Inhuman Swill : Friends

Bill and Laura with Anthony Atamanuik after 'Trump Dump: The Last Rally,' NYU Skirball Center, 3 November 2016
Contrary to what Morrissey would have you think, we love it when our friends become successful. It's especially sweet when that friend has been doing fantastic work in relative obscurity for a decade and a half. That's why I've long been so vocal on social media in support of Anthony Atamanuik.

Anthony is a brilliant comedian and improviser—fearsomely disciplined yet fearless in accessing the most twisted recesses of his id. Before I met him, I got to know his work through a series of bizarre short films he made, like this one:

As a performer and teacher at the Upright Citizens Brigade, Anthony was tapped to play one of the writers on 30 Rock. As essentially a glorified extra, he appeared on the show for years but did not get so much as one line until the series finale:

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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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My good friend Cesar Torres recently had me on Episode 29 of "The Labyrinth," his fine podcast about the strange and unusual.

We talked about my Mormon upbringing, how I tried to avoid writing a novel, what not to do when you're learning to write, and of course the strangest thing that ever happened to me. If could go back and do it over again, I'd tell myself to slow down and take a breath, but you can listen to my exhausting rush of words here:

Cesar and I are in a writing group called Error of Judgment together. He has also interviewed our fellow workshoppers Eden Robins and Holly McDowell, plus lots of other fascinating people. Check it out.

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"West Loop Cityscape"

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As owners ourselves of a couple of Kevin Swallow, we want to congratulate the owners of this beautiful new painting (which I've had the privilege of seeing up close):

And congratulations to Kevin for completing such an elaborate, detailed, and beautiful commission!

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RIP Mark Bourne (1961-2012)

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UPDATE: Mark's funeral service will be Thursday, March 1, in Seattle. (Details here.) A less formal celebration of his life will be held in a few weeks.
Growing older comes with a lot of unexpected benefits. One of those benefits, though, is most definitely not the way that more and more good friends seem to leave this life before their time.

I was stunned yesterday to learn that Mark Bourne passed away on Saturday. Given his history of serious heart problems, I probably shouldn't have been, but you're never really prepared to hear that someone as young as he was has gone.

Besides writing many very fine science fiction stories, Mark was a musical theater enthusiast, a film reviewer, and a writer of planetarium shows. If you ever went to planetarium star shows, you probably saw some of his productions without knowing it. (I did.)

It's funny. I considered Mark a good friend, even though we only met in person a few times. I think the first time I ran across his name must have been in 1994, when he and I turned out to have come in 9th and 10th place in the balloting for Campbell Award nominations. Our first actual interaction came during an unfortunate online flamewar a few years later. I sent him a note of apology some months later, which he very graciously accepted. This was entirely to my good fortune, as he had no good reason to do so. It didn't take long before we were fast friends.

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My Saturday at Capricon

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It's rare that I'm a) paying attention closely enough and b) on the ball enough to get myself out to one of the local science fiction conventions. Usually at the last minute people start asking me, "Hey, are you going to be at Whatevercon?" And I have to answer, "No, because I'm a dork," and kick myself for not having responded to the con's programming invitation months earlier.

That's why I have to boast about having actually made it out to Capricon 32 in Wheeling for half a day this past Saturday. Mind you, I still didn't get it together enough to get on any programming, but I did attend. I saw a couple of readings, I went to a couple of panels, and I saw Cory Doctorow's scary/hopeful/terrific keynote address "The Coming War on General Purpose Computation." Then, as these things tend to happen at cons, the rest of the items on my schedule went out the window as John Klima and Holly McDowell and I hung out in the bar with three proseccos and a plate of antipasti.

After a panel examining Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party, I shanghai'd Cory and Klima and (welcome) surprise guest John Scalzi back to Chicago for a Mexican food outing with Laura, for whose sake everyone was (of course) willing to make the trek. We shared grilled calamari, and Scalzi ordered a mango shake that arrived in a goblet roughly the size of his head. Family and dog pictures were passed around. Much merriment was made.

Oh, I also ran into Steven Silver at Capricon, who extracted a promise from me that I wouldn't fail to sign up for Worldcon programming. So I'm going to go do that now. I swear.

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Cook like an Egyptian

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Our friend Ali is on TV again. John Klima points me toward this clip from Jamie's American Road Trip, which just recently starting airing in the States. It features Jamie Oliver traveling from Manhattan to Queens to learn Egyptian cooking from Ali El Sayed of the celebrated Kabab Cafe:

(The actual arrival in Queens comes at about 3:28, and you can click here to jump straight there.)

I dragged a very willing Mr. Klima to Kabab Cafe back in 2008, when we both happened to be in New York, and a memorable night it was. If you find yourself in New York and want to get off the beaten path for a culinary adventure, the address is 25-12 Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens. Tell Ali that Bill from Chicago sent you.

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Our good friend Edie Nadelhaft (one of whose paintings hangs on our dining room wall) is participating tonight in Changing the World Through Art, an auction and gala to benefit the Time In Children's Arts Initiative.

New Yorkers, please consider showing up and supporting the gala! It takes place at Haunch of Venison, 550 W. 21st St., from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. (Buy tickets here.)

Edie says:

TimeIn is a unique outreach program that introduces children from some of the most underserved and impoverished neighborhoods in NYC to the arts through activities such as hands on classes, sketching at museums and galleries and listening to opera.

Please make this the first of your 2012 tax deductible donations and enjoy hors d'oeuvres, bespoke cocktails and a live auction of works including my own Cherry Biter No. 12 as well as works by Takashi Murakami, William Wegman, Nick Cave and many more!
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Swan song

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I can't believe it's been two years already.

My friend Scott Swanson passed away on January 11, 2010. He had battled a severe heart defect his entire life, and in fact his poor circulation made it so that he could never walk very fast in the time that I knew him. Complications from those heart problems eventually took his life. He was 36.

I first met Scott in 1998, when I joined the online department at the Children's Television Workshop in New York City. (Our group were the ones who built the Sesame Street website.) I was one of the programmers, while Scott was essentially our IT department. He scared me at first. His tolerance for stupidity was low, and his tongue was as scathing as his wit, and I admit I bore the brunt of both as I learned the ropes at CTW. But before long we discovered a large set of geeky mutual interests, and that in turn led to a genuine friendship.

Scott was pained and bitter in a lot of ways, especially when it came to matters of the figurative heart, an area in which he never got particularly good treatment. (By contrast, his medical treatment was probably the best anyone could have received.) But underneath the gruffness, it was not hard to to see that he was one of the most caring people around, who took more responsibility for the people around him than certainly his job required.

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