SmartPost

The staff at this website has used this as a vehicle for new experiences. In the spirit of “trying out new stuff” and technology’s continued shrinkage to tablets and smartphones, the staff is using this piece as an experiment.

This post will be typed in its entirety on a smartphone.

OK, so this isn’t a groundbreaking event, but it is an excellent test of patience for this very patient staff. For example: how many times will my left thumb hit the “R” key instead of the intended “E” key before I get angry and chuck my phone across the room?

It would be very rude to chuck my phone in the public setting I’m typing this from. Being the excellent mechanical engineer that I am, I pay the folks at Super Walmart to change the oil in my car for me.

The mechanic said that the service will be done in an hour and 20 minutes. That means I’m spending the next hour and 20 minutes sitting inside the pinnacle of American cuisine, McDonald’s, which has a restaurant built into the Walmart. I don’t want to chuck my phonr and accidrntally hit somr poor customrr brcausr my thumb krrps hitting “R” whrn I want it to tap “E.”

It took me 25 minutes to walk from the auto repair section on the south end of the Walmart to the McDonald’s at the north end, order a large fries and sweet tea, sit down at a table, and eat and type out the entry up until this point. I have no idea how I’ll survive the next hour before succumbing to boredom.

And now I’m out of fries. This is DEFCOM 5 on the boredom scale. At this rate, I may take up this special offer from the McDonald’s: make a $20 donation to the Ronald McDonald House to receive a bundle of Happy Meal Toys to keep myself occupied.

I decided against the Happy Meal Toys, because I just remembered that I am typing this on a Smartphone. (I can’t italicize smartphone because it’s a pain in the butt to highlight the word on a mobile device, then scroll back to the top of the page to tap the Italics button, then scroll back down to where I left off.)

Because this is a smartphone and I have an internet connection, I can surf Facebook and Twitter to my heart’s content. Or, more realistically, until my phone battery dies or a Walmart employee publicly shames me by announcing “BRYAN GARCIA, YOUR OIL CHANGE IS COMPLETE AND YOUR CAR IS READY TO BE PICKED UP AT YOUR CONVENIENCE.”

That announcement has happened to me before. Twice.

On that cheerful note, I bring this grand experiment in new age blogging to a premature end. I still have 40 minutes to go, but I think this has inflicted carpal tunnel on me. Smartphones are great for liking Facebook status updates and favoriting tweets, but, my God, I need a keyboard to write.

Out of My League

One of the hashtags I occasionally whip out on Twitter is #dyingalone. Apparently a lot of other people use this hashtag; I credit my awareness of it to one writer. The hashtag is my stupid way of taking swipes at myself and at the rural Connecticut way of life that I clash with, which makes it difficult for me to relate to the rare 20-somethings I meet in Conn. On Saturday night, though, it helped my brain dredge up a story from freshman year of college. While everyone I know on Facebook (and probably you) screened Guardians of the Galaxy, I sat alone in my apartment, finalizing my plans for a Sunday matinee of Guardians of the Galaxy, watching the Liverpool vs. AC Milan friendly, and piecing together this extended edition of #dyingalone. After seven years, I’m fine with laughing about it for all of the internet* to see and subsequently use against me.

Technical Writing was one of the five courses I took in my first semester at UF. It was a class that maxed out at 30 people and contained a hodgepodge of engineering students, business undergraduates who will be my bosses in 10 years, three softball players, and one Family, Youth, and Community Sciences major.

No, that FYC Sciences student was not Tim Tebow.

She was a junior in the FYC Sciences program, a lifelong southerner with long blond hair and calm brown eyes we’ll name Laura** for the purposes of this exercise. You could say she was my first crush in college, because when it comes to crushes, fear of rejection stops you from inquiring about a coffee date or because you automatically assume that it’s unrealistic for that person to be interested in you. As a naive freshman, I fell under both categories as a freshman.

The classroom was set up for peer interaction, though: two columns of tables that each had seats for three students and individual desktop computers for each student. The instructor set up in-class writing assignments and gave us the freedom to peer edit each other’s documents and help each other out with navigating that perplexing behemoth of a program known as Microsoft Word. Working with the other engineering students in the classroom limited my interaction with Laura in the classroom; I really can’t recall having to edit any of her papers or helping her find something on Microsoft Word.

Whenever I ran into Laura outside of the classroom, things were the opposite. She’d say “Hi!” and hug me and then actually hold a conversation with me for a few minutes. We encountered each other outside of our Rolfes Hall classroom for the first time at Weimar Hall, the College of Journalism building. Among a lot of biographical details exchanged that I’ve long forgotten, I learned she also taught a section of First Year Florida, a course for freshman to basically network and learn how to navigate campus, the registration system, and all those other academic details we should worry about. Maybe it was because her voice was of a higher pitch, but she always sounded cheerful when we spoke.

As a freshman, this was mind-blowing: despite little to no interaction in class, Laura knew who I was! Laura hugged me! I don’t hug anyone outside of my own nuclear family! I didn’t break out into a nervous sweat when we spoke to each other! Wait, why is she hugging me if we didn’t really speak to other class?

WHO CARES?!

This cycle of running into each other happened on more than a few occasions, usually around the Reitz Student Union area, thanks to how our schedules seemed to match up for passing through that area at the same time. If I had just a tiny ounce of awareness, I could have used one of these random encounters to take a punt and see if she’d be up for Starbuck at the Reitz. But because I wasn’t not that smart and aware, I forgot that “being the guy and initiating the next step” was an option, and I simply went about my merry way after each encounter.

Once I started the second semester of my freshman year, I lost all contact with Laura and forgot about her. I went about my merry way in that period, constantly questioning whether or not to continue with the engineering program.***

One year later, on a spring afternoon in the second semester of my sophomore year, I walked into the welcome center inside the Reitz Union. Laura, in an orange tank top and denim shorts for the victorious orange and blue combo, and her blond hair tied in a ponytail, just finished descending the steps from the bookstore to the welcome center and noticed me first.

I was caught off-guard that she would remember me of all people after a year of nothing. The meeting was like we still in that first semester, though: hello!, hug, catching up on what went down the past year for almost 10 minutes. Her getting for graduation and then heading to graduate school at USF (she sounded especially happy then). Me trying to find something interesting to say besides trying not to fail my Numerical Methods class. Or my Intermediate Engineering Analysis class. Or Circuits. Or — oh geez, I want to forget about my worst semester ever at UF.

With 1.5 years of college under my belt, I should have been mature enough to just take a punt and inquire if she’d be up for Starbucks at the Reitz before the semester ended. But because we already established that I wasn’t that smart or aware at the time, I said “congrats!” and “awesome!” and then we exchanged “great seeing you again after so long!” and “see you later!” before I went about my merry way to grab a body-destroying, fast food lunch at the food court upstairs.

I never saw Laura again.

In hindsight — as in, this past Saturday, when I thought about that whole story for the first time from a distance — I was a pretty oblivious fellow. Maybe she would have said no to the coffee date, but, in hindsight again, there seemed to be enough circumstantial evidence to suggest otherwise if some light switch flicked on in my brain and told me to ask. But all things work out in the end: my obliviousness gave me something to laugh about this weekend.

As for Laura, she has that Master’s degree, now works as a family therapist, and is married to a hot shot venture capitalist. Like I said, things work out in the end.

#dyingalone #retro #extendededition

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* “all of the internet” = the average of 10 people who read this site every day. Hi, Mom and Dad!

** Not her real name. The name was arbitrarily chosen from the name of the actress who portrayed Peter Quill’s mom in Guardians of the Galaxy. Go see it.

*** I have my doubts about being one of those lifetime engineers, because I still have more fun writing. But I’ll always be grateful to my Calculus 2 professor — a PhD student at the time — for taking the time to listen to me vent those fears about staying the course outside of class time. Then he always offered advice on how to conquer those fears; his advice about college and life, in general, played a pivotal role in keeping me in the engineering program.

The Boss Behind Bugs Bunny

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A sign promoting What’s Up Doc, the Animation Art of Chuck Jones, at the Steinway Street stop in Astoria, Queens.

For Chuck Jones, the basis of all great animation was a straight line. Jones’s command of the straight line and his ability to teach that skill to his animators — plus a dash of comedic influence from vaudeville acts such as Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers — gave rise to a decorated career that lists him as the director of more than 300 animated films, the winner of three Oscar awards, and now the subject of one Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit that is at the Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) in Queens, N.Y. until January 2015.

That exhibit, What’s Up Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones, celebrates Jones’s 60-year career by diving into his approach to animation and supplementing that with sketches from the artist himself and footage from some of his most acclaimed work. The approach that Jones took was as meticulous as one that would be associated with an engineer; he provided direction on the most minute of details. In a model sheet for Bugs Bunny, there were back views, profile views, and isometric views of the character’s body and face. His artists had to follow Jones’s example when drawing Bugs, or any other of the Warner Bros. characters.

Jones would also create character layout sketches that would show how his animator should depict a particular action for a cartoon, and for emphasis, he would annotate those sketches with a Batman-like sound effect (“SPLOT,” “SPLAT,” “CLANG”) or a word like “BAL” (Balance) and “Hesitate” for timing purposes. Timing was important to Jones; one of his quotes in the exhibit specified that it took 18 frames for Wile E. Coyote to fall and disappear, and then another 14 frames until the Coyote made impact with the ground.

But in the end, everything went back to the straight line. In that model sheet for Bugs Bunny, Jones directed his staff to draw a straight line, then to use that line to shape Bugs like “a dollar sign” when he was “pooped.” Jones tossed angles, verticals, horizontals, and perpendiculars in his drawings as if he was an engineer creating a 2D sketch for a part, but his finished parts were entities that took on lives of their own and have entertained generations of Americans since the 1940s.

As such, the exhibit is also a trip down memory lane for Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y — you know, everyone in America who is not in elementary school or below. I sat in on a screening of Jones’s Duck Amuck, the famous short where Daffy Duck is tormented by some sadistic animator named Bugs Bunny, surrounded by grandparents, parents in their 30s and 40s with young children, and folks my age. It’s a testament to the timelessness of Jones’s work that when laughter broke out in the theater, it was always universal; the jokes transcended all of the generation gaps that we’ve arbitrarily defined in the name of social science.

For those parents who took their young children to the exhibit, it was as much about reliving the past as it was about introducing their children to the Warner Bros. cartoons. In one of my many trips to the television to relive the “Pronoun Trouble” wordplay of Rabbit Seasoning, I saw a mom and dad watch the scene with their two children, then the family acted out the scene using a poster of the script next to the television. Across the aisle, a mother towed her three children to the video screen showing Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century and went on to explain Planet X to her kids after they saw Daffy and Marvin the Martian both claim possession of Planet X. Jones’s work is in good hands for the future.

The exhibit helped me appreciate fully the finer points that Jones put into his work. Elmer shooting Daffy twice because of his pronoun troubles is funny in itself, but at MoMI, I watched that loop over and over for the nonchalant expressions and tone of voice from Bugs and Daffy that left me cracking up as I stared at the screen. I could now appreciate that What’s Opera, Doc? parodied Walt Disney’s Fantasia by giving Elmer a “magic helmet” that could create a destructive thunderstorm. The rules that Jones laid out for his Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons — including such gems like the “Road Runner must say on the road; otherwise, logically, he isn’t a road runner” or “Only the Coyote’s ineptitude or ACME products can harm him; no outside forces can” — reinforce the careful attention he paid to each cartoon, for the sake of consistency and believability in his characters. I could also celebrate Jones as an engineer in his field, thanks to the precision he put into his art.

And although Jones, Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Friz Feleng, Robert McKimson, and Mel Blanc get the most attention for their contributions to Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, the exhibit paid deserved homage to vital contributors whose names are less known: voices actors June Foray (Granny) and Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer); background artist Maurice Noble; background painter Philip DeGuard; and the many men and women who animated and colored cels under Jones.

As I took one last walk through the exhibit to admire the pencil sketches of Bugs, Daffy, Porky Pig, the Coyote, the Road Runner, and Pepe Le Pew, I constantly reminded myself that these are original sketches by Chuck Jones. I was looking at the animation equivalent to a Da Vinci work of art. But Jones, ever the playful type from what I gathered at the exhibit, wouldn’t want that praise. Instead, Jones would probably prefer to be associated with the final words in Duck Amuck, uttered by none other than Bugs Bunny.

“Ain’t I a stinker?”

Meet Leicester Holt

Just days after the 2013-14 Barclays Premier League season came to a close, the marketing wizards behind NBC’s coverage of the English league created a napkin to whet the American appetite for the 2014-15 season.

Lester Leicester

If you’re Stateside and confused, that’s OK. “Lester” is Leicester City F.C., one of the three clubs promoted from the Championship to the Premier League for the upcoming season. (They absolutely stomped through their Championship competition.) Now say the name “Leicester City” out loud: “Lester City,” not “Lie-ster City.” Got it? Great! Now, the next step is for the geniuses in the NBC marketing department to create a series of commercials centered on the club.

I know, I know. After reading these first few paragraphs, you’ve probably already thought of this idea that I’ll gush about; it’s low-hanging fruit. Heck, NBC has probably already thought of the same idea and [1] laughed at the stupidity of the idea and trashed it or [2] laughed at the stupidity of the idea and are now filming it as we speak. But I shall proceed, because America — nay, the world — needs to see this.

Lester Holt, one of NBC’s well-known news anchors, is a weekend host of Today. Leicester City F.C., ten years removed from its last Premier League season, is now one of the 20 best clubs in England. NBC needs to put them together and introduce us to Leicester Holt.

It’s a simple premise: the first commercial is Holt broadcasting a lighthearted segment at the end of the weekend edition of Today. A chyron error misidentifies Holt as “Leicester Holt.” After the show, a confused Holt confronts the graphics intern, a fan of the Premier League, over the error, which starts a string of events where the intern guides Holt as they explore the history and tradition of Leicester City. Get Arlo White, NBC’s lead play-by-play commentator and the most famous Leicester supporter known to Americans, in a 30 second spot where Holt interrogates him about the club. The final commercial will show Holt complete his transformation from curious journalist/American to a full-fledged Foxes fan, going so far as to tear off his suit and dress shirt in a rage of passion in the final on-air moments of an episode of Today, revealing a Leicester jersey underneath it all. Then the feed abruptly cuts to a startled and silent Rebecca Lowe, Kyle Martino, and Robbie Earle.

The brilliance of this idea is its stupidity simplicity. It’s all about the homophone.

NBC, you already went down the parody route last season with its series of commercials starring Jason Sudekis as a clueless American trying to coach Tottenham Hotspur. Now up the ante, NBC, with the Leicester/Lester homophone. Make your very own Lester Holt a superstar among us soccer fans who are illiterate in TV news. Commit to Leicester Holt like how we’ve committed to the Premier League. I’m sure he’ll be a swell lad.

Arlington National Cemetery

The most poignant, yet devastating, words I’ll ever read are etched in the west face of the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery:

HERE RESTS IN
HONORED GLORY
AN AMERICAN
SOLDIER
KNOWN BUT TO GOD

The most painful part of reading those words is that the identities of the three soldiers who lie in rest at the Tomb of the Unknowns, one each for World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, will never be known to their families. They were sons, possibly brothers, possibly husbands, possibly fathers — but they were people taken from their family for their country and then taken away from this world far too soon. Their sacrifice and the sacrifice made by their loved ones will never be attributed formally to their names, but this sanctuary within a sanctuary gave me the opportunity to thank them silently for what they have given America.

I witnessed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns on Saturday for the 6 pm watch. The magnitude of the occasion was not lost on me and the other visitors as we stood in silence, watching the Relief Commander direct the transition between the outgoing and incoming Sentinel Guards. As I watched the Relief Commander inspect the weapon and uniform of the new sentinel, I imagined the Relief Commander in a distant past, younger and as a relief guard being inspected. He then stood guard through rain, snow, and sun, until my mind wandered back to the present. In a distant future, the two men switching (watch duty) roles may be performing the duties of this Relief Commander… and the cycle continues.

The path along Roosevelt Drive to the Tomb of the Unknowns told the stories of countless American men and women whose military service earned them the privilege to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

I saw graves for men my age who died in Vietnam, too young for families of their own; instead of a spouse or children by their names, the names of their parents accompany them.

I saw graves where there was a gap of 10+ years between the passing of the two spouses buried together. It took some time, but they are finally reunited in this hallowed ground for eternity.

I saw graves where the dates under the name of the soldier are blank, but beneath that gap, is the name of a child and two dates for that child’s name. I can’t imagine the heartbreak of experiencing war, but then having to bury your child — some were as young as weeks old — in Arlington. As I walked past those graves, I hoped that those men and women found some solace in knowing that their child will be the first to greet them when that time comes.

The circumstances for each name I read in Arlington are different, but they all shared that bond of sacrifice in the name of the United States. When I left the cemetery at 6:30 pm, the air of solemnity in the grounds followed me out of the gates. I took one glance back at the gates of Arlington and saw the sunset over the hills of the cemetery. The beauty of that sight lifted the solemn thoughts floating in my mind and replaced them with thoughts of gratitude.

Swan Diving into Swan Lake

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All it took was a chance encounter inside the flagship UNIQLO store on Fifth Avenue to land me in the audience of an American Ballet Theatre performance of that famous Tchaikovsky ballet, Swan Lake.

On June 21st, I was on the second floor of that UNIQLO, passing through the center corridor to get to the men’s section for my window shopping of the polyester polo shirts and shorts that Novak Djokovic uses on the ATP tour. Airtight packaging containing the brand’s signature summer line of AIRism innerwear lined the blue-lit walls of that corridor. For the men: AIRism crew necks, V-necks, boxer briefs, and steteco on the left side of that corridor; for the women: AIRism camisoles, crew necks, V-necks, and hiphuggers on the right side of that same corridor. Also to my right: Polina Semionova. Sort of.

To be more precise, it was a 30 second video of Semionova promoting AIRism. The video ran on an infinite loop on the monitors at both ends of the corridor, and with the neon-blue lights and the immense stock of shirts between the monitors, the corridor had a Nineteen Eighty-Four vibe to it.

Semionova, dressed in a white AIRism camisole (obviously) with a gray sweater draped over her shoulders, was sewing a ballet slipper in her apartment. Her white and gray cat sat on the windowsill next to her, and Semionova’s eyes drifted from the slipper, to the cat, and then to the Manhattan skyline beyond the window. The peacefulness of the scene gave Semionova an aura of tranquility that appealed to me. I made a note to Google her after I left New York for the day and so at 3am, I found out that Semionova was a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre and that the ABT was performing Swan Lake at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center on the following weekend. I was already scheduled to spend three days in New York the following weekend for the 16th Del Close Marathon.

It was fate telling me that our paths should cross. Watching improv taught to say “yes.”

So at 3 am, the perfect time for making a decision, I bought a ticket to the matinee performance of Swan Lake on June 28th, when Semionova was the Queen of the Swans, Princess Odette. My knowledge of ballet was nonexistent, and what little I knew about Swan Lake was gleaned from an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures. I was saying “yes” to seeing a talented woman I was infatuated with perform her craft at an elite level; I was saying “yes” to a new experience to learn about something I normally don’t care about.

AIRism

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A brief survey of the crowd at the Lincoln Center showed that I was the black swan in the crowd.

I was decked out in a Florida t-shirt and jeans. Everyone else — families with their children, couples on a date, the elderly — was dressed up in some way or another; dresses, collared shirts, khakis, polo shirts, and dress shoes were the norm. My bad on the unwritten dress code, snobs everyone.

My ticket was for a “partial view” — in everyday English, that’s called “cheap” — box seat on the fourth tier up from the stage, a tier named the Dress Circle (also the name of the store for wedding dresses that I will open up with my nonexistent capital). I sat next to a woman on my right who could have passed for my mother and a Korean couple to my left.

While her boyfriend stepped away to use the bathroom, the woman in the relationship made eye contact with me and gave me a smile that said “Oh, that’s so cool that you’re a guy watching a ballet by yourself.”

I silently replied with raised eyebrows, a slight smile, and nodding that said “I have no idea what the heck I’m doing here.”

In the 30 minutes before the show began, I scanned the rest of the packed Metropolitan Opera House, which looked like it hit its capacity of 3,800, and spotted one other guy, sitting in the box seat directly across the theater from me, wearing a t-shirts and jeans.

It was fate that our paths would cross. We weren’t alone in our casualwear.

I also read the Playbill provided to the audience, which is an amazing resource to have when you’re about to watch something where verbal communication does not exist. The Playbill contains a section that describes the plot in each act; I spoiled the ending to Swan Lake before the lights dimmed. But that’s OK, because without that Playbill, I would have missed a lot of plot points. One of the big plot points that the Playbill told me to catch was in Act II, when Prince Siegfried (Cory Stearns, standing in for an injured David Hallberg) is about to use his crossbow on the villainous, demon-looking sorcerer Von Rothbert (Roman Zhurbin). Odette glides in front of the villain and spreads her arms open in one of those typical ballerina poses, dissuading Siegfried from shooting. If Siegfried shot and killed Von Rothbert, the hex that the sorcerer placed on Odette would have killed her.

The language barrier between ballet and me prevented me from understanding all of the choreography I saw in Swan Lake. I mean, everyone looked like they nailed their moves perfectly to me, but I have no idea if I actually witnessed a technically superior performance or just a good one. Based on the standing ovation and four curtain calls, I’m assuming it was an excellent performance.  I just knew that the music was great and that it made the story appear to feel a little more uplifting, despite how much of a downer the story truly is.

I mean, a princess gets cursed into being a swan in daylight by some sorcerer for God-knows-what-reason and her charming prince betrays her at his birthday party by falling for Odile, the daughter of the sorcerer. So what if Siegfried and Odette are united forever in the end? They were teenagers who met mere days before they both committed suicide in a lake created by the tears of Odette’s mother, just so that they could be together eternally as lovers. Shakespeare got nothing on this with his Romeo and Juliet.

Back to Semionova: I know for sure that she had an incredible performance because my theater mother seated to my right both applauded and yelled “Bravo” after every segment that Semionova had. And Semionova’s acknowledgement of the adoration was as elaborate as any fanfare celebration from the Final Fantasy series: she does not bow at the applauding crowd, but genuflects to them. Every time there was a break in the action for the audience to cheer her efforts, she proceeded slowly to the front of the stage, gently kneeled on her right leg, opened up her arms to the crowd, and lowered her head with her eyes closed. Whether on stage or in video, that aura of tranquility follows her.

And that brings me to the strangest thing about the ballet — stranger than the story or the ivy that covered Von Rothberg’s cape: when the audience gets the opportunity to applaud a soloist or principal dancer at the end of each segment, the performers are allowed to break character and the fourth wall by acknowledging the crowd with a bow. I’m not against the practice, but it just seems out of place in this context, when the performers are trying to tell a story.

I’m probably a one-and-done with the ballet; the technical intricacies of a choreography are just too much for my little mind to appreciate fully. But still, it was fun to partake in a quintessential New York experience. Thanks for opening my eyes a little more, Polina.

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A thing called fwand introduced me to Harold

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This is Harold. Say hello to Harold. Harold will tell you whether or not you’re quick-witted and good at recalling details.

Harold is not a blunt person. Harold is a structure for longform improvisation (in this case, 50 minutes), where a single suggestion sprouts into a series of scenes that are seemingly unrelated, only for certain elements from each scene to begin creeping into the others. By the end of the show, the audience sees a convergence of all of the previous scenes that creates a multi-layered blanket of comedy that wraps the audience up in laughter.

Meet Chelsea Clarke, Dominic Dierkes, Jon Gabrus, Sean Hart, Kevin Hines, Ellie Kemper, Shannon O’Neill, Gil Ozeri, and Gregory Tuculescu. Say hello to each of them. These nine individuals are collectively identified as a group named “fwand” — the “f” is never an “F” — that reunited on Friday for the 16th Del Close Marathon (of improv) to demonstrate the Harold in its most polished form. To an audience of over 250 people at the SVA Beatrice Theatre, fwand took the suggestion of “Demon Fire” and ran with it.

The team initially assumed the guise of a cult, chanting “Demon Fire” repeatedly while hoisting — and then abusing — Dierkes’ character. That scene transitioned into a hazing at a fraternity home, where Dierkes’ frat pledge ate the feces of Ozeri’s pledge, while Ozeri sat next to Dierkes and broke the rules of the hazing when he failed to describe each piece of crap while Dierkes ate it. The whirlwind show then blew through a sample of these scenarios:

• Miss America and checks on cup size
• A game of Jeopardy! where Kemper’s ape-like character competed
• A daughter (Clarke) visiting her childhood home where a man (Tuculescu) used living people to pose as dolls of his deceased wife.
• Other people locked in the basement of that home with ice cream sandwiches
• A “pink sock” for Kemper’s Jeopardy! contestant
• An apocalyptic world where rabbits dominated human beings
• A cop (O’Neill) providing “Police assisted suicide” for rats in front of humans in the apocalyptic Earth
• A Forrest Gump running montage through pop culture of the apocalyptic world, led by the cop.
• The Statue of Liberty replaced by a Rabbit of Liberty and the banning of ice cream in the apocalyptic Earth
• A Forrest Gump running montage for another fleeing man (Hart), who shot and killed the father with the creepy dolls of his wife — because of harboring illegal ice cream sandwiches
• The people trapped in a basement receiving a genie for one wish, which was spent on obtaining the world’s largest cucumber instead of an escape route
• Pink socks for everyone in the fraternity

All of them, and more, built up into a finale where the Dierkes and Ozeri pledges learned from the rest of the troupe’s characters that the fraternity never existed; the two ate all that crap for their amusement. The college kids then morphed into male pageant contestants, awaiting a size check of their, umm, manhood by the pageant coordinator (O’Neill). Those contestants transformed into the cult, took up the “Demon Fire” chant again, then picked up and carried O’Neill’s pageant coordinator off the stage for their grand exit from the performance.

Even though this performance was the first Harold I’ve ever seen, fwand made it easy to recognize just how excellent it is with the form. fwand is intense and efficient; the build-up for jokes was brief, like they were always one step ahead of the audience and just threw out the joke of the moment so they could get to the next one floating in their minds. fwand is a chimera on the stage. Even with nine individuals performing, they seamlessly transitioned between scenes and the reset (a cadre of waiters at an Italian restaurant shouting at O’Neill, their boss) without any brief pauses or confusion, before continuing to breathe out its (demon) fire of jokes at the audience.

While watching fwand assemble a collection of call-back jokes into a tapestry of a finale, I finally realized the obvious: this is insanity, perfected. The layering of ridiculous jokes, the absurdity created by all the layers, and the blending of that craziness to craft a final scene that somehow ties everything up and together — it’s watching/performing a surrealist piece of art set to self-destruct. fwand created a Dalí on stage, but the beauty of this Demon Fire piece — and the rest of its body of work — is that I can never admire it again once the troupe walked off the stage.