Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Cellar Dweller Newsletter Update (on a Blog)

Hey friends!

I just wanted to give everyone an update as to what the Cellar Dwellers are up to... because in the next two months, we're up to quite a bit!

The Cellar Dwellers are happy to announce that we have a new sketch comedy show in the works! It's called A Legend, Indeed and has been in the works for almost a year now. The show features 100% brand new, never-before-seen sketch comedy mixed with our style of theater improv. A Legend, Indeed features just four members of the troupe (you'll have to see it to find out who) in a full-length, two-hour comedy review.

Currently, we have two performances of the show booked, and we hope to be announcing even more soon. But mark your calendars, and tell your friends, about the following dates:

Saturday, November 3rd @ ModernFormations
Penn Ave. Pittsburgh
8:00PM $10/$8 students

Saturday, November 17th @ the Blue Violet
Brighton Ave. Rochester
8:00PM $7/$5 students

For more information about the show, feel free to check our website during the coming weeks.

The Dwellers are also getting in to the spirit of Halloween with a special FN'Improv Workshop on Friday, Oct. 26th. Everyone is asked to come to the show in costume, and we'll be handing out special prizes for the best dressed. Plus, two of Pittsburgh's funniest cover bands will be playing at the show: Bait n' Switch and Uke Skywalker and Tuba Fett! And afterwards, at midnight, we will be screening a monster movie with our swanky projector. The spooky fun starts a little before 10, and lasts until... question mark.

Friday, October 26th @ the Beaver Valley Bowl
New York Ave. Rochester
10:00PM $2

Finally, three of the Dwellers are involved in a brand new, live radio performance. Dodge Intrepid and the Pages of Time: Duel with Death features James, Little Mike, and Mike the Tall performing a live, old-fashioned radio show at Cafe Kolache in Beaver. The trio has been performing this hilariously pulpy adventure for two years now, and continues to podcast episodes on the internet. This latest show features a brand new, Halloween-themed adventure set in Beaver County's foggy past!

Saturday, October 20th @ Cafe Kolache
Third St. Beaver
7:00PM Free admission

Wow... a lot is going on. And hopefully, you'll be able to make some, if not all, of the awesome events the Cellar Dwellers are planning in the near future! The troupe thanks you, as always, for your support of the Arts in the area.

For more information about the Cellar Dwellers, as well as information about booking us for your upcoming event, check out our website:

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The CEO of Roy Rogers Addresses His Shareholders

Thank you for the the warm reception.

As I am sure you are all well aware, the Roy Rogers Corporate family is coming off a banner financial year. We are riding high upon an unprecedented wave of success. Every single Roy Rogers location posted record profits for the first time in company history. With the help of every manager, cashier, and deep fryer operator, we have made Roy Rogers a force to be reckoned with. I am extremely proud to announce to you, as of today, Roy Rogers is the third most powerful restaurant chain on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Thank you.

I am not usually prone to self congratulation - to tooting upon my own horn if you will - but I feel I have earned this moment to bask in the glow of this success. I honestly believe we would not be here today, enjoying this almost passable fried chicken, if I had not taken drastic measures in turning this company around. Many of you were worried when I took over. Many more were trepidatious when I implemented my three pronged plan for success. These three prongs - Limit locations, lower expectations, and higher prices - has proved a boon to this company.

You all thought I was crazy when I closed every Roy Rogers location with the exception of those along the turnpike. But I knew something which none of you knew: Our chicken sucks. We can never survive in the free market. A consumer faced with limitless food options will never choose Roy Rogers of his own volition. However, if a consumer is faced with only the choice between our chicken or a hot dog on a roller or a piece of pizza under a heat lamp, or an overpriced can of Pringles, the likely hood of that consumer choosing Roy Rogers increases to 23 percent. And that's acceptable. Because once you're on the Turnpike, you stay on the Turnpike.

Picture a father driving a family of five across state to Grandmother's house. The kids are screaming with hunger. The wife is nagging him about finding a restaurant. He sees a rest stop on the horizon. Relief spreads through his soul. Then as he approaches, his heart sinks when he realizes it's a Roy Rogers stop. He considers going on, although it may be another hour before he passes another stop. He doesn't want to get off the highway to eat. What does that man do? He bites the bullet and buys our chicken. This, ladies and gentlemen, is our ideal customer: hungry, irritated, and willing to eat almost anything. And do you know what? Under these conditions, our chicken tastes almost good. Almost. He is even willing to pay 25 percent more for it on the Turnpike than we can charge on the open market. This is the secret to our success.

But we cannot rest on our laurels. I feel it is time to expand our operation. I have been looking into a variety of locations which meet our criteria for limited clientele, and unsavory choices. I have contacted a number of prisons throughout this great land. I have also explored the possibility of our first international franchise at Guantanamo Bay. We can build next to almost every Hardies in America. The future is looking up for Roy Rogers.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you for your help and support in the past. I look forward to your increased support as we move into this brave new world of expansion. With your hard work I honestly believe we can become the second most powerful restaurant on the Turnpike. Sbarro, you are in our cross hairs.

Thank you.


Monday, September 03, 2007

The Battle for 5th Avenue

College is back in session at the quaint Christian college in my neighborhood. The air is alive with youthful voices overflowing from dorms adjacent to my street announcing summer's waning end. Exuberance echos through the alleys in the form of long-legged joggers, roaming collegiate raconteurs, and caffeine addled sophomores. As I watch these callow youth cavort beneath my second story window I am overcome with the knowledge of the last wisps of my own slowly passing youth, the coming of another Autumn and then winter, and - more than anything else - I know that for the next 8 months parking is going to be bitch.

All summer long I have been spoiled with the the ability to park more or less wherever I want on my street. Most of the time the area directly in front of my building was available. At the very worse, I would be forced to walk a whole 15 extra feet. I hardly even had to employ my - very meager - parallel parking expertise. I could coast nose-in with absolute ease. I could even place my car to receive the maximum summer shade available. There are no parking worries in the summer sun of Beaver Falls. It was a veritable street parking Xanadu, the Garden of Automobile Eden.

But then comes the Fall. A mongrel horde of hand-me down Cavaliers and ancient rusting collegiate junkers, sweep out from their native lots and infest the surrounding avenues. The barbarians are at my curb. Now, parking as become as precious as oil in the 'Road Warrior'. Every household is a rival gang desperate to protect it's turf from both its neighbor and the marauding foreign invaders with plates from such far flung godless lands as Ohio and Michigan. Out of the chaos a class system emerges, a loose caste system. At the top are the Owners: those people on my street who own their homes. They look down from their ivory tower of mortgage payments with utter distaste for having to share the road with those beneath. On the second tier resides the Renters: those who do not own their homes, but are still paying to live here. This is my social parking class. On the bottom is the Student: hated and spit upon - particularly by the owners. They have a right to park, but not here on 'Our' street. They should have their own parking - separate but equal - somewhere else.

As a Renter I feel my loyalties split between the Owners and the Students. On one hand I do not want to take sides against the Students. I don't want to be one of the old fogies standing in the way of the kids' good times (parking). The last slivers of my youth demand that I take up arms with my college brethren. After all it was not so long ago that I too was a college student. I know the stresses they go through: Reading books, sitting through classes, playing X-Box, drinking beer, skipping your eleven o'clock to watch the "The Price is Right". It's hard enough being a college student without having to walk all the way across campus to your car when you go somewhere once every other week. I don't want the college kids to think I'm not cool. As a matter of fact, I am desperate for the college kids to think I'm cool. But I also don't feel like walking two blocks to my apartment when I get home from the bar at 2 AM. So, screw them.

Then again, I can't align myself with the owners either. At least the students - to the best of my knowledge - don't obsess over parking the way the owners do. The student simply parks wherever he can and goes about his life. The Owners on the other hand live and breath parking. They peer out their windows cursing the filling streets under their breaths. They fashion war rooms in attics and basements, strategizing around raised maps of 5th Avenue, pushing scale model cars with long sticks to demonstrate their next fiendish counter-offensive. They draft endless petitions for permit parking to accost their renting neighbors with when they are running to their cars late for work. There is one neighbor I only see when she demands I sign a new petition. In short, Owners are jerks.

The cardinal offense of the Owner - the one action for which I shall never forgive them - is erection of saw horses: the insidious velvet rope of the parking game. They mark their perceived parking territory with saw horses - lower ranking owners use lawn furniture - to hold their place while they are away. I hate the saw horses. I hate their faux official nature. I hate the nerve of people who put them up. It's cheating. Like it or not, if you live on a street with shared public parking, you have to play the parking game. You can't get around it with a few well placed folding chairs. One of the more pompous owners on my street even keeps his saw horses up on either side of his van after he is parked. He basically demands that his car - early 21st century minivan - is worth two or three total spaces. Well, I don't stand for it. I know the dirty secret of the saw horse: like their evil velvet rope cousin, they are ultimately powerless. Saw horses are not legally binding. They are also relatively light. Last night, I moved a saw horse and parked right on a particular vans bumper. I slept the sleep of the just.

Not being one to strategize or openly antagonize - prefer the covert under the cover of darkness - I have little recourse in this parking war but to simply stay low and make it through. It cannot last forever. Winter break is on the horizon.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Ways "Over the Top" Disappoints

I was looking forward to Sylvester Stallone's "Over the Top" for a long time. The prospect of a movie all about arm wrestling, glorified to the heights of the World Wrestling Federation, was something I simply couldn't pass up. My friends and I had these day dreams of watching that movie paired with other Stallone classics like "Cobra" or "Locked Up." It would be a double feature to rival that time I watched "Escape from New York" and "Big Trouble in Little China"...

Thankfully, I never got the chance to combine it with anything. "Over the Top" was an extreme disappointment. When I told this to my mother, she asked, "What kind of expectations could you have possibly had for that movie?"

Perhaps I built the movie up too much beforehand--I do have a tendency to get really excited about certain types of movies. But I certainly wasn't expecting this movie to focus so much on the Stallone's relationship with his abandoned, precocious, military school son. The movie is 90-some minutes long, and Stallone spends maybe 15-20 of those minutes actually locking hands and pinning wrists. That was the first, and of course, my largest problem with the movie. If you are going to have a film that's supposedly all about going "over the top," then do it! Go over the top! The only thing over the top was Stallone's ability to become a good father in 48 hours.

Then there is the issue of Terry Funk's appearance in the movie. For those of you who don't know, Funk is an old-school professional wrestler who's been in the business for some time. He made his reputation by going to Japan, shoving staples into his opponents' heads, and then coming back and fighting Mick Foley. He is absolutely an extreme individual, and usually when he's in movies (like "Road House") he kicks ass. But not in "Over the Top." Here, he is a merely a goon that never actually does any gooning. It's like the classic move of setting a gun on the mantle at the beginning of a play and never using it. Why was he in this movie if he wasn't going to arm wrestle?

Why was anyone in this movie if they weren't going to arm wrestle? I mean, at least the little kid arm wrestled, therefore legitimizing his role in the film. Why didn't the kid's grandpa (the bad guy in the movie) arm wrestle Stallone? The least he could have done was rig the match somehow.

But really, who am I trying to kid? The movie is rated PG, so I really shouldn't have been hoping for all this. People weren't going to have their arms ripped off in the middle of a bout. And while it was cool that the last match involved that weird arm-wrestling-strap, I think that if they would have included it more, the movie would have received a PG-13 or R rating (too many leather straps=too risky for young viewers, no matter how they're used).

I write this as a warning to all you young Stallone enthusiasts out there. Avoid the temptation of getting psyched about this movie. Trust me, I know it's easy to... the movie essentially promises to blow you away with "over the top" arm-wrestling action. It can't even compare to Stallone's more impressive work ("Cobra," "First Blood," "Judge Dredd"). If you're looking for some sweet arm wrestling, just scan ESPN 2 on the weekends.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

They Live for Sunglasses

John Carpenter's movie They Live is about a wandering construction worker, played by "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, who discovers that America is actually be manipulated by evil alien business men disguised as corporate elitists. The only way for him to figure this out is by wearing a pair of sunglasses. The whole thing's a big black-comedy satire whining about people making money in the 1980's. It's low-budget, but it's also a lot of fun. What was amazing, though, was everyone's refusal to simply put on a damn pair of sunglasses.

Initially, Piper stumbles upon this underground movement of people trying to unmask the aliens while living in a shantytown outside of Los Angeles. There's this weird blind preacher fellow who, of course, is the only one that initially sees the truth. Those blind prophets sure do come in handy, don't they? The preacher, alongside a guy who sort of looks like a thinner Meatloaf, are broadcasting their subversive message out of a nearby church. When Piper wanders in to the church, he's immediately ambushed by the preacher, who tries to get him to put on a pair of sunglasses. Since the preacher is blind, it's easy for Piper to escape the torture of wearing some stylish shades.

Later on the in the movie, once Piper actually tries them on and sees that all of the rich people are actually gross mutants, and that all of the advertisements in the city say things like "CONSUME" and "OBEY," he goes on a quest to get other people to put on the glasses. The only problem is that he makes a big show of it, and the aliens (along with the police force they run) try to break his glasses. He escapes, and meets a woman who brings him back to her apartment. Instead of making any small talk or watching some TV, he tries to get her to put on the pair of glasses... she throws him out a window.

Now, that scene is a little shocking--mainly because it happens so suddenly--but I have to wonder if maybe that woman was overreacting just a little. Couldn't she have something like "No thanks," or "Sorry, I have to go wash my hair"? Nope, the first thing that came to her mind was "This bastard is going out the window!"

But okay, maybe just that one person overreacted a tad... the next guy Piper talks to would gladly try on a pair of cool sunglasses, right? Fat chance!

Piper approaches his co-worker/homeless friend Frank with the proposition of trying on the glasses in a deserted alley. Frank kindly declines, which causes Piper to haul off and clock him! Then, the two muscly construction workers duke it out in the alley for over five minutes. At least throwing Piper out a window was quick. Here, Frank and Piper slowly punch, tackle, kick each other for five whole minutes-- and I don't remember there being any weird Mortal Kombat music playing while they happened either. After about a minute of this fight, you realize that these guys are adamant about stances on wearing sunglasses. Sure the whole thing is a conceit for people's need for ignorance... but who cares, these guys are fighting! And every time you think "Okay, Frank's had enough, he's gonna put on the glasses now," he doesn't. They just keep fighting. Sometimes they pick up a plank, or a broken bottle, and try to use that; occasionally, Piper tries to use one of his wrestling moves on Frank. It's grueling.

Finally, after five minutes and twenty seconds, the fight is over and Frank finally puts on the glasses. Of course, when he does, he realizes that he should have put them on after the first punch. After all that, Frank actually loves the glasses! He and Piper even wear them at night (because they're bad asses).

In the end, that movie didn't make me feel any different about corporate America or wealth... but it did make me realize that when someone offers me a pair of sunglasses to try, I should just do it, lest I want to spend the afternoon brawling.