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Culture Clash - "Saving the Pinche World Since 1984"

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As long as we're talking about my comedy heroes, let's throw Culture Clash into the mix.

I grew up in the Mission in San Francisco, a working class, largely (but by no means exclusively) Latino neighborhood. At the time, at least... these days it's an Authenticity Theme Park for assholes who eat black beans and tofu in their burritos and drive Jettas. But I digress...

When I was about nine or so, my mom quit her job working in an antiques store and went back to graduate school. She ended up getting a master's degree in Latin American Studies. One of her classmates was a member of Culture Clash, a comedy group that was then starting to gain some notoriety around SF and LA. Another member of the group worked at the Galleria de la Raza, down the street from my house. I was pretty dubious of attending anything my mother reccomended, but I went to see Culture Clash with her, maybe on the San Francisco State campus, I can't remember. What I saw blew me away, and I've been going to see CC as often as I can (not too often, they live in LA now, and theater ain't cheap) ever since.

What's great about Culture Clash is the way they combine a set of pretty disparate elements into a whole that feels really organic... it's sketch comedy, there's some clown influence, some traditional Artistic Theater, some politics, some La Raza Pride (a subset of politics, of course). And they're FUNNY.

In the years since I first saw them, they've broadened their scope, with a series of documentary theater pieces about various places... one of them was actually about the gentrification of the Mission. They've also tackled Aristophanes and even a TV show on FOX (this was back in the "Married... with Children" days)

When Carlos Mencia got famous last year for telling stupid offensive jokes about "beaners," then patting himself on the back for breaking down barriers or whatever, I thought of CC. These guys really do break cultural taboos without fear, really do satirize both the racial politics of America and Latino lifestyles, and they really are FUNNY. Really, really funny. Above all else.

Culture Clash have a new show about Zorro, called "Zorro in Hell," about to premier at Berkeley Rep. Richard Montoya, one of the group's members, will be on the show this weekend. I'll try not to gush.

Check Culture Clash out online, where they bill themselves as "The Original Exploiters of Che!"

Comedians we love and the music they love...

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The always wonderful Onion AV Club debuted a great feature today. They ask folks they like to genuinely and truly put their iPods on shuffle and describe the attraction of the tunes that come up.

Among the participants...

Eugene Mirman

Jethro Tull, "Up The Pool"
EM: I have lots of Jethro Tull because I also am mad at organized religion. When I was in high school, I really liked Jethro Tull, and I still enjoy it. I think that I really loved and identified with their brand of arrogant orchestral rock...

And David Cross

DJ Shadow, "Changeling"
DC: God, what a fucking great… I have amazing taste in music! This album is unbelievable, fucking great, not one bad second on there. If you played it now for people that are doing stuff influenced by DJ Shadow, it's still better than that stuff.

Oddly, the guy from Modest Mouse has an Andre Nickatina track on his iPod. I can't decide if that makes sense or not. One way or the other, Andre Nickatina creeps me out.

Here's the full article

Quick Change

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Browsing through the New York Times today, I noticed that the 1990 Bill Murray vehicle "Quick Change" is coming out on DVD. It's a truly underappreciated film (so is "The Man Who Knew Too Little," by the way), and I had no idea he co-directed it.

Early in the film, there's a scene where Murray is holding up a bank dressed as a clown. The elderly security guard looks at him and asks, "What the heck kind of clown are you?"

Murray pauses, gives a perfect hangdog look, and says, "The crying on the inside kind, I guess."

Perfect moment.

One of "Big Time" Gene O'Neill's favorites.

Quick Change

To date, Bill Murray's only credit as a director (shared with the writer Howard Franklin) is on this modest but delightful comedy from 1990. It finds Mr. Murray as a disaffected New York City civil servant who hatches a complicated scheme to rob a Park Avenue bank (it involves a clown costume and a vest of dynamite) only to find his escape plans seriously frustrated by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, a situation with which every New Yorker can identify. Accompanied by his co-conspirators, Geena Davis and Randy Quaid, Mr. Murray tries every trick in the book to get to Kennedy Airport in time to catch his plane and is finally reduced to taking a bus, piloted by Philip Bosco, that goes (and here is the important nuance) near there.

"Quick Change" is a crisp, efficient and subtly subversive film that makes you wish Mr. Murray would get back in the driver's seat instead of drifting through another lazy celebrity roast like "Broken Flowers." Mr. Murray has always been a comedian with something more, a secret reserve of melancholy that sets him widely apart from his fellow "Saturday Night Live" alumni. "Quick Change" just hints at the angst eating at his character, and that's enough to lift it to another level. Warner Home Video, $14.98, R.

NYTimes.com Link (requires registration, I say use bugmenot.com)

Bathroom Monkey

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A big part of my interest in comedy today comes from the Saturday Night Live that I watched as an adolescent. When I was about ten, my dad inherited some stuff from a family friend who passed on. Besides the 1977 Chevy Nova (metallic brown), we got a big black and white TV that ended up in my room. I watched SNL almost every week from about 1991 to 1994 or so. This sketch, with Janeane Garofolo, was one of my all-time favorites, and certainly my favorite fake commercial. "When my monkey's cleaning power is all used up..."

I rode the Disneyland monorail!

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I have a soft spot in my heart for Disneyland... I'm not an obsessive like some, but my paternal grandparents lived in Orange County, so I went every other year or so as a kid. I've always been coaster-phobic, too, and Disneyland is a great theme park if you don't like roller coasters.

My two favorite attractions, as a kid, were Captain Eo and the submarines. Both of those are gone now, replaced by "Honey I Shrunk the Audience" and, eventually, a Finding Nemo ride. Thankfully, Star Tours is still there, and it still features the voice of Paul Reubens, aka Pee-Wee Herman. The combination of Star Wars and Pee-Wee was enough to send me into space as a kid, with or without the ride itself.

There are two things I've always wanted to do at Disneyland, though, but have never done. One of them is to visit the secret dining club. Jordan Morris, "Boy Detective" grew up in Orange County, and had never been until college, when he dated a lady whose grandfather was a bigwig at Kodak. He said it's as great as you might imagine. He went to the bathroom, and they refolded his napkin while he was gone. Someday I'll get in there. Someday.

My other Disneyland dream is to ride the Monorail. It used to be that in order to ride the Monorail, you had to stay at the Disneyland Resort. Now, my family had very little money when I was a kid, and I certainly wasn't staying at the Disneyland Resort. More like my grandparent's living room, or maybe the Motel Six in Mission Viejo. So all I could do was admire the monorail from afar.

But I just went to Disneyland with my sweetheart and her family this weekend, and I've got great news... anybody can ride it now!

Well, anyone can make the short, one-way trip from Tommorowland to "Downtown Disney," they Disney mega-mall between Disneyland and California Adventure. But dammit, I rode the thing! MAXIMUM FUN.

What does it say about me that my favorite part of a three-day vacation was a five minute trip on a forty five year old monorail? Well, anyway...

Louis CK Contest Winner

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I literally drew them out of a hat... one that actually looked exactly like the one to the left. Congrats to Jeremy.

For those of you who aren't Jeremy, buy yourself tickets. Trust me, Louie CK is worth every penny. I'll be at Wendesday's show with the lady friend, say hi. Thursday, the very funny Tony Camin will be the featured (middle) act. He's one of the quickest comics in the business, a really funny guy.

If you don't live in the Bay Area, don't despair! You can head over to Louie's website and check out his podcast.

Fun with the Heartmaker

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Just in time for not just in time for Valentines, the Acme Heartmaker.

By the way, if you live in the Bay Area or Santa Cruz, I need a lot of boxes of conversation hearts... if your local Safeway or Walgreens or whatever has any left, tell me! I have a special plan for them. Right now at Walgreens they're 13 cents a box (I just bought out the Walgreens next to my job).

I guess Marine Sciences *are* the strength of UCSC...

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High-tech tags on marine animals yield valuable data for biologists and oceanographers

Researchers are enlisting seals, sea lions, tunas, and sharks to serve as ocean sensors, outfitting these top predators with electronic tags that gather detailed reports on oceanographic conditions and, in many cases, transmit the data via satellite. The data are proving useful to both biologists and oceanographers, yielding new information about the migrations and behavior of the animals and about the environments in which they live.

via BoingBoing

To be honest, this kind of reminds me of the time I convinced a Santa Cruz local browsing in the "Cars" section of Borders that the Pope was doing dolphin language research in order to convince dolphins to convert to Catholicism. He (the guy) agreed that a war between dolphins and whales might be imminent. Download the interview to find out if he felt nukes were approrpiate.

J. Edgar Hoover Loves Lucy

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