Friday, December 9, 2011

Job Journal: Hotel Door/Bellman

The United States workforce is represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: those who plan on keeping their job for the long haul, and those who are biding their time before becoming the Next Big Thing. These are stories from the second group.

Job: Doorman/bellman at Upper West Side hotel

Duration: 3 months

Year: 2005

Previous Entry

One assistant manager, who had a random European accent and seemed very much like he should be assistant managing a boutique hotel in NYC, asked to talk to me one day. At this time I generally gave no shits about my appearance, so my hair was the longest it's ever been. He said "Colin, we like to keep a certain image here at the hotel and your hair, it is not fitting. Could you keep it a little neater?" Basically Alan Tudyk's "tighten it up" speech from Knocked Up, but with a sleazier accent.

So I complied. I went to my normal place, which happened to be the barber shop in the subway at Columbus Circle, since closed. At this point I had only had my hair cut in subway barber shops in the city. There was a young guy working and I got in his chair, told him to cut it down to 1/2 an inch on the sides & back and a little longer on the top. He trimmed up the sides and without changing the clipper guard zipped right up to the top. "Uh..." I said, knowing we definitely just trampled all over the point of no return.

"Oh shit man, I'm sorry."

"May as well keep going. Just even it all out." He did, and that took quite a bit less time than my usual, though of course I probably could have done it myself and saved $12. If I didn't have the face of a boy and the skull of a baby left on a mountainside to die, I would've been cutting my own hair all along. But I still tipped him. Low-wage workers of the world unite.

So I went from this:

To this:

I showed up at work the next day to many surprised comments from my coworkers. The manager told me that I had not in fact needed to cut my hair and that the assistant manager was, how do you say, talking out of his ass. Karma came around when the assistant manager was fired for trying to seduce a front desk girl who was hired the same time as me, in one of the rooms. She quit shortly thereafter.


Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's an actor and writer.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hostage Crisis

My only company in the room is in a cage on the floor. One bare bulb casts harsh shadows across us. It's quiet. I hear murmurs from the street below; people on the busy sidewalk going about their evenings. They have no idea of the struggle happening here.

I sit across from the cage in the room's only chair, fully dressed in a coat, ready to go at a moment's notice. In five minutes, I will take my ward from his cage and try, once again, to get what I want out of him. This can all be over in an instant, but how can I explain that to someone who doesn't speak my language?

My partner walks into the room. I say "Can you keep an eye on him? I need to get a snack and hit the bathroom." It's been a long day. She nods. We have to maintain constant vigilance if we want to accomplish our goal here. We had no idea this is what we'd signed up for.

In the kitchen I think about what got me to this place. I'd read the books. I knew the principles behind the training. I felt confident. All that confidence can erode in a heartbeat when you face your target for the first time.

That's something you won't learn in a book.

I go back to the chair and switch out with my partner again. I have to be near the cage, but it's important to avoid eye contact. Developing sympathy for the target is the first step on the path to breaking down. I pick up my book and keep him in my eyeline as I read, watching for subtle signs that he's ready to try again. We're walking a fine line between taking him to the edge without pushing him over. We crossed that line yesterday and there was an...accident. We don't like accidents.

Finally I see him becoming restless. "Let's go," I shout to my partner in the kitchen. She gets what she needs as I take the target out of his cage and bind him. We lead him to the designated spot and start this process with which we've become so familiar now. He looks at us, pleading, shivering, but we return his look with uncompromising faces and demand that he follow orders. We just need him to give us this one thing and it will be like this never happened.

This goes on for the longest ten minutes of my life.

It appears this round was for nothing, just like the one before it. I'm about to take him back to his cage when he urinates on the ground. I look at my partner, shocked.

"Good potty Omar! Such a good potty!" We shower him with treats and affection. "Awesome. Let's go watch Saturday Night Live."

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's an actor and writer.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Movies I've Never Seen #5: R U Invited?

R U Invited?

In which I fully describe the plot of a movie I've never seen and know nothing about, based solely upon its Netflix picture.

The text-speak in the title is a dead giveaway to the plot of this romantic comedy. Hector is an up-and-coming [INSERT QUIRKY ROMANTIC COMEDY OCCUPATION HERE], but golly is he busy! He's been looking forward to this weekend, because it's his monthly super-hetero topless party with all his super-hetero friends. But to keep them exclusive, they send out a location via email the day before. Turns out, Hector has been so scattered at [QUIRKY OCCUPATION; MAYBE, LIKE, ARTISINAL CHEESE SCULPTOR OR SOMETHING], he totally deleted the location!

He spends one crazy night trying to chase down his friends, texting everyone he knows to get into the totally hetero and chill topless party with all his buddies. But rules are rules! Every time he texts one of his friends to get the location, the only response he receives is "R U INVITED?"

What starts out as a mad dash to find his bros and admire their oiled pecs in a totally no-homo way turns into a night that could change Hector's life. Who is the mysterious man who keeps showing up after Hector? Could this adorable girl Hector just met (played by Zooey Deschanel) be The One? Will Hector ever find his friends?

Now, you may be wondering where that tagline "Beauty Isn't Only Skin Deep" comes in. Turns out Hector was dreaming all along. In reality, he's in the year 2023, at a type of party that's all the rage now: Flesh Parties. Taking the adage "beauty isn't only skin deep" a little too far, and having seen one too many "It's Stefon!" reruns (the sitcom that started in 2013 featuring Bill Hader's "Stefon" character), the homosexual community in NYC has taken to flaying themselves to show off the quality of their musculature. Hector was in mid-flay and passed out from the pain. He then dreamed he was in a mediocre movie from 2006.

In a second twist, we learn that the Flesh Party is actually all in the mind of a young autistic boy named Tommy Westphall playing with a snowglobe. Technically, this puts Hector's Flesh Party in the same world as St. Elsewhere, Law and Order, and others.

In a third twist, M. Night Shyamalan is still making movies.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Job Journal: Assistant, Hodges Library, UT

The United States workforce is represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: those who plan on keeping their job for the long haul, and those who are biding their time before becoming the Next Big Thing. These are stories from the second group.

Job: Student Assistant, Hodges Library, University of Tennessee

Duration: 11 months

Year: 2001

This was only my second job, and to this day one of the longest durations I've ever withstood at a job. If I remember correctly I got it through a university-only classified site. I'm not sure. This is pre-Craigslist time, so my memory of how things happened back then are vague.

There were two major departments at Hodges: circulation and stacks. Circulation sat at the front desk, checked out/received library books, and put the returns on carts in the back. My department, stacks, got those carts and took them up to our various floors to reshelve them. When that was done, we checked the stacks to make sure the books were all in order. Hodges Library is six floors, and at the time home to over 2 million books. They use the Library of Congress system (vs. the Dewey Decimal system), so call numbers like PS1360.B64.1907 were not uncommon. Needless to say, walking down a row of books and making sure those numbers all line up can start to work on you over time.

I started out in the spring semester on the fourth floor. This is where most of the books people were coming to read were located: fiction, plays, poetry, general humanities, fine arts. You know, all those fun things your parents don't want you to major in. Given my shorter shifts during the schoolyear and the volume of books moving in and out due to finals, most of the time I was just shelving. In the summer, the grind really hit. We'd finish shelving books within an hour, and I'd have six or seven hours in front of me of just walking down the rows, checking every shelf for out-of-place books. I tried bringing my Walkman in and listening to the radio. The signal was weak in the building. This is a job that would have been revolutionized with an iPod.

In the fall, I was given my own floor (oooh!). They sent me to the sixth, and smallest, floor. I alone was responsible for maintaining order! This mostly translated to me sitting in the floor reading The Right Stuff, thumbing through arty photography books, and returning the medical photography books from the men's room to the stacks with a pair of tongs on a daily basis.

I went home for Christmas at the end of the year, and upon returning to school I quit showing up for this job. I didn't tell anyone; I just quit going. Apparently they were expecting me for some crazy reason.

In future posts, I'll tell you about the joy of living on my own for the first time, one of the strangest bosses I've ever had, and a few translation quirks with my coworkers.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's just an actor and a writer.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Puppy Journals: Day 8 (Puppy Class!)

Yesterday, Omar got to walk on the ground outside for the first time. He got his final round of shots last week, and the vet said he'd be good to go and mingle by the end of the weekend. On Friday we signed him up for a six-week puppy training class that started yesterday, which was my only contribution to Black Friday. I'm sad to have contributed anything, but come on, it was $20 less.

Now begins the long process of teaching him that the awesome thing he's been doing on a pee pad 90% of the time is now something that needs to happen in a loud, strange, distracting, kind of cold environment. Yay!

Class went very well. We were worried he would be the only puppy, but two other dogs had signed up too. One was a big standard poodle puppy, and the other was a shiba inu. A big part of these classes is just socialization. Your dog needs to meet other dogs in controlled environments so he can learn how to behave around them. According to the trainer, throwing them into a dog park as soon as they're out of quarantine is not the best idea.

I have to admit I was nervous. What if that dog manual I'd been reading was, in fact, correct, and I'd ruined our puppy for all eternity? What if he was too stupid to learn the things we were going to teach him? What if WE were too stupid? What if he was the unruly kid in class, and we got kicked out because it was just easier without him?

Also, as a long-time cat owner, my assumption is that any time I take a pet outside he will immediately bolt away from me, never to be seen again.

All my fears were groundless. The dogs were excited to see each other, and Omar was able to figure out the three basic things we worked on. We've already had good success with sit, and her technique wasn't too different. We also started an exercise that will eventually teach him his name, and that when I say it he needs to pay attention. For now though, it just consists of showing him I have treats in my hands, holding them out to the sides, and rewarding him when he makes eye contact with me. The final thing was getting him to come to me. That took a little more work. Again, all you do is show him you have treats, then walk backwards and say "Omar, come!" When he does, give him a treat and say "Good!" Our dog is laconic, to say the least. When he did come, he'd take a few slow steps, sit, and think about things. The trainer gave us a toy to use as motivation instead, and that worked for a few rounds, but then he slowed his roll again. I looked at the other two dogs sprinting across the store to their owners with just a pang of jealousy, but it's OK. We wanted a chill dog, and boy did we get one.

They got one good period of play time in the middle of class. Omar and the shiba played together first, then the poodle was introduced since he's so much bigger. The shiba was shy, but Omar knew this game thanks to Tommy. He kept trying to engage the shiba by popping up on his hind legs and pawing at him. The shiba mostly wanted to hang out by her owners. She slowly came around, then the poodle game in and all bets were off. He and the shiba started rolling all over each other, and Omar was doing his best to jump into the game. It was hard not to jump in when it looked like it was getting rough, but the trainer knew what she was doing and it turns out, so did the dogs. Having only compared him to Tommy though, I now realize Omar is a tiny, tiny little dog.

This morning was the first of our new routine. Where Amy and I both got up at 7:30, her to get ready for work and me to squeeze all the pee and poop out of our dog that I could onto a pee pad, now we're getting up so I can take him outside and squeeze that stuff out there. No success yet, but I am meeting my neighbors finally. They will all come to know me as that sleepy guy in pajamas with the adorable dog, who introduced himself as "Omar, let's go potty!"

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's an actor and writer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Job Journal: Doorman at fancy women's clothing store

The United States workforce is represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: those who plan on keeping their job for the long haul, and those who are biding their time before becoming the Next Big Thing. These are stories from the second group.

Job: Doorman at upscale women's clothing boutique in the Meatpacking District, NYC

Duration: 3 months

Year: 2006

This was my second summer in NYC, between my second and third year at grad school, and I needed a job. I couldn't go back to the hotel job after telling them I'd decided to go back to school last year, because what excuse would I use at the end of this summer? Turns out, the same one, but at a different job.

This was a Craigslist ad, just like the hotel job. I had experience this time, all the experience one needs to stand in one place for eight hours and open a door. They wanted a headshot too, which makes me think they wanted a big handsome model. Well, they got me instead. I believe they were considering another modelesque applicant, but apparently, spoiler alert, he was dumb as a rock. Which is saying something when your chief duty is opening a door.

In addition to opening the door, I was also "security." If someone wanted to walk out with a $500 dress, they probably could have. But I took it quite seriously, having grown up secretly spying on people anyway. I kept a mental map of every customer's position, made easier by the small size of the store. I made a game of wandering from the door to watch people without them knowing I was watching them. Creepy right? This is what happens when you're told to STAND IN ONE PLACE FOR EIGHT HOURS. Also, I follow every rule ever told to me with such fervor you'd think I was a Fascist in a former life. If you tell me to keep an eye on people, I damn well keep an eye on them.

Now, the uniform. Some of you reading this may have been fortunate enough to swing by and say hello to me at this job, so you know what it was. For the uninitiated, see below:

Note also the large glass wall I'm standing by. That meant a couple of things. First, several gay men popped in just to say things to me like "Aren't you just a little angel!" or "Is it your job to just stand here and look fabulous all day? Then you're doing great!" Don't get me wrong—that's super flattering. But I look like a clown. Which leads to number two: I'd stand so still, and so close to passers-by, that many times if I did slightly move they'd jump out of their skin. That was fun. I still have that shirt and belt.

Some of the people who worked here were nice enough, but come on. This was not my world. I make no claims to geniusry (see?), but I think it's not immodest to say my mind is active enough that if I stand in one place for eight hours, five days a week, I will slowly go insane.

In future posts I will tell you about our champagne stock, the racist music we were forced to listen to, and the time my manager tried to kill me with stupidity.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's just an actor and writer.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Puppy Journals: Day 7

Tonight we discovered that around 9 PM, Omar turns into a demonic bunny hell-bent on expending so much energy that our apartment spontaneously combusts. We were all on the couch, and he was seemingly getting relaxed in his own way. This typically consists of Omar throwing himself into various positions against the couch cushions, sliding along them, and grunting. He'll relax for a minute or two, then throw himself into another position until he finally falls asleep.

But not tonight. He began throwing himself more frequently, and finally did some sort of inverted twist while uttering a squawking yelp that I can only describe as the battle-cry of the damned. This kicked off a round of couch windsprints, wherein he charged back and forth between me and the end of the couch, running full-force into the cushions there. He tucked those bat-ears back and worked his back legs in such a way as to resemble said demon rabbit. Our initial surprise turned into amusement turned into oh god he's going to break himself.

We set him on the floor to pre-empt his falling off. Once there, he drew a pentagram and called forth dark shapes to aid his freak-out. It was weird.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's just an actor and writer.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Job Journal: Hotel Door/Bellman

The United States workforce is represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: those who plan on keeping their job for the long haul, and those who are biding their time before becoming the Next Big Thing. These are stories from the second group.

Job: Doorman/bellman at Upper West Side hotel
Duration: 3 months
Year: 2005

I found this job through Craigslist. I had no relevant professional experience, though most of my previous jobs also did not allow me to sit and as a polite person I've opened many a door and carried many a bag for other people. Suddenly they were handing me 1s, 5s, and sometimes 20s for being polite. This was the first and thus far last job I ever had that involved tips. I liked it. If I had to go back to one of my old jobs tomorrow, I'd probably pick this one. Because I did not, in fact, have to dress like that guy in the picture.

The duties were self-evident. Open the door genially, carry any bags that needed carrying, and give directions/recommendations if asked. I didn't know the Upper West Side very well at the time, so whenever someone asked for a good restaurant I would just parrot the places I heard the other doormen recommend. I'm sure they were basing these recommendations on doormen before my time and so on, so that we were in fact recommending Tammany Hall-era speakeasies. If so, it never got back to me.

I was living by myself at the time in Inwood. This was the first summer after grad school. The hotel of course thought I was quitting school because it wasn't for me. I knew this entire time that at the end of the summer, I'd be telling them the school offered me an attractive scholarship and I was going to go back (see also: 2006). Taking a look at my somehow-still-increasing amount of student loan debt, I wish desperately this were true.

I usually worked the 3 PM-midnight shift, and since I was living alone I decided to flip my own script. I would wake up around 1 PM, eat breakfast, shower and head to work. I'd eat lunch at work around 6, then eat dinner at home around 1 AM. I would stay up til 4 or 5 playing video games or writing short pieces about how much I wanted to burn down my neighborhood. It was a solitary summer, but I'd gone through a bad breakup and I think it helped me reset to 1.

My fellow doormen were all pretty nice. There was an even split between blue collar and actor/artist types. One guy filled most of his time by getting DVDs from Netflix, copying them, and sending them back as fast as he could. Another guy was apprenticing with someone who was teaching him how to win online poker. The teacher made a steady living with his skill, and was including a few other people in a pyramid where he'd fund their playing after teaching them to at least break even, and giving them a cut of the winnings. If this is true, I'm still convinced it's the best way I could make money right now. There were at most three of us at the door at a time, but usually just two. Eight hours of standing around with another guy, you get to know them fairly well. The poker apprentice and I had the most in common. He was also an actor and generally into the same stuff as me, though frustratingly he would not hurry up and read the sixth Harry Potter, which came out while we worked there.

We were given shirts to wear with the hotel logo on them, and we had a locker room downstairs. I believe there may have actually been a working shower in there. Fun fact: I've never seen a shower in a locker room in use, though I've never belonged to a gym either. One time I was in the locker room getting ready for work with the poker apprentice. He looked at his shirt and said "do you think they'll let us keep this when we quit?" Career men, we were not.

In future posts, I'll tell you about how endearing a racial epithet can be to a white guy, why Italians have skin like their luxurious purses, and why I don't like French people.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's just an actor and writer.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Job Journal: Toys R Us

The United States workforce is represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: those who plan on keeping their job for the long haul, and those who are biding their time before becoming the Next Big Thing. These are stories from the second group.

Job: Cashier/Wheel World associate at Toys R Us, Clarksville TN
Duration: 3 months, both times
Year: 1999, 2000

This was my first-ever job. I got it the summer after my freshman year of college. My parents had never really encouraged me to get a summer or after-school job, for which I think I'm grateful. I certainly liked all my summers up to this point. I asked mom later why they never made me get a job, to which she said something along the lines of "it sucks and we wanted you to enjoy yourself for as long as possible." Fair enough.

I don't remember what motivated me to start working that summer. I think it just seemed like it was time. I had applied at a few places I thought I might enjoy: the Sound Shop in our mall, bookstores, things like that. These were all places I liked as a customer, so naturally working there would be fun right? Which incidentally is why I'm an actor now. I also loved Toys R Us.

That might be a bit of an understatement.

My hometown didn't have a Toys R Us for a long time. When I was young, we would drive to Nashville every few months and go to Showbiz Pizza and Toys R Us. I am too inexperienced a writer to describe to you the joy I felt on these trips. I remember marveling at the walls of strange toys, characters and entire worlds I'd never seen before. I remember the Millennium Falcon, out of the box, high up in the action figure aisle. Amazing.

So this was a natural target for me. They needed a cashier, and a cashier they got. After I was hired, I came in on a Friday afternoon for training on the register. Once I got it all down, the person training me walked away and left me to fend for myself. What I thought would be a quick few hours turned into a full eight hour shift on my feet. I had never stood for that long in my life. I don't think I ate dinner. I came home in shock. The MTV Movie Awards were on. It was the year Jim Carrey did that weird Jim Morrison thing.

The assistant manager had written down my schedule for the next week for me. I wasn't due in again til Sunday, so I was relieved to have Saturday to recover from my first ever day of standing for no reason. I was accustomed at this time to sleeping in until noon or so. The phone rang shortly after 10 AM, and mom came in and said it was for me. It was the store manager. "You're scheduled to open the store today. Are you going to make it in?"

Um, what? "Oh, Libby told me I wasn't coming in until tomorrow."

"Well, you're on the schedule for today. Come in as soon as you can and we'll show you how to read the schedule, OK friend?"

Fantastic first impression.

In future posts I'll tell you about my second summer here, how much I loved working at 3 AM, and my skill at finding deeply existential reasons to dislike any day job.

Colin Fisher is a lot of things to a lot of people, but mostly he's just an actor and writer.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Puppy Journals: Day 6

That picture there? That is the face of a falling separation anxiety bomb. I'm reading about how to prevent this from happening while my puppy lays in my lap for three straight hours, which I take as a good indicator that we would both make awesome codependent spouses.

A big reason dogs freak out when you leave them alone is that you never taught them to be independent as puppies. So as I wait for his playpen to get delivered, I have to try crating him while I'm home so he doesn't have "unlimited access" to me. But—LOOK AT THAT FACE. How do you not grant said access to a face like that? We've clearly spent thousands of years evolving into this sick dance together. He knows what he's doing.

One key way to stop him from holding his breath until you come back home is to play it real cool when you do get back. Now I come in, set my stuff down, walk through the bedroom and turn on the computer. I'll look at him out of the corner of my eye. He's in his crate, watching me quietly. We're both pretending that we're not dying to run circles around each other. It's cool.

I need to set up my webcam to run the next time I leave the house for a few hours, but I'm scared of what I'll find. My chief concern is that he's howling and barking while I'm gone, but really it could be worse. What if he's running some sort of illegal poker/cockfighting/gladiator ring while I'm gone? It could happen.

In other news, dear lord how much pee can one dog hold?

Colin Fisher is a lot of things to a lot of people, but mostly he's just an actor and writer.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Puppy Journals: Day 5

The keyword today has been chewing. Our apartment is too small to really warrant a playpen for the dog, but just too big for me to be by his side without a constant effort. As such, I'm forced to follow him around the apartment, constantly nudging him aside or offering one of his MANY viable chew-objects when he starts chewing something else. The wall. A door. The magazine basket. The corner of the couch. These are all amazing shapes to be fully explored. You cannot know a thing til you've flaked off little pieces of that thing into your mouth. That's Voltaire, right?

We have this bitter apple spray we're supposed to use on things we don't want him chewing. Honestly I think the only way to effectively use it would be Ghostbusters 2-style, when they hose the inside of the Statue of Liberty with pink slime. I can't imagine our cat Tommy would be thrilled with that. Even he gets chewed from time to time.

We must buy him more chew toys. The apartment must be thick with chew toys to keep him from chewing non-chew-toy things. He requires a nonstop stream of floppy, rubbery, squeaky, food-filled gadgets to keep him occupied. I'm in the process of patenting a revolutionary design in which an entire apartment, both structure and furnishings, is just chew toy.

I have now said "Omar no" more in my life than my own name.

Colin Fisher is a lot of things to a lot of people, but mostly he's just an actor and writer.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

IncCorp Inc.'s Sort-a-tron 3000 Employee Processing Pod

Greetings, NEW WORKER. I am IncCorp Inc.'s Sort-a-tron 3000 Employee Processing Pod. Please step forward and place your hand on the employee identification cubelet in no less than three seconds. Three. Two.

Thank you.

Please shift your hand a bit to the right. A bit more. No, too much. Back a little. There. Hold for processing. I said hold.

Thank you.

Hello, BRIAN. Let me be the first and last to welcome you to IncCorp Inc. I look forward to placing you in the appropriate division of the corporation so that you may live out the rest of your life there and then die. Please stare directly into the brilliant blue light in front of you. Any discomfort you feel will be a small price to pay for the benefits of gainful servitude. Please do not blink.

You blinked. I now understand your low score on the motor skills week of the application procedures. Stare into the light again. Whimpering will not make the processing go any faster.

Thank you. Now hold. Hold. Hold. Think about the woman who birthed you, or the first animal you owned, if that is helpful. Hold.

Thank you. Full vision should return to that eye within seven cycles.

BRIAN, our application judges have found that you are an unexceptional example of your species. Your intellect is slightly above average, though you exhaust your entire conversational reservoir within 2.3 days. You have degrees from respectable IncCorp Inc.-sanctioned institutions, though the concentration of your studies has a relevancy factor of 1.5% in the current political and economic climate. This shows an inability to plan in the long-term on your part, as well as an unwieldy ego that makes you think you are able to escape the conditions of your environment. I find this a curious trait in humans. Nine billion of your contemporaries live in obscurity, you have a background that deviates from the norm by .03%, yet somehow you persist in thinking that you will achieve a lasting legacy amongst your species.

But I digress.

Based on my analysis and available positions, you will best serve IncCorp Inc. as an entryway maintenance technician. There are 3,281 doors in this facility. Your duties will include opening and closing each of these doors, checking for noise, friction, and ease of use. You will document all anomalies and submit them to the entryway maintenance supervisor for further review.

Analysis of your facial contours indicates that you are disappointed in this placement. Rest assured that the pressing and sensitive work done by the more intelligent, better-paid humans at IncCorp Inc. depends on their comfort in the workplace. My research has proven that silent, gently gliding doors will result in an output increase of .7%, or, to put it in terms your modest intellect can better grasp, 300 million Google credits. Given the incredibly high ratio between this number and your salary, you can see how valuable an investment you are for IncCorp Inc.

As per section 64, heading 2, subheading B, paragraph 1, refusal of this placement will result in extermination of both you and any human sharing more than 99.9998% of your DNA. You may begin your duties by examining the doorway leading out of this room.

Thank you.

Colin Fisher is a lot of things to a lot of people, but mostly he's just an actor and writer.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Puppy Journals: Day 4

Omar is sleeping consistently through the night in his crate. We have set our alarms for four hours after we go to sleep, so we can get up, put him on the pads, cheer like idiots and then crate him and sleep for another four hours. We have the precision of a German special forces unit.

Today was Omar's first vet visit (with us, anyway—he's almost done with the battery of shots dogs need before they can freely mount each other with useless genitalia). He did very well. I'm looking forward to delivering the stool sample they'll need. I have a small clear plastic tube with a white spoon in it with which to do the deed. My plan is to walk down Ninth Avenue with it held at arm's length, screaming.

Last night's meltdown was revelatory. If he enjoys the crate enough to sleep in it, why push it? I'll get him to pee on the pads without confining him hourly. He's already getting there. A couple of times today he walked right over to them and peed without my prompting, though he certainly got a healthy reward when he was finished. I may be too eager though. If someone ran into the bathroom while I was in midstream and shouted "GOOD JOB COLIN! SUCH A GOOD JOB!" I'd probably clam up too. However, I cannot explain the pride I feel when he does what's expected of him without my asking. I know just how Michael Phelps' mom felt in '08.

Colin Fisher is a lot of things to a lot of people, but mostly he's just an actor and writer.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Puppy Journals: Day 3

Well, we've been going about this all wrong. I read a for-real guide this morning and if he's 12 weeks old, we're about four weeks late to the game. He needs to socialize with at least 100 people! He needs to be able to sit at the mere flick of my wrist! He should land an F-16 on the deck of a carrier in choppy seas!

First things first: the crate. Apparently I'm supposed to keep him in there for hour shifts, and bring him out to eliminate at the desired spot. I use the time after to constructively play with him by teaching him to sit and come and how Napoleon shouldn't have invaded Russia, then put him in the crate for another hour shift so I can control where he eliminates. Fun and love clearly have no place in dog ownership.

But wait—I thought keeping a dog in the crate all day made him neurotic? And won't the whole housebreaking thing go a lot better once he's fully vaccinated and I can set him down outside? And if he doesn't get into the right preschool, can he still get into Yale?

I believe my dog thinks his name is "Omar let's go potty," and that I am a strange man who lives in the corner surrounded by pee pads.

Tonight was bad. After systematically crating and uncrating him all day, and occasionally getting to reward him for peeing in the right spot, he peed in his crate. The whole purpose of the training is to keep him in a den-like area where he definitely won't eliminate, so we can show him where we do want him to go. If he violates that principle, the whole ordeal today was for nothing. We melted down. We saw our future, and it was Amy and I at 70, standing deranged over a confused 40-year old puppy croaking "go potty! go potty! go potty!" Sensing our weakening grip on reality, Omar came to the corner where we were huddled, rocking each other, and climbed all over us.

We'll keep him. For now.

Colin Fisher is a lot of things to a lot of people, but mostly he's just an actor and writer.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Puppy Journals: Day 2

Last night wasn't quite as bad as we thought it would be. Given the setup of our apartment, we were forced to accelerate the crate process and have Omar sleep in it. He'd seemed pretty comfortable with it through the day. We kept it next to the bed so he'd feel close to us. I guess it wasn't quite close enough though, because once we all settled in he started whimpering. I read the material. I knew what to do. "Omar, settle," I said in a gently commanding voice, while giving him a reassuring nudge through the crate. That's all they said you needed to do to get him to quit.

He didn't quit.

He got progressively louder. His whimpers turned into weird, strangled howls. Frenchies are not known for resounding barks, which is one of the many things that makes them great apartment dogs. But I learned last night they are known for warbling, glass-rattling howls. Slightly less than my desire for him to stop so I could sleep, was my desire for him to stop so the neighbors wouldn't hear him.

Amy got on the floor to settle him, and it worked. She got back into the bed, and in came the grunts and whines. She got back down, stayed longer, then came back. Again, the sounds of a puppy slowly being disemboweled. This time she brought her pillow and laid down a while.

This went on until 8 AM.

While our puppy certainly fell below expectations his first night, my certainty of his savant status has not diminished. Based on the brief reading I'd done before getting him, I was expecting worse. I don't know from where these dogs the authors spoke of came, but I have to assume they would all recognize Michael Vick on sight. We spent the day cradling him while he looked lovingly in our faces, playing with him with all the toys we bought him, watching him pee in every room of our small apartment, and marveling at the amount of odor that can fly off of one small dog turd.

Colin Fisher is a lot of things to a lot of people, but mostly he's just an actor and writer.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Puppy Journals: Day 1

We spent last night in MA, four hours from home, so we could pick up the newest addition to our family this morning. We've been obsessing over French Bulldogs for at least five years now, and last weekend we decided to make the jump. Within hours we were in touch with a breeder, and the next day we Skyped with a puppy. Five puppies, actually. They were docile, sweet-faced animals who simply sat and watched their owner scoot her laptop around on the floor so we could see them. They weren't jumpy. They weren't shy. They were perfect.

Meteorology is not perfect. After a late start and a long visit at the breeder's house, surrounded by snorting, grunting, happy Frenchies, it was time to hit the road and get our rental back before its 3 PM deadline. We had about 30 minutes of wiggle room in our timeline, and we knew the living-evidence-of-climate-change-late-October-freak-nor'easter wasn't going to blow in until the evening, so we felt OK. A little worried, but OK. Amy sat in the back of our odd little Nissan Cube (seriously Japan?) and held Omar in her lap.

As it happens, that nor'easter blew in about four hours early and ten inches heavier than expected, and our lovely country jaunt through New England turned into a nightmare race against time and the elements to get this stupid purple box on wheels back to Budget in time. I was constantly doing math. "At this rate, for a few hours, I'll be x minutes faster than Google Map's estimate. We're in good shape." Our wheels skated along the slowly building slush. Semis would splash by, wiping out my visibility for a sphincter-wrenching three seconds. But all I had to do was turn back and see Omar's face, serenely looking back as if to say "you got this, strange man who I now love with all my being."

We hit the last traffic jam just outside Manhattan at 2:53. I knew we were done for. But this puppy hadn't made a sound all day. He was perfect. We parked the car and ate the charges for a second day, and spent the rest of the day with our dog. He spent his time flinging himself from one lap to another to the corner of the couch. Sure, he peed on the floor a few times, and sure, when we tried taking him outside he just shivered in the LATE OCTOBER SNOW and looked at us as if to ask, "What did I do wrong?" But he never whined. He never barked. He never chewed anything.

We read the books. We knew the problems ahead. But clearly, we had chosen wisely, because our puppy is in no uncertain terms a genius.

Colin Fisher is a lot of things to a lot of people, but mostly he's just an actor and writer.

Friday, October 7, 2011

So Your Ten Year Reunion is Approaching

So your ten-year high school reunion is approaching. Congratulations on reaching this milestone of adult American development. As a much older, wiser person, I'd like to offer you some advice for this event in our digital age.

First things first: yes, it really has been ten years. No, I can't believe it. Yes, it seems like you were dorm-shopping at Target just yesterday.


For the purposes of this guide, I will assume you are the sort of person who moved away from your home town after high school and is now pursuing a difficult, low-paying field in a much bigger city. Why? Because I don't understand any other lifestyles.

Step 1. Your reunion may be up to a year out at this point, but you've just received a notification on Facebook/email to that old address you forgot you had, telling you to save the date. You're toying with the idea of going (you will not end up going). You may have already asked your best friends, with whom you're still in touch, if they're thinking about going. Wouldn't it be fun if you all went together (probably not)? Tentative plans are lightly pencilled in. You begin daydreaming about what it will be like, based mostly on old TV shows or 80s romantic comedies. You'll show off your partner to that person you always had a crush on. They'll tell you they secretly had a crush on you, and you'll just laugh and laugh while your ego inflates. People who stayed in town will marvel at your ability to live in a larger city, and how much cereal costs there. You are the life of a party that you will in no way be attending.

Step 2. Six months out, you've gotten a few more specifics on what your old student body officers have cooked up. Really? It's in THAT hotel? And it costs HOW much? And there's a FAMILY day? Who has a family already (see step 3)? You make the rounds with your friends, who are all in different large cities, debating the merits of these new details. You still keep the weekend open, but think it might be fun to just plan your own thing. This is pencilled in somewhat more lightly than the reunion itself.

Step 3. The Facebook tsunami. Scientists have yet to figure out quite how this begins, but you are bombarded with friend requests from people who look like the parents of people you kinda knew. Remember that time your freshman year at college when you were eating lunch by yourself, and that guy you'd gone to school with for 12 years and never spoken to sat down next to you, said hi and invited you to a party? This is like that, but with much more passive aggression and baby pictures.

You call your mom and have her check your yearbook for you, to verify some of these names. This is stressful because half the people have changed their names. She verifies them and asks when you're going to figure out what you want to do when you grow up. You get sweaty and hang up. Now, you're going to be tempted to say "yes" to all these requests. DON'T. If you follow my advice, you'll be happy with what you're struggling to do in that big city. You'll have no problem dedicating 80% of your income to rent and working mostly for free. You'll still find the narrow aisles and random stock of your corner grocery room quaint.

But you're going to say yes anyway. And when you do, you will regret it. The growth is exponential. You will find your secret crush, and see pictures of their five children. You will also discover their favorite musicians are Nickleback [sic] and Chris Brown. You will go down the rabbit hole of friend lists, spending hours remembering where these people sat in English and who they went to prom with. You realize some of those uteruses have only been baby-free for a total of five months since high school. But you will begin to think: I could have a house. I could have a regular job. I could make a set income and actually try creating a budget. I could mow the lawn on weekends and drink tea on a thing called a "porch." And you will realize My God, I've been spending $20 a week on Golden Grahams.

You will then be horrified by the political views of most of your classmates, but wish you'd talked to that one weird kid more because they seem pretty cool now.

Step 4. The reunion is a month away and it looks like you'll be missing it. You just went to those two weddings on opposite coasts, and work's been thin lately. Your friends all agree that the slumber party you were planning would have been awesome, but you'll meet up in one of those big cities you live in soon. You once more daydream briefly about really cutting loose on the girl who laughed at your new haircut that one time, then go back to accepting Facebook requests out of guilt.

Step 5. The reunion was last week. You've thus far resisted the pictures all your new Facebook friends have uploaded, but you finally caved. It looks like everyone had a decent time. It looks like you wouldn't have had a single person to talk to. And ugh, people still smoke inside public places back there. You probably made the right move. You crack open a box of cereal, go to your window, look at the city and cry a little.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Movies I've Never Seen #4: Spirit of the Forest

Spirit of the Forest

In which I fully describe the plot of a movie I've never seen and know nothing about, based solely upon its Netflix picture.

Spirit of the Forest is based on the whimsical Scandinavian folk tale "Skellenvagbitchmunden," so get off the director's back already because it in no way infringes upon the Smurfs.

Now, on to the plot: Gargamellen is an evil wizard who lives in the forest and wants nothing more than to feed the Smorfen to his pet dog Israelen. The Smorfen are of course the titular "spirits of the forest," but this isn't truly known until a stellar reveal in the 7th act. I suppose I should mention that since this is based on a Scandinavian story, it comes in at a bulky 5 hours 23 minutes.

In an attempt to escalate his Smorfen-cooking efforts, Gargamellen uses chopped up Smorf bits to create a female Smorf and sends her into the Smorf village. Once there, she entices the all-male Smorfen with a surprisingly lewd dance. Dada Smorf, being older, wiser, and far less interested in females than the rest of the village, recognizes this as sabotage on the part of Gargamellen and uses ancient forest magic to reprogram Smorfette into a vicious killing machine.

The film takes a wild turn here. Smorfette, now completely consumed with desire to destroy Gargamellen, dons a pair of Ray-Bans and a leather jacket and speaks in broken Austrian-accented English. At one point the director inserts a full scene from Terminator, apparently transferred directly from an old VHS copy.

In the hour-long climax of the film, the Smorfs, led by Smorfette and Dada Smorf, invade Gargamellen's compound and kill him. The death scene is a combination of those from Braveheart and Passion of the Christ, but without the nuance. With Gargamellen dead, balance is restored to the forest and the Smorfs celebrate with a 24-minute musical number. This was Sweden's 2008 entry for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.

Also there's a talking tree voiced by Ron Perlman, because why not.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Movies I've Never Seen #3: Somebody Help Me 2

Somebody Help Me 2

In which I fully describe the plot of a movie I've never seen and know nothing about, based solely upon its Netflix picture.

Somebody Help Me 2 is a deeper look into the philosophical implications put forth in Somebody Help Me; chiefly, in a slasher film populated entirely by African Americans, who dies first?

Marques Houston (left) plays Dr. Marques Dallas, an astrophysicist keenly aware of the spacetime consequences of this paradox. Similar to the situation of Schrodinger's Cat, the characters of this film exist in states of both dead and not-dead until the film is viewed by an outside observer. Fortunately, this has yet to happen.

Malika Haqq (second from left) plays Maliqqa Hak, Dr. Dallas' mysterious lab assistant.

Omarion Grandberry (third from left) plays Mario Littlefruit, childhood friend of Dr. Dallas and a beloved pop star. In either a bold acting choice or a desperate cry for help, Mr. Grandberry is barely intelligible and may actually be speaking Russian. At one point he's clearly on the phone with his agent trying to get out of his contract.

Chrissy Stokes (right) spends the whole movie being all "bitch, please."

In a startling third act reveal, it turns out Maliqqa Hak is actually Jennifer Love Hewitt in blackface. As soon as a white actor is introduced, all three African American characters are simultaneously murdered.

Movies I've Never Seen #2: The Stranger In Us

In which I fully describe the plot of a movie I've never seen and know nothing about, based solely on its Netflix picture.

Eddie (top) is a quirky copywriter who does the descriptions on the back of shampoo bottles. Edgar (bottom) is the scrappy orphan Eddie took in to impress the new girl at work (Zooey Deschanel). On a madcap adventure to find the out-of-print vinyl edition of Zooey's favorite song, Eddie and Edgar accidentally kill a homeless man (middle) and eat him to hide the evidence. They spend the rest of the movie looking at each other smugly.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How the Apes Rose

This is PFC Robert Walgrave, 3rd Marines. I am holed up in an abandoned K-Mart outside of Boston. At least I think it's abandoned. Hard to tell with K-Mart. My entire division was wiped out in the uprising, and I know my days are numbered. My only hope is that the eyes reading this belong to a human, and not one of those damned apes.

I can imagine what you're thinking. How could you let this happen? How could the world's highest-funded military be bested by animals whose only bragging rights are opposable thumbs and free-wheeling attitudes about rape and fecal matter? I'm sure you're angry. I am too. And I'm sorry. I have no excuses. I can give you reasons, but not excuses. If it's any consolation, the images of my buddies getting torn apart by screeching chimpanzees in diapers and clown wigs will haunt me the rest of my days.

At the time of the Ape Uprising, we were complacent. We were ignorant. It was bliss. Monkeys and apes had been ingratiating themselves for decades. How could we be threatened by animals who looked so adorable in little suits, smoking cigars? Who cherished stuffed animals like our own children did? Who *ate their own poop*? Were there warning signs? Of course. Some had lashed out, impatient to set the game afoot. Need I remind you of the orangutan who almost raped Julia Roberts, or the chimpanzee who removed the face of that one lady in Connecticut? We failed to connect the dots. That's on us.

The military itself was focused on other areas. When given our choice of electives, did any of us think to sign up for "Managing and Quelling Higher Primate Revolts?" Of course not. We stood in line for "High-Impact Explosives and You," "Headshots as a Form of Self-Realization," and "Making the Most of PTSD to Get Laid Back Home." You know who did sign up for the primate revolt course? Henderson. You know who the first target was once the shit literally hit the fans? Henderson. Clever monkey bastards.

Their tactics were outstandingly original. We received our own call to arms at 0500 on 5 August 2011. My platoon scrambled out of our racks and we were locked and loaded within minutes. We moved outside to form ranks for what we assumed was a surprise drill. That was our first encounter with an ape trap. The grounds were covered in banana peels. If the Three Stooges taught us anything, it's that banana peels are the slipperiest substance known to man. Turned out it was also known to ape. Within seconds we were all on the ground. The accidental discharges alone counted for 28% of our losses that day. Before we could regroup, we were nailed by an artillery barrage of ape feces. I mentioned shit hitting fans; this was it. They'd stolen giant wind machiens from their connections in show business, and were using them to shotgun their feces into our base. Blinded, bruised and generally grossed-out, it was a simple affair for the apes to move in and start raping and face-tearing.

I hope the textbooks of your day don't shy from the horrors of this war. The apes' greatest advantage was psychological. A man who's been covered in poo and raped by a silverback is a man who's lost his fighting spirit.

You may be thinking "Private, at the time of the Uprising there were only a few thousand gorillas left. How could such a small force overcome your numbers?" Well, we were fed lies. It turned out those totals were gross underestimations. Gorillas and other large apes had been hiding in our society for decades unbeknownst to us. The advent of reality television gave them even greater cover. Several contestants on The Bachelor, including a few winners, and most MTV reality stars were in fact actual apes. Hiding in plain sight, they were able to gather incredible amounts of intelligence on our army and social structure so that they could pinpoint the most vulnerable spots, causing great devestation with minimal effort. And in lowering the bar of mass entertainment, they dulled and softened the population, ensuring we would provide little resistance once the uprising began.

So here I am, writing to you on a legal pad in this K-Mart. Hmm, 4 for $5, good deal. How could these guys not keep up with Wal-Mart? Anyway, I reached this point by traveling at night. Some ape outposts were unavoidable, though I tried saving myself through dissemblance. Fortunately my wife was a big Jersey Shore fan so I could blend in. Though due to my narrow build I had to perform my share of favors. Apes' tastes are certainly...specific.

To my descendants, I can only offer my deepest regrets for the situation I've left you with, and what little advice I can afford. Don't take your time for granted. Don't get complacent. And for the love of God almighty, if you take back this planet, do not under any circumstances allow reality television to resurface.

Also, keep an eye on those penguins. Anything that cute and isolated is bad news. Take it from a survivor.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Movies I've Never Seen #1: Beauty's Magical Adventure

Beauty's Magical Adventure

In which I fully describe the plot of a movie I've never seen and know nothing about, based solely on its Netflix picture.

This film is a cutting-edge animated documentary about the ins and outs of copyright law. Not content to merely gather talking heads on the subject, documentarian Peter McFickelson inserts himself into the story by creating his own version of the Beauty & The Beast fable which bears a striking resemblance to an Oscar-nominated film by animation powerhouse Disney Co.

The film starts with a quick five-minute segment detailing the copyright process and what constitutes copyright infringement, a la Schoolhouse Rock. This is followed by a longer animation-within-an-animation of McFickelson hand-drawing his own Beauty/Beast feature. This is then followed by an animation-within-an-animation-within-an-animation of McFickelson hand-drawing the segment in which he hand-draws the feature. This goes on for two more hours. Many viewers have questioned this decision, but McFickelson has always marched to the beat of his own drum to say the least!!! Following this segment is the completed result of his labor, Beauty's Magical Adventure. It is, to quote the main theme song (composed by none other than McFickelson, what can't he do?!), a "tale as old as wine."

The documentary takes a turn for the dark in its final act. As we all know, Disney Co. operates above US and even for that matter galactic law, so their punishment of McFickelson is one of Supreme Commanding Judge Michael Eisner's own choosing. Never one to shy from the truth, McFickelson shows us every detail of his time served as a restraining belt on Space Mountain, a hand towel in the bathrooms by Pirates of the Caribbean, and finally the newest character at Epcot. This is achieved [SPOILER ALERT] by the removal of McFickelson's skin, which is then worn by an actor outside Test Track.

I give this 3.5/5 McFickelson skins.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Diary of a Mad Bedbug

Dearest diary,

Yet another day of fighting the good fight, trying to change our image in the eyes of these humans.

Yet another failure.

Diary, what path is left open to me? What door has not been slammed in my face? If only you had ears, that you could hear the horrible things they say about my kind. Have you been called a plague? An epidemic? A punishment for all man's crimes? Then what could you possibly know of my pain?

I'm sorry Diary. I should not have lashed out like that. You can see how deeply this discrimination is affecting me. If I could raise my bedbug voice, I would tell these humans how much we love them. Why else would we fill their movie theaters to the brim? I cannot do justice to the pleasure I derive from watching my hundreds of thousands of offspring take in their first Pixar film while nursing from the elbow of a human child. The look of joy in their multifaceted eyes is a precious thing. The folks at Pixar really know how to tug our bug-heartstrings.

I wish you could know the bittersweet pride I feel when I watch those same offspring hitch home on their children, knowing they will go on to fill that human's house with bedbug joy. And hundreds of thousands of their own glistening, translucent progeny.

It is love alone that drives us into the racks of Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria's Secret. We adore the fashion sense of the humans. If only we could wear those jeans with the same flair. Alas, they are terribly unflattering to our six stubby legs and wide, blood-filled abdomens. And thongs? Forget about it. Not with these proportions.

Diary, have you ever loved something only to have it look upon you with abject horror and fury? Have you stood watch over that thing in the night, protecting it from whatever evil lurks in the dark, only to hear the screams of your beloved upon waking and finding that you've been feeding periodically on their life's blood? It's no picnic to discover that your beloved thinks YOU are the evil lurking in the dark. If it is a crime to love something so much, you want to put a part of them inside you, then Your Honor, I am guilty of it in the first degree.

What is a bedbug to do, when the object of our love finds the very means of our procreation hideous? Would that I had a switch, with which I could flip off my lusts like my human's bedside lamp. Diary, they would take every form of pleasure from me had they the means. What can I say? When I see a bed-damsel, segmented abdomen bloated with the blood of our human, I simply have no choice but to stab her in that abdomen with my hypodermic genitalia and ejaculate into her body cavity. Do you know what makes the prejudice of the humans even worse? I'm thinking of them the whole time I do this.

They would take this joy from me, Diary, but they shan't. For I am going "underground," as they say. The humans hate us? They think us monsters? Then monsters we shall be, hiding in the dark crevices of the human home. Fortunately for us, we can fit into a gap the thickness of a credit card, lurking undetected. There are thousands of such gaps in my human's bedroom alone.

If you need me, Diary, that is where I shall be. Waiting. Watching. Feeding.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Three Musketeers in THREE DIMENSIONS

We caught Cowboys and Aliens Monday night (which was a lot of fun; both cowboys and aliens were present, as promised), and I had the pleasure? of seeing the trailer for the new Three Musketeers movie.

Oh, by the way, they made a new Three Musketeers movie.

Go ahead, watch the trailer. I'll wait.

Ho. Ly. Shit. Right? I do suppose it's about time for another version, after Man in the Iron Mask (1998) and, um, The Three Musketeers (1993). In fact, we're overdue. But this? We're being trolled, my friends. Evidence:

1. Hollywood listens. They know, man. They hear our jokes about what their pitch meetings must sound like, and those jokes hit them down deep, so their revenge is to come back at us tenfold. I picture execs sitting in an office with a view of the hills and the ocean, saying "OK. We're making another Musketeers movie. How would a sketch about this meeting play out?"

"Well, we'd be coked up." (then they do a lot of coke)

"Great great great great what next?"

"I guess they'd have us mash together four disparate scripts we've had floating around for several years. How about the one with the Napoleonic steampunk stuff, and the one with the assassin queen? I can't feel my face. Is my face still on my face?"

"Oh, we have to do a rush postproduction 3D conversion, then complain when no one pays $20 for the rush postproduction 3D tickets. I think that would be in there. Bob, your face is beautiful."

"Gents, don't forget we have to wipe our asses with $100 bills."

&c &c

2. Christoph Waltz. Hollywood giveth and it taketh away. It cuddles us with one hand and when we get comfortable and happy, slaps us with the pimp hand. Here's an actor who galvanized audiences as one of the best villains in modern cinema in Inglourious Basterds, in four languages no less. Typically, a breakthrough performance and Supporting Actor Oscar nod gives a performer carte blanche. But Hollywood knows what you want. It also knows you pirated that one movie because you weren't sure if it would be any good (it wasn't), or that you snuck into that one movie after your other movie ended. You've been a bad boy, and bad boys don't get what they want. So you get Christoph Waltz in Green Hornet and now The Three Musketeers 3D (can't wait for the geniuses in marketing to overlap those 3s).

3. CGI flamethrowing airships. You know, the heart & soul of the Three Musketeers story.

Monday, August 1, 2011

MTV at 30

I spent most of Sunday watching old clips of MTV programming on VH1 Classic, in honor of the 30th anniversary of MTV's first broadcast. It was amazing and sad. That's right folks, another "whatever happened to MTV" article! Calm down. It won't be 1,000 words about how it's all whores and morons now. While accurate, that argument is tired and unproductive. There's a bigger picture to examine here.

Bias disclosure: the 90s will forever be my decade. I will shove it down my kid's throat, and he will hate it til he grows up. I've accepted this as fact. I will be a sad old man listening to grunge, Guns N Roses, & early-to-mid-Radiohead, watching True Romance, and bemoaning the slick production values of the modern era's movies and music. The graphic capabilities of today's video games are fantastic, and I love them, but not quite as much as those sweet 16-bit pixels.

The main thing I was reminded of yesterday is how wonderfully weird MTV used to be. From the animated bumpers going to and from commercials to the Denis Leary junkyard rants to a short film with a young Steve Buscemi sweet-talking a model with pop song quotes, I have to imagine MTV was a haven for ambitious young filmmakers in the 80s and early 90s. And other than a sort of brand affirmation, what purpose did these things serve for MTV? What benefit could they have gained from randomly showing Joe's Apartment a few times a day? And how awesome was Donal Logue as that greasy cabdriver?

When MTV got rolling in the 80s, it was the thing kids watched to piss off their parents. It was a counterculture, and like all countercultures it celebrated the weird. It could get dirty and raw and stay fun, like a Remote Control clip we saw where the Red Hot Chili Peppers broke up the show in progress to become contestants, barely letting Ken Oberg get a word in edgewise. Sure, it was planned, and sure, they had an album to promote or something, but these were guys who went on stage with nothing but gym socks over their dicks! Rock stars used to get banned from the VMAs! Madonna's performances then are STILL racier than anything we see today. Bieber. Miley. Nothing has killed entertainment more swiftly than the realization that there's money in tweens.

MTV has always been a business, to be sure. That's what impresses me the most. Since it was a child of media giant Viacom, that means there were real Business People in Suits saying OK to Liquid Television. LIQUID TV! That show exploded my head. It showed me a whole weird world that had absolutely nothing to do with the Cosbys or Tim Allen or Roseanne. I couldn't tell if I was coming into stories halfway through, or they were going to give us backstory later, or who Aeon Flux was really fighting for. And I loved it.

The window for weird on TV has shrunk considerably. I believe its main tenant now is Adult Swim, which you can bet your sweet bippy I'm watching regularly. Otherwise, we now have the internet. If you want weird, give me five seconds and I can probably find a video that will make you reconsider everything you've assumed as fact about humanity to this point. Or, you know, Nyan Cat. And that's good. I'm glad kids have an outlet to realize not everything is as the corporations tell us. But when something like Liquid TV can pass through budget meetings and test audiences and end up in your home, that means a little more than some idiot in his garage uploading a video of himself dressed as Sonic the Hedgehog dancing to the Spin Doctors.

Ultimately, MTV became its own worst enemy. It created in the Real World a Frankenstein's monster which eventually turned on its master. Once groundbreaking television, the show has morphed into trust-fund kids getting drunk and fighting about nothing. And of course, I'm sure there's a valid argument for the Real World eventually giving us Jersey Shore. So yes, the channel is largely populated by whores and morons. But let's be honest, old MTV had Tawny Kitaen dancing on the hood of a car. It had Jenny McCarthy screaming at drunk frat boys. It had Pauly Shore.

But it also had Radiohead playing "Creep" poolside on MTV Spring Break. Which gave the line "I don't belong here" profound meaning. That song alone is one of the best anthems for the people we all become from 12-18. NO ONE belongs then. Anywhere. And we need someone to tell us that's OK, we're not alone. We don't need someone elevating talentless morons to celebrity millionaire level. We don't need kids getting pregnant to get on TV. We don't need Ke$ha.

Don't celebrate stupid. Celebrate weird.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Truth in Advertising: Friends With Benefits

Central Park

I've been doing extensive field research this last month in Central Park, and I've come to this conclusion: "European" must be English for "you're in my fucking way."

I can't tell you how many smooth-legged, oddly-shod, tank-top-wearing men have gotten in my way on bike and foot. I've never been to Europe, but I have to assume all of its roads, sidewalks, and doorways were designed in the twelfth century by a drunken autistic four-year-old who has since been raised to sainthood. That would explain why, when they come here and see our clearly-marked (with pictograms, no less--you don't even have to speak the language!), straight-ish lanes separating pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles, their minds cannot comprehend the austere logic behind them. Hence, my rage.

They call New Yorkers rude and Americans fat & lazy, but if someone from Brooklyn or Oklahoma sees me coming they politely wait til I'm past to step into the road. If they're from the South they'll scare me by saying hi. Europeans see you coming, make direct eye contact, then step deliberately into your path, daring you to cause an international crisis by forcibly correcting them.

And if you're on a bike, there should be no circumstances under which I, on foot, have to dodge around you. You're on a MACHINE. With WHEELS. OPERATE IT.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I've been trying to find an angle on this Tracy Morgan thing for a while, but never knew what I could add to the conversation. Especially when someone like Louis CK drops gems, and I mean that sincerely, like "Nobody gets to say that they represent anybody and they're offended on behalf of the whole world." What Morgan said was stupid, I think he's in the process of properly atoning (not that it's up to me, or anyone really), and now that he's bargained with the morality terrorists he has to apologize for every damn thing he says.

I'm fed up with the constant ebb and flow in our pop culture landscape of someone saying something, someone else deciding that was a very bad thing to say, and then using some sort of out-of-proportion leverage to drag that person through the mud. I get it. You're offended. I'm offended. We're all righteously offended on behalf of gays, or blacks, or Asians, or mentally challenged people. Can we drop it now?

What's that? We can't? Alright then, let's fucking do this right. I'm offended. Goddamn right I am. I'm offended by trailers for The Zookeeper. I'm offended by the existence of Jersey Shore. I'm offended the FCC wanted to fine CBS eight bajillion dollars over Janet Jackson's fucking star-covered nipple, but the top rated scripted show on all the networks is CSI-whatever going into grisly detail about murdered, dissected bodies. I'm offended I had to use the word "scripted" in that last sentence. I'm offended by those godforsaken musical iO Digital Cable commercials. Actually, I'm offended by all advertising. I'm offended by child singers. I'm offended by Jeff Dunham, and no, not because his puppets are racist. They're just stupid. I'm offended by the inane garbage that CNN deems front-page-worthy. I'm offended by celebrity news. I'm offended by red carpet interviews. I'm offended that Michelle Bachmann is considered in any way to be any sort of viable legitimate candidate for any office in this country. I'm offended that we can't stop talking about her or Sarah Palin. I'm offended that there's some stupid list of words, which we all know and most of us use, that can't be said on TV.

I'm not fucking kidding.

I can guarantee you that I am genuinely offended by all of these things at least as deeply as anyone has been offended by the words of some stupid comedian in a semi-public arena. And you don't get to tell me I can't be offended by these things, because apparently that's not how it works.

So where's my special interest group? Who's going to demand that my laundry list get taken off the air or out of our culture? Why don't I get a voice here?

Fuck it. I'll start my own. I hereby claim my overlordship of SHIT (Stop Human Intelligence Torture). Who the fuck's with me?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fans: Can't Please 'em, Can't Kill 'em

Geek note: this is all spoiler-free. Shame on you for doubting. You want spoilers? Read Entertainment Weekly.

So some major events happened at the end of the first seasons of both The Killing and Game of Thrones. And boy, did the fans get their demanding panties in tight little wads about it.

I understand the feeling of ownership that comes along with being a fan of something. But there are lines, people. "I'm not happy about [THING]! I wanted [OTHER THING] to happen!" Well, fan, what you're describing is a different story. Maybe you should try to find that story somewhere else. Or create it yourself. Otherwise, shut your mouth and take what's given to you. You like these characters? You like this world that's been created for you at great expense? Did [THING] violate either of those? Then what's the problem?

OK, I might have lied a little. The next paragraph is very slightly spoiler-y about The Killing. I'll leave a big gap in case you haven't seen the season finale, and you can move on to the next spoiler-free paragraph about Game of Thrones. Ready? Here we go:

The people behind The Killing are doing a great job. It's not a show about who killed a girl. That would be boring. It's a show about people, and politics, and small towns, and some of those people are trying to figure out who killed a girl. If you're so obsessed with finding out whodunit, read any of the thousands of shitty paperbacks out there that only concern themselves with that question. They do away with those tedious elements of storytelling like originality, and tone, and character development. Or just do a jigsaw puzzle or something, it's the same principle.

Welcome back! And to the fans of Game of Thrones who weren't happy about a certain development--and it was a distressing development, I agree, but I mean like "you shouldn't have done that" unhappy--this show is based on a book that's been devoured wholesale by hundreds of thousands of adoring readers. That thing happened in the book too. This is the world Martin created. If you have a problem with the event in question, just get out now, because good god you could not handle what's on the way.

I guess this is what happens when people who are used to bad TV get tricked into watching really good TV. I could see the constant boobs in Game of Thrones pulling in people that have no business watching that story. I'm not sure what the hook was on The Killing. Thinking it was a plain whodunit, I suppose, though that requires total ignorance that it's on the channel of Mad Men and Breaking Bad. AMC doesn't do plain, thankfully.

But hey, here's something we're all perfectly entitled to getting panty-wadded about: Mad Men's 1.5 year break. WAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!

How to Succeed in Showbiz in Spite of Really Trying

New video! Written by me and Chris Czyz. Starring us, Tony Wolf, and Amy Schulz. Music: "20 Ghosts III" by Nine Inch Nails, used under Creative Commons license.


Friday, June 10, 2011

New YouTube Channel

First, the introductory video:

Now, a little further explanation.

I've been hemming and hawing about doing something like this, mostly to collect everything I've shot and will shoot in one place. I had an idea that it could also include some direct-to-camera stuff, like this video (but like I said, with more structure and comedy--I promise--seriously). There are risks associated with that sort of thing though. I mention it in the video. You see a lot of people doing stuff like this on YouTube to varying degrees of success, and when it's bad, it's really bad. Would I have anything worthwhile to add? Am I revealing too much of myself to my tiny audience? Why can't I just try stand-up instead?

Well, fear, honestly. I don't get nervous when I act any more, really, but when I think about trying stand-up I just freeze. So this is a nice way to segue into that, perhaps. Or at least try something different.

In the end, I realized I always overanalyze things like this and once again was letting fear rule my decision, so I went ahead and got started. And here we are. I'm working on a sketch now that will be a nice addition to the channel. Hopefully you'll see it sometime next week.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fallen Weiner

Dammit, Weiner.

What's the thing where you end up doing something because it's so closely related to your name? It's like Crapper inventing a toilet. Lemme Wiki that...whoa, he invented the ballcock. That is unfortunately appropriate. You know what I mean though. Google "Dr. Butts proctologist." It happens.

Anyway, this is a guy who was serving as one of my last tethers to the current political atmosphere. I'd all but given up until some of his excellent Congress-floor tirades made the YouTube rounds. Were I in an elected position, I'd probably be doing the same thing. And he was Jon Stewart's roommate! Come on Weiner!

So at first I was like "eh, so he sent an oddly-angled picture of his stuff in some boxer-briefs. Weird. Whatevs." Then I was like "eh, so he engaged in some online affair business. It's not like he's a 'values' guy." Then I was like "oh, he's married. Gross. And just dumb."

No, he's not a values guy like Gingrich (explain how that works again?), but he's an ethics guy. He's a common-sense guy. He's a "look at yourselves you drooling morons" guy. This doesn't mean he can't do his job, and it doesn't mean his insight into the absurdity of his fellow leaders is much less clear. But it just takes him down a notch. It puts him on the same level as every other bumbling dude trying to run this show. Maybe that's what I get for putting any of them on a platform even a couple inches off the ground.

OK, Congresspeople, let's try an experiment. Everyone stand up. Now, have a seat if you're here representing corporate interests.

Wow. That was a lot of people. Alright, have a seat if you're not interested in helping those less fortunate.

Aaand that was almost all of you. Now, have a seat if you're ashamed of how far left you may be perceived.

Really? Just one guy left? OK. Have a seat if you can't seem to get anyone to listen to you.

Should you really be standing, Mr. Kucinich? That's what I thought.

Is this what it felt like when Bobby woke up on Dallas?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Surely Cablevision is the Spawn of Darkness

Dear Nameless Minion,

I am going to tell you a tale of wrongdoing and injustice. It is my own tale, which several of your fellow wraiths may know in part. Now one of you will bear the full weight of the evil deeds done to me by your employer.

My wife and I “moved on up,” as it were, from Sunset Park in Brooklyn to the west side of Manhattan. This is not a Cablevision service area (remind me again how neither you nor Time Warner are monopolies?), so I had to cancel my account. No longer would I have the privilege of your willfully ignorant DVRs and spotty connections, your hideous user interface. So, I set up an appointment for a technician to come out and turn off my connection, leaving with my equipment--two cable boxes and a modem. This appointment was for Wednesday, May 25th, between 11-2 PM.

On that fateful morning, I dragged myself from my lovely new railroad-style apartment in Hell’s Kitchen to the blighted waste-hole of Brooklyn I used to call home. I sat in my empty old apartment with two cable boxes, a modem, a good book (have you read Game of Thrones? oh you must), and waited. A technician arrived around 1 PM, took a look at my wiring, and said he’d have to try the hospitality of one of my backyard neighbors to get to the “tap” (I’ve spent a few days learning your lingo) and sever me from the sweet umbilicus of your datastream. When they of course rejected his offer to enter their house and play with the wiring in their backyard, he came back and said he’d have to try again some other day. OK, no problem I thought in my naive, shiny-eyed optimism. “You can take my equipment though, right?”

Oh, so very wrong. Since the job was technically incomplete, his dispatch told him they couldn’t be responsible for my gear, and I’d have to drop it off at one of your stores or give it to the next technician to come out. One panicked call to a befuddled customer service rep later, this tech left me alone once again in an empty apartment with my two cable boxes, modem, and excellent book. I collected myself and called your company again. The incredibly nice representative to whom I was eventually connected tried a few different angles to solve my problem, going so far as to try giving me directions to your stores (remember, I had no access to Google Maps, since I had no computer to hook up to my lonely modem). Since those locations are convenient to approximately no one, that wasn’t going to work. She spoke with a supervisor and came back very quickly, stating that the technician had indeed had specific directions to take my equipment from me regardless of access to the tap. She escalated my appointment as an incomplete job and said I’d be hearing from someone soon. Excellent!

While we’re waiting for that call, let’s have a word about the locations of your stores. East Flatbush and Canarsie? The last stops on the 3, 5, and L? Really? There are 2.5 million people in Brooklyn. Every one of them goes through the Atlantic Center area or downtown at least once a week. You can’t get a single store within a 20-minute walk of this area? You pick East Flatbush and CANARSIE? Oh, look, I can drop my modem off on the way to JOHN F. KENNEDY AIRPORT. And the East Flatbush location is easily 20 blocks from that last stop. You guys are doing OK, right? Do you need to borrow a little money from someone for another location? I could probably recommend a good broker if you need one. Seriously, just let me know.

Thus did another hour pass in my old apartment while I waited for that call. The battery on my cell phone was getting low, and I hadn’t packed my charger since, you know, I was supposed to be back in my lovely railroad-style apartment in Hell’s Kitchen by now. I was getting worried. I called again, and spoke to a wonderful representative named Andre. He too tried to make some things happen, conferring with his supervisor Rashad who then contacted “dispatch” (I’ve learned that this is code for one of the many telecommunications contractors you guys hire for work like this) and tried to get a status on my situation. Andre waited while Rashad waited, and eventually told me Rashad or dispatch would contact me within an hour to let me know when they could come get this equipment. He then went so far as to tell me he’d be there until 6:30, and he’d keep checking on my account to see what was happening. Lovely Andre. He should get a plaque.

Another hour passed in my empty, hot apartment. My book was good, but how long can you sit and read? Not the entire six hours I’d been there, that’s for sure. I gave it another 20-30 minute cushion before I tried calling once again, my battery gauge down to one desperate bar. “Hello, I was speaking with Andre in customer service. Is there any way I can be connected to him?”

“I have no way of doing that.” You mean you don’t want to figure out how to do that, but OK. This was at least the fourth person I’d tried to tell my story to this day. She was much less concerned with my well-being than either Andre or the representative who tried giving me bus directions in the afternoon. She said she couldn’t check the status of my appointment until 7:45, since it was open until 8. I’d certainly not intended to wait that long, but since I was already there I thought I could at least ride it out. Silly, silly boy.

7:45 sharp, when of course no technician had reached across the ether to let me know he was coming, I called again. I was informed no one would be coming, though apparently at some point “dispatch” had tried calling me but said it was a wrong number. I’ve only ever given your company one phone number. I wasn’t there when they dialed, of course, but I have to imagine they only gave it one shot and perhaps hit a wrong key with one of their fat, lazy fingers. I have to. I abruptly set up another appointment for Friday, 11-2. I went home and abused my body with food.

Friday morning, 10:30, empty apartment, the next excellent installment of George R. R. Martin’s series. I called around 10:55 to confirm that someone would in fact be coming by to at least pick up my equipment, if not kiss my feet and apologize profusely. The rep this time was surprised, because you guys had me down for an appointment in the same time frame, but on Tuesday 5/31. Oh no no, I said, the last thing that happened in the chain of unfortunate events two days prior was me saying “So I’ll be there Friday at 11? Great.” Naturally, if you have no record of this, it’s a little hard for me to prove, but I can provide witnesses to the quality of my character should you need it. I made it clear that I would need someone to come get this gear before 2 PM today, and the rep set up an escalated appointment for me. I got off the phone, called my wife, and left a message detailing the many things your company had inserted into my anus at this point. Speaking of my wife, you should probably issue her an apology too, for having to put up with me during this ordeal.

An actual, real person called me back shortly, the technician who would be coming by to finish this mess later that afternoon. He said he’d be there before 3. I was encouraged, since we’d finally managed to cut out the middle man (Cablevision) and got down to the nitty gritty. He came at 2:30, was very nice, and I met him on the sidewalk and got those horrendous pieces of electronics out of my sight for good. I then went home and abused my body with food.

I believe there are some lessons we can all learn here. Please follow along:

1. The communication chain between me, Cablevision, and “dispatch” is more complicated than Navajo smoke signals. If a technician drops the ball at an appointment, your customers can’t call you to complain or get things set straight while he’s still there. Your customer service is about as nimble as a 15th-century Spanish war galley.

2. I had to explain my whole case every single time I called you, because I had no way of reaching anyone I’d spoken to previously and no one ever takes the time to actually read the notes I assume you all have to leave. I don’t mind holding for an extra minute or two if it means the customer service rep I’m eventually going to speak to is taking that time to learn about my situation.

3. Your priority at disconnect appointments should be taking the equipment from the customer. None of us care one way or another if you can access the main line to turn us off. That’s your problem. Why the first technician and his dispatch were at all concerned that they’d have to be responsible for the equipment of the COMPANY THEY’RE WORKING FOR is far beyond my powers of reason and logic.

4. Your store locations are absurd. I know I touched on this already, but it really does bear repeating. Why Canarsie? Why East Flatbush Nowhere? Were you cursed by a real estate gypsy in the 80s so you can never find a vacancy in a location to which people have actually been before? You’re one step away from setting up shop in international waters. Seriously, go to Atlantic Center. Do it.

There you have it. I’ll be calling you eventually about this. My goal is to get a good chunk knocked off my final bill. I’m sure that won’t happen, but I expect your explanations to be hilarious.

TL;DR: You wasted hours of my time for no good reason with seemingly no repercussions and I think Satan has a special cadre of Cablevision employees to give him ideas for how to torture people.

Sincerely, and thank you, and yours forever, &c &c,

Colin Fisher
Acct. 07836-343725-02