Thursday, August 28, 2003

Wild boars on the streets of Berlin!
Bottled water: the truth behind the hype!
In a burst of common sense, the Taxi and Limousine Comission has cancelled the installing of TVs in taxis. Why have they done this? Because no one ever, ever liked the fucking things, that's why--they suck total and complete ass. Gothamist details some of the weak justifications the TV companies have for keeping the video advertisements.
"In other words, 'Citizen Kane' is an amazingly innovative film and well worth repeated viewing, but it would have been a lot better with a few sequences featuring half-naked women being chased through a forest by C.H.U.D."
Tom Cruise Sings Elvis Duet with Japan's PM. Very small Tom Cruise + very small world leader = big, big sound!

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Home again, home again. Airplane movie roundup:

ANGER MANAGEMENT -- Surprisingly good, and better written than I would have ever expected. Light, buoyant.
DOWN WITH LOVE -- Fetid ass droppings...and my audio system malfunctioning didn't help.
PHONE BOOTH -- Shouldn't this be a play? No one goes anywhere, almost nothing happens...and though I love Keifer Sutherland, I thought his "eeeeevvvvvvvviiiil" voice, though appropriate to the role, strained credulity.

Monday, August 25, 2003

It's Monday again--and the end of the festival. Everywhere you can see the machinery coming down, and the long national hangover is beginning. I've been warned by our producer that the last show is always anticlimactic, and I'm expecting it--how could it not be after a solid month like this?

Over the weekend I saw some amazing theater and shows, including Pickle, which wins my personal vote as the best thing I saw here in Edinburgh--it's a purely magical story, very lovely and very with both imagination and heart.

Demetri won the Perrier, which most expected but I was very pleased--of the nominees I thought he was far and away the one that had to win. The Scotsman article I just linked to pointed out that there was "controversy" over his win, but it seems mainly trumped up to me--I never heard anyone complaining, and the paper isn't even able to find anyone on record saying they are displeased. He rocks and it is really nice to see a good, decent, talented person getting the brass ring. That doesn't happen every day.

One show left here, and then the long trek home...I'm ready for the States, and ready for my home. I will miss the festival, but it's lovely knowing that it's here every year--and now that I've tried it, I expect I'll be back to take another crack at it in the future.

I will miss the cheese here. Man, the Scottish do cheese like nobody's business.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Friday, August 22, 2003

This is so absolutely heartbreaking that I would encourage people to be careful before they click through to it.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Demetri got nominated for the Perrier, which is totally cool, and has led to an examination of one of my favorite subjects: what is the line between theater and stand-up? I'm mentioned as another artist who is blurring the line here this year, and I found that this was a great article, which is rare--often these kind of things devlove into excessive finger-pointing and navel-gazing.

I can understand the reductivist need to define theater as theater and stand-up and stand-up so that awards can be given, or other picky and ultimately silly devices like that. I also think the writer's belief that Dave Gorman is to "blame" for the increase in stand-up that blurs the line is kind of asinine--none of the people he mention as doing this blurring have anything to do with Mr. Gorman, and most have created their shows out of situations that make it clear that there's no case of people imitating a trend here. Still, the meat of the discussion is good--what is stand-up, and what is theater? They seem to settle on a definition of stand-up as "that which can not be imagined being performed by another performer", which I guess means Spalding Gray has been doing stand-up for quite some time...except for a muzzy second law, where theater involves more "story", or something like that.

It's a distinction I deal with often--depending on where people come from, they are often eager to pigeonhole me into one form or the other. It can be a real pain in the ass, though it can have unexpected benefits--I think the work I make can be more vital and interesting to others by occupying an area too chaotic and living to be theater and too story-bound and dvelopmental to be stand-up. It can be very, very cool.

That's enough navel-gazing for me. I have to finish up my work here, then it's off to the theater.
Not so much to report, but I wanted to post something from me so that folks won't start fearing that this blog has devolved into only publishing other people's accounts. I just don't have anything all that interesting to say--saw a pretty great Greek tragedy yesterday, getting over the cold and doing a lot of work before leaving Scotland. That is all.
My little brother writes:

Waiting for Arnold's new campaign ads. I hope he just dumps like 10 million into a huge CGI battlefied on the desolate plains of L.A. after judgement day, and he could be all half-Arnold, half-Terminator, and he could walk up to the camera and tell us how important it is to vote for him so we can avoid this future. He could then kill Gray Davis' Mom and eliminate that threat right there.

Family is funny...I had thought this same exact thing a couple of days ago.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Don't know if I agree with all of this, but v. interesting:

I think criticism, more often than not, completely misses the point, yes. The critical impulse, demonstrated by the tone of many of your own questions, is to suspect, doubt, tear at, and to take something apart to see how it works. Which of course is completely the wrong thing to do to art. I used to tear books apart, and tear art exhibits apart - I was an art and book critic for a few years in San Francisco - but my urge to do that was born of bitterness and confusion and anger, not out of any real need to help or edify. When we pick at and tear into artistic output of whatever kind, we really have to examine our motives for doing so. What is it about art that can make us so angry? Is it healthy to rip to shreds something created by an artist? I would posit, if I may, that that's not really a healthy impulse. Now, as far as I know, out of maybe 100 or so reviews that I've been made aware of, my own book has received only one negative example. That's pretty lucky, especially when you consider that Wallace, for example, has gotten pretty abused by some people, people who for the most part don't have the patience his work requires. But criticism, for the most part, comes from the opposite place that book-enjoying should come from. To enjoy art one needs time, patience, and a generous heart, and criticism is done, by and large, by impatient people who have axes to grind. The worst sort of critics are (analogy coming) butterfly collectors - they chase something, ostensibly out of their search for beauty, then, once they get close, they catch that beautiful something, they kill it, they stick a pin through its abdomen, dissect it and label it. The whole process, I find, is not a happy or healthy one. Someone with his or her own shit figured out, without any emotional problems or bitterness or envy, instead of killing that which he loves, will simply let the goddamn butterfly fly, and instead of capturing and killing it and sticking it in a box, will simply point to it - "Hey everyone, look at that beautiful thing" - hoping everyone else will see the beautiful thing he has seen. Just as no one wants to grow up to be an IRS agent, no one should want to grow up to maliciously dissect books. Are there fair and helpful book critics? Yes, of course. But by and large, the only book reviews that should be trusted are by those who have themselves written books. And the more successful and honored the writer, the less likely that writer is to demolish another writer. Which is further proof that criticism comes from a dark and dank place. What kind of person seeks to bring down another? Doesn't a normal person, with his own life and goals and work to do, simply let others live? Yes. We all know that to be true.
Look kids! It's a website tool that analyzes text and then tells whether the author is male or female based on fancy-pants algorithms. Got to give it credit--it has worked for everything I've thrown at it so far. Hmmmm.
Other correspondence, from my friend Bill Lessard, one of the authors of Netslaves 2.0:

If it's any consolation, you're not missing much here. The blackout, yes. But what was a big drag, especially as I danced around in the dark, sweating profusely, and worrying if our NYC-based celebrities were uncomfortable in any way.

He's got a fine, dark, subversive streak, that one.
My good friend Amanda had some great adventures in Peru while I've been over here in Scotland--in a fun email she sent this morning she outlined a lot of her journey, and I'm posting it here because

a) she's so cool,
b) she's climbing mountains when I'm complaining about walking ten blocks,
c) it has the taste and feel of a good, short travelogue.

Without further ado, here's Amanda:

I spent two days in Cuzco to adjust to the altitude (around 11,000 feet) before we set off on our trip to Machu Picchu by way of Salcantay mountain. We started off at 6 am in Cuzco and drove for a few hours northwest to Mollepata, where we met up with the horses and mules that would be carrying us and all of our stuff for the next four days. We each rode a horse or mule, and there were three other mules to carry our stuff and camping equipment. We also had a cook and two Ketchua men who took care of the horses. I felt pretty embarassed about the entourage we made as we rode along the trail; I felt like a Pasha princess being carried on a litter to a mountaintop castle. I had anticipated walking the entire way, but our guide, Hugo, specializes in doing the trek on horseback, so I soon found myself riding for 6 hours a day and developing inner thighs of steel. I also accumulated lots of impressive bruises and about 100 mosquito bites.

It began raining when we started off in Mollepata, and it didn't really stop for the next two days, changing to snow when we hiked and rode over the Salcantay mountain pass. Rain is one thing in the northwest, but it becomes a different entity entirely when you're at 12,000 feet. We camped the first night at the southern base of the twin peaks, Salcantay and Humantay, and watched as fog swept in from the valley below and wrapped around the mountains. Some Ketchuans walked by our campsite late that afternoon after having walked over the moutain pass, and they told us it was snowing pretty hard. They were smiling, happy, and wearing short pants and sandals. I was wearing long underwear, wool, and fleece, and I was freezing my ass off. All the Ketchuan people I met along the trail were sweet, friendly, and incredily strong and hardy. They put physical strength and endurance into a whole new perspective for me.

The next day we summited Salcantay. I walked for some of it - about an hour and a half - and reached about 13,000 feet on foot before I got back on my horse. I had never experienced physical exertion at that altitude before: my muscles ached and felt exhausted, my head began to pound, and I felt incredibly lightheaded and short of breath. Victorino, the Ketchuan guy leading the horses behind me, smiled at my exertion and shared some coca leaves with me. He was wearing sandals and appeared to be in a fine mood. The top of the pass was almost completely obscured by fog and snow, and there were little pyramids of stones all around where Ketchuans leave an offering after making it to the top of the pass. We camped that night on the other side of the mountain, and had an incredible view of the twin peaks and the green jungle mountains that opened up into the valley below us. The next morning I woke up at about 5 am and saw the snowy peaks of Salcantay and Humantay reflecting the light from a full moon, making them shine against an indigo blue sky littered with bright white stars. I have never seen anything so dramatically beautiful.

The next day we hiked down into the jungle valley. We saw incredible bamboo, various kinds of orchids, insects, reptiles, and dramatic waterfalls. The air warmed up, and I felt my bones start to defrost after two days of freezing rain and snow. We were in the jungle for the last two days, following first the Salcatay river and then the Urubamba river along a trail that climbed and descended various jungle peaks. We had a couple of scary moments where the trail was washed out and we had to trust our horses to navigate the gaps, sometimes leaping over gaps in the trail. We passed trees growing coffee and coca, and saw coffee laid out to dry in the sun. The last day was very hard, as our horses climbed the last mountain before our descent into the valley and arrival at the train that would take us to Aguas Calientes and eventually Machu Picchu. We must have climbed about 5,000 feet in about 2-3 hours, then hiked down the other side, as the trail was too muddy and slippery for the horses to carry us. Although, to be honest, I was kind if horsed out by that point. At the top of that last mountain we could see Machu Picchu and the high green peaks that surrounded it. That night we had our first shower in four long, sweaty days, drank some beer, and collapsed in bed.

Machu Picchu was incredible, and we had a weird guide who spoke English in Tourrette-like fits and starts and addressed my friend Chris as Arnold, because he had big muscles like Arnold Schwartzenegger. After our odd tour, we explored the ruins and climbed up to Huaynapicchu, the little rocky peak that looks down on Machu Picchu. From there I finally saw the top of Salcantay in the light of day. The next day we headed back to Cuzco by train, only to be thwarted by a transportation strike that halted all trains, buses, and cars for a 50 kilometer radius. We walked four hours with our packs to the next town, Ollataytambo, where we explored the ruins on the town's mountainside and stayed the night. The next day we finally made it to Cuzco, where we met up with my friends Kim and Allison, who has been in the Amazonian jungle for the past 10 days doing research for Allison's dissertation. We spent the next few days exploring the Valle Sagrado, or Sacred Valley, outside of Cuzco, both by car and on foot.

Today I'm wandering lazily around Cuzco and buying presents for people before I return. I'll probably spend the afternoon drinking coca tea and people watching. I'm sad to be leaving Peru, but I plan on coming back soon.


Tuesday, August 19, 2003

For starters, check out this compelling picture:

Her name is Ksenia Vidyaykina--I performed with her about 2 years ago in a cabaret, and I'm familiar with her can get the full skinny here. While it looks really amazing in the photos, and she is an enchanting dancer the actual mechanics of her peeling off her skin are nowhere near as cool as you'd think. Still, she has an arresting gaze and beautiful form, so if you're looking for some strange theater to take in, that's a place you can go.

I actually got off the internet yesterday, which is rare for me, but I had to--I'm not feeling at the top of my game, and have had to do a lot of sleeping to get my energy up for performance. We're in the home stretch of the festival now, which I am thankful for--I've had my fill of everything, and I have to admit that I am looking forward to my return to the States with a lot of excitement. Home, home, home...not only is the heart there, but so is my bed, my desk and some rest.

Let's see--we had an impromptu party on Sunday night with the Left Coast Theatre folks at our flat, which was a lot of fun, and on my day off (yesterday) I did manage to get myself onto a cheesy bus tour of the city, which confirmed that Edinburgh is

a) beautiful,
b) small,
c) comprised mainly of churches and banks that have been turned into pubs.

It wouldn't be so bad, being under the weather, if I didn't have 3 or 4 other projects dangling that require my attention, some of them quite urgently--I hate that feeling of power loss, when even the simplest of activities drains you out. Makes me feel like a reptile, all cold-blooded and unable to react. I hate that.

On the blessings side: the shows themselves are still going well, even if I am tired the rest of the time, and I seem to have lost some weight while here, owing perhaps to disagreements between myself and foods which are fried.

Thank's to Aaron, I now know about a music venue near my home. Sounds interesting.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

By now everyone knows about the blackouts that gripped NYC and a number of other North American cities...last I heard Detroit was still having serious problems, but the bulk of the crisis had passed.

The blogosphere does a great job covering this kind of event: check over here at Gothamist for some freaky pictures and copious links full of data, or a personal account of my friend Damien trekking across the city. Having had my fill of massive public disasters in September of '01 I have to say I am thankful that I got the opportunity to sit this one out, and that I hope everyone who had to suffer through it are getting a well-deserved break this weekend.

The radio interview with Ross Noble went very well--he's a fun guy, much more low-key than his on-stage persona would suggest, which is fortunate because he'd be kind of unbearable if he was always ON. The show went well that evening, very energetic, and the next day we saw The Big Time, a very quirky and fun musical being put on be people JM and I know from Seattle--it's written by John Moe and the music is from Chris Ballew from the band The Presidents Of The United States Of's the magical rock journey of a sock, a lamp and a vacuum who embark on a musical career. Full details on the shows Left Coast Theatre has at Edinburgh are available here.

It was great seeing them all--I'm really only close with John Osebold, one of the actors and a very talented musician and theatre artist, and I know Brian Neel (another actor) somewhat...but all the actors have travelled in the same circles I have for years and we had instant familiarity. We discussed a couple of Edinburgh survival tips and we'll be getting together on Sunday after my show--looking forward to that, as for a festival it can be awfully lonely over here.

Learned two facts from a cabbie last night--Edinburgh has more Italian restaurants than anywhere else in the British Isles because so many Italians were held in internment camps during WWII, and when that conflict ended many Italians decided to repatriate here. Also, London cabbies have to take an extensive exam on the layout of the streets of London that usually takes 24 months to stufy for--it's like a degree in street smarts, if you will. Too bad NYC cabbies don't undergo that kind of rigorous examination.

More reviews are in:

"Daisey's storytelling methods are utterly captivating. Every word, every repition, every gesticulation reverberates...he's the consummate performer. As a lesson in storytelling prowess, 21 Dog Years is textbook brillance...thought-provoking, amusing and continually enchanting."

"Mike Daisey has frenetically intelligent, lively needle-sharp one-man wit that bears scrutiny as both theatre and comedy."

Tonight I am finally seeing Demetri's show--he's been the belle of the festival, and I'm psyched that we'll be able to get in on a Saturday night. Between now and then I have a show to perform and writing to plow through.
Two poems from Donald Rumsfeld...I may have posted these before, but I love them so damn much that I am compelled to repeat them again.

The Unknown
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

--Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

The Situation
Things will not be necessarily continuous.
The fact that they are something other than perfectly continuous
Ought not to be characterized as a pause.
There will be some things that people will see.
There will be some things that people won't see.
And life goes on.

--Oct. 12, 2001, Department of Defense news briefing

Friday, August 15, 2003

NYC in crisis! Blackouts! Looting!

And here I am, performing in 33 minutes. I have to run, but if I get back on tonight I'll give some updates from the Lighted, Electrical World.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Last minute excitement--I'll be on a radio program (programme if you are British) tonight, just before my show, on Radio Forth. I'll be on the show with Ross Noble, who is as big as comics get in the UK, which is to say much more important culturally than in the US--his face is on every taxi cab in the city an he's absolutely *huge* over here. He's an improvisationalist, so we should have a wide-ranging and eclectic conversation. Tune in at 7pm GMT.
Article from The Atlantic on why we don't actually want diversity. Obvious, but the kind of obvious that needs gentle sarcasm and clear reasoning in the right places to penetrate the larger culture. Down with white guilt! Down!

Funny couple of days...the HBO project, which now has a Secret Name, has been very well received in its latest incarnation, which means I am now compelled to dive back in and tune it up even more. I like that kind of work. I have also begun the scripting of talking points for my next show, which also now has a Working's delightful to be that far along. For me, the title is 70% of the journey, and the search for the right code can be totally consuming. It seems trite, and maybe to others it is, but when I have the right titles it clarifies and congeals my vaporings down from ranting to reasoned prose. Ta-da!

More on Daniel Kitson--I've been to see Mr. Kitson last weekend and the performance has been haunting me. After winning every comedy award in Britain (and there are many) he decided this year to create a story--to tell a story, with characters and arc and all that nonsense--and do it about fictional people.

This is a fairly crazy idea in the stand-up world, and Mr. Kitson succeeds brilliantly. In what can only be described as a twee fairy tale that mixes Amelie, Abbey Road, and Short Cuts, Kitson has created his own misathropic, lovely world. In the Pod, a fantastic venue where he performs in the round we can see big video screens on which additional pieces of his story is plotted wonderful to see multimedia that doesn't look like ass! So, so refreshing and sharp and clean. I have an unusual perspective, having a vested interest in the blurring of the lines between stand-up and storytelling, but this should delight anyone who sees it.

Sat down today and made a chart of the shows I want to see with JM--not as many as you would think. Perhaps I am older, but my appetite for bad theater, once inexhaustible, is now smaller--I don't have the time for it, and the trully bad stuff sometimes clogs up my pipes rather than pleasing me with its unutterable horribleness. So we've picked out a smorgasboard of site-specific shows, one-person performances that intrigue us and a smattering of other things, a lot of which is based out of the Assembly Rooms--the venue we are at appears to have some of the very best things at the festival.

In closing, here's a picture of JM, silhoutetted against THE CASTLE.

What a doll.
Interesting, clear and comprehensive article on what it is like to be on the campaign trail with Shwarzenegger from a reporter who travelled with him when Ah-nold was pushing Proposition 49 through. Enlightening stuff, and well written.
"'I say happy birthday a lot,' says Lamas, formerly of the television shows 'Renegade' and 'Falcon Crest.' 'I congratulate people at work for achieving employee of the month.'":

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Posting has gone a little sparse as the festival heats up--it seems like every day there are more people than the day before. The Tuesday nights now look like Saturday nights in the streets, and it feels as if we are headed toward some sort of Continuous Weekend, the dream of many Spring Break coeds. I love the crowds for the sake of the show, but otherwise I kind of miss how quiet and digestible the city was when I first arrived.

Here are excerpts from some of the press we've been receiving here:

"A penetrating and ebulliently performed account of one man's realization that life in big business is a contradiction in terms. Daisey spoofs the glazed-eye fanaticism of life in the rat race with exuberant relish."

"A fascinating and hilarious account from an intelligent performer. Highly entertaining insights...the audience is kept laughing with neat observations on the American Dream morphing into delusion."

"Engaging, friendly and high octane...funny and fascinating."

Also, I meant to provide a glimpse of this outstanding poster that fuses text messaging and church attendance:

Great, isn't it?

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

And AOL's fall is now complete.
So, California is a bad Hollywood farce. 158 candidates...sheesh.
The very best flash mob yet.

Monday, August 11, 2003

This WaPo article is a little over the top, but I know that I have become very interested in the minutae of my Starbucks Experiences. Today, for example, I meant to get a bunch of blogging done and some solid thinking, only to discover that a school choir had set up in my favorite store, singing dirge-like, soulless and loud renditions of "Lean On Me" and other hits. Blech.

More interesting Starbucks news as some are closed by impostors in the Bay area. I like that they had someone on the inside to get official Starbucks' letterhead...nice touch.

The weekend was pretty great--Daniel Kitson particularly deserves a longer article, which I will have to make up later. For now I need to schlep myself back home and do some maintenance--costumes need ironing, house needs cleaning, I have an air mattress that needs assembly. I am realizing that living here the whole month is much like living in Disneyland, with all the freakish dislocation and festival trauma that implies...sometimes what you want most from your coffee shop is for a choir to NOT show up. You know?

Saturday, August 09, 2003

When I do publicity photos, they always use the ones where I make a "confused" face.

Both Friday and now Saturday night's shows have been killer--very packed houses, very enthusiastic audience members. It is now just after the show, and I'm on my way home--I'm off to see Daniel Kitson's show, a talented comic who has branched into more structured plotting and storytelling. I'm in love with his poster, which is mainly this simple black with white lettering showing the range of opinions on his work:

Ah. "Slightly disappointing." If two words don't sum up a huge chunk of the human experience, I don't know what does.

I'm off from shows tomorrow, which is very exciting--and means I may be off from the blog as well, depending on how my mood strikes.
Too much technology diminishes work relationships, author says. I've been talking about this for years.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Ladies and Gents, we take some time out from our normally narcissistic ranting to introduce this year's most exciting new addition:

Tyson 2003!

This deluxe edition features both arms and legs, impressive skin tone, healthy audio alert functions and that fresh, new-person smell. Congratulations to my brother-in-law Chip and his lovely wife Sabrina for making a wise investment in the future.

Nothing as exciting as BIRTH happening here. More shows being performed, reviews are coming out--I got 4 stars from the Metro, which is very good, I am told. Everyone cares about stars here, so I'm glad I now have some so that they will give meaning to my cold and lonely life.

Jill Sobule on opening for people:

I say you can always tell a person by how they treat waitresses and opening acts. I have been one or the other for most of my life. Once, I served a cocktail to Madonna and did not receive a tip. I just thought I would mention it. I have opened up for Warren Zevon, Paul Weller, Joe Jackson, and Don Henley, all rumored to be at times assholes. I only have great things to say about them, especially Warren, who let me eat his food and watch soft porn in the back lounge of the bus with him. During my set, he would come up and sing " I Kissed a Girl" in his pirate-like voice.
One of my best friends as been on a quixotic quest for superbitchin' bookshelves, so it only seemed appropriate to celebrate that here.

Check them out. No, you can't buy any. BWAHAHAHHAHAHA!

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Last night's show was unique--about 5 minutes into the show, which is a sizable chunk, about 15 people came into the space. That's not totally unheard of, as people are often late, but it was notable in that they all came at once and, more importantly, one of the people crossed my stage to sit on the far side of the theater. Then, when he realized that he had gone through my playing space and captured everyone's attention he did the truly bizarre thing and crossed BACK through my space again.

I'm good at dealing with weirdness, but this topped it. I stopped the show, ran it back, did a 30 second summary version of everything they had missed up to that point and then jumpstarted from where we were. People I know who saw the show said that it was a really sharp evening, but the whole affair skewed my perceptions--the rest of the show was just work, work, work for me to settle and re-establish rhythms. Blech. Like I've said before, nobody likes a challenge, even if it brings out the best in them.

Had dinner with David Sterry and his lovely wife Arielle at Henderson's, one of the premiere vegetarian places in Edinburgh, which is to say that they actually do have vegetables, which really places them a cut above. Then we saw Alex Horne's show, which was chuckle-filled and had a nice style even if it didn't rock my world. It's all about scale--sometimes it is better to see something that doesn't try to change your worldview or transfigure you into light.

Oh, and I was on a mentalist's show yesterday as a celebrity guest:

It was interesting--he doesn't claim to have "psychic" powers, but only to be a keen observer of human behavior. He's really quite excellent at his job and is adept at all the kind of feats you would expect him to be. I actually hang out with him in the dressing room most nights and Marc's a neat guy who never, ever gives even the faintest of clues as to how his systems work. He was able to tell what words I had chosen from my own book w/o him seeing, and I could detect no thmb marks for the pages or other obvious and known ways he would be able to tell...he simply ran through lists of letters and watched my reactions.

Ah, Edinburgh...everyone has a cooler schtick than me.

Notable: ran into a drunk Scottish man who heckled me for having "the stupidest show he's ever heard of...who the fuck wants to hear about your fucking jobs, you fucking crybaby!" Then he somehow segued into a speech on how the "Apple Mac" changed everything, forever...which, I have to say, I agree with.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

The show went very well last night--a small but wonderful crowd. No technical problems and they had a wonderful energy--a lot of them stayed after to talk to me.

I'm really enjoying this festival, and the way it works me over in performance--I'm learning a great deal, and in a lot of ways it is the end of an educational process which began at the Cherry Lane last year Off-Broadway. It's very instructive in helping me parse out where I want to live between the invention and heat of the stand-up world and the storytelling precision of theater. Okay, that was a bit pretentious-sounding, I know...but the upshot is that it is amazing how much you can learn about yourself and the way you process things by performing for other people.

Yesterday was the hottest day in British history. Luckily it didn't reach all the way up to Scotland, but it still amazes me that 99 degrees = hottest day ever. I actually find myself missing the heat of NYC, which is something I *never* thought would happen to me--I'm a large guy, and always thought I preferred it to be 65 degrees year-round, though a few years in Seattle somewhat disabused me of that notion.

Now that the HBO project has been cleared out of the way somewhat, I am hoping to focus on seeing some shows. I am especially excited about the work of some people I know--Demetri Martin's show goes on just after mine in the same space, and we know each other from NYC...he has a wonderfully warm absurdist eye for geek culture, and appears to have captured the hearts of the Scottish with a 5-star review in the SCOTSMAN, which is pretty much the be-all, end-all of the festival. Kickass, Demetri. Kickass.

I know David Sterry through his wife, who works with my literary agent--they are both very cool people. He and I share a dressing room before our shows, and that can be a stressful thing with the wrong partner--luckily David is absolutely wonderful--laid back, gregarious with a very honest face. I will be seeing his show, Chicken: The True Story of a Teenage Gigolo the first night I have off. Have to admit, I keep wondering what a double-bill with him would be like--quite a combination, I would think. The Dot-Commer and the Dildo-Man, the press would say. Or at least they would in the UK.

I'm off to see some shows.
How can you get married Catholic and be dressed as elves? I don't understand how the Catholic Church can be so open AND close-minded at the same time.
Airline alert over gadget threat. That's just great--I am so screwed.
Apparently NEWSWEEK is not much better than the New York Times:

"Well, let's see: First, I'm 34 years-old, not 38. Second, I contributed $20 to Dean's campaign, not $25. Third, while I like and support President Bush I have never referred to him either in public or in private - and most certainly not on the record to a reporter from Newsweek magazine - as 'my man.'"
This poor bastard writes about the unspeakable joys of customer service.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

What's funnier: a National Prayer Day for the death of FOX News' commentator Bill O'Reily, or that it's organized by Larry Flynt?
Last night's show was sharp, but not as sharp as the two preceding it, owing to a number of factors. Chageover was really rough--you see, at the festival the show before you ends and wham, bam, thank you mam you are putting your show on. There's only about 15 minutes between the end of the show before us and when I am starting my show, and while we are a lightweight show, it can still be hard...especially when things go wrong.

Which they did. The show before us is technically complex, with many set pieces and an involved lighting plot--they have gelled every light, so changing the lights over is very onerous. Becs and Steve, the two techs who run the Wildman Room do a great job but last night things just went pear-shaped--the show before us ran late, their stage manager had problems, their set refused to leave and then the lights had been repatched in an interesting way that made it hard to sort out how I was going to be lit. This is stressful when you have only 4 minutes left before your show is late and you are fucking things up for the next person.

So JM managed to get the show open with great effort...and then there were more delays, I forgot something, and we had our first wheelchair patron...whom, due to the chaos, we didn't choose a position for.

As a consequence they parked the wheelchair person stage right...IN MY PLAYING SPACE.

Let me make this clear: the wheelchair was not "near" the set...I've dealt with a lot weirder than that. The wheelchair was WITHIN the set--for the first time, I was performing a two-man show, albeit one of the roles was played by a responsive man with a handicap of some sort.

He was a very nice fellow, and it could have been far worse--Tourette's would have been really hard to deal with at that distance. Still, it skewed what was already a challenging show--all my blocking had to be rearranged, and I was constantly standing right next to the guy, and had to include him in a lot of the show, otherwise I'd be too theatrical and removed. David suggested that I should have grabbed his wheelchair and wheeled him around when making an emphatic point, and while that's a bit over the top it would in some ways have been easier than "hanging out" with him was.

Today is a Tuesday, traditionally a quiet day for the festival...I am very curious as to how many audience members we will see this evening.
For Mary and Jean-Michele: the lyrics to the Degrassi Junior High theme song.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Today I have to dig back into it on the HBO project, but before I go underground a quick series of pictures, taken from our flat's window yesterday when the opening festivities for the festival were underway. It was so great to be able to watch a parade from our window--I've never gotten to do that before, and it beats standing on the street by a mile.

Here we have ream after ream of Scottish bagpipers in their kilts, doing their thing. The sound is surprisingly melodious, presumably because they know how to do their jobs.

Is there no parade safe from the terrible imperialism of American propaganda, with your "rock" music and your "comic" books?

Blue, ain't they? No idea who the hell they are, but they paled in comparison to the Bangkok Girls of Thailand, a cross-dressing posse of sex dancers that drove the crowd of parade-watchers WILD!

In a similar vein, here's a version of Cabaret being performed exclusively by 12 to 14 year olds. In American, this is pedophilia, but in the UK it's par for the course--I cannot count how many 7th graders I've seen in stiletto heels with bare midriffs, prowling the chilly Edinburgh night, looking for love or help with their pre-algebra.

That's all for now.

Oh, one more thing--be advised that in the nightclubs, everyone goes crazy when "Rhythm Is A Dancer" comes on, or when a "Grease" medley plays. It's somewhere between 1982 and 1997, bouncing back and forth at random but only hitting the very tackiest points between. I love it.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

What a difference a day makes! Last night's show was relevatory--everything locked into place and burst open in the best way. I haven't felt that good on stage in a long time, and the audience had a great time--it was really gratifying to connect with them, and to see that I am neither delusional nor mislabeled nor unintelligible to Europeans.

After the show we saw Jo Brand's set, which was really great--she's a deceptively, subversively smart comedian, and she manages to weave a smart feminist agenda into her work that is honest and clear...I can't think of a single American comedian who is doing that. It was pretty lovely to see an audience compromised 50-50 of women and men listening to a woman patiently and hilariously explain what was wrong with date rape WITHOUT it becoming pendantic or a lecture, AND having it retain a sense of whimsy and dark humor. Just wonderful moments throughout.

Today is a recuperation day--lots of fliering for Ruth, who is living with as the Slave for the summer, JM is learning the intricacies of UK clothes washing and I am trying to get caught up on my projects owed stateside. So that's all there's time for today.
Great interview with the Mikkelsons, on their debunking of the naked woman paintball hunting story which flooded the media last month. If you don't have their brilliant Urban Legend site bookmarked, go there and do so now.
Apparently even sarcasm is rated as a legitimate terrorist threat. Can these stupid federal functionaries develop even the rudimentary to tell the difference between threats and sarcasm? Do they have any training in threat assessment? The kid's an idiot, sure, but this doesn't fill me with faith in the baggage screeners, either.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

I love absolutely everything about the Corporate Fallout Detector except that it is not yet on the market and needs to be integrated into my cell phone. Check it out.
Well, there's good news and bad news.

Good: We had 47 tickets sold for the opening, which is very strong. The average show at the festival sells six (6!) tickets per performance--which means the name of the game is standing out from the herd. Buzz is good so far, and the press launch was killer--my segment looked really solid, and I got a wonderful reaction from the press and other artists.

I love UK comedians--the host was Jo Brand, a very cool lady, who mercilessly made fun of my show having been Off-Broadway rather than ON Broadway, which led into a long discussion with the audience on the merits of the New York theater system. Note: this wasn't American-style "comedian working the room" shit--she actually started a real discussion. It was very cool.

Bad: The performance itself was...bizarre. Even though things had been solid and sharp at the sampler at noon, somehow the 47 people at the show were from another planet entirely. I blame myself, because it's my job, but I honestly don't know what went wrong...they seemed, well, confused. Like they expected something else ENTIRELY. I have no idea what it was they thought they were going to be getting, but I can tell you for certain that I was not it.

They did warm to the show, somewhat, and never seemed unhappy with it...they just seemed distanced, and tired, and the aforementioned confused. Made for an unpleasant show, but after the show a few audience members spoke to me in the street and expressed great warmth about the show...go figure.

I have a theory, but I hope it is wrong--I'm listed as comedy, not theater, and in the Assembly all the comedy acts are pretty straight up standup, and I fear that the people are simply being hit with a show they don't expect at all. I don't even know if people choose their shows that way, but it would explain some elements.

I hope that instead it's just that locals are seeing 10 shows a day in the first days of the fest, because they get this huge discount, and as a consequence they are knackered by the time they show up at 8pm for us.

I'm disappointed a bit, because I wanted a strong showing out of the gate...but at the same time, it wasn't the end of the world. I need more data, so we're buckling down for tonight's show where I'll take another crack at the pinata.

Q: What is life without challenge?
A: Much, much easier. Only assholes go around being happy when they're challenged.
That Ricki is a lesbian temporarily stymies Larry's fantasy of sexual conquest and leads to an extraordinary debate about the relative merits of the penis and the vagina. Ms. Lopez has the last word � not one that I can quote here � and it comes at the end of a speech about sea slugs, Mount Everest and the bottom of the ocean that she delivers while executing a series of yoga poses. This causes poor Larry to fall hopelessly in love with her and sets up their eventual bedroom consummation, a tasteful woman-on-top montage initiated by Ms. Lopez declaring that "it's turkey time."

Friday, August 01, 2003

Opening favorite. It's a kind of ritual and holiday for performers, in the classic sense--much as normal folks look forward to holidays with a mixture of eagerness and mounting dread, so too are openings. Even with a show as nailed down at 21DY, I still get hit with the whole range of nerves...and I suspect strongly that when that stops happening it will be time to pack it in for this lifetime.

First, take a look of this picture, taken from where I am sitting right now, in a Starbucks on Princes Street with WiFi access:

Isn't that something? I'm something of a Starbucks conisseur, and I have to say that this very well may be the nicest Starbucks I've been to on three continents...between the amazing view, the vivacious Scottish hospitallity and the internet access, I think I've stumbled upon a small slice of heaven.

In just a few hours I have the press junket, where I will perform a section of the show for reporters and press in a delightful dog-and-pony show. I'll answer the same questions I've been asked 1,000 times with zest and elan, then head home, try to nap, review my pieces and get ready for the opening tonight.

Last night's BBC interview was a fucking hoot. The segment before me was pure BBC--it was 4 different design professionals discussing the impeccable merits of the French Citroen. Even NPR would have held these people to a 5 minute segment, but somehow they talked about the wonders of this car for over 20 the process making the most outlandish connections. My favorite was the guy who compared the Citroen to the work of Roland Barth, and another panelist spoke about how the car itself resembles Barth's writing. Then the host had to say that she had seen a Citroen with five cigarette lighters, to which a panelist responded, "Ah, the French really know how to live!" Then they all nodded audibly into their microphones.

Had I not been busy stabbing out my eyes I would have asked wittily how this segment fell on the BBC's ironclad promise never to shill for corporate interests, but I sensed that these professors had a very poorly developed sense of humor about the Citroen, industrial car design and the universe in general, so I abstained and resumed quietly sobbing through the absolutely interminable segment. The 5 people in Scotland who were still listening when I got on the air will get free tickets to my show if they make it down to the Assembly Rooms this week.

Opening Day!