smacks of Tarantino in the dialogue and the style and the extreme violence, but it doesn’t feel stolen. It feels like an homage of the highest order. You know what they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 

In summation, you could find a lot worse ways to spend 2 hours this weekend. You could be some sort of murderer or maybe you write “White Power” pamphlets. If I may be so bold, maybe you should take a break from such abhorrent behaviors and go see this movie instead.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Why I'm Voting For Obama

There are a lot of people who think that our country has not taken many steps forward since Obama took office. I disagree, but it's not hard to see why they feel that way, since we haven't taken many significant steps forward. None of this matters to me though. I'll be voting for Obama and I'll tell you why.

It's not because he said that he was in favor of medicinal marijuana but did not tell the DOJ to stop prosecuting dispensaries.

It's not because my gay friends can't get married whenever they want and wherever they want.

It's not because I'm less fearful everyday that I might lose my job and not get another one.

To be honest, I was not positive I was going to vote for Obama. For one thing, did you know his middle name is Hussein?! Like Sadam Hussein!?! But don't worry, something made my mind up for me.

That's right, Scott Stapp, lead singer of Creed, has decided that he will not be voting for Obama this year. Anything that I can do to distance myself from Scott Stapp, singer of Creed, is number one priority. It's a good thing he didn't let the world know he was planning to vote for Obama in 2008 because I don't know what would have happened.

 I just hope he never comes out against pizza.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Game Night

This weekend we got together with our good friends Paul and Whitney for our monthly (at least, attempting to be monthly) dinner and game night. I look forward to these nights so much.

Whitney is a dear friend from college and Paul is her husband. It’s so strange because on paper, Paul and I could not be more opposite. But we found a musical bond in going to punk shows and he’s someone I enjoy talking politics with because even though we have totally different views, I always learn so much from talking to him and so he’s become one of my favorite people. The wife loves these visits as well because as a bonus she gets to play with Paul and Whitney’s baby, Marianna. She’s pretty cool for something that can’t talk yet.

Paul grilled some delicious rib eye steaks and we drank wine. I decided that as long as someone else is cooking, there’s no risk for me to try some new foods so last night I tried Bok Choy and rice. I know what you’re saying. “RICE!? That's exotic?!" I know, I know. As far as I knew rice was a vegetable and those simply weren’t allowed in my mouth for the longest time. I’m now trying new foods when others are preparing them for me because I really have nothing to lose. I’ll know if I like it or not instead of just guessing and if I didn’t like it, it’s not like I’ve wasted money buying something I have to throw out. The final verdict was that if rice is prepared properly (this was sautéed in butter and them simmered in beef stock), it’s pretty delicious. Bok Choy I sadly did not care for. The bottoms were like celery, which I hate, and while the top was a new taste to me, I didn’t like it.

After dinner, we played a new game that I bought called Cards Against Humanity. Needless to say, this is not a game I’ll be bringing home to play at Thanksgiving. Basically, it’s a fucked up version of Apples to Apples where the one card will read “__________, high five bro!” and the object is to play the card that most hilariously fills in the blank, for example “The blood of Christ, high five bro.” I don’t think I’ve laughed so much in one evening in quite a long time.

The rest of the weekend was relatively relaxed. The wife ran 20 miles on Saturday, her longest run in all of marathon training. While she was out running, I went to the store and got the supplies to make a desert (Butterfinger Blondies) to take to Paul and Whitney’s as well as lasagna for Saturday night. I knew that after running 20 miles, the wife was going to need a good meal. I’d never made lasagna before, but it came out really well. I needed a win because I had been trying new recipes and failing spectacularly. I got my confidence back now which is good because we’re trying to save some money and one of our ways of reducing our grocery bill is going to be eating good foods for dinner and always making enough for leftovers.
My thinking is we’ll spend less money on canned items and frozen foods for lunches as well as eating tastier foods.

I love to cook so I’m totally fine with this plan, but it can be difficult since the train commute home after work can be pretty draining. I’m willing to put the effort in if it means improve our budget though. We’ll see how things go. I'm combing through Pinterest to get ideas for tasty and healthy (or at least, not unhealthy) meal ideas. I'd love your suggestions if you have any.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rodriguez and The Spirit of Detroit

Beware: If you don’t know the story of Rodriguez and you’ve been interested in the documentary “Searching For Sugar Man”, go see the movie first. It’s rare for a documentary to have spoilers, but people who are in the dark about Rodriguez (which is most people) might be in for a surprise if they saw this movie. However, I can’t think what would motivate someone who didn’t know Rodriguez to see the movie so I might have just wasted a paragraph.

My wife and I have been excited about this movie for a long time. She came to Rodriguez the way she comes to 99% of new I came to Rodriguez the way I come to about 25% of new brother. He gave me his first record (Cold Fact) and told me the story and it kind of sat on my iPod for a while (as most things do). When I finally sat down and listened to it, I was captivated. From that point on, any time we had people over to play games, Cold Fact was a go-to record for me to put on. It’s not so intrusive that you can’t talk over it, but it’s so good that eventually someone at the table says “What is this?” and then I can launch into the tale of Rodriguez.

The short and sweet version goes like this. A working class guy in the 60’s writes some songs. He’s very Dylan-esque. Some record producers see him in a bar. They cut a record with him. It sells very few copies. They cut a second record. It sells even less. He goes back to doing construction and odd jobs. Unbeknownst to him, in South Africa, the anti-establishment message of his music has become the soundtrack to the anti-Apartheid movement. He’s considered an equal to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in South Africa, however, no one knows much about him. Rumors of his death by onstage suicide begin to circulate. 30 years later, a South African music writer and a record store owner set out to learn everything they can about Rodriguez and they find out he’s still alive and living in Detroit, still working the same odd jobs to make ends meet. They convince him to come to South Africa where he plays 5 sold out arena shows. He learns he’s sold half a million dollars and that his South African record distributors had never been able to track him down for royalties (believing the rumors of his death to be true). But Rodriguez ain’t mad. He’s not all that interested in his new found popularity. He plays shows because he likes it, giving most of the money he earns away to friends and family and continues to work odd jobs when he’s not playing. He’s happy with his life the way it is. For him, music is fun and it doesn’t matter if he makes money on it. He doesn’t need it. And there you have it, the tale of Sixto Rodriguez.

Saturday my wife and I went to see the movie. It was really great and very touching. It made think a lot about how the story of Rodriguez can be looked at as a metaphor for the story of Detroit. Rodriguez is a working class guy with a brilliant musician inside. Detroit is a working class town where amazing art is happening all the time. No one paid any attention to Rodriguez. No one pays any attention to Detroit (at least not positive attention). Rodriguez doesn’t care about being famous or rich, he just wants to play his music and he hopes you like it. Detroiters don’t really care about fame or fortune, they just want to do their thing and they hope you’ll like it. Rodriguez is a perfect representation of what Detroit is all about. Detroiters find something they want to do and they try it. Who cares if they fail, it’s not like things could get worse and who knows, one day, the story of Detroit could be the backbone of a movement and Detroit could get discovered for what it truly is.

Needless to say, seek out both of Rodriguez’s albums, go see him live if you get the chance, and if you can find a screening, go see this movie. And the next time you’re trying to decide where to go on vacation, consider Detroit. You haven’t had a hot dog until you’ve had a Lafayette Coney. You’ll thank me later.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The CTA's new in transit entertainment strategy

Greetings valued rider,

Here at the Chicago Transit Authority we're always striving to provide dependable, on-time public transportation options to serve the entire city (except the far south and far west sides because....eww). We're failing spectacularly but at least we're not Detroit am I right?!

We're always experimenting with new ideas for how to make your experience more enjoyable and it is our pleasure to introduce our new In-Transit Games that are being installed on all trains. Here's just a few of the exciting options that you might find to help you pass the time on your commute home from your low-paying drone work.

"Step On Your Fellow Human Beings Neck to Get a Seat on the Train"

This is probably the game with the simplest objective. You stand at the station any loop bound or northbound train between 7-9 am or 4-7 pm and jockey for the best position. Each train car will have one open seat, placed at random, and your objective is to sit in it at any costs. Along with your other riders, pregnant women and elderly people will be randomly placed to challenge your sense of decency.

"How Long Before I Pass Out From Heat Exhaustion"

This is part of our summer games block. In this event, the air conditioning on random trains will be shut off I the temperature gets above 80 degrees. It is your objective to push past all hallucinations and remain upright while in a train packed with other people giving off an absurd amount of heat. It's a scorcher!

"Name That Tune: The Guy With Terrible Taste and His Headphones Way Too Loud Edition"

Better brush up on your Skrillex and Kenny Chesney if you want to succeed in this challenging game. Randomly placed throughout train cars will be people with no concept of other people's existence and therefore had their music turned up to 11. Your objective is to figure out what terrible dubstep or country song they are listening to. Should you guess correctly , they'll assume you're a fan and try to dance with you! You are a loser either way! Isn't that fun?!

"Is That Guy Really Shitting on the Train?!"

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Pro-tip, he is...always.

"Guess the Bodily Fluid"

Occasionally riders will notice an open seat in an otherwise packed train car. It's not luck, it's our most exciting game. In this game, you'll look at the fresh stain that is on the seat no one is sitting on and try to guess which bodily fluid it is. In fact, let's try a round right now?

I don't need to ask what you guessed. You know in your heart you're right. Sadly. 

We hope these games will add a little enjoyment to your commute and if it doesn't....oh well. Because at the CTA, we don't care....and it shows. 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

I Love Magic

I love magic. I’m not ashamed. That’s not entirely true. I’m ashamed of people who don’t love magic. You have no wonder in your cold, cold hearts. There’s a comedian I’ve recently gotten way into by the name of Pete Holmes who does a whole bit about loving magic. Skip ahead to 1:01

If that voice sounds familiar to you, that’s because you know Pete as the voice of the e-Trade baby. That’s your fun fact for today.

I’ve loved magic since I was in second grade. That was when I saw my first David Copperfield special on TV. I was hooked. He was my hero. Then I made my first communion. My parents gave me a card and it said “You’ll be getting your gift in a few weeks.”  Obviously it was something that took some time to arrive and wouldn’t fit in the reception hall. It must be the Batmobile right!?

It wasn’t, but it was still pretty amazing. One day my folks told me and my brother to hop in the car and we were going to go downtown and spend the day. When we were in the car my mom said this was going to be my first communion present. We were going to go to Lafayette Coney Island for lunch (this is a much bigger treat to me now than it was then) and then maybe to the Detroit Zoo or something. After lunch, we were walking around downtown and we started walking by the Fox theatre. I looked at the marquee and it said David Copperfield. I said “Oh man! Wouldn’t it be so cool if we were going to that?!” and that’s when my mom handed me the tickets. I still remember tricks (you know, what a whore does for money....or cocaine) that were performed that day. Even with all that I’ve learned about magic since then, the methods elude me. It’s clear that David Copperfield is some sort of sorcerer who sacrifices virgins and bathes in their blood to acquire his control over the dark forces of magic. Or at least, it was clear until the internet came along. I’ll get back to that.

After seeing David Copperfield, my career path was clear. I gave up my dreams of being an ice cream man (which I wanted to do because one of my coloring books had a picture of Goofy driving an ice cream truck and stuffing his face full of ice cream. Once I realized that I could have all the free ice cream I wanted, being an ice cream man seemed like the only career choice a rational person would make) and asked my dad to take me to Lauer’s Novelty shop so I could begin developing my routine. I bought the one where the three ropes of different lengths become the same length, I got a magic coloring book, some disappearing crayons, a simple production box, and a disappearing hankey. Look out Copperfield, I’m about to make the time you ripped the heads off of a live duck and a live chicken and switched them look like child’s play.

I practiced and I read and I performed in two talent shows. I attempted to get a job as an assistant for David Vitorelli, a magician who did a show on the local cable access channel. He called me at home and told me I was a little too young to assist him, but he gave me some advice and sent me an autographed headshot. I went to Pearl City Chinese with my down the street neighbors all the time because he performed there on occasion. He was another hero.

All in all, I did magic for like 3 years, until I started earning an allowance and being forced to pay for my own tricks. At that point, it was just too expensive. Like haircuts.

As time would go by, I would find myself earning more money as I aged. There were pockets of history when I could afford a trip to the magic shop now and again and I would get real into it again for a few months. At a point in college, I tried to actually earn some money (or a free meal at least) by trying to get local chain restaurants to have a kids night where I would walk around doing table magic for tips (and a free meal at the end of the night) but none of them were interested. I still have a little case with like 10 or 12 tricks which I will occasionally take out of the closet and fiddle with. When I was working for Careerbuilder, the guys on my team asked me to bring in some tricks one day to entertain them. It was then that I realized that the internet was ruining magic.

I love the internet. I love that anything that you want to know is at your fingertips, but I also think it’s ruining us. (Pete Holmes has a bit about this as well. You may have watched it after watching the first, but if you didn’t you should check it out). Specifically, it’s ruining magic.

One of my favorite tricks is the Scotch and Soda. It’s a great coin routine, is relatively easy to perform, and really wowed my co-workers when I did it. Then I went to lunch. When I came back, they had looked up Scotch and Soda on youtube, found out the secret, and were taunting me.

So I’m urging you, magic fans, that if you want to know the secrets, take up an interest in magic and continue to protect the secrets. Spend the money on the tricks, learn them, and spread the wonder. Don’t be a dickbag and post public tutorials on how to do a trick I spent 30 bucks to purchase.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

An Open Letter to Adam Carolla

Dear Adam,

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, there’s been a recent dust up regarding some comments you’ve made about women in comedy. Frankly, I was surprised to read that you felt the way you did. Not because I think of you as some sort of champion of equality or anything like that, but just because it’s an undeniable fact that women are funny. Let’s explore shall we?

You’re married right? I’m sure you can relate to this story. The other night, the wife and I were eating dinner and she mentioned to me that she’s not sure who she’s going to vote for in the next election. I know right!? Women voting. We had ourselves quite a laugh. I mean could you imagine if women, with their frail and volatile emotional states were allowed a say who leads our nations?! How absurd.

Here’s another one for you. Last week I traveled to my wife’s cousin’s graduation party. She had graduated from high school and...wait for it...GETTING READY TO GO TO COLLEGE!!! I practically collapsed with laughter. The idea that a woman could be something other than a wife and mother is definitely on par with the best episodes of the Man Show.

Now maybe you’ve never encountered women as hilarious as my wife and mother, but you’re an educated man (I have to assume, based on your intellectual and hilarious social satire), and so I’m sure you stay caught up with current events. You must have heard about the woman who said the word vagina on the floor of the Michigan Congress. Now, when I think of a woman in a leadership role, I’m already starting to laugh, but when she starts using such words during a discussion on women’s reproductive rights (which in itself could be used in your new sitcom, just please give me a consultant’s credit), I really bust a gut. Now granted, not everyone is a fan of such edgy humor, but I like to push boundaries.

So Mr. Carolla, I must respectfully disagree with your analysis. Granted, often times their humor is unintentional and it certainly doesn’t have the biting wit and timing of “girls jumping on trampolines”, but you can’t read this letter and still say that women are not funny. I hope you’ll reconsider your analysis as I, and the rest of the world, look to you to know what is funny.

Respectfully yours,
Ryan McGillen

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What do you want to do?

Whenever I talk about moving home, I always get excited. I get excited because I believe that I’ll be motivated. But what will I be motivated to do?

I heard an interview with Jack White recently that summed up why I believe that Chicago saps my artistic/creative will. He was talking about why he chose to move to Nashville when he left Detroit rather than go the natural route of LA or New York (and before you go pointing out that he left Detroit, it wasn’t for artistic reasons, it was because nobody liked him).  He said that the reason he chose a smaller city is because the people who live in a big city don’t foster support for making art. That’s not to say they don’t go see theatre or go to art galleries because we all know they do. But they have so much access to art that the attitude is not appreciative. They don’t care as much. They go to a play and say “Oh Glengarry Glenross set in a struggling real estate office on the moon. Yeah, I’ve seen something like that before, but whatever.”

The Detroit area needs art. I remember when I was leaving, a lot of people gave me crap. My friend Adam and I were engaging in our time honored pastime of sitting in the courtyard of our building at three in the morning smoking cigarettes and prattling on about this and that and he told me I was deserting the city. I replied with a line I later realized was from the epic Pauly Shore masterpiece “Biodome”. “I’m a rat deserting a sinking ship.” I explained that I wanted to do theatre and more importantly improv and that I didn’t think there was much chance for me to do it outside of college because there just weren’t any places to do it. I had no confidence in Detroit ever becoming the artistic epicenter that Chicago is. Is epicenter the right word? Let me check.

The epicenter or epicentre /ˈɛpɪsɛntər/ is the point on the Earth's surface that is directly above the hypocenter or focus, the point where an earthquake or underground explosion originates

Ok, not the right word, but at least you learned something today. What’s a better word? Let’s go with powerhouse. How about that? Chicago has a lot of the same art that New York and L.A. has and I’ve heard those called powerhouses. Why can’t Chicago be a powerhouse? Is there some sort of governing board that determines powerhouses? What are the qualifications?

Anywho, I think it’s good that Detroit is not a powerhouse. I look at Detroit and I don’t see burned out buildings and dead grass. I see a place begging for me and my friends to come play. Please come make movies. Please come perform your silly plays. Please come do improv shows. Got a new idea for a business? Here’s a million empty storefronts just dying to have your weird hats on their shelves. Just do it!

Which brings me to my original question. What do I want to do? I envy my wife in that she knows that she wants to work in fitness, most likely as a personal trainer or group fitness instructor. I believe she would still do some theatre too, but being an actor is not her goal anymore. As for myself, I can’t quite say. I’m never able to put my finger on one single thing for very long.

I’m reminded of my days in junior high when I used to sit in the basement on three (or four or five or even six) way calls. For those of you under the age of say, 27, three way calling was when you would call a friend, hit the call waiting button, call another friend, and then have your own little conference call right there in the house. Just like a real life executive. Of course, my friends and I were mostly reciting lines from Dazed and Confused and talking about our non existent sex lives. On occasion, we would discuss our future. My best friend at the time and I would discuss a business that we would one day like to run. It was a variation on a giant head shop that we used to shop at called The Road Show. When we tried to nail down what our business would be all about my ADD kicked in. If I got my way, this shop was going to be the size of a giant warehouse. It was going to have a coffee shop, a performance space, a magic shop, a head shop, a record store, a comic book store, a bookstore....I think you get the idea. I knew I wanted to run a business but I couldn’t decide what kind. I guess I’m just fickle that way.

So now I’m trying to decide what will make this next phase of my life successful. Some days I think that as long as I’m usually smiling, spending time with my wife, friends, and family, and just living the life I want, I’ll be good. Other days, I want to be a director. Others, I want to own a comic book store or movie theatre. Some days I even think of being a freelance writer. The options and paths appear to be endless and as much as that excites me, it terrifies me just as much. Everything that is worth doing is probably a little terrifying though right? People wouldn’t jump out of airplanes if it was 100% safe.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Take the Leap

The wife and I were eating dinner on Sunday (I’ve been trying to institute a Sunday dinner so that we cook and eat at least one meal a week) and we got to talking about the move back to Michigan that will occur sometime in our future. In the spirit of full disclosure, it’s primarily me that is unhappy here in Chicago. She likes most aspects of life here, but also realizes that it’s not the thing she wants long term (I hope I’m getting that right. Feel free to correct me honey.) Knowing all of that, it’s easy to see how the two sides of the coin of moving to Michigan could be exaggerated based on your perspective. We’re both scared of the same things and excited about the same things, but since I’m unhappy, I focus on the things I’m excited about and try to ignore the fears where she is focused on the fears of the things that could go wrong while not allowing herself to be excited. Neither side is right.

I quite dramatically equated my feelings to being on a cliff while someone is pointing a gun at you. I look over the edge of the cliff and I see the ocean below and my mentality is “Ok, if I don’t jump, this guy will shoot me and I’ll die. If I do jump, I still might die, but there’s a chance that I’ll live.” I’m not normally a risk taker either. Getting married was probably the biggest gamble I’ve ever taken and that’s not to say I wasn’t sure about marrying my wife, but more just that marriage is a crap shoot no matter who the person is.

I was about to start mixing metaphors and talking about the situation in the form of gambling but let’s stay on the cliff. I think there’s something exciting in fear of the unknown, but I think it depends on the possible outcomes. Usually, I don’t like not knowing. I hate surprises. But as long as I know the outcome won’t be awful, I can get myself excited about the adventure. I have lots of ideas about how I would like things to go, what would be ideal. I’m sure none of them will come true but this time, unlike so many before, it won’t be for lack of trying. That’s why I stick with the cliff metaphor. It allows me to use this quote that I came across today. Any other day, I would just put the quote out there and let you think I’m well read and intelligent, but you’re no fool. You know Ray Bradbury died today and someone on Twitter tweeted this quote and that’s how I came across it. I think it resonated really hard with me today because of the things that have been on my mind.

“You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” - Ray Bradbury

That’s the part that I read that inspired me to write this blog. Then I looked deeper and found the full quote, which is something I should apply not just to this, but to life in general. Again, I may not be successful, but for now, it won’t be for lack of trying. The full quote reads:

“If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”

So I’m going to try to start doing some things that I’m afraid of. Maybe I’ll talk to a stranger. Maybe I’ll write everyday and realize that some days, the writing will just be awful. Who cares? If I don’t die, lose my wife, lose my family, or lose my friends, I’ll be just fine.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Sunday List

If you've been a regular reader, you know that I suck at blogging. I just can't keep up with a consistent schedule. I have fun ideas for posts, I jot them down, and then when I start writing them, they turn out to be shitty and I abandon them. I hold myself to high standards, surprising as it may be from my writing, and therefore I just don't bother.

I'm taking the inspiration from the other blog that I had, Tubb's Top 5, and using it to help me write at least one regular post a week. It'll be a post where I basically discuss some sort of top 5 list that's been on my mind. I'm going to also going to make a Sunday post on Reddit, in the askreddit section ( so that other users can contribute their lists. If you're driven to the blog from Reddit, welcome. OK, here goes nothing.

So as you probably know (again, if you're a regular reader), my time here in Chicago is winding down. I'm growing weary of living here and looking to be closer to my friends and family so that I can surround myself with people rather than just stuff.

As much as I don't like living here anymore, I know there are going to be things that I miss. They certainly don't outweigh the things that I'm looking forward to when I move back home, but they are there. This is my list of the Top 5 Things I'll Miss About Living In Chicago.

1. Walks by the lake.

I've been lucky enough the last few years to live no more than 3 blocks from the beach. If you know anyone from Chicago, you know that the way we get through winter is by saying through chattering teeth "Summer's going to be so great." It really is true though. Lazy as I might be, there's not much that will cause me to say no if my wife asks me to take an afternoon stroll along Foster beach. 

2. Tedino's Pizza

Most Chicago pizza is kind of similar. Subtle differences are all that really set them aside. I'll admit that my opinion is probably colored by Tedino's being two blocks from my apartment, but what really does it for me is the pepperoni. It's so thick and spicy and gives a really good bite to the pizza. I'll take Tedino's over pretty much any pizza place within a 2 mile radius of my place. 

3. The Neofuturists

It's been a really long time since I've been to see a show at the Neofuturist theatre. Generally, when I have visitors in town for a weekend, I take them to see their signature show "Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind". The energy and excitement of the show is tough to explain, but I can try to give you an idea of what the show is all about. Basically, the company attempts to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes. The order of the plays is determined in random order. All of the plays are original, true to the actors lives, and real (meaning no one on stage plays a character, the actors don't create fake sets, they acknowledge that they are on a stage, in a theatre, in front of an audience and don't try to convince you otherwise). It's a really great show that has you howling with laughter one minute and fighting back tears the next. 

4. The Harold Washington Library

I haven't been to the library in a long time, but there was a time when I would go pretty much every week. I've had a stack of books to plow through and it just seems to keep growing. I do love walking around this 8 story behemoth of a library though. You could spend a whole day in there if you really wanted to. Plus, look at that beautiful building, and just two blocks from my office.

5. Puppet Bike

It's exactly what it sounds like. It's a puppet theatre attached to a bicycle. A lot of times during the week, it's downtown on State Street performing for people who are shopping. It can also be spotted in Andersonville most of the time (I think they have a couple of bikes). Puppeteers crawl into the box, turn on some fun music, and make puppet cats and rabbits and what have you dance around. The operate mostly on tips, so if you stop to watch, toss em a few bucks. 

Like I said, hopefully I'll be posting with more regularity, but I make no promises. If nothing else, check back next week for the next Sunday list. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I Guess Suburbia Ain't So Bad

The title is the name of a song I wrote in my old band “The Bad Chemicals”. It’s reminiscent of a time when I was living in Detroit (the city, not the area) and Chicago bound. I thought I’d never want to live in the suburbs and I think that that perception was informed primarily by movies and TV. The lyrics are a (not so) subtle and tongue in cheek description of the boring life of two people married and living in the suburbs. It was truly how I felt at the time. 

But why did I think this way? I can’t put my finger on it. Here, I’ve lived in the “big city” for 5 years now and I long for the suburbs every day. Not necessarily the suburbs, but for the people that moving back to my home state could provide me with. I’m gearing up for the next section of my life. A section that I used to mock with my peers.

 I can remember saying to a friend while at a bar one night “It’s so depressing to be Facebook friends with people I went to high school with. Just looking at them with kids and houses and stuff, ugh.” Of course, I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

 Now, I’m craving that. I want my own house. Maybe I won’t ever be a homeowner, but I’d like a bigger place that I can decorate. I’d like to have some spare rooms where Kristen could work out and I could do whatever I would do if I had an office. I’d like to have a garage where I can keep the half finished projects I will try to build.

 I want to have a kid. Not right away of course, there’s still things I think I should do first, but I’m looking forward to it. A little me that I can introduce to Star Wars, The Muppets, The Simpsons, and Batman. Sure, I’m ignoring all the challenges of parenthood, but if I didn’t focus on the fun stuff, I don’t think I’d ever go through with it.

There’s something in me that says that moving back to Michigan would signify failure. I constantly get confused glances and “Why would you do that?”. But in Michigan I see potential that I haven’t seen here in a while. I feel like I’ve learned a lot and met a lot of great people while I was here and there are of course things that I’ll miss. But whenever that stuff gets me down, I think back to this past weekend.

The wife and I were in Frankenmuth for my good friend Matt’s wedding, in which I was best man. I got to spend two days in a hotel with my wife and all of my best friends.  I got to experience sore throats and sore sides from 3 hour conversations and laughing until I couldn’t breathe. I got to watch my wife integrate with my friends in a way she never had before. She wasn’t there because she was married to me. She was there because these people love her as much as I do and she loves them. She was one of the gang. There were people who understand me. I felt fulfilled. I felt motivated. More than anything, I felt creative. I felt like I could do anything. I had confidence.

This is not to say I’m not happy in my life right now. I’ve got an amazing wife who takes care of me when I need to be taken care of and often times even when I don’t. She loves me despite the fact that I consider Wednesday a sacred day because I have to go pick up my comic books. She loves me when I let grease drip into the oven and then set off the smoke alarm. She encourages me to run with ideas when I have them (I just lack motivation and judge my ideas to harshly). I have a handful of friends who will come over to our apartment to eat pizza and play board games. I have a decent job and a decent apartment. This is not about any of those things because I know that, God willing, I’ll always have those things. It’s just about a change of pace.

I owe Chicago a great debt of gratitude. Without Chicago, I don’t think Kristen and I would have gotten married. It gave us a necessary push to move in together, to support each other when no one else would, and to grow as a couple. Chicago is where I succeeded (a rare thing for me) at a lofty goal that I set for myself. It also showed me that sometimes, the thing you want the most is not going to be that great once you get it and that that’s OK too. It taught me how to be a grownup. I’ll carry those lessons with me wherever I go, and I hope to keep learning for however long I’m here. So you may be loud, you may be smelly, and you may have driven me a little bit crazy, but Chicago, you’ve been absolutely vital in my development and for that I thank you. I think we’re just growing apart.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Great Music Collection Organization Update

As of today, I’ll have completed going through the A’s on my iPod. Actually, if you want to be accurate, I’m finishing it up this afternoon, but I’m in the middle of the Avenue Q Original Cast Recording, an album I’ve listened to enough times that I could skip it if I didn’t love it so damn much. It’s been pretty great so far. I’ve always enjoyed listening to albums more than shuffling around. It’s cool to listen to those songs you might never hear on a shuffle because you’d just skip them to get to another Elvis Costello song.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the A’s. I really like data, so I thought I would collect a little bit. Is there anything else you, my gentle reader, would like to know that I could quantify into data points? I tried to remember to rate the songs, but often times I'm only half paying attention. Anyhow, here's the report on the A's.

Albums Deleted: 3
Albums Reorganized : 1
Duplicates Deleted: 1
Favorite “A” Album: “Acid Tongue” by Jenny Lewis
Runner Ups: “Almost Killed Me” by The Hold Steady, “All Day” by Girl Talk, “Artificial Heart” by Johnathan Coulton, and “And Out Come The Wolves” by Rancid
Suprise Gem: “Automatic For People” by R.E.M.

Onto the B’s!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Making My Mark

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’m going to make my mark on this world. What’s my purpose? How will I contribute? I’ve always wanted to do something creative but I feel like I lack ideas. Whenever I see a cool new invention, I dream of being an inventor and then I say “If I were an inventor, I’d invent....ah.....grilled cheese? forget it.”

Today I walked past a coworker who was wearing a hoody and from afar it looked like the hood strings were in his ears. As I approached, I learned that I wasn’t going mad and in fact his hood strings were in his ears and for good reason. THEY HAD HEADPHONES IN THEM! He puts his iPod in the pouch pocket, which has a headphone jack, and headphones at the end of the hood strings.

By now most people are probably saying “Well, yeah. How have you not heard of that?” That’s not really the point though. The point is I find myself constantly wondering about my legacy. I believe that everyone is born for a reason, but I’m having trouble figuring out what mine was. It’s like my brain is at war between what I think it should be and what it really could be. I’d love to own Detroit’s coolest comic book store and run it with my friends. I’d love to write plays and get paid to have them produced. I’d love to run a theatre company. All of these are completely attainable goals and who knows, I might take the shot one day. A Wayne Gretzky quote that was imparted to me by Kevin Smith’s new book “Tough Shit: Life Advice From a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good” has been sticking with me lately. “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” I think that’s inspired me to sit down and start working on some of the ideas for new plays that I’ve had. Sure, there’s a chance I won’t get past 5 or 6 pages before realizing I don’t like the idea anymore or it doesn’t have the legs I thought it did. But I can be certain I’m not going to write a great play if I don’t try.

In weight loss goals news (since I promised the wife), today was not the best week calorie wise, but it was balanced out by an increase in lunch time walks. I actually really enjoy lunchtime walks. It gets my exercise out of the way so that when I get home from work, I don’t have to worry about it and it’s easy to do. I only spend like 15 minutes of my lunch hour working, so why not get outside and wander around the Loop for the rest of the time. My weight itself has stayed the same since last week. Nothing lost, but nothing gained.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Let's Get Organized....Organized

Oh hi there. You’re still here. Where have I been you ask? I’ve been getting married, working, traveling, and just living life. All the stuff that should be fodder for a blog, but if you want the truth, I was just lazy. Oh well, maybe 7th time is a charm. But today I want to talk about organization.

The wife asked me to do a fitness, I don’t know, challenge I guess you’d call it. The basic goal is to lose 15 pounds by Father’s day. This is done by carefully tracking calories and making a point to excercise. To this point, I’ve done so - so. I’ve tracked my calories every day (and gone over my limit most days, but not to an obscene amount) and I took walks at lunchtime 3 times last week. I’m trying to step it up to 5 this week, but I missed yesterday and I might have to have working lunches for the rest of the week to go to a doctor’s appointment. Might have to do some night time walks, which is totally fine considering the weather is getting nicer here in Chicago.

Fitness is not necessarily my thing. I understand it’s importance and I try to participate as much as I can, but fitness challenges are not exactly my favorite thing in the world. Working out is not fun for me. So I decided I needed a project of my own to do alongside the fitness challenge. Something for my brain. I picked organization of many aspects of my life. My first target was my iTunes library. It’s crazy. There’s duplicates, broken songs, and a bunch of stuff I don’t even like. My 80 gb iPod is quickly approaching maximum capacity and I know there are albums on here I just can’t stand.

The first step is listening to all the albums I have, in order, and deciding if I really like the album. I’m only like 7 albums in and until today, everything made had made the cut. Today, I decided I wasn’t nuts about “Aha Shake Heartbreak” by Kings of Leon. It wasn’t that it was an awful album. I kind of like Kings of Leon. Still, it wasn’t too hard. I just had to realize that I’ll most likely never listen to this album again. Tonight, that album gets the axe (along with a duplicate of Stand By Me).

I have trouble getting rid of things. I’m afraid that the second I throw something out, I’ll want it. It even stretches to my comic book collection (I’m reticent to use that word, I’ve only been collecting again for about 8 months and only in the last month started trying to build a collection of back issues.). When DC came out with the new 52, I picked an assortment of books to follow and set a cap so as not to return to the way I was in my late teens (I used to spend 50-70 dollars a week on comics.) Amongst those titles lies Justice League International. I’m a big Booster Gold fan and he’s the leader of said super team, so I decided to give it a go. It took some soul searching, but Issue #8 will be the last for me. The Avengers will be taking it’s place in my reserve box.

I’d love to hear some tips on organization if you have any. For organizing anything. Anything at all!

Friday, February 3, 2012


I'm testing out blogging from my iPhone. Perhaps using the blogger app, I'll be able to make myself blog more.