Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Comedy Bible

This book is really good. I've been a student of comedy my whole life, and I found this to be very clear, and very insightful. It does a great job at outlining exactly what you need to do if you are serious about being a stand-up comedian, and then later gets into other types of comedy writing as well. I've been involved with a lot of comedy writing lately, and I found this to be a huge help -- and it is a fast, engaging read, too! Thank you Judy Carter!

The New Sins

I found a copy of this at The Boring Store, and that's pretty appropriate, I think. Really, I was pretty disappointed. I expected more from David Byrne. The fundamental idea of the book is to show that virtues can easily be masks for unhealthy or sinful behavior. But I found the whole thing shallow, adolescent, and boring. I probably would have thought it was cool when I was in ninth grade, though. It does have some nice photographic work, though.


This game is SO totally fun to play! It's like a combination of Pokemon cards, Transformers, and marbles! I really, really wish it had been around when I was a kid! I was gushing about it to someone, and they said, "you know Aldric invented that, right?" And I had no idea! Aldric Saucier was a student at the ETC a few years back, and he always talked about a toy he invented that he was trying to license, and he always said, "I think it might be big." I guess he was right! You can see his TAGIE award for it, here! Go, Aldric!

Toontown Parties

These were totally fun to develop, and also really fun to be at!


This game is very interesting -- it's kind of like playing war in reverse. Based on what is in your hand, you can buy more cards to add to your discard pile, which will be useful next time you get to the bottom of your deck. It's simple, customizable, and fun.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Oh, good lord. Somehow, this movie escaped my notice when it came out. I feel like it was made expressly for me! A reality-bending story about a frustrated writer who is terrible in social situations? Who else could this be for? It's deep and wonderful and fun. There are layers of meaning that I am sure escaped me, too. It definitely goes on my non-existent list of top ten favorite movies.

Comic Book Heroes

I found this weird album at D&J Records in Carnegie. I expected it to be a comedy album, from all the nonsense on the jacket, maybe something like Chickenman, but really it is just a "concept" album, with a lot of fifties type music evocative of superheroes (it mostly sounds like the soundtrack of Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse).

Pee Wee's Big Adventure

This movie is so near to perfect that it stuns me whenever I see it. I got to watch it with my daughter for the first time, and she was just as hypnotized by it as I was when I first saw it. I don't think that anything either Paul Reubens or Tim Burton ever did again was as good as this. I'm putting Paul on my "might have sold his soul" list with Orson Scott Card.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Where The Toys Are

Okay, okay... and just down the road from Sarris Candies is Where The Toys Are, an antique toy store. I spent a lot of time growing up at my grandmother's house, and she had a huge collection of toys from the fifties and sixties, so this was like going back there. The proprietor is happy to chat about everything in the shop. We picked out a couple cool things, and were getting ready to leave, when I saw something magical...

When I was maybe nine, and my brother was maybe five, we had a magical kite flying day. It was a windy day, and we were at a huge open field (Gardner Field, Denville, NJ), and we discovered an incredible game... if we let go of our kite string, the kite would start to fly away, but since the spool was unwinding, the spool would basically fly along a few feet off the ground. We would let kites go, and chase them as fast as we could, and it was so exciting to recover them! Anyway, we tried this with my brother's King Kong kite, and as we chased it, the spool started to rise! We tried to grab it, but soon is was out of reach --- we kept chasing it, but the spool rose higher and higher, and the kite just sailed off into space, carrying its spool high up over the river, and over the trees. We watched, helpless, as the kite flew higher and higher, up into the sky, becoming a tinier and tinier dot. We must have watched it for twenty minutes before we completely lost sight of it. We often speculated about how far it might have gone, or where it might have ended up.

Well, at Where The Toys Are, sitting calmly in the corner, there it was -- the King Kong kite we hadn't seen in thirty years, in pristine condition. I always felt bad that my risky game made Ben lose his kite. I made this note to go with it, and have mailed it to him with the kite:

I had to look
for thirty years
but finally
I found
where it went.
Love, Jesse

There is something holy about antique toys. Be respectful when you go.

Sarris Candies

Just down the road from the Trolley Museum is Sarris Candies. Everyone in the area seems to have been there at one time or another. Frankly, as a candy store, I definitely prefer Village Candy up in Sewickley, but what sets this place apart is its fine ice cream parlor. That said, I've never seen chocolate molded into so many things as it is here.

Pennsylvania Trolley Museum

This is a really fun museum, because you get to ride the trolleys around the neighborhood. The folks who run it are all volunteers, and really love what they do. I really got a sense of what it would be like to ride those trolleycars each day -- they are surprisingly elegant on the inside.


I have to watch every time travel, movie, right? And this one certainly qualifies. It is a film that takes a lot of patience and hard thinking. I loved some touches -- like the weeble... but other parts ended up surprisingly corny, like the gun at the party. I really got confused about the motivations of the characters -- everything got dreamlike this way -- they had an opportunity to become giant millionaires, but they get lost in weird petty nonsense. Maybe that's the point? I feel like I need to watch it again, but, hey, some of us have to use our time wisely.

The Defense

I have wanted to read this novel since I first heard of it, probably twenty years ago. I happened to find one at City Lights, and had to pick it up! It is a story of monomania (I now realize that all of Nabokov's work seems to be about monomania), in the form of a chessmaster who is unable to comprehend the world in any form other than the chessboard. The way he describes the social disconnection of Luzhin is so perfectly dead on -- I found it to be a truly wonderful book. It's funny, I'm reading Nabokov's autobiography now, and I keep tangling scenes from it, and scenes from The Defense... probably because they are pretty tangled.

The Science of Sleep

This movie was really fun -- I always like movies that play around with the borders of reality. Dreams are so fun... now that school is out, I sleep more, and have more dreams, and more solid dreams. Last night I had a dream that I was one of many people who are terrified of water towers, and are able to sense the presence of (and catch) a frisbee while blindfolded. In the dream, I met others with the same weird abilities -- only to realize that these were special abilities we had so that we could successfully defeat attacking flying saucers... I was bummed to awake and realize that this plotline was some weird cross of Escape to Witch Mountain and Heroes. Anyway, it's still mine, and I still like it.

I've heard that Michel Gondry, Rudy Rucker, and Daniel Clowes are teaming up to make a movie of The Master of Space and Time. I can only hope it is really true!

GDC 2009

GDC was pretty cool this year. I got to keynote the Games Education Summit, and people seemed to like that pretty well. Got to hang with the Kyles and Shalin, and that's always cool. Everyone was talking about Onlive (which is madness) and about Zynga (which is not). Also got to visit my sister, which is always nice. I rented a convertible and pretended I was important. Scott Landsman took me to Chinatown, and I bought a hat.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

City Lights Bookstore

I got to visit City Lights when I was at GDC this year. I went with Scott Landsman. Being there was a wonderful experience... the store feels so naturally worn, like an ancient tool, like a river rock. Every book seems like it is exactly where it is supposed to be -- like the store couldn't be any more perfect. I bought The Defense there, which I've been looking for for ages. I have a long standing dream of travelling the country and visiting the best bookstores... I guess I have no reason to wait, though! There is something magic about a good bookstore. I can't wait to go back again!

Why Do Birds Sing?

Oh man. Sometimes I think American Music is my anthem.

The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

This book made a deep impression on me. Somehow, I expected it to be more profound, and instead I got a real sense of what Andy's everyday life is like. It was kind of depressing. He had a lot of the same tendencies I do, that is, towards agoraphobia, leading to a life of hiding from people behind various eccentric masks. Reading this really made me see how broken it is to give into those tendencies, and ever since I read it, I've actively been trying to shed those behaviors.

A big part of his life is all about being cut off from nature -- he seems most comfortable when he is eating packaged food and watching television. I guess this made him a natural for New York City. One thing I really enjoyed: The Andy Warhol New York Diet. Eat in restaurants every day, and only order food you don't like. Toy with it while the others eat. That way you'll eat very little. Take the leftovers in a bag, and give them to a homeless person.

Parts were insightful, and parts were simply dreadful and tedious to read. But that seems to be part of the point, I think.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Boring Store

This is one of the wonderful shops / tutoring centers created by 826. I stopped by this one when I was in Chicago working on a cool project for the Chicago public library (I'll tell all about that when it is finished). I want to visit all the 826 shops! It was incredibly inspirational -- the people who work there really care, and the shops are so fun! See, the Boring Store is really a shop full of stuff for spies! It has all sorts of cool novelty items, gadgets, and disguises. The money from the store in front helps fund the tutoring center in back.

We have to get an 826 in Pittsburgh! The south side was *made* for it! If only I knew a storefront under a game studio with enough room for... hey!!!

In case you want to read all that text on there, you can see it here.

The Home Invaders

Yes, that Reverend Wildmon. This book, while being one-sided, is very lucid, and it does make some very fair points about how what is considered "acceptable" on television has taken a major slide in the past couple of decades. His attempts to be inflammatory make it a pretty entertaining read.

A Piece of the Action

This movie rocks it HARD. Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby are two con men who are blackmailed by a retired police officer (James Earl Jones) into tutoring a bunch of ghetto high school kids. It's totally fun. Poitier directed it. I <3 1977!

The Bayernhof Museum

I believe it is possible that Pittsburgh has a greater percentage of eccentric millionaires than any other city. The Bayernhof Museum is a perfect example. In the middle of a suburban neighborhood, it was built by Charles Brown III, and features hundreds of automated music machines, secret passages, an underground dungeon, an observatory, and a swimming pool with a waterfall. If you like mechanical music machines, this is the finest collection that I've ever seen. If you want to go, call first -- reservations are required. But it's only $10.

LOL Pocket Jokes

When I was in fourth grade, I was addicted to joke books by "Jovial Bob" Stine. I used to always wonder about what happened to old "Jovial Bob" ... well, it turns out he turned into R. L. Stine, multi-millionaire author of the "Goosebumps" books! You go, Jovial Bob!

Anyway, this book has nothing to do with him, other than the fact if he hadn't gotten famous, he'd probably be the one who wrote this book! The premise is supposed to be that these are jokes that are good for texting... "Y is 6 afrd of 7?" "Cuz 7 8 9." But... most of them are pretty much just normal corny jokes. Thank goodness some things never change! I wonder if this author will be famous one day, too?

The Warhol Museum

Somehow, I had lived in Pittsburgh for seven years and had never been here. I was surprised at how ordinary the museum layout is -- but the whole thing really gives some insight into Andy Warhol, and even more insight into the people who consider him an important visionary. What's weird to me is the number of people there who seemed so phony -- which seems ironic, because so much of what he did was about things that were phony... so, maybe it isn't ironic at all, but rather, just what he would want? I guess that's what made him so special -- a guy who was artificial, through and through is what it took to make the art world question the difference between the natural and the artificial.

My favorite story about the museum: A neighbor of ours home schools her ten year old boy. She gets the idea one day, "Hey, how would you like to go to the Warhol?" He is immediately enthusiastic: "Yeah! Let's go!" They get there, and he seems puzzled, but he is patient. Finally, after forty-five minutes of looking at weird pictures, he says, "Mom, I don't get it -- where are the guns and stuff?" She says, "What are you talking about?" He says, "You told me we were going to the War Hall!"