Jerk

Tonight I played the party game "Wise and Otherwise" with a group of friends. I had not played the game for a while and it was more fun than I remembered it. My best wise-guy answer was for the setup, "There's an old Polish saying that goes, If they don't answer after three knocks..." My response was, "Steal the welcome mat." Some people said they would have voted for it if I'd gone with my original idea, "Steal the wash off the line," which I rejected for being overly pastoral.

On the other hand, most people guessed my answer for the setup, "There's an old Jamaican saying that goes, If you play with monkey..." For my bluff, I thought of one of the words in the setup and tried to think of the most basic thing associated with that word and the answer came to me. One of these is my bluff and the other is the answer:

"If you play with monkey, don't play with his tail."

"If you play with monkey, play with his friends."

Most people guessed mine and I guessed the right one. I felt really proud, as someone who makes playfulness his business, that I got the most points on this one and I got it right coming and going.

Now which one do you think is real? According to the makers of the game, anyhow. They could all be made up.

Come my little monkey do

Come my little monkey do

Animal kingdom

Spotted this morning in our backyard. A possum, about the size of a medium housecat, bearing on her back at least 9 babies, each the size of a large mouse. Something about the way the tail looks makes this animal slightly revolting to me. But the way she cared for her children, and the way she limped, and the way she was clearly looking for a shelter from the driving rain, and the fact that I was holding my own small child in my arms, made me feel emotional. This has been one of the side effects of fatherhood. I'm not as robotic as I one was.

Spotted this morning in our backyard. A possum, about the size of a medium housecat, bearing on her back at least 9 babies, each the size of a large mouse. Something about the way the tail looks makes this animal slightly revolting to me. But the way she cared for her children, and the way she limped, and the way she was clearly looking for a shelter from the driving rain, and the fact that I was holding my own small child in my arms, made me feel emotional. This has been one of the side effects of fatherhood. I'm not as robotic as I one was.

Drawn to them

You know what I can't get enough of? This style of illustration:

Marching band.jpg
Fentons glass yum.JPG

Does this style have a name? It's also what I generally see in the Talk of the Town part of The New Yorker magazine.

Our first visit to the Magic Castle

They only allow you to take photos in the lobby. The bookcase slides back when you murmur the password, "SEXYGARFIELD."

When my wife and 2 other guests from our party were away from the table, I discovered to my surprise I had a second tie in my blazer's inside pocket. I changed ties while they were gone. My wife was the first to notice, although it was a couple hours later. The magic and the company both were much more interesting than my neckwear.

Thanks to John and Jessica, to Aaron and Laura, and to Jeff and Andy for being such great company.

OK the story here is there was an awful woman, whom we called "Peroxide" because she used a lot, who had been cut off by the bar and was drunken, disorderly, and immensely trashy. It was a "the most obnoxious person in the room wants everyone to know the titleholder is present" sort of situation. In this photo, we're pretending to be her.

In praise of Community 409

The season on the whole has been womp womp with a few highlights. But I loved this episode. I'm a big Muppets fan, and the songs were beautiful. In fact, I've been listening to them over and over and over. You can too:

But there's more than just being charmed by the puppets and the music. (And also that the puppets aren't used just for the hell of it: there's a reason, grounded in what happened to the group.) This episode is as important to the canon of the group as Competitive Ecology. or Cooperative Calligraphy.

They recognize they're doing what they always do so they go outside their comfort zone and something terrible happens to them. This will reenforce their need to stay safely in the study room and fall into their safe comfortable patterns. Perfect addition to this self-aware sitcom. It's as though the "Cheers" gang decided to go on safari and Carla got attacked by a hippo. They'd say, "Whoah, we'd better just stay in the bar where it's safe from now on."

There's also the matter of the secrets. I think the little Indian princess story Jeff told Abed is a more dark secret than the one he told the group in 409. What's more, that story plays into the group's expectations of him, since they all seem obsessed by his relationship with his dad (I hate the way they seem to hit this on the nose in every episode). If Abed did confess a secret, and if he remembers the secrets of all the others, then he alone knows Jeff is lying about his secret. Jeff is the one who suggested they start confessing in the light of day; he got the ball rolling with a story that conveniently fits into what the group already thinks about him. Abed may be keeping Jeff's secret secret as well as his own.

I wish there had been something other than a fire in the cafeteria, since we already had one of those last year and we also had Troy confessing to starting a fire. I wish the Dean hadn't worn a Pinnocchio costume. And I wish Jeff had a better zinger for the Dean than "shut up." But on the whole, this episode is worthy of the show I love so much.

Cranky and full of negativity

The new iTunes is an abomination. I say "new" because a few months ago I let myself get bullied into an update and now getting my podcasts onto my iPod is a Herculean chore. The desktop interface is just as bad. I'm listening to an album in my Music and it doesn't show me what number track it is. I can see the song before this one is 8 and the one after it is 10, but instead of 9 it's showing me a sound icon, to show me that I am listening to a song. It's not that I can't do the math. It's that I don't want my music player to be coy with me and play guessing games. It's withholding information instead of disseminating, because of design awfulness.

But what I'm really cranky about is Survivor. The last two episodes have been the best of the season, and the only good ones since the first episode. The Brandon meltdown doesn't count as a good episode because that's just ugliness and that's not what I'm watching for. Anyhow, tonight's episode had enough good game play to fill a whole season, and all the challenge footage was cool. Footage of people winning immunities. People like Brenda.

Last week I heard Stephen Fishbach say on Rob Cesternino's podcast that Brenda had been in 7 episodes and hadn't spoken to the camera in confessional yet. Tonight makes 8 and there still haven't been any that I can remember. Even though she won an individual immunity.

I cry foul. I cry sexism. What male player wouldn't get a confessional talking about how good it feels to win? We saw the other players speak to Brenda and compliment her performance in the challenge, which was Tom Westman-worthy. But no words from her. Not even the "it feels good to win" sound bite.

Who else could win an immunity idol and not get a confessional? Jerri Manthey in Heroes Vs. Villains certainly didn't get much attention when she won the house of cards immunity against Russell. We didn't see any players strategizing with her, even though the person with immunity is a major factor.

Sure, Brett didn't get much camera time either, but he had more than 0 confessionals this time in the season. Brenda got visited by medical: they bandaged her leg, and then I guess it got better. We don't know. We haven't seen any of that. Rob gets footage when he gets a case of crybabyitis.

At IndieCade last year, Celia asked every in the room to raise their hand and then said, "If you think men and women should be treated equally, leave your hand in the air." Everyone left their hands in the air. She said, "If you have your hand in the air, you are a feminist." My wife graduated from Wellesley. I am attending her 10 year reunion this summer, with our son. I am part of a proud family of feminists. And I am calling sexism on Survivor for its portrayal of Brenda, and as a mega-fan it bums me out in a mega-way.

So there it is, a grumpy complaining blog post about a show I love. I feel that Malcolm's move belongs in the hall of fame along with Amanda's idol play in Fans Vs. Favorites and Parvati giving out 2 idols, and Russell finding his 2nd hidden idol without a clue, but does Andrea's? I'm not sure. What do you think?


Myles's many movements

My wife paid me a nice compliment last night about the way I accompany the stories I tell with movements, which makes the stories easy to follow, compared to what they might otherwise be without the movements. I learned from watching great spacework masters like Doug Neithercott and John Kirhoffer, but I said thank you for the compliment.

Tonight was a normal Monday except that instead of her taking our son to the weekly elite toddler cabal in Santa Monica it was me. I stopped minding my inbox at 3:20 PM so I could fit in a quick talk with her about daycare choices and still be driving away from the house at 3:30. I drove around the corner and parked at our local bagel place, checked in on Foursquare (I am the mayor), and then drove another quarter mile or so to Shakespeare's day care. I paid the caretaker, having forgotten to pay on Friday, and inquired about his stools. The question and answer were relayed among 2 other workers, both Spanish speaking, but the response satisfied me and I strapped the boy in and drove to Santa Monica on the freeway, encountering no problems with highway congestion or finding a parking place adjacent to a working elevator in the high rise parking structure, which only recently raised its rates; no more three hours free parking. Likewise Westfield Century City. Everyone's taking a bite out of me just because I drive a car.

By 4:10 PM we were at ground level, Shakespeare in his stroller and me in my sweater. And him also in a sweater, the heavy jacket (a hand me down from a colleague and friend) tucked in the stroller's sparse cargo hold, a mesh bag which can accommodate the overgarment, a sippy cup, a burp rag, and precious little else. It is an umbrella stroller, no elephantine leviathan with a cupholder.

Since we're early for the cabal, I pushed Shakespeare down the promenade. There was no drumming busquer today, but he showed interest in the soprano sax player and, more so, to the lady with a guitar singing original songs for kids. Her name was Claire Means, which I remember because of the Spoonerism: a housekeeping horse, I suppose. I wish she'd become a household name so I can use her in my forthcoming game Spoonbenders. I gave her a dollar in quarters.

I pushed the stroller to 3rd between Santa Monica and Broadway to check out the new location of the Apple store. I think it's what used to be the Borders. Now I suppose the old space, nearer Wilshire, will stay vacant a long time. Urban blight. I wheeled us quickly to the church and we attended the session.

At 6 I walked us to Tender Greens, ordered food for myself (an indulgence, but no dessert), and fed the baby in the highchair. I fed him from the yellow zip bag with food in it I'd brought from the car, hooked to the back of the umbrella story. I didn't tell you it was there before because I wanted this story to have a twist. The bag also contains spoons with which to feed Shakespeare yams, courtesy of mom, and mashed potatoes, courtesy of the magicians in the kitchen at Tender Greens. There's also wet paper towels in the yellow zip bag.

After dinner my son and I return to the car. This is where mom's plan really pays off. We play at the car for about 15 minutes. Him in the trunk, going nuts and expending a lot of energy. I quickly hide the hatchet I keep in the trunk. I won it at John Russell Terrier's house for answering the most trivia questions right at an all-day screening of the first three Indiana Jones movies, before the 4th one came out. I like the fridge nuking scene, by the way. So Shakespeare's not allowed to play with the hatchet - I keep it in the trunk because, where else really? - but he can play with the bag of balls.

This boy loves ball pits. Loves them. He squeals with glee when we put him in one. He has recently taken to throwing all the balls out, one at a time, but I can usually stop him from doing that by juggling the balls. It's a great distraction, and I'm grateful to myself in high school for doing all that practice, because I can now juggle sufficiently well enough to appease a squirmy baby.

So I give the bag, a canvas tote, to Shakespeare. It contains about a dozen orange balls like the kind you find in a ballpit. This is the first time since fatherhood that the bag in the trunk has come in handy, but not the first time altogether. The balls themselves are leftovers from the big bags I buy at Toys R Us for the games we play at Wise Guys, such as No Match Catch, a wonderful game I made up (immodest) while working on a very good game show. No Match Catch requires balls in green, red, yellow, and blue, but not orange, so I pulled those out and keep them in my car. 

The first time they came in handy, I was a guest on the late night show "Up Late With Adam Fisher." I was appearing in the role of a guest I'd made up, an eccentric, wealthy, British playboy, a combination of a real-life Willy Wonka and Richard Branson. When I entered, I was throwing the orange balls into the audience. I spoke in a British accent, and since I don't normally do accent work, Adam was taken by surprise, which I liked. I told him that the candies I'd thrown into the audience were a combination of gumdrops, some of them, while others were deep psychedelics that, if licked, would last for days before its effects wore off. This was to freak out anyone who might have put their mouths on the balls, which I'm sure was no one, but the character would be confident people would taste his free sweets.

Adam said, "I understand you're doing a night of entertainment at the Disney Concert Hall. It's one night only. What is the name of the show?"

My character's name was Taylor Bloomberg. "A Night With Taylor Bloomberg," was my answer, and the audience laughed. I'm not sure why, but I'm glad they did. The character's name came from my asking Danny Ricker to get from the audience the last name of a US President and the name of a US Mayor.

So Shakespeare played with those balls in the trunk - Greg recovered many of them after the show, though I'd planned on leaving them behind, since he was in the audience - and at 7:15 I put butt cream on him and combed his hair and put his overnight diaper on (on Shakespeare, wisenheimer), and put him in his jammies, and he was just as agreeable as he could be, far more so than he is at home where he needs four hands and a lot of distraction. Sometimes even juggling isn't enough. I took him out of the trunk, folded the umbrella stroller with him under one arm, tossed it in the trunk, closed the trunk securely, opened the rear driver side seat, tossed the hatchet back in the trunk, sat the baby on my lap, and read to him the 6 or 7 stories I'd packed along. Then I offered him a sippy cup of milk, which he waved off - not uncommon - and I buckled him in his carseat and arranged a scarf around him to dampen out some of the view and the light. I moved to the drivers' seat, inserted earbuds and listened to John Darnielle on the Marc Maron podcast.

There was no traffic on the freeway, and it wasn't until we were off the freeway that I heard the literal sound of Shakespeare conking out, his hand, which had been raised a moment ago, hitting the side of the window as his little body went to the land of nod. I drove around the block 3 times, parked in the garage, went and opened the study door, went back to the car, unfastened his carseat, nested him in my arms cradle-style, rather than putting him over my shoulder, which wakes him up.

Inside, the house is dark. I carry him into the nursery, where the space heater and humidifier and noise maker are on, and a pacifier is resting on the changing table. I pull the pacifier out of his mouth - it is on a leash - and replace it with the untethered one on the changing table. He sucks it and remains asleep. I tug free the pacifier clipped on his pajamas, rest him in the crib, exit the nursery and close the door. I retrieve the remote baby monitor (which we call "the gadget" in our house) and close the doors to the master bedroom and the hallway. I'm now ready to retrieve the scattered contents of the car parked in the garage.

I've just brought all those items in, which I managed to do in a single trip by employing a couple of my efficiency techniques. These include: do it now while you're thinking of it. Don't carry too many things at once, a habit I have come to call the Myles Nye mistake, because I think it causes more misery and misfortune in my life than any other mistake I make as frequently. And, if you are reminded of a task you must do while in the middle of another task you must do, ask yourself which one of them you are more likely to remember to come back to after completing the other. For example, suppose you are carrying some dirty clothes to the laundry hamper when, part way, you notice a flaming squirrel running amok in your front room. You could throw the laundry to the floor, extinguish the squirrel with a bucket of water or by chasing it out of the house with a broom - either of which would require both your hands - and then pick up the laundry and finish the job. Or you could go put the laundry in the basket and come back and then deal with the squirrel. In this instance, the choice is obvious, but it's not always that clear. Some tasks are flaming squirrels, and some are just chores.

Now all the items are inside the house and I've changed into comfy clothes though not pajamas. Not yet. Now I have to put the items away, put the clean items in the dish dry rack away, upload and watermark photos and organize them into albums, do some write-ups for my consulting job tomorrow, and prepare a vegetable and a grain for dinner guests tomorrow night. But before doing those things I wanted to write this down, this snapshot in time, of the way I navigate my way through time and through space as best as I can, trying to make good decision all along the way, and making many movements, big and small, and trying to keep them precise without worrying too much about if some of them are needless.


Without a net

I wasn't able to attend last night's Mindshare at V Lounge in Santa Monica but it did remind me of this silly thing I did in 2009. "Power Point Karaoke" is a competition where you get up on stage and have to talk through slides of a presentation you have never seen before - it was downloaded at random from Slideshare. I decided to take on the extra challenge of doing it in just my underwear. When I asked the organizer, Heather Vescent, if that was okay, she responded by saying that it was fine as long as I wore bikini briefs. I took her up on that and bought some at Ross. I think this presentation went very well, possibly better than the original.

Posting on Everyone's Wall

The Vaudeville, radio, movie, and television comedian Jack Benny was born in 1894 on February 14th. If you don't know the name, I think the closest analogy in today's comedy scene is Jerry Seinfeld. Although the Jack Benny show had more jokes and one-liners than Seinfeld's, both shows were situational and derived comedy from the personality traits of Jack's radio family, and Jack himself got laughs less from delivering punchlines than his inflections, nuances, and the comic musicality of exasperation. He was a major celebrity in the 40's up through the 60's, and most old people still remember his most notorious punchline, "I'm thinking it over!" Trust that it is funny in context.

I went to a small high school, and one of the things I was known for among my friends was that I was a big Jack Benny fan. My idolatry was anachronistic, but I thought Jack's radio shows were very funny and I thought he was a noble man worthy of admiration, the same way I felt about Atticus Finch. I made a big deal about Jack Benny, and intentionally tied his identity up with mine, the same way I did with Harpo Marx, Tom Waits, and Bruce Springsteen. Also Ani DiFranco and Kurt Vonnegut, which I think are more commonplace artists to be drawn to in high school in the 90's, but to me they all took a backseat to Jack Benny.

One of the ways I manifested my admiration was, on February 14th, I would make signs with his picture on them wishing Jack Benny a happy birthday and put them up in the halls of the school. It wasn't commonplace for kids to put up signs when their favorite celebrity's birthday occurred; I was the only person doing this. There weren't even a lot of signs on the walls in general: there was a student bulletin board where you could put up notifications, and I put a sign there too, but I did them all up and down the halls. It was probably against the rules, but nobody seemed bothered enough to take them down or discipline me. Probably I took them down at the end of the day, but I don't remember.

One year one of the signs was an excerpt from a chapter of a book written by George Burns, who was Jack's best friend for 50 years. I typed the chapter out long hand and posted it to the wall. I don't know who I was thinking would read it.

Since today (as I'm writing this) it is February 14th, I was thinking back about that old habit I used to have. It hadn't struck me until today that it's funny that I was "writing on everyone's wall" long before Facebook existed. One December, for my birthday, my mom made a bunch of signs with Jack Benny on them, wishing ME a happy birthday. She had my older sister put them up before I got to school. I ran from sign to sign gleefully, not even thinking who might be behind it. It should have been obvious, but I was so pleased at the stunt, how personal it was to me, that the guessing part of my brain didn't even engage. I just enjoyed the prank, in the best way.

And then today I found out that February 14th is also the birthday of tap dancer Gregory Hines. I have a story about him too. I'll post that later. But for now, here's the photo.

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151429543338617&set=a.264520208616.138126.797843616&type=1&theater

Survivor Caramoan

I am so excited for this season. I'm glad Erik R. is back. It's been too long. They should have brought him back as an All-Star a long time ago. He was a great player. I'm glad Brenda is back, and many of the others too. I haven't checked out any of the fans yet. We'll see what they bring to the party. I have it on good authority that, as good as last season was - and it was really good - this one is even better. Can't wait.

The Newlywed Game.

One cool thing I did one time was appear on this corny game show with my wife. LA has a lot of downsides - traffic, jaded people - but this is where game shows happen. I love game shows. When you're a contestant on them, people give you money and prizes for answering questions correctly. As it happens, I am good at answering questions correctly. And it turns out my wife is too.

Our episode is posted below in 3 installments:

First break

Second break

Third break

Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.

It is my ambition to be on NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.

I would love to appear on "Not My Job," but I have to become more significant first. Alternatively, I could rob a bank while riding a Segway and smuggling a loris in my pants, in which case I would surely be the final answer to a question in "Lightning Fill in the Blank" that Moe Rocca would guess wildly and get correct, or would cost Paula Poundstone the game.

More likely than either of those, however, is that I will be hired to replace Phillip G., who writes the limericks for the show. I'm not sure what that guy thinks rhyming is, but he seems to think it's a couple degrees removed from assonance.

Watch these limericks, two of which were made up on the spot.

Click the title of this blog post to watch the video.

Thirty til Thirty overtime

My friend Andy Crocker directed this music video as part of her Thirty til Thirty project, and now the finished article is available:

The Black Plague

Among other things, this video is very well cast, which makes sense. I'll be honest, I don't really remember the shoot day, but my friends know I will agree to just about anything if I get to tap dance in it, and if I get to be dressed like a fancy man, all the better.

I am pleased to be re-experiencing getting this song in my head. I don't know anything about the band. Someone want to tell me what I should know?

My favorite party might be when I get to whistle conspiratorially with Ashley and Maurissa.

Andy,  can you post a link to the original Thirty til 30 blog? I can't find. Sorry.