Monday, May 30, 2016

The Cheery Traveler

One of my goals for 2016 was to travel. Family obligations had kept me from going anywhere the previous two or three years, and before that I simply couldn't budget a road trip. (I don't count my frequent commutes to Chicago.) This year, I'm making up for lost time. In mid-April, I parlayed my semi-annual drive down to Normal into a three-day stay in the Houston suburbs. My college radio station was celebrating its 35th anniversary, but I was only able to hang out for the first day of the reunion. A former improv teammate of mine was getting married the same weekend, and I rarely turn down a wedding invitation.  Splitting the difference more or less worked; by flying from central Illinois to Houston (with a layover in Atlanta) I avoided long security lines and saved on airfare. On top of that, I only had to spend money on one night in a hotel; I crashed at the groom's father's house up in Willis for most of the trip. In short, this was the type of "lone wolf" trip that I'd been wanting for years.

A week or so ago, my improv/business partner Dan and I drove out to the Omaha Improv Festival. Even though I've been studying and performing improv for seven years now, I've never done so outside of the state of Illinois. Dan had been submitting to festivals across the country for almost three years now, and we were sort of bemused that Omaha had accepted us. Neither of us knew anyone from the Cornhusker State, nor were we aware of any improv community in the United States' 60th largest city. The whole road trip was a pleasant surprise; the Omaha improv scene is small but burgeoning, the festival was a blast, and above all Omaha is a lovely little city. (Our show was just okay, but we still had fun.) I can't really budget any other adventures at the moment, but I'm glad I've been able to explore the world outside Chicago for a little while.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Through a Sixth Freshman's Eyes

This week and next, millions of high school seniors will be graduating. Some will take a summer off before starting college, while others might take a semester or a whole year to contemplate their options. In any case, they were all born between late 1997 and mid-1998, offering a different perspective of the world than someone who vividly remembers the end of the 20th century (i.e. someone who is now old). With that said, and with all due apologies to Beloit College, here is my sixth annual homemade "Memory List":

...Google has always been a presence on the internet.
...Apple has always had the upper hand on Microsoft.
...if you're into right-wing conspiracies, you haven't had to look much further than the Drudge Report.
...if you're right-wing but not into conspiracies, you haven't had to look much further than Fox News Channel.
...Monica Lewinsky has always been a household name, and for all the wrong reasons.
...the highest-grossing movie of all time was always a film directed by James Cameron (at least, until a few months ago).
...Animal Kingdom has always been an attraction at Disney World.
...there has always been at least one Harry Potter title available in American bookstores...
...or you could just buy a book on Amazon.
...the Chicago Bulls have never won an NBA title.
...Tim Duncan has always played in the NBA.
...Bartolo Colon has always been a Major League pitcher.
...Roger Maris has never owned the Major League single-season home run record.
...NHL players have always been a presence in the Winter Olympics.
..."Seinfeld" has existed only in repeats.
...CBS has never aired "The Wizard of Oz" during May sweeps. never saw Norm Macdonald anchor Weekend Update on SNL.
...Burgess Meredith, Red Skelton, Toshiro Mifune, Chris Farley, Phil Hartman, Lloyd Bridges, Alan Shepard, Dr. Spock, Bella Abzug, Pol Pot, Shari Lewis, Harry Carey, Jack Brickhouse, Sonny Bono, Carl Wilson, Tammy Wynette and Frank Sinatra have always been dead.

Did I forget anything? If so, feel free to mention it in the comments below. (Here's last year's list.) If this post was too much of a gut-punch, I respect that too.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Rhapsody in Tan/Orange

Last week I wondered if Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner could already be written off as a failure. Now I wonder if the GOP has conjointly lost its soul. Death notices aside, it was the abject failure of Republican Party leaders to acknowledge and tamp down the grass-roots momentum of Donald Trump that caused this presidential race to turn into a mud-slinging train wreck. The rich oligarchy that almost unilaterally dominated sustained the GOP until the Tea Party movement has let that power slip through their fingers. They underestimated the number of Americans that are both conservative and poor, and embraced an unpredictable candidate that didn't want or need their campaign money.

In spite of Donald Trump's polarizing presence, his ability to galvanize social conservatives and libertarians alike does not ensure an easy victory for whomever wins the Democratic nomination come November. Trump's campaign hit a sweet spot for a portion of the populace that leans right but never votes. Common sense aside, the "Trumpeters" will come out en masse in November, ensuring only a close race against Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Perhaps its the fault of party leaders, the "mainstream" conservatives that didn't anticipate --or vastly underestimated-- the anti-establishment ruminations of the past decade. (The Democrats have a similar issue.) In any case, the people have chosen their candidates, and now this three-ring circus is consolidating into its final act.