On the road again

Hitting the road again today, this time to Iowa.

But quickly before I go, I learned yesterday that one of my aunts now has the best address ever.

She lives on Prince Valiant Dr.

I shared this with Tara, who informed me that one of her old friends now lives on Gobbler's Knob Rd.

Happy New Year, everybody. May your 2009 bring as much joy as those two things brought this apartment.


85 percent of my love

Still doing things Texas style. Rebecca and I head back to Chicago this afternoon where we'll enjoy a one-day respite before hitting the road again, this time to Iowa to see the other half of her family. It's like we're home, but WE JUST CAN'T STOP TRAVELING.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I did, and now I'd like to talk briefly about Chuck Klosterman.

Rebecca's mom remembered that I had put his book Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story on my list for last year but didn't receive it. I then, for whatever reason, completely failed to read it in the entire following year. This made it a lovely surprise come present-opening time.

(I also received some very sharp knives that will definitely not make it on the plane. They will be have to be mailed.)

Anyway, I've had some time to read quite a bit of it over the last two days. It's Klosterman being Klosterman - incredibly analytical and surprisingly self-absorbed about subjects that normally require neither of those things. Really good if you enjoy him.

My only beef with the book, and really the thing that I've thought the most about so far, is the blurb on the back cover. From author Bret Easton Ellis, it reads as follows:

"I can't think of a more sheerly likeable writer than Chuck Klosterman and his old-fashioned, all American voice: big-hearted and direct, bright and unironic, optimistic and amiable, self-deprecating and reassuring - what a captivating lack of fuss or pretension."

This quote makes me seriously doubt whether Mr. Ellis and I have been reading the same author at all. Of the 13 descriptive terms used in that blurb, I see merit in exactly four.

I consider the following to be possible explanations:
a) Mr. Ellis made this quote ironically.
b) Mr. Klosterman used this quote ironically.
c) The publisher liked it.

I'm leaning toward option c at this point. Options a and b are unlikely because there is a small kernel of truth in the quote, or at least 4/13s of one.

The final option is that everyone is being sincere and it's actually intended to be 85% of an ironic back cover blurb.

And really, the entire purpose of writing this was to get to that last sentence because it was so clever of me to think of it. You're welcome, Internet.


Deep in the heart

I'm down in Texas for a week with Rebecca and part of her family.

It got up to 50 degrees today, with promises of 70 in the next couple days. This is a nice break from freezing Chicago where on Sunday it was quite literally colder than the North Pole.

This just in: People in Texas are really quite fond of Texas.


Saga of the lamp, continued

Those of you who were reading this blog around this time last year might remember the Saga of the Lamp, wherein some maids broke my cool lamp and, instead of reimbursing me for it, just bought me a new lamp.

This is an update to the Saga.

I have broken that lamp.

I was wearing some big clunky shoes and standing at my desk, then just took an innocent little step backwards. It was enough to catch the bottom part of my nightstand and send the entire contents crashing to the floor. Needless to say, the frosted glass was not made to withstand such an impact.

So we bid farewell to yet another lamp. I have purchased another one from Target and you may notice that it is much less breakable. I intend to stop this curse in its tracks.


It's really tracking well

I'm getting used to some of the changes that have happened around here while I was gone. The new CTA Bus Tracker was just getting off the ground as I was leaving and since I primarily used the El back then, I really had no use for it. Now that my destinations are slightly more varied, I've enjoyed trying it out.

Basically, through any computer or "web-enabled mobile device," you enter where you are and which way you're headed and they'll tell you when the next bus will be along. It only works for certain bus lines currently, probably because putting that information up for the 22 Clark bus would involve a branch of hyper-mathematics that hasn't been invented yet.

The upside of this is that when it's really cold in Chicago (i.e. now until late April), you can use the Bus Tracker to time your departure to spend as little time in the cold as possible. I tried it the other day as I was headed to the 8 Halsted bus.

Initial verdict: It has completely revolutionized the way I barely miss buses.


Home again

It should come as a surprise to very few that I seriously neglected this blog in the waning days of our contract and the subsequent return home. For anyone who has followed the writings contained herein for any length of time, it is a pattern that should be considered inevitable.

Now that I'm back and settled in, I shall endeavor to be more faithful in writing. This too, is part of the aforementioned pattern.

I fear that my life currently will yield very little in terms of exciting updates. I am unemployed and still trying to figure out where groceries come from. The most exciting thing happening at the moment is the fact that it is snowing quite heavily outside. See? Fascinating.

So if I occasionally dip back into the archives and bring up a photo from our overseas adventures to discuss, you'll have to forgive me for the lack of continuity.

But to start things off, it's nice to be home. Below is a clip of a band I just discovered. I love that I live in a country where this is a valid aesthetic choice for a musical group.

The fact that they recently opened for Electric Six should surprise no one.


Coming home

Republished from The Jade Journal

The funny thing about finally going home after four months at sea is how everything is pretty much how you left it.

Sure, some things are different. There's a new president-elect. There are two new haircutting places within a block of your apartment. And instead of parking meters on Clark Street, there's some sort of new-fangled electronic parking box. (How long were you gone? Is this what the future looks like?)

But most things are pretty much the same. Your room looks like you remember and you still hear sirens go by with unsettling frequency. The #9 at Jimmy Johns still tastes great. The guy at the dry cleaners downstairs is still very friendly, despite the fact that you are both uncomfortably unsure of each others' names.

It's just weird to think that you've had all of these amazing experiences jam-packed into four months while the vast majority of people were going about their normal routines. And you wish you could explain it in some way, any way that makes sense and doesn't take four hours and hundreds of pictures.

But you can't. And that's okay. Because the only thing that's really changed around here is you.

And I guess that's the point.

(Thanks to my fellow castmates, especially Jessica for starting this blog and encouraging us to write. And to everyone at Second City for this amazing opportunity. And most definitely to Rebecca for not killing me despite four months of too-close quarters and too-violent video games.)


For example, today is Istanbul Day. That's the most I know.

Republished from The Jade Journal

The funny thing about renting DVDs from the crew store is that you have absolutely no idea when they’re due back.

Let me explain – on the ship, there is a great crew welfare department that is responsible for, well, crew welfare. The crew welfare people do many things to keep crew members happy, healthy and drunk.

They organize crew excursions to Cairo and other cool places, which is nice because it’s absolutely essential to have an armed security guard travel with you to Cairo and they’re so expensive to hire for just a few people. Better to have 40 crew members and one guard. You know, spread the cost around.

They throw parties in the crew bar and give away free beer for just about any reason imaginable. Most frequently, they’re for some country’s Independence Day although these seem to happen with suspicious frequency. In fact, in the three months I’ve been on the ship, I think we’ve celebrated India’s twice.

And of course, they run the crew store. This is where you can stock up on essentials – toothpaste, deodorant, dried mango slices and strange foreign juices…anything you need to make you feel at home, regardless of what country you’re from. This is also where you can rent DVDs, which brings me back to the problem.

It’s not that they don’t tell you how long you can keep the DVDs. They do: 3 days for a movie, 7 for a TV series. It’s just that these terms, and really, time itself, hold relatively little meaning in this environment.

Most of the time we have absolutely no idea what day it is. We know we tip our room stewards on Sunday and get paid on Wednesday, but often even those pass us by without fanfare or notice. (Sorry Juana!) The only way we mark time is knowing if we have a show tonight and what port we happen to be in.

So telling me this DVD set of Battlestar Galactica: Season Three is due back next Thursday does me no good. We might as well be using a Mayan calendar and saying it’s due back next Quetzalcoatl, so could you just print me out a reminder card? Thanks.


Public bathing in foreign lands

Republished from The Jade Journal

The funny thing about Turkish baths is how decidedly non-bath-centric they are.

This is not to imply that they are not cleansing. Indeed, afterwards I felt as though my very soul had been purified.

But they don’t involve public bathing so much as sweating and steam and burly men with mustaches rubbing you down and anointing you with oil. And yes – let’s address this, as it’s bound to come up eventually – that sounds pretty gay.

But it’s not. It’s awesome. Which is not to say that gay stuff can’t be awesome but I just don’t have time to get into the transitive property right now.

Here’s what happens – you change out of your clothes and into a little towel thing and head into the main room. This is a large open room with a circular marble slab in the middle and bathing stations around the outside of the circle. The slab is somehow heated to a really high temperature (Possibly magic?). Everything is silent and still. Unless there is a noise, in which case it reverberates around the room for the next five minutes. It is here, as you’re laying on the marble slab and beginning to heavily perspire while the Muslim call to prayer softly echoes outside and you don’t quite know what happens next, that you really start to wonder what your life is right now and how you came to be in it.

Then all such thoughts are swept from your mind as the burly men with mustaches arrive and soapsuds come out of nowhere and suddenly you are getting roughly exfoliated by a dude. After you come to terms with this, it is a relatively peaceful experience until they douse you with cold water and demand a tip.

Then, if you sprang for the luxury treatment, you are taken into another room, placed on a massage table, and told to relax while another burly man plays “Find the Knots of Tension and Make Them Explode!” After a lot of this, some scented oils and some stereotypical massage karate chopping, he also demands a tip.

If you want, you can go hang out on the slab some more and think about your life, but at that point I was tired and really wanted a gyro. So I got one. And it was the most relaxed I’ve ever been while eating a gyro.

It's Rebecca's nightmare!

From Mykonos III 16.10.08

Check out this huge bird in Mykonos! Ha ha! Awesome!

International flavour

From Mykonos II 10.10.08

One of the interesting things about being overseas is all the fantastically interesting flavors of things we come across. Or should I say flavours.

Chips, mostly. Oregano, paprika, hot dog, ketchup - they really go for flavours beyond the normal stuff we're used to.

Which is why we were so excited to try this banana-flavoured cola that Cody had been telling us about. That excitement dissipated with the first grimace-inducing sip, but we were still delighted by the yellow monkey spokesman.

Jerry! You infidel!

From Cairo, Egypt 26&27.09.08

I don't know why seeing Seinfeld on Cairo TV with Arabic subtitles delighted me so, but it did.

Non-Greek heritage

From Athens II 01.10.08
We were fortunate enough to enjoy the company of my parents last cruise. Here's my mom and I on Mars Hill (which has at least two other names, thanks to the many cultures who have laid claim to it at one point or another). It's believed to be the rock from which the apostle Paul preached to the Athenians. I think having a picture taken there got her extra credit in Bible study.

When my dad got off the shuttle from the airport, he looked like death. He was sick before he left and traveling overseas, compounded with crazy jet lag, doesn't make for a quick recovery. He spent the first few days in bed, but recovered enough to watch the first show from the front row. And then the next four from the same spot. With my mom. True to form, they liked everything but liked Rebecca and I doing our synchronized swimming act the best.

It's nice to have parents who support what you're doing and come to your shows. Hopefully they won't have to come halfway around the world to see the next one.


It would be impolite not to

From Istanbul, Turkey I 18.09.08

When in Istanbul, it's customary to consume Turkish beer and Turkish hookah.

My friend Matt Mages said of this picture, "
This photo pretty much sums up how I always expected your engagement to look."

I like that.

He's really great

From Corfu, Greece 03.10.08

We found this guy sitting on a street in Corfu, Greece. Rebecca pretended to take a picture of me but really just took one of him.

I wish we spoke the same language so he could tell me everything about his life. I'm not sure, but I think I may want to be him when I grow up.

It makes sense

From Jumpin' From Jesse

Because when you're in front of the pyramids and the sphinx, the first thought that should come to your mind is, "Let's pretend like we're in High School Musical."

Remarkably accurate

From Istanbul, Turkey I 18.09.08

I promised I'd find my rabbit-foretold fortune, so here are both Rebecca's and mine, reprinted verbatim. Straight from the rabbit's mouth.

Rebecca's bunny fortune:

47. dont think about the person on your mind to much..dont stop to prayer your god..you will have so much money from the lottery..

My bunny fortune:

41. you couldnt get your wishes until now..you found bad things after you made good things..you couldnt find your way..but dont give up..if your heart clean you will make everthing you want to do..you will find your labour's responce.

I find them both pretty encouraging. Thanks, rabbits!


They also spit sometimes

From Cairo, Egypt 26&27.09.08

The funny thing about riding a camel are the takeoffs and landings.

I take that back. Those are the hardest things.


I take that back as well. That is the annoying thing.

The funny thing about riding a camel is the camel. They are inherently hilarious creatures. With their long, flexible necks and their expressions that kind of look like they're smiling and kind of look like they're exasperated. And their humps! Come on! They are a creature with humps!

They truly are ridiculous creatures. I am convinced God created them to give nomads something to laugh about while traversing the desert. Because face it, there isn't much else out there to make the nomads chuckle. And if there's anything I know about long trips across the Sahara, it's that you've got to keep your sense of humor.

But seriously, the takeoffs and landings are hard. Are there more camel-specific terms I should be using to refer to when the camel stands up with you on its back and then sits down again? If there are, I don't know them. All I know is that camels have four legs and they can only fully extend two at a time from a seated position, so you better lean the heck back if you don't want to take a tumble.

Also, don't let the camel man take you too far away from the pyramids. He may call you his friend, but he can quickly become your friend who needs another ten dollars if you want to make the return trip.

Finally, don't drink the water in Cairo. Yikes.

(This is a duplicate of my blog posting over at The Jade Journal, a blog from myself and the rest of my castmates on the ship. Check it out!)


They just know

From Istanbul, Turkey I 18.09.08
In Istanbul, they have fortune-telling rabbits.

This is not something I expected to see on my travels but am nonetheless pleasantly surprised.

This nice man will charge you 2 lira and then hold a wooden block with several small pieces of paper sticking out of it in front of one of the rabbits. The rabbit then picks up one of the pieces and deposits it in the man's hand. This is your fortune, chosen and foretold by a rabbit.

It then says, in very broken English, things like "You should not prayer to your God" and "You will win much money in the lottery." I'll look up my actual one and post it later. But I feel pretty good about what the rabbit foretold.

P.S. Hi from a bowling alley in Iraklion on the island of Crete. Again, it doesn't make much sense to me either, but they have free wi-fi, cheap bowling and good milkshakes. Feels a little like home.

P.P.S. Coming up next, pyramids!


International diplomacy

In Lisbon, they make the best breakfast pastries imaginable. We hop on a train every time we're there and go to a different district just for these puppies. We also eat lunch at the same chicken place every time - Conjardim. They make the best chicken in the world. We also enjoy their Vino Verde - green wine. Not really green, it's a really light, sweet and refreshing white wine that is relatively inexpensive.

Lisbon, you are winning.

Rebecca and I taught a workshop today called Klass Klowns - Improv for Kids. Actually, they don't spell those words with K's, but they should. We had about 8 kids turn out for the workshop.

Half spoke no English. This presented a problem.

Fortunately, it turns out that Zip Zap Zop and Pass the Clap are universal.

Thank goodness for silly improv warmups. We should teach them to our ambassadors.

A mystery no longer

So I solved Stonehenge. Turns out, it wasn't that hard. The way I see it, about 4000 years ago, some tribesmen were like, "You know what will be really big in the future? Tourism. Let's put up some rocks for people to puzzle over."

Case closed.

One of the best attractions at the amusement park that is Stonehenge was this guy, an actual druid named, no joke, Arthur Pendragon. Apparently he's mad about some promises the English government made about taking the fence around Stonehenge down. They haven't done it, so he's out there every day in protest. Hence the tan and leathery skin.

I taped Nick interviewing him because he hoped he'd be crazy and hilarious. Sadly, he was quite normal and well-spoken. Just really passionate about this issue, I guess. The funniest thing about him was watching him use his cell phone.

Or as the Brits call it, his mobile. I guess it's okay for druids to use them now?


Picture picture

Oh, and because everyone loves looking at other people's vacation pictures, (even though we're not on vacation - we're working, thank you very much) you can check out photos of our travels at picasaweb.google.com/timothyryder

This is Rebecca and I next to a cool fountain in Lisbon. Occasionally the fountain erupts like a volcano in an attempt to drench people posing next to it. This is hilarious if it is not you.

(It was not us.)

I am currently writing this in an Australian bar in Vigo, Spain. I don't understand it either, but they have fast Internet and Olympic field hockey on the TVs. It's fun.


Hot Fathers

Rome is interesting because of its old stuff. Most of that stuff is connected to Roman Catholicism in some way, so there is a ton of Catholic stuff around. A lot of Rome is like walking through a Catholic Wal-Mart, only it's outside and all the wares are in carts on the sides of the aisles, which are streets.

Above is a picture of me with a 2009 calendar of - no joke - hot young priests. It is the ultimate in forbidden fruit. They are attractive young men, clearly with good values, but they are extremely unavailable. Seriously. They have taken a vow of celibacy and you don't just go around breaking those willy-nilly.

Apparently this is attractive to some people? Do ladies just enjoy tormenting themselves with guys they know are great but can never have? Or are they specifically for Catholic mothers to point to while chastising their daughters and say, "Why can't you date a nice young man like Mr. August, only not a priest?"

It's worth noting that I did not buy the calendar as I am waiting for the one with hot young nuns.

We would call it a "soccer game"

In Barcelona, we caught wind of a big football match going on that evening. (Thanks to the British dad who was excited about it.) We decided it would be a fun cast excursion and so set out to find the stadium where FCB (Futbol Club de Barcelona) played.

Bottom line - it's the coolest thing I've done so far. We all bought general admission tickets and hiked up to the very top of the stadium, which was huge. It wasn't a big game, but there were still tons of people there. People with airhorns and rhythmic chanting and the potential for riots! JUST LIKE IN MY DREAMS!

Rebecca and I were just talking that day about how cool it would be to go see a big football match and then WE GOT TO DO IT. This trip is pretty awesome for reasons like that. Also, FCB won 4-0. Take that, some team from Poland.

I suppose this is as good a time as any to introduce you to the cast of characters you may hear about from time to time. In the picture above, the people are:
Back row - Cody Dove, Nick Vatterott, me and musical director Jesse Case
Front row - Rebecca, Dean Evans, Lauren Dowden and Jessica Joy

I would tell you all about the fun I've had with each of them already, but long-windedness is not good for blogs. I will get to it eventually.

I'm pretty sure that's right

Apparently in Spain, The Dark Knight is being marketed as "The Obscured Hatman."

Again, my Spanish is a bit rusty.

Cuidado! Un toro?

In Malaga, we went to a Picasso museum because I guess he lived here at some point? Things are occasionally difficult to understand here as they are in Spanish and all I remember from high school is "Me gusta comprar con Mama y Papa en el supermercado.*"

Anyway, the museum was awesome but they didn't let us take pictures which was a shame because that dude painted some cool stuff. Conveniently, most of it was available in postcard form in the gift shop.

Later, we found a bullfighting ring and I pretended I was a statue of a bullfighter. I did not pretend I was an actual bullfighter because I know my limitations.

* Translation: "I like to shop with Mom and Pop in the supermarket." I only remember it because I learned it in song form, officially the best way to learn and remember anything. It's the reason I still remember Stick Stickley's address, and who the heck needs to know that?


Also called "birds"

Rebecca and I were walking around the top deck last night after dinner and ran into two English girls who had seen our first show. They told us how much they enjoyed it and we got to talking about various things. At one point after Rebecca had said something, they remarked how much they loved our accents. Our plain, boring Midwestern accents.

Apparently, they think their English accents are "boring" and make them sound "posh," which is now apparently a bad thing?

So if nothing else, we at least sound cool to some of these people.


O Captain my Captain

The view in Villefranche

The captain of our vessel is Trond Kildal, which has been certified by a global governing body as the single coolest name of all time.

Rebecca likes him because he's a native Norwegian. Her goal for the 4-month contract is to talk to Captain Trond at some point and say "Mange takk," which means many thanks in Norwegian.

We had a chance on Saturday when we docked at Southampton. We went to the mall and saw him at The Gap, which was weird. He still managed to look very captainly even out of uniform. Rebecca decided not to say anything because he was busy looking at his cell phone or as the Brits say, "mobile."

Rebecca has just informed me that if we get a puppy and it's a boy, there is a possibility that we will name it Trond. This is awesome.

She has also just informed me that I should change the "if" in that last sentence to "when." This does not help my suspicion that she has only agreed to marry me because it might help her get a puppy.


Now this is happening.

Rebecca and I in Firenze, Italia

Yes...so. Here I am in Europe. At present, the waters southwest of England en route to Malaga, Spain.

Let us see if I can summarize the intervening time since the last post with anything resembling brevity. To catch you up, you see.

After my last day at Euro, I watched Rebecca's last home show with RedCo, which was great but also sad. We then headed west to visit some family. A lovely day with Josh and Allyn in Princeton followed by an equally lovely 4th of July in Ventura with Rebecca's dad and stepfamily* made for a lovely roadtrip indeed. INDEED!

Rebecca then flew down to Texas for a few days to enjoy the company of her sister and mother while I made some preparations for the journey ahead. We then spent a frenzied week and a half as such - rehearsals in the daytime, running lines or writing our own material or spending large amounts of money at Target in the evening. I really have never spent so much at Target in one visit. Shareholders of Target, you are welcome.

One cramped transatlantic flight later, we found ourselves in jolly olde England, only to jump right on the boat. We met the departing castmembers on the gangway and wished each other well. A wrestling-style tagout, if you will**. We then rehearsed a lot, did some shows and got the first cruise under our belt.

I may have oversummarized here. It is possible I will revisit some of the events of the first two weeks. Some of the things Nick did are especially worth mentioning, if only for their sheer audacity.

Regardless, this brings you to today. The beginning of our second cruise of the contract. Our producer and director have left and, some would say, our adventure has truly begun.

Onward, then.***

*This, I'm positive, is a term.

**And you will.

***It is entirely possible that my writing style has changed to reflect my new surroundings. If it seems overly pompous and formal, you must understand - I am surrounded by Brits.


A chapter closes

Sooner or later, everything ends.


Set a course for adventure

Is there a recommended amount of time that you are supposed to leave an engagement announcement on your blog out of courtesy? I have not yet received my copy of Emily Post on the Internet. I'm sure we have exceeded that time, so let's move on.

One of the fun traditions at my workplace is that on someone's birthday, the rest of the team decorates their cubicle in some ridiculous theme, often pasting their face onto other people's bodies for silly picture time.

Despite the fact that it is nowhere near my birthday, I walked into my cube on Monday to see that it had been decorated in the theme of The Love Boat. My coworkers are quite fascinated with the whole going on a cruise/getting engaged combo and I guess this is their way of telling me that, though they may miss me, they're happy for me.

And also that my time on the ship may feature a series of guest stars from 70's pop culture?

For those of you who are curious, the two themes chosen on my previous birthdays here were The Office and Saturday Night Live. I guess this fulfills my life requirement for being "the funny guy in the office."

This picture might actually be my favorite, just for the pure simplicity and absurdity of it. It's my nameplate for the outside of the cubicle. Normally it would be a fairly outdated picture of me with my name, title and MST3K quote. I think I like this better.

This one is just plain creepy, although I appreciate how they were able to work Rebecca in there despite having never met her. Some sneaky people must have raided my Facebook page.

I'm excited about moving on and there are certainly a lot of things about this job that I definitely won't miss. But little things like this and the great people I've met here...I'll miss that.


Finally, news

Here we go, friends and random onlookers. Two big announcements in the world of Tim.

First and by far most importantly, Rebecca and I are engaged.

To be married! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT

On Memorial Day afternoon, I took her for a walk by Lake Michigan. It's one of our favorite places in the city to walk. We love watching the dogs at Dog Beach, the boats coming in and out of Belmont Harbor and people generally being happy. You can see the great city skyline from there too. It's quite nice, and it was pretty that day, so nice doubly so.

Anyway, romantic buildup and preamble aside, I asked, she said yes, we're happy.

No, we haven't set a date. Do people assume that I asked that question immediately after the big question? And that she had a definite answer to which I could concretely agree? Come on, people. We've barely been engaged a week. Give us some time.

Besides, I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to talk about it during our big adventure.

What adventure, you ask?

Why, the one that shall take place aboard this gigantic ship, of course.

Rebecca and I have been hired by The Second City to provide onboard entertainment for the Norwegian Jade. We ship out in late July and we'll be on the ship for 4 months touring the UK and Mediterranean, entertaining Ohio tourists and Saudi oil sheiks alike.

Neither of us have ever been overseas, so we're excited to see a little bit of the world on someone else's dime and make people laugh all along the way.

I'll report more news as it comes, but just know that we're excited on all counts.




If you were curious about how nerdy our apartment is, it's this nerdy.

That's my roommate Scott Brady with his Batman blanket. Also, one of our first interactions when he moved in was when I helped him
intricately pose his action figures.

Jon, who is behind the camera, listens to Battlestar Galactica podcasts.

Tara could not be more sad about this, I'm sure.

Coming soon: News. For real.


Signs, man. Signs.

I visited my brother in Princeton over the weekend. Before I could even make it into the chapel where he was running his Trivia Night, I paused in the parking lot to notice these two neighboring signs.

And I remained paused for 10 minutes in existential crisis.

These signs have got to get their act together and figure out what they want out of life.


Beamz! It's with a z, people. Get with it.

Just when you thought your complete lack of rhythm meant you could never be a musician...

Just when you thought everything involving lasers was awesome...

Just when you thought Sharper Image products had reached a pinnacle of absurdity...

Comes the Beamz Music System!

Never have white dudes been whiter. Never have wannabe rockstars looked so nerdy. Never has there been such a dated and overused pop culture reference attached with so little sense*.

The Beamz Music System - $600 to look like a complete moron for the hour you actually play with it.

* At 2:48 in the video.


A tenacious D

I have a love/hate relationship with my handwriting. Sometimes I think it's pretty cool, sometimes it's horribly embarrassing. Mostly it just seems superfluous. I do most of my writing with a keyboard, so what does it matter what illegible symbols my hand scratches out?

But there are some forms at work that I still fill out by hand. These are forms I created myself for my own purposes, so maybe there is a part of my brain that still enjoys using a good pen every once in a while.

Anyway, this is all just preamble to my main point.

Look at that D.

That is a freaking sweet D.

I wasn't even trying to make it so awesome. I was just writing and then that happened.


(This is the kind of hard-hitting stuff you guys come here for, right?)



Spring has finally arrived in Chicago. And not a moment too soon.

It's very pretty.

Coming soon to this blog: actual news about my life?


Please start getting excited!!

Of course, for every long-standing store that closes, there's a young upstart store ready to make a name for itself.

I took this picture about a week ago. It was on the door of a storefront around Clark and School. I pass it, but only on Wednesdays when coming home from the comic book store. I enjoyed how optimistic the sign was and how politely self-promoting it was as well. It kindly requests that you please start getting excited.

I went in there yesterday, expecting an independent Gamestop-type store where you could trade in your PS2 copy of Madden 2005 for some newer version of Madden.

But this dude is serious.

Sure, there's the requisite amount of modern games for sale. But there's also a mind-boggling amount of classic games and consoles. Would you like a wide variety of NES cartridges? How about a Virtual Boy in its original packaging? How about King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella for AMIGA?! WOULD YOU LIKE TO BUY AN INTELLIVISION?! A FREAKING INTELLIVISION?!

It is for real impressive.

I give it a couple months.


Another one bites the dust...

I mean, it's not like all I do is walk around my neighborhood looking for depressing signs of gentrification and upper-class takeover. They're just really hard to avoid.

53 years! According to my calculations, that means Aiko's Art Materials opened in 1955. That's a Back to the Future year! (a designation that implies either pretty far in the past or just barely in the future.)

I always wish I knew more about why businesses close. Maybe it's their choice. Maybe the owners are retiring and they don't want anyone else to run it. Maybe the patriarch of the family passed away and the rebellious son didn't want to go into the family business. Or maybe they lost their lease.

I wonder if they thought way back in 1955 that it would end the way it did.

Of course, I also wonder if they thought they'd last 53 years.


Two hats are better than one?

Look, I don't claim to know this guy's life. I'm sure he has a perfectly good reason for arranging his headgear the way he does. Maybe he's been burned before when, upon losing a hat, he did not immediately have an auxillary hat to replace it. Perhaps he is the harbinger of a new and utterly ridiculous trend.

At any rate, I think we all have a lot to learn from him. Thanks, guy-with-two-hats*.

*Perhaps he is a mythical creature where if you remove one hat, two more will grow in its place.


Hey, they're being honest

I was walking to meet a friend for lunch on Michigan Ave the other week and ran across this store on the ground level of a swanky apartment building.

I find their lack of pretense refreshing. They are openly admitting to the consumer, "When walking into this place of business, you are not buying status or comfort or peace of mind. You are buying things."


A new high score!

A momentous date passed this week and I would be remiss if I did not mention it here. Also, I'm pretty proud of it and so I think you, the Internet, should know.

On Thursday, Rebecca and I celebrated our two-year anniversary. How about that? Two years and we still haven't driven each other crazy. It's got to be some kind of record.

We did it, sweetheart! Happy two-year anniversary!


All good things...

My run of Second City Conservatory shows ended last Monday the 7th. For those of you who might not know what exactly that means, I'll tell you.

For a little over the past year, I've been a student in the Conservatory, Second City's upper-level training program for improvisation and revue comedy. When you get to Level 5, you start working on your show. Essentially a senior capstone, this show is about 45 minutes of original comedic material written and performed by you and your classmates.

Well, we wrote it. We performed it. And now it's done. If you missed it, you blew it. (Although I do have it forever preserved on a sweet DVD made by our Assistant Director. Thanks, James!)

I was very proud of our final product. I've said it many times before, but I'll keep saying it: I feel amazingly fortunate to have had the classmates and director that I did. Everyone got along really well and helped shape and build on others' ideas . It made for, in my opinion, a pretty darn good show.

It's bittersweet, as most good things that end are. I'll miss my classmates and I'll miss performing with them. But there will be other shows. And last night I had my first free Monday night in quite a few weeks. And it was pretty great.

Besides, to show for all my hard work, I now have this!

That's right, suckers. My family presented me with a diploma that says I have a Masters in Comedic Arts. Take that, idiots who went to law school!

P.S. Thanks to Lindsey for the great YouTube montage.


This is apparently not a joke.

Okay, people. I've got a few posts stockpiled and some important things to talk about. The end of my Second City show, how awesome I am at Kingdom Hearts II, etc. But all of that will have to wait, because I have a very important announcement.

Attention all creative types in the motion picture industry! All directors, producers, writers, actors, cinematographers, editors and key grips, from the most successful and renowned to the barely born:

You can stop now.

The perfect motion picture has been created.

They will dance for a fee, but devour you for free.

Are you listening, Scorsese? You can stop now. The motion picture has reached its pinnacle and any attempts at surpassing it would be folly.


Let's...play ball?

Well, it's April again. How about that. Time sure is linear in a four-dimensional plane of existence*.

April means a couple things in my neighborhood: Nicer weather and baseball. Actually, I'm sure it means those things in places other than my neighborhood, but living a few blocks from Wrigley Field seems to exacerbate the effects, especially of the latter.

Basically, it's the time of year when stupid people come out and get really stupid in groups. This leads to incidents like stolen car covers and swiped cheese fries**. What I'm saying is that things get both stolen and barfed on.

This of course leads us to the question why I chose to live in the heart of Cubs Village if the fans annoy me so much. The fact that 3 out of the 4 theaters at which I regularly perform are within blocks of my apartment provides a quick answer.

I guess what I am saying here is that I look at baseball season as a 6-month side effect. A side effect that is occasionally good for bits and therefore tolerable. I just wish there was a time when the nice weather and baseball did not immediately coincide.

Here's a report from Opening Day:

Fukudome debut spoiled by Cubs' loss to Brewers

When Kosuke Fukudome hit a three-run homer off Milwaukee closer Eric Gagne to tie the season opener in the bottom of the ninth inning Monday, fans all over Wrigley Field held up professionally made signs with English words on one side and Japanese on the other.

It was meant to be a two-sided version of the phrase "It's Gonna Happen." But something got lost in translation, and the Japanese side read: "It's An Accident."

I don't think we could have asked for a better start than that.

* My favorite new saying when someone says they can't believe it's (day/month/time of year) already. I'm sure nerds are already crafting their comments to tell me how incorrect I am, but I like saying it.
** A story that I now realize I never shared in this space. This must be rectified soon. Perhaps a theme week is in order. Reminiscings by Tim
*** Hey, I'm posting again!


They called him Dennis

This is hardly topical or really even applicable, but I took these pictures a while ago and since the ol' blog is kind of hurting for content at the moment, I thought I'd use them.

I feel like I could dedicate an entire blog to the empty storefronts and failed business ventures of my neighborhood. Rents are high and businesses are hard and so pretty much every week, something you walked by every day has disappeared.

Dennis' Place for Games was just like that. It was a real arcade in a time when real arcades aren't supposed to exist outside of a chain restaurant. And before I give the impression of nostalgia for the establishment, let me also say that it was super sketchy.

These signs are only a small sampling of the posted requirements to enter and inhabit Dennis' Place. Not long after I moved to the city, I noticed the place and thought to myself, "Cool, an arcade near my home." I walked in, took one lap around the place and walked right back out. It was not an inviting, warm or particularly safe-feeling place.

Also, they did not have Silent Scope.

Well, the citizens of Lakeview can rest easy once more. The former home of Dennis' Place for Games now sits vacant, ready to eventually become another weird business.

No, Mgmt. WE are sorry.

The word on the street is that Dennis' Place is the latest victim in Alderman Tom Tunney's "Clean Up Belmont" campaign. If that's the case, then mission partially accomplished.

Still, it always kind of makes me sad to see businesses fail. I'm sure someone started that place with the best of intentions and I'm sure that some people will miss it. When I see an empty storefront, I always wonder what happened to it. I'm sure it's very rarely the choice of the renter to shut down.

One storefront on Clark Street has been about 4 or 5 different things in the 2 years I've lived here. I vividly remember seeing a young girl, maybe college-age, painting her heart out and making it into a cute little accessories shop that I'm sure she had been dreaming of opening for a long time.

It lasted maybe 3 months.

It's a head shop now. And inexplicably, those never close.


Tagged, you're it.

I've never been much for chain letters or any sort of 'pass-it-along' type endeavor, but this isn't threatening to kill me or ruin my life, so I'll do it. Also, Lynette told me too and I can't let her down. I mean, we cohosted 'Powdered Toast of the Town' on KDCS. That kind of bond can't be broken or denied.

Here's the game I'm apparently playing:
123 Meme Rules: (1) Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. No cheating! (2) Turn to page 123. (3) Find the first 5 sentences. (4) Post the next 3 sentences. (5) Tag 5 people.

As you can see by the accompanying picture, I'm in a bit of a Klosterman phase at the moment. So this is from Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas.

Bats Day began in 1998. At the time, it was just an excuse to be weird. A few regulars from Hollywood goth clubs like Helter Skelter and Perversion decided to drop acid and walk around Disneyland on a summer afternoon."

A strangely coherent set of sentences from an excellent article.

I'll tag my brother, Matt Larsen, Scott, Tara and Emeric, just because I want to see what kind of boring legal crap he'll have to write.

Hooray for silly Internet games that lead to easy blog posts!


And the clock struck midnight

In slightly more predictable news, Tim Ryder was knocked out of his workplace's ping pong tournament in the second round by a fellow Account Coordinator.

After the defeat, Ryder was observed to be shaking his head and muttering, "Yeah...this feels about right."


It's fun to make believe

In slightly more optimistic news, my Second City Conservatory classmates and I have started our run of Level 5 shows. Our first one was unfortunately canceled due to low attendance, but we had plenty of people this week and so got to put up our first show, the highlights of which you can see in the above video, lovingly shot and edited by our own Lindsey. Well done there.

Of course, wouldn't you know that our director got sick just in time to miss our first real set, so we can't get any notes on it. That's a bummer.

But I'm really happy of the stuff we're putting up and proud of the work I've done with this class as a whole. I feel really fortunate to have the classmates I do, especially when hearing other people's horror stories about the weird dude who threatens to kill you in every scene.

It's also been my honor to teach my classmates everything I know about LARPing, which is apparently a lot. Or at least a lot more than you might expect. (You can see the scene where this comes into play briefly in the video. You'll know it because I'm holding a yellow foam sword that is actually a child's pool toy.)

We've only just begun, so please feel free to come check out the show! Every Monday night until the end of March. 8:00 (be there by 7:45 for tickets, which are only $5) at Second City etc in Piper's Alley (North and Wells).

And yes, I am getting a lap dance in one of the scenes. Calm down. It's just pretend.


Watch all about it

I finally got around to watching the series finale of Extras this weekend. Rebecca got me Series 2 for Christmas and I wanted to rewatch it to refresh my memory.

I could lie and say that I watched the finale On Demand or something but the fact is that I downloaded it the day after it came out. It's just been sitting on my hard drive since then. Whatever, I'll buy it on DVD eventually. Calm down, HBO.

Bottom line: it's brilliant. Hilarious and heartbreaking. And further proof that some of the best comedies (or at least the most satisfying) are very nearly dramas. Yes, I did cry at one bit. And that's saying something - I'm not a big crier.

Sadly, as good as it was, it had the ultimate effect of being somewhat discouraging. I must have sat on my bed for at least 10 or 15 minutes after it ended, thinking, "I could go my entire life and never create something this good."

What do you do with a thought like that?


At long last...

After almost 2 years of being comedy nomads, ComedySportz finally has a home.

Next Friday is our first official performance in our brand new theater located at 929 W. Belmont. It's a gorgeous space with a great stage, new lights and sound, a bar out in the lobby and a box office at street level. Of course, it's also three blocks from my apartment, so it could be crap and I'd still love it. But it's not. It's amazing.

It's strange - I only got to play in the space on Halsted for about a month after I was hired. Then it was torn down to make condos (a project that has remained insultingly incomplete, last I checked). So for the majority of my ComedySportz career, we've been 'on the road,' setting up shop in other people's houses, never quite getting comfortable with where we were. It'll almost be more weird to perform in a space that's expressly ours.

I've already had a couple shows in the new space - one really fun and great, one kind of weird and not so great. So it's not a magic cure-all for shows and it's not something I'm quite used to yet.

But it's home.


It's considered a morale booster

In what many commentators are calling 'a major upset,' Tim Ryder won his first round match against a top-seeded player in the 2008 Paddle Royale yesterday.

Post-victory, Ryder was described by onlookers as 'bewildered.'