Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Moving Fourth

I can understand if its hard for you to get excited for Independence Day. The nation is as polarized as its ever been. Dual echo chambers have created a rift in political thought. Our current president is breaking down civil liberties in ways he doesn't totally comprehend. Leadership in the Democratic Party is growing too old, disorganized, indecisive and aloof. Impeachment remains wishful thinking.

Every other November, I give my tiny audience of regular readers a pre-election pep talk. This year, with several primaries yet to be determined and a sense of polarization in both major political parties, I implore you to vote twice. Vote in the primary (if your state hasn't had one already) and vote again in the midterms on November 6th. The widening gap between progressives and moderates among Democrats is especially concerning. In those instances I recommend you vote for your party candidate, regardless of whether or not their platform gels with your beliefs.

In the meantime, go out and celebrate. Eat half your body weight in corn on the cob, then watch some fireworks. If you're fighting for your beliefs, there's nothing wrong with taking one day off. This is America's mental day.


Thursday, June 28, 2018

Allard Across America

My year of travel continues:

Since mid-March, I've been in four states besides Illinois: Texas, Maryland, Iowa, and Nebraska. If you include a day trip I took to Janesville, WI just after Christmas, I've been in six states in the last six months. At long last, in about two weeks I am setting my sights on New York City. This has been over a decade in the making. I was promised a trip to NYC when I graduated college in December 2007, but money and other obstacles prevented the trip from happening until now. I'll be spending most of the weekend in upper Manhattan, and I am open to suggestions and recommendations.

Meanwhile, the first weekend in August my improv partner and I are heading back to Baltimore. After appearing in the Charm City Comedy Festival, the regionally renown Flower Shop Bangers are performing in the Baltimore Improv Fest. I guess Dan and I made a positive impression in their east coast debut two months ago.

Is there more travel on the horizon? Yes, but its tentative. At some point I'll drive to Indianapolis between now and late August to catch a minor league game. I also might take day trips to Beloit, WI and South Bend, IN for similar reasons. I'm flexible, as long as I can afford it and my car is in decent shape.


Friday, June 22, 2018


I haven't discussed current events much lately, and to be honest I'm almost afraid to.

North Korea likely came out as the big winner of last week's summit with the U.S. While not necessarily downplaying the historical significance of the meeting, in the tug of war between Kim Jong Un's over-preparedness and President Trump's improvisation and glad-handing... Kim walked all over Trump. We promised Kim that we would stop military exercises on the peninsula, and in return we received next to nothing. I guess that's the art of the deal.

Speaking of despots, I really can't add much to the fury and astonishment that has erupted over the seperation and apparent imprisonment of children at the US-Mexico border. The sad fact is, President Obama created a policy that allowed this loophole, and President Trump and his ilk took full advantage. Even so, what was set into motion was undeniably Trump's work (and Stephen Miller). It may look like the president caved, but in reality the administration is likely dreaming up something even more cruel.


Monday, June 18, 2018

My 13th Annual Fantasy Emmy Ballot

The 2017-18 TV season was almost like a blur to me. My now-mountainous DVR has made it exceedingly difficult to catch up to "peak" TV, and near impossible to check out a new or much-hyped series. In any case, I still read up on TV news and reviews, and I have some semblance of an idea of current trends. Even if I'm dead wrong (as I am 40% of the time, historically) that's beside the point.

With that said, here is my 13th annual Fantasy Emmy Ballot:

Supporting Actress, Drama: Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black; Millie Bobbie Brown, Stranger Things; Ann Dowd, The Handmaid's Tale; Lena Headey, Game of Thrones; Chrissy Metz, This is Us; Thandie Newton, Westworld.
Supporting Actor, Drama: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones; Asia Kate Dillon, Billions; Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones; David Harbour, Stranger Things; Anthony Hopkins, Westworld; Mandy Patinkin, Homeland.
Supporting Actress, Comedy: Zazie Beetz, Atlanta; Judith Light, Transparent; Kate McKinnon, SNL; Laurie Metcalf, Roseanne; Megan Mullally, Will & Grace, Jessica Walter, Arrested Development.
Supporting Actor, Comedy: Louie Anderson, Buckets; Alec Baldwin, SNL; Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Sean Hayes, Will & Grace; Marc Maron, GLOW; Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Leading Actress, Drama: Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder; Claire Foy, The Crown; Mandy Moore, This Is Us; Elizabeth Moss, The Handmaid's Tale; Sandra Oh, Killing Eve; Keri Russell, The Americans.
Leading Actor, Drama: Jason Bateman, Ozark; Sterling K. Brown, This is Us; Freddie Highmore, The Good Doctor; Matthew Rhys, The Americans; Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan; Jeffrey Wright, Westworld.
Leading Actress, Comedy: Pamela Aldon, Better Things; Alison Brie, GLOW; Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Tracie Ellis Ross, Black-ish; Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie.
Leading Actor, Comedy: Anthony Anderson, Black-ish; Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm; Donald Glover, Atlanta; Bill Hader, Barry; William H. Macy, Shameless; Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley.

Best Variety Talk Series: "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee," TBS; "Jimmy Kimmel Live," ABC; "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver," HBO; "The Late, Late Show with James Corden," CBS; "Late Night with Seth Meyers," NBC; "Late Show with Stephen Colbert," CBS.
Best Variety Sketch Series: "Drunk History," Comedy Central; "Joe Pera Talks With You," Adult Swim; "Portlandia," IFC; "The President Show," Comedy Central; "Saturday Night Live," NBC; "Tracey Ullman's Show," HBO/BBC.
Best Limited Series: "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story," FX; “Genius: Picasso” NatGeo; “Godless," Netflix; “The Looming Tower,” Hulu; “The Terror," AMC; “Twin Peaks,” Showtime.
Best Dramatic Series: "The Americans," FX; "The Crown," Netflix; "Game of Thrones," HBO; "The Handmaid's Tale," Hulu; "Stranger Things," Netflix; "This is Us," NBC; "Westworld," HBO.
Best Comedy Series: "Atlanta," FX; "Barry," HBO; "Black-ish," ABC; "GLOW," Netflix; "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," Amazon Prime; "Silicon Valley," HBO; "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," Netflix.


Monday, May 28, 2018

Flood Lights: One Year Later

The end of May offers two milestones for me, one slight and one substantial, yet both unfortunate. This past May 19th would have been my 10th anniversary at Salem Communications, an experience that I looked back on in 2011 and 2015. I acknowledged the milestone by texting my old boss (see image below) and briefly looking back at the bullet that I dodged. I am still in regular contact with two other people from that office. Nearly everyone else can stay in the past.

My mother has been dead for one year. It has a mercurial, up and down year of transition for my sister and I, but we move forward. It seems oddly fitting that I would spend this somber anniversary in Omaha, Nebraska, where I found out my mother had passed. I take solace in the fact that I had fun at the improv festival, just as my mother would have wished during last year's trip. I reconnected with a high school friend, while establishing new professional relationships with other improvisers. My sister stayed at home, taking care of the garden that my mother used to spend countless hot afternoons. Even though she visited my mother's grave on Sunday, neither of us felt inclined to dwell.

My relationship with my mother could be contentious at times, but I think about her almost daily. I tried to be as supportive and considerate as possible in those last few years, but I bristled at times as she grew increasingly needy and fragile. Her love was unconditional and unwavering --as any mom should be-- even when it felt smothering and overprotective. Even though my mother was front and center with taking care of my grandmother, there were often instances in the last five years or so where my sister had to juggle Grandma and both of our ill parents. When mom passed last May 27th, it was like a weird burden had been taken off our shoulders. Her parting gift was letting my sister and I move on.


Next Week: my 13th annual fantasy Emmy ballot.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Through a Freshman's Eyes: Millennium Edition

[Ed. note: I'm doing this a little earlier than usual this year. You'll see why in my next post.]

Another graduation season looms. For the eighth year in a row, and as the time gap between my high school graduation and this year's class widens, I am reminded not only of my lurching obsolescence, but also the variance in perspective. The scary part, and something to bear in mind as you read this year's list, is that the current crop of high school seniors have no recollection of the 20th century. In fact, about two-thirds of them were born after Saturday, January 1st, 2000.

With that said, if you are a graduating senior...

...Bashar al-Assad has always been President of Syria.
...Vladimir Putin has always been "President" of Russia.
...Elián González has always lived in Cuba.
...Hillary Clinton has always been the politician in the family.
...your parents' PC has never had issues with being "compliant." have vague childhood memories of a phone-like device called a Blackberry. has always been downloadable, and with relative ease.
...Amazon has always been eating away at brick-and-mortar retail stores.
...there have always been internet-only movies. (click here) dating, blogging, flash drives and GPS have always been a thing.
...they have never read LIFE magazine.
...the Pyrenean ibex has always been extinct.
...the comic strip "Peanuts" has always been in repeats (applies only to anyone under age 18 that has ever read a newspaper).'ve never seen the original lineup of Smashing Pumpkins or Screaming Trees play live.
...Prince has never been referred to as "The Artist" or by an incomprehensible symbol.
...there have always been Latin Grammys.
...Madonna has always been faking a British accent.
...reality shows have always dominated network television.
...its always been okay for two men to kiss on network television. have never watched TGIF.
...Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford have never hosted a talk show together.
...David Letterman has always been the survivor of quintuple-bypass surgery.
...Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitski, and Manu Ginóbili have always played in the NBA.
...Tom Brady, Adam Vinatieri, Phil Dawson, and Sebastian Janikowski have always played in the NFL.
...Matt Cullen and Zdeno Chara have always played in the NHL.
...Adrian Beltre has always played third base in the majors.
...Bartolo Colon has not only always been a Major League pitcher, but he's always been on the chunky side.
...speaking of MLB, the National and American Leagues have never been seperate legal entities.
...Catfish Hunter, Allen Funt, Wilt Chamberlain, Payne Stewart, Walter Payton, Madeline Kahn, Mary Kay Bergman, Rick Danko, Curtis Mayfield, "Q" from the James Bond movies, Clayton Moore, Nat Adderley, Don Martin, Bob Lemon, Hedy Lamarr, Doug Henning, Charles M. Schulz, Sid Abel, Derrick Thomas, the guy from the Ernest movies, Lee Petty, Adam Petty, Larry Linville, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Sir John Gielgud, Johnnie Taylor, Nancy Marchand, David Tomlinson, Walter Matthau, Sir Alec Guinness, and Carl Barks have always been dead.