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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Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Dance of Despair

Ten years ago this week, I went to a strip club for the first and only time.

I went because my Uncle Jim insisted. He was a bachelor in his early 50s, in a long-term relationship with a sweet albeit docile woman. Jim started asking me around my 21st birthday, and asked a few more times over the next two years before I finally agreed. One Saturday night in July, Jim picked me up in his rusted out 1988 Firebird, we had dinner at my grandmother's house, and then we drove off to a gentlemen's club near Romeoville. In the parking lot, we were joined by a church friend of Jim's, another lifelong bachelor with a gross attitude about women.

As I sat down in the front row of the club, I noticed that one of the dancers kept giving me a weird look. She was a tall, leggy brunette with lilac-colored lingerie, awkwardly attempting to wiggle around the floor in two-inch heels with all the other dancers. Most of these women were eager to connect with any and all customers, but this particular dancer had already written me off, and I wasn't sure why. My uncle's friend noticed that she was glaring at us, too.

I figured that the best thing to do was not think about it. I had a couple of beers, and Jim paid for my one lapdance of the evening. Her stage name was Tiffani, and before she unclasped her bra she gave me a disclaimer in a squeaky, inarticulate monotone: no touching, no licking, and above all no attempting to remove the pasties. I sat uncomfortably still in the Barcalounger for five minutes as this woman gyrated half-heartedly around my head and torso. After the lapdance, I walked back downstairs, then sat around for another hour or so before Jim and I left.

As Uncle Jim drove me back to my house, he kept egging me about whether or not I had a good time; his attempt at male bonding was well-intended, but I found the whole experience to be uncomfortable. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, so I just nodded and said "okay" as he tried to lead the witness. Jim made it clear that he wanted to go back with me towing along, but I was non-committal. Alas, there wouldn't be a next time; our schedules kept clashing, and Jim died of pancreatic cancer less than 18 months later. I have felt little to no desire to go back to the club on my own volition.

A week or so after my strip club experience, I realized why that tall brunette kept staring at me: she was a high school classmate. All I remember is that her first name started with a "B," we had a political science class together at North, and she graduated the year before me. Out of embarrassment as well as her privacy, I have made no effort to reach out to her or find out her current whereabouts. On that one Saturday night in July 2007, we were both a little mortified.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Taking a Soft Left

If 2016 was a bad year for to be a liberal, then 2017 burnishes that. There have been five special elections for vacated seats in congress, and all five were retained by the GOP. The Democratic Party tried four completely different strategies in all four races, and despite a relatively narrow loss for Jon Ossoff in Georgia, they were all abject failures.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party as it stands now is aging and out of touch. The 2014 midterms and the 2016 election both exposed the lack of bench depth. President Obama is retired more or less, and party luminaries like Sec. Hillary Clinton, Charles Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Dick Durbin are all on the wrong side of 65. It is a party whose platform should appeal to millennials, a group that is more keen on social issues than any other generation in American history, and the Democrats are muffing it.

Even though we still have plenty of time to speculate, the field of candidates in 2020 so far isn't offering much promise. Martin O'Malley, the man who finished a distant third in the 2016 primaries, is not only perceived as too moderate, but has a history of race issues. Corey Booker has foot-in-mouth disease and too many corporate ties. Warren might be the most suitable, if she's willing to run, but she'll also be 71 years old on Election Day. Barring some minor miracle, we could very well be stuck with President Trump until 2025, when he'll be 78 and even more unintelligible than he is now.

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