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November 2008

November 14, 2008

First Review of "Chicken Cheeks!"

The text of this review is longer than the text of the book.

(STARRED) Black, Michael Ian
Illus. by Kevin  Hawkes
Actor/comedian Black produces a winner with his first children’s book. A bear spies honey in a hive high atop a skinny tree, and as other animals come along, they pile on top of each other to create a tower. The focus of the story, and of Hawkes’s brilliant acrylic cartoons, is animal backsides—“moose caboose,” “penguin patootie” and, of course, “chicken cheeks.” Pictures tell the story, with minimal text adding humor with rhyme, alliteration and clever wordplay. The visual humor is outstanding: What comes out of chicken cheeks? An egg of course, cracked upon the moose’s nose. The animals’ expressions are priceless as they struggle under each other’s weight; the sight of the guinea pig straining to hold up the “deer rear” is positively hysterical. A “bumblebee bum” provides the climax to the story, and the tale concludes wordlessly, showing who gets to enjoy the honey in the end, or “the ends,” as the author puts it. No butts about it, this is a perfect collaboration of text and illustration. (Picture book. 3-8)

November 12, 2008

Two Meals in Vancouver: Both Crepes

There’s a place here in Vancouver that makes great crepes. So much so that they call themselves Café Crepe. Last night after I arrived I decided to visit Café Crepe for dinner. One thing I have always liked about crepe places is that they divide their menu into two sections: savory and sweet. We don’t seem to have savory things in America. I mean, we do, but nobody talks about them. I’m not sure why. Savory is to American cuisine what hermaphrodites are to our culture at large. Occasionally referenced, sure, but basically ignored. I think America needs to rethink its relationship with savory. Okay, so I walk into Café Crepe alone and get a table for one.

I have always loved eating alone at restaurants. There are many people, I know, who feel embarrassed about flying solo for meals. Not me. I love it. “Table for one!” I yell upon entering any dining establishment. I even like when they clear away the unused cutlery. Sometimes I encourage them if they are slow about it. “Clear these extra forks and knives, my good man!” I might say to the busboy. “I’m eating alone tonight!” Inevitably I say these things too loudly, no doubt causing other diners to think, “That gentleman is overcompensating.” But I simply do not care.

So after I take my table for one and the superfluous dining implements have been disposed of I immediately face a dilemma; savory or sweet. On the way over I was thinking I might like a banana and Nutella crepe, but now that I am sitting there surrounded by attractive young Asians taking on their twenty-third century cell phones and inexplicably eating non-crepe items like hamburgers, I am struck with the thought that a banana and Nutella crepe isn’t really a good dinner, especially considering the last thing I ate was several hours before while sitting behind John Cusack on my flight. The thing I ate? A cookie. Did I really want to follow up a cookie with a sweet crepe? No I did not. So I decided on a ham and Swiss cheese crepe and an organic side salad. I also get a cup of tea because I really wanted a cup of tea on the flight but John Cusack ordered one right before I was about to and then I felt like I couldn’t because everybody would think I was copying John Cusack, provoking the following thought which I had never had before up until that very moment: “Fucking John Cusack!”

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November 10, 2008

If You Missed My MySpace Secret Standup Show Last Week:

Here's a short summary of the festivities. Note that nowhere does the author say she enjoyed the show (which was excellent). Also note that I stupidly gave the kid five Candian dollars, which I have been carrying around in my wallet since my last trip to Vancouver, and which would have come in handy this week. (See my previous post.) I'm such an idiot.

NYCF: Michaels Showalter and Ian Black

November 10, 2008 AT 01:09PM | Comments (0)


52742251 Back in the '90s (oh so long ago), sketch group The State used to show up on late-night MTV somewhere between Singled Out and Liquid Television. Those guys (and girl) have come a long way since then, evidenced by the crammed-to-the-gills Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter stand-up show at Caroline's on Thursday night. The show took place as part of the New York Comedy Festival and as one of MySpace's free Secret Stand-Up shows.

The Michaels took the stage with no openers, Showalter first followed by Ian Black. After talking a bit about the election (and of course, specifically Sarah Palin), Showalter went into a hilarious bit about re-reading his 8th grade yearbook. He performed a statistical analysis of the likes & dislikes that he and his classmates had listed under their names. Likes included pizza, ska, and animals, while dislikes ranged from cafeteria food to "gomers," his high school's word for nerds. Showalter also talked about the difficulties of getting a cat, describing the two-round interview process and ultimate rejection of Kitty Care.

Michael Ian Black immediately won over the crowd by asking a brace-faced kid, previously tormented by Showalter, why he was attending the show. The kid said it was his birthday and Black presented him with FIVE CANADIAN DOLLARS as a present.

Next, he spoke of politics and why McCain/Palin lost the election: "If fetuses could vote, maybe they would have won." Before ending the show, he read one of his trademark letters, this one to a heckler who had asked him to show his penis. He was flattered, but ultimately realized that the heckler was actually talking to Showalter.

-Sachi Ezura

Off To Vancouver Again Tomorrow

Every time I think they’ve finally killed me dead on “Reaper,” they bring me back to life. Which is terrific if you are, as I am, unemployed and practically unemployable. Tomorrow I jet off to Vancouver to film another episode of the series, to be followed by yet another in December.

There is much to like about Vancouver, especially if you like Asian people, as I do. Vancouver is pretty much an Asian outpost at this point, filled with attractive young Easterners with technologically superior cell phones. They have chic haircuts and good shoes and their average age seems to be twenty-one. They are a sexy, sexy group. Canadians on the other hand, all look a little Michael Moore. Not necessarily as heavy or bearded, but they all share a congenial doughiness that gives them a friendly appearance, sort of like cartoon bears. Unlike bears, though, they don’t steal your garbage.

Vancouver is a clean city, stuffed with new condominium towers that have all been erected in the last six weeks. The buildings all look as though they are made from plastic, which is an unlikely building material for condominiums, but I am no architect. Who lives in these buildings is anybody’s guess. Asians, probably.

My favorite tourist destination is the small area where the city’s junkies hang out. This is called the “Downtown Eastside,” and what’s nice is, you can walk there from anyplace in the city to get a close-up view of scabby zombies wandering the streets looking for stuff to inject. A word of warning: most of them will not allow you to take a “souvenir photo” unless you give them a dollar (although savvy tourists can haggle over the price). The whole walking tour of the area shouldn’t take more than twenty minutes. Don’t bring a lot of cash or anything shiny.


        (Note the cranes building evermore plastic condominium towers)

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November 06, 2008

Halloween 'O8

Halloween is a big deal where I live. I suppose it’s probably a big deal everywhere, but my house is in the boonies and we are hard pressed for thrills up here. People think that those of us in the ‘burbs are sexually frustrated yuppies who spend our days kvetching to our therapists all day and drinking good, inexpensive wine all night. They are right to think that. That is exactly what we do. Except that we also take a shitload of anti-depressants.

So when Halloween rolls around each year, it’s a great opportunity to get together with our small circle of friends and wander around strange neighborhoods with our kids in tow making nasty comments about other people’s houses. While drinking. Halloween in the ‘burbs is basically a big booze cruise. Sure the kids get dressed up in adorable costumes, blah blah blah. But while they’re off gathering candy for us to eat after they go to bed, we’re getting completely fucking sauced. Usually a few grown-ups stuff multiple bottles of good, inexpensive wine into knapsacks and we spend the evening stumbling around playing grabby ass with each other. Which is all fine and good until halfway through trick-or-treating when the mood starts to turn.

Kids start getting sore feet and those of us who don’t handle our liquor very well start to get a little boisterous. For example, I found myself sending my kid back to the house he’d just gotten candy, saying to him, “What is this? Daddy doesn't eat fucking Laffy Taffy! Go back and get a goddamned Snickers bar!” Were there tears? There were. On my part. Because I tend to not only get angry when I’m drunk, I also get a little weepy. So after he came back with the Snickers bar, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably in the middle of the street, getting monster make-up all over my Timberland down vest because I was crying so hard, asking for his forgiveness. All of this was before I realized the kid I was hugging wasn’t mine.

Did the cops come? That depends on what you mean. The police were patrolling already and happened to stop at our little party after a couple of us decided that our costumes were “The Moon,” which entailed having our pants not exactly on. But that’s one of the great things about living in a small town. Rather than arresting us, they just asked us to cover up and told us that Child Services would be paying us a call. But I think they were probably kidding. After all, small town cops are just as bored and drunk as we are.

There was a little bit of controversy regarding my daughter’s costume. Here’s the thing: my opinion is, if you’re going to go around asking for free candy, at least make your costume as good as it can be. Show a little effort. Okay – so my daughter wanted to go as a mermaid this year. A little trite, but better than some of her previous ideas (princess, witch, etc.). When she showed me her costume, I said, "It's very cute but I have a suggestion: lose the top." My wife said that it was too cold to go topless and also that it was inappropriate. I didn’t disagree with her on either count, but we got into a big fight because my point was that if she wanted to go as a mermaid she had to understand the consequences of her decision. If I have a pet peeve it’s that mermaids are always shown with bathing suit tops, which I’m sorry, is bullshit. Why would mermaids wear bathing suit tops? They wouldn’t. Don’t believe me? Just ask yourself this simple question – where would a mermaid get a bathing suit? At the underwater swimsuit store?

Anyway, before too long my daughter was crying and my wife was furious. In the end we compromised. I allowed her to wear a top but I had to escort her to each house and explain that the top wasn’t my idea and that I was letting her wear it “under protest.” Once that was resolved, everybody had a great Halloween. Even my son who got lost in the woods for a couple hours. Eventually he wandered to the road and a car stopped when the driver saw Frankenstein walking on the side of the road, cold and weeping. Funny stuff.

November 05, 2008

Alas, Poor Maverick. I Knew Him Well

I had to feel sorry for John McCain as he gave his gracious concession speech in Arizona last night. Here’s a guy who has served his country with distinction (give or take the occasional banking scandal) for the last fifty years, who was smeared by the current president during his first ill-fated presidential run in 2000, who had to sell his soul to win the nomination in 2008, who picked the worst vice presidential candidate imaginable, and who then had to face the most dynamic presidential candidate in memory – all while dealing with two lengthy wars, an economic meltdown, and the same president who cost him the nomination in 2000 dragging him down by the gravitational force of his own leaden approval ratings. How was he supposed to win? Answer: cheating.

John McCain simply doesn’t cheat as well as his predecessors. Where were the butterfly ballots? Where were the angry hooligans shutting down polling stations? Where was the president of the Diebold Voting Machine Company promising to deliver the election for him? Where was the Ohio Secretary of State purging the voter rolls? The Florida Secretary of State stopping recounts? The Supreme Court? How is a Republican supposed to win an election without their help? They were as MIA as federal relief during Hurricane Katrina.

Not that McCain didn’t try to cheat. He did. But he did it the old-fashioned way. With sneers and innuendo. With thinly veiled racism and xenophobia. Even the jingoism which worked so well for W fell flat; it turns out Americans, real or otherwise, are tired of having their patriotism questioned. Who knew? This is the age of YouTube. Where was Obama’s “Macaca moment?” His embarrassing emails? His sex scandal? Isn’t there even one semen-soaked dress out there? The closest we got to genuine scandal was a sixties radical and a “terrorist fist jab.” Boooo-ring.

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November 04, 2008

I Voted for McCain

Something unexpected happened today when I went into the voting booth. After spending the better part of a year writing about my support for Obama, contributing money to his campaign, and telling every pollster who asked that I was voting for Obama, when I found myself in the privacy of the voting booth today, I just couldn't do it. I couldn't pull the lever for him. It was like an invisible force guided my hand from my intended selection - the charismatic young Illinois Democrat - to my unintended choice - the cantankerous old bastard from Arizona. I don't know how it happened. One minute I was part of a youth revolution, the next minute I was on the phone celebrating with my tax attorney.

I voted for McCain.

How did this happen? Maybe it's true what the pundits have been saying for months. Maybe there are certain white people who, when confronted with the choice of actually voting for a black man, will be unable to do so. How was I supposed to know that I was one of those people?

None of the warning signs were there. Throughout the entire campaign, not once did I find myself referring to Barack Obama as either a Muslim or a socialist. I almost never accused him of being a terrorist. And I never talked about his race at all. Admittedly I did once privately comment that he seemed like a really good basketball player, but I immediately felt horrible about it.

Yes, it's true that in my act I always called Obama "the black guy," but that was for comedy purposes. It was meant to be a hip way of saying "I'm down," but now I think my sub-conscious was telling me a different story - a story I simply didn't want to hear. Because it was a story written in ebonics.

If only I had known what a racist I was when this campaign started, I could have saved myself a lot of embarrassment. Maybe I should have known. After all, of all the places in the world to raise my family, where did I choose? Connecticut. And what did I name my son? David Duke. I just thought those two names sounded good together, dismissing the fact that a prominent white supremacist also had that name as coincidence. Yes, we bought my daughter dolls of different races, but I found myself encouraging her to make her black doll "the maid." I didn't think anything of it at the time, but now I wonder whether even something as innocent as that indicates some kind of latent racism? Maybe.

My whole life I've always prided myself on being an open-minded liberal kind of guy. For example, when I was a kid watching "Diff'rent Strokes," I was never one of those people who thought Willis was trouble, even after it turned out years later that he was trouble! And when crack was big in the 80's, I used to say "It's a tragedy for everybody." And when Oprah picked Toni Morrison's "Beloved," for her book club, I bought it (didn't read it, but bought it). So believe me when I say that my actions today are just as shocking to me as they probably are to you.

As I write this, I do not yet know who the won the presidency. Both of the candidates are good men. Honest men. Men of integrity and character. One of those men has a clear vision for how to take this country in a new direction, to restore our image in the world, to end the war in Iraq and put our economy back on solid footing. One of these men has inspired millions of new voters to participate in politics for the first time, and to believe that America can once again be a better nation, a nation of hope instead of fear.  But fuck it - I voted for the white guy.

November 03, 2008

Here's Something That's Weird

David Wain sent me this. Not sure how he found it, but it's a re-creation of a sketch Stella used to do when we tour. I don't know who these guys are, but I'm not sure if I would have cast the guy in the middle as David. I probably would have cast him as me, the guy playing Showalter as Showalter and the guy playing me as David. But they did a great job and they will be hearing from my lawyer.