Monday, November 28, 2005

There are three comedy things happening in the very near future in which I will participate and to which you should consider paying attention for various reasons.

First - Tuesday, November 29th, at 10:30pm at the UCB Theater (5919 Franklin Ave, Hollywood), I will be joining one of the really outstanding shows in the L.A. area - "See You Next Tuesday." Produced by Matt "in search of Sasquatch" Belknap of http://www.aspecialthing.com fame, it is rapidly becoming the place for rising talent in L.A. to see and be seen. It follows the redoubtable Comedy Death-Ray, so come early and see two fantastic shows, or come late and see only one - the choice is yours. Much more detail at is available at http://www.ucbtheater.com/la and I whole-heartedly desire and endorse your presence.

Second - Tuesday December 27th at 8pm at the Hollywood Improv, I will be on the bill for one of Lesley Wolff's "All-Ivy League" comedy extravangzas. I am not an Ivy League grad, merely a comedy legacy, but I hope to bring honor to the hallowed halls of University of Maryland, College Park. Lesley throws a hell of a show and packs the house and the stage with smart and funny people - it's a good time all around.

Third - Tuesday Jan 3 through Sunday Jan 8, Las Vegas plays host to the giant Consumer Electronics Show, the jaw-dropping Adult Video News Awards, and me! I'll be at the Improv at Harrah's Las Vegas, and headlining will be Don McMillan, the king of nerd funny! Don's the real deal - a former electrical engineer for Bell Labs and VLSI and now the master of all that is "Technically Funny!" Check him out at http://www.donmcmillan.com, check out CES at http://www.cesweb.org, and check out the AVN awards on your own time!

See you at the shows!

The First Comedian I Ever Saw...

I grew up in Washington D.C., and when I was about 17, I went to a place I remember being called "This Is It!" at 14th and H or so. This was the red light district and this particular place was noted for the occasional sighting of Mayor Marion Barry. It was an honest-to-God burlesque house, although at the time I wouldn't have known what that meant. It was a bubble suspended in time, like Douglas Adam's Restaurant at the End of the Universe, except instead of temporally rocking back and forth over Armageddon, the End, the Last Bit, it instead gently swayed in and out of Sept. 27th, 1948.

I was drawn forth by the very idea of boobies, something that had recently grabbed my attention away from AppleSoft BASIC programming. Due to our Mayor's indiscretions, I had read in the Washington Post that boobies could be seen for reals, no kidding, at the "This Is It!" and off I went as fast as my 50cc Vespa moped could take me. The drinking age in DC at the time was 18, and honored more in the breach, so entry was straightforward. I took a seat at a table, placed my white Bell bike helmet under my chair, and waited for magic to happen.

The first woman I saw in the place was the point of this ramble, the first comedian I ever saw live. She was a hard 50, peroxide blonde and thick through the middle, wearing a beaded and sequined white floor-length gown, a white feather boa, and a look of exhaustion and disdain that even in my pink and virgin state frightened me more than words can describe. I guess she was the MC, she was telling jokes, setup-punch jokes, and at the end of each one a tuxedo-clad drummer behind her would flail his limbs and hit a rim shot that landed like a balloon full of oatmeal. To call the drummer tuxedo-clad ennobles him in an unwarranted manner; he was moth-eaten in a way that did not end at his clothes. He had the thinness of arm and paunch of belly that suggested his main source of nutrition was juniper berries, and he too wore an expression that betrayed a lifetime of Chesterfields, SRO hotels, and regret.

But back to our star. She would tell a joke, the drummer would drum, and the crowd would respond with equal parts indifference and impatience. This sequence repeated several times, and the crowd tipped harder and harder to genuine antipathy. And then she did the thing that would forever resonate in my understanding of comedy--she turned on us. She snarled a little, and then through a grimace like a nailgun spat out "Aw, you fuckers wouldn't know funny if it bit you!", and turned on her heel and left. Here's what I take from that now, twenty years later and six years into my own stand-up career.

She still cared.

I can make up a story here, she was a showgirl, a real looker, who after ten or fifteen years of late nights and men who never quite came through maybe wasn't so much the looker anymore. She'd been around enough that she could tell a joke, so rather than settle down waitressing at a diner somewhere, she fell into comedy, MC'ing the shows, snapping off a one-liner or two and den-mothering the new girls. And after thirty years of cheap drunks and smoke in her eyes, she still cared whether she got a laugh. I had the need tattooed on my brain at the tender age of 17 with that lady's ink, homemade of whatever bitter salt it is that's left behind when your dreams evaporate into heartache.

And then after that, I saw boobs.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Will fix computers for sexual favors

Will fix computers for sexual favors
Reply to: serv-111693819@craigslist.org
Date: 2005-11-16, 11:01AM PST

Email with computer problem and favor.

* this is in or around Los Angeles Area

This is not me. I don't care what you think, it's not me.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Microfinance on a Macro Scale

www.kiva.org

Just read about this on BoingBoing, and I think it is brilliant. Decentralize, distribute and engage on a one-to-one level to connect people in the developing world with people in the developed world. This will create a web of shared vision that unifies us, binds us together. I'm signed up and ready to go, you should be too.

Fantastic.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I may have found the girl of my dreams...

From Craigslist...


Will trade erotic services for Sprint cell phone.
Reply to: anon-105888978@craigslist.org
Date: 2005-10-22, 9:46AM PDT

I will trade one complete erotic session for either a Sprint Sanyo 8200 or a Treo 600, 650. Must have clean ESN and be in good condition.

Here is my description:

I am 5 foot 2
A trim 109 lbs
32C-25-35
long reddish brown hair
Bright Blue eyes

Fair skin
39 years old

Sorry but I do not have any pics.
Serious inquires only please.


I love the specificity of model, make, and carrier. I'm also curious if she'll go a little further in her "erotic session" for the Bluetooth and 320x320 screen-equipped Treo 650 then for the older and less technically interesting 600. If she got a look at all the extra computer stuff I have around the house, what then? I've got a box of old Pentium II's and III's that might be good for a little something, right?

I love L.A., seriously.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bomb 'em and feed 'em, said the soldier...

So I'm watching the TV tonight and along comes an ad for a new Pontiac Torrent. I've never heard of the car, and they (meaning Pontiac) obviously don't mind, because their ad is really a music video. No mention of the car's name until the end, just moody dark shots of the car going down city streets as the building lights bounce like an equalizer. The song is what it's all about, it's a brooding noir piece that a little bit of internet research tells me is called "Struggle" off the eponymous debut by Ringside. So I hop on the Gnutella net via Gnucleus and break me off a piece o'that. And here's where it gets weird. There's no way the record company or somebody is not purposefully seeding this song. There are about 9 or 10 listings for the song, and all but 1 listing is 1 or 2 hosts. The biggie is 98 hosts, and the thing is all of them, every last listing, is the same exact size. That just don't make sense. People use different rippers, different encoders, different bitrates, it's all a zoo out there, and yet every one of approximately 120 machines serving the song is serving it at exactly 3658Kb. That's just fishy.

RIAA, you don't get to have it both ways. You don't get to revile filesharers as thieves stealing the bread out of starving artists' mouths, and then turn around and get them to do your marketing gruntwork. You've figured out we're tastemakers and that we are your best advertising. So stop suing us.

Monday, October 10, 2005

I just paid a dollar...

I just paid a dollar to get slapped by beautiful twin girls. Which is cheap if you think about it, because I usually have to buy 'em a drink first. Then I paid another dollar to get kissed by a six-foot blonde. Not a bad night, all in all.

http://www.garagecomedy.com

Sunday, October 09, 2005

UNICEF shows Smurfs being bombed...

UNICEF Uses Smurfs in Anti-war Message



Well, it's nice to see that the anti-war movement is finally communicating with George Bush in a language he understands.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Would you buy a router from this man?

With fall in the air and the Santa Anas blowing I was reminded of a wonderful experience I had a couple of Halloweens ago at the Best Buy at Pico and Sawtelle. I normally hold my allegiance to Fry's Electronics quite dear, but sometimes time and need force me to take a walk under the big yellow tag.

On this particular day, I wanted nothing more than a Linksys router, a fairly common piece of networking equipment. I picked it off the shelf and went to check out, where I was confronted by a mob scene, thirty-odd people milling about waiting for the three open registers. To my left, I saw a bunch of Best Buy guys standing around and chatting, so I approached them. I said "I see a lot of blue shirts, and I see three open registers, can we do something about this?" One of them said "That's not my department," to which I replied a little testily, "Let's find the guy whose department it is and get him over here." I was still waiting on line a few minutes later when a man approached me wearing a Best Buy name tag and a full clown suit--red wig, white makeup, bulbous nose, polka-dot suit, the works. He stood in front of me, and with a surprising amount of attitude for a man in a clown suit, asked, "Is there an issue?"

That's when it happened. It came out of me, I had no control of it, and I'm still a little surprised I said it. But I couldn't stop it, it was like a fever. I looked that man in the square in the eye and said with a completely straight face, "Are you the clown in charge?"

"Yes," he replied, with a stony expression. And while the people around us where dying laughing, neither of us dared. I think we both realized the second one of us cracked a smile, we'd have to fight. And you know what no one wants to see, it turns out, is a fat guy and a clown rolling around on the floor of Best Buy.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

See me tonight!

This Wednesday I will be a panelist in J. Keith van Straaten's revival of the classic game show "What's My Line?" Fellow panelists include Jimmy Pardo, smashing stand-up comedian and host of "National Lampoon's Funny Money," Kitty Felde, host of KPCC's "Talk of the City," and Mink Stole, noted actress and regular in John Waters films. Keith also manages to get amazing mystery guests from entertainment, sports, and journalism - previous shows have featured Larry King, Noah Wyle, Ed Asner, and even Monty Hall himself. I don't know how he does it, but it's something to behold. The show itself has been brilliantly reviewed in the L.A. Times and Weekly, and I'm pleased and honored to be a part of it. There's plenty more info at http://www.jkeith.net but the essentials are thus:

"What's My Line? - Live on Stage"
8PM Wednesday 10/5 at the Acme Theater
135 N. La Brea Ave, Los Angeles CA 90036
Reservations: (323) 525-0202 - $15

I'd be delighted if you would join us.

No more nickels, please...

This is a letter I wrote after receiving a fundraising mailer from the American Kidney Fund that contained an actual nickel. It bothered me, so I wrote this to explain to them why. Maybe I'm turning into an old crank, but now I get to take you along with me!

To: contributions@kidneyfund.org
Subject: No More Nickels, Please.

American Kidney Fund
ATTN: Director of Fundraising
6110 Executive Blvd., Suite 1010
Rockville, MD 20852

To whom it may concern:

I have just received your latest fundraising mailing, complete with enclosed nickel. I thank you for this, as it has given me quite the moral puzzle to work through. I rarely have the chance to sit down and look into my core values the way you have given me the opportunity to do, and I am grateful.

Let's set a table for the discussion by beginning here. I have no qualms about sharing some of the largesse that providence has granted me with those less fortunate than myself. I feel a responsibility to the common good, and I express that in donations of my money and time to those in need of these things. For example, I recently donated $200 to "Doctors Without Borders" for relief of those affected by the terrible tsunami of last year. That donation was not solicited, it came sui generis from my desire to help those in need.

I am less willing to send my money or offer my time to those who attempt to manipulate me to do so, and I look at such efforts as unworthy of the greater good they aspire to bring about. Telephone solicitation, for example, I refuse to reward with a donation, no matter how worthy the cause, because I believe that your right to solicit me does not override my right to be free of such nuisances in the privacy of my own home, and to seek information about opportunities to help others on my terms, not yours. I believe you do not have the right to use a utility that I maintain, my telephone, to disturb me for purposes that you and you alone deem of such urgency.

Similarly, some collecting for otherwise good causes attempt to create in their targets a sense of obligation by giving them an unsolicited gift of small value. In my case, that frequently occurs as a mailed request for a donation accompanied by sheets of preprinted adhesive return address labels. Thus arrives a dilemma: Do I allow a charity, ostensibly working to provide a greater good for those in more need than myself, to provide me with a good of some cost without reimbursing them for that cost? I have decided that the answer to that question is yes.

I cannot give money to everyone, because my resources are limited.

I cannot give money to everyone who asks, because my resources are limited, and because I must have some meaningful criteria for deciding where to place my resources that has to do with the actual need rather than whether those with a stake in that need have the ability to contact me.

I cannot give money to everyone who sends me an unsolicited gift, because I must have some meaningful criteria for deciding where to place my limited resources that has to do with the actual need rather than whether those with a stake in that need can give me something in return. Otherwise, charity devolves to an auction.

So I may choose not to give money to someone who has sent me labels. But what next? Should I simply throw the labels away? They have value to me. They are useful, and by not having to purchase labels, my resources are freed, possibly for me to do some good elsewhere. They have no value to anyone else; my name and address are unique, and sending them back to whence they came does not allow the charity to use them to solicit someone else or help the cause they espouse. So my solution is to use the labels, after first removing the part of the label that contains the logo of the charitable organization. I have no right to pretend to a good I have not performed by using the labels with the logo - if someone receives a letter from me, I have no right to create in them the false impression that I have donated to a charity by using the name of that charity. So I cut off the logo and use just the plain address part. Perhaps my reasoning is circuitous but I believe it to be sound, and I am willing to live with the moral consequences.

You however, have upped the stakes. Your unsolicited gift to me is not useful only to me. It is fungible currency, although of perhaps less value to me than preprinted labels, and it probably cost you approximately the same to send me as preprinted labels, but once sent it retains a value to yourself and to those you help that preprinted labels do not. Do I have the right to spend this nickel? That nickel was given to you by someone who believed it would be used to help people with kidney problems, and I have no such difficulties. I have elected to spend my limited resources on a different problem. I also resent your attempts to create in me an obligation that was not requested, and so will not be sending you a donation, but what should I do with that nickel? Do I send it back to you? You go to pains to request it, with a sticky note attachment that probably cost more than the nickel itself to design, print and include in each mailer, but honestly, this seems foolish. At the end of this transaction, the only benefit would be to the United States Postal Service. A contribution of a nickel to your cause would create costs greater than it represents; it would cost much more in the time of your employees to handle such a small amount than any good it could create. But for me to spend that nickel allows me to benefit from the generosity of your contributors, in violation of a kind of implied social contract that that generosity should be reserved for those in need, and I am not.

I have figured out a way to make it work. That mailer and its included nickel probably cost you around two dollars to send to me by the time all is said and done, give or take. So to the next homeless person who solicits me on the street, I will give two dollars, and I will tell him or her that this money comes to him in the name of people who want to help people with kidney problems, but were somehow misguided enough to give the money to you. He will probably not understand, but you and I will know what it means.

I will also ask you to never solicit me again. Should you do so, I will be forced to send you a picture of me about to punch a kitten, with instructions that you should send me two dollars or I will complete the punch. This should create in you the same unsolicited and meaningless sense of guilt that you have attempted to create in me, and to as much effect.

Thanks for your time and attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Andrew Solmssen

The cats outnumber me, 8 legs to 2.

I know as a man with cats, I am subject to certain prejudices. I grew up with dogs, but when I was first on my own in my own place, I decided that a dog would not be happy with my then workaholic lifestyle. I wanted some animals in my life, and cats seemed to strike a balance between neediness and self-sufficiency that I could live with while working 12 to 14 hours a day for weeks on end. So I got two, to keep each other company, and they have been a boundless source of both genuine affection and carpet-staining vomit. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Soon though, I was gradually made aware that as a straight man in my late twenties, having cats may have been a dubious choice. The first inkling came in an episode of "Seinfeld" in which Elaine mentions to Jerry and George that she is going to her new boyfriend's home to meet his cats. At the news, George and Jerry turn to each other and then Elaine and say "men with cats?" and then each make a kind of quizzical grunt that lets us all know what they really think of the idea.

But I persevered, and now some 12 years later, the cats and I enjoy a very comfortable soon-to-be middle age. We watch a little TV, we chase a little laser light, it's not a carnival by any means, but it will suffice. So the other day when I was shopping on drugstore.com and looking for an item to push me the 13 cents I needed to get to free shipping, I happened to notice a nifty little disposable cat litter pan and clicked away to learn more.

Drugstore.com, like Amazon, buy.com and other e-commerce sites, likes to let you know what people who have bought the item you are looking at have also bought along with it. You're buying a wireless internet router, well, better consider a USB wireless adapter or possibly a high-gain antenna. It's not a bad idea, I guess, and it's sometimes quite a useful tool. So drugstore.com had lined up some suggestions for me at the bottom of the page, and I scrolled down to take a look.

Carefully selected for me to choose from, in order of quantity and size, were four boxes of high-absorbency tampons.

Thanks for that, drugstore.com. Thanks for that, indeed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"Why not blog?" the man asked...

So I thought after all is said and done, I might as well use all this gear for something useful. This isn't it. This is yet another blog about nothing in general and my life in particular, and the fact that it's publically available instead of locked in my nightstand is an accident of history and technology. We have become a nation of Pepys', and now I am one, too.

---- Andrew