Journal Entries

RIP Trugoy, David Jolicouer

I’m not a big hip hop fan, but the hip hop I like, I love. De La Soul was one of the acts that worked for me. I saw them in college on their first national tour with Tribe Called Quest (another hip hop act I love) back in the spring of 1990. It was a bargain show in Huff Gymnasium at the University of Illinois.

The one thing I remember most was how big the posse was for both acts. I feel like there were at least 30 – 40 people.

I was in an organization called Starcourse, and we booked and produced many of the live shows on campus. As one of the art directors, I made De La Soul stickers to promote the show.

During Tribe Called Quest’s set, I was backstage and Maseo from Del La Soul asked me where I got the stickers because he thought they looked just like their own stuff. When I told them I made them, he complimented my work and asked if I wanted him to autograph one.

On Starcourse, it was considered taboo and tacky to ask for autographs from the talent, but this was the first time I’d ever been asked to receive one.

I’ll have to dig around and see if I still have that sticker. I did keep quite a few little trinkets and such from those days.


Movie Night

Last night we went to the movies. That is, we actually went to a theater and watched a movie, in a chair, eating popcorn, sitting through countless previews etc. Since it was Tuesday, the tickets only cost $5 not including the Fandango service charge. I really want a business that charges a service charge.

We saw “Bullet Train” with Brad Pitt plus a couple gratuitous cameos from Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, and Channing Tatum. It was too long and wasted too much time on dialog meant to be clever. I’m sure the director would consider it an epic fail if you don’t compare the movie, or mistake it, for that matter, for a Quentin Tarrantino movie.

As an action movie, it was decent – full of cartoonish violence and implausible fight scenes. As a comedy it was terrible. The humorous through-line of Pitt being a zen-like hitman got old fast. We get it you’re Brad Pitt if Brad Pitt were a hitman.

The last movie I saw in a theater was “Downhill” with Julia Louis Dreyfus and Will Ferrell. That was about 2 weeks before lockdown. I loved that movie. It was dark, funny, and way to real. It reminds me of “The Descendants”, and I think there was some connection between the two movies.

As I scanned the posters in the lobby for upcoming releases I realized, I’ll be spending less time in theaters. It’s not because of COVID, but because everything coming out is a sequel, a prequel or some obvious attempt at creating the next franchise. The entertainment industry has forgone every other demographic and has decided the only one that matters is nerds.

This has been happening for years. It’s not new. It’s just that we’ve reached the saturation point. There wasn’t one movie preview of poster that I want to see.

I was never a big movie buff to begin with, but I did manage to watch “The Irishman” all three and a half hours of it in one sitting. That’s unheard of for me. I didn’t even make a plan. I literally saw Ray Ramano in the preview and thought, that’s interesting. So I watched it. Turns out a lot of Italian standup comedians make appearances including Sebastian Manascalco. What Italian doesn’t dream of being a Gumba in a Scorses movie?

Like “Bullet Train”, it’s so-so. I’d say it’s worth watching. It’s the movie I would tell people to watch if they were curious about Scorsese but didn’t have time to watch everything. It’s like buying the box set of the Rolling Stones instead of checking out all their albums.

I did find the CGI in “The Irishman” distracting. They used it on the faces of Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro to make them look younger and older. For Pesci, he looked like the old man in Pixar’s “Up” had he lost 80 pounds. De Niro’s flat expressionless face and blue eyes reminded me of Tom Hank’s cold dead staring conductor in “Polar Express”. This was not the kind of movie that needed CGI. We’ve seen those guys so much in mob movies no one would even notice they’re too old. Besides everyone in the 50s, 60s, and 70s looked like they were 55.


Choco Taco

Here’s a shocker, I Googled “Choco Taco” and didn’t even have to clear my browser cache. Even more surprising, Urban Dictionary was the third or fourth search result.

I know what a Choco Taco is, I just wondered why in the hell it was in every one of my social media feeds. Turns out, Klondike, the company that owns the brand has decided to discontinue the product and it made national headlines.

Products disappear all the time and you never hear about it. The story of the Choco Taco isn’t about the product itself, it’s about the reaction to the news. It hasn’t been gone a week, and already people are making t-shirts, stickers, posting memes and making those stupid first person videos from their car.

If Choco Tacos were as popular as we’re lead to believe, Klondike wouldn’t be discontinuing them. If anything, it’s probably a publicity stunt to unload an inventory glut. I’d be willing to bet within a year, we’re going to be reading that the people spoke and Klondike listened and the Choco Taco will make it’s triumphant return. They won’t make more, it’ll still be the same ones that never sold and have been sitting in the bottom of the freezer since 1984.

The Choco Taco is the McRib of frozen dairy confections

The Choco Taco is like the McRib of desserts. It’s a solution to a problem nobody had, and it actually makes things worse. The pitch is you get get cone and ice cream in every bite. You no longer have to wait until the end to eat the cone? If started with cone, wouldn’t it break? Not if we make the cone chewy and tough!

With the McRib, I’m sure no one was scratching their head over how to make a sandwich out of a slab of ribs. If we remove the bones, then how will people know it’s a rib sandwich? I know, let’s sculpt pre-chewed rib meat into the shape of a slab of ribs.


Summer Subsiding

Jumping back into regular posting after a little summer hiatus. But first, another quick pause to refill my coffee and set a timer so this entry doesn’t ramble…

…okay, I’m back.

Summer is almost over for most of the country, but here in the Bay Area, it’s really more like the middle. Things tend to get hotter here in mid July through October. A lot of people don’t realize that San Francisco’s hottest month is October.

Fortunately we’ve been spared the misery that rest of the country has been going through with heat waves. It’s even hot up in the Pacific Northwest.

Enough about the weather.

Nerd Alert

I haven’t been up to much this summer. I have been writing journal entrees, but just keeping them private, totally out of laziness, no one is missing anything good. I did finally make the switch from Evernote to Apple Notes. This was a move I tried to make a little while back with horrible results. I tried importing ~13,000 entries from Evernote into Apple notes and everything shit the bed. Notes choked. I think it had to do with synching.

I finally gave up on Evernote because their iPad app was losing notes and too slow. Also, Apple Notes works with Siri (kind of) and finally supports hashtags. Apple Note’s tagging works inline so you can add them whenever you want. Evernote, you had to go to a field etc. So I never used it.

Next Comedy Show Coming Up…

In other news, I have a show coming up next week with Laurie Kilmartin headlining.

It’ll be a great show. Laurie is absolutely one of the best standup comedians out there. Also, my friend Eugene Robinson will be dong a 10 minute set. I’ve never seen him do comedy. He’s mostly known for his journalism and being the lead singer of Oxbow and Whipping Boy. He and I used to work together at Apple in the 90s. Eugene is one of the funniest and most interesting friends I have. I’m fascinated by him.

Other Comedy Stuff

As much as I hate open mics, something I can get into later, I went for the practice for the upcoming show I mentioned above. Lucky for me, there’s a dive bar in town that’s hosting one, and I have gone over the last two weeks.

I went online to look for open mics and it was just depressing. There are so many now in the Bay Area, and the lists fill up fast. Right now, there’s a glut of standup comedy. The problem is there wasn’t a shortage or pent-up demand. More and more people are trying to do standup comedy at this point in time.

It reminds me experience with Second City. In the early 90s. For years, the theater offered improv classes for a fee. A actress friend of mine had a connection there and got me into a couple for free. I love performing, but hated being in that class.

I decided to sign up for the one writing class they offered instead. It was about $150 and we met once a week for about 6 weeks. It was unorganized and sloppy. We never had a dedicated meeting time or space. For one class we met in John Belushi’s old apartment and just smoked and talked about Seinfeld. In the course of several weeks, I had a lot of fun pretending to be a comedy writer, but produced very little actual material.

In the early 2000s, I returned to Second City to find they had really leaned into the business of teaching. They expanded their improv writing offerings, and built out a whole school to accommodate all the new business. The writing program had expanded significantly and so did the number of people taking it.

My first reaction was, “damn there’s a lot of competition for comedy writing now.” But after the first two classes, I realized that wasn’t the case. There is a heightened interest, but I wouldn’t call it competition. It was surprising to see how many people quit or just stopped showing up after 2 or 3 classes.

I managed to stick with it and completed their entire 6 course program, and stuck around there for about two years. I auditioned, as a writer, for a couple stage reviews and got selected for all of them.

The overall vibe I felt was disappointment. I saw a lot of people that wanted to be comedians and actors, but few wanted to do the work.

I went into the classes hoping to collaborate and bounce ideas off other people. I pictured a room fool of zany people riffing on ideas. Instead, it was mostly people reading their incomplete scripts and too much positive feedback for just putting in the effort.

The experience was worth it for me personally. I developed a lot of discipline for writing, cranking out 2-3 finished sketches a week and generating tons of ideas all the time.

Today, I see the same thing in standup. I’m making concerted effort to do it, after thinking about doing it for 30 years. Now, everyone else is trying it. While I’m not worried about competition, I do find myself reluctant to openly admit I’m doing it, because I think standup as a thing is wearing out its welcome really fast.


Long Pause

I haven’t journaled here in about 2 weeks. I’m coming off the 4th of July weekend suffering from outrage fatigue again. Over the past couple weeks, it has been Christmas July from the Supreme Court, delivering a bag a goodies from the right wing wish list. They’ve rolled back Roe vs. Wade, sensible gun restrictions, and gutted environmental protections. All of it seems driven by a need to stick it to liberals, because it’s all regressive and aggressive. 30 years ago, anyone of those decisions would have seemed like an exaggeration or parody of conservative values.

I imagine the blowback from this overreach will have the opposite desired effect in the long-term. It might be long after I’m gone, but some time in the future, these oppressive and destructive decisions will likely make future generations significantly more liberal. Just look at the backlash of the decades that led up to the 60s and 70s.