education

What We're Loving: Branching Out, Lessons for Kids, Collaborating and Listening

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison wishes Bruno never returned, Jonda Robinson discovers the right time for treats, Molly Jakkamsetti waxes chumps like a candle.  urlIt’s always a strange feeling when a creative person, whose work you enjoy, decides to branch out and try a different medium. For some, like Donald Glover and Hugh Laurie, it works really well. For others, like Bruce Willis, IT DOES NOT WORK. You’ll notice that I put a portion of that last sentence in all caps, which was intentional as I was trying to reinforce just how much it doesn’t work sometimes. Even worse, these ventures sometimes ruin how much you’re able to appreciate the talents that drew you to them in the first place. It was with that level of trepidation that I decided to check out the band comprised of Harris Wittels, Paul Rust, and Michael Cassady. Individually, the three have done some fantastic work (Wittels-Parks & Rec/Humblebrag, Rust- Comedy Bang! Bang!/Arrested Development, Cassady-Earwolf/UCB) so on one hand, it seems like combining their talents had to work. On the other, they’re comedy writers/actors, so the idea of them starting a band is pretty terrible. So how did it end up? I really liked it! I’m rating the work of the band “Don’t stop or we’ll die” as WHAT I’M LOVING THIS WEEK (Note: This instance of all caps was to remind you of the title of this weekly piece).

Now I’m not here to tell you how to spend your money; I’m not Suze Orman. Plus, the production quality isn’t always the best. But you should at the very least check out these songs, and then, if/when you enjoy them BUY EVERY ALBUM THEY’VE EVER CREATED (Caps for commerce). Here are some of my favorites.

Once In A While -Proof that they can play and sing music!

Lectric Roller Skates -The classic tale of the folly of man.

The Ballad of Bird and Fox -A dramatic take on the parental responsibilities of a bird and fox in a crumbling marriage

- David Allison smart-kidsI read an article this week from Time entitled “How To Make Your Kids Smarter: 10 Steps Backed By Science.” Initially I overlooked it because I don’t have kids, and I enjoy naps too much to want any anytime soon. Then I thought about my students, and also myself, and decided that maybe this article could have something that I could use in my own life. Here is the list, along with my translation of what I’m actually hearing them say for my own life:

  1. Music Lessons (Translation: Dust off the guitar that you bought after an inspiring live performance by Sheryl Crow and finally learn how to play “My Favorite Mistake.”)
  2. The Dumb Jock Is A Myth (Translation: Never stop looking for a smart, athletic man to marry.)
  3. Don’t Read To Your Kids, Read With Them (Translation: Kids better start pulling their weight.)
  4. Sleep Deprivation Makes Kids Stupid (Translation: You SHOULD take all those naps. And sleep in when you can!)
  5. IQ Isn’t Worth Much Without Self Discipline (Translation: Get grits...er, I mean, “grit.”)
  6. Learning Is An Active Process (Translation: You should read on the treadmill.)
  7. Treats Can Be a Good Thing--At The Right Time (Translation: It’s ALWAYS the right time for a treat.)
  8. Happy Kids = Successful Kids (Translation: Choose to be happy, so you can be successful. To reference Sheryl Crow again, “It’s not having what you want/It’s wanting what you’ve got.”)
  9. Peer Group Matters (Translation: Hang out with people who are smarter and cooler than you so you can become smarter and cooler.)
  10. Believe In Them (Translation: Believe in yourself! If you don’t, how can you expect others to?)

In closing, I offer you this quote from the article: “Intelligence isn’t everything. Without ethics and empathy really smart people can be scary.” So get out there, smarty pants! You’ve got so much to offer--use these tips and put those smarts to good use! - Jonda Robinson

mqdefaultIt’s been a rough week in Dallas, amirite? Let me take you back to a simpler time, all the way back to 1999, when MTV aired a special called 25 Lame. It was the 25 lamest videos as chosen by then-MTV viewers. The network vowed that once these videos were played on this special, they were never to be seen on MTV again. (Insert your own comment on how they ‘never play videos anyway).’

The hosts were 4 well known comedians: Jon Stewart (He may have just started hosting The Daily Show), Janeane Garafolo (who is seen smoking on set - no e-cigs back then!!), Denis Leary (sardonic as ever), and Chris Kattan (yeah, he was on SNL then). They watched each video and mocked them as they aired, a la Beavis and Butthead, and at the end they would “destroy” the tapes ( I remember one ended up in a blender).

As you would expect, most of them were one hit wonders (The Macarena, Milli Vanilli, and Rico Suave to name a few) and failed attempts by celebrities to launch singing careers (Eddie Murphy and Don Johnson were in the top 5).

The most uncomfortable moment was when Vanilla Ice made a special appearance to destroy his video for “Ice Ice Baby.” The hosts all acknowledged how awkward it was for them to mock the video while Ice is sitting right there. When they give him the chance to destroy his video, he takes a baseball bat and starts swinging around the set, almost hitting the hosts. I’m not sure if it was all staged, but I remember Kattan looked genuinely frightened. You can hear someone off set saying “that’s enough” so I think maybe it was a planned stunt that Vanilla took too far.

If you search “MTV 25 Lame” on You Tube, you may only find this part of the special. I hope you watch more of it, their comments are still pretty funny. Denis Leary describes Four Non Blondes “What’s Up” as the same thing he hears from a lady sitting on a street corner in New York, screaming “HEYY YEAAH YEAAH YEAH”… - Molly Jakkamsetti

What We're Loving: Robots, Vagaries, Wise Bloods, Pretentious Stabbings, Our Own Work

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison has his childrens' names picked out, Sarah Wyatt finds a book that's better than people, Jonda Robinson lowers the age mean, Brittany Smith sees white men finally get their due, and Ryan Callahan has a sketch show to plug.  Cleatus2_2012111112064234_600_400It’s football season, but who cares? I mean, who wants to watch a bunch of millionaire jocks hit each other until they’re concussed? Wait, cancel that rant, I love the NFL. With that said, the main thing that I’m excited for isn’t football, it’s the NFL on FOX intro.

The glory of the introduction animation for NFL football on the FOX network isn’t one specific thing; it’s two. First, the theme song. Think about the coolest you’ve ever felt in your life. Maybe you finally got that guy/gal to go out with you, picked up some cool new sunglasses, or were walking away from a giant burning building. Take that feeling, that emotion, add snare drums and an electronic orchestra and you’ve got the theme song.

The other half of the wonder of the NFL on FOX intro comes to us in the form of a dancing robot named Cleatus. Whoa, that’s a lot to breakdown. First of all, yes this means that FOX continues to love animated dancing after previous showing off it’s affection with the dancing baby on Ally McBeal. Second, yes the name of the robot is Cleatus and I would hope no one apologizes for it because the name makes me want to have an army of children, just so I can name them all Cleatus.

Whether you watch football or not, that’s your call. But taking in the NFL on FOX intro should be mandatory viewing every fall for every person on every planet. - David Allison

_panther booksI’ve been really bad about reading lately. I mean really bad. I’ve probably read, like, two books in the last year, which is especially awful because I used to work at a library and regularly knock out a book a week. I got back in the habit (Sister Act 2) this past week when I read Demian, by Herman Hesse. Woah, y'all. This book blew my mind a little.

It’s like an adult version of Catcher in the Rye. It’s full of universal feelings and moments of transcendence that, if we are lucky, we all feel at some point in our adolescence, young adult life, and beyond. Demian is the story of a young man, Sinclair, and his travels and experiences throughout his young life, always feeling pulled and pushed towards something bigger than himself.

To say that I enjoyed this book is putting it mildly. I loved this book. This book made me turn away from the internet, from socializing, and burrowed its way into myself and made me feel something truly special, something I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt absorbed. I gave myself wholly over to reading a book and imagining the world inside of it and it was awesome.

I’m writing in vagaries because I wish that each and every one of you who read this (thank you) comes to it as open as I did. It’s a short book and so worth your time. If you’ve been looking to get back into reading, if you’ve been looking to feel something, if you’ve been looking to have your mind blow, boy did you come to the right comedy blog post. - Sarah Wyatt

DIH_0This week I’d like to introduce you to a little place in Dallas that I enjoy, The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.  Because I live my life like I’m 67 instead of 27, I’ve spent way more time at this Uptown address on Routh Street than I have at any of the hip bars and restaurants that neighbor it.

The mission of The Dallas Institute is “to enrich and deepen the practical life of the city with the wisdom and imagination of the humanities.”  Here are some of my favorite things about it:

1. Dr. Louise Cowan is a Dallas treasure. This awesome 97-year-old lady helped found The Institute in 1980, and in 1991 she won the Frankel Prize (now known as the National Humanities Medal), which gives her something in common with Toni Morrison, Eudora Welty, and Steven Spielberg.  If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak on any topic, I suggest you listen up.

2. It’s a great place to get your learn on. The Institute offers classes in which you can dive deeper into a piece of literature or learn about specific topics. (If you’re a teacher, you can get big discounts, and there is even a Summer Institute you can attend.)

3. The wine is always flowing, and the snacks are always delicious. If you attend a class at The Institute in the evening, you’ll get a side of wine and brownie bites to go with your studies.

4. It’s the perfect place to wear a blazer. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ll take any opportunity I can find to wear a blazer and pretend I’m Liz Lemon.

5. You’ll most likely bring the average age of the group down substantially. And hey, you could probably learn a thing or two from your elders.

If you’re looking to learn a little and meet some interesting people, check out their upcoming classes and events. I would be taking their Flannery O’Connor class on Thursdays this month, but I am a part of a sketch show called Charles Dicken's Great! Expectations. running each Thursday in September at 8:00pm at Dallas Comedy House…*wink* - Jonda Robinson

FrankThis past weekend I saw Frank, the tale of a white guy who saw something cool and sought out to make it his. Not exactly uncharted waters, narrative-wise, (see National Treasure, 500 Days of Summer, the founding of the United States), but it makes for a charming two hours nevertheless.

Our protagonist, Jon (Domhnall [actual first name, not a collection of syllables] Gleeson), stumbles upon a band in crisis and fills in at keyboard when their band mate attempts to drown himself in the ocean. From there Jon and the audience are introduced to Frank (Michael Fassbender), the charismatic and paper-machè masked leader of the group. Jon is immediately taken with Frank and his world and wants to be a part of the fun.

This is a mistake I have certainly made on stage, you see your friends out there having a blast and you devise a way to insert yourself into the madness. And as anyone knows who has tried this, it rarely works. Jon learns this the hard way and comes out the other side a man much different than the one we met at the top of the film. The film also meditates on the origins of creative talent and the value of likeability, which I know all sounds quite pretentious, but it goes down easy with a fun cremation mix-up and stabbing scene. - Brittany Smith

10649706_754258354815_8449199643302227645_nThere's no subtle way to go about this, so I shall be frank. I'm plugging my own stuff this week. Specifically I'm plugging Charles Dicken's Great. Expectations., the all-new sketch revue that runs every Thursday night in September at 8PM. (Get your tickets now.)

Charles Dicken's Great! Expectations. is the first sketch revue written and performed entirely by students of the DCH sketch program. Previous shows that came out of the program featured a series of stand alone monologues, or a bunch of scenes, but this show ties all the elements together in one thematically whole show. And it features an excessive amount of needless punctuation in the title.

This is actually a dual plug. I'm plugging the show itself, which we have spent months working on, under the instruction and direction of Nick Scott, and which we are very proud of and hope you enjoy, AND I'm plugging the sketch program in general. If you have ever considered, even remotely, signing up for sketch class, I highly suggest you do it.

Sketch offers the opportunity to dig into a scene and create the best comedy possible. I appreciate the way the format allows me to hone my performance, to try different phrasing and cadence  to see what works the best. For a writer like myself, sketch offers the chance to tie things together in a way that I don't always get with improv. All those ideas I get on the drive home: "I should have shown emotion instead of talking about it," or "That scene would have killed if it had more references to one-term presidents from the 1920's,"are now in play. Sketch offers the chance to do it again, and get it right this time. In a way, it's like having a mini time machine, only without the fear of accidentally landing on Hitler and being forced to take his place as some sort of new Hitler. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Unpopular Opinions, Hidden Upsides, Deleted Context, Specialized Pitching

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison makes a bold statement, Jonda Robinson fails greatly, Amanda Hahn needs a mind break, and Ryan Callahan goes to the bullpen. imgresSometimes I really hate popular opinion. There’s a collective hive mind that we all participate in and often times cinema is significantly affected by it’s whims. You’ll hear about this amazing movie that “everyone” loves, set plans to see it opening night, and then realize within five minutes that Benjamin Button is terrible. But you can’t say anything about how much you hated it because it gets nominated for Oscars and stuff. The opposite happens too and it’s even more disappointing. There are so many movies that our pop culture group mind simply rejects and we’re not supposed to give them a chance. Then, like an idiot, I see one of these flicks, love it, and can’t talk about my adoration for it in fear of receiving palpable judgement in return. The current film I feel self conscious about really enjoying is something that was released on DVD this past week: Muppets Most Wanted. AND IT’S WHAT I’M LOVING THIS WEEK. There, I said it.

Where are you going?

Don’t run away yet!

Hear me out on this. Yes this commercial failure that you didn’t hear anything good about is not a great film. With that said, there are numerous factors that make it highly enjoyable to watch. First, you’ve got solid performances from Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais and Ty Burrell. See, that’s not so bad! You liked them in that other thing you liked, so that’s gotta count for something. Also, it’s basically a musical and contains about ten full length songs, most of which were written by Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords). Flight of the Conchords was your favorite show! Plus, McKenzie won an Oscar for the tunes he wrote for the previous Muppets film, so that helps. Oh and it’s the Muppets! You remember how much you loved them as a kid? You would’ve killed another child, straight up murdered a newborn, to go to Muppet Treasure Island with the gang.

So give this movie a shot. Even if it means sneaking it home in a pizza box and watching it under the cover of darkness so that your friends don’t judge you. - David Allison 9780345472328_p0_v2_s260x420

Lately I’ve been trying to look at the positive side of failing. For example, last week I was visiting a friend and we decided to go eat at a certain restaurant. We got a cab and made the trek across town during rush hour, only to find out that they were closed. Sigh. Trying to look on the bright side, I told her that it wasn’t a total waste because it was a mistake we’d learn from. She appropriately rolled her eyes at me.

In an effort to prepare for another year of teaching middle school, I’ve been learning more about the concept of learning through failure from the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck. Dweck’s theory is that there are two kinds of mindsets that you can have: the fixed mindset, in which you believe that your intelligence and talents are fixed and do not change, and the growth mindset, in which you believe that your abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. For the fixed mindset, failure is a terrifying thing that says, “You’re not enough.” But for the growth mindset, failure is a perfect opportunity to learn and become better than you were before. According to Dweck, you get to choose which mindset you approach life with. If you’d like to see which mindset you currently lean toward, there’s a quiz for that! And if you’d like to attempt to change your mindset, there are steps for that!

Some of the most fun things I have done in the past year, from taking a sketch writing class to wakesurfing, were scary things that I at first said no to because I was afraid of failing. If there’s something you’ve been wanting to try, I highly suggest that you go for it, even if you’re afraid you’ll fail at it. It’ll help you become a cooler, better version of yourself. And if you need something to help you get motivated, check out Dweck’s book to give you that little push that you need. - Jonda Robinson

jJpkIo-4

The end of each semester is typically unusually busy. This summer’s semester has been no exception. Sometimes you just need a mind break from everything. I found the perfect one: Ads Without Context . The name is misleading because it’s more like “ads re-contextualized” than ads with no context. And thank goodness it is. This entire feed is just .gifs from infomercials with captions giving new context to the melodramatic ads. The mix of the silent overacting overlaid with the captions is endlessly silly and delightful.

Some are simple.

Some are gross.

Some make me laugh out loud.

Some are weirdly sad.

And many more are endlessly re-watchable.

So turn off the TV and tune into No Context Ads. The infomercials are way better on there. - Amanda Hahn

51fbRsn29aL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_You ever find a book and feel like it was written just for you? That's how I feel about The Setup Man: A Novel, the debut thriller by T.T. Monday. The book introduces Johnny Adcock, a 35-year-old lefty relief specialist for the fictional San Jose Bay Dogs. Johnny only pitches when the Bay Dogs have a lead, and only against left-handed hitters. He works about ten minutes a night. Most guys in his position would be content to chew on sunflower seeds and let the money roll in. Not Johnny Adcock. He's the restless sort. He needs something to fill the rest of the day. That's why he works as a private detective. Worried your wife is cheating on you with the pool boy? Someone from your time in the minors trying to blackmail you? Johnny Adcock is your man.

The Setup Man combines my two favorite things: Private detectives, and private detectives who are also other things. Private detectives are my favorite fictional characters. As a child I loved them all: Encyclopedia Brown, Thomas Magnum, Rick and A.J. Simon. The A-Team was essentially a private eye super team. In high schoool I discovered Humphrey Bogart's Phillip Marlowe, still the greatest onscreen P.I. ever. After college I devoured the Continental Op stories of Dashiell Hammett, such as Red Harvest, for my money the best P.I. novel ever. I've spent many an afternoon or evening binge watching reruns of Psych or Monk. Private detectives are the best.

But the private detective who is also something else is even better. How can something be better that the best? Here's how: What would be better than a private detective who investigates the paranormal? Oh, I don't know, maybe a  private detective who investigates the paranormal and has a day job as a lifeguard. What could be better than a private detective played by Andy Richter? A private detective / accountant played by Andy Richter! And what could be better than a private eye who investigates the seedy underbelly of Major League Baseball? A private eye who investigates that seedy underbelly while having to pitch to lefties every couple of days.

I started reading The Setup Man late Tuesday night and finished on Wednesday. Once I started, I had to keep reading. That's about the highest praise you can give a P.I. novel. I needed to know what happened next, and I wanted to see how Johnny Adcock would solve the case. The book isn't perfect. There are a couple thudding moments of authorial intrudsion that feel like an after-school special, and the book jacket inexplicably features a right-handed pitcher, but the plot moves, the tone is charming, there is a vivid cast of characters, and the details about day to day life in the majors seem authentic. I can't wait for Johnny Adcock's next adventure. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Exclusive Meals, Old TV Formats, Illusions

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Ashley Bright eats well, David Allison puts up with dancing, and Amanda Hahn visits the world of illusion. 1357889532_franklogotranspFood really resonated with me this week. I had one of the best meals of my life and now I'm going to tell you about it, mostly so that I can re-live it as I type.  In fact, I was so detailed in my re-living of the meal that my first draft of this piece was almost 400 words and I had only made it through the amuse-bouche and the first course.  How can I only hit the highlights if the whole meal was so bright? I'll try.  FRANK Underground is a private dining experience where you sign up to be on the invite list, get invited, sign up again, get on a lottery for that week's meal, and hope to be chosen.  We've been signing up for the past few months and finally got picked.  (By we, I mean good pals and fellow DCHers, Rob and Mariam.)   Days before our dinnertime, they emailed us the secret(ish) location and revealed the menu: "con gusto."  So, I had about four days to periodically look at the menu and drool over it.  Cut to  evening.  That night's location was in a loft at Adam Hat's.  Walking into the loft, there was a giant window giving a perfect view of Dallas Comedy House.  I'd never seen its roof before.  The chefs were plugging away at the meal in the homey kitchen.  All fourteen or so of the diners were asked to sit at the long table built by one of the chef's from salvaged barn wood. The chefs told us the story of the table and FRANK's conception; and they also explained that this Mexican inspired menu is one they've been wanting to do since they started two years ago.  Our first course included huitlacoche or as Americans call it 'corn smut.'  Don't google it, it is very unappetizing.  But it is so very delicious when stuffed inside of a squash blossom.  In our third course, there was an egg cooked at 63.5 degrees for an hour.  It was like no egg I've ever had before.  The yolk was the same texture as the white.  Absolutely incredible.  Okay, I could easily write a novella on this meal.  Please come ask me about it, so I can describe every bite and sip to you with insane detail.  Please.  I haven't even told you about the dessert yet. - Ashley Bright

The Maya Rudolph ShowThe variety show is back! This past week, The Maya Rudolph Show debuted on NBC, finally ushering in the return of one of my favorite television show formats. I love variety shows, their combination of comedy, music, dance, and overall show polish makes for a really enjoyable viewing experience. Now I understand that some of you aren’t dorks and may not be as familiar with what the general structure of such a special is, but fret not, I’m gonna help introduce you to what a variety show looks like. Also, I’ll let you know how The Maya Rudolph Show did in regards to each of these tropes, just in case you weren’t part of the 2.2 they pulled.

Trope 1- Tone I’m sure there was some bullshit Greecian theatre example of a dramatic variety show, but any successful one nowadays is going to be light, upbeat, and fun. Also, the humor is very specific, many times arising from quick banter back and forth between the players or audience interaction. Check out this clip of The Smothers Brothers on The Judy Garland Show to see what I’m talking about. The Maya Rudolph Show did pretty well with this in general, but she could really use a full time sidekick to bounce dialogue off of.

Trope 2- Dancing Ugh. So much dancing. Honestly, this is the part that I care the least about because dancing is boring. Generally speaking, it’s part of a variety show because old people find it graceful. In fact, I can only think of two examples of funny dancing, one is the classic bit “Fat guy is fat but watch out, he can get down!” and the other being the would be the way Rudolph danced on her program this past week. With that said, it’s become so ingrained in what a variety show is that it can’t be eliminated. The Maya Rudolph Show featured some dancing, but that was mostly because of the talents of Sean Hayes who, by the way, should be on every episode.

Trope 3- Celebrity Special Guests The only thing better than watching a famous person host an hour of television is watching a famous person host an hour of television with their famous friends! Mostly, these other celebrities come in the form of featured players that guest star in the sketches. It’s much like Saturday Night Live except it’s almost always self deprecating or physical (Example: “Ha ha, look at this oversized hat I’m wearing!”). Occasionally you’ll see a musical guest like The Maya Rudolph Show did in Janelle Monae’s performance, but most of the time the special guest either acts in the sketches or does stand up. You gotta keep the funny train moving. Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg, Sean Hayes, Chris Parnell, Kristen Bell, and Craig Robinson dropped by the set on the Maya Rudolph show, so they more than filled the celebrity quotient.

Trope 4- Music Any variety show worth it’s salt must have a few musical numbers. There has to be an upbeat opener featuring lots of singing, which The Maya Rudolph Show definitely included with the opening number and a closing number that is more somber and heart felt. My favorite play on the closer comes from Paul F. Tompkins’ variety show, with his stirring rendition of “Skyfall.” On The Maya Rudolph Show this week, they ended with this great lullabye featuring her and Chris Parnell.

At the end of the day, not only did The Maya Rudolph Show nail pretty much every trope, it did so in a refreshing way. I really hope this gets ordered to series, but I’d take any variety show at this point. Except this one. - David Allison

HahnI spent the beginning of this week at a Vision Sciences Society conference. It’s an annual meeting where a bunch of graduate students, professors, and researchers get to together by a beach in Florida. We mainly go to get tan, but we also present and discuss research relating to all things vision. As part of the conference, there is a Best Illusion of the Year Contest. It’s a one-night event where contestants present their illusions, and the audience votes for the best one. It was personally special to me this year because my lovely friend and former lab-mate at Rice University, Kimberley Orsten, was presenting an illusion of her own (and won 3rd place!). Kim’s is a simple one, but it’s also one of the more fun ones to watch. I’ve watched the little roads move back and forth for what feels like hours now. Plus, hers and the rest of the illusions in the contest come with short explanations of why they are able to fool you (fair warning: some descriptions are better than others). The explanations are my favorite part because illusions can teach you so much about how the visual system works. That’s what I love about seeing these illusions presented live, right in my face, by vision scientists at the contest. They present the illusions, induce “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd, and then tell you why you saw what you saw. It makes learning about your visual system even more interesting (take notes, Miss Frizzle). Even if you aren’t a vision nerd, they’re just fun to look at. So if you want to see research’s latest mind tricks and learn a little something about why you see what you see in everyday life, pop on over to the Best Illusion of the Year website and view the top ten illusions. (Kim’s is the road one). Have fun, and find me later to let me know if any of them made you say “whoaaa.”- Amanda Hahn

 

What We're Loving: Other People's Mix CDs, Dream Composing, Non-Educational Educational Shows, Failures of Language

image (1)Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison rescues dying media, Ashley Bright welcomes whimsy into the world, Amanda Hahn discovers comedy that speaks to her, and Ryan Callahan finds improv lessons in an unlikely place. 

Used-CDs When it comes to buying used media I always strive to be aware of the market.  I’m like the Jim Cramer of thrifted content.  For the longest time, the best value in this realm was, obviously, VHS tapes.  The medium had an eight year run of being the best bang for your buck if you wanted some cheap entertainment.  That’s no longer the case as the continued march of time has rendered many VHS players useless and many VHS tapes dated.  It’s the end of an era.  So what are you, as a consumer, supposed to do?  Where do we as a society go from here?  I’m here today to issue some direction; used CDs are a BUY BUY BUY.

Recently, I spent very little money on a handful of CDs from a local resale shop and have been reaping the benefits ever since.  But David, why?  To me, used CDs are an excellent opportunity for entertainment because you have a chance to listen to them everyday (In your car) and their availability litters the shelves of every thrift store.  Here are some tips:

  • Make sure the content isn’t streaming
    • You probably have a subscription to a service like Spotify or Slacker that allows you to stream most music on the go.  If you see something you like on the shelf, check to make sure it’s not streaming. I don’t want to see you waste your money!  I recently made this mistake with the soundtrack to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.  I’m a dummy.
  • Soundtracks are a hidden goldmine
    • I went over this in detail last month herehere, and here.
  • Mix CDs are the best
    • I know we all loved a good mix cd (Or mix tape if you’re like a billion years old). You can find people’s personal CD-RWs at most thrift stores.  They are definitely hit or miss, but that’s why we buy stuff used, we’re all chasing the magical dragon of a good value.

Since I’ve gone on my recent CD buying spree (I’ve purchased five CDs in 2014 alone, which places me in the top 1% of CD purchasers) I’ve discovered that I really enjoy Taylor Hicks, Space Jam’s soundtrack belongs in the pantheon of all time greats, and that music producers in 2008 thought that autotune fixed EVERYTHING. They were wrong.  Learn these lessons and more by joining me in making 2014 the year of the CD! - David Allison

BluebearI don't get enough whimsy in my life. So, this week I finally started reading Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures by Walter Moers. Years ago, I read and immensely enjoyed Moers' The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear. I'm actually going to tell you more about Bluebear because I've yet to make a significant dent in the nearly 700-page Rumo. We first meet Bluebear when he's tiny and floating in a walnut shell precariously close to a whirlpool. He is saved by tiny Minipirates, but is left on his own when he outgrows their ship. He learns to the art of speech by some talking waves, the Babbling Billows. In one of my favorite of his 13 1/2 lives, Bluebear finds himself in the head of a giant and lands a job of a 'dream composer' to keep the giant's brain occupied. He makes his way out of the head and into Atlantis, where he makes his way to be the King of Lies and keeps his title for a year. The King of Lies is a Congladiator tournament in a colosseum, where instead of fighting, the congladiators much weave fictional stories to the audience and the audience crowns a winner. Bluebear encounters the character Rumo on his travels. Making Rumo the Mork to Bluebear's Happy Days. These books do ring of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but feel a little less sardonic. If you're a fan of Douglas Adams, fantasy, Vonnegut, or just good stories, I encourage you to give a world created by Moers a go. - Ashley Bright

BlastoffI love learning and school. I love it so much that being a professor is my #1 dream job. I also love comedy. Being a comedian is my #1.1 dream job. So what did my friend recently recommend to me that combines both learning and funny? Professor Blastoff! I’ve only listened to the first episode of this podcast so far, but I’m already hooked. It’s hosted by her-great-goddess-of-comedy-forever Tig Notaro, along with Kyle Dunnigan and David Huntsberger. The three of them talk science, philosophy, math, theology – whatever interests them, under the premise that a Professor R.L. Blastoff used to host a radio show in the 1940s in the basement of Kyle’s house. He got transported into another dimension (I don’t remember why, and it doesn’t matter). Now the three of them are filling in until Professor Blastoff comes back. I didn’t learn anything new from the episode I listened to, but I didn’t care. The three of them are friends (Tig and Kyle are BFFLs and writing partners), and it really comes through in their interactions. They ask each other questions, share what they know, and joke around (they’re just like us!). I felt like a fly on the wall of a funny person’s living room. If you like talking about stuff that interests you but don’t know much about with your friends, you will love this podcast. They have guests every week, and the next episode features Nick Offerman talking about bees. I doubt I’ll learn anything meaningful about bees, but I’m sure I’ll have a blast (get it?!) listening to the four of them muse and wonder about them. - Amanda Hahn

51xUIEAv0aLKate returns to her typewriter from time to time. She writes memories, anecdotes, observations. She makes and misses connections, struggles to remember and express her thoughts. She goes mad. She might be the last woman on Earth. This is the plot, in its entirety, of David Markson’s brilliant novel Wittgenstein’s Mistress.

Like all of Markson’s later works (Reader’s Block, This is Not a Novel, Vanishing Point, and The Last Novel) Wittgenstien’s Mistress is told entirely in a series of one to two sentence paragraphs, without chapter breaks or time stamps or any indication of where we are. Yet the story draws in the reader with its cyclical structure, looping around and around the same themes, the same stories, the same moments, each time adding an element or introducing a new detail.

The themes are the themes of humanity: disease, madness, and the consistent inability of language to communicate what we truly mean to say. This book is a must read for those who love literature, those interested in philosophy, and, most importantly, those who study improv.

Like a great long-form improv show, Wittgenstein’s Mistress relies on patterns, connection, callbacks to create a fully formed whole out of a series of seemingly disparate parts. Every statement is an opportunity for exploration. Simple anecdotes evolve into complex games. Scenes 100 pages apart mirror each other. The end is in the beginning. - Ryan Callahan