Sunday, September 25, 2011

2011 College Football Season

We are in a brand new college football season and like any other season there are three teams I follow closer than others. The University of Alabama which looks to be on the path of another excellent season and how they do in certain games will determine National Championship caliber team or just another good season. The University of Alabama at Birmingham is my alma mater and they look to be heading to a bad to mediocre season. The last team is the University of Memphis and unless something drastically changes they are going to have another disastrous season.

Alabama has beaten to bad teams, one mediocre team in Penn St and this past weekend the badly beat the first team that might have been a challenge for them Arkansas. I watched Most of the Penn St game and all of the Arkansas game, and I have been very impressed with what I have seen. Next week is another challenge in Florida. If they get by Florida, they should handle the rest of their games, with LSU and Auburn being the biggest games left on the schedule. They have an incredible defense again and if they can score enough points they will be in the running again. Two years ago they won all the close game and last year they lost a few of them. Last year's season would have been good for most teams but a bit disappointing for Alabama.

The UAB Blazers have been blown out two games and lost a close game to East Carolina. Looking at the schedule, they appear to be better than Memphis and Florida Atlantic, but outside of the it is a stretch to say they will beat any other teams. I do not get to watch UAB up here very much but I follow them as closely as I can, and this year we are going to the Memphis game here in town. In the past few years UAB has been flirting with getting enough wins to make a lower tier bowl, but usually comes up short. Considering they are currently 0-3 I think winning 5 or 6 games would be a successful season. I would love them to get the point where they can win 8 plus games a year.

The last team I tend to follow is Memphis. I have a closer connection to Alabama and UAB, but I live in Memphis and there are a lot of people I know that live and die with the team. Even for a team that has not a huge football tradition the past couple of seasons have been hard for Memphis. Outside of beating Middle Tennessee State and Austin Peay Memphis has lost all of their games and have been beaten badly in most of those games. This year they have another game versus Middle Tennessee but other than that based on what Memphis has done so far the rest of the season looks bleak. So far this year Memphis has scored 44 (27 of those against Austin Peay) and had 154 points scored against them. You are not going to have a good season with that kind of ratio. Since I have lived in Memphis most seasons go like this, early in the season the fans are saying that year will be different, but after a few weeks of disappointing losses or more recently getting blown out, the thoughts of most Tigers fans turn to basketball very quickly. Like UAB fans I think most Memphis fans would like to see consistency out of their football team. Outside of a few good seasons when DeAngelo Williams was here Memphis football has been mediocre to bad. The future does not look good but with some commitment and money from the school and winning a few games to attract some fans back, there is a way to make Memphis a success in football.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

2011 Cooper Young Festival











Dabney and I had a long day at the Cooper Young Festival this year. Running Gag got a booth so we could market the group and possibly recruit some new members. Dabney and I got there about 6:30 and it took about ten minutes to get through all the traffic of other people setting up. Our space was in the parking lot of the Beauty Shop restaurant. It did not take long to set up the table and tent. We had stickers and cups to give away plus a sign up sheets to get email addresses. After that was probably the hardest part of the day. It was still a couple of more hours until people starting showing up, so we were just kind of stuck there waiting. They festival opened at 9 and people starting trickling in. At first it was mostly the other vendors tricking out what else was there and then other people starting coming in as well. At first we just had the cups and stickers and I think we made it a little too easy to overlook our booth. I had Amanda run me home when she got there and we added some items and made our booth more eye catching and it looked like this.




















This gave the booth a little more zip and having the other Running Gag people provided some more energy. Once the other people got there Dabney and I walked around some and got something to eat. I find it interesting that is a lot vendors that works the festival every year. We bought a couple of things, got some food, and returned to the booth. Some of the other Memphis improvers came by and said hi. There was also other people that we knew that came by. Overall we also saw the wide variety of people that you see every year at the festival. This one young girl came by and kept playing that game where you stack cups and unstack them as fast as you can. She kept doing the same thing over and over. Then she had a friend and they were racing each other as to who could stack and unstack the cups faster. I was getting to the point where I was trying to figure out a nice way to tell her to move along, but she got bored and moved on. Maybe because of the obnoxious orange color or that I hate UT so much but it seems like I saw a lot of people wearing University of Tennessee gear. By 2:00 it had already been a long day, so soon after that Dabney and I left. Dustin, Amanda, and our new member Mike took over running the booth and tore it down at the end of the day. I think it was a very successful day, we got a lot of names and hopefully we have the start of the next phase of Running Gag.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chicago Trip: Mass Transit

One of the great things about being in a city like Chicago is that have real mass transit, where you can easily hail a cab, grab a bus or train. You can easily get around a city without a car. When we were in Chicago Jana got us CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) pass. We took a train back from the improv show and the next day we took a bus to the lunch. Unlike Memphis there was a cross section of people using it. In Memphis people use mass transit because they have no other option, but the mass transit sucks and people have to work around it. In big cities mass transit is a viable option because there are multiple ways of getting around without using a car. Some of it is simple mathematics you have a lot of people crammed into a relatively small amount of space. If those people are living in high rise apartments that can make parking very difficult and expensive. I am envious of cities that have real mass transit and being able to use it without it being a giant pain in the ass like it is Memphis. I understand there are certain things that make mass transit in Memphis difficult, but I think it could be better than it is.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chicago Trip: Sirius Radio

One of the problems we had when we traveled to Florida was with the Sirius radio was we kept having to change the channel because as we traveled stations kept bleeding and made it very frustrating. It seems like every time we got a channel set it would not last long. So before we left for Chicago I checked to see if there was a way to get a more consistent single. Best Buy said they could said they could set up so that it would be on one channel only and it would be wired directly into the radio and not wirelessly through an open channel. I felt it was worth not to deal with consistently trying to find an open station. We did it and when we were traveling there was no problems with the radio, there was a strong and clear single the whole way.

With that taken care of the only issue was what station to listen to. Dabney really likes the 80s station, that features all 80s music and has the original M TV VJs as the hosts. The play a wide variety of genres with pop, rock, metal, rap, R&B all from 80s. They tend to play the hit music instead of more obscure songs. You could get Madonna, Springsteen, The Police, Prince, Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, etc. The station I like is similar but has a little different spin on things. First Wave plays alternative and new wave music from the 70s and 80s. The went with genre of time period so you get a mix of hits and more obscure tracks. Between the two stations there is a lot of crossover but I think think there are specifics of the stations that each of us prefer. So we took turns of playing of our stations and I think it worked out well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Improv Olympics













One of the conditions of going to Chicago was seeing some improv. The first choice was IO or Second City and we chose IO. The second choice was an improvised Shakespeare show or long form show featuring two teams, Wonderbat and Revolver. We chose the long the form show. After we ate dinner with Dabney's friend Jana, we met Alison and Josh who got us seats right by the stage. After a bit of a wait the show started.

The first group up was Wonderbat, and the performed an open long form set similar to what we have been doing with Running Gag. They had good energy and they did a really good job of letting scenes develop. They had strong characters and made strong offers. The main part of their set was based on Halloween. Some parts worked better than others but overall I really liked what they did.

After Wonderbat finished both groups got on a stage and did the game A Day in the Life, where they take an audience member ask what they did and perform what was described. I have seen this preformed before but the IO guys did it a little differently. I was the volunteer and after I described the day of going from Memphis to Chicago they asked questions about my life, Memphis, and other information. I talked about Memphis, my life with Dabney, and some other things. Based on the information they gathered they did a series of open scenes based on it. It is in a sense it was kind of like the Wiseguys Storyteller format. Although I did not perform being able to get on stage and being involved with the show was very excited. They did a really excellent job of what I told them, and they worked in specifics of the information.

After A Day in a Life it was Revolver's turn. They performed A Harold which is a long form format that started at Improv Olympics. You perform a series of scenes and and periodically come back to them. I guess it must be an IO thing, they start with a group where they all perform together and develop an idea from there it breaks down into the scenes. They started off where one guy is a robot and a lot of their scenes were based on the root of robots. Of the two groups I preferred Revolver they were a little bit sharper and the performers were a little more polished. They were very comfortable with each other. After Revolver performed both groups came back out and performed a game of Freeze Tag. It was a good game to end things.

I was very excited to see improv in Chicago. I was more encouraged by what I saw than intimidated. I felt like the things I saw there were things I could do with Running Gag. I picked up a couple of things that we can try, and I was encouraged by the idea of Running Gag doing long form over short form Who's Line style.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Chicago Trip: Lambert's









On the first entry about the trip to Chicago, I want to talk about eating at Lambert's in Missouri. Lambert's is a country cooking restaurant about 2 hours north of Memphis on the way to Chicago. I have heard about the place for a long time, but have never gone there before. Dabney and I decided to eat there as part of the trip. Dabney said she ate there before but it had been a while ago. We got there about 11:30 and the place was already packed. We were seated and somebody came by and offered some fried okra even though we had no dishes or anything. The way Lambert's works is in addition to huge servings they have these homemade rolls they famously throw to people, sometimes across the room. They also walk around with pots of fried okra, fried potatoes, black eyed peas, and couple of other dishes. We looked at the menu and it was mostly fried foods, but they also had meatloaf, steak, and other hearty dishes. Dabney and I ordered and while we were waiting one of the guys threw a roll at me. I caught it and realized how hot it was. We split the roll and it was pretty tasty. About that time our plates arrived and they were large plates covered with food. While we were eating they were walking around offering more of the sides. When you talk Europeans about America one of the things they tend to talk about is how much Americans eat and how their serving sizes are so huge. It was a mind boggling amount of food for a restaurant that was not a buffet. We both left with to go plates because there was no way we were going to eat all that food. We left Lambert's a lot more full than we arrived and continued on to Chicago.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Looptacular

Looptacular

This is something I found on The Nerdist site the other day. A girl named Josie Carlwood uses a guitar, keyboards, and a computer to create a cover of the Gorillaz sound Feel Good Inc. I am sure people do stuff like this all the time, but to see someone do this life and in person. The way she is all the tools to create the Gorillaz sound by herself is so awesome to see. One big difference is that is a rap section that is more aggressive in the original, but Josie is able to keep it in her style but it still sounds good. I think it is fun and exciting. I am very impressed by all the trial and error that must go into learning how to use all these tools together to make something.