My entry in Quarantine Dreams issue 7

May 15, 2020

The highly esteemed [citation needed] online publication Quarantine Dreams chronicles unusual dreams submitted by those of us under shelter in place orders.

One of my submissions is included in their recently published their seventh issue. They aptly titled it “Sore Loser.”

The text reads:

I was participating in some sort of foot race at a park. The challenge? The racers were being shot by archers with live arrows. As I raced toward the archers I was mostly concerned about being shot in the face and eyes. In the end I was shot in the chest near my heart, but the arrow “only” went through my lung. After pulling the arrow out of my back I also had to pull the front of the arrow out of my chest, as the arrow had broken. I felt a pain in my chest and when I started to yell in agony a Russian woman (who’d also been shot) told me to stop complaining as there were only enough EMTs to hospitalize the people who “need it.”

Now I’m not one to read too much into dreams, but like many of the dreams published in Quarantine Dreams there’s a recognizable anxiety mixed with crazy dream logic.

Do you want to remember your dreams? Try keeping a dream journal. Just write them down somewhere when you remember them, whether it be a physical notepad, your phone, laptop, etc.. The more you go through the exercise of writing them down, the more you tend to recall them later.

If you’re interested in submitting your own Quarantine Dream to this publication, follow the instructions on their Twitter profile.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch delivery

May 13, 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic restaurants everywhere have pivoted to take out and delivery. While I personally prefer dining out, delivery’s fine with me in a pinch. Unfortunately those delivery fees start to add up after a while.

So I was a little surprised when the salad wizards at Sweetgreen announced they’d be doing free deliveries. With all this sitting around at home I could really go for something healthy — especially if I don’t have to pay for delivery.

So I went ahead and placed an order.

There you go, free delivery! But wait — what’s this “service fee” included in the price? That sounds an awful lot like a delivery fee, doesn’t it?

Fortunately you can tap on the service fee for an explanation:

As the image says above “This is a fee that allows us to provide our delivery service.” So the service fee is a delivery fee… they just don’t call it that.

In other news I AM GIVING AWAY FREE $100 BILLS! (However, you will owe me a $200 service fee for each $100 bill.)

Looking back at Dispatches From Elsewhere, season 1

May 6, 2020

Now that the first season is over I thought I’d give a non-spoilery take on Dispatches From Elsewhere. There will be some mentions of the events in the first episode, so if you want to go in completely fresh go watch it first.

This won’t be your typical review, as I was a participant of the real life events this series was based on.

My ears perked up when this series was announced. The name comes from a pirate radio broadcast participants would listen to in Dolores Park which introduced the second chapter of Games of Nonchalance — which I’m just going to call The Jejune Institute here since that’s what most of us called it anyway.

I’ll admit upfront I’m not particularly familiar with Jason Segel (aside from that one Muppet movie) so I wasn’t too certain what to expect from a show he produced, wrote, and co-stars in. Personally I very much enjoyed the show’s first season, with its many twists and entirely unexpected ending.

Just like it’s “real” counterpart, in Dispatches From Elsewhere its version of The Jejune Institute presents itself as a mystery, becomes an act of escapism, and when it’s all over nothing’s really changed. Except of course for the things you decide to change yourself. And maybe the friends you make along the way.

 

Episode 1

So let’s go into the setup in the first episode before I get into how real life events were switched around into a television show.

The series opens with The Jejune Institute’s leader, Octavio Coleman, breaking the fourth wall and acknowledging you’re watching a TV show. He introduces Peter (Jason Segel), a bored employee at a music streaming company in Philadelphia.

Coming across a series of inexplicable flyers attached to utility poles with a phone number attached, Peter eventually pulls off a tab, calls the number, and finds he has an appointment at The Jejune Institute.

After an intense initiation — which drives Peter to tears — he disobeys Octavio and follows the directions on the initiation card. This leads him on a short journey where he meets another participant, Simone (Eve Lindley), a transgender woman who seems ready to attack him at first. Their meeting appears to have been intentional somehow, and they wind up becoming friends, solving some unmentioned piece of the game together.

Later on The Jejune Institute holds an event where, after dancing with a breakdancer and a sasquatch in the rain, participants are assigned into groups of four; Simone and Peter are put into a group of four along with Janice (Sally Field), an energetic older woman, and Fredwynn (Andre “3000” Benjamin), a strange man who alternates between a Sherlock Holmes-style detective and a nutty conspiracy theorist.

What makes the show compelling is how it follows this group of four participants as they go through an experience where they’re never certain exactly what’s part of the game and what’s not, let alone what the rules are — or if there are any.

 

The source material

So let’s talk about similarities and differences between the show and what I recall based on my experiences. Obviously the show is set in Philadelphia, but real life The Jejune Institute took place in San Francisco (though one chapter was in Oakland.)  The flyers Peter finds look nearly identical to the ones I encountered in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood. The real Jejune Institute didn’t have appointments as far as I’m aware — it was a walk-in affair.

Many aspects from the show were taken from the real Jejune Institute including certain characters’ names, notably the names of Octavio Coleman and his enemy Commander 14. The mysterious promise “To those dark horses with the spirit to look up and see, a recondite family awaits,” also originated at the real Jejune Institute’s induction session.

Obviously some of the events in the show are dramatized quite a bit, though many have clear nods to the source material. The Jejune Institute didn’t have rules exactly, though there was a sort of winking aspect to it that let you know you were safe and on the right track.

More information about The Jejune Institute can be found at the official summary web page. Or in numerous blog entries right here on this very site.

 

The other source material

Segel’s inspiration for Dispatches From Elsewhere wasn’t actually The Jejune Institute itself, but rather the 2013 documentary The Institute. In the documentary participants and creators give talking head style monologues about The Jejune Institute, and we see footage (much of which was recorded by participants) about each of the four chapters and the silly after party.

Although I went to see The Institute at its premier I don’t think I’d seen it a second time — until Monday, when it was streamed on Twitch. The documentary’s director, Spencer McCall, and the creator of The Jejune Institute, Jeff Hull, were in the chat to answer questions and provide context.

I have to point out that one of the talking heads in the film, a very enthusiastic participant named Kiyomi Tanouye, was tragically a victim of the Ghost Ship fire in 2016. The first season of Dispatches From Elsewhere is dedicated to her memory.

The Institute is a much better documentary than I remember. It’s easy to see how Segel was influenced not only by the wild stories and events, but also people’s reactions. Oh and the part with dancing with a sasquatch and a breakdancer in the rain? Yup, that really happened — only to a select few, however. See the clip below for proof:

I’ll also admit the few glimpses of me in the movie make me question what was going on with my hair at the time. Too much mousse or something, it looked terrible. What was I thinking? 

If you’d like to see The Institute yourself, it’s available for streaming on iTunes and Amazon Video.

My favorite MST3k episodes featuring coherent movies

May 2, 2020

As we’re all sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one activity I’ve found well suited for the times is watching episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or MST3k.) Each episode is about an hour and a half, featuring a human host and his robot pals watching a janky movie and cracking jokes at its expense.

While all the movies shown on MST3k over the years are bad, some of them are absolutely incoherent: movies like Manos: The Hands of Fate, or The Day Time Ended, or even The Castle of Fu Manchu. Those are a challenging watch even with the MST3k treatment and I can’t imagine trying to subject myself to such madness while being locked inside for weeks on end.

So here we go: in no particular order, my favorite MST3k episodes with coherent movies — specifically episodes you can stream online at home.

Laserblast (1978)

Available on Amazon Video

Like many B-movies in the late 70’s, Laserblast is a sci-fi movie that can’t quite decide if it’s ripping off Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Star Wars. This becomes quite apparent due to the main character’s resemblance of Mark Hamill and later when he blows up a Star Wars billboard. 

The story revolves around a young guy who finds an alien weapon which can only be used when he’s wearing a special necklace. The more he uses it, the more he turns into a monster. It’s a perfectly good premise and actually has decent special effects. Unfortunately, nothing else really works from the script to the casting to the cinematography.

The riffs focus on how the movie’s bargain bin Mark Hamill seems incapable of wearing a shirt (or at least one that fits) as well as a police officer who may or may not be “ready for some football.” They also suggest Pepsi may have secretly paid for the Coca-Cola product placement. But the real focus is why film critic Leonard Maltin gave this trashy film two and a half stars.

This episode marks the last time Trace Beaulieu appeared on the show. His Dr. Clayton Forrester character is sent off with a parody of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Gorgo (1961)

Available on Amazon Video

Easily one of the most watchable of the monster movies on MST3k over the years, though to be honest the back half gets pretty dull. This one takes place in the UK instead of Japan, yet somehow it has the overall kaiju style anyway.

In this host segment Leonard Maltin appears as himself (though Pearl keeps calling him Roger Ebert) to recommend Gorgo — and plug his then new 1998 movie review guide.

The riffs refer to a number of other monster movies and make fun of the English and Irish. Crow declares Gorgo has the “best teeth in England.” They also get a lot of mileage about a circus in London named “Dorkin’s.”

Mac and Me (1988)

Available on Netflix

This movie answers the question “What if E.T. was a commercial for Coke and McDonald’s?” It’s arguably the best known movie they’ve ever shown. The story has some big plot holes and the cinematography is roughly on par with an average sitcom. The aliens are supposed to be cute but come across as both cartoonish and repulsive at the same time.

While the first season of the rebooted MST3k on Netflix was a mixed bag, by the second (and so far, last) season it was firing on all cylinders. In this episode the riffs are funny, well paced, and overall I’d rate it as “pretty nice!” 

The riff that sticks with me the most comes pretty early on when they point out the score seems to have been composed for a much more exciting movie.

Mitchell (1975)

Free on YouTube

This Joe Don Baker vehicle certainly features a lot of, well… vehicles. I’d estimate about half the movie is just shots of people in cars, either parked or driving very slowly. Oh and there’s a car chase, albeit a very slow one that mostly seems to exist to pad the movie’s runtime. The most baffling thing about this is it got a theatrical release despite looking like a made for TV movie in every respect.

Before I get to the riffing, I should mention the host segments: this was Joel’s last outing as the host of the show, so most of the host segments are set up to introduce his replacement, Mike, and Joel’s escape from the Satellite of Love.

Most of the riffs focus on how out of shape Baker is here, and his character’s appetite for alcohol and snacks. Supposedly when Baker got wind of this he wasn’t happy and (jokingly?) threatened to beat up the cast of MST3k.

Space Mutiny (1988)

Available on Amazon Video

This Canadian sci-fi action film features a story that kind of makes sense but is marred in every conceivable way. Despite being set on a spaceship the sets don’t look like spaceship interiors at all, the acting is embarrassingly poor, and the editing almost seems intentionally bad — one character dies, only to appear alive in the very next scene. 

The riffing gets a lot of laughs out of just pointing out the numerous mistakes and poor acting choices in the film, as well as coming up with nicknames for various characters. The muscular leading man gets a whole string of nicknames including Flint Ironstag, Slab Bulkhead, and Big McLargeHuge. 

The Final Sacrifice (1990)

Available on Amazon Video

Also from Canada, this student film is about a kind of annoying teenage boy who’s forced to avenge the death of his father — who died at the hands of a mysterious death cult — with the help of a drunk redneck named “Zap Rowsdower.” 

For some reason it was released on home video. The whole thing has a very outsider art feel to it, like a community theater group trying to make a film.

The riffs in this one are some of the funniest MST3k has ever done, from “the bacon-y stench of Canada” to mocking a character’s Yosemite Sam-like voice… and making fun of the name Rowsdower, of course. But the true lesson we learn from the riffs is never to invest in lemon mines.

If you happen to come across this one on DVD it includes an interview with the actor who played Rowsdower. This is likely the closest thing to a “making of” type documentary for this film we’ll ever see.

Alien From LA (1988)

Free on YouTube

Kathy Ireland’s first attempt at transitioning from a model to a movie star resulted in this dud. To be fair it’s not entirely her fault, though speaking in an irritating squeaky little girl voice for the entire film didn’t help. The story thrashes between genres before eventually deciding to become a sci-fi chase through Atlantis.

Mike and the bots often imitate Ireland’s aforementioned squeaky voice, as well as another character they describe as “Australian.” When they start referring to unnamed characters as cereal box mascots, you know the movie’s in trouble.

Watching this episode again I’m surprised I’d forgotten the host segments. From Mike milking a refrigerator to a “sexy” Tom Servo, this is MST3k at its silliest and best.

I Accuse My Parents (1944)

Available on Amazon Video

Before the movie, this episode kicks off with a short — and extremely dated — educational film called “The Truck Farmer.” It’s ostensibly about modern farming practices, but Joel and the bots poke fun at how they’re spraying everything with pesticides, exploiting labor, and bulldozing forests — all so we can eat carrots. 

Getting on to the movie, it’s a cautionary tale about a young man who joins the mob by accident due to his alcoholic and uncaring parents. The movie opens with his trial before jumping back in time to see how he got there — which has less to do with his terrible parents than the set up would suggest.

The riffs focus on the character’s numerous lies, the advanced age of the actors playing teenagers, as well as references to the time period (for example one unnamed character is referred to as Eleanor Roosevelt.) The host segments in this episode are quite memorable as well.

Hobgoblins (1988)

Available on Amazon Video

This shameless straight-to-video Gremlins knockoff is about a tribe of small alien “hobgoblins” with mind control powers who escape an (unlocked) vault in a movie studio to terrorize a group of young men and women. 

Oh, and it’s the kind of movie where every female character is either a “nag” or a “slut” — an extremely misogynistic one in other words.

The riffs really zero in on the amateurish production values and make a lot of jokes referencing the 80’s. In one scene early on Mike asks “does he have Pringles in his shoes?” due to poor foley.  In a dance scene, Mike makes up lyrics to the music: “It’s the 80’s, do a lot of coke and vote for Ronald Regan.”

My favorite riff in the whole movie: “Someone’s rubbing puppets on us!”

 

Honorable mentions

Not all the films I wanted to include on this list are currently available for streaming, though there are low-quality copies on YouTube. Three stand out in particular.

Soultaker (1990)

In this cheesy movie, a group of “teens” die in a drunken car crash and wind up as ghosts. The angel of death dispatches his minion to steal their souls. It’s one of (at least) two movies they’ve covered starring Joe Estevez.

Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)

Unfortunately MST3k lost the rights to this one, and it was only very briefly available on DVD. The movie barely has anything to do with Godzilla; instead it’s mostly about a robot named Jet Jaguar fighting a giant bug thing named Megalon. 

12 To The Moon (1960)

This odd film about an early moon landing seems more on the drama between the astronauts than the strange events that start happening once they get there. It’s preceded by a ridiculous short film called Design For Dreaming about all the new products from GM and Frigidaire coming in a very 1950’s version of the future.

 

Depending how long the shelter in place order continues I may end up doing another round of these — feel free to send in suggestions. After life goes back to normal I may do a similar entry for incoherent movies on MST3k, of which there are many to choose from.

Signs of the COVID-19 times

April 24, 2020

With the COVID-19 coronavirus spreading so quickly, everyone’s had to adapt at a rapid pace. Some of the changes are clearly sad and less than ideal, yet safety has to be prioritized or more people will wind up dead. It’s worrisome that some don’t seem to mind the latter part of that equation.

Like most of us I’ve been doing my part to shelter in place as much as possible, though sometimes one does need to get out whether it’s buying groceries or just stretching one’s legs a little.

On the occasions I’ve ventured around the neighborhood, here’s some of the changes I’ve noticed.

 

COVID-19 changes

 

The notoriously cramped Bi-Rite Market on 18th Street rapidly rolled out changes including limiting the number of shoppers inside the store. To that end they painted icons on the sidewalk outside showing people where to stand six feet apart. It would help more if the sidewalk weren’t so narrow but it’s a start.

The “stand here” icon seems to be somewhat universal as it’s quite similar to the one used in those TSA scanners at the airport. At least you don’t have to take your shoes off in this case.

 

COVID-19 changes COVID-19 changes

 

The Valencia corridor is eerily quiet, with many retail and restaurant businesses closed — and many boarded up. Ostensibly this is to prevent vandals from breaking the windows and/or looting the place.

It’s especially jarring to see upscale retail stores boarded up, though with the way the retail economy has been going these past few years I suspect boarded up storefronts are here to stay for some time.

 

COVID-19 changes

 

Elixir bills itself as the second oldest bar in San Francisco, dating back to at least 1858. (The oldest bar is the Old Ship Saloon, which once operated out of — you probably guessed this — an old ship.)

Like many bars and restaurants Elixir is focusing on delivery and has also put up a GoFundMe to help support their staff. This is all advertised in spray paint on the side of the building.

 

COVID-19 changes

 

Signs all over Dolores Park tell people to stay six feet apart, and in four languages no less. Park goers largely seem to be following the rules at least in spirit. The park isn’t really designed for social distancing with benches right next to narrow sidewalks.

While there I noticed a couple unexpected things. One is the tennis courts were locked. Of all sports tennis seems like one that’s almost ideal for social distancing. The other is that even though Muni Metro is not operating they were performing some kind of testing on a new train on the tracks in the park.

 

COVID-19 changes

 

Unsurprisingly tattoo and piercing shops are not an essential business. But I was surprised Body Manipulations on 16th Street felt it necessary to tell people in a “driver does not carry cash” fashion that they have no toilet paper on the premises.

Are they serious about this? They’re one of the most respected places in the Bay Area to get unusual piercings (think nipple rings, etc.) so who knows! All I can say for certain is it’s definitely a sign of the times.

Review: Marion’s Wish

April 12, 2020
 

Earlier this week the three comedians behind On Cinema released a free short story as an e-book titled Marion’s Wish. According to the forward this book is the result of a text message conversation between Tim Heidecker, Mark Proksch, and Gregg Turkington while they’re all self isolating for COVID-19.

Although it’s not officially part of the On Cinema universe in any way, it has certain similarities. Specifically Tim is the instigator, Mark is the fall guy (who is obsessed with the Three Stooges for some reason) and Gregg is the unreliable expert with strange ideas.

The story starts out with Tim asking Mark to have a video chat over breakfast with Marion, allegedly the granddaughter of Moe from the Three Stooges. Mark reluctantly accepts, and Gregg quickly chimes in with a request for Mark to get Marion to verify a friend’s stash of nude photos of Moe.

In typical comedy fashion everything spirals out of control from there, with a typo-laden and buggy auto-correct version of “Who’s On First” muddying the waters. New characters with similar names are introduced including another guy named Tim and a man named Mario (not to be confused with Marion.)

Although the presentation is a tad sloppy at times, it’s a quick read — maybe 20 minutes or so — and I was laughing so hard I had to take a quick break to wipe the tears from my eyes before the end.

My recommendation: Humor is extremely subjective, though if dark, classic comedy tickles you in the right way, give this short story a read. You can download it for free here.

Tim and Eric’s Mandatory Attendance World Tour show notes

March 8, 2020
Tim & Eric Mandatory Attendance Tour Tim & Eric Mandatory Attendance Tour Tim & Eric Mandatory Attendance Tour

 

I went to the San Francisco stop on Tim and Eric‘s Mandatory Attendance World Tour on March 4th at The Warfield. Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim have been staples of late night cable TV fringe comedy for almost two decades at this point. Although they’re best known for Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Check it Out! with Dr. Steve Brule, they’ve also produced other shows including Nathan For You and the bizarre talk show The Eric Andre Show.

Although I’d never been to a live Tim and Eric show before, I’ve attended two On Cinema live shows in the past year (also produced by and co-staring Tim Heidecker) so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect — a lively show geared toward an audience of fans who are all totally into it.

I waited until today to post show notes as not to spoil the show for the remaining tour dates. Now that it’s over, here’s everything that happened.

Before the show

After passing through security and the ticket check, I was handed a small playbill (see above) about the size of a business card. I had a balcony ticket so I headed upstairs and bought the world’s most expensive whiskey and Coke at the bar.

Before the show began a video played on an almost comically tiny screen in which a man performed songs from Awesome Show on a guitar while wearing various costumes. This includes memorable songs from Casey and his Brother, the Beaver Boys theme, etc.

Speaking of costumes, many members of the audience were wearing outfits to match their favorite Tim and Eric characters. Two guys seated near me were dressed up as the Beaver Boys, and I saw a couple people wearing On Cinema t-shirts.

As stagehands wheeled the tiny screen away, the lights went down and the show opened. A video played on the big screen explaining how Tim has a large vacation home where he hangs out with his old pals, mostly to get away from his family — but also to avoid Eric. When Eric showed up and suggested they do a live show together we learn that Tim slammed the door in his face, only to later conceive of doing a family friendly tour that everyone can smile at (but not actually laugh) in order to attract corporate sponsors.

The audience was instructed to clap with their wrists instead of their hands, and to moan while doing so.

It’s mandatory

Tim and Eric arrived on stage dressed in flamboyant cowboy outfits performing a song about how attendance is mandatory, and also claiming they enjoy various drugs. At some point it was mentioned that anyone who did not attend would be fined $750.

Interrupting a pointless sketch about a cowboy who tickles people, Eric decided this isn’t right, they should abandon the family friendly concept and do their usual comedy — even if it’s not for everyone. Tim reluctantly agreed to change the format. They also agreed to waive the “exit fee.”

As they left the stage, a new video played of the duo eating and “vomiting” various foods. This was genuinely disgusting and a number of people near me covered their eyes.

Pitzman’s Mustard

Tim and Eric return to the stage wearing dressed in normal clothing for a reprise of the YouTube series Tim’s Kitchen Tips. A table was placed on stage with a large bowl and a small camera mounted on a tripod. Eric moved the camera around throughout the sketch so the audience could see close ups.

Tim used an audience participation bit to explain how he intends to make yummy, wet, and spicy lasagna — using a recipe from the Lasagna region of Italy, naturally.

Tim started with a frozen lasagna he purchased from his favorite store, a nearby Safeway. He opened the package and squeezed the existing wet juice out of it with his hand, sending the sauces down his elbow and all over the table.

As it turned out, Eric is also familiar with Safeway, though a different location. After a messy divorce Eric moved to a new home in Vallejo, a city he admittedly does not like. This minor localization gag got bigger laughs than I expected (perhaps there were people from Vallejo in the audience?)

To add wetness to the lasagna, Tim poured a giant can of tomato sauce into his bowl, most of which spilled on the table and floor.

For spices they recruited ten “Spice Cadets” from the audience to the stage. Each of them was assigned a spice to wear on their helmets as well as an apron featuring the name of the spice. During this process Tim angrily confiscated the phone of an audience member who was taking a video, tossing the “phone” into the tomato sauce.

The first spice, cinnamon, had a lengthy song and dance routine. Then Tim told the woman who represented cinnamon to “get the fuck out of here” as cinnamon clearly does not belong in lasagna. Tim then pared down the nine other Spice Cadets to a final five. Those who remained dumped their spices into the bowl by bowing their heads into it, pouring out the spices. One of them had a helmet malfunction that caused their entire helmet to fall into the bowl.

When Tim realized a key ingredient was missing, Mr. Peter Pitzman appeared wearing a yellow mask that clearly disturbed Tim. Mr. Pitzman proceeded to “pee” mustard all over the five remaining Spice Cadets as well as into the sauce.

Subscription services for dogs

Next up Tim and Eric came out wearing colorful lounge-y outfits, explaining they were a morning zoo show on 105.3 here in San Francisco before being fired when Tim’s character made an insensitive comment in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Fortunately they’ve been brought back by a tech billionaire named Werm to promote a streaming music service for dogs, which costs $99 per month. Tim picked up a guitar and Eric strapped on a child sized wearable drum set. They played a singalong song about different types of dogs and how they behave.

Eric’s character wanted to demonstrate Werm’s son’s software that just shows photos of dogs. Unfortunately he didn’t have the password for the software, and entering the wrong one caused the Windows XP desktop they had on stage to blue screen.

After several tries they guessed the password. The software turned out to be a slideshow with several photos of dogs, followed by a lot of photos of Moby. Tim and Eric fled the stage when smoke started coming out of the old desktop computer.

A Medical Play

In the final main act, they had a medical play allegedly sponsored by Aetna, a health insurance company. Tim said he was inspired by America where everyone has the right to buy private health insurance through a corporation.

The play involved Eric as a doctor similar to his Dr. Wareheim series on YouTube. Eric asked Tim a series of questions about his recent bowel movements such as their shape, thickness, tips, and tails. Neither of them could get through this portion with a straight face.

During an anal exam seemingly modeled after the Blue Man Group’s throat camera routine, we learn Tim has the highly contagious “Pork’s Disease,” and the entire audience is at risk. The CDC arrived via helicopter with a suitcase full of pills to cure the disease. The cure is HOGalaxin from Cinco Pharmaceuticals, which were available in suspicious baggies at the merch table.

Unfortunately the supply of pills was one short. Tim offhandedly mentioned that the CDC had other priorities. Their consultant at AEG “randomly” selected a member of the audience, a man who brought his wife on stage as well. He agreed to skip the medication and die for not only his wife but the greater good.

Tim and Eric performed their final song wearing lighted wings with a video tribute to the poor man. A flower-lined casket was wheeled out onto the stage behind him. As the song ended, stagehands escorted the man into the casket, closed it, and wheeled him backstage.

Beef House preview

Ostensibly this was the end of the show, but Tim and Eric introduced the first episode of their new show Beef House, a lowbrow parody of Full House or any one of countless forgettable 90’s family sitcoms.

The first episode involves Tim going on a date with a neighbor despite suffering from extreme constipation. This collides with a subplot about Eric’s girlfriend (played by Jamie-Lynn Sigler, aka Meadow from The Sopranos) demanding he clean up the place. The conclusion is hilariously disgusting, if somewhat predictable.

At the very end Tim and Eric came back out on stage to thank everyone for coming and to give a shout out to everyone else who worked on the show.

Conclusion

This was pretty much everything I would have expected from a live Tim and Eric show. Somehow I missed their last tour a couple years ago and I feel like I can stop kicking myself for that now.

From what I’ve read online a few stops on the tour had special guests. None of them were at the San Francisco show, but I would have loved to see John C. Reilly as Dr. Steve Brule. Someone please tell Reilly to come to San Francisco next time. I’ll even pay extra. For your health!

Former Macy’s Men’s Store slims down for a new look

March 1, 2020
Former Macy's Men's Store, Union Square Former Macy's Men's Store, Union Square Former Macy's Men's Store, Union Square

 

The former Union Square Macy’s Men’s Store at 120 Stockton Street is sporting a new look at the moment. The down-to-the-bones renovation is transforming the almost windowless stone box into one with floor to ceiling windows. SocketSite has a before photo with a rendering of what’s to come.

Although I shopped there when it was still open I can’t say I really miss it. It always felt like a jail that happened to sell clothes.

The revamped building is intended to mix retail, offices, and a rooftop patio restaurant. Time will tell if this combination works out — though I can’t imagine downtown office space so close to a BART station remaining vacant for long.

Two other department stores in the area are exploring similar transformations, with part of the Macy’s across the street (the former I. Magnin building) potentially converting to offices and condos, and the nearby Nordstrom in the Westfield SF Centre mall switching its top two floors into offices as well.

Jason Segel explains “Dispatches From Elsewhere” on The Late Show

February 28, 2020

 

In the above clip from The Late Show, Jason Segel explains his upcoming TV show Dispatches From Elsewhere to host Stephen Colbert.

The quick version: While searching for inspiration for a new TV show to create, Segel learns about The Jejune Institute and manages to contact the man behind it all, who Segel likens to Willy Wonka. This quickly leads to a story far more interesting than your average talk show anecdote as Segel travels to San Francisco, finding a trailhead laid out just for him.

Obviously I can’t speak to Segel’s experience, though what he described sounds more like The Latitude to me. I’d be interested to hear more about it.

Colbert is a great interviewer as always, and I really like Segel’s description of Nonchalance’s guerilla art installations as “magic as an act of defiance.”

Dispatches From Elsewhere debuts March 1st on AMC. Looking forward to confused people stumbling on my blog posts while trying to understand this TV show.

Rest in pieces at Buena Vista Park

February 24, 2020
Buena Vista Park Buena Vista Park Buena Vista Park

 

Buena Vista Park on Haight Street is one of San Francisco’s oldest public parks. Built on the side of a hill, on a clear day one can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and downtown between the trees at the top of the park.

Today you’ll find everyone from wanna-be hippie kids to dog walkers to young couples having picnics in the park.

But if you look closely you’ll also find something else: pieces of old headstones.

When San Francisco started evicting graveyards in the early 20th century to make more room for the living, many headstones were scrapped for material — recycled rock, basically.

In the 1930’s a WPA project was tasked with updating Buena Vist Park’s pathways and addressing flooding issues. Many of these new pathways were lined with gutters paved from rocks; including old headstones.

For the most part the headstones aren’t noticeable, aside from the unusual decision to pave gutters with white stone. However in a dozen or so places around the park, parts of the original engravings are easily to spot. Three of these are in the photos above.

More information can be found on Wikipedia and on Atlas Obscura.