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The Curious Case of Benjamin Crappy Movie

I don’t know what’s more surprising: that I’m blogging a blog, or that it’s not about improv or something geeky.

I will start with a metaphor.

Imagine you run a sideshow attraction on the side of a busy highway.  A tourist trap, if you will.  Something along the lines of Wall Drug or any attraction that starts out “The World’s Largest” or “The World’s Only.”  In fact, I’d like you to pick your own personal roadside attraction right now.

For example, I’m imagining that I run a small attraction called “The World’s Largest Flapjack Clock” located somewhere in the city of Chamberlain, South Dakota off the I-90.

You’ve set up shop, bought some billboards.  People come from all around, desperate to see the Flapjack Clock (or whatever).  But you can’t just have a single room with one silly thing in it.  That won’t do.  So you build up an entire ecosystem around it.  You put in a concession stand.  You sell miniature Flapjack Clocks (or whatever).  You have visitors funnel through some boring museum, showing them smaller clocks and less exciting flapjacks.  They walk through it knowing at the end, there’s a payoff.  That’s the deal you’ve struck — walk through my crappy museum (and pay me 5 bucks), and at the end you get to see it.  The World’s Largest Flapjack Clock (or whatever).

This is the heart of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”  If a movie is about a man born old who gets younger, you know what everyone’s waiting to see — what’s going to happen when he dies?

This would be great, except that the writer, producer, and sundry other people involved with the creation of this monstrosity forgot they were running a freak show and made the flick last near 3 hours.  So as a viewer, you’re left sitting through a rubbish film, holding on for that one exciting thing at the end of the tunnel.  Except when you get there, the clock’s not that big and it only marginally looks like a flapjack.  I mean, I guess it does, but only if you tilt your head a bit and then it starts to hurt your neck, so you stop, and now it just looks sort of like a moose but without any horns.  Sort of.  There’s just no substance.

What a terrible film.  I do not recommend it.

Verified by Visa is training people to get phished

NERD TIME, so feel free to ignore this.

I just placed an order for a brand new netbook to replace my current desktop (I’ll probably just use this netbook as a desktop machine, but I digress).

After a long and arduous decision process I hit submit on the shopping cart and ordered the thing. Or, rather, I had thought I ordered it. Between me and my laptop was the least legit looking XHTML floating window I had ever seen:

Verified by Visa “opt-in”

This was a little floating window coming from the merchant site. It SAID it was from “” and it SAID it was secure.  Of course, I had no way to verify that because (1) it was just a floating HTML window created by JavaScript and (2) the actual page I was on was located on the merchant’s website.

There is NO way to verify that this is being issued from my bank.  Absolutely NONE.

I did manage to figure out – by opening firebug – that the JavaScript code was indeed coming from  Though that didn’t help at all: who the heck is SecureSuite?  I’d never heard of it, and the “Suite” instead of “Site” made me think instantly of a phising site.

Add on top of this: I didn’t think my card had “Verified by Visa” nor had I ever been prompted to use it.

So it says — not in this part of the screenshot, but above it — that enrollment is optional.  Indeed it is, unless you want to use the card to purchase something.  THEN it’s required.

I canceled the purchase, fairly sure it was a legit request, but not entirely convinced and also a little annoyed on principle.  This dialog is essentially forcing people, in order to use their card, to enter their SSN on a questionable website over a questionably secure connection.  All requested by a site that you’ve never heard of.  Just because they used your bank’s logo.

Brilliant, Chase.  Brilliant, Visa.  Way to train your users, you dumb idiots of stupidity.

Improv is not a disease in actuality

This past Wednesday I participated in “Cure Improv,” a charity improv show.  You can watch the show head-to-toe here on YouTube.  Also, below are the 4 scenes that stared yours truly.

Cure Improv – Death By Story.

Cure Improv – Typewriter.

Cure Improv – Soap Opera.

Cure Improv – Just a Minute!.

Also apparently you can embed a whole play list, so here, click Play and watch the whole show!

(I was also a participant in Serious Scene and Line Games, if you want to check them out).

A Good Jar is Hard to Find

My improv class has a mailing list, and when someone asked if they could use our laptops, we of course segued perfectly into telling a noir story about the heiress to a mason jar fortune.  It ended up about 2,000 words long.  Forgive the small discontinuites, at one point my email came after someone else had already updated the story so…  well, deal with it.


My name is Mason.  Ann Mason.  Heir to the Mason Jar fortune.  A lot of
people think, hey doll, that’s a sweet gig.  Get born and inheret a cool
million bucks.

But they’re wrong.  Dead wrong.  Behind the prestine, glass-clear facade
of the jar industry is a seedy underbelly of criminal conspiracy and
international intrigue.  You step out of line — just one step — and
BAM you’re in trouble.

And this trouble ain’t like messing up your recycling.

Tomorrow’s my 18th birthday.  The big day — the big pay day that is.
The day I get my inheritance.  A lot of people my age go out and worry,
who’m I going to invite to my birthday party.  Where we going to find
someone to buy us booze?  I sure wish hooch was the most of my worries.

I just hope I’m not dead by sun-up.

<The dim spotlight turns up to reveal Ann in high school cafeteria wearing a
low cut, red dress.  The back of one hand is pressed to her forehead and an
empty Best Foods jar dangles from the fingertips of her other>

<A tall man in a dirty trench coat and fedora enters stage left>

He slowly takes off his hat and says “Old Man Mason doesn’t need to know.  Just shatter the jar now.  They all
cut the same when they’re shattered.” He say through a bouncing cigarette,
the only thing you can see in the shadow of the fedora.

Over walks the fat, squalid lunch lady.  Big Bertha, we call her.  Looks
like a frog I caught five years back out by our private lake.  Big
Bertha is no looker, that’s for sure.  She’s the type of gal that goes
out on a date and takes home her leftovers.  It’s the only way
anything’s going home with her.

“You can’t smoke in here, this is a school cafeteria!  Where’s your
visitor’s pass?”

Her voice cuts through me like mold through a jar of improperly canned
peaches.  I eye up the stranger.  What’s his angle?  People in fedoras
or even those just holding them since they have taken them off…  they
don’t oft come to the aid of an inheretress.

Besides, how does he even know the trouble I’m in?  Not every Tom, Dick,
and Harry have access to the… details of my family.

How could they know that my older brother Lawrence was retarded and we
shipped him off to the war to die.

This was surely a man whose intent was clear, clear like the bane of my
existence. I walked over to the man.

“Whaddayawant toots?” The lughead bellowed.

Maybe He didn’t know about Slow Lawrence. I slapped him… then I kissed
him… Then i slapped him again for good measure. I could use some muscle
if I was to survive the day.

The stranger  takes the slaps as if they were mosquito bites. This isn’t the
first slap-kiss-slap he’s gotten from a broad, and it won’t be the last.  He
looks up and winks at Bertha.  He takes a final drag off of the cigarette
and puts it out in a fresh pan of coleslaw on the counter to his right.  He
takes a step back from  Ann and says “My name’s Thomas Richard Harold ma’am.
I’m here to show you how to use that jar to make more than just coleslaw.  Now
break it like I’s told ya.”

He turns back to Bertha and says “Be a sweetheart and bring me a bread bowl
and a hair net.  We don’t have time to waste.”

He nods to me. ” The war’s over and Lawrence is comin’ back. You need to be
ready little lady. ”

So he knew.  Larry wasn’t slow.  Pops shipped him out when he found Larry
with Best Foods jars.  “Best Fools” pops called ’em.  I never seen him so
mad, that’s why I never admitted I was messing with the Fools too.

“Larry’s back then, what do you care?” I slap-kiss-slap him again. I want an
honest answer.

“What do I care?  Why do I care?  That ain’t important.  I’m your only

“Promise me one thing, Fedora.”


“Promise me you’re going to follow this thing through to the end.”

That’s when I broke the jar; I dropped it on the ground, but I went
along with it.  Fainted cold.

I whispered one last thing, “promise,” before hitting the dirt.

Never did catch fedora’s answer.

The next think I remember I woke up in the hospital. It was baren except for
a single rose from Tom Dick Harry.

I looked around frantically. A guard was posted outside. Typical. Father
didn’t want anyone to get in. Or at least that is what He wanted to put out
to the public. I knew the truth. He didn’t want me to get out.

If I was couped up His job would be easier. I took a look around the room at
what I could use to get out. The only thing besides my bed was a lamp, a
bedside table and the rose. The window had bars.

The Night Nurse came in she was a frumpy woman who fit the name Olga like
bed sheets on a hospital bed. She pused a cart in with my food. Some kind of
hot slop they call chicken soup, but I never saw such clear soup in my life.
I acted quick. The soup flew through the air like the chicken was alive
again. It landed on the hag’s brow with a sick scaulding sound and she
released a sound like a hound dog getting caught in bear trap.

I took her flailing body and threw it at the body guard as he entered. I
made a break for it. Down the stairs. Out the front door. And there was Tom
in his Ford in the rain… I jumped in the passanger seat and we made tracks
in the cold cold night.

I looked to the driver’s seat.  Fedora sat there grinning like a cat who
just got dropped into a fish tank.  A cat that doesn’t know he’s about
to drown.

“I don’t trust you,” I said to him.

“I don’t care.”

His eyes sparkled at me and I shivered.  Was this my only way to stay
alive?  “Can you keep me alive for the next 13 hours?”

He popped the clutch and we hit 30 miles per hour before he even
bothered shifting into second.

I needed to stay alive.  I needed to just make it until tomorrow.  And
to make sure I was going to, I needed to figure out this chump’s angle.

He certainly wasn’t just in it for the fish.

I noticed the tattoo on his wrist.  That sort of tag can only mean one of
two things: prison, or military, and the way he carried himself didn’t
really say life of crime, catch me?

He covered it up.  He doesn’t want me to know he’s seen action, and he knows
I already do.  Wherever he’s taking me ain’t gonna be blueberry jam, or if
it does, it won’t be in no Mason jar.

“Nice ink”


Still can’t read him.  Guess I’ll see where this goes.

“So how are you gonna keep me alive?  Away from my father? Away from Larry?”
She was scared.  I could smell it.  Good.  Scared was better than dead.

“Oh, I’ll keep you alive, doll.  I need you legal and breathing to save my
own neck.”

“You don’t look like a man that needs saving,” she sassed.

I resisted an urge to pop her one and kept my eye on the road and off that
short hospital gown.  She was just a kid.  What did she know?  Her whole
life was nothing but nannies and mayonnaise.

“You called me Fedora.  No one’s called me that in a long time.  Not
since……”  I winced at the memory.

“Not since what?”

“Neveryoumind!  Where’d you hear it?”

“My mother used to mutter it when she passed out drunk.  I heard it every
day of my life.  She’d  sleep fitfully and swear and yell sometimes.  With
that hat of yours, the name suited you.”

I took a hard left into the alley behind my apartment.  The rain was still
comin’ down hard.

I needed to think.

He took a look up to his apartment. More thugs were posted out on the fire
escape and Fedora was smarter than that. He didn’t want to risk it but he
needed to get into his apartment. There was sensitive information there that
would help us out. How could he get in without risking my neck?

Just then he whispered…


It was a five minute drive to the malt shop downtown.  There was a lot
of traffic.  We made it in two.

We drove in silence.  I don’t know what big brute Fedora was thinking,
but my mind was racing.  Acid soup?  Sounds like something an amateur
would do.  And they’d need a pretty solid container to move that acid
around in.  A solid jar.

A mason jar.

The arrows all pointed back to my own family.  Why?  Is it really that
simple?  Was big poppa not ready to give up the cash?

Why kill me — why not just take out a new will, draw up a new trust?
I’m no fancy city lawyer, but it seems like this was an extreme way to
handle the situation.  My pop’s a level headed character.  If it was
him, he had to have a damn good reason for it.  And there’s going to
have been 3 backup plans in case the acid didn’t work.

Fedora stopped the car right in front of the shop, a no stopping zone.
But when you’re as big as this brute, I guess signs just don’t
intimidate ya anymore.

A tall, thin and neat man stood behind the counter.  He eyed us — an
older man coming in with a 17 year old, short of breath and wearing a
rather unusual outfit complements of the hospital — yeah, he eyeballed
us good.

Fedora spoke first, even before the shopkeep welcomed us.  “I’ll have a
golden malted.”

It sounded like a passcode, but the other man didn’t move.

“She’ll just have a water.”

He nodded slightly, I wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t been staring
at him so intent, and if he had moved at all until then.  Whatever he
was nodding about he didn’t seem too keen on.

He suddenly – at least for this guy suddenly, he seemed about as
calculated as a crocodile – walked off to the back, grabbed one of the
candy shelves and pulled it forward.

Without a word, Fedora grabbed me again and walked me into the door
hidden behind.

The back of the malt shop was dimly lit, but what I could see didn’t
look too pretty.  Exposed pipes and uneven stucco, and anything that
could rust was covered in it.  It’s amazing how much dirt can fit into a
room the size of two closets.

Fedora threw me against the wall.  Not a gentle man.  That’s good for
me, though.

“So we’re going to hide out back here?  Spend 13 hours crammed inside a
closet in the back of a malt shop?  Doesn’t seem like much of a plan.
Maybe you’re not much of a man, either.”  Yeah, I got a lip, and I use
it.  I needed help, not a way to smell like chocolate while killers hunt
me down.  If they can find me at a hospital so quickly, they could track
me here.  Especially with Fedora’s car still parked outside.  He even
left the flashers on.  Maybe this guy wasn’t my ticket to staying alive.

“You are,” he said gruffly, “I’m gonna go do some cleaning.  You saw
those wiseguys up on my balcony.”

What was he going to do, take down the whole lot of them?  I wasn’t even
sure this guy was carrying a hand cannon.

He jumped up and hung by his hands off one of the rustier looking pipes.

“Doin’ push-ups ain’t going to impress me soldier, I’ve seen a lot

As I spoke the pipe slid down revealing a slim ladder.  Unlike the pipes
it looked new, not a spot of rust on it.

He started to climb it.  I grabbed his leg as he started up.  “I’m
coming with.”

He chuckled, and shook off my hand, and kept climbing.