Friday, September 14, 2018

The Pirates of the Congress

I have an analogy that may not be the perfect metaphor but for me it is a cautionary tale.  Currently Congress is trying cut way back on social security benefits including Medicare.  I am neither politician nor economist but I do possess a normal amount of common sense.  Social Security and Medicare are not gifts from a benevolent government.  Every employer takes money out of your pay check and sends that money to the government earmarked for your retirement needs. You don’t pay taxes on the money when it is taken out of your salary, but you do pay the taxes on the money when you start receiving it.  It is not free money but it is definitely your money. In principle that money is held by the government as a quasi-saving account that is used for your personal benefit when you reach retirement.  It is your money and my money...not the governments money.... that is never to be forgotten.
Here is my cautionary tale.  
In the rock and roll days of the 80’s comedy clubs,  there were at least two major comedy clubs in ever town of any size. A comedy club is an easy convert from any type of business.  You just need a bar to serve drinks (sometimes food) a small stage and a microphone on a stand. All a comedy club needed to draw a crowd was a funny comic who people wanted to see.  The “product” of a Comedy club was the presentation of comics. 

At first it was a reciprocal deal. Club says to the comic, “If you perform and draw a crowd I will give you part of my profits for the evening.” With more people there, more drinks and dinners were sold.  Comics did well and their salary was somewhat based on their “drawing power”. 

Pretty soon the club was drawing crowds based upon the fact that they were known to employ funny comics.  They said, “How can we make more money given the fact that we are sharing the bar profits with the comic?”  So.... they decided to make the show a “Two drink minimum” making twice as much from the same number of people.  Comics were fine with this because they shared in the increase. 
But that was not enough for the Club. They wanted to keep all the profit from the increased bar sales. So they said, “Comics will no longer get a percentage of the bar profit, we will charge a “cover” or “door charge” and that will be the comics salary.”   Depending on the size of the club and how well the comic could draw, that deal was okay, if not as profitable as the bar percentage.  

This was the standard for awhile, but as the club saw the amount of money that was being taken in “at the door” they said, “We need to keep some of that money.” So the comic was then offered a “percentage” of the door charge.  (A fee that was set up originally as the comics salary.)  But that was eventually not enough.  The club decided that the percentage would begin only after the Club recouped a certain amount of money.  In my day it was a percentage after $6000.00 profit, at the door.  After some time even these contracts were reserved for comics that were a sure draw.

Comedy Clubs are not the steam roller they once were.  They are still around but paying comics minimal salary or “letting” them do a “showcase” for free.  But they do not exist in the numbers they used to.  The greedy clubs were the ones that disappeared first. 

The point is... the minute money was coming in the club decided it was all theirs.  Once the money started coming in the rules changed. Substitute government for the word club and American worker for the word comic and you will see the connection I do.  In a congressional spread sheet the legislators can, with a mere accounting post, take the money you have paid in away from you to use for themselves.  They are trying to make up for the government money short fall from giving tax breaks to the rich by using YOUR money.   The money that was "set aside" for your future benefit. It is greedy, it is uncaring and it is doomed to failure. How long will the workers be willing to have money taken out of their salary, in addition to the taxes they pay, so that the government can fund the rich.  When you are no longer contributing money, because you retired from the work force, you are useless to the government.  Becoming old and sick is your fault, you should have made more money and put some away for these "emergencies".  But wait wasn't that why the whole social security system was set up for, just that contingency?  

The clubs that did not treat its comics well did not survive.  A capitalistic government that does not treat its workers well will not survive either.  This is not an illegal immigrant taking your job, this is the government taking YOUR money. Vote for people who understand this principle.

As you were,

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Mule Deer Meme

This is a quick anecdote. (An anecdote is just a joke that a raconteur stretches out to a story). Probably too short to be a proper blog, but I didn’t read the terms of service. 
The two things you need to know in advance:
Gary Mule Deer is one of the funniest people I know and I have known him for several decades. He lives in North-South Dakota but travels all over the country. Gary Mule Deer is not necessarily a household name, but he is a comedian’s comedian and a great guy.   It is always a treat when I get to work with Gary Mule Deer, and it never happens often enough. 
He sings funny songs and delivers deadpan comedy lines causing an audience to explode with laughter.    A typical Gary Mule Deer joke: “I saw a butterfly the other day. It had the tattoo of a biker chick on it’s shoulder.”

The second thing you need to know is that I take a regular Pilates class once a week. It is the only time I wear tee shirts out in public. That said I have some great tee shirts that represent my level of humor and I like to show them off in the class. 

Recently I wore one of Gary Mule Deer’s merch tee shirts to class. There is a picture of it above. It is a souvenir from the last time we worked together. Midway through the Pilates class the teacher noticed my tee shirt.   She starred at the image for a second or two, kind of tilted her head to get a different view and said, very slowly, “ A Gary... Mule... Deer.  I don’t get it.” 

Gary Mule Deer is not a Meme. 

As you were,

Monday, September 10, 2018

Prime Time Pitch

This is a new game show reality program that is sure to keep America watching.  Shot on location at the Whitehouse and privately owned golf courses, starring an aging television pitch man and failed public servant.  
The opening season of twenty episodes features five “senior staff” members from the Presidential Cabinet each week, competing for Trumps loyalty. Each “contestant” will have a few minutes to verbalize why they love the job of Presidential sycophant more than any others on the staff.  The truth will not be required for this round.  
At the end of the episode the President will have all the contestants into the Oval Office.  Sarah Sanders will read the most flattering things said about the President from each of the contestants. Their actual identity is unknown to the President.  The President will then tweet the flattery he likes the best about himself.  The person who actually said that line will be revealed.  The President will then use the catch phrase.. “You’re a kiss ass.”  
The”kiss ass” then goes to the next round after all 100 senior staff members have a chance to charm the president.  
The 20 “ass kissers” who make it to the second round are divided into 5 groups for the next four shows.  Each one is given an opportunity to tell more about themselves and why they choose to work in an administration so toxic and full of hatred.  More importantly each one will be given a lie detector test with pertinent questions about Russia, actually loyalty and knowledge of who wrote the New York Times Op Ed piece.  At the end of each second round show the President will, based on whim and fantasy, pardon two of the contestants.  
The season finale will bring all those left of the senior staff into the blue room of the Whitehouse.  Their polygraph test results will be displayed on a big screen, with out analyzation results. Finally the results uncovered and the writer of the New York Times Op-ed is revealed. The President will then tweet that the person had nothing to do with his administration and is barely known to the staff. 
Assuming the ratings are big enough for a grand finale season recap special,  the President will shoot the writer of the Op-ed on 5th Avenue in New York to see if he loses voters. 
As you were,

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Black Rabbit Rose

At N. Hudson and Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood, CA (only blocks away from the world famous Magic Castle) there is a new club called “Black Rabbit Rose”.   The word Magic is not in the name but the show is a magical experience nonetheless.  I went there last weekend to see our friend Liberty Larsen perform. She also serves as the hostess/producer/conjuror for the event.  I did not go there to review the evening but came away with such a wonderful experience I want to share it with everyone.  
We had dinner before going into the show room.  The restaurant is romantically dark with vintage hammered tin ceilings and ancient ceiling fans that are all connected to the same exposed belt system that drives them all in unison.  The bar is beautifully lit with dark wood and a patina that only comes with age.  They have specially drinks themed with the atmosphere and the food is Thai tapas. We were entertained table side with some stunning close up from a magician named Roeby... 

When it was time to go into the show-room we were escorted to the holding area and given a few instructions, mainly confirming that we all still had the four cards we were given earlier in our possession.  Ultimately these cards play a role in a magic effect performed by the entire audience.   After the indoctrination a secret door opens and you are let into the theater.  

The room is small and intimate, decorated in magical parlor style.  There are  locked glass front cabinets of magic memorabilia around the room and small cocktail tables.  Historically the theater boasts of being a speakeasy during the prohibition days.  In fact this clandestine room claims its former clients as some of Hollywood’s early show biz  royalty.  Some of the ghostly celebrities seem to still be present and helping with the illusions.  

The show itself is hosted by a funny magician, aided by Liberty and a gothic fire handler/sword swallower.  It is as much a variety show as it is a magical experience.  I would compare it to a Bookledge Follies show if you have ever been fortunate enough  to be invited to one of those events. 
For me, the show at Black Rabbit Rose is a new trend in “club” shows.  Not just someone doing stand up material with nothing more than a microphone, but it is a more structured show with talented people making you laugh while doing amazing things as well.  The fact that this is the show template for a new generation was born out by the young demographic observed at the club. 

In all candor I am a Lifetime Member of the Magic Castle.  Going there is an experience that never disappoints. It is an evening as much about the ambiance of the venue as it is the show itself.  The Magic Castle is, however, a private club with a very strict dress code. For those who don’t want the hassle of dressing formally or begging a magician member to get you a pass, Black Rabbit Rose is an extremely satisfying and similar experience.  This is not so surprising because Liberty Larsen, the Black Rabbit Rose hostess, is the granddaughter of the founder of the Magic Castle; performance magic is in part of her DNA.
Like any new club, the competition for the entertainment dollar is massive in Hollywood.  There is so much “out there” that it is  tough for any one new place to grab attention.  I believe that word of mouth is the best form of promotion.  So this is my mouth telling you that this experience is one you won’t forget, unique, entertaining and waiting for you to be amazed.
As you were,

Thursday, August 23, 2018

It won’t get far...

So the other day I was waiting on the painter to show up.  I will not mention any names to protect the innocent.  But he didn’t, show up that is, for two days.  When we finally heard from him, he said he had an emergency that took him out of town for a day or two. This is not so unusual with home construction workers, but this time the excuse was one I had not heard before.

Background: This painter is not your everyday run of the mill handy man.  He is very quiet, when he works and when he speaks in a very calm voice. His work is excellent and he is impeccably neat.  I have taken to calling him the “immaculate contractor”, it would almost seem the place is cleaner when he leaves than when he arrived.  It is unusual that we would not hear from him for two days since he is also extremely reliable. He now lives here in the greater LA area but grew up in a little California town an hours drive away. 

So when we finally heard from him, this was his story.  It seems that over the week end he got a call that his pet tortoise had escaped the compound of his childhood home.  Quickly the painter left his evening job and drove back to his home town. After a couple of days searching they found the 60 year old tortoise unharmed.  It was a panic because the tortoise was a long time pet,  rescued by the painter decades ago after it survived a house fire. It was found in the rubble of the burned out house as they were clearing up the ashes.  One leg was burned off and the edge of his shell was burned and deformed as well.  It was a “special needs” tortoise.   A nephew left in charge of the pet had not checked on him in a couple of days before the “escape”.   

Yes that is the reason he was out of communication for a few days, an original story among contractor stories.  

Now my wife is known as a dancer/singer and not so much as a comic.  However, when we discussed the reason the painter gave for not showing up she said, “Looking for his three legged turtle? Well, it won’t get far. He should be back to work soon.” 

Slam dunk, best line of the day. And she was right... he is back to work today.  

As you were,

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tell me what it says on the screen?

Years ago a computer error message  popped up on one of my browsers.  The message indicated that my computer had been infected and was locked for security reasons.  I couldn’t get it to close, and turning off the computer did not help. There was a phone number to call.  In a moment of stupidity I called.  It took me a while to realize that this was not an Apple representative on the other end of the line, and that they were not trying to fix my computer but invade it.  The “technician” who was “helping” me was named Frank.  He had a very thick Indian/Pakistani accent. When things began to sound fishy and there was a sum of money needed to fix the problem I hung up and called Apple Direct.  The solution was simple.  Dump that browser and down load it again from the App Store.  The lesson was... never assume it is Apple unless you called them.  

Since that day my land line phone number has been on their list, I suppose.  For several days every month there will be a barrage of heavily accented “computer specialists” who tell me they are getting a signal that my computer has been hacked.  I have spent a lot of time asking to be taken off the list, threatening them, cursing them and using a number blocker to keep them from calling.  However, they use numbers that are bogus and change numbers with every call.  It is impossible to stop them completely so we rarely answer the land line phone unless someone starts to leave a message.  
However,  while there is construction going on at the house we have been answering numbers that might be subcontractors or delivery people.  Such was the case this morning.  Waiting on a painter to call back I answered the phone without thinking.
“Hello, Jay... this is your Microsoft Computer expert, Ralph, remember me.”  Now I am onto most of their methods.  They always say “Remember me,” because they all have the same accent and no one remembers names.  I had some time to spend waiting on a painter so... 
Game on.
“Oh yeah, Ralph. Is something wrong with my Microsoft Computer?” 
“Yes we have been getting an error signal on your computer.” 
“My Microsoft computer?” Readers note:  I have only owned Apple/Mac products since 1982.  
“Yes. Windows.”  
“Oh no. Did I get hacked by the Russians? I accidentally went on a white supremacist web page looking for a Trump reference.  Do you think they might have placed some malware on my hard drive while I was on that site checking out hate speech?”
There is a moments pause from Ralph. “That is a possibility.”
“What do I need to do?”
“You need to turn on your computer.”
“It’s on... I’m in front of it now.”
“Do you see your keyboard?”  
“Yes the typing thing.”
“Hold down the CLR key and the enter key at the same time.”
“At the same time?  Both together at once? Unison?”
“Did you do it?”
I make some struggling sounds, like I am trying to accomplish  a difficult manual task... “Okay I finally got it.”
“Good now you see a dialogue box on your screen - ?”
“Tell me what it says on the screen..”
“Wait I have to get my glasses on to see...”
“No worries.  Tell me what it says...”
You saw it coming..... 

I told him what I WANTED this mythical dialogue box to say.  It was a venomous, voluminous diatribe riddled with cursing, and liberal use of the word fuck... in each of its context meanings.  As I tried to recall it to type it here there was something missing.  The volume and the rage in my voice.  It just does not read like it plays when you are pissed at someone.  So you can insert your own rage here. The one you have always wanted to give to the telemarketer/scam artist who invades the privacy of your home.  

Sandi points out it is a useless battle to fight with the callers.  Like the living dead scammers keep coming, you can’t kill them and if you could three more take their place.  She asks,
“Don’t you have something better to do with your time than yelling at some guy trying to earn a living half the globe away?”
Yes. I do have something better to do with my time... waiting for the painter to text/call/arrive/communicate.  Perhaps Ralph got the rage of my frustration saving the painter from wrath.
As you were,