Serial: The Podcast and Why I Stopped Listening

When I was a kid, the Son of Sam stalked my neighborhood of Flushing, Queens. He killed two people just three blocks from the house I grew up in. I became a bit obsessed with serial killers and how they operated. The mindset, the lurid details, their sad dehumanizing upbringing…
I devoured non-fiction books by the ton. Documentaries, what there were on the subject at the time at least, were treasured viewing. I once met a woman who was writing her masters thesis on the subject and we became friends. She had somehow gained access to some “not-for-public” records and interviews and she shared them with me.

So, all this to say that for most of my life I had a vigorous appetite for serial killer stories.

Then three things happened… the third one is that I got older. The first two are personal and I have a bit of a hard time sharing them… now, to be honest, nothing happened to me. But things happened to people close to me and it changed how I think and feel about the genre of “women in jeopardy.”

Which brings us to “Serial.”
It’s an expert podcast with excellent writing, editing and producing. Sarah Koenig is a great writer and host and it’s immensely engrossing. But as I listened to the third episode I came to the realization that it’s Adnan’s story; is he guilty or innocent of his girlfriends murder, that’s what the story is all about. And the subplot is Sarah’s involvement with the people in the story as well. To me, forgotten in all of this was Hae Min Lee, the murder victim.

The podcast focuses on the unraveling of the prosecution’s case against Adnan and introduces several other characters, I mean people, whose own stories either bolster or disrupt the idea that Adnan is innocent of murder. As we delve deeper into the world of high school drama mixed with a thrilling murder mystery, the story gets more interesting with an assortment of sordid personnel (the creepy pervert who found the body, the drug dealing “best friend”, the ineffective and now deceased defense attorney…)

But it’s not a story. It’s a real murder and Hae Min Lee was murdered. Strangled. She’s the only one we never really hear from. Koenig reads from her journal and old friends recount their time with her but both are actually hearsay and probably inadmissible in a court of law. The one good thing to come out of this is that Adnan’s appeal will be in a court of law once again in January. It needs to be settled.

hae-min-lee-jpgI recognize how well produced the podcast is. I recognize how stories like this are so popular (hell, one of the reasons we remember Jack the Ripper to this day is because of the press coverage of the time.) I recognize that there are a million other awful, awful things going on.

I have a hard time nowadays with murder as entertainment. Perhaps I’m getting older. Perhaps I’m getting a bit soft. Perhaps I have been inundated with so much (all self inflicted) murder that I cannot take yet one more.

Serial is a very popular podcast. Hae Min Lee deserves more than a podcast. Murdered at 18. She was girl and now she’s a plot device.

Marvel Superheroes vs. the Universal Monsters

While it seems like nerd-vana with all the superhero movies coming out, people who don’t enjoy the genre however are dismayed by all the capes and cowls. But this is Hollywood and all things are circular; we’ve seen this before with the opposite of the superheroes, the Monsters.

MonstersBack in 1931 (and for the next 17 years), the Universal Monsters ruled the silver screen. Frankenstein, Wolf Man and Dracula had their own movies and then eventually began to cross over into each others films and either fought each other or somehow teamed up to fight a common enemy. Sound familiar?

Frankenstein and Dracula both appeared on the silver screen the same year, 1931. In quick succession, (’35 and ’36, respectively) The Bride of Frankenstein and Dracula’s Daughter appeared. Then came their hirsute friend, The Wolf Man in 1941. The Ghost of Frankenstein appeared in 1942 and then the first cross-over in 1943, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. The next three years gave us Son of Dracula, House of  Frankenstein  and House of Dracula.

The crowning achievement and ultimate death knell of the Universal Monsters was when they were forced to “fight” Abbott and Costello, in the Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein classic. Forced to play 2nd, 3rd and 4th banana to the comic duo, all three Founding Monsters met ignoble ends in that movie. As an Abott & Costello fan I love the movie, but it is sad to see Dracula (always my favorite) reduced to such comedy doings (and he loses?!!!)

The Universal Monsters, most of them, were based on a single novel and then the studio just repeated (with some small alterations) the process with each sequel. To their great advantage, the superheroes have some 20, 30, maybe even 50 years of stories to adapt and evolve into their movie adventures.

All of the above Monster movies are just the Universal monsters (not including The Mummy, The Creature of the Black Lagoon and others) and not the other studios who created their own versions and permutations of the monsters.

So that puts us at 12 Universal Monster movies. We’re only at 9 Marvel movies (out so far.)

What are the parallels between now and then? The looming threat of war, actual war, science we cannot control or understand, evil we cannot control or understand. The monsters were able to scare their audiences and leave the theater unscathed, safe in the knowledge that good had won once again. The visceral thrill of adventure and heroes triumphing over villains is something we, Mankind, has craved for as long as there have been cave paintings and tales of the hunt.

G. K. Chesterton wrote, “Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.

It’s 2014 and we need St. George.  But now we dress him in tights and high-tech armor.

My Last Meal on Earth

The Mars One project is an effort to send a team of people to the red planet to establish a permanent station there. The ship leaves Earth in 2022 and would land on Mars several months later. Any one can submit an application to go on the trip but there’s a catch… it is a one way trip. The travelers will land on Mars, establish/build the colony and then… die there (of old age, one hopes.)
So, what if you’ve been chosen?
What would be your last meal on Earth?

18505This is a question I’ve been adding to our verbal pattern warm-ups for some time. I think it’s an interesting question and the class usually gives some great answers. It usually makes me hungry.

The other day, I was thinking about the question myself. A giant steak would be nice. So would a chicken parmesan with spaghetti dinner. I mean, what would be the best way to celebrate my life on earth?
And then it struck me; how could I celebrate life on earth by taking a life? Killing something to satisfy my own personal celebration would be incongruous with the idea of bringing life to a new planet. The thought made me sad. I’m by no means a vegetarian, but my last meal on Earth would be vegetables and rice. Maybe some quinoa for dessert.

See ya later, Earthlings.

13 Extremely Short Halloween Stories


“It’s cold. I’m always so cold. I just want to be someplace warm, even if it’s for a few moments,” said the knife in William’s hand.


Sheryl watched the acid eat its way through the bathtub. It bubbled and sizzled. She followed the trail of acid across the floor and up between her legs. It was that time again.


John looked at his sleeping wife with suspicion. He knew the baby in her arms wasn’t his. For one thing, it was human.



Dana laughed as she stirred the slowly bubbling chili. This was going to be a Pro-Choice rally to remember.


The cast from Peter’s broken foot fell to the ground with a crack as thousands of roaches burst forth and scurried from the light.


Technically, thought Mike as he gingerly plucked the mushrooms from his wife’s corpse, this is organic.


After the virus, Mary was the last person on Earth. She dropped her phone when she read, “Where you at?”


Jill sat back from her meal, full and satisfied. Soon she would have twice the speed, twice the strength… that’s what clones were for.


“Free me,” said the dark brown liquid in the bottle. “I don’t know how,” said Tyson. “Drink,” said the bottle.


Sheriff Holbrook held the evidence between his outstretched hands. What kind of animal had a 4×5 placenta?



“I love you. I’ll never let you go,” Julia said as she put Rob back in his jar.


An asian baby. One irish child. Soon my gift will be complete. I better hurry, Mother’s Day is coming.


The old nazi helmet screamed orders directly into Mark’s mind. He would have to obey, it wasn’t his fault… he was just following orders.

Something Old, Something New, Please

I live in the past. I study the American Revolution. I know, perhaps too much, the canon of the DC comics universe, the Marvel comics universe, the Star Wars universe, the Star Trek universe. I re-read the Sherlock Holmes canon every year. I love musicals and not the new stuff or even Sondheim; I like Lerner & Lowe, Rodgers and Hammerstein. Hell, I make a living regurgitating the words of a decades-dead teacher.

That being said, I want new stories.

In the world of comic books the DC and Marvel have fallen into a rut of “updating” their characters and then, instead of creating new stories for these heroes, they repeat classic stories of the past. It’s boring. Even the best story in decades (Marvel’s Superior Spider-Man) was basically a retread of the ole hero/villain mind-switch.

Arguably the best Sherlock Holmes update (BBC’s Sherlock) still apes stories and characters from over a century ago.

star-trek-comparison-from-empireThe recent Star Trek movies are a perfect example of what is wrong with this remake mentality. It’s not new to use a younger cast and then just retell the same old stories from decades past.

I would have been more excited for the new Star Wars movies if they were set a long long long time ago and had no connection to the movies we’ve already seen.

I loved Twin Peaks, but I have no desire to see it return. It was a weird, classic show for a weird time in America and my life. Let it lie. I would love to see David Lynch do another show with a similar sensibility but not with the same continuity.

I crave new stories in these universes. Show me interesting and exciting things for Batman and Superman, give me a new detective that uses modern techniques, give me a a Starfleet 200 years from The Next Generation, show me the Star Wars universe 50 years after the Rebellion, show me Harolds that experiment and break the mold.

I like new stories.

A Prayer For Those Moving Away



As you fly from our lake shores

and say goodbye to old friends

may you enjoy as many smiles

as you created here.

May your new home

contain all the dreams you’re chasing.

May your new home

come to realize what we know;

That you’re great,

That you’re hilarious,

That you’re better than any one city.


Come back to us

when you’re homesick

Come back to us

to brag and be a famous dick

Come back to us

Just to

Come back to us.


Your home, Your friends, Your theaters

will still be here.

Good luck, fare well

they’re lucky to have you.


Advice for Improv Auditions

Someone asked me for a list of improv audition tips that I had blogged years ago. Sadly, that blog is lost to time, but, as with all thing improv, it must be updated and renewed! So, I reached out to some iO Theater vets (especially the people who run the iO auditions) for some advice for the upcoming auditions, but they really apply to all auditions that use improv. Check it out.

CESAR JAIME: Hard as it may be, don’t go in trying to showcase your ‘talents’, go in trying to showcase and elevate other people. These sort of moves that will get you noticed a lot more.

People watching you are your peers and they want you to succeed. Keep that in mind when you get nervous about what people will think of you and or your audition.



1. play with everyone in your audition group as if they are a potential teammate and not as if they are your competition.

2. have clear and interesting relationships. If you start with conflict or find a ‘problem’ with your scene partner just because you have nothing else, the auditors will usually be hoping for an edit soon. Most negativity in the auditions comes from fear, so try and be positive and be playful you won’t be playing from a place of fear.

3. if you treat someone in your group like they suck and their ideas suck, we will not call you back. If you’re with people who haven’t had as much experience as you’ve had, use that as an opportunity to make them look amazing and set an example of support.

4. It’s obvious if you try and shoehorn in a scene/idea you’ve thought about before the auditions. Please don’t do that. It’s never the hit you think it will be.

5. show us you have range, show us your comedic POV, show us you’re having a blast playing pretend on stage.

6. If you’ve been in 6 scenes in 20 minutes, back off. If you haven’t been out there in 20 minutes, what are you waiting for?

that’s about it.

Hope this is helpful!



… as far as I’m concerned:

1)Can you listen

2) can you stay line by line moment by moment

Propaniacs3) what is your “and”. Is it truth in comedy? Dynamic and creative yet playable? Or is it : that  line everyone says for when that happens in the roommate scene (for example)

4) why are you a great teammate and improvisor. See steps one and two…



1. dress for an audition

2. Be aware of how much you are in it. That goes both ways – you look just as bad if you are in every scene.

3. You score major points when you take care of/make others look good.



It seems that the most common trait is the person who supports someone else. Good advice in general, really. Good luck and have fun! I’ll add some of my own:

– Don’t TRY to be funny. Make connections, make group moves, relate to your scene partner emotionally— that will be more effective and funny in the long run.

– Don’t judge some one else during the auditions.. c’mon, there’ll be plenty of time for that later with your friends. (JK). Support it and have fun with it.

– This audition, and no audition until my Hunger Games fanfic is made into a movie, will cost you your life. Remember that you decided to do improv because it’s fun and you love it. Keep your sense of play.

Wherein I Gout Myself Publicly

I have gout. I first got it because I made a bet about eating all the shrimp in Las Vegas. The shrimp won. So now, I have tiny twinges about once a month, but then I get big flare-ups about twice, maybe three times a year.

goutIt’s during these big flare-ups you might see me limping about or sometimes I just disappear. It may be too painful to walk for a day or two and/or, to be perfectly honest, too embarrassing to be seen limping about.

Now, let’s talk about gout. Lots of people have it nowadays and I know several people in the improv community who have it as well. It’s extremely embarrassing to talk about for me. I hate discussing things of a personal nature in public. I mean, I never talk about my Nobel Prize. It’s embarrassing. I’m no doctor, I know what (usually) works for me. If you want to know more, encarta “gout.” (good lord… do NOT image search “gout” holy cow it’s gross. So here’s a happy pic of Jesus playing basketball)

Is it painful? Quite. Sometimes an entire foot will swell up, as if a cartoon mouse stuck a3000158 garage air hose into it. When that happens it’s very painful. A bedsheet, the air from a fan, wiggling your toes, all are extremely painful, much less putting your weight down on it and trying to walk. Sometimes, it might be a relatively small dime sized protrusion on the heel which doesn’t really hurt to walk on except if you wear shoes. Once in a while, my knee will swell and then it only hurts if you bend the knee (which I will never do, Lannister!!)

I used to live quite close to iO, my place of business and social activity, but now the walk from the subway to the theater is further than I’ve ever had to walk from my home to the theater. So, that sucks.

I hate public discussion of personal matters, so why am I posting this? As way of public apology to be honest. I’ve missed birthdays, dinners, and other fun events because I’m laid up at home. I never tell anyone why I suddenly disappeared, because I’m embarrassed. Trust me, I’d much rather be with friends then home hopping about.

Also, I’ve been a bit of a prig lately… as I walked with a limp people ask “Are you alright?” and I’ve answered, Yes this is a fun fake limp. Or it’s weird if someone asks if I’m in pain and I just stare at them and say Yes.

So, I’m sorry, everyone. I’m cranky. We’ll be returning to our regularly scheduled merriment soon enough.

For years, I collected sword canes. I had about six really cool sword canes and then God/Destiny/Fates/Random Coincidence/Alanis Morrisette decided “Oh, you like canes? What if you HAVE to use one? Moooo-ahahahahahahah!!!”

I have gout and it’s embarrassing. I hate it. I hate having people know about it. But why hide it? It’s a medical condition. Accepting help, especially asking for help, is tough for me. So was writing this. Thank you for your patience.

If you thought it was hard for me to write this what till my inevitable essay on my manic depression. Hhahahaha. I hate myself. Hey, let’s look at Jesus b’balling again.



I looked up “famous gout sufferers” and all of them are crazy and/or fat. (Dick Cheny, Luciano Pavarotti… and Ansel Adams.. so he’s neither. He’s pretty cool.) 

A Book That Changed My Life

I’ve been asked to speak at a Literacy Works event called “A Book That Changed My Life.” Choosing which book to talk about was a daunting task; do I choose the book that was a large influence or a book that I have read dozens of times? How to choose a single book; it’s like choosing which breath is your favorite? The answer is always, the next one.

IMG_1064When I was young, my mother would read from a book called “Children’s Stories of the Bible (from the Old and New Testaments).” I loved the stories and the pictures that came with them. I would read them on my own when I was old enough and it was the closest I ever came to religious instruction. It’s traveled with me for the past 40 years. The morals and lessons within still flow through me.

Speaking strictly from a science-fiction point-of-view, I adored the book “Dune.” It’s smart about ecology, politics and religion and somehow still filled with intrigue and adventure. There’s a talent that the Bene Gesserit sect uses called The Voice. It’s a kind of martial art that involves using the precise word, timbre, volume and projection to virtually command the chosen target. It wasn’t a super-power per se, it was something learned. So I took it upon myself to teach myself The Voice. I would attempt to use It when speaking with teachers and friends. I never got as powerful as the Bene Gesserits, but for a amateur (particularly a male) I did alright.


My sister had a Big Book of Horse Stories or some such and flipping through it I read two stories; “Black Beauty” (eh) and “Silver Blaze,” a Sherlock Holmes story about a missing horse. I was enraptured with this detective and sought out his other adventures. I’ve read the entire canon several times over, usually about twice a year. I bought this collection in early eighties and it’s been IMG_1065with me ever since.

For most of my life I was obsessed with true crime stories; especially serial killers. I know far too much about serial killers, but I stopped my obsession sometime in the early 90s. Why? It got too much. It was too much of a burden. I met a girl and she was doing her Masters on serial murder and had received some FBI files. We traded books and papers and it was then that I had had enough. The bad thing about having so many cases and horrors in your  mind is that eventually that’s all you can see and envision. I read a conspiracy-oriented book on the Son of Sam murders and a book on Jack the Ripper; they both had photographs of murder scenes that are, sadly, burned into my memory and I wish they weren’t there. I even purged my library of my serial killer books.

“John Adams” by David McCullough was an eye-opener. Being a lifelong fan of our second president I have read several biographies about John Adams but this was the very first that felt like the writer actually liked him. I cannot tell you how pleasing the entire book was to me.

But that’s not why you came to the theater tonight, is it?

The book I chose to speak about at the Literacy Works event is called “Superman: from the 30s to the 80s.” After so many books, why this one? I grew up with mostly Batman, ghost and World War 2 comics. When my brother need surgery my aunt asked me what kind of books would he want and I suggested comic books, which was a lie. He wasn’t into comics, but I was. I was a 12 year old asshole. So, I wasn’t too interested in Superman, with his flashy powers and bright colors, but I came to love him.

In the beginning, he was more grassroots with more mundane (but still super!) powers. In the very first issue, he stops a lynching and beats up a husband in a domestic dispute. In the very second issue, he goes to Europe and makes generals fight in the trenches; the fear defeats their bloodlust and they all realize they’ve been fighting, not for ideals, but for munitions profits. And this was in 1938.

IMG_1073Ultimately, what enraptured me about Superman is his elevated altruism. It’s not just concern for the well-being of others that motivates him; it’s the astounding restraint that he shows. He could simply rule the Earth or enjoy his life in quiet splendor but instead he cares for the Earth. Not like a parent, not like pets, but like a wiser, more experienced brother. He’s not super intelligent, he doesn’t have all the answers, and I like that. He learns hard truths along the way and moral dilemmas are more difficult for him than a dozen laser beams.

Superman, with all his powers and abilities (and they’ve waxed and waned over the decades) has chosen not to be bully, to not live in the comfort that a less generous philosopher might take advantage of. He has chosen to serve all living beings.


Superman: “I can only tell you what I believe, Diana. humankind has to be allowed to climb to its own destiny. We can’t carry them there.”

Flash: “But that’s what she’s saying. What’s the point? Why should they need us at all?”

Superman: “To catch them if they fall.”

-JLA #4


To secretly use your powers for good, is something I strongly believe in. I don’t have any super powers, so I use what I have been given to help others. Opening a door, helping someone with a package, a word of comfort or support it is these little things that make us a kinder, better society. It’s the people who go above and beyond the call of community that enrich us all. The people who donate time and money to causes that empower and enrich our world. Things like food pantries, homeless shelters and literacy programs this is how we catch each other when we fall.

Could we be better at these things? Could we do more? Of course, but we’re not Superman are we? We’re just plain ole humans who dream of flying.

I read Superman stories because at their very core they’re about hope and caring for each other. I read Superman stories not just because he’s faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to bend steel with his bare hands; I read Superman stories because he cares for us like I wish we all cared for each other. With the needless violence, pain and cruelty in the world sometimes I wish he was real. Sometimes I think, THIS is a job for Superman.