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Wildly Exaggerated: July 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sketch Challenge, 3rd Set: Not Now But Soon

I am so tired.

I finished the last 13 pages of Set 3 this morning, about 10 hours late. I won't make any excuses; I just didn't get it done on time. This week's sketches got markedly more political. I had previously avoided that sort of thing, and was still hesitant to do so this week. But in the end I decided that's where my head was, so that's what I'd write. It's not like these will ever see the light of day anyway.

I still feel very disorganized and unstable, though I've made substantial progress in getting things together. This morning I was fondly remembering the first week of Kimberly Welsh's Sketch Challenge and Proof of Insanity, Now No Longer Giving A Shit What The Sketch Is About, Or Indeed Whether It's Funny, So Long As The Page Count Goes Up. Ah, those halcyon days when I was so full of optimism and wonder. I remember how excited I was to carry my little pocket notebook around, seeing the world through the eyes of a kid on an Easter egg hunt, searching for the little nugget of humor in everything. Everything was so shiny and new! Now my house is a disaster area, I scrounge for food, I barely look presentable half the time...

I'm hurtin', y'all.

BUT! This was the whole point of the Sketch Challenge and Gauntlet and Rite of Passage! Because I read that John Finnemore was going to write 5 sketch shows in 10 weeks, and we all know that while that sounds fun, it's probably not as much fun as we might think. And I wanted to know what it would really be like, suspecting all along that it would probably come with one or two major low points. Well at least now I know I was definitely right! And that's not even the thing I'm most proud of! My biggest accomplishment, as assessed by my very own impartial self, is that I haven't quit yet, and I'm NOT GOING TO. I'm sure I've already mentioned my unfinished EP, the two screenplays I half-finished, the various short stories that got outlined but never written... I have a bad habit of not finishing what I start. But NOT. THIS. TIME.

All my deluded expectations of being pleasantly surprised to find that I am a natural-born sketch-writing genius are dead, as are my fantasies of sitting at my spotless writing desk, sipping a cup of tea and laughing pleasantly to myself as I read joke after hilarious joke pouring out of my fingertips during daylight hours. I know now that I might have potential as a sketch writer, but I also have a really long way to go. And that getting there involves my writing desk getting very messy indeed, and me sitting there at 2 in the morning in food-stained pajamas and no makeup, having epiphanies about why people smoke cigarettes and/or do meth.

The really twisted part is: I kinda love it.

So there you have the final assessment of Set 3. Not as funny as the first two sets, a little behind schedule, not the work of genius I'd hoped for, but DONE. Which is all that matters right now.
The little bar is turning a sort of orange instead of red! I may live to see green!
Of course, quality is still a concern, and I don't like thinking I might...well...suck. It's downright depressing, actually. Which is why I was so happy when a friend of mine posted this on the social media, after snagging it from Wil Wheaton's social media, and who knows where WW got it from, but ANYWAY!
I'm getting this tattooed on the inside of my eyelids.
I've always felt I'd rather write something and know it sucks than be the oblivious egomaniac who writes sludge and thinks it's comedy gold. And literally everything I'm doing at this point is pretty much 100% an act of faith, so I just have to keep thinking that eventually I will learn something and I will get better at this...provided, of course, that I don't quit. WHICH I WON'T. Reading this occasionally helps keep me reassured and calm. I need more of that.

And now for the weekly expression of gratitude to someone who said something nice which helped keep me from drinking a whole bottle of Nyquil:
John Brett of the Week! (not like that)
This week's John of the Week friend Brett! I had a late-night mainstage show at the improv theatre last night, which is always a pretty sizable challenge. Holding my own amongst the mainstagers at an hour when I would ordinarily be sound asleep is no small feat for an old lady like me! But the challenge part is offset by the awesome part, which is that I get to perform AND I get to see/work with a ton of awesome people, including my aforementioned friend Brett. In the end, I had a great time with a great cast and a great emcee, which was all I could've asked for. Then I checked my Twitter timeline this afternoon and saw this:
And that made my whole weekend a billion times better. Thanks Brett! Brett also once made me an amazing origami penguin, but I am a terrible photographer and could never hope to capture its incredibleness for you here. But it lives by my TV, so you KNOW I love to look at it ;)

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pippin' Myself to the Potty Post

POP QUIZ: When you go into the bathroom at your office, what do you spend most of your time in there doing?

Me, I like to use potty time for Purposeful Dancing and Soap Dispenser Fights. You might very well read that and say, "I neither dance nor fight with soap dispensers in public bathrooms!" And to that I say, "SHENANIGANS! How can you avoid these things?" But maybe your bathroom just isn't as hysterically awesome as mine. Let's find out. Here's what makes my office bathroom fun:

Purposeful Dances (2 Kinds):

1. Lights on! Our bathrooms have motion sensors on the lights, so when I'm working late or a lot of people are out of town, I sometimes walk into a pitch black potty environment. When this happens, I could get the lights to turn on by simply turning the corner toward the sinks 'n stalls. But I could also get the lights to turn on by ROCKING THE HELL OUT around the corner toward the sinks 'n stalls! Which would you do? Exactly. I've experimented with different styles here, and while disco is pretty fun, I'd have to give my highest recommendation to the sudden leap around the corner with arms stretched to the sky and index fingers pointed like guns. I call it "Let There Be Light".

2. The Mirror Vogue. (This is the least purposeful of the dances, but it gives you something to do while you wash your hands.) Mirrors are for dancing in front of - any ballerina will tell you that. But in a workplace environment, it's best to restrict mirror-dancing to a simple series of Vogues, so if anyone walks in, you can plausibly pretend to have been fixing your hair, yanking a stray eyelash, etc. I mean, you can get completely jiggy with it and cabbage patch your way to dry hands; I just don't recommend it. And since you're at work and need to stay sharp, I also recommend challenging yourself to Vogue to a song other than "Vogue". Try Men At Work's "Down Under" instead!

Speaking of washing your hands, if you were to use our bathrooms, you might find yourself engaged in a long and losing battle with a soap dispenser, as I did this very afternoon! Our soap dispensers, like our lights, have recently been connected to motion sensors, presumably because the effort of pressing down on a little circle was more than we could be expected to do. Actually, that may very well be the reasoning, since such a disturbing number of my coworkers are usually multitasking their way through a phone call while they are in the bathroom (Note to anyone who talks on the phone in a public bathroom: NO! *slaps your hand* BAD! *takes your phone away* NO!) Anyway, the soap dispenser at the far end of the sinks is not quite right. You put your hand under it, and nothing happens. You get impatient, pull your hand away...and it vomits up a little line of soap, which lands on the edge of the sink.

I encountered this for the first time today, and thought, "Oh well, I guess I'll just use a different sink. But I should clean up all that soap first." This is how you know I'm an idiot, because in order to wipe the soap off, I had to move my hand beneath the soap dispenser. Which triggered it to vomit out more soap. As soon as my hand moved out from underneath it. Like so:
ME: *wipes sink*
ME: *wipes sink*
After the third try, I reassessed the location of the sensor and twisted my wrist around so I could clean the sink without triggering the further dispensation of soap. And then, riding high on my triumph, I caught sight of myself in the mirror, grinning like a damn idiot, with a handful of soap-soiled paper towels, basking in the glory of my ONE triumph today: the defeat of a malfunctioning motion sensor.

And then I laughed really hard. Because I'm an idiot.

So yeah. Today I laughed at a soap dispenser until there were tears streaming down my face, and then I told the whole world about it. This is what I'm doing with my life now.

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Perry is a Hellmouth

On my road trip two weeks ago (you know - the one I STILL haven't recovered from?), I noticed a disturbing trend on the billboards as we clawed our way north through Georgia on I-75. I couldn't ever get a good angle to capture them on film, but I feel confident that I can recreate the basic gist using my freeware paint program. It's worked for everything else!
Yeah, this looks about right
They're cheap-looking, harmless billboards, often including some smaller text about all the great things in Perry, like restaurants! Hotels! The state fairgrounds! Other restaurants and hotels! Did we mention the fairgrounds?

I certainly have nothing against Perry. I drive past it at least three times a year, and it's never done me any harm. I'm sure it's as lovely as any other small town in Georgia, and there's always something going on at those fairgrounds. It's all perfectly innocuous. Until you get a little closer to Perry, and the billboards change a bit...
Comic Sans = evil
Again, I should mention that the image above is my recollection of the billboards. There is a slight chance they don't look *exactly* like that. I googled for an actual photograph, but couldn't find one. Why? Because you can't photograph Satan or his demonic advertising. Everybody knows that.

At first I was perplexed. I mean, those fairgrounds draw a lot of people, so it's a logical place for a hellmouth. But why advertise it? Surely this will drive people away? I don't get it. My best guess is that it has something to do with Truth in Advertising regulations. Marketing is the logical fit for Satan's skill set, but even he can't skirt the FTC!


Sunday, July 24, 2011

You Are Encouraged to Quote Me On That

For the last two Christmases, one of my best girlfriends has given me little quote-of-the-day calendars featuring quotes from famous/brilliant/funny/otherwise notable women. A lot of them are truly inspirational and/or entertaining, but every once in a while, there's one that's just kinda patronizing. Or too specific - having never had a single husband, it's hard for me to relate to the "none of my four husbands have had enough money to make me happy" genre. It's dangerous to let the quality of something like that slip, because this will inevitably lead to me thinking I could do it. And that's how I ended up wondering which great Kimberly Welsh truisms will someday be on just such a calendar. Here are the first ten; print 'em out before you have to pay $6.99 to buy them on tiny sheets of rippable paper!

Awesome/Helpful Sayings By Me, As Made Up Right This Very Second, With No Context Whatsoever

1. "Being a female writer is just like being a male writer, except you have to make a big show out of pretending to feel guilty if you eat a whole pizza."
2. "Purse dogs have it so easy. They don't even know."
3. "I just ate a TON of watermelon, and am not in any intestinal distress whatsoever. So I'm declaring that an urban myth and ordering everyone to keep their real or imagined intestinal distress to themselves in the future!"
4. "A person's laugh says a lot about them. For example, if you laugh like Snidely Whiplash, that says, 'I should stop laughing because it's disconcerting to those around me!'"
5. "There is no problem so great that it cannot be solved by a footlong mayo and provolone sandwich on french bread, washed down with a pint of NyQuil."
6. "Do you work in an inhumane cubicle environment? Why not try stabbing your eardrums with thumbtacks?"
7. "In the battle for the Most Adorable Version of the Twitter bird, Twitterrific has pecked out the eyeballs of its competition*!"
8. "I resent the implication that just because I am staggeringly gorgeous, I cannot also be funny."
9. "Sometimes people say things and I'm like, 'HUH?!?!?'"
10. "Soap is the worst breakup consolation gift. And yet two different people have presented me with soap on the occasion of two different breakups. What is that about? I mean, yeah, I was depressed, but I hadn't stopped bathing, for God's sake!"

*But Tweetcaster is a far superior application, just so we're clear.

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Sketch Challenge, 3rd Set: Sometimes the Wheels Fall Off

As you may recall, last week represented the single largest FAIL of Kimberly Welsh's Sketch Challenge and Very Public Nervous Breakdown, With No Sketches Whatsoever to date. I decided to ease back into writing last weekend by writing a submission for another website! You may have noticed that I never promoted it, and that's because it was rejected. And then I also didn't put it on my own blog, because frankly I wasn't that impressed with it myself. But I had spent most of the weekend writing/editing it, so the thought that I had burned up 48 hours for nothing was pretty...disheartening.

 I resolved to start fresh this week, then singularly failed to do so, choosing instead to play with Google+ (, if you're into that sort of thing), and Spotify, and an ill-advised quantity of alcohol. All of this avoidance was part of a vicious cycle that made me feel a little like the great Ernest Hemingway: I drank when I couldn't write, and then I couldn't write because I was drinking too much! Fun fact: It must've been fucking miserable being Ernest Hemingway. [Just as a point of fact, I am a total lightweight. So when I say "I drank too much", that means as much as 3 glasses of wine in one night. It's not like I woke up in the morning and drank a bottle of vodka before I got in the shower.]

And really, I could write; I was just too scared to, in case I couldn't write anything good. So I woke up Friday morning with the apocalyptic hangover from hell and said, "Right! That two weeks was interesting. Now might be a good time to get my shit together." So I have. I haven't gone out or done anything classically "fun" in the last 3 days, but I have written. And then I wrote, then I wrote a little more, and now I'm writing. And that feels very good, in a very geeky sort of way. WAY WAY WAY more fun than being inebriated, trust me. Yesterday, I got 30 pages of sketches written, which puts the total count at 150 pages - the halfway mark!

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel compelled to tell you that if we were to actually perform all the sketch shows I've written, this one would be the weakest BY FAR. I am singularly unimpressed. But! I don't have many good ideas to work with from the last few weeks (I blame the booze and sleep-deprivation), and this is only the first draft. If anything good came out of last weekend's mostly wasted effort, it's that I did more editing that weekend than I have ever done on any of my previous "comedic" work. And even though I didn't think the final draft was worthy of posting, I firmly believe it was about a thousand times better than the first draft. So I have a lot more faith in editing (and my ability to do it effectively) than I did before. And I would be remiss if I didn't also mention that I had the benefit of a really fantastic editrix, in the form of my BFF, who critiqued the first draft and sent back some really fantastic and perfectly-worded guidance.

(Boy is she ever going to regret THAT!)

So I'm optimistic that even these horrible first drafts may yet be saved. Well, some of them, anyway.

I've just realized that I have inadvertently continued the unofficial tradition of naming the Sketch Challenge posts using song lyrics. That one up there is from Neil Halstead's "Sometimes the Wheels", which has recently become an anchor in my daily writing playlist, and which I find very comforting whenever I feel another nervous breakdown coming on. Because "Sometimes the wheels fall off, and sometimes you can't get up...and Sometimes the world moves fast, and sometimes you can't keep up, and sometimes I just sit and think, and I don't think much". BONUS: It contains a brilliant 2-line indictment of skinny jeans! Recommended.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Can YOU Spot the Serial Killer?

Alright boys and girls, all these graphics-intensive posts have been taking forever to create/edit, so today we're going to use our imaginations! This ain't The Oatmeal. Word.

As I mentioned once before, I occasionally toy around with (and subsequently run screaming from) online dating. I just don't think I'm cut out for it. But I've tried a new site this time around, and while I still don't think I'm going to meet anyone other than Mr. Right-Up-Until-He-Opens-His-Mouth, I am very intrigued by their methods, especially since I've discovered Spot the Serial Killer emails. The concept is pretty simple:

1. Guys on the site rate you as they come across your profile.
2. If you're lucky (and/or your picture is sufficiently grainy and unfocused - go me!), a guy will occasionally give you a 4 or 5 star rating.
3. The site then takes that guy, throws him on a list with 8 other guys, and sends you an email that says "SPOT THE SERIAL KILLER!" "Someone Chose You!"
4. This same email invites me to play their game, which means going through this set of 9 guys, rating each of them. If I give a high rating to the same guy that gave me a high rating, the almighty computer will give us its blessing and automatically send wedding invitations to all of our family and friends.

OK, maybe it doesn't quite end like that. I think it's something more like "it suggests we should probably talk to each other instead of spending all of our time rating people on the internet". And that's kind of a weird suggestion anyway, because the second he stops being a person who wastes his entire life on the internet, we will no longer have anything in common. I digress. In my case, there are always 8 pictures of normal, happy-looking, reasonably attractive guys...and one picture of a man with a shaved head and a highly offensive tattoo, sitting in a dark room with his face illuminated only by the glow of his monitor, glaring angrily at the screen while picking his teeth with a hunting knife. Hmmm...I wonder which one chose me...

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I'd Rather Win Julian Lennon's Suitcase

Friends, my eye has been caught yet again by a bizarre and unfortunate internet ad.

Um, the what now?
I haven't eaten meat in 19 years, but even I have to admit that the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile may be one of the greatest promotional tools of the 20th century. How the hell did their ad department get from the Wienermobile to Jewel's purse? Then there's Jewel. I've never felt like she clearly defined her brand. First she was a rags-to-riches hobo folk singer from Alaska who could yodel. I felt like she had the market pretty well cornered there. But then she decided to be a poet, and then she decided that "casualty" was a synonym for "indifference", and then she wrote a song and sang it about a razor...there was a lot going on. I couldn't keep up, and the only time I've thought about Jewel since was about a year ago, when I got drunk and sang "Foolish Games" at karaoke night. So I'm surprised to see her popping up on my screen again. But then I also don't have cable or listen to the radio. Maybe in my time away from pop culture, the rest of the country has collectively arrived at the conclusion that when you think of wieners and bologna, you think of Jewel. She's finally found THE thing with which she'd like to be associated, and that thing is processed mystery meat bits. Good for her.

And then we come to the purse. If you want to win something involving Jewel, surely that something is a private concert, right? Or maybe a special one-on-one wiener-eating competition? Where the hell did the purse come from? In a stunning display of unhealthy behavior, I actually went to the sweepstakes site (enter today!) and checked out the prize, which is as follows:

**One (1) Grand Prize:  Jewel's purse and select items in it: Brynn Capella HandBag, Blackberry Bold or Blackberry Curve, Too Faced® GLAMOUR to GO II™ make-up and case, Koh Gen Do Cleansing Spa Water Cloths, Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vanilla Apricot Perfume, EO Lavender Hand Sanitizer, Face Place Collagen Elastin Treatment and Ultimate Eye repair products, two American Airlines Roundtrip Coach Class Travel Authorization Certificates. 

As you know by now, I like to envision how these things come about. This time, I think the ad people had a variety of pitches, but couldn't figure out which way to go for the prize - give people a cell phone? What does that have to do with meat products? A bunch of random makeup? Nah, that's just a Sephora sample bag. The airline tickets are nice, but you want to pep 'em up a little bit.... It was the promotional equivalent of a random assortment of meat-pieces. And what do you do with random assortments of meat-pieces? You cram them into a casing (like a purse) and slap a pretty wrapper (like Jewel) on it. Done and done.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Remain Calm: The World Is Ending

I'm getting increasingly fascinated by all the weird ways websites use their error messages to set themselves apart - from the Twitter FAIL whale to the Superpoke FAIL message I got one time, webmasters are doing a much better job of keeping the mood light when things go wrong and we want to punch our monitors.
But I have now come across a highly customized FAIL message that opts to terrify the living crap out of me rather than amuse me. I don't know why. Have a look:
I grabbed this screenshot while trying to listen to the Radio 4 Afternoon Play on the iPlayer at the exact moment that a huge press conference was going down about the News of the World scandal. So it's not surprising that the servers were overwhelmed. But why did they have to show me that nightmare-inducing picture?!?! The disturbing fair-game clown doll would've been bad enough, but why is it sitting in front of some God-forsaken apocalyptic blaze? And what's with the blackboard that says "500"? Is that how many points you score for hitting the doll in this ball toss in the Bowels of Hell Fun Fair? It all looks even weirder when set beside such normal, non-horrifying explanatory text.

This why the UK rocks. NPR would never put an apocalyptic clown ball toss game on their 404 error page. Never.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Kwerky Guide to... Car Service!

I’m writing this post in an actual car service center, so you know I’ve done my research this time. For once.

Until 2 years ago, the car I drove technically belonged to my parents. And since my parents are not complete morons, they also took responsibility for making sure it got all the necessary service in a timely manner. But then I bought a nearly-new car from them, and now I have to maintain it myself. I don’t mean I physically lie down on the ground and change oil - AS IF. I mean I do this:

Step 1: Realize you are roughly 1,000 miles overdue for whatever service you’re supposed to have. This step is crucial. If you don’t do this, you’ll never get to step 2. But don't worry - even if you miss it, you'll get helpful hints like your dad saying, "Hey - what's the mileage on your car now?" And then you'll say, "You're just asking because you think I don't KNOW because I'm not paying attention and it's overdue for service! I am an adult now, dad." (NOTE: you have no idea what the mileage is, but you're pretty sure it's waaaaaay overdue for service. It usually is.) Another helpful hint will be if your car explodes.

Step 2: Make an appointment for the appropriate service. You can do this one of 2 ways. The first is to call, which means you have to talk to a person, but it also means the appointment gets made pretty quickly. The second is to go online, which means you get to avoid talking to a person AND you get to yell at a computer AND the appointment may not even go through. Naturally, I opt for the latter option every time. Take this morning, for instance, when the booking software wasn’t working properly. The only way to get through the seven-step booking process was: complete step 1 --> go back to the home screen --> return to the booking screen --> complete steps 1 and 2 --> go back to the home screen --> return to the booking screen --> complete steps 1, 2, and 3 --> go back to the home screen... I booked an appointment 29 minutes from the time I started this process. By the time I confirmed it, I had 10 minutes to get to the service center. Web-based booking + my stubborn refusal to use telephones = Convenience!

Step 3: Argue with condescending jerks who aren’t listening to you. I might need to mention here that I’m a girl, though I realize some guys get similar treatment in these situations. And in addition to being a girl, I have the further disadvantage of having a decorative Georgia Tech plate on the front bumper of my car. It’s not mine; it’s a remnant from when the car belonged to my mom. But since I couldn’t care less one way or the other, it’s still there.

For those of you who don’t live in Georgia (or indeed in the US): Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia have a longstanding and very intense rivalry that I have never understood since it seems like UGA always wins the stupid football game which, as it happens, is another thing I don’t care about. But there is apparently a strictly enforced law stating that every mechanic or “Car Service Advisor” in the state has to be a UGA fan. Lucky me.

So when I pull into the service center bay, I’m greeted by my friendly Car Service Advisor, and the conversation goes a little something like this...

HIM: Good morning!

ME: Morning!

HIM: What can we do for you today?

ME: I have a 10:30 appointment for...

HIM: WHOA! Let me guess! You came in to have that nasty Tech plate taken off, right? Heh heh heh. We can take care of that for you.

ME: Yeah, ha ha. No, actually, I came in for an oil change. I have an appointment. 10:30? Under “Welsh”?

HIM: OK, yeah. We’ll do you an oil change...and we can replace that Tech plate with a UGA plate at no additional charge.

ME: No thanks.

HIM: If you leave the Tech plate on there, we might have to charge you extra! Ha ha!

ME: Actually, that’s my mom’s. I graduated from UGA.

HIM: Oh yeah? GO DAWGS!

ME: Right. I don’t care about football. I just need my oil changed, PLEASE. And I was also wondering if you could clean the air ducts? Terrifying demons sometimes come out of the vents and spit acid on my face*.

HIM: Oh yeah. Uh-huh, sure, we can do that. And we’ll put a UGA tag on the front free of charge!

*Obviously I’ve never had this exact problem - my car's maker is known for its commitment to demonic possession-resistance - but I usually have some additional request, ranging from a car wash to getting the front seats vacuumed to having them change the actual, state-issued, DMV license plate on the back bumper. My point here is that it doesn’t matter what I said, because he hasn’t heard a word of it.

At this point, it’s time to sigh loudly and follow him into the office part for the hard sell.

HIM: It says here you haven’t gotten your [insert any number here]-mile check yet!

ME: Indeed I have not.

HIM: Did you want to do that today? Here’s a list of the services included [hands me a volume roughly the length of Gone With the Wind, but mostly including things like “Test Bass Levels in Speakers” and “Polish Shift Nob”].

ME: Uh-huh. And how much is that?

HIM: $300.

ME: That’s OK.

HIM: [Makes Disappointed Paternal Face at me, even though he’s at least 2 years my junior.] Really? Because it’s pretty important. If you don’t get this service, there is a very real risk that your car will spontaneously disassemble itself in the middle of a busy intersection during rush hour. What if that happens on a day when you have an appointment to get your nails done? Or your roots touched up?

ME: I’m willing to take that chance.

I always say something relatively polite, but what I'd like to say is: “Really? This car that your company makes and sells is such a massive piece of crap that you are absolutely certain that even now it is developing a serious issue that will inconvenience and possibly kill me? It’s THAT bad? I mean, it’s not even 5 years old, it has well under 50,000 miles on it, your technicians are the ONLY people who have ever touched the engine, and even so, you have zero confidence in its ability to safely convey me from here to the street? Wow, what a horrible piece of unreliable junk! Don’t worry; I’ll notify the Better Business Bureau that your employer is knowingly selling lemons. Alternatively, you could just do what I asked you to do and stop trying to scaremonger your way into a commission.” But I digress [often and with great enthusiasm].

HIM: [Sighing with grave concern for my safety] Alright, if you’re sure. So just an oil change. That comes to...

ME: oil change AND an exorcism, remember? The acid-spitting demons? I mentioned them outside not 3 minutes ago?

HIM: Oh right, and the exorcism. Oil change and an exorcism...$50. Should be about an hour.

ME: Great.

Step 4: The waiting room. I actually really like car service waiting rooms. They're generally pretty quiet, they almost all have wifi now, and there's free coffee! Sometimes doughnuts too! It's like Starbucks minus the obnoxious yuppies! I get a lot of writing done in car service waiting rooms.

Step 5: Coughing up. This is the part where the same guy you argued with before takes you back to his little stand-up desk. He could say any number of things - he might let you off scot-free, might try to convince you there's more work to be done, might try to sell you an entirely different car. Your job here is to firmly but politely extend your card and continue to hold it in his face until he swipes it through the damn reader and gives you the keys.

Step 6: Car Hunt! Your car will have been parked somewhere on the premises of this here car dealership, which is basically like a huge parking lot except that it has a much higher than average percentage of "cars that look exactly like yours". (Always wear comfortable shoes). Once you find your car, it's time to assess the work. You have to take their word for it that the oil was changed, but what about the demons? Are they gone? Get in, turn the key and find out! Ah, I can almost hear the acid burning through your face right now. But I bet you don't have a Tech plate on the front bumper anymore, do you? It's all about priorities.

(I would like to stress that my car is well looked-after, contrary to what you might think based on the above. It's just that all the real services they perform at various mileages are things I get done regularly at non-dealership locations. I do endorse regular maintenance and preventive care. I just don't take kindly to commissioned salesmen foisting unnecessary, overpriced car care at me.)

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Note to Self: How To Vacate The Premises

It is now mid-July, the traditional time of year for getting the hell out of Dodge, and I have so far made not one but two failed attempts to do so. In both cases, I  did technically leave, but that's about the only thing I did right. If it had only happened once, I'd say fair enough, we all make mistakes. Now that I've done it twice, it's time for some tough love. I need to spell this out for myself, as if I were 5.

#1: LEAVE.
The much-vaunted "staycation", so often cited as a wonderful option in the current economic climate, is a myth. It does not exist. If you "stay", you will not manage to "cation". Period. Ants will appear in the cat food bowl and you'll lose a whole day to "staying", certainly, but also "waiting for the pest control man to show up between 8 and 5". That is not a "cation", by any definition of that half-word. Or maybe you don't have a cat, which is why your car battery will die. Or maybe you don't drive, in which case: I hope you get over that nasty case of strep throat quickly! Or maybe you are the picture of health. Congratulations! You have a week off and you're ready to take on the world! Oh - except that you had to tell some little white lies to a few people so you could get out of certain social obligations, and now you get to think twice (or many more times than that) before leaving the house, visiting favorite haunts, or saying anything on social media that might make it clear that you aren't, in fact, at a funeral. Enjoy!

All I'm saying is I've done the research in my own lab, and the only way you will manage to forget all the crap that irritates you on a daily basis is to put as much physical distance between it and yourself as humanly possible. And don't stay with friends or family either. Go somewhere with a housekeeping staff, for God's sake.

#2. Travel with no more than one (1) other person with whom you share no DNA.
I have a great family, I really do. They're funny and smart and supportive and amazing. But I don't need to bring 32 years of love, heartache, resentments, arguments, losses, triumphs, memories, and other assorted drama on vacation; that's what Christmas is for. What I need to bring on vacation is my Kindle, my iPod, and a valid ID for booze acquisition. Of course, it can sometimes be fun to travel with a friend or significant other, but it's important to do your due diligence before buying those non-refundable tickets! To help you out, I've made a handy-dandy flowchart. Follow teal lines to answer yes, maroon lines to answer no.
(click to enlarge)
I've had some major successes and minor flops following the above advice, but at least you know it will prevent any major flops. Of course, you'll still have issues of mix tapes and how much Mexican food constitutes "too much Mexican food", but you'll just have to use your common sense to resolve those. Alternatively, you could...

#3. Go alone.
I've never traveled solo, but it seems like a more attractive option with each passing year. And since my latest return from a frazzled, nonstop, crammed-car FAILcation, I've taken an interest in the corner of the travel market geared toward people like me - hip, happening, childless thirtysomethings who need to unwind! From what I've seen, the places that cater to my niche fall into three categories:
a) Healthy Low-Fat Spa Retreats on beaches or, more commonly, in deserts. If you care about this category, you're reading the wrong blog. Eating twigs in the desert is NOT a vacation. Next!
b) Couples-friendly Resorts. Ugh. As you might have guessed by the name, this place is basically aimed at baby-talking kissy-faced couples. They have a wide variety of accommodations, and they all have names like "Romeo & Juliet Suite", "Tristan & Isolde Suite", "Harry & Sally Suite", or "Cupid's Poison Arrow Lovesick Vomitorium". I mean, I probably could enjoy myself at one of these places...provided I plucked my eyeballs out with thumbtacks and crammed whole quilts into my ears before the plane made its final descent.
c) Singles-friendly Resorts. OH DEAR GOD. Judging by their websites, these places are built on the premise that all single adults have the following things in common:

  • We are exhibitionist nymphomaniacs who want to spend our evenings playing live game shows with names like "America's Next Top Anal Porn Star"
  • We don't much care about food, so long as there is a LOT of booze around
  • When we aren't having casual sex, we need a wide variety of clichéd vacation activities like parasailing and mountain biking, presumably so we never have a moment to feel old and alone (which is the only thing we really have in common, or so think the PR people)
  • We still think we're on MTV's Spring Break 1991
As with the second category, you might think I could go to one of these places and just refrain from participating in that which does not interest me. But every time I try to envision it, I see a week's worth of me sitting at a beach or by a pool, reading a book while being interrupted every 5 minutes by some person or group of persons propositioning me either for sex or to round out an Ultimate Frisbee Team, both of which sound equally unappealing. Then I would go back to my room in the evening and be kept up all night by the strange and disturbing sounds in literally every adjoining room. No thanks. 

Why isn't there a 4th category? Like The Quiet, Child-Free Resort for People Who Just Want to Read, Sleep, Get Drunk, and Be Left The Hell Alone? Instead of a name like "Hedonism", you could call it "Retired Librarians"! I guarantee you I would go there every year for a month.

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Sketch Challenge, 3rd Set: "Ack"

I'm applying the "Accountability" label here, even though it doesn't really fit. Because I am completely letting myself off scot-free.

According the various and constant warning alarms on my iPhone, iPod, and laptop, tomorrow is the deadline for the 3rd set of sketches. And John Finnemore blogged about having a show at the Albany tomorrow night, which is basically like a backup alarm for same. So what's my progress looking like?

Nothing. Not a single sketch. Please don't steal my terrible ideas, but this is what the current set looks like, compared with the last set:

Wha' Ha' Happen' Was...

*Clears throat* I spent a day visiting my brother in Augusta and when I came back I found a stray dog and he kept me up all night and I didn't get rid of him until the next day and then I was supposed to leave town but my cat sitter went AWOL 12 hours before departure and I had to take an extra day off work to hunt her down or find a new one and I drove all over Buckhead to drop off a key and then I went to Florida with my family so there was no way I could concentrate and when I came back I was too sunburned to move and then I had to go back to work and apparently we're being bought so I had to go to a bunch of special meetings and I was going to write after rehearsal on Wednesday but it was the Summer of Fun so we had a surprise party and I stayed out til 11 and came home too drunk to focus and then I got cast in a show last night and now I have less than 24 hours to write 60 pages of sketches!!!!
(end of excuses)

I barely even scribbled down any ideas for sketches in my trusty notebook. It's been a real setback. And my initial intention when I got up this morning was to power through and try to finish on time, but I've had a realization, and it is as follows: The major problem was being out of town for 4 days. The other things were largely out of my control (with the exception of the sunburn and the drinking) and genuinely prevented me from writing. The perfectionist voice in my head feels very strongly that I have to adhere to the original schedule because the whole point was to write on exactly the same schedule as John Finnemore's Sketch Night. But just between you and me, I rather suspect that JF had some warning about this whole thing and could move his travel plans accordingly. Whereas I literally just woke up one morning and said, "Hey! I know what would be a good idea!" So the 3rd set is hereby postponed, and an additional fortnight of sketch-writing is hereby tacked onto the tail end of Kimberly Welsh's Agonizingly Slow Sketch Suicide, Currently With No Sketches About Coffee, Screaming Children, Or Anything Else For That Matter.

The focus for the next two days will now be internet writing (since I've only written one pitiful little blog post this week, and that was interrupted FIVE TIMES by lengthy phone calls). But it might interest you to know about the one thing I did manage to accomplish: I updated the photos and captions on the home page slideshow AND stashed 4 "pages" (which are not the same thing as "posts") around the blog. Secretly. Like Easter Eggs. Happy hunting!

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Monday, July 11, 2011

File-a-Friend: For All Your Friend-Filing Needs

OH MY GOD HOW HARD DO I LOVE GOOGLE+ RIGHT NOW?!?! Let me count the ways...

Just kidding, there's only one: Filing human beings is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Or with just your shirt off. Seriously, I had no idea that I wanted to do this with the various people in my life, but it turns out I very much DID want to do this. On Facebook, it's difficult to file people. It can be done, but it's time-consuming. And then, when I want to say something, I can either share it with everyone I've ever met, or spend an absurd amount of time deciding who gets to see what.

The root of the problem is - and you may have gathered this by now - I'm a human being. And as such, I have a variety of friends, interests, and even emotions! Sometimes I feel sad. Sometimes I feel happy. Sometimes I feel drunk. Sometimes I feel...nope, that pretty much covers it. When I feel sad, I want to share with friends who will be gentle and sympathetic. As below:

When I feel happy, I want to share with friends who will be happy with me and say nice things. As below:

When I feel drunk, I want to share with friends on whom I have so much dirt that I don't have to worry about them EVER telling anyone about that thing I said while drunk, as I would be mortified. As below:

But what usually happens is more like this: I feel sad and want to share with gentle/sympathetic people. Being too lazy to go through all 200 (rough estimate) of my friends and identify those people, I post to everyone and assume humanity will sort itself out. And I am gravely mistaken, as below:
I feel happy and want to share with happy/nice people. Being too lazy to go through all 3,000 (rough estimate) of my friends and identify those people, I post to everyone and assume humanity will sort itself out. And I am gravely mistaken, as below:
I feel drunk and want to share with people on my Mutual Assured Destruction List so I know it won't come back to haunt me. Being too drunk to go through both of my friends and identify the one who won't rat me out, I post to everyone and assume humanity will sort itself out. And I am gravely mistaken, as below:
So this never goes well for me. Ever. The alternative, as mentioned above, is to hand-pick which friends get to read a particular bit of news. This process is painful and annoying and, most importantly, I don't trust Facebook to work right half the time, so there isn't much point. The option I go with most of the time is just keeping my trap shut altogether. That's fine as far as it goes, but surely it defeats the purpose of social networking when I can't say ANYTHING without fear of attracting all the wrong attention?

Also, if I keep writing blog posts like this one, I won't have any FB friends left. And then I'll have to move permanently to Google+.

But that will be fine because Google+ has completely circumvented this problem by creating "Circles"! Circles are genius, and their creation method is even better. Google gives you a page with little pictures of all your friends (sorry - no good way to screenshot that without outing my friends, and I'd like to keep some of them), and then it gives you little circles to drop them into! You can put the same friend in multiple Circles if you want, they never find out the names of the Circles you've put them in (my previous experience with FB is that it does show the names of your little friend groupings), and then you can choose which Circles get which news! Brilliant! Tell your Yoga class about clearing your throat chakra WITHOUT inviting the mockery of some drunk asshole you knew in high school! Show your family a thousand cute pics of your cat without having your new boyfriend find out that you dress Mr. Biggles up like an old-timey barber! Circles = privacy, and it's about time we got a little more of that!

Circles also give you (er, me) a maniacal feeling of power. I can already tell that my current Circles, politely named "Friends", "Acquaintances", "Family", "Improv", etc. will soon be replaced or joined by Circles with names like "Jerks with whom I'm obligated to socialize", "Evil Incarnate", "Stalkers", and "Barnacles". And then I will lose hours and hours of my life in the practice of avenging real or perceived wrongs by moving people from Circle to Circle. Like: "Yeah, you WERE my friend! But a gift card to Bass Pro Shops? For my birthday? Welcome to the Barnacles Circle, jerkface." Even now I only know 12 people on Google+, and I am already far too enamored of staring at their little faces, pondering which file fits each one best.

It's a sickness. I hope I never get well. I'll see you all on Google+...but I'll never tell you which Circle you're in. MWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Post-Posting Final Thought: Why is it that Google is so good at recognizing my need to keep certain people out of certain Circles, but they STILL don't understand that the "Consider Including" crap in Gmail is literally the stoooooooopidest thing since snack packs of Oreos?

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Friday, July 8, 2011

They're All Horror Movies Now

If there's one thing in this world that has cut my productivity in half, it's Netflix's amazingly wonderful Watch Instantly service. And as it has slowly become my primary source of televisual entertainment, I have  grown increasingly mystified and intrigued by its recommendations. You may have to enlarge this screenshot to see what I mean; note the "Recommended based on" square in the lower right corner:
On the one hand, this recommendation is spot on - I loves me some Shakespeare, and this production sounds very promising indeed! But how does it know? I struggle mightily to believe that any algorithm in the world adds Spinal Tap to Monty Python and the Holy Grail...and comes up with Macbeth. Am I forgetting the part where Macduff turns it up to eleven? Is there a deleted scene in which the Three Witches endeavor to buy a shrubbery? These films are not related in any discernible way. And yet, the almighty Netflix computer has used them to come up with a remarkably accurate model for what I will or won't like. Terrifyingly accurate, actually.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

NVNQ: Is it not me, but you or not you, but me?

Breakups are always difficult, whether you're the dumper or the dumpee. You lose your free meal ticket, you have no one to watch TV with, and worst of all: no more built-in designated driver. But the dumpee does have one unique issue to grapple with: the question of whether it's his or her own fault they got dumped. We've all had the sleepless nights where we stare at the ceiling and wonder where, or indeed if, we went wrong. Fortunately I've devised this quick quiz, based on years and years of unsuccessful relationships, to help you sort it out.

1. How often did you tell your partner how you felt, in explicit, vivid language?
a) daily
b) weekly
c) every time I had gas
d) once when I was drunk

2. When watching TV with your partner, where did you sit?
a) in his lap
b) closely snuggled up on the couch with a glass of wine
c) in the next room, where I couldn't hear her breathing all the damn time
d) in the closet, where his wife wouldn't see me

3. How did you and your partner resolve conflicts?
a) by way of rational, feelings-based communication, sometimes with the help of a counselor
b) as calmly and quietly as possible, once the police left
c) cage match
d) I dunno. I just left immediately.

4. When your partner was out of town, how did you entertain yourself?
a) by writing poems and emails to my partner
b) reading, catching up with friends
c) 2 words: porn marathon
d) no idea; I was blackout drunk for the whole relationship

5. Did you get along with your partner's family?
a) absolutely! I shopped with mom, golfed with dad, scheduled regular spa days with sis...
b) for the most part.
c) hell yeah! I got along REALLY well with her sister, if you know what I mean! High five!
d) nah. They were in a different cell block, so I never met 'em.

6. Did you ever struggle with jealousy in your relationship?
a) all the time. Not trying to be unreasonable, but that checkout girl was SO after my man!
b) All of my exes died mysteriously shortly after we met, so it was never an issue.
c) nope. We just cheated on each other every time to even the score.
d) nope. She was locked in the basement. Jealousy problems resolved!

SCORING: The moment of truth! Is it you, or is it them?
Mostly A: It's you, you clingy psycho.
Mostly B: It's you. You aren't ready for this jelly. 
Mostly C: It's you, you insensitive jerk.
Mostly D: It's you, you thoughtless moron.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Take a Whack at the Paiñ-ata!

I have a two problems:
1. Like so many 21st century Americans, I suffer from periodic bouts of depression
2. I can't stand to drink hard liquor straight up

These may seem unrelated, but let me tell you they are not. And I inadvertently proved it during my most recent episode, when I got into a habit of trying to dull my sadness with an evening drink. My poison? Margaritas. Therein lies the conflict. I'll explain...

Let's say you're an angsty, artsy type, prone to bouts of horrific depression. Your friends probably know this about you and keep an eye out for the warning signs. As a result, when you get near rock bottom, you might have an exchange like this:
YOU: What's the point? I don't even care anymore. I've got a fifth of JD, and that's what I'm having for dinner.
YOUR FRIEND: A fifth of JD?!?! For dinner? That's it, I'm coming over!

But when I get near rock bottom, it looks more like this:
ME: What's the point? I don't even care anymore. I'm already on my third margarita.
MY FRIENDS: Rock on!! Three margaritas before 2pm? You're livin' it UP!
ME: I guess. If you call this living. I think I'll double the tequila in the next one.

A margarita just doesn't work as a cry for help. If you're drinking something light brown that burns your throat on the way down, that's the universal sign for "I NEED SOMEONE TO TALK TO". If you're drinking something dayglo green that tastes like a lime Jolly Rancher, it's the universal sign for "I NEED TWO BACKUP DANCERS AND A KARAOKE MACHINE".

Not only that, but you can't cry into a margarita because the tiny umbrella deflects most of the tears. Even if you manage to get one or two in there, all you did was save yourself some money on salt. At the end of the day, it's the liquid equivalent of bringing up the rear of a conga line to "Hot Hot Hot" at a funeral - it looks ridiculous. I might as well get myself some crazy straws to complete the effect.

Lucky for me, my depressions never last more than a week or two, and if I have to be bad at something, "being an alcoholic" is one of the things I'd most like to suck at.! The only downside is that I look utterly ridiculous for two weeks. But that's really not so different from my non-depressive state.

Serious Part Real Quick-Like, Though:
I've had these little bouts of depression off and on for twenty years now. I'm lucky that they aren't so bad that I require medication or have to put my life on hold - I manage to keep working, improvising, and blogging in spite of the temporary chemical imbalance in my brain/salt imbalance in my margaritas. But there are a lot of people who have it way worse than I do, and if you're one of them, please please please make sure you ask for help when you need it. Just do what I do when my friends mistake my Margarita Depress-tival for a Fiesta-val: pick someone whose last birthday cost you at least twenty bucks and send them an email that says "LITTLE HELP HERE?" in the subject line. Then tell them what it is that you need - a chat over dinner, a quick phone call, a sleepover party, five rides on the Dahlonega Mine Train at Six Flags, help finding a therapist...or even help figuring out what you need! That's what friends, family, some coworkers, and all suicide prevention hotline workers are for ;)

Oh, and I don't really endorse self-medication with alcohol. Just so we're clear.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Very American Half-Birthday

You almost certainly don't know this about me, but July 4th is my half-birthday! That's right! This year I turned 32.5, and the entire country got a day off work to celebrate! People were even setting off fireworks! For a modest gal like me, all the attention is really kind of embarrassing.

This time of year also seems to coincide with an annual nationwide seizure of patriotism (unrelated). It's always a little awkward for me, not because I don't heart my country - I do  - but I import virtually all of my news and entertainment from across the pond. As a result, I'm somewhat out of step with the current cultural norms around here - I was embarrassingly late to the Modern Family party, I have no idea which sports season we're in, and for the life of me I don't know if I "realized" my blind date was a serial killer, or if I "realised" it. THEY BOTH LOOK RIGHT!

Upon realiz/sing that I was losing touch with my roots, I decided to get on the proverbial bandwagon for my half-birthday and do it up America-style.

Step 1: Road trip!
This part was easy, since my parents were going to visit my brother in Augusta. All I had to do was hitch a ride, and I was halfway to being a regular Betsy Ross! I have no idea what I mean by that. I certainly didn't sew anything.

Step 2: American cuisine
There was some debate over where we would have lunch, and we were deadlocked between Mexican food and pizza - not very American choices, I think you'll agree! I managed to fix the whole thing up with five magical words: "IHOP has funnel cakes now." And so we went to IHOP, one of the top 20 most American eateries I can think of off the top of my head!* I probably went a bit astray by ordering an omelet topped with hollandaise sauce (patriotism FAIL), but I like to think I made up for it by dutifully coloring in a kids menu.
This is what the CD cover would look like if my cat, my mom's cats, and my brother's cat formed a band. Note blood at tip of giant claw. They're hardcore.
I also stumbled upon a new educational initiative which reintroduces arts education for young children, presumably as part of the No Child Left Behind program. You won't be able to read the light grey print, but it says (emphasis mine): "Use the diagram to the right to learn to read music! Then draw notes below to create a special song."
My parents paid a lot of money over many years for me to learn the secrets I could just as easily have gotten from the diagram on the right WHILE eating a Funny Face Pancake!
Suzuki Method? More like So-Puke-y Method! OUR kids will learn to read music at the IHOP, thankyouverymuch!

Step 3: See a Disney movie
Cars 2, y'all!

Step 4: Road Cuisine
Because nothing tastes better than the months-old junk you dig up off a shelf at a convenience store during a long car ride. I'm not even being sarcastic, either - I love that crap. And since we stopped at a Circle K, I got myself one of the jewels in my country's culinary crown:
It's a frozen Mountain Dew. JEALOUS?
And that was my Very American Half-Birthday Road Trip. Fun, right? It was nice to have a day, just America and I, to reflect on why we like each other so darn much. And if you're one of the people who has dedicated your life (or even just some part of it) to protecting the awesome of America, thank you.

Still, I'm glad we made up with the Brits eventually; there's some really good stuff on the iPlayer this week.

*You didn't think I'd back that up, did you? Well SUCK IT! Here are the Top 20 Most American Eateries I Can Think Of Off The Top Of My Head, as determined by a scientific survey of yours truly staring at the wall and saying, "Hmmm...what else?" until I had filled in all the lines.
1. McDonald's
2. A&W 
3. Shoney's
4. Waffle House
5. White Castle
7. The Cheesecake Factory
8. Red Lobster
9. Cracker Barrel (aside for those who love Cracker Barrel: I didn't make this, but it's awesome)
10. Taco Bell (that is NOT Mexican food)
11. Fuddruckers
12. Piccadilly Cafeteria
13. Ryan's
14. Steak 'n Shake
15. Every mall food court
16. Dunkin Donuts
17. Bob Evans
18. Denny's
19. Chick-fil-A
20. Anywhere that serves Frito Pie

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Monday, July 4, 2011

The Kwerky Guide to...Dog Ownership!

I've been working on an "About Me" page for 4 weeks now, but making no progress whatsoever. Had I been a little more dedicated to that project, you would already know that I have a cat, and that I used to have a dog...until she passed away 2 years ago. To give you some idea of how nauseatingly much I loved my dog: her name was Sunshine.
You are my Sunshiiiiiine, My only Sunshiiiiiiine...
I make a point of telling you how much I loved my dog because you will probably doubt my love for her when I tell you that throughout her life, I consistently and continuously made the heartless, soulless, horrific, abusive choice always to keep her on a leash when she wasn't in her own yard.

Oh wait - did I say "heartless, soulless, horrific, abusive..."? I meant to say "responsible, safe, potentially life-saving, entirely-BECAUSE-I-loved-her...".

Let me walk you through my thought process on this: "Hm. Sunshine is very sweet, and pretty smart, but she does not understand how cars work, or that there are evil people in the world who might want to hurt her, or that some other dogs are not friendly and well-intentioned. As I do understand these things, and don't want her to fall victim to any of them, and live in an urban area where all are plentiful, I need to find some way to tether her to myself so that I can be in charge of any car-, person-, or other dog-related decision-making. BUT HOW?!?!?"
Me 'n Sunshine at the beach, 2005. I'm the one holding the LEASH.
Sunshine in the snow, 2008. Sorry if the LEASH ruins the picture.
Obviously, some dogs don't need leashes, depending on their level of obedience and/or where they live -  if you live on a farm in the country, that's one thing. But here in the land of highways and shopping malls, there are leash laws. For a reason. Even so, my neighborhood has recently seen a marked increase in people who buy wallet-sized dogs and categorically refuse to restrain them in any way, shape or form.


They are forever darting out of open gates, racing across busy roads, and evacuating their digestive tracts all over the place. This is not how we own dogs, people. It just isn't. And my patience with this reached its ultimate end last night, when I found myself charged with an unexpected houseguest.
Who you callin' Scruffy?
Scruffy here was wandering around along a busy street when I went to get my pizza last night. When he narrowly missed being flattened by the car in front of me, he was invited to join me on the pizza run.
Who DOESN'T want to go on a pizza run?
Fortunately, Scruffy is very well-looked after, has a tag with a phone number on it, and is so well-behaved it's absurd, so I'm sure he will be home safely as soon as his family calls me back. In the meantime, I am back in the dog-owning game! I couldn't bear to part with Sunshine's LEASH after she died, so I've been using that to walk him. And I find it ironic that even though I am technically not a dog owner at all, I'm still the most responsible dog owner in this neighborhood. But now I have better ammo against the idiots. Take last night's pre-bedtime potty run, for example:

A dog comes running into the dog walk, seemingly unaccompanied, and races at Scruffy and I. A few seconds later, a drunk, half-naked frat boy wanders out after him, half-heartedly apologizing and saying, "Stop. Peanut*. No. Come back. Seriously, come back. Peanut, come back." To the surprise of absolutely no one whatsoever, this was ineffective. It seems Peanut needs to review his lessons for the slurred "Seriously, come back" command. He was supposed to think, "Hark! My Master has summoned me back to him, and is apologizing to this unfamiliar human for reasons I don't yet understand! I'd best return to his side and await further instruction!" Instead, he thought, "I'M A DOG! THIS IS ANOTHER DOG! I SMELL PEE! LET'S BARK!" But he and Scruffy were getting along fine, so I didn't create any drama that would upset them. When Frat Boy finally realized his drunk ass was gonna have to come over and GET the dog, he walked up and said, "It's OK - he's really friendly." I put on my most vacant expression (ACTRESS POWER!), looked him in the eye and said, "He seems like it! I just found this dog on the road, so I don't know if he's friendly or not. Actually - you're a dog owner and I'm not, so maybe you can help me? His fur is so white that I can't tell - IS he frothing at the mouth? I noticed he didn't have a rabies tag..." Exeunt Frat Boy, pursued by the thought that his irresponsible behavior might have consequences.
*Dog's name has been changed, as it's not his fault he's with Stupid.

Of course this also illustrates my other point, which is that obedience training has come a long way since Sunshine was a puppy. We only taught her (OK fine: tried to teach her) the usual boring stuff like "sit", "stay", "come", and "heel"*. But based on what I've seen lately, today's dogs are learning PhD-level obedience, featuring commands such as:

"Where are you going? Don't go over there. I said stop. Come on!"
"Leave that dog alone. You don't know that dog! Why are you doing this?"
"Get out of my face; I'm on the phone."

If only "CHILL" had been a command while I still had Sunshine. Things would've been so much easier.
*Note: she never truly mastered any of these, but it wasn't much of a problem since you can make a dog do whatever you long as it's on a LEASH.

But I can't say I've ever seen any of these commands work effectively. The dogs just seem really confused. For that matter, so do the people. Their dogs literally never do what they're supposed to do, when they're supposed to do it, where they're supposed to do it. And these people are at their wits' end! How can they guarantee their pets' safety and security if they can't keep them from darting out into traffic, or frolicking with potentially rabid playmates? If you are struggling with these issues, then this post was for you. I have the answer you've been looking for:
$2.14 on Seriously. I will buy the damn thing FOR you.
If you get one of these handy contraptions, all of your problems will be solved! Peanut CAN'T dart into traffic without your permission! You can maneuver him out of the path of rabid strays! And you can funnel your beer, break up with your girlfriend on the phone, or puke drunkenly into the bushes without worrying that you might turn around to find that your pet/accessory has vanished! And perhaps most importantly: you can avoid unsightly welts. Because once Scruffy's family has fetched him, I'm going to start carrying the LEASH around with me all the time. And if I catch you pulling this unleashed-dog nonsense again, I might just whip you with it.

Apologies for grouchiness and/or disjointed writing. Unfamiliar dog = very little sleep, no matter how well-behaved he is.

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sketch Challenge, 2nd Set, Final Report: Who's That Girl?

I don't know why I always feel compelled to use song titles for these. Anyway.

It is noon on Saturday, 7/2/2011, and the second 60-page set of sketches is more-or-less finished (pending a printout, lunch, and a walk before coming back to it for final notes. You have to breathe sometime). I was obliged to wrap it up a little earlier than usual today, as I am expected at a family cookout this afternoon, followed immediately by a crew shift at the theatre that will keep me out until 1ish. So how do we feel about this set, as compared to the last one?

Overall, I think this set is much stronger. It flows a little more smoothly and features an improved joke-to-exposition ratio. I'm pretty pleased about that. The biggest area for improvement is consistency in work habits. I got a little busy with other things these past two weeks and didn't maintain the focus I had before. I think this set would've been even better if it had gotten the benefit of my attention more often. Lucky for me, I get to do this [at least] three more times, so I can take that lesson into the next few sets! Like I said at the end of the first set: the whole point of this exercise was to learn and (hopefully) improve, and I can honestly say that I've definitely learned a few things and I like to think I'm seeing improvement. Though I'm not sure I'm the best judge of that.

In a weird and unexpected twist, the Incredibly Mundane Sketch Challenge and Psychological Torture Chamber, Now With Less Coffee and More Xenophobia has also resulted in some surprising changes in my appearance (hence the title of this post). I've lost 6 pounds so far, and I'm far more tan than anyone who hasn't been on vacation has a right to be. And it's all traceable to 3 important aspects of the Psychosketchual Challenge for People Who Feel Compelled to Mentally Flog Themselves:
1. Anxiety-induced lack of appetite: Anxiety as in "HOLY CRAP WHAT IF I'M NOT FUNNY AT ALL AND EVERYTHING I'VE EVER WRITTEN SUCKS?!?!?"
2. Busy-ness-induced lack of time to eat: Have you ever tried to have a full-time job, apprentice at an improv theatre, publish at least 3 blog posts per week, submit items to Funny not Slutty, write an hourlong sketch show every fortnight AND bathe regularly? It's time-consuming.
3. Head-clearing walks: Remember when I said I felt like my brain was in a blender and/or beaten with a meat tenderizer? I wasn't kidding. I find it increasingly necessary to go walk continuously for at least an hour and half while thinking about nothing (THAT PART IS IMPERATIVE). And since I'm privileged to live in the bright, sunny South...I look like I've been sunning! And it's burning all the calories I didn't have time to eat. On Wednesday, someone actually asked me "if I'd been working on my guns". No, I have not been working on my guns. I've just been trying to walk off the crazy.

So however this whole thing ends, I'll at least be healthier for it. Well, if you don't count the skin cancer I'm probably giving myself. But speaking of "how this whole thing ends", I'm starting to think that if I was really being honest with myself, this is not the pure writing exercise I told myself it was. I'm not getting up at 6:30 on Saturday mornings "as an exercise". And if I am, that's ridiculous. My high school English teacher was always pointing out that plays are meant to be performed, not read, and Mrs. Lacy knew her stuff, so I'm starting to think the same is probably true of sketches. And when it's all over, I might make a sincere effort to do something with these. I just need to find someone who can handle *all* of the technical side for me. Because I will not be doing that part.

Anyway, that's the distant future. In the meantime, I need to focus on the 3rd Set. But I have a very busy day ahead of me (see first paragraph) and a day trip tomorrow, so I'll be taking some time off before getting back to work on America's birthday. And I'll also be out of town next Thursday-Sunday, which means I have to do A LOT more work in the first half of the two-week writing period. Wish me luck.

And now for the weekly expression of gratitude to someone who said something nice which helped keep me out of the state institution in Milledgeville:
John Emily of the Week! (not like that)
This week's John of the week is... Emily! Emily was a friend of mine when we were both knee-high to a grasshopper in elementary school. We also went to the same high school but didn't hang out that much since I was a band geek, and she...well, I guess she was probably having a life instead. Anyway! This week, she discovered my blog and said she was going to pour herself a drink and spend Thursday night reading it! Because it was "fun"! And thus did I live to tell you about another week. Thanks, Emily!

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Friday, July 1, 2011

Please. Someone. Save Me From Myself.

I went out and had a lovely evening sharing a pitcher of margaritas with a friend tonight. Margaritas always make me feel happy, bubbly, and flirty, so I came home thinking "I know! Maybe I'll get back on one of the free dating sites and see if there are any good possibilities!"

Why did I think that? Sure, it was partly because of the margaritas. But mostly it was because I am a brain-dead idiot with the memory of a gnat. Because I JUST rescued myself from! Why would I go and get back into the same stupidity again?!?! On the plus side, I've now had a hearty laugh and been gently reminded of why the margarita flirt-high should be allowed to pass unindulged in the future.

First, I get on the dating site and look around. I spend a good hour just laughing at the terrifying and/or sad profiles and congratulating myself on avoiding this mess. Then, just as I'm about to give up, I see someone halfway decent.

Next, I decide I might as well put up a picture and a 2-sentence summary of myself. Just in case he was interested. You never know.

So I post the picture and get started on the profile...

ME (thinking): Hmmm... what's the first thing people notice about me... lemme think...

SITE NOTIFICATION: Euthanizer666 is checking you out!

ME: Uh-oh! I wonder how I turn that off. I don't need a pop-up window every time...

SITE NOTIFICATION: Beelzebub72 is checking you out!

ME: Yeah, this is exactly what I DON'T want to...

INSTANT MESSENGER: MILFHunter said: So what are you doing up this late? Wanna chat?

ME: Mother of God, how do I make it stop?!?! MINIMIZE! MINIMIZE!

iPHONE (sitting on the desk by the computer): *new email sound*

ME: New email? From whom? OH GOD NO!

EMAIL: RightGuy4U has sent you a message! Message text - Good evening good lookin'...

ME: *vomits into the wastepaper basket* Where was I? Oh right. The profile blurb...

iPHONE: *new email sound*

ME: New email? From...crap.

EMAIL: 35RestrainingOrders has sent you an erotic poem in the original French by Pierre de Ronsard! His profile says he doesn't speak French, but he is attempting to pass this off as an original work!

ME: Dammit! Where are the email settings?

SITE NOTIFICATION: NiceGuy is checking you out!

iPHONE: *new email sound*

INSTANT MESSENGER: Rico_Suave said: Voulay voo cooshay avec moi? Ha ha! 

Pretty soon I begin to feel like I don't need a date; I need an exorcist who specializes in Apple products.

I want to stress that this has nothing whatsoever to do with how I look, and it is NOT (repeat: NOT) the ego boost you might think it is, if you've never been on a dating site before.The first time you set up a profile, this happens (and it happens to ALL of us), and you think you might have seriously underestimated your hotness. But soon you realize that there are about five hundred guys out there whose entire strategy consists of finding whoever is new to the site and bombarding her with seriously weak pickup lines. They don't care what she looks like and they definitely have not bothered to read her profile, because they don't care who she is or what she wants. The messages they send are evenly divided between something along the lines of "Your so beautiful" (note: this is the entire body of the message and they ALWAYS make that grammar error) or something more like "I see we have a lot in common..." (this is pretty much NEVER true).

It's the Fresh Meat approach, and I can't imagine that it has ever worked, but I guess its devotees know something I don't. Mostly it's just the most irritating thing ever, like a denial-of-service attack on my love life. From the wikipedia entry on DoS, emphasis mine:

One common method of attack involves saturating the target machine with external communication requests, such that it cannot respond to legitimate traffic, or responds so slowly as to be rendered effectively unavailable.

I suppose it's just as well. I have an awful lot of sketches to write/edit in the next two days. And any time I don't spend on sketches really ought to be spent making ginormous glossy posters of myself to be distributed to every Mexican restaurant in the metro area, featuring big black letters that say "DO NOT SERVE MARGARITAS TO THIS WOMAN".

DISCLAIMER: There are nice, decent, real guys on these sites who really do read women's profiles before blindly assuming that mutual desperation will be a sufficient basis for a relationship. It's just that you don't hear from them until the first week has passed, and this post is about the first horrifying seconds after posting a photo. So don't yell at me. I didn't make the rules.

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