Inhuman Swill : Videos

The Electoral College convenes today in state capitols across the country to stamp its imprimatur on our recent, horrifying election.

This antiquated, anti-democratic convocation was much on my mind two weeks ago when I returned to Chicago to appear at the 100th episode of Tuesday Funk, the long-running reading series I used to co-host. For that occasion, my brilliant wife Laura suggested I read from my first published short story.

I started work on "From Our Point of View We Had Moved to the Left" more than 25 years ago, in 1990, when my vision of the 2009 presidential inauguration seemed to me like nothing more than a whimsical fantasy. After much revision, the story appeared in the February 1993 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction,—my fiction debut. Unfortunately, it has now proved, at least in part, to be the most prescient of my stories. I wish it weren't, but there it is.

The crowd at Tuesday Funk seemed to agree, as you can plainly hear at the 3:27 mark in the video below.

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Though it is widely known among our circle of friends that Laura and I were married on television, few are they who have actually seen the episode of the obscure series in question.

Yes, we appeared in an episode of the Travel Channel series Two for Las Vegas which aired early in 2002. Yes, the episode ran several times that year. No, you can't see it now because Laura has always vetoed my requests for permission to post the episode to YouTube.

Except that today, on the occasion of our fifteenth wedding anniversary, egged on by numerous voices on Facebook, Laura relented. So now you can watch this lost classic of the small screen. You'll laugh, you'll cry, it'll become a part of you.

But hurry because she might change her mind any moment now.

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Michael Ian Black: NOTED EXPERT on Epix
It was a magical moment. That's how Barry put it, and who am I to disagree?

Barry Goldblatt is my friend and literary agent. He also happens to be literary agent to actor/​comedian/​author Michael Ian Black, with whom you may be familiar. This past November, Barry took a small group of us—me, Laura, and Colleen AF Venable—to see the taping of Michael's new standup comedy special at John Jay College in Manhattan.

Now, this happened to be the very next day after my book release party for The Accidental Terrorist, so 1) I was still on a pretty big high, and 2) the comedy outing felt almost like a continuation of the party from the night before.

As the line of showgoers entered the auditorium, a woman we called the Sorting Hat directed each little group to the exact row where she wanted them to sit. "Are you big fans of Michael Ian Black?" she would ask, before sending the young and attractive college students to the front of the house and the rest of us to the anonymous back middle. She needed the audience to look good and enthusiastic on TV.

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Watching Tyler Glenn's video for his new solo single, "Trash," the anger is palpable and inescapable. But it also brims with pain and grief.

"Trash" exploded across the online Mormon world last week, causing the faithful to recoil and apostates to jump up and down in a fever. Glenn is the lead singer of Provo's Neon Trees. A lifelong member of the LDS Church, he made headlines two years ago by coming out as gay in the pages of Rolling Stone. He still believed, though—until six months ago, that is, when the church issued draconian new guidelines for the ecclesiastical treatment of children of same-sex couples.

Now comes "Trash," a video in which Tyler Glenn drinks liquor from the bottle, spits on a defaced portrait of Joseph Smith, enacts all four of the secret handshakes from the temple endowment ceremony, draws a red X on his face, and ultimately crumples amidst a blizzard of printed pages possibly meant to represent Mormon scripture.

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Twelve years of Ella

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Ella the Wonder Dog, April 2004, 6 months old
It was twelve years ago today that I posted my first-ever blog entry about Ella. I hadn't met her yet. I was traveling on the West Coast. Laura was visiting her parents outside of Chicago. The neighbors asked if she would adopt their puppy. She said yes. History was made.

Laura flew Ella home to New York, and I didn't meet her until I arrived home a couple of days later. It was love at first sight, of course. This is the first photograph of Ella I ever took:

We've had plenty of ups and downs over the years—health issues, food allergies, several moves, dog attacks, bouts of fearfulness, surgeries, and, worst of all, burs—but through it all, Ella has remained a sweet, lovable, adventurous, bouncy, curious, intelligent, regal, goofy, strong-willed but good-hearted dog.

She's slowed down a little, but she's still in good health, and she'll still give a squirrel a run for its money. Here she is now, at age 12, in a photo taken by her dogwalker:

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Trump vs. Bernie (Anthony Atamanuik and James Adomian)
But Bengt Washburn is not my only comic friend you should be paying attention to.

Anthony Atamanuik (perhaps best "known" as a Silent Writer on "30 Rock") is the other hardest-working man in comedy. He's been touring the country lately in the persona of Donald Trump, debating James Adomian's Bernie Sanders in the sharpest, funniest piece of political comedy I've seen in a long time.

You should see them live if you can—there are still a few dates remaining on the tour—but the great news for Anthony and James and all of us is that, according to The Wrap, Fusion is launching a "new cross-platform video series that will see the Republican billionaire and the Democratic socialist senator argue over the issues driving the 2016 presidential election."

Fusion's "Trump vs. Bernie" partnership kicked off last night with a hilarious Facebook livestream of Trump and Sanders kicking it together in a hotel room as the Super Tuesday returns rolled in.

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Caffeinated Confessions of Mormon Comics: Thursday, March 24, Wiseguys, Salt Lake City

Comedy-lovers in Utah, you owe it to yourselves to get to the Wiseguys Comedy Club at the Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 24.

The remarkable Bengt Washburn is bringing his posse, the Beehive State Boat-Rockers, for an evening called "The Caffeinated Confessions of Mormon Comics."

If you have an irreverent bone in your body, you'll love this show, which features Christian Pieper, Abigail Harrison, and Spence Roper alongside Bengt himself, telling hilarious stories you'll never hear over the pulpit at testimony meeting.

I first met Bengt in the early '90s, when he was just starting out. He's one of the funniest, hardest-working people I know, so I hope you'll turn out to the show, or see one of his solo sets on March 25 and 26. You'll be glad you did.

[ Bengt on Conan O'Brien ] [ Bengt talks circumcision ]

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The Accidental Terrorist by William Shunn
Just a quick reminder that I will be reading tonight with Nancy Hightower at Bluestockings on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The event is free! I hope to see you there. Click below for more info:

REBEL PILGRIMAGES
A Reading with William Shunn & Nancy Hightower

Bluestockings Bookstore, Activist Center & Café
172 Allen Street
New York, NY 10002

Friday, January 29, 2016
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

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David Bowie
This morning we wake up to a world without David Bowie.

It seems impossible that he's gone. If anyone on Earth seemed otherworldly enough to transform himself into something eternal and transcendent, it was Bowie. But even he tried to remind us in 1997 that he was not really an alien but an Earthling.

His death hit me harder this morning than I would have expected (as is no doubt true for all of us). I haven't felt this devastated at a musician's death, in fact, since 1990, when Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash. (And is it coincidence that Bowie had helped raised Vaughan's profile, as he did with so many other musicians?)

I came to Bowie "late," as I didn't really start paying attention to his music until 1983, when I was 16. Let's Dance ruled the charts, but it was generally held that his important work was all behind him and he was now selling out. None of that mattered to me, though. I knew some of his earlier music because he was one of the few '70s artists who was played on my favorite Utah new wave station. But Let's Dance was a perfect album for my generation—consummate pop you could move to on the dancefloor while still feeling smart. And Bowie himself seemed the epitome of suavity and cool.

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Ella un-a-cyst-ed

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Ella in her Surgi Snuggli after cyst surgery
I've been so focused on my book for the past year or more that I can't even remember the last time I posted an Ella update here to the blog. I find that unconscionable, so I'm here to remedy that.

First off, Ella is doing just fine, despite the fact that she had surgery last month, the second time this year. Like many wheaten terriers, Ella is prone to developing big sebaceous cysts, which for the most part we have left alone. They're mostly only a problem if they start to grow. In that case they can cause intense discomfort, or they can even burst and get infected.

Normally we've handled Ella's cysts by having them drained with a needle when they get too big, but in February we finally had to send her under the knife for the first time to have four of them removed. One had burst, another was getting bigger, and we figured we would just take as many off as possible as long as she was under anesthesia anyway.

This is considered minor surgery, but it's still nerve-wracking, especially because of the anesthesia. But Ella came through the first surgery fine, which made us a little less wary about doing it again last month.

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