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December 2008

December 30, 2008

Happy New Year, Everybody

As 2008 mercifully ends, I think we can all agree that it was one shitty year. Any year in which Paul Newman dies is, by definition, a bad year. With the exception of Barack Obama being elected president, I’m hard pressed to think of any “feel good” news stories. Maybe the fact that less people are getting killed in Iraq? Although I don’t know that “less people being killed” qualifies as good news. No, it was a year filled with terrible, terrible news stories – one worse than the next. Our country is officially in the shitter, metaphorically represented by the billion gallons of coal sludge which poured into two Tennessee rivers as the year closed. But for all the horrible news from 2008, at least 2009 will probably be worse. In fact, we may look back on 2008 and go, “I don’t know what everybody was bitching about. That was a walk in the park compared to 2009!”

On the other hand, I just saw “Kung Fu Panda” for the first time and I have to say, I think it should be a serious contender for “Best Picture of the Year.” "Wall-E" may have had the critics all a-twitter for its trite anti-consumerist message, but “Kung Fu Panda” was the superior movie in every respect. It looked better, was more entertaining, was a hell of a lot funnier, and left me feeling considerably more optimistic about humanity. Chances that “Wall-E” will be nominated for Best Picture? Fifty-fifty. “Kung Fu Panda?” Zero.

Just a couple other things to feel good about as this crummy year draws to a close:

Bratz-um08 • Bratz dolls are off the shelves. If you don’t know what Bratz dolls are, you either don’t have children, or you're not into kiddy porn. The reason they are off the shelves? Not because they encourage the sexualization of five-year-olds but because of copyright infringement. That’s fine with me – after all, they put Al Capone away for tax evasion.

• The Southwest Salad at McDonalds. I am a big fan of McDonalds. I think they have pretty much cornered the market on deliciousness. But, I think it’s fair to say that their food isn’t necessarily over-healthed. When I am there, I like to get the Chicken Selects Meal, which is basically like pouring out a salt shaker onto a tray. From time to time, out of guilt, I try to find a healthier option. Well, not only is the Southwest Salad healthier, it’s also fan-fucking-tastic. I got one the other night, and I talked about how good it was so much that my wife finally told me to shut up. That’s how good it was.

The Anthropic Principle. Although this isn’t anything new, it’s new to me. Basically the Anthropic Principle states that our universe has too many life-supporting coincidences to be explained mathematically, leaving theorists with two possible conclusions: either our universe is part of an infinite “multiverse,” or there is a God. Either conclusion is awesome. I have always wanted to believe in God. The Anthropic Principle has given me an in.

• This kid playing “Guitar Hero.”

•  I no longer have to choose between “Lipstick Jungle” and “Cashmere Mafia.” They’ve both been canceled.

• AC/DC released a new album, which I have not heard and do not care about. What I do care about, however, is the fact that Angus Young is still wearing the schoolboy uniform, even though he’s a hundred. Something about this pleases me like nothing else in music. Please let him be buried in it when he dies.

Rock2

Kitty cats!!!!

Ernest Borgnine.

Peace, love, and all that jazz in 2009.

December 26, 2008

I Learned Something About Myself Today

When did the internet get awesome? I ask this because, while I was aware that it was a place that I could get the news, watch TV, download movies, and correspond with ninth grade girls, I did not know it was a place where I could play Robotron 2084. 

As a young man, I spent a great deal of time and quarters attempting to master this classic video game. What initially attracted to me to it were the complex controls: not one, but TWO joysticks. One for each hand. People with one hand like the drummer from Def Leppard needn’t even bother with this game because it was only for fully functioning human beings. Nay, it was for super-functioning human beings because it required both hands to work independently. It’s like being a concert pianist times a million.

Robotron

                        (Eat me, Mozart)

The object of the game is to run around shooting robots (awesome), different robots (awesome), and giant-brained creatures that shoot lasers out of their heads (awesome to the point of pre-cum). Why? For the only reason that matters: to save humanity.

It is a great, great video game.

Did I ever conquer Robotron 2084? No I did not. In fact, I never even got competent at the game. There were simply too many robots, too many lasers, too many cybernetic things trying to kill me. At times, the game felt like an almost perfect metaphor for my life.

Eventually I put away a child’s things and took up the things of men.
Nevertheless, over the years whenever I passed Robotron at various pizzerias and roller rinks, I would pop a quarter in and blast away for the sake of nostalgia. But I had given up any hope of mastering Robotron. In fact, I had pretty much given up any kind of hope at all.

Until today.

While stumbling around the internet, I happened upon a website called Gametap, where you can play hundreds of free video games, including Robotron. Not a facsimile of Robotron, but the actual Robotron. Complete with high score board and oh-so-robotic sound effects. This may not seem like a big deal to all of you young people who take such things for granted, but I am old enough to remember how exciting it was when the Missile Command on the Atari 2600 looked kind of like the actual Missile Command in the arcade. So this is a no shit big deal for me. And when I discovered this website, and when I discovered Robotron, I knew what I had to do.

VRobotron__2084

     (Can't you sense the awesomeness?)

For the last sixteen hours I have done nothing but play Robotron, which probably exceeds my total time playing this video game up until this point in my life. At twenty five cents a game, I have more than paid for the computer on which I am playing. In other words, I am theoretically making money!

One problem is that you have to use the keyboard to play instead of the joysticks which definitely robs the experience of some of its awesomeness. But this is a niggling detail. The game experience itself is identical. And the passage of years has done nothing to diminish the game’s greatness. Unlike other relics of my youth, such as “Revenge of the Nerds Part II,” this one definitely holds up. And so it is now my job to make up for lost time, to finally master Robotron 2084. Will I play Robotron to the exclusion of online poker? I will. Will I play it to the exclusion of my familial responsibilities? Of course I will. I will play Robotron until Robotron himself begs me for mercy. Because I learned something about myself today: time may dim the candle of hope but it cannot extinguish it. Robotron, you shall be my bitch.


December 25, 2008

Did Santa Come???

There was some debate last night amongst my family about whether or not Santa would visit our home this year. The argument centered around what constituted “naughty” and “nice.” My two children had been both naughty and nice this year and it was difficult to figure out which side of the list they fell on. My son made the point, correctly, that he was considerably nicer than his sister, and speculated that it was possible that Santa might bring him presents but not her. I agreed with his assessment. My wife seemed to think that if he brought one child presents he would most likely bring the other one presents as well.

“Not so,” I said. I then explained that there was no familial clause in the “naughty/nice” contract; there is no “nice by association.” The equation is pretty binary. Either you deserve presents or you don’t. At this point my daughter was getting upset. “I don’t blame you,” I said. “I would be upset too if I’d acted like a total cunt all year long.”

(She didn’t know that word, but I think my intonation clued her in to its meaning.)

My son was gloating about the whole thing, which I explained to him was naughty behavior, and potentially enough to tip him over to the other side of the list. Because, although he was nice compared to his sister, he definitely fell short again in my eyes. Then I said it’s a good thing some kids kill people because Santa grades on a curve and those kids keep everybody else in the game.  

My wife thought I was taking this whole thing too far. I told her to fuck off.

(I should add that at this point in the evening I was pretty snookered on egg nog. It was only much later when we were in bed and I was making drunken passes at her that my wife informed me there was no alcohol in it.)

I said that what’s the point in me being nice all year long when my naughty kids end up getting presents just like I do? “Why be nice if there’s no reward in it?”

My wife told me being nice is a reward unto itself.

“THEN WHY DO WE HAVE FUCKING SANTA CLAUS?” I screamed. “I BUST MY ASS ALL YEAR DOING GOOD SHIT FOR ALL THE ORPHANS AND FOR YOU FUCKERS AND WHAT’S MY REWARD? A FUCKING SWEATER FROM BANANA REPUBLIC WHILE YOU GET A SHITLOAD OF TOYS!” I paused, then added an unnecessary “Fuck that.”

Both children burst into tears and my wife was now threatening to call the cops. (At some point during this last exchange I had grabbed a big wooden meat mallet, which I was waving around, although I never actually threatened anybody with it – in my mind, I was using it for emphasis.) I told her to go ahead and call the pigs but that I’m Jewish and I don’t eat pork. I wasn’t exactly sure what I meant by this but it seemed incredibly witty at the time. (Keep in mind I still thought I was drunk.) The fact that, as a Jew, I shouldn’t even be celebrating Christmas went unremarked upon by the other, Catholic members of my household.

Fortunately, all that mallet waving wore me out pretty good, and soon I was sitting on the kitchen floor sobbing. “I love you guys,” I wept, gathering my now catatonic children around me. “I’m sure Santa’s going to be great to you this year.” Then I gently rocked them to sleep while singing a song I made up about how one day Daddy will be gone and everybody will be happier.

This morning, the kids were up at the crack of dawn. They ran downstairs to see what Santa brought. Turns out I was right all along. He didn’t bring them shit. I did end up getting another shit sweater from Banana Republic, and he left my wife a basketful of coupons for the grocery store because if she’s going to be buy the fucking name brand Wheat Thins, she might as well get them at a discount.

 

December 19, 2008

Facebook, I Thank You and Would Love to Hereby Remove You From My “You Dirty Motherfucker” List Except for the Fact That I Can’t

After bitching about Facebook in my previous entry for arbitrarily disabling my account, I want to congratulate Mr. Zuckerberg and company for quickly restoring said account. All it took was a single email and the aforementioned blog posting, which has now spread across the internet like a particularly itchy case of pink eye.

Whether it was the email or the blog posting that got the job done, I do not know. What I do know is that Facebook has terrific customer service and deserves a pat on the back. Now I can go back to not being able to add more friends to my account because of your stupid fucking 5,000 friend limit.

Which begs the question: what the fuck is wrong with you, Facebook?

Do you have any idea how unpopular I was in high school? VERY UNPOPULAR!!! Now, for the first time in my life, people want to actually befriend me, and I am forced to ignore them. These are requests from people, good American people, who have taken the time to look me up on your site and ask for a simple gesture of affection. A lot of these people are dying. A lot of them are orphans. And quite a few are dying orphans with adorable puppies.

What am I supposed to say to these people? That Facebook won’t let me be your friend? Are you so rigid that you would have these puppy-loving orphans drop dead without ever knowing the golden love of a basic cable comedian?

Facebook, you’re better than that. Remember Friendster? They hated orphans and puppies, and look what happened to them. Don't be like Friendster. Rescind your stupid fucking friend rule. But don't do it for me, Facebook. Do it for the children.

Or if not for the children, then do it for me.

December 18, 2008

Hey Facebook, What the Fuck?

Over the past day or so, I have received many emails from alarmed friends and colleagues alerting me to the fact that my Facebook account has been disabled by an administrator. To which I say: what the fuck?

Picture 1

How am I supposed to maintain my vast terrorist network without this social networking site?

While it’s true that I never poke, nor poke back, I think I’ve been a loyal and true Facebook friend. I always accept friendship requests, right up to the bullshit 5,000 friend limit. Facebook, is it my fault that more than 5,000 people want to feel my love? No, it is not. It is the fault of my genetically superior brain and startling good looks. If you’re going to start discriminating against gorgeous geniuses, then I don’t even know what.

How am I supposed to receive invitations to events to which I have no interest in attending? How am I supposed to keep up with what various high school students I have never met are doing? How am I supposed to install and then uninstall various applications because they are annoying? Facebook, don’t you realize that these activities take up most of my waking hours?

I feel like I did that time in North Carolina when I got thrown out of the frat party for “acting weird.” Yes, I was acting weird but that was only to mask my own insecurities. It probably didn’t help that I was the only thirty seven year old man there, but regardless, Facebook are you punishing me for my insecurities? If so, you need to take a good, long look in the mirror because I suspect you are getting pretty insecure yourself. After all, my valuation hasn’t tumbled 75% in recent months.

Neither of us generate as much advertising revenue as we would like, but that’s not my fault. I didn’t create your shitty business model. All I did was write a scathing article about it in the Wall Street Journal, which I then reprinted and left under people’s windshields at the mall. Don’t kill the messenger, Facebook!

So now I have to contact you. Which I am confident is going to be neither easy nor pleasant. Contacting an internet company is only slightly easier than contacting an alien civilization. But I am going to try, Facebook, because I don’t want it to end like this for us. We’ve been through so much together. Like the time I played that game of Scramble. Or the time you tagged that photo of me. We can get through this. And we will. But until we do, go fuck yourself, you fucking worthless piece of shit.

December 15, 2008

Woe is Yo

The Stella Winter Tour ’08 officially concluded Saturday night in Los Angeles at the beautiful Orpheum Theater. An elegant venue for blatant stupidity. Yesterday I flew home, having flown from Boston to San Francisco two days before that. After having flown all over the country the week before. Tomorrow I have to fly back across the country to Vancouver for a couple days. Then home again. As much as I love sitting in an airplane seat for hours and hours at a time, this is a bit much even for me. Worse, I now hear that the only direct flight I can have tomorrow leaves at 7:00 am, necessitating a 4:30 pick-up from my house.

Obviously there are many actors out there who would like to have my problems, but I am, frankly, exhausted. You would think traveling from show to show wouldn’t be that big a deal. After all, you’re only “working” a couple hours a day, but for some reason this last Stella tour left us all completely wiped. I like to think it’s because we were giving everything we had to the audience, but I suspect it had more to do with the fact that we’re all getting old. There was a time, and that time was not that long ago, when touring was invigorating, exciting, and very sexy. Now the sexiest part of touring involves deciding what TCBY flavor to get at the truck stop. And no, “TCBY flavor” is not a euphemism for anything.

All in all, the Stella tour was a big success. We had great crowds everywhere we went, and it was heartening to see such enthusiasm for us even though we haven’t been on the air in three years. Even better, I don’t think Showalter lost his wallet a single time during this tour, which is a career highlight for him. Another highlight was saying hi to all the fans after each show; even if we appeared tired (which we were), we definitely appreciate the support and love. At least I do. David was indifferent.

So yeah, I’m off to Canada tomorrow. It probably would have made more sense to just stay in Los Angeles these last couple days, but I wanted to see my kids. Because I’m an awesome father and because they owed me some money.

December 11, 2008

New York Part II

I only have a few minutes to check in because we are leaving for Boston shortly. Last night we did our second show in New York at the beautifully named Nokia Theater. Paul Rudd again acted as David’s understudy which was extremely helpful because David had to pee in the middle of the show, so Paul came out and acted David’s part. Honestly, he makes a much better David than David. “Better” might not be the right word. He makes a more palatable David than David. Boy, people go nuts for Paul Rudd. All he has to do is walk out on stage and people start shrieking, panties become soiled, ladies start fainting. It kind of pissed me off. I mean, what are me and Showalter? Chopped liver? Just because somebody is a movie star and better-looking and more talented shouldn’t make that person more desirable than, say, me. One minute the audience was cheering and laughing for the Stella guys, the next minute they’ve completely turned on us for an actor who, I might add, is a full inch shorter than me!

Tonight we do our DVD recording in Boston, which should be great. Hopefully Paul won’t show up. Or, if he does, hopefully David won’t have to go pee in the middle of the show the way he did both nights in New York – at the same exact place in the show, which was weird. Tomorrow we go to the West Coast for a couple shows, and then home for the holidays, except for going to Vancouver, which is kind of like home, if your home is in Asia.

December 09, 2008

In New York

So I'm backstage at the Nokia Theater waiting for our Big Apple show to begin with special guest Paul Rudd playing David's understudy. It should be a good night, and it's terrific to be back on the East Coast, where the weather is more temperate and I can feel my feet. Yesterday was a day off, so I spent the day at home getting reacquainted with my children. They've both grown A LOT since I left on tour. My son is in high school now. My daughter is with child and out of school altogether. So that's upsetting, but at the same time, at least I know she's fertile.

Some friends from my little town are coming tonight, which has the potential to be awkward. It's never great when the parents of your children's friends watch you simulate fucking onstage. That's the kind of thing where they could easily go, "We're not sure we want our children at Mr. Black's house." And what could I say in response other than "I understand."

We do two nights here in New York, then off to Boston where we are going to record a Stella DVD, which will be available for sale sometime next year. So if you can't catch us live, you'll be able to see the show on DVD! Or if you did see the show and want to relive the wonderfulness of it, you can do that too! Or if you want to expose your friends to Stella, this would also be a way to do that. Or if you dont' want to buy it at all, you could also do that. Which would be terrible.

Question: how much McDonalds have I eaten since being on the road?
Answer: lots

Photo 138                      (David and Paul backstage before the show)

December 07, 2008

Fuck You, Midwest

Let me preface this post by saying that the people in the Midwest are kind, open-hearted, and lovely to be around. Traveling with Stella, I have met nothing but the best people here in the Midwest. That being said, I have been for four days, a total of ninety-six hours, and I have been freezing cold each of those hours. Since arriving in Minneapolis on Wednesday, my entire body has basically been numb from cold. It’s been awful. Today we drove in snow from Chicago to Ann Arbor, MI. Each time we stopped, the first word out of my mouth was, “Fuck!” because when the temperature is negative fifty thousand, that’s pretty much all you can say.

It’s really cold here. Uncomfortably cold. And windy. And slushy. And awful. Why do these people choose to live here? For the natural splendor? There is no natural splendor. There is only the cold.

Even as I write this, from under the covers of my bed in my five star room at the Holiday Inn, I am cold. My legs, which are specifically covered in hair to protect me from this exact situation, are cold. My feet, despite being swaddled in the finest socks available at The Gap, are cold and still feel wet even though I know they are not. They only feel that way to me because for ninety of the last ninety-six hours they have been wet, and I think they now cannot remember a time when they were not wet. It’s like when you lose a limb and still feel it. That’s called a phantom limb. I have phantom cold.

The people here take pride, of course, in the cold. They stand around outside in shirt sleeves and pretend they are not dying from hypothermia. Because to admit they are cold would be to admit that they have chosen to live in the worst fucking place on earth. It’s not like living in the Alps or something where you can make a legitimate case that it’s beautiful and there’s lots to do like bobsledding. Because it’s not beautiful and there’s no bobsledding. There’s nothing to do here at all. Which is probably why so many people have been coming to see us. I suspect a lot of those people aren’t even interested in seeing comedy, they just want to be somewhere where they know they are going to be a lot of other bodies gathered. Maybe they think if enough people huddle together and laugh, it will warm them up. Not that anybody admits they’re cold.

So fuck you, Midwest. Your people are terrific but your climate can burn in hell. Although the fires of hell would be a distinct improvement because at least they would be warm.



December 06, 2008

A Quick Check-In

I haven't been posting on my blog for the simple reason that I haven't felt like it. Touring is very tiring, and by the time we get to wherever we're going, I'm usually too beat to do much writing. The shows so far have been good. We've been making adjustments to the show pretty much every day, which I think continually improves it. Tonight we were in Chicago, a sold-out show in front of 1,400 people. A great crowd and what I thought was a very good show. Showalter and David were both very funny tonight. I was, as usual, just okay.  But what I lack in humor I make up for in smugness, so that kind of balances things out a little bit. My uncle came to the show, which was great. It's always a treat to see him, although because we were so busy beforehand I did not get to spend much time with him. Instead, he and his friend graciously schlepped into the Chicago night to bring us some dinner. Afterwards we were signing stuff and he slipped away before I had a chance to catch up. So that was too bad, although it's possible he hated the show and was just trying to get out so he wouldn't have to face me. Another old friend, Renee, was in the crowd. She was her usual lovely self and we chatted for a moment afterwards. And still another old friend, a girl I went to high school with eons ago, was there. So I caught up with her, and then by the time we were done with everything, it was late which barely gave me enough to rush back to my hotel room and play online poker until dawn.