Presidents

What We're Loving: Forgotten Presidential Impressions, Culture, Numbers, Dutch Angles

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison dusts off an unappreciated gem, Jonda Robinson lets pictures doing the talking, Amanda Hahn crunches numbers, and Ryan Callahan laughs inappropriately.  tumblr_inline_mh1n65gYIj1r8uzczIt’s very common for performers to become under appreciated as time marches on. Icons to the people that lived through their reign only to be forgotten (Or even worse, remembered for a stupid project that they simply did for the money) by the rest. One of the best examples of this sort of figure is Chris Elliott. Most comedians have heard the name and could probably pick his face out of a lineup, but in no way does he get the credit he deserves. Some of the best examples of his work would be Get a Life, Eaglehart, and his guest spots on Letterman. But there’s a sad chance that you don’t have a spare week of your life to watch all of that, so I’m going to recommend that you check out one of his strangest projects that just happens to be my favorite. This week, I’m loving Chris Elliot’s FDR: A One Man Show.

If one was to turn on FDR: A One Man Show expecting to see a pitch perfect impression of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, they would be sorely disappointed. But you’ll quickly agree that it’s much better that Chris Elliott’s FDR wields a lasso and can’t remember his lines. If that isn’t enough, Marv Albert plays the part of the announcer, consistently providing updates on the big high school basketball game happening simultaneously. Oh, and Eleanor is a trombone. Please check out this video so that you can start to appreciate this man. ADORE HIM. - David Allison

Chicago_Art_InstituteYesterday I had the chance to explore the Art Institute of Chicago. Now, I don’t know a ton about art, but one of the beautiful things about it is that you don’t have to have a thorough knowledge of it, or the ability to create it, to enjoy and appreciate it.

There were many pieces that I was excited to see up close and in person: Georges Sauret’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte--1884, Gustave Caillebotte’s Paris Street; Rainy Day, and one that has always interested me, Grant Wood’s American Gothic. It was the visiting exhibit, Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938, that really captivated me, though. I entered it not really knowing what to expect, other than that he was the guy who did the interesting self-portrait that features him in a suit and a bowler hat with a green apple obstructing his face. I learned, though, that he’s a Belgian surrealist artist who has a style that is all his own. It’s vivid, it’s sharp, it’s grotesque, it’s shocking, and some of the pieces make you want to look away instantly, but you can’t because you also feel a need to see them more clearly.

Because a picture (or a painting, in this case) is worth a thousand words, here are some of my favorite paintings of Magritte’s that I had the pleasure of experiencing. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

I know Magritte’s style is not for everyone, but for me, his works are incredibly intriguing because they take the reality that we are used to and alter it so that it becomes unknown and engaging to us. If you find yourself with a free afternoon to fill sometime, I highly recommend visiting an art museum near you. You just might run across something that speaks to and inspires you. - Jonda Robinson

550_information_is_beautiful_2nd_edition_UKIt's no surprise I’m a nerd, by now right? One of my favorite things to do is analyze data. One of my second favorite things is to absorb data. If you have data, I want to know about it. I’m also a firm believer that the better you’re able to explain something very complicated in a very simple way, the more you probably understand it and the more I will trust that you're correct. I also like pretty things.

All of this comes together with Information is Beautiful. Writer/designer David McCandless loves data too. And he too likes pretty things. So he made this website. There are a lot of websites out there that show data on pretty graphics and call it science, but it’s tricky to take them seriously because you don’t know where the data came from or if they’re interpreting things correctly. What I like what Information is Beautiful, is that the data, or at least where it came from, is available for you to see for yourself! (I’ve never taken the time to do this, but it’s nice to know that I could). Now, you wouldn’t be able to make any scientific claims from any of this, but it’s still fun to quickly learn a little bit about your world.

I’ve already learned so much! As a former obsessive calorie counter, one of my favorites is this caffeinated drink to food calorie comparison. Vizualizations are the best. I now know without having to even read much that a Frappucino has as many calories as an order of French fries! Neat!

Or you can see when people break up the most according to Facebook. Guard your heart right before Christmas and Spring Break, guys.

Or save your life by checking out your odds of dying in a plane crash. Another fun fact I learned from this chart is that I have a .000003% chance of dying while blogging right now. Consider me a daredevil.

Have fun learning a little something, kids. But of course, make up your own mind about how you interpret anything. - Amanda Hahn

jpegI'm in the middle of Herman Koch latest book, Summer House With Swimming Pool. Koch's previous book,  The Dinner, was one of my favorite books of last year. When I first read The Dinner, I knew it only as a wildly popular, controversial book, an international best seller describe as "a European Gone Girl." No one said it was funny. I found it hilariously funny, consistently entertaining - it was a book that I wish I had written.

Perhaps it is a coping mechanism, but I tend to find the most horrible things - death, people set on fire, genocide - when delivered in a deadpan, straightforward way, hilarious. On stage my choices run to darkness. Rare is the sketch I pitch that doesn't end with death or murder or wildly inappropriate sexual congress. Reading The Dinner was like connecting with a long lost uncle, a family member cut from the same DNA. The book was a revelation.

Summer House With Swimming Pool has many similarities with The Dinner: the structure, mounting mystery heightened by madness; the tone, wicked, gleeful misanthropy; the prose, short sentences that provide for easy reading. The Dinner told the story of a former professor, his politician brother, and a potential  scandal involving their children. It dealt with the dynamics of interpersonal power and the inherent darkness inside all of us. Summer House With Swimming Pool tells the story of a doctor to the quasi-stars who may have been responsible for the death of a famous stage actor. It deals with the dynamics of interpersonal power and the unavoidable decay of the human body. I realize, in writing those words, that I am not describing what sounds like a particularly amusing book. All I can say is this: Comedy is subjective. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have more terrible things to laugh at. - Ryan Callahan

 

 

What We're Loving: Nazi Hunters, 90's Rap, Awkward Conversations, New Passions

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Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison will improve your life, Ashley Bright shares an inside joke, Ryan Callahan watches a proud man stumble, and Julia Cotton realizes hitting isn't her thing.

Danger_5_Poster

I’m very easily addicted to things, especially entertainment.  I know that if I like something, I’ll jump in with both feet and binge watch it until it’s done (My record is fifteen episodes of LOST in a day) so I tend to be cautious when it comes to wading into the waters of a show I haven’t seen.  So I understand that you may not immediately make time to watch all the things I’ve recommended.  That’s cool. But you need to block off this afternoon and watch Danger 5 immediately and start the rest of your now better life. Danger 5 is an Australian television show that aired in 2012.  The Aussies follow a tv model similar to the BBC, so only six episodes of the program exist.  It’s really difficult to describe the show, but it a 1960s aesthetic and follows a group of Thunderbirds sort of characters as they traverse the Nazi Globe, trying to kill Hitler.  Oh, and in the first scene a team of Nazis, led by a talking dog, pilot a blimp and steal the Eiffel Tower.  It’s absolutely insane, but I love every minute of it. Watch it for free on Hulu. - David Allison

Fear_of_a_black_hatWe all have a movie, book, album, TV show, snack food, what have you, that feels like only you and your friends know about it. It's like a secret clubhouse where you keep all of your inside jokes and in-depth conversations. I was introduced to the movie, Fear of a Black Hat, many years ago by a friend. Last month, I was finally able to obtain my own copy of the DVD. So, I bribed a friend and my roommate with beer to watch it with me. And I remembered just how much I love this movie. First, let's just get it out of the way: yes, it is a mockumentary and yes, it is remarkably similar to This Is Spinal Tap, right down to the group having a history of managers dying instead of drummers. Replace glam rock with early 90s rap and you have Fear of a Black Hat. Nestled in a time after the LA riots and Rodney King's beating, but before hip hop culture was so pervasive in suburbia, 1994 was a year ripe for a rap satire. It pokes fun at Tipper Gore's age of censorship with songs like, "My Peanuts." It tackles topics like racial tension and artistic integrity with songs like "Guerillas in the Midst" and "P.U.S.S. Why?" respectively. The writer/director/star, Rusty Cundieff, went on to direct some of Chappelle's Show and Human Giant, which makes perfect sense with the humor of this movie. So, I've just taught you the secret handshake by telling you about this movie. If you can't find your own copy of this DVD, you just come over to my place; we'll eat popcorn and laugh together because "I am just like you, I'm just a human being." That inside quote will make sense to you after you watch the movie or after you watch the music videos on YouTube. - Ashley Bright

WestWing-Cast_thumb[2]Recently, I introduced my girlfriend to the wonders and joys of The West Wing, (the series, not the actual complex, which is far from Dallas and heavily guarded.) She was hooked immediately, and we've been burning through the series,  two or three episodes a night. This week, we watched my favorite stretch of shows in the entire series: "Gone Quiet," "The Indians in the Lobby," The Women of Qumar," "Barlet for America." When I think of The West Wing, or talk about why I love it, it’s these four episodes from season three that play in my mind. This was the show at its best. “Barlet for America,” the episode where White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer) testifies before congress is, for my money, the greatest hour of television ever written. And right in the middle of this great run of episodes in this great series there stands a comedy scene of sheer brilliance. From “The Indians in the Lobby,” President Jed Bartlet’s (Martin Sheen) call to the Butterball Hotline. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQsvcs9IB8A I love this scene for the essential irony at play: President Bartlet is a brilliant politician who cannot tell a convincing lie, a master orator who stumbles for words when put on the spot. Barlet, as written by Aaron Sorkin, is the smartest guy in the room full of smart guys. In this scene, Sorkin turns the tables, and shows how, when we’re not prepared, even the best and brightest have moments of mental paralysis, how we can say too much and talk ourselves into a corner, or how we can say too little and seem a simple fool. Watching this scene is like listening to Bob Newhart, or reading Jack Handey;  settling in with an old friend who has taught me so much over the years. - Ryan Callahan

Whip ItI don’t care that Ellen Page is gay any more than I care that Greg Proops is straight. I like that dudes play football and I will never burn any of my expensive Lane Bryant bras. My adoration of Whip It does not come from any type of feminist or ‘need for gender equality’ mind set. I like this movie because it is about me falling in love with the Dallas Comedy House . Bliss (Ellen Page) is a begrudged pageant girl who longs for something to be passionate about. She finds fulfillment through the world of roller derby. There is racing. There is punching and kicking. There is blood. There are bruises. She is intrigued and terrified. This will be her new thing .

I watched this movie during a very alone era of my life. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t lonely. It was just that for too long I had been doing everything that other people expected me to do. I didn’t want to anymore. I longed for something to be passionate about.

I did a Google search for ‘dallas roller derby’s’ deciding that I, too, would join a league. I went to a live match and quickly realized, no… I would not be doing that. I am not athletic. I do not like bleeding or being hit, kicked, shoved, hit, tripped, hit, scratched, hit or hit. Also, I cannot roller skate. Still, I was impressed by these women. The thing I was most impressed by, though, was the line outside of the skating rink that wrapped around the building to watch them. I then realized that my heart’s truest desire… is to be seen and adored by droves and droves of people. That night, a Google search for ‘open stage’ led to ‘open mic’. In that search, I found videos of performances at the Dallas Comedy House. There were jokes. There was laughter. There were cheers. There was applause. Sometimes, there was silence. I was intrigued and terrified. This would be my new thing. - Julia Cotton