You mess with Harpo Marx, you get the horns.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The All-New Designer Body Sketch!

[Yet another potential sketch for The Dictionary of Unfortunate Ideas: the Television Programme. Interested American and British network types can e-mail Generalissimo Fando at the usual address below in the sidebar.]

(A chain cinema before the film starts. Two men and two women are sitting in a row near the front. A third man sits behind them. One of the women is obviously agitated.)

Woman 1: Oh, it's no use! I've got to go again! (She gets up and leaves the cinema.)

Woman 2: What's the matter with her?

Man 1: Oh, it's her new designer bladder.

Woman 2: Designer bladder?

Man 1: Yes, yes. The old one was too big. She kept complaining about feeling bloated, so we had it shrunk to a quarter of it's original size. Now she's a full two sizes smaller and feels light as a feather.

Woman 2: Yes, but doesn't she spend a lot of time in the loo?

Man 1: She spends about 90% of the time in there now. In fact, she does practically everything in there these days. Reads, watches the telly, surfs the web, jazzercizes. Still, no bloating, eh?

Man 2: Does she eat in there, too?

Man 1: Don't be ridiculous! That would be completely unsanitary.

Man 2: Oh.

Man 1: She stands outside the door and eats there, and then rushes in if the urge hits her (pause) ...which it does about every 90 seconds.

Man 2: Hmmm, I see.

(Woman 1 walks back into the cinema, gets into her seat, and then looks up to ceiling in frustration, gets up and walks back out again.)

Man 2: I've got a designer stomach you know.

Man 1: Oh, really?

Man 2: Yes, yes. I used to be as big as a lorry, but the doc went in, snip, snip, and it's made a world of difference!

Man 1: Well, it must be a relief.

Man 2: Yes, it is. Now I can ride in the cabs, again. (turning to Woman 2) Could you pass the popcorn, luv? (She holds up the carton) No, no... just the one piece, please. (Eats it) Whew! Getting full up, now!

Woman 2: I've got a designer leg.

Man 1: Ooooh! I've heard of those. Did you get the special attachments for holding up stockings?

Woman 2: That and the collapsable shoe-horn in the heel, AND the elevating foot, for reaching objects on high shelves.

Man 1: Brilliant. (They all nod) (pause) You didn't get the pair though?

Woman 2: No, we could only afford the one. We tried to have the other put on layaway, but plastic surgery is a cash business, don't you know.

Man 1: Yes, frightfully expensive these days.

Woman 2: I just use the one designer leg and let the other one be.

Man 1: Very sensible, indeed.

(Woman 1 walks back into the cinema, gets halfway down the aisle, stops, tightens her legs back together and rushes back up the aisle and outside.)

Man 1: I'm thinking about getting a designer ribcage.

Man 2 and Woman 2: Oooooh!!!!

Man 1: Yes, yes, I'm looking at the deluxe model. Something designed to stay mildly cool to keep dry goods and the occasional bottle of sherry or ale in. I do so hate having to get up from the couch to go into the kitchen or the wine cellar.

Man 2: Have you considered the draught option?

Man 1: Yes, I'm giving it serious thought (pause) ...but where to put the spigots?

(They all laugh)

Man 3: (leaning forward) I got a designer todger!

Man 1: Really?

Woman 2: Well that is something, isn't it?

Man 3: Yes, had it lengthed to three feet don't you know. Of course, I've had to have all my trousers taken out to make room.

Man 1: Designer colours?

Man 3: Claret and blue. (pause, as others look confused) I'm a Hammers supporter.

All: Ah!

Man 2: Did the procedure hurt much?

Man 3: No, no, I didn't feel a thing. (looks down) (sadly) As a matter of fact, I still can't.

(Woman 1 walks into cinema, grimaces, turns around and immediately walks out again)

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Monday, June 11, 2007

So, how's the Coup going you ask?

The Coup continues at DOUI. Jorge Carlito has already been bullied into submission. I suppose one could assume that he lived once in a Latin-American dictatorship and that this sort of thing is right up his street. However, I always thought he was from Barstow.

Stew and Nuffy are either cowed into silence or defiantly refusing to post in protest. I'm not sure which, since neither of them have made a peep in months. So, since insulting pictures and threats of a takeover haven't awoken their posting sensibilities, I must move on and stabilise the new regime.

Right now, I'm contemplating several changes I could make. Here's a short list. Readers should feel free to e-mail preferences or suggestions. I should note that "closing down the blog and turning the staff into eunuchs" is not an option, no matter how popular it might be with the usual blogging crowd.

Options for The Dictionary of Unfortunate Ideas Under the Glorious Leadership of Generalissimo Earl "El Hombre Magnifico Virile" Fando

  • Change the name of the blog to The Coup D'etat of Unfortunate Ideas
  • Change the logo to match the style of the London Olympics, just to cheese everyone off
  • Install a salad bar where Nuffy's desk used to be
  • Change the background image to a picture of the Emirates Stadium (Come on you Gooners!)
  • Even more Tom Cruise mocking
  • Change the name of the blog to The Dictionary of Unfortunate Earls
  • All traffic-ticket rants, all the time
  • Change the name of the blog to Stew and Nuffy Aren't Home Right Now, but If You'll Leave a Message at The Tone...
  • Offer posting rights to politicians and then alter their posts for comic effect
  • Include colourful sidebar pictures of firing squads
  • Replace Stew's office with a snooker and darts room
  • Change the logo to include a subliminal message that says "Send your pledges to"
  • Change the name of the blog to Harry Potter Loves Cameron Diaz and watch the hits soar
  • Offer to imprison Paris Hilton in Nuffy and Stew's old offices
  • Hold next U.S. Republican and Democratic debates on the blog - Give Fred Thompson and Al Gore editing privileges to change posts for comic effect
  • Year long discussion about how easy it is to confuse The Sopranos with The Simpsons
  • Convert DOUI into a fitness site - lots of Thighmaster and Body Pump references

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Busker's Delight

The seven people who read my novel from last November will know that I, Generalissimo Fando, have on a few rare occasions taken up the noble art of busking.

Those who have not read the novel are, of course, awaiting the obligatory explanation that "busking" does not, in fact, involve acts of a gratuitously "adult" nature. At least outside of Soho, that, I've heard.

Rather, busking is the art of street performance. Most buskers are musical performers. There is a practical reason for that, as most busking takes place near underground train queues and passageways, on busy city street corners, and in town squares. For example, there are few, if any, acrobatic dance buskers for the reason that it's difficult to encourage people to offer you tips if you're constantly knocking them down.

That is the other thing you should understand about busking: There is money involved. Indeed, in busy cities, many buskers are competing for choice spots from which to ply their trade, knowing that the proper selection of the spot will often greatly improve the cash flow. A busy entryway or a well-traveled street corner, with room for passers-by to stop and perchance listen, might bring a fair amount of coinage and notes over an hour or two. On the other hand, a quiet, shadowed spot behind a dumpster in an alley will bring little more than mice and the smell of rotted meat to your instrument case.

I live in a moderate-sized, college town in the States with a square. Normally, this square would not be the optimal place to earn a few bucks playing music, as there's fairly little traffic, the main shops and attractions being at the local mall. However, as is the custom in many parts of the States, on certain days there is a "Farmers' Market," where local farmers set up round the square and sell their goods to interested passerby. These goods consist of a variety of produce, a wide assortment of seasonal flowers, several different kinds of hand-made crafts, and the occasional bit of artisanal cheese. Depending on the town and circumstance, the market will also attract a fair amount of advocates for one cause or another. As I live in a college town, our Farmers' Market generally sees three kinds of these messages: "George W. Bush is the devil" (usually with several exclamation points), "Stop mankind from destroying the environment with easy living," and "Legalize pot! Weed is good for you." The last of these is occasionally shrouded in a heavy, pungent, mysterious cloud of smoke.

My preference is for a corner of the square just across the street from a couple of food kiosks. The idea is that people will buy food, wander across the street to look at the vegetable stands, decide to sit down on one of the benches to consume their goodies, and then fall entranced at the subtle spell of my enchanted music, hypnotically emptying the contents of their wallets into my open guitar case. So far, it's been a crap strategy.

I have made a bit of money. The first time I went up, I made next to nothing. All right, I suppose the accurate amount is "absolutely nothing." Someone then explained to me that an empty case says to passers-by, "No one thought he was good enough to part with loose change." Actually, I think the idea was more along the lines of "An empty case tells people you suck." So, I quickly learnt the art of seeding the case with a bit of my own money, just to encourage people to part with a small bit of their own. This has been better, culminating in a grand haul of 10 dollars and 25 cents over the last two visits. Of course, that's 4 hours playing time, so I've not given up the day job just yet. Also, a friend of mine who busks playing banjo pointed out that he has had days where he would finish with less money than he seeded the case with. As he's a good player, that must've been a really hard town.

I always keep my case with the open lid right by my foot. That way, if I see anyone reaching for money in the case, I can slam it shut and take a few fingers with me. One thing you should know about the hard-boiled world of busking: You don't try to make change in a busker's guitar case.

I play guitar and sing, which means I'm limited in the kind of music I can perform. (Please skip the jokes, as I'm insecure enough about my performing.) Solo buskers must be ever mindful of this, or they'll be in over their heads trying to play something that would normally require, say, the New York Philharmonic. Plus, popular, beloved tunes frequently inspire people to pry open the changepurse. A good guide for making the proper choice for solo guitar and voice music is below:

Some Good Choices:

  • Folk songs
  • Simon and Garfunkel songs
  • Jim Croce/Harry Chapin songs
  • Don McLean songs (American Pie is solid gold in the States)
  • Bob Dylan songs (College towns only)
  • Rock band tunes that allow for a simple chordal arrangement on the guitar - REM is especially good for this, although I've found a few Radiohead songs that work
  • Church choruses
  • Original compositions

Some Bad Choices:
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Good Vibrations
  • The Hallelujah Chorus
  • ABBA tunes
  • Disco
  • The Mickey Mouse Club Song (especially in a college town or during a biker festival)
  • Anything by Michael Bolton

Of course, there are little things like copyright law that come into play. Should I ever make enough money for this to be a consideration, I'll let you know what I find out about that. Right now, they should be paying me for the free adverts.

On occasion, there will be the occasional passerby who has little to no sense of personal space. the other day I was visited by a middle-aged gentleman who stood and stared for a few moments at me and my gear. After a moment I determined that he wasn't a member of the "weed is good for you" brigade and waited to see what he was up to. He asked what kind of songs I played and if I sang (I had just played an instrumental, something I do periodically to keep the voice from wearing thin). I said "many different ones" and "yes," and switched from the unfamiliar Don McLean song I was going to do to a Simon and Garfunkel tune I'm quite adept at, if I do say so myself. As I played and sang, he stood about 18 inches from me and stared. At one point, during an instrumental bridge, he spoke again, but, as I was concentrating on the music, I didn't catch a bleedin' word. For some reason, people love to talk to people whilst their playing the guitar. You'd never talk to a clarinet player, for example, because their mouths are occupied trying to get the stupid reed to work. However, get someone next to a guitarist/singer and the moment you hit the blank spot between verse and chorus they're asking you how often you play or if you like reggae music whilst you're trying to breathe enough to hit the high A in the next line.

Anyway, despite my sudden reticence, he was kind enough to dig through his pockets and contribute 25 cents in loose change.

Much sweeter are the families with small children. The kids adorably stare in wonder at the tall bloke with the frazzled hair making unfamiliar sounds. The parents smile in love at the kids, and are appreciative that the tall bloke with the frazzled hair isn't playing something by 2LiveCrew.

After I finished up for the day, I put my gear in the car and walked about, just to see who else was on the square that day. A couple of guitarists sat in one corner, obviously sizing up the audience and working out their strategy. Another guitarist had already grabbed the spot I occupied, resonator guitar in hand, and a couple of songsheets loosely scattered in the case. Two more guitarists, a male and a female, occupied another corner. Midway between corners on that side was a guitar and tuba duet. I noticed their case was fairly well stocked with ones. Either they'd well seeded the case or tuba melodies backed by guitar are all the rage these days. Ruddy novelty acts.

I shall have to remember that spot though.

However, all of the musicians were being easily outdrawn by a juggler, well situated between corners on a large stairwell, juggling flaming torches. I didn't get a chance to see their tip jar, but I suspected it was bulging with singed loot. Musicians just can't compete with that sort of act. It's next to impossible to play engaging folk rock with your Fender acoustic on fire.

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