Saturday, September 9, 2017

Random Notes, September 2017

So much to say, so little time:

+ It took a hurricane or two to finally get the Trump controversies off the front page. For better or worse, its a diversion; Hurricane Harvey was an astonishing tragedy, one of larger scope than Katrina but better managed, and the aftermath might linger on for a decade. Hurricane Irma, hammering Florida as I write this, could be just as bad. President Trump is probably grateful to not be hounded by the Russian collusion controversy (among other things) at least for a moment.

+ I'm going to be somewhat disappointed if this is the end of the Moose/Hos/Alcides/Lo-Cain era in Kansas City. All four are pending free agents, and any attempt at making one last playoff push with this core group has sputtered. My Royals are playing .500 ball when we should be right in the thick of things. On one hand, we've set a team record for home runs in a season where MLB overall has seen an uptick in power stats; on the other hand, our pitching has been pedestrian. We'll be okay in the long run, but I don't want to wait 28 years for another title run.

+ While I'm glad the summer is over, the stress continues. I'm back to working as a substitute teacher after spending 2 1/2 months mostly at home, so I'm relieved that I don't have to dip into inheritance and rainy-day money much longer. I also have a temp position lined up that, if all goes to plan, will keep me steadily employed for about three months. On the other hand, I'm the executor of my mother's estate and I'm still wading through paperwork. My aspiration is to finally move out of my parents' house by November 1st, but money is still an X-factor.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

32 Teams, 32 Haiku: My 2017 NFL Preview


It doesn't seem like the NFL season is right around the corner. Its been a tumultuous summer, and perhaps some of us aren't ready yet for the first kickoff. Nevertheless, the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots (and Tom Brady, probably in his final season) start the year against Kansas City on September 7th. Controversies still swirl around Colin Kaepernick and Zeke Elliott, and I can think of six or seven teams that are going to be horrendous this year (including my Beloveds). Let me break it down for you, 17 soma at a time:



AFC NORTH
1. Steelers. (13-3) Young D impresses/O firepower maintained/Pats’ only real foe.
2. Ravens. (8-8) Good but complacent/ground attack needs improvement/for real playoff talk.
3. Bengals. (6-10) Lewis on the hot/seat; another step backwards/could mean the heave-ho.
4. Browns. (3-13) Last year? Rock bottom/nowhere to go but up, if/you don’t mind kneeling.
AFC EAST
1. Patriots. (13-3) Of course them again/even without Edelman/the machine rolls on.
2. Dolphins*. (9-7) Cutler, short term fix/receivers alone make this/a playoff sleeper.
3. Bills. (5-11) Still meandering/Tyrod is overrated/rebuilding looms near.
4. Jets. (2-14) Gang Green, no blood flow/abysmal offense puts the/”hack” in “Hackenberg.”
AFC SOUTH
1. Titans. (10-6) Young and ready now/Mariota will dazzle/if he stays healthy.
2. Texans. (8-8) So many “De-” names/but QB play will hinder/and exhaust real D.
3. Colts. (7-9) No O-line? Good Luck/(or good grief); lack of support/after overhaul.
4. Jaguars. (3-13) Free agency whiz/fails to generate results/or score any points.
AFC WEST
1. Raiders. (11-5) Vegas move lingers/Carr and Beast Quake fireworks/distract from ill will.
2. Broncos*. (10-6) Without a QB/Geep Chryst’s name, taken in vain/D, though? Dominant.
3. Chiefs. (9-7) Red and yellow blues/same suspect O carried by/sturdy D. Ho-hum.
4. Chargers. (7-9) Welcome to LA/new scenery but same Bolts/I’m not seeing stars.

NFC NORTH
1. Packers. (11-5) Oh god, them again/near elite but annoying/Rodgers’ neighborhood.
2. Lions. (9-7) Good team with bad coach/a healthy Ameer helps, but/please no Hail Marys.
3. Vikings. (6-10) Skill positions on/O don’t impress; no flukes like/last year, just boring.
4. Bears. (5-11) This is rebuilding/quarterback situation/might prove distracting.
NFC EAST
1. Cowboys. (10-6) Dak needs new attack/until Zeke returns; still quite/steady all around.
2. Giants*. (9-7) Expensive defense/overshadows old Eli/and Beckham drama.
3. Redskins. (7-9) Beltway bedlam; a/dysfunctional family/with pissed-off Cousins.
4. Eagles. (6-10) Wentz’ growing pains/numbed by Alshon’s comeback, but/they’re still rebuilding.
NFC SOUTH
1. Falcons. (11-5) Fear of hangover/after Super Bowl collapse/quashed with hot start.
2. Panthers*. (10-6) Jekyll and Hyde squad/secondary woes will be/playoff X-factor.
3. Buccaneers. (8-8) Dangerous youngsters/if Winston keeps smoking, these/pirates will plunder.
4. Saints. (7-9) Surplus of targets/await Brees, but the young D/remains unsettled.
NFC WEST
1. Seahawks. (10-6) Their soap opera/is a distraction; O-line/is of great concern.
2. Cardinals. (9-7) A sleeper team if/healthy; don’t doubt Arians/miracle worker.
3. Rams. (6-10) Worse than they look, Goff/must prove he’s not a flop or/the horns will fall off.
4. Niners. (3-13) Very modest goals/new coaches search for gold and/turn up some pyrite.


OTHER PICKS:
NFL MVP: Jameis Winston, Bucs
Offensive ROY: Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
Defensive ROY: Myles Garrett, Browns
First Head Coach Fired: Doug Marrone, Jaguars
Super Bowl LI: Patriots 29, Cowboys 10

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Never-ending Chaos

He came, he saw... he Mooched? The first White House employee to serve negative time, Anthony Scaramucci's ten days between appointment and forced resignation were a whirlwind. There's not much I can say that hasn't already been said, beyond the fact that Scaramucci's demeanor made him horrifically ill-suited for the position, and President Trump's tendency to hire and appoint sycophants and close friends has reached peak hubris. Here's hoping Gen. John Kelly, a public servant as straitlaced as Scaramucci was loud and profane, will attempt to bring a level of dignity and gravitas we haven't seen yet in the Trump White House.

Early last week --just before Mooch's resignation, as a matter of fact-- I had read this editorial from the National Review and commented on it on Twitter. I joked that at least it wasn't "that pinko rag The Weekly Standard"; he liked the reply, but it was pretty clear he didn't know I was joking. It was another brief, discomforting reminder that quite often, arguing with Trump's most ardent supporters is a rabbit hole into obliviousness. They are brainwashed, putting patriotism before critical thinking, the blind led by the blind.

NOTE: I wrote these two first paragraphs before the act of terror and ensuing fracas in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 11th.  This weekend, for the first time since I launched Stu News, I posted something that wasn't meant to be satirical or jovial. The bigots and white nationalists that Trump catered to during the 2016 primaries feel validated, and for as odious and reprehensible their actions were, this was their rallying moment. (Incidentally, the National Review begged Trump to condemn the alt-right. Everyone is still waiting.) They were taught to hate, to vehemently distrust those unlike them, and now they think they have the same rights that everyone else has. I am appalled beyond words. My thoughts are with the Heyer family and those injured in Saturday's counter-protest.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

RIP The Gorilla Tango Theater


This past Monday, the Gorilla Tango shuttered it doors. By default the best entertainment venue in Bucktown, GTT was known mostly for burlesque. It doubled as an art gallery and a playhouse, but I was acquainted and associated with GTT by improv.  I spent three seasons with the Improv Zoo coached ensemble program that Kristi McKay ran in 2012-13, and made my first leap into producing there with a variety show in October 2013.

Like a lot of people, I have mixed feelings about Gorilla Tango's demise. On one hand, I met Dan Anderson during my last season with the Improv Zoo, and Flower Shop Bangers owes its existence to a happenstance show at GTT. On the other hand, it was rather expensive to produce a show in the space (I was convinced by a flyer at the ticket desk) and "The Allard Programme" lost so much money, it took me almost two years to pay it off. Considering who assisted me with getting the show off the ground --mostly good friends, but some acquaintances too-- it was both a learning experience and a mild embarrassment.

The last time I set foot in GTT was about six months ago. I tagged along with my girlfriend Marissa and our pal Aaron to see a "Back to the Future" -themed burlesque show. These type of shows were what kept the lights on, and even though they were well-received the tickets were ridiculously expensive. They were known to sell out too, but this particular performance of "Boobs to the Future" sold maybe 12 tickets. At one point, the dancers did a bit where they begged audience members for donations. I didn't realize they were legitimately asking for tips. Rumors of apparent financial issues were going from a mumble to a holler.

The photo taken above was from the third of the four "Allard Programme" shows I hosted and produced. I only sold eight total tickets in the first two shows, so I promised that if we sold out the theater for week three, I would host part of the show in my junior high gym uniform. We fell way short of my goal, but I twirled around in my old gym suit anyway. C'est la vie.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Watching the Chaos

Politics aside, Sean Spicer's resignation last Friday was distinctly tragicomic. On one hand, nearly everyone except Spicer knew that he wasn't suited for the job of press secretary; on the other, he was a team player who was ultimately screwed over by management that couldn't have cared less about his opinion or presence. It would be utter hyperbole to say Spicer was the worst to ever hold that position, but I'm hard-pressed to think of anyone who was as hostile and prone to malapropism as "Spicey." His lack of self-awareness made him a punchline and a pariah. Here's hoping he finds solace in the private sector, over a cup of Dippin' Dots.

For now, the departure of Spicer, the promotion of Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, and the hiring of Tony Scaramucci is cosmetic. The lawn chairs were reshuffled on the Titanic a while ago, and six months in the liberal resistance to Trump is adjusting to the reality that he won't be removed easily. Even if the Democratic Party had its act together, resignation (goaded or not) isn't happening and impeachment is a pipe dream. The announcement and ensuing executive order regarding the openly transgender in the military was another outrageous distraction, this time from Congress' overwhelmingly approved sanctions on Russia. Of all of Trump's scandals, the allegations of election tampering is the one that won't go away.

As much as I hate to say it, barring disaster we have to grin and bear it until November 2018. As I suggested last month, the Democrats' best option is to clean house and start a youth movement, putting focus on the House over the Senate during the midterms and retool from the ground up. The party is in a corner, and no matter what catchy slogan they dream up, their current strategy isn't working.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Summer Dazed

So far, this is not shaping up to be a great summer.

For the first time since 2012, I've been out of work during the warm months. I usually take a temp assignment during summer break, but it has yet to materialize and I fear that it won't anytime soon. I was able to clear out my credit card debt with part of my inheritance (thanks, Mom and Grandma) but I might end up back in debt soon enough. It has been a struggle to stay motivated on various projects. To elaborate:

I'm writing comedy sketches again. For the first time in nearly four years I'm enrolled in a class at Second City; I'm taking an eight-week writing intensive that is offered to conservatory graduates. I had to get a waiver for the course because it'd been so long since I graduated (almost four years ago).

When I'm not dealing with these two family estates, I've undertaken a long-delayed cleaning and organizing project. I have a large (to put it mildly) sports card collection; I've been fishing around for items to sell on eBay *cough* while also buying new supplies to store my cards. Some of the earliest cards in my collection, given to me by my great-great-aunt around 1989-90, were still in old shoe-boxes. Given that the market at a low tide, selling cards on eBay has been an uphill battle to say the least.

I guess there are some perks to being temporarily underemployed: my schedule is flexible enough to enjoy a few day trips, and I'm catching up with reading. Still, with five weeks until the school year starts, I sincerely hope I find some short-term temp work.

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