Friday, June 27, 2008

Google All Over My Face!

The Costa Rica recap will have to come in spurts. I just don't have the endurance to keep grabbing pictures off my harddrive and throwing them online and then sorting through them to find post-worthy pics.

So instead I'm going to talk about a higher power...Google.

Google's great, right? I mean I can search for anything on Google. And Google will find it. It's like a dog playing fetch, except it doesn't shit all over my God damn carpet! Stupid dogs!

And if you misspell something, Google knows exactly what you meant. There's rarely a misunderstanding. I could say, "Hey Google, find me stuff about pinapples." And Google won't take offense. Google won't turn around and call me stupid. Google kindly says, "Hey. Did you mean pineapples?" Yes, Google, yes! A thousand times yes! I wonder if Google is single.

And Google knows all about me. If I tell Google to look me up, Google comes back with every little thing on Earth that mentions my name. Google's like God. A kind and benevolent God who watches over all the mortal Web surfers. Google should write a book. Because then I would have a holy text that I could put under my pillow and read to my cat. My cat has no morals. She could learn a thing or two from Google.

And when I die, Google will be there, waiting for me. Google will beckon me toward the white light of its homepage:

"Come, Keith. Enter a world of infinite knowledge. See sites you have never seen before. Look! There is a rabbit with a pancake on its head! Such oddities can only be created by me, the Google!

Thanks Google!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Costa Rica Part 1 - Ziplining!

I finally have some of the pictures from my Costa Rica trip on my computer. So I can now show you what it was that I did.

For one, Matt and I went ziplining. This is when you fly through trees that are a good hundred feet off the ground on a tiny wire. I'm not an adventurous person by nature. The craziest thing I ever did was invest more than 10 percent of my savings in a small-cap growth fund. I know! What a rush! But ziplining is so safe that a little boy or an elderly woman can do it. How do I know? Because there was a little boy and an elderly woman on the same tour as us.

We didn't get pics of us ziplining because the people that run the tour take pictures of you and don't let you bring your camera. It's part of their business plan. Get tourists to the top of a really high tree, strap them to a wire and then demand that they buy photographs of the whole ordeal. They even try to get you to smile as you're practically shitting yourself hundreds of feet above the rain forest. That's why Matt and I only got the following shots.

This is a picture of the first zipline on the course. It's really just a test run to make sure you have the hang of it. The rest were all from giant, prehistoric looking trees. You could feel the trees shaking back and forth with the wind as you stood on this tiny, rickety wooden platform that someone built around the tree's trunk a billion years ago.
This is a picture of a hot guy that worked for the zipline tour company. There weren't a lot of hot guys in Costa Rica, which was surprising. I thought Latin America was the birthplace of hotness in the same way Africa is the birthplace of humankind. In any case, I had to be inconspicuous when taking this shot because the dude was sitting by himself. So I pretended I was taking pictures of some trees. As if there aren't enough trees to photograph.

To get a better shot, I asked Matt to pose for a picture. That way it would look like I was merely taking a shot of my travel companion in front of a bunch of trees. I think the guy was beginning to catch on to my game. You can see him in this shot kind of looking up as if to say, "Not this shit again." I can't blame him. Costa Rica is a big gay travel destination, and I'm sure we weren't the only fags ogling this overworked and underpaid stud.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Land of Confusion - A Facebook Story

Yesterday marked a monumental moment in my life. I joined Facebook.

For years I've been a MySpace man. It wasn't because of anything in particular. MySpace wasn't any more appealing than the other social networking sites on the Web. It just so happened that's the one that everyone I knew was on.

But the times, they are a-changin'. And everyone seems to have a Facebook account. So in order to stay with the times, I too have joined your ranks.

The site is extremely confusing. The moment I signed on I was bombarded by a crapload of information:

What networks do you want to sign up for?

Here are some people that might be your friends.

Do you want to write a wall message?

These were all foreign to me, as MySpace kind of took the laissez fair approach. Sign up and here's your page. Go. Not Facebook. Facebook wants you to work at making friends and maintaining your page. Hell, it tells you what everybody is doing, just so you can keep up with the Jones'.

So as if my life wasn't busy and convoluted enough, I now have yet another thing to make it even moreso. If you're already on Facebook, and we're not friends, befriend me. And then tell me how to work this crazy site.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Give Me My Money Back, You Bitch

It's only been about two weeks that I waved goodbye to the 9-5 world. So it's no surprise that I would still have a few unresolved issues that need some resolving. That's what I've been working on in my spare time in between attracting clients like ants to a sugar party.

One of the biggest issues is reclaiming all the money sitting in my flex transportation account. This is an account I set up through my old employer that would withhold money per pay period for transportation purposes. After each pay period, I would fill out a form and request they give me this money back. They would then promptly write a check, and all would be right in this world. The purpose of an account like this is to shrink your taxable income by removing your transporation expenses from your paycheck per month. You could just claim all this in one lump sum during tax time, but most people are too busy forgetting to do their taxes for this to be a realistic option.

When I left my last job, I had forgotten to claim several months worth of transportation withholdings. This was awesome for me because it was like winning the midget lottery, assuming midgets need only a fraction of the money that big, normal people like myself require. So I called up the company that handles these accounts, spoke with a rep, and was instructed to file a claim for the full amount. So I did.

Weeks go by and I receive a check for not even 50% of the total amount owed to me. Why? Because I can only claim so much per pay period. I explained I am no longer an employee of the company and that I was clearing out my account in full and that I was instructed to do so. The woman on the phone (who works in Kentucky or Ohio or some bumble-fuck state that is full of bumble-fucks) didn't quite grasp my logic, which is the logic of the universe. Her logic was obviously rooted in some parallel dimension where insanity = sanity, up = down and people drink horse milk and ride cows. After a futile battle with this customer service sphinx, I was told to speak to another woman.

After making multiple calls to this other over the last several days, I am still waiting to speak to her. It's like Waiting for Godot, I guess. I'm waiting for a nice-sized check that will never come due to a customer service rep that will never call. God is dead, people. God is dead.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Day Time Drama

So many things go on during the day that you, people of the 9-5 world, are not privy to that it would blow your mind.

For one, as it turns out, many people work on their cars during the day. I know this because I went on a bike ride yesterday and saw at least two different people tooling with their cars. It wasn't in the best part of town. And I got the suspicion that they weren't their cars. And I'm pretty sure they were removing crucial parts to sell on the black market. But that's the way things are out in the real world during the day.

Also, people that don't work 9-5 are all friends. You heard me right. Every time I pass someone on the street or in a store, there's a definitive unspoken bond between us that we are major bad asses living on the fringes of society. I'm sure there's a secret handshake that I haven't learned about yet, but with due time I'm sure everyone will let me in on all their secrets, including where that big pile of money is that everyone else must be dipping into.

And finally, my cat leads a very exciting life during the day. Who knew she used my t-shirts as pillows?
Yes. She is that big. But her head is soooo tiny. Like a squirrel.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Drip Drip = Bling Bling

Whenever I have downtime from freelancing, which is often, I like to think of more ways to earn money or things. I have quite a few quirky ideas I've been brewing up, which I will share later (possibly in video form). But for now, I'm just sticking with the basics, like market research studies.

I also, just for the hell of it, decided to look into making some cheese off of crap my body produces naturally, namely plasma. It's not something I'm planning on doing (this line was written to rest my mother's worries in case she's reading this), but you never know. In my opinion, this is a supply and demand economy we live in, and I guess there's a large demand for my supply of plasma.

Speaking of which, check out this Web site and tell me it doesn't slightly creep you out. There's something unsettling about the three images strung together. A stack of $100 bills, a guy getting blood withdrawn and a butterfly. This is basically telling me that Access Biologicals will pay you for your blood to create an army of mutant, city-destroying butterflies. I mean, the name of the company sounds just vague yet sinister enough to be something truly maniacal.

Accounting You Can Count On

Last Friday I had a meeting with my new accountant. It went well. They gave me free coffee. That was the best part. Free coffee is something you don't pass up as a freelancer. We're all addicted to caffeine, and most of us are pinching pennies to make ends meet. If someone offered you a free bowl of rocks, you'd probably take it...if only for the bowl.

But anyway, I found out some interesting things about what I'm allowed to deduct as a writer and comedian. And basically what it comes down to is everything. If I go see a movie, it counts as research. A percentage of my cable bill counts as research. One-fifth of my rent is a business expense because I use it as my home office. Overall, it's pretty sweet.

Hi! I'm John Stewart. And I'm a tax write off.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Picture This

It has been brought to my attention that the pictures on my blog are not working. I will take swift action to fix this ASAP.

In other news, I just got work from a new client! Boo-yah!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Good Life

I've begun my self-employment journey, and already I feel as if I've made the right decision. True, I don't have as much work pouring in as I thought I would yet, but I have enough to keep me busy for the rest of the month. On top of that, I get to do pretty awesome things during the daytime that I wasn't able to do while working full-time. This includes looking at this:

Let's hope, as I continue on this path, my skies remain so blue.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The End Of The Road

Look at the below picture. See something missing?

The answer is me. That was my office. Yes, I had my own office. That's my laptop, which I'm currently writing this post on. There's my little orange water cup, and that's my chair. All those things on the right are various production calendars for the magazine, Web site and newsletters. That view is of the river, looking northward toward the Chicago Sun-Times Building.

It's all very nice. It's all very special. I'm sure a lot of people would love to have their own little space tucked away in a big building in downtown Chicago. It makes you feel important. But for some reason, it just makes me feel kind of like a prisoner.

Despite my steady hours, despite my very reasonable pay and regular checks, I just couldn't go on living this life. I don't know what it is about me. There's just something in me that demands more, something that makes complacency and comfort feel, well, uncomfortable. I like flying by the seat of my pants and living a life that I make, not the life corporate America has made for me and for many others. It's not that I'm a unique little snowflake that must be recognized for my individual efforts. It's that I'm a human being, and I desire to live as freely as I wish.

So that picture you see up there, that's been my cage for the past several years. And I finally broke out that window, leaving behind my laptop, my little orange cup, my chair and those various documents, and flew over the river, past the Sun-Time Building and onward toward home.

Oh, and if you or anyone you know needs a solid writer or editor (editorial, marketing, PR), I'm your man. Just drop me a line.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Avenue Q

Costa Rica tales will come. I just have to upload all the images on Matt's camera to my laptop so that I can share all the interesting sights and sounds of that land of the lost. Trust me. It looks like a place that time forgot. It feels as if at any moment a brontosaurus will come stomping out of the brush.

So in lieu of this hiatus, I'll tell you about what I did last night. Prior to our vacation, I bought tickets for Matt and me to go see Avenue Q, the delightful little musical about puppets behaving in unmuppet-like ways.

It's not as in-your-face offensive as Team America, but it's definitely no Sesame Street. There's puppet sex, puppet gayness and puppet masterbation is alluded to. At intermission a couple of old ladies piled into a cab, presumably because all that puppet nastiness made them feel faint.

Overall I thought it was a decent play. The music is fairly simplistic and the singing is decent (actors must sing in the characters' voices which tend to be somewhat nasally, so most of the vocals sound somewhat strained). The acting is as good as it can get with puppets, and the puppetry is pretty outstanding. Because this was Broadway in my Asshole (okay, it's actually Broadway in Chicago, but I can't really respect an institution which seems to continue to spell death for storefront theaters), the production value was huge, huge, huge. I don't think Straw Dog or Stage Left could ever afford to have pyrotechnics or two-story tall sets.

The first act was good and well-paced. The characters are quirky and likeable. Songs are catchy, but easily forgettable (I had heard most of the songs before, but the only one I seem to get stuck in my head is "It Sucks to be Me," probably because they reprise it like twice throughout the show). The second act is a little more flawed. The resolutions to the problems created in the first act are fairly deus ex machina, as if the writer got to page 100 of his script and realized he better end this thing quick.

Overall I can't complain. Tickets were pricey, but such is big box theater. The rest of this week I'm slated to go see shows for the Chicago Improv Festival. Be on the look out for my reviews of several shows on the best Web site ever, The Bastion.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Guatemala Guatemala

Back in high school Spanish, we had to sing a really inane song to help us memorize the capitals of all Latin American countries. I don't really know the importance of knowing all the capitals to all Latin American countries, nor do I quite understand how this was supposed to help me grasp the Spanish language. I mean, how often will I find myself in Mexico pleading to passersby to point me in the direction of Lima, Peru.

But my favorite part of the song was Guatemala. That's because the capital of Guatemala is Guatemala City. So that part of the song went like so:

Guatemala Guatemala Guatemala Guatemala

And after you say that word four times in a row, your mouth feels like a rubber band. It's hoola hoops. Have I mentioned I had few friends?

Anywho, I actually went to Guatemala City. We had a six-hour layover on my way to Costa Rica. We left the airport and explore the downtown area. There was a beautiful boulevard full of statutes and monuments commemorating Guatemala this guy:

This dude, who looks like he's having an orgasm in a public square, is Guatemala's first resident to claim the Nobel Prize in literature. Good for him. Other statutes (not pictured) depicted various other important people, whom I would know if I wasn't such an ignorant and self-absorbed American.

It was so early when we were walking around the city that nothing was open, save for those beautiful golden arches that shine like God's glorious thrown. USA USA USA!

You'll notice that their little cups you put ketchup in are significantly smaller than those we have here in the states. That's because Guatemalans don't like ketchup as much as we do. That or maybe Guatemalans don't eat as much food, meaning less ketchup. If you know me and know my love of ketchup, you'll understand why this was a low point in my trip.

More to come on my adventures in far off lands! Here's a taste of the future...MONKEYS!