Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The lost hour

I love improv.  I practice it every week.  But sadly, things have changed a bit:  we practice for only two hours instead of three nowadays.  That amounts to four lost hours of improv a month, two hundred a year, or in a standard one hundred year life, you're looking at twenty thousand hours of improv.  That's quite a few to miss out on.

The question is, what's the real cost of that lost hour?

For starters, working out less could do a lot of harm to your improv game - it's possibly as devastating as nothing at all, but it might only be as bad as giving you a slight improvement.  Improv is that kind of science where its hard to calculate how you're going.  If you do more improv, the saying goes, you will improve and if you do more improv, you will get worse.  Now don't expect to understand it or get your head around that. 

Psychologically, there is also an impact.  You walk out of the studio after two hours only slightly confused about how things are going but had you done the whole three hours, you'd be going home pretty sure that you were hopeless at it.  When its two hours there is much more room for delusion as you think, "oh I probably wasn't that warmed up or something today," or "if only there was one more scene I'm pretty certain I would have finally found my groove." 

Whatever the case, improv asks a lot of you and puts you in all sorts of situations and you are relieved of a lot of such situations by knocking off early.  Situations frankly, that you're better off without.  Over that lifetime, there'll be thousands of deadly viruses that you simply won't contract.  Viruses that though killing you painfully and quite publicly, are considerate enough to be relatively quick and allow you time to say your last words.  You'll avoid countless bad relationships, many with people of the wrong gender - or species - for you and frequently not even of your generation, some you didn't even know you were involved in to begin with!  Not to mention the proctology and gynecological examinations you will be spared from having to undergo from unqualified and incompetent medical personnel, and you yourself will avoid needing to supply some of these very services to the afflicted.  You avoid some sudden and spontaneous births, meteor strikes, police incidents, litigation, deliveries of inedible pizza and parties full of weirdos.  On a physical level, you also get to avoid millions of slaps, kicks, punches, headbutts, stabs, knees to the nether region and shotgun blasts but you miss out on the sheer bliss of dishing these out to others. 

You also, however, miss the chance to visit space and meet aliens, some of whom are pretty cool characters before you are inevitably forced to kill them.  You miss out on some juicy church confessions with benevolent priests, which is a shame because an improv confession is just as legitimate as a church one and leaves you equally absolved of sin.  You miss out on firing bad workers and playing shenanigans with senile neighbors.  You miss talking animals, cartoon characters who have come to life and the opportunity to travel backward or forwards in time.  And of course, road trips in cars with no doors.  

You in short will go home a bit sooner to a simpler world that does at least make sense thanks to one less hour of improv.  But you'll still wish you had that extra hour.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cruising around Paris

We have not been to the Eiffel Tower in the days we cruise Paris, but we're on a boat cruise along the River Seine tonight and will surely get a look at it. 


We have seen these cruise boats going up and back a lot; the more expensive have people seated at tables with glasses of Pinot Noir while the cheaper have patrons packed on rows of plastic chairs on deck.  
If you're a pedestrian on the banks of the river as these boats go by, their dozen spotlights will light you up so their guests can get a good look at you.  For a few moments it will feel like you're looking into the sun.

We take a cruise on the cheaper boat because it's at a more convenient hour.  Seated in front of us are a few Mothers and behind us are their collection of kids – about two rows of four.  The Mothers may have sat there strategically to get some peace and used us as a buffer.   They turn frequently to respond to requests, snap photos or check that the kids are still there.   

The river has a lot of bridges and the boat goes up and down for an hour - which is a lot of bridges. 

As we go under each bridge every couple of minutes - and into some semi-darkness - the kids do a collective Mexican wave and “woooooooo,"  as though the boogeyman might be near.  The first one or two are fine.  I join them for the third.  Mother even turns to capture the moment on her camera.  What happens next is to be predicted though.  The wave continues, even though it is becoming tired.  As Mother starts to focus on it less and less the kids work harder and harder for the attention until the "woooooooo" becomes a high-pitched scream right in my ear.  Fortunately, as a response to a few glares they receive, the mothers say something to the kids and the wave and all the ballyhoo stops. 

We go past a quieter looking part of town.   On the bank groups of young Parisians drink drinks and enjoy the night.  Every group seems to have one guy strumming on a guitar.  It's hard to tell whether the rest are singing with him or ignoring him.  Our guide is recommending that we wander along these banks one evening to enjoy the music and the flavor of Paris.  Then a guy from one group - not the guitar player - splits, comes to the edge of the bank, undoes his zipper and relieves himself in the river.  The dozen spotlights light him up like a stage actor and make sure nothing is left to the imagination.  Our guide does not know what to say and goes silent.  The Mothers turn to their kids but they are much too far away to shield their eyes which, as they see the man in his completeness, are very wide indeed.  Eventually, after valuable seconds and innocences have been lost, and for the only time I have seen, the spotlights of the boat go off. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Tailor

Once, in Bangkok, a man called out from the door of his store, where I was wandering by, Hey you wanna suit?  No, I don't really need a suit, I said.  That's ok, just take a look, sir.  I knew very well where this would lead and wanted to be lead almost there but not quite, and so I went in.  We sat down across a coffee table as reams of cloth lined the walls, and binders full of suited models sat atop the table.  A man was summoned to bring me a cup of tea, in a paper cup.  

We started sifting through the photos.  They looked nice.  It was becoming intense.  I didn't want to tell him that they weren't good.  And I didn't want to tell him that I'd think about it even though I was thinking about what to have for dinner.  I'm just not staying long enough, I said, heading out tomorrow.  And that was what I thought would end the conversation but it started a new conversation.  About how they could make it happen.  Teams of workers could put a quality suit together in a day.  No mention was made of the meaning of quality.  I could see one or two of them ready to take action if given the word.  Not that I had chosen a suit.  I may have only stated that this one and that one weren't bad.

In Apgujeong, Seoul we went to look at wedding dresses.  Got in, sat at the coffee table as white walls and mirrors lined the background.  It was the closest I would ever get to going inside the house of mormon.  We were in the complementary position at the coffee table, not opposite but not on the same side, two of them two of us.  The tea came out in a real cup.  The binders of magazines came out too.  Four people all concerned.  The pressure.  The indians from Thailand were back.

At some stage I was instructed that I could leave, which I wanted to.  After all, everyone else was a female and everyone else had some idea of what was being asked for.  I felt like I was leaving a man behind enemy lines though.  Now it would become five on one and these people were ruthless.  I didn't know what had been going on and I wanted to, so I said, honey, aren't you gonna walk me out?  So Jin did, and they followed within a cat's step, concerned that their prize was about to get away.

They came out with a clipboard and asked a lot of questions.  It was like you were about to get in a nasa rocket and go to the moon.  And they wanted to handle other areas of the operation, like make up and so forth.

What stays with you is the sheer intensity of what should be a fun time.  They said you had to pay 30,000 won to try something on.  You might be able to buy some clothes for that.

In Thailand, the men were profuse in their work.  No please don't go without at least trying something on, sir, give us an address overseas and we will ship it there directly.  I'll think on your kind proposal, I said, but actually, I was heading out to eat on it.