Monday, August 31, 2009

Bring the Funny (A.K.A. Stand-up Comedian not Stand-up Philosopher)

The other day on AMC, I watched Mel Brooks’ ‘History of the World: Part I’ ( I laughed, chuckled, guffawed and giggled through the spoof, having a wonderful time and then I became quite sad when the Roman period spoof started and Mel Brooks’ character described himself as a ‘Stand-up Philosopher’ and then performed like a stand-up comedian. This got me thinking about the inverse – Stand-Up Comedians becoming Stand-Up Philosophers.

I love stand-up, absolutely love it. I can distinctly remember two times in my life where I have laughed until it hurt. Once was in California listening to cassettes of Bill Cosby routines and the other was at a comedy club in Utah called Johnny B’s. Several times, on a lazy Friday night, I have watched stand-up for hours on Comedy Central and even though sitting on a couch eating potato chips in the dark doesn’t lend itself to gut busting laughter, I chuckled and enjoyed my evening very much. Currently, my two favorite comedians are Brian Regan ( and Jim Gaffigan ( Brian Regan is completely clean and what I’ve seen of Jim Gaffigan (King Baby special on Comedy Central) is clean as well. These guys make it hard to eat while watching because chewing and then swallowing does not work cleanly with laughing out loud. These guys are amazing and I hope that they never exceed their current level of fame and notoriety.

You may have read that last sentence and thought to yourself, “Why? Why, Dan, if you like these guys, would you not want them to gain more fans, make more money and generally become more successful? You sound like you’d be a terrible friend. I don’t think I can look at you anymore.”

The reason I don’t want them to become any more famous is purely selfish and based on my personal pleasure only. I don’t want them more famous because I want them to stay funny.

Yep, that’s right. For stand-up comedians fame = not funny. There are exceptions to this rule just like any rule. Some famous comedians stay funny until the day they die. Most don’t. And I’m not writing about the Robin Williams type comedians out there, those that still try to be funny but just aren’t anymore. I’m writing about the ones that just stop trying to be funny and move from ‘Stand-Up Comedian’ to ‘Stand-Up Philosopher’.

“What is the difference?” you may be asking yourself. Here’s a simple checklist below to let you know if your ‘comedian’ has given up funny for poignancy.

1. When watching them, you realize you are not laughing.
2. When watching the audience, you realize they are not laughing either.
3. There are catcalls, whistles and applause but these are not preceded by laughter.
4. You ever find yourself thinking, “That was a good point. Not funny, but a good point.”

Does any of this seem familiar? (I hope so or I’ve just wasted about ten minutes of my life putting together this post.)

Stand-up Comedians are observers that point out the funny. Stand-Up Philosophers are people that believe because fans have listened to them for years and enjoy hearing the funny, said fans must also want their opinions. I don’t. I don’t want opinions. I want funny. I don’t want political views, unless they are funny. I don’t want to be encouraged to vote, unless it is for something funny. Go ahead, make fun of W. That’s funny. But then don’t turn around and explain how awesome Obama is without making fun of his ears or speech patterns (Jamie Foxx’s impression is incredible). Just don’t do it.

I know that it’s incredibly easy to sit back and say, “You there, funny man that I am watching on my television, be more funny or I shall be forced to change the channel.” I know that I am Monday morning quarterbacking stand-up comedy, which is really very sad. All I am asking though is if a ‘Comedian’ decides that their opinion is more important than entertaining, they need to have new business cards made that say ‘Stand-Up Philosopher’ and stop pretending that they bring the funny.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I think sci-fi, therefore I am sci-fi.

My wife is a saint. I say this not because of her unending patience or her ability to find lost things like good ol’ Anthony of Padua. I say this because she puts up with me and my hobby.

My wife does not enjoy sci-fi. Consequently, she encourages me to write things other than science fiction. She is loving and supportive of my writing and wants me to do well but honestly, would be much happier reading my work if it focused around widower or middle-aged-never-been-married pastors that live in New England with eccentric parishioners and women that awaken a longing for a ‘complete’ life. That’s what she would enjoy and if that’s what makes her happy, then I hope the Mitford series continues indefinitely and that Gilmore Girls will be resurrected. Unfortunately, that’s not me. I don’t think about quaint towns where everyone knows everyone’s business and there are no grocery stores because every morning there is a farmer’s market with everything from fresh cream to haggis.

She asks me why I don’t write sweet things. (Asks, not nags. She never nags, just to be clear.) She tells me I’m funny and I should focus on that. Everybody likes funny, she says. I nod my head and agree with her because it’s true. I am funny. At least, all signs point to me being funny. I know it’s not my asymmetrically retreating hairline and overripe pumpkin figure that keeps her with me. I know it’s my ability to make her laugh.

I tell her it’s because when I think about quaint towns, I picture destroyed buildings, no farmer’s market because there are no farms and then I begin to wonder what happened. Then I think about comets and asteroids and what would happen if we tried to blow one up and the physics required for the comet to break into a million pieces that strike the earth over a period of twenty-four hours and what if each piece of comet has a hyper-magnetic core that survives the intense heat of atmospheric penetration and is so strongly polarized that they are pulled toward industrial centers and cities because of the high concentration of metal and how strong of a magnetic force would there have to be for the comet fragments to be diverted from their gravitational descent and…now I’m writing a new book.

Before I know it, it's three in the morning and I have fifty pages of hand written notes and questions to find answers for and the poor widowed pastor that my wife would like to read about finding love and a renewed sense of life is trapped in a box canyon with mutated survivors trying to preach the gospel to those that have seen the wrath of heaven.

That’s why I write sci-fi. It’s because I think sci-fi. Blame reading it when I was a kid. Blame the physics, mathematics, chemistry and engineering courses I had to take to get my degree. Blame whatever you want but at the end of the day, when I’m thinking about whatever I want to think about, it’s science based and it’s not happy. Maybe some dialog might be funny, maybe a character or two might reflect a hilarious friend or I might throw in story of an old rooster named Earl that was too slow to catch the hens so he settled for a fat white duck named Spike. Who knows, any of that could happen. But at the end of the day, when I take the time to collect all of my errant thoughts and imaginings, two things are constant.

One – I scare myself sometimes.

And two – I think sci-fi, therefore I am sci-fi.

Exciting Blog News! Email Subscriptions!

For those of you that enjoy my spandex monkey stylings but hate the hassle of actually going to my blog to see if I have anything new posted (I know that my posting has been very irregular but from here on out I promise at least three new posts a week), I have the solution for you. Look to your right, just below the super handsome picture and TA DA!!! – EMAIL SUBSCRIPTIONS!!!!!!!

I know, I know, not really that exciting but it is a feature I enjoy on the blogs I frequent because it saves me the heart ache of actually taking the time to open my favorites menu, click on their link and then see they haven’t updated in over two days. I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about. But now, you don’t have to worry about that. Just put in your email address and bam! – every time I post something new it will be sent directly to your email, which if you’re anything like me, gets checked anywhere from 5-50 times a day depending on how many Nigerian politicians need help to transferring their fortunes to America.

So, there you go. Quick and easy blog posts to your email. I’m making the world a better place by eliminating one mouse click at a time.

P.S. If you have a blog and have not set up this particular feature yet, here’s a link with instructions for how to. Realistically, it’s not very hard but considering how easy Google usually makes things for all of us, it might take a little time.

P.P.S. Please remember to comment if you read something you like and feel free (really, really, really free) to email around any blog posts to friends, family or enemies. Or even better, sign up your entire address book for subscription. People love unexpected emails, right?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Movie Mash-Up: Iron Man in the Iron Mask

1. Bad Movie – The Man in the Iron Mask (1998). I thought it was awful. The acting, especially John Malkovich’s soulful performance describing why he's lost faith in life, was horrendous. I know that most of the actors (Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gabriel Byrne, Gerard Depardieu) in this film are legends/greats/whatever but this movie was simply hard to watch . And the unforgivable sin – forcing the audience to see Gerard Depardieu’s naked butt which looks a great deal like the end of his nose magnified.

Basic Story – Twin heirs to the throne, imprisonment of the ‘nice’ one by the evil one including an iron mask so nobody will know there is a ‘nice’ twin, but the musketeers find out and plan to supplant evil Di Caprio with the nice DiCaprio since France is on the edge of revolution & a nice king could fix it all. Eventually, after all the hassle, the evil DiCaprio with his almost feminine beauty, decides it would actually be easier to kill his brother than keep him alive in an iron mask. Seems to me, if he was really pure evil, this would have been the first move but hey, I’m an engineer so I look for efficiency. Anyway, after a surprise paternity confession and miracle survival of an onslaught of musket fire, the nice DiCaprio becomes king, the evil one wears the mask and France never goes through a bloody revolution. This movie almost has a sci-fi twist already with an alternate history.

2. Science Fiction Movie – Iron Man

Basic Story – Tony Stark is Robert Downey Jr., a genius engineer who makes billions of dollars and bags big-toothed blond reporters (because engineers get all the hot blonds) while being nagged by Gwyneth Paltrow. Skip to the end of terrorist captivity and Tony has built a weaponized suit of armor and becomes Iron Man. There is corporate betrayals, new found love and appreciate for life and really cool special effects. In short, Iron Man = goooooood times.

2. New Movie – Iron Man in the Iron Mask

Keep the original Man in the Iron Mask story since it in itself is actually very good. (I know, who would’ve thought a man named Dumas could have produced something intelligent and enduring.) BUT, replace DiCaprio with Downey Jr. for less whining and more funny snarkiness and then when the good Downey Jr. is imprisoned, instead of just taking it, he creates the rest of an Iron Man suit, returns to Paris, throws his evil twin brother to the revolting peasants where he is torn to pieces. Then, Iron Man in the Iron Mask puts the fear into the whiny peasants before and the revolution is averted, thus bringing about the alternate timeline as in the original movie. Starts and ends the same but the middle two hours would be a lot more fun to watch.

Everything is better with Sci-Fi.

And for the four and a half people I know are reading this blog, I would just like to point out that this is my second submission for the movie mash-up vs the collective score of ZERO for all of you. I am disappointed.

Bring your game and your entry will become a blog post as long as the rules are observed. Submit entries to

Shocking Revelations for 8/27/09

I feel like I’ve just been hit by a truck. My shocking revelations for the day might be common knowledge to you but I am completely blown away by what I did not know.

· Brand on ‘Goonies’ = Josh Brolin
· ‘Encino Man’ came out in 1992! That movie is seventeen years old! That makes me hurt.
· Freaky puppeteer dead girl from ‘Sixth Sense’ = Mischa Barton

Time for cookies.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Stupid Dragon Apocalypse

Having two children ruins a lot of movies. I have seen half of ‘Up’, ‘Despereau’, ‘Horton Hears a Who’, and many other kids’ films in theaters thanks to my two year old preferring to wander the lobby to sitting down and watching the film. But that’s not what I’m writing about here. I’m also not writing about movies where people with children are supposed to be emotionally charged or triggered by the thought of children suffering or dying. There are plenty of those films set in the real world and it is natural to get a little (or very much) choked up when thinking of one’s own children put in such circumstances.

What I am writing about are the surprise movies, the ones you don’t expect to think about your kids, the ones that are supposed to take you out of this world and entertain you with fantastic settings, epic battles, or speculative ideas of how the world might be if ‘xyz’ happened.

The other night, I was watching just such a film – ‘Reign of Fire’ – an oft forgotten movie from 2002 starring: Christian (I’m Batman and I need a lozenge to soothe my scratchy throat) Bale, Matthew (Shaved Head, Tattooed Arms, Sleeveless Bomber Jacket & Cigars = BadAs-) McConaughey, and Gerard (When I’m not making terrible RomComs, I live in SPARTAAAAAAA!) Butler as the survivors and enders of a contemporary dragon apocalypse. That’s right – a modern dragon apocalypse so hard core that it even includes a slo-mo scene of Matty M. jumping off the top of a smoke stack towards the alpha-male dragon with only a gothic battle axe. Oh yeah, this is a manly movie and yes, I was watching it by myself because my wife had something ‘better’ to do.

So I’m watching this movie, wondering if I could take any of the male leads in a fight and then there’s a scene where Christian Bale is explaining to Izabella (former Bond girl) Scorupco, how he became the guardian of one of the children living in his ‘fortress’. This is somewhat paraphrased but just imagine Bale’s accent (for those of you who don’t know, he’s not American – he’s from Wales):

“He was three years old. I found him trying to wake up his mother. She’d been dead for days…”

Son of a motherless goat!

The last time I’d watched this movie was when it came out, 2 years before my daughter was born. What I remembered of it was the above listed hard-core guy entertainment and the scene where Mr. Bale and Mr. Butler act out the ‘I am your father’ scene from Empire and tell the awe struck kids that they wrote it. I did not remember this part but now, I will never forget it because as the words were said in the dingy, survivalist basement of Mr. Bale’s fortress, I got choked up and had to fight back tears.

That’s right. Me, Dan the Spandex Monkey, all 6 ft 250 lbs of manly man was trying not to cry watching a movie about a dragon apocalypse.

Kids ruin everything.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

And now the exciting conclusion! Zero-Matter Chapter 13-Epilogue

Chapters 13-Epilogue of Zero-Matter, my 71,000 word Science Fiction Novel.Please see ‘The Basics’ on the right for the rules and thank you for reading.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Zero-Matter Novel Excerpt - Chapters 9-12

Chapters 9-12 of Zero-Matter, my 71,000 word Science Fiction Novel.Please see ‘The Basics’ on the right for the rules and thank you for reading.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Zero-Matter Novel Excerpt - Chapters 5-8

Chapters 5-8 of Zero-Matter, my 71,000 word Science Fiction Novel.

Please see ‘The Basics’ on the right for the rules and thank you for reading.