I just moved into a house in Columbia Heights. I only knew one of my three new housemates well going in, so I decided I would break the ice a little bit by playing a practical joke.

Enjoy the email exchange below.

From: Devin Markell
To: Will Benning, Joseph Price
Date: Sep 20, 2006 12:34 PM

Subject: Electricity

Hey guys,

Pepco’s coming a knockin’ — if you guys get a chance could you get a check out so I can pay the bill by Friday so they don’t break my knees? Thanks. Also, any updates on the plans for this weekend?

Devin Markell

From: Joseph Price
To: Devin Markell
Cc: Will Benning
Date: Sep 21, 2006 1:23 AM
Subject: Re: Electricity

Devin,

Let me know how much to make out the check for and I’ll leave it out for you in case I don’t see you.

This weekend should be great. Speaking of electricity, do any of you guys have extension cords? I have one and I think we’re going to need nother one if I’m going to set up the band in the basement. I also talked to the neighbors and let them know that it might get a little it loud. They seemed ok with it.

I think the turnout should be around 80 people or so. We just need to work out a schedule to see who’s going to be manning the door to take cover from people.

Thanks and Best,

Joe

From: Devin Markell
To: Joseph Price
Cc: Will Benning
Date: Sep 21, 2006 2:36 PM
Subject: Re: Electricity

Actually, I forgot to mention it this morning but I think we are going to wait for your contribution until next month since really this bill is for usage during the month of August. We’ll just do this one 3 ways, and start splitting utils up four ways starting with bills from September (when you actually lived in the house). Will can correct me if I’m wrong. But thanks for the forwardness.

By the time you read this post, I may have taken down the “party website” on troublebunch.com. At the time of the nextemail, the page included the poster below and a VIP registration form.

Fat Bottom Girls Poster

From: Joseph Price
To: Devin Markell
Cc: Will Benning
Date: Sep 21, 2006 7:28 PM
Subject: Re: Electricity

Will, Devin,

Actually, I might have to revise my earlier estimate of 80 guests. I had accidentally forgotten to enable more than 50 entries on the party website (http://troublebunch.com). I’m thinking it’s gonna be more ike 100 guests (I’m also including your friends inside of that guesstimate). I got a lot of good feedback when I handed out flyers last night at Wonderland.

We might have to move the foosball (spelling?) table outside. Also, I think it might be a little crowded in the house so I don’t think we can play beer pong.

By the way, Fat Bottom Girls might look a little scary in their promotional photo, but they’re really awesome and sweet.

Ok, I don’t know if I’m gonna be home tonight, but we can definitely chat more about the party tomorrow at some point. =)

Later,

Joe

From: Devin Markell
To: Joseph Price
Date: Sep 21, 2006 10:12 PM
Subject: Re: Electricity

Joe,

I’d like to talk more about this party when you get a chance. I guess I hadn’t really realized the magnitude you were talking about… i’m not really that in to hosting such a big thing, and I have a couple concerns I’d like to talk about. Obviously if you have already invited these people you can’t go back, but I am a little confused at the kind of party we’re talking about here… these are people you haven’t really met before?

If you really want to try to make money back to pay for keg(s)/a band, to be honest I don’t really know how much I can help out with cash up front, and I’m not too keen on the idea of manning the door to take cover. Are you paying this band? Again, we can talk more about this if you’re really in to it, but I don’t feel like we’ve really planned adequately for this. Besides the mention you made to me a week or so ago, today was the first I heard about it in detail.

My main concern is that having 80 people we don’t know in our house is kind of a risk as far as stuff getting taken/broken… I also don’t really see how the size of our place can really accommodate this.. please give me a call or email when you get a chance.

Thanks.

From: Joseph Price
To: Devin Markell
Date: Sep 22, 2006 10:07 AM
Subject: Re: Electricity

Devin,

It’s ironic that this email subject is “Electricity” because I’m detecting a lot of negative energy.

I also wish I had gotten this email before I left last night. I would have waited for us to talk before canvassing Asylum and Pharmacy Bar. Fat Bottom Girls is pretty notorious in those bars.

But I am a little surprised that you’re “not really that in to hosting such a big thing.” We discussed the scope and size of the party two weeks ago. We were cleaning up after the last Friday night party, talking about the best parties we had ever been to and I mentioned the underground concert series we used to have at my place in Brookland. You said that sounded really cool and maybe we could try something like that here. When I said that I used to date the drummer of FBGirls, you said we should definitely host them.

Of course, we were talking at 4:30 AM and it had been a long night of drinking. You’re right: we probably should have discussed the details again before the party. I also didn’t discuss them with Will at all so I should be apologizing to him in particular.

You’re also right in that now that the invitation is extended we can’t turn these people away at the door. So let’s try and address some of your concerns…

If you’re worried about people messing with or stealing our stuff, maybe we can get event insurance? Any idea how much that will cost? If it’s $100 or less I’ll definitely pay for it but if it’s more expensive, well, my margins are already pretty slim.

Here’s the breakdown:
Estimated Revenues:
130 guests paying a $10 cover charge: ~$1300

Estimated Costs:
Band (we got a special discount) – $500
Beer (4 kegs) – $230
Margarita Machine, Liquor Costs – $350
Cups, Food, Other Random Stuff – $80

I’m good for fronting all of these costs and if we make a profit I’m gonna split it threeways, no worries. If we don’t make a profit, oh well, can I just ask that you take the financial lead for the next party?

On that same note, I’m charging my friends full price but I’m definitely cool if you only want to charge your friends half-cover, $5.

If you don’t want to man the door, I can get some of my friends to volunteer. There’s just two problems with that: 1) I can’t really ask them to pay cover then so that’s a cut off the top and 2) I don’t know if I trust them to collect the cash since they didn’t have to pay up–we might have to watch the watchers.

I’m also really concerned about overpopulation inside of the house. Maybe there’s a way to host a side party in the parking lot to diffuse the crowding? Maybe we can make a bonfire? I invited this guy from Asylum last night who knows this guy, Patches, a cop turned bike messenger. If Patches shows up, let’s go with the fire because then he can talk off the cops if the other neighbors call.

Actually, I’m really liking this fire idea. Have you ever had a margarita with a smoked-salt rim? It’s amazing. Maybe we should just got go for it. I think I might advertise that on the flyer on the website, http://troublebunch.com.

Ok, I hope this makes you feel better about the party. If not, let me get your feedback. I’m confident, though, that when you hear Fat Bottom Girls play Bohemian Rhapsody, in the words of another singer, you’re gonna feel alright.

Best,

Joe

From: Devin Markell
To: Will Benning, Joseph Price
Date: Sep 22, 2006 10:15 AM
Subject: Fwd: Electricity

I’d like to include will in this conversation since we’re all involved in this. thanks.

From: Devin Markell
To: Will Benning, Joseph Price
Date: Sep 22, 2006 10:25 AM
Subject: Re: Electricity

I’m all for supporting this band, but to be honest there is some negative energy here, I’m really pretty concerned about having a rock concert in our baseement. If you think this is all going to work out, then I am willing to see how it goes, but it doesn’t sound very planned out. There’s really no convenient way to get the foosball table out the basement, for one, and I can’t believe the magnitude of this thing.

Again, my apologies for misleading you as to my enthusiasm for this. I remember you metnioning the band and vaguely doing something to suppoort them, but if I told you I wanted to have 150 people over and set up over a thousand dollars worth of booze and entertainment, I’m a little surprised I don’t remember it.

Since we’re beyond that now, I’d like to focus on controlling this if we can. Please don’t add another 100 people to the guest list if possible, and if that means cutting back on some of the other expenditures, maybe we can think about that? I mean, feel free to use our place as your own, but I for one can’t guarantee more than a couple of guests contributing to this, and none of them are even aware of the cover charge since this isn’t the type of party I’ve had before.

Sorry if this sounds pretty negative, but i need to get some dialogue going with you before you make any more decisions about this weekend, since we’ve clearly already gone too long without discussing it and I’m getting an ulcer. Thanks, Joe, for your energy and your understanding.

Will, feel free to chime in with your thoughts.

From: Devin Markell
To: Will Benning, Joseph Price
Date: Sep 22, 2006 11:29 AM
Subject: Re: Electricity

Wait a second.

Asylum? Event insurance? Margarita machine?

You guys suck.

Joe, you’ve crossed an invisible line.

From: Joseph Price
To: Devin Markell
Cc: Will Benning
Date: Sep 22, 2006 11:41 AM
Subject: Re: Electricity

Devin,

I thought for sure you were gonna call me out after “DC’s only all-woman Queen cover punk quartet.”

I’m glad this is over though. I was feeling really bad about your ulcer.

Joe

From: Devin Markell
To: Joseph Price
Cc: Will Benning
Date: Sep 22, 2006 11:44 AM
Subject: Re: Electricity

Let me say, you only had once chance to play the new, possibly a little crazy, roommate card, and you played it very well.

Let me also say, Oh, Joe, Joe, Joe…. this is not over.

My gastroenterologist will be in touch.

I already feel closer to the guys.


Play Overload

05Sep06

I spent the past three days watching around 12 hours of theatre at the Kennedy Center Page-to-Stage Festival. I will write up some reviews tomorrow, but in the meanwhile I’m going to… relax for a while, play some video games and chew the fat with the new housemates.

So much theatre in so little time is inspiring, yes, but it’s also soul-crushing. There is a limit to how many stories we can absorb in one day. This is especially true of drama. Plays–with the general intensity of their content and the immediacy of their format–sneak into your psyche and serial viewing can skew your perspective. It’s like this concentration of sentiment sneaks into your intestines. You need the monotony of casual human interaction to diffuse the pressure.


It’s a T-shirt that changes it’s color and text before depending on your mood and situation. When the Mets win, it’s blue and says “Let’s Go Mets” in curly orange script. When the Mets lose, it says anything else.

At DC9, the shirt is black and boasts something ironic like “Villain of the Year” in blocky white print. If you’re shot down, you could go to the bathroom and comb down your spikes and emerge with a more earnest expression on a white T-shirt. You could even try again. It’s dark in there.

The shirt is a faded charcoal gray when you climb into bed at night. If the light was on and she was squinting, maybe your lover could read “how close am I to losing you” scrawled across your chest. She would have to look though.

Nobody else in the meeting would know that underneath your Macy’s suit and your Gap dress shirt, your T-shirt screams “Fuck You Motherfucker.” That’s the fun of it.

I am going to make millions.


I’ve been enjoying Jane Espenson’s blog since discovering it about two weeks ago. Jane in Progress offers tips on how to write spec scripts and also dives into the finer points of writing comedy. Today’s post explores the relationship of comedy and transparency.

This is very possibly good advice for life in general, but what he
meant was that situations are rendered comically complex by all things
that can happen to obscure the clear communication of information.

Kinda striking, isn’t it? Misunderstandings — Jack thinks Crissy’s pregnant!
Deceptions – Lucy puts on a costume to sneak onstage! Someone is stupid
and someone is lying. In fact, you’ll find examples in just about any
comedy you care to think of. M*A*S*H? Frank Burns is stupid and Hawkeye
is lying. Of course, stupidity and deception come in interesting and
complex flavors. Self-delusion and pomposity is a sophisticated kind of
stupidity. Crafty creativity is a fun sort of lying. Play around, in
other words, with ways to keep information away from those who need it.

[…]

Interestingly, this suggests that clear communication is the enemy of comedy.

It’s not that surprising is it? Most drama in our own lives comes from witholding information we’re too embarrassed or cautious to reveal.

Recently I’ve been experimenting on a new play where’s there’s no obfuscation of facts or identity, just characters with obviously competing interests. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. I’d like to achieve the same magic of straightforwardness that’s captured in this comic by Jeffrey Rowland, but I don’t know if that’s possible. I’ll let you know how it turns out.


Ze Frank has some of the best criticism I’ve read on yesterday’s spoiled terrorist plot. Here’s his podcast.

Here’s an excerpt:

Now, the way I see it, you can’t have terrorism without terror. The strategy of terrorism is to use isolated acts of violence to instill fear and confusion into the population at large. A small number of people can incapacitate a society by leveraging our inability to understand risk.

Airline industry stocks plummetted today, while the industry braced for a rash of cancellations. This, despite the fact that even with the risk of airplane bombings it’s still more dangerous to drive your car. Or smoke cigarettes.

As long as a small group of people can inflict mass panic across a large population, the tactic itself will remain viable. One way to deal a blow to the effectiveness of terrorism is to deal with the terror itself.

London’s police deputy commissioner Paul Stevenson said that the plot was “intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale.” No, it is imaginable: between three and ten flights out of thousands would have resulted in the terrible loss of human life.

Bush today said this country is safer today than it was prior to 9/11. Personally, I don’t think he knows. Whether we like it or not, terrorist attacks on Americans are now part of the global reality. They will continue to happen. Many places around the globe have had to deal with a similar reality for years. India, Ireland, England, Spain, Russia, to name a few. In many cases, these societies have pulled together and not allowed isolated acts of violence to tear at their fiber. Like disease and the forces of nature, it’s a risk that we have to rationally come to terms with. The government’s responsibility is to make sure that fear and terror are not disproportionate to the reality of the situation.

The “war on terrorism” has no end in sight. Can democratic reform in the Middle East remove the threat of militant Islamic fundamentalism? Perhaps. But the bottle’s permanently uncorked. Those same technologies that fuel industrial and social progress also allows individuals to cause massive death; each year those technologies only get more potent and more accessible.

Terrorist attacks are here to stay. We can only choose how we react to them. If we respond with resolve and intelligence instead of fear and hysteria, we can sterilize terrorists’ weapons’ poisoned edge.


DC’s inaugural Fringe Festival closed Sunday.

It was a good ten days. I was lucky enough to see seven shows, participate in some workshops, and catch some of the street performances. I have some capsule commentary on the shows I saw below.

A professor of mine once said that good and great art is more inspiring than genius work. In the former, the rough edges stick out and you can discern a work’s flaws and its successes; genius work is more difficult to penetrate.

Many times during the Festival, I felt like my mind was on overdrive. I could barely stay in my seat as snippets of dialogue would materialize in my head and I would want to flee whatever theater I was in and find a computer and write down these fleeting creative hints before they disappeared. (I need to buy one of those tiny spiral notebooks that fit in your pocket. I don’t have an excuse for not having one.) Thankfully I just registered with a service that emails me audio notes from voicemails I leave at a special phone number. After curtain calls I sped outside and dialed the number, speaking quickly so that I record all the brain children before they miscarried.

Listening to the audio notes now, I find it funny that I begin each by saying “Hey Joe” and close them by saying “Take care.” I don’t think I want to lose that habit.

Here are my thoughts on a few Fringe plays:

Desire Caught by the Tail
My friend Carmen directed this play and I helped out with some audio recording and a poetry project. The woman did amazing work. Reviews were overwhelmingly positive and every night sold out.

That said, I still don’t care for the script by Pablo Picasso. There’s a reason this play is rarely executed. There’s no narrative direction, no plot, no tension, no real conflict. And I don’t think the absurd imagery and circumlocutions that fill the play are particularly artful. I think it’s a mediocre avant-garde piece. Carmen’s success hinged on softening the script with puppetry, video effects, and some amazing choreography from BosmaDance. Good work C.

Lunch, the Musical
I know the producers of this show as well. I made their website. All of my friends that saw this show loved it, and I did too, but the performance space took something away from the production. I kept on thinking during the show how much better it would be if the space had better lighting. Still it’s the Fringe, and space is scarce.

On a side note: the playwright, Shawn Northrip, played guitar with the band during the performance. I like watching a writer’s face when their work is being produced, you can tell which jokes they’re most proud of by their expectant gaze beforehand the joke and their relieved laughter afterwards.

May 39th
This play about dating in DC in the year 3006 reminded me of something I would write. My only complaint about the show was that playwright Callie Kimball chooses to end the play on an ironic twist instead of finding resolution to the complex emotional matrix she started to unpeel. Or maybe that’s just how I would end it–and I need to get over that.

Kudos to Kimball for creating a complicated fictional world that her characters reveal to the audience with subtlety, not awkward exposition like in sci-fi novels.

HELP WANTED: A Personal Search for Meaningful Employment at the Start of the 21st Century
“I liked it. I like it. It breaks my heart wide open.” The final words of Josh Lefkowitz’s performance sum up how I felt about this show. It was my favorite piece in the Fringe festival. Josh has a bright future ahead of him. He’s going to be performing this work elsewhere soon and if you’ve ever tinkered with the equation “life + art = low investment return,” you need to see it.

The Arabian Night
Every review of this play mentioned how god damn hot it was inside the space. So I won’t do that here. The Arabian Night is kind of like Being John Malkovich mixed with… um, Arabian Nights. It worked.

Short Works Exploring Dangerous Devotion
Uggh. This was the only show I saw during the Fringe that I didn’t like. Three short plays. None held my attention. I think I’m old-fashioned and getting cranky in my old age. The first play was an Ionesco piece that borrows his authoritarian themes from Rhinoceros but is missing that play’s sense of fun. The second play by Fornes at least had a plot and conflict, but I never gave a damn about the characters. The final piece, a Durang short about Southerners who film the execution of a homosexual and adulterer for a local access cable channel, was kind of entertaining. It also had all the sophistication of a presidential campaign commercial.

Like You’re My Friend… and All
I really liked the two plays featured in this show. The second was hilarious: a man tries to figures out how he can give his ex-girlfriend a vibrator in the shape of his penis as a going away present. It shows how easy and fun theatre can be. We need more short, accessible plays like these and spaces to put them every weekend.

Alright, I’m gonna go buy that notebook. And maybe a pair of suspenders.


The first edition of Rocketboom without Amanda Congdon debuted today.

Let’s be clear on something: watching Rocketboom for news is like reading Playboy for the articles. Presentation, not content, defined Rocketboom 1.0. I don’t mean to suggest that the sum of the videoblog was Congdon’s physical attractiveness though the comments section of blogs covering Amanda’s departure repeatedly offered that opinion. It was her whole persona. Kind of like Vince Vaughn, you like her just for showing up.

How’s the first show without her? Humble and classy. I was impressed. New host Joanne Colan first appears in catcher’s gear in recognition of all the impending criticism; producer Andrew Baron feigns catatonia in light of recent events; and Colan tells viewers they can keep track of Congdon’s future adventures at amandaunboomed.blogspot.com.

Thankfully, the show can hit the ground running since so many of it’s viewers subscribe through RSS. I’m one of them. I’m curious to see where it goes. Lot’s of people are watching.