Saturday, March 29, 2008

This is not a conspiracy. This is the future.

This is the future.
Flying drones, like the military predators used in Iraq, fly silently overhead snapping photos and feeding video footage to a central command center for the area. Kid’s are not only fingerprinted in the first grade, but a sample of their DNA is taken if a teacher feels they display anti-social behavior that could lead to criminal mischief latter in life. Cheap disposable easy to use phone/e-mail/uplink chips are glued to your thumbs fingernail allowing you access to the communication web, banking accounts and information anywhere on the planet. It also works as a passport in and out of zones the government has set up. Denial or entry depends on factors such as your weight, income and level of crime in the particular zone. Companies operate blimps that display giant city block sized advertisements as they also scan entire neighborhoods. The sensors on board the blimp pick up the RDF chips embedded in the packaging of everything you buy. This information is correlated against your regular purchases and a list of possible items you might want to pick up is e-mailed to you on your thumb chip.

This is now.

San Francisco thinks about putting up more cameras in high crime areas. Why? While crime dropped around the cameras, it rose almost 30% just one hundred feet from the cameras. Solution? More cameras.
England has purposed taking samples of Children's DNA that display behaviour some sociologist claim are indicators that they will grow up to be criminals. Beside bringing up major questions regarding privacy and the whole notion of stigmatizing someone, who keeps these records? RDF chips already exist and every time you use your club card at any supermarket, a record of your likes and dislikes is placed in your account record. Coupons that are tailored to your purchases are mailed to you. All new passports carry inside them a chip. All someone has to do is press a button somewhere and when you walk through an airport anywhere in the world, you can be denied entry. Miami, FL has recently announced they are going to experiment with flying drones that will fly over high crime areas and send live video streams to a controller at the local police station.

This is not a conspiracy. This is the future.

During the last election, protests were so common against Bush, that the Secret Service came up with the idea of setting up "free speech zones." These were small areas usually a mile or more away from where Bush was speaking that were enclosed with fences 10 feet high. Protesters were herded into them and then allowed to "demonstrate" inside them. Funny, I thought the entire country was a free speech zone.

Diebolt, the biggest maker of computer voting machines refuses to share it's source code with the government. Never mind that in trial after test, hackers have been able to tap into the machines in less than 30 seconds, but a private company now controls the actual tool of democracy. Also, they say it is too difficult to create a machine that would issue the voter a paper receipt giving the voter a hard copy. This is odd considering Diebolt is also the biggest maker of ATM's in the world and those dispense a receipt every time. The company is currently fighting off a hostile take over bid from a military contractor company. Several of the people who sit on the board at this company also work for John McCain and Hilary Clinton. Should a military contractor have control over the very piece of equipment that decides who becomes President and by extension our military policies?

The U.S. Government has tried and in some cases convicted people of terrorist crimes, they thought of committing. A group thought of blowing up the Sears Tower in Chicago. They asked a FBI undercover informant for guns and uniforms. The FBI informant made them swear an oath to Al Queda and suggested they attempt to blow up the Sears Tower. Note, the group never requested explosives or training in their use even after the government informant pushed them in this direction. 7 men still wait for their trial.
This is the legal version of our justification for the Iraq war; a preemptive attack. In this case, arrest for thinking of a criminal act is considered just as bad as if the act had occurred. The government now asserts the right to hold people for thinking what might be terrorist plots. While no one can deny that blowing up a building in a large metropolitan city is undoubtedly a terrorist act, arresting them for conspiracy to do so only after the FBI informant has lead then to the idea with a trail of bred crumbs, is more entrapment than crime. Another way to describe it could also be thought crime.

There now exists tools to control human populations in a way never before seen in the history of man. The Internet has democratized information in a way never imagined before. However, nothing is ever really erased once it enters the data stream. For all the good at checking the powers of government that it does, the powers of government have already proven it's ability to check on you with it. Remember, the Internet was invented by the department of defense as a way of communicating after a devastating nuclear attack. Control, real control, is not about using tanks in the streets or flame throwers on protesters. It is about erasing the ability for anyone to question. It's about removing the very idea of questioning. In America, the richest empire on the face of the planet, we surrender ourselves daily to the onslaught of commercials that tell us we could be happier if only we tried brand x over brand y. We buy into a system of beliefs with money and all the strings that come with it. We spread ourselves thin in a never ending quest to get the new toy, the new car, the new gadget, the new thing. All the energy expended on updates over American Idol and reruns of Lost available on demand never produce a population that asks questions in any meaningful way. The system, society, the government, the wealthy and the power brokers like it that way. There are no thought police because in essence, we have all been deputized thought police by the social mechanism of peer pressure. "Why would you ask that? Are you some conspiracy nut?" Drugs are knowingly sold on the Internet that can be delivered to your door. Reality TV fascinates us as it plays to the worst of our curious emotions. CSI, Law & Order, Cold Case-all regularly show you dead bodies and horrible characters who do increasingly evil things because we have become desensitized to what was once confined to R rated horror movies. The news puts information of a pop starts downfall alongside word of wars. Companies produce segments that are slipped into the broadcast and never revealed for what they are; commercials that have been legitimized by running them on the "news." All this while half the country believes we are living in the end times and Dinosaurs lived along side humans when the Earth was created some 6,000 years ago. What is the solution? What is the way to fight the grip of continuing domination over the human heart with digital indignities and ignorant truths? How do you raise your voice in frustration when most people are just trying to keep their head down and not make eye contact with those around them out of some vague unknown fear? This is our future. This is it right now. Everything that is good and bad in the human spirit has manifested in our time with the wonders of technology and the plight of crushing poverty living side by side. Is it enough to simply ask these questions? What action, if any can be taken? We live in strange and interesting times. The world moans under the weight of 6 billion souls who all want the same thing and yet we live in a system that must deny the majority of them dignity in order to survive. Is it worth saving? Is it worth wondering what we should be doing instead of being on this merry-go-round of commerce and soul killing entertainment? This is not a conspiracy. This is not a rant. This is the future if we allow it to be so. This is our gift or curse to the next generation growing up in a plastic wasteland. Control is the only thing that matters and whatever means deemed necessary by those who have it will be used to keep it. The space inside your self has been colonized by corporate slogans and the me driven spirituality of self help gurus getting rich on your desire to feel better. There is no counter movement. There is no cause to join. There is no group or project or place to send a check. There is only you and I and anyone who cares to name the nameless sensations inside themselves that cannot be treated with the drugs sold on TV next to cars and detergents. Giving a shit and waking up at midnight in cold sweats are not side effects; it is being human.

Open Mic's

Open Mics
I have been back at them. It's so hard to stand on a stage in a room as silent as a tomb in-front of 3 or 4 audience members who are wondering the same thing you are; why are we here? The microphone is almost unnecessary. The room is dark and the lights seem brighter than when a crowd fills it. All you have is a notebook of ideas and the balls to say it out loud. In the back of the room, sitting, staring watching and judging are other comics. Comics outnumber audience 10 to 1. You will never know how long five minuets really is until your up there. It's brutal. It's darwinian in it's ability to reduce the many to the few. This is the first step in the process of becoming something more than the sum of your experiences. This is what every comic ever went through on the way to packing out a theater.
Once upon a tine, I was watching Louie C.K. perform at the Melrose Improv. It was Saturday night. The place was packed. Already a stand-up star in his own right, this was about a month before his hyped show on HBO came out. These were fans. About 20 minuets in, he got the light. You could tell from the expression on his face he was confused, but ever the pro, he wrapped up and got off stage. Chris Rocked was introduced. Chris Rock! The place goes crazy with adulation and energy. The first words out of his mouth were, "Lower your expectations."
It turned out, it was to be his biggest laugh for the next 20 minuets.
When I try out new stuff, I have to wait in line at an open mic and once I get on stage, I open my notebook. This was his open Mic. Instead of a handful of people on stage he got a packed saturday night audience. Instead of a little black book, he opened his black berry. Instead of being the next guy, he was Chris Rock. He bombed. Utterly and completely by any standard comics have, he died. It was a awesome thing to behold for a comic. It was like watching Jesus being handed a jug of water and a fish and all he could do with it was hand back a jug full of water and a single fish. The power in this was not how bad he did. The power in this is seeing how hard the job it is at taking an idea and making it funny. You think of Chris Rock and you think of him strutting across the stage with a thousand watt smile dropping punch line on top of punch line to an adoring crowd. Those killer lines have to have an origin. This night, we got to see just how hard a job it is to take ideas and craft them into an act. There are no short cuts. There are no easy paths. It is night after night of sacraficing your self esteem for that one good line. That's how it's been done for ever.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A friend of mine, a 41 year old women, was complaining about the state of her love life. She is having a "relationship" with a man over the Internet. I put it in quotation marks because what sort of a relationship can anyone have over the Internet?
"Were having some problems lately." She tells me.
Looks like it's like any other relationship after all.
"I wish there was some 1-800 number you could call like tech support but for relationships."
Million dollar idea, I think. Really, what would you have to say most of the time?
"Did you try turning him on? Turn him on. Now just play with it a little."
At 41, she is concerned about never getting married and having a family.
"If I can't reproduce," she tells me. "Then I will just expand."
Here here!

Thursday, March 27, 2008


In a new Rolling Stone interview, Chris Rock sums up Hillary Clinton like this. "I didn't like her until she started running for President."
Like running for student body president, it's not the issues or your platform on anything that really matters to people, it is your personality and the way you communicate. Hilary's latest mess in her campaign is the landing in Bosnia under fire story. At a press conference, she told reporters that the plane had to make evasive moves while landing. They were also told to sit on their bullet proof helmets and when they did land on the short runway, everyone had to run for the buildings. She was clear that there was no time for any greeting ceremony either.
Then the news footage comes out.
Not only does she walk of the plane at a leisurely pace, Chelsea Clinton is all smiles beside her! No one is running. An interview with the pilot of the plane is making it's rounds on the Internet. He contradicts almost everything she says about the landing. Not only that, but he points out that there would be no way in hell the Secret Service would of allowed a plane carrying the first lady and her daughter to land under snippier fire.
Oh, and they did stop to listen to a little girl waiting for them to read a poem.
Hilary's response, "I misspoke."
No shit you misspoke. There was a little girl waiting to read a poem! Do you think they would of sent her out there with bullets flying around.
"Keep waiting little girl. The first lady will be running toward you any moment now!"
This is the classic mistake all politicians make. They embellish something that actually occurred. Someone calls them on it. Then they tell us, I misspoke.
You were the first lady of the United States of America. Didn't you see cameras following you around everywhere you went? Apparently she didn't learn the lesson that anyone who has ever watched or been on a reality TV shows learns very quick; every move is filmed.
That's why it has become a big deal.
The funniest part about all of this is that the entire problem started because Sinbad, who was on tour with her, contradicted her.
Her first response about this to the press was, "You know he is a comedian?"
You have to love that. Because he is a comedian his word is beneath hers?
Only the truth is funny Hillary. And only comics seem to be the ones telling it these days. You got caught in a big ass lie. A big ass lie that was on tape! It was on tape. No bullets or running, just a little girl waiting to read you poem. No evasive maneuvers or sitting on helmets, just a stroll out the back of the plane with your daughter.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Last Remains of Someday

Last weekend I worked at Rooster T. Feathers. Not just a cool little club to work at, but it also comes with an amazing perk; the Grand hotel. The Grand is one of those silicon Valley Boutique hotels I could never afford to stay in unless the comedy club I was working at put me up in it. It was like a mini vacation for the Easter weekend. Like a lot of things in my life however, it has a connection to the X. In fact, it's odd how much of a connection it has to Sam. It was the last place in Northern California we stayed at before we climbed into a U-Haul after a weekend of shows and headed down to L.A. for our life together years ago.
You know the rest of that story.
After we got back together, it was the place where we found Sam her ring. Allow me to explain. After we got back together and she agreed to move to San Francisco, it suddenly became very important to her that she have a ring. I had no problem with this other than I wanted it to be a surprise; not something that was a necessity. We looked everywhere for a ring that was suitably unique. We searched art fairs down by the Fairy Building on the weekends and even went to the jewelry counter at such stores as Macy's in a mall. No matter where we looked, nothing either fit her slender fingers or they just looked like a million other cookie cutter variations we had already seen. Then, one day she went to a thrift store a block from the Grand Hotel while I worked Roosters. The disheveled place seemed out of place in Sunnyvale, but sure enough in a separate room in a beat up glass case sat a tiny gold ring. It was a simple gold band. The plan was, I buy it, take it to an expert and have them make it unique in some way.
Long story painful, the ring has remained on my window sill in my room for more than a year now. I don't know what to do with the damn thing. Then it occurred to me; I will be in the same place this weekend; return it to it's source. Insert whatever Lord of the Rings joke you have here.
But it made sense. Just bring the thing back and get whatever money I can for it so I can just be done with this chapter of my life once and for all.
Short story mildly painful.
I couldn't do it.
I walked around the block a few times fingering the ring in my pocket amazed at my inability to walk in the shabby little store and sell this haunted piece of gold back to them. Closure, it turns out, is never that simple. That's when I also realized that I still had her number in my phone. With my phone in my hand and a few more trips around the block, I managed to hit delete. In the digital age, this constitutes moving on.
The ring came home with me for the second time since I have owned it. Looking around my room I also realized how much crap accumulates when your not paying attention to being in the now. My heart is somewhere on a 2004 calendar and my head is dreaming of that eventual fame. But now; now I have a room that is more museum than bedroom.
I got some garbage bags and shoe boxes and started doing the difficult work of separating out what stays and what goes.
The ring and photos of us now sits in a shoe box. I wish there was a way to put the anger in there too, but no such luck. I already tried filling the bottles of vodka I emptied with it too, but it doesn't work.

Once, when we were living together, I was looking for space in the bedroom closet. On the shelf, I found three or four plastic boxes. Inside were cards and photos of Sam's previous boyfriends. Sealed away and preserved like specimen's in formaldehyde, this is what became of those times spent in other lives. Undoubtedly, that's where any trace of me is now. Course, I have done the same thing too. In the tiny confines of a card board shoe box sits a life. I don't know, maybe I should just take it all down to the beach and burn it. Every time I move, I drag another chunk of what was suppose to be along for the ride. At 39, most of what I own now is boxes I will never open anyway. It's not just the remains of relationships, it's movies I will never watch again, clothing that is out of style or no longer fit's, notebooks and journals I can barely bring myself to read- all just stuff that takes up space. Space that was meant to be the someday we were reaching for. That's what those boxes hold-the last remains of someday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Adopted an American

I did a benefit show for at the Punch Line. Check them out. The whole idea is founded on the concept of micro loans. You know how you always say you want to help but you don't know how? Maybe you want to donate money but not with a religious charity. This is the way to go.
You lend a little bit of money to an entrepreneur in the third world to expand or start a business. You help them out with a little that goes a long way for them. But it got me thinking, I drink a lot of coffee, why can't a coffee farmer in Yemen pay off some of my old student loans? They could even check on my career status by checking my web site.
"Look at him. I bought him that X-box!"
Imagine their pride at seeing a struggling American reach for the plastic ring of mediocrity.
"You see that bong? I paid for that! I am so proud."
Each month I could send an e-mail detailing what I need to be a regular American. Ever try to just be a regular American? It's not cheap! Hey, third world people make most of the stuff we buy, it's about time they give back a little to keep this engine going.
The idea is what America is all about. A small business person gets a loan and grows their business. They hire more people who make money and spend it in the community. Capitalism on a small scale. It doesn't seem so scary or out of control on this scale does it? It actually makes sense. If I get my money back, great. If I don't, I just bought good karma for $50.00.
That's what I gave to a woman in India for a small cotton loom, fifty bucks. That's nothing. It's a shirt at the Gap, that she will probably make, or a date at the movies. Fifty bucks is nothing to me if I never see it again. So if their business gets going, why not pay off a parking ticket or two of mine?
"San Francisco is so expensive to live in. I send him what I can so he doesn't have to go round the block when he comes home late at night."
That's right world, I am setting up the first ever, adopted an American program. People are curious about us no matter how much they might hate us. What better way for them to learn about America than to help shoulder the financial cost of being an American. We don't accept dollars though, only Euros please.
Eventually, I will put together a heart warming video of third world people with their stories of lending a helping hand to us.
"I bought my American a Domino's Pizza!"
"Thanks Dude."
"I bought my American a net flix membership and cable TV for a month!"
"Your the best Hajji!"
"I bought my American Solar panels to put on their roof!"
So come on world! Help pull an American out of the unacceptable pool of middle class. Feed a college student just what he needs, pot and alcohol. Do you have idea what a difference just a few Euros can make on a cell phone bill? Most families of four in this country still can't afford a TiVo.
Is this how you want to see an American living; above the poverty line but embarrassed by their neighbors possessions? I don't think so!

The Latest Indignities.

It's everything that goes on off stage that bugs the shit out of me. From petty people to scandalous Booker's, it just grinds you into the ground.
I got a call from a Booker I had worked for a few months back asking if I would like to return. However this time, he wants me to Co-headline for less money.
Oh Comedy!
Co-Headlining is a bullshit term invented by Booker's to get a high quality show for less money. Here's the idea; you book two headliner's and split the pay among them. Here's the thing, someone always has to go last, so there is a headliner. The person who goes last has to go up latter and this, as any comic will tell you, requires more skill. That's why a headliner is a headliner-they have more skill. Your not just paying for a guy to go up last-your paying for the person who is going to bring it.
This was the conversation:
"Joe, would you like to come back up next month? I am doing a Co-headline show. Is $200 fine?" He asks.
"Doing the same room for less money is not the direction I want to go in with a room." I say.
There is a pause. Then he asks, "Well how much time do you have?"
I have to take a breath before I answer. Not to be arrogant, but when I was there, the first two acts didn't do so well and I did an hour plus in front of drunk people. This is typical hold you down till you agree to less money bullshit that drives me crazy. Before I respond though, his memory must come back and he says, "I mean, I know you can do it with talking to the crowd and everything."
I turn the gig down.
Here is a realization I should of had years ago but is just hitting me now. If I drive 5 hours to and back from a gig, it's $100 in gas. Period. I am spending 100 bucks to make a hundred and fifty bucks, put more miles on my car and play to a bunch of red necks in a barn. Is that really the direction I want to go in with anything?

A comic kept asking me why I decided to Book someone on my game show. In their not so humble opinion, it is not only a mistake for me to Book this person, but they will not do well. Besides, they explain at length in their e-mail, there are far more people who are ahead in line.
What line?
There is no master list of who started when and who deserves stage time over other people. What amazes me is that anyone would be so small in character as to list off reasons why a person will not do well. How petty do you have to be to take the time to compose an e-mail against someone getting free stage time that doesn't effect you in anyway?
Here is how I book my game show.
There are only 3 slots open per month. I book two people who are Punch Line comedy scene regulars. The other spot I leave open to give back. When I was new, there were not a lot of people who thought that much of me. I was painfully shy and suffered from the usual low self-esteem most comics have. But a few people in a position to help gave me stage time. They gave me opportunity. Now it's my turn to give back. I can give stage time to people who deserve it because I see something in them that don't yet see in themselves.

At a show, a guy in the crowd holds up his cell phone camera and starts recording. When I look over he says, "I'm gonna get you on youtube."
Great. I finally have management.
I am pretty sure that I can get myself on youtube. I am also pretty sure that taping me without my consent is theft of intellectual property. Also, if your going to do this, don't sit directly up front and pull your camera out in front of everyone, retard. It's bad enough that Booker's and Managers sell you the idea of getting exposure instead of getting paid all the time, now the audience is contributing to it. You know what, you could visit my site for clips too.
Same club different night.
A girl sits in almost the same place as the joker with the cell phone. She is a sweet young girl who has a laugh that is unavoidable and unique. Not just for it's dolphin like quality, but for when she laughs. There are set up's and there are punch lines. 99% of the audience is laughing after the punch line. This girl laughs directly after the set up. She is ten feet away from me too. After awhile, it starts to throw my timing on jokes. I set up a line, she laughs her unique giddy laugh, I laugh and the punch line now gets lost. This goes on for a while before I talk to her. If your out there darling, I'm not mad. We did have a lot of fun with it it didn't we?
It occurs to me that if this was done on purpose to a comic, it would be the most brilliant heckling technique in history. Think about it. She is not screaming anything drunk or yelling get off the stage, she is laughing. It's just where she is laughing that is throwing things. There is no response for this in comedy! That's what would make it so diabolical if it was done to someone on purposes. She is a sweet charming young lady who looks about as Innocent as Innocent can get. All she is doing is laughing. What kind of an ass hole would call her out for laughing?
OK, I did. But it made for a fun show. I can't wait to get the audio up on my site for just this reason alone.
Ah Comedy. These are my latest indignities.