Archive of Fools: Sideline Sermon

Continuing our series of five-year-old Ship of Fools videos I found archived away, here’s a performance of Sideline Sermon:

Sideline Sermon – Two preachers are delivering Sunday’s sermon to the congregation. Problem is, they can’t quite remember what they’re supposed to be preaching about, so they wing it until a few helpful parishioners can discretely mime them some clues. Who will win? On the left: Jon Heffley sermonizes, aided by Scott Yost (mostly offscreen) and Wes Allen. On the right: Chandler Murch sermonizes, aided by Paul Kuliniewicz and Colin Reindl. Brazenly flouting congressionally-mandated conflict-of-interest regulations, Colin Reindl also emcees.

Sideline Sermon was one of my favorite games to do, but one we didn’t do often at shows. I’ve seen other groups mishandle it by letting it drag on and on indefinitely if for some reason the person just isn’t getting it. It doesn’t have Chain Murder Mystery’s escape valve of “I don’t know what you’re doing, but I’ll make something up and keep going anyway”; in fact, it’s arguably funnier when that happens. Sideline Sermon also requires the sermonizer to continue talking coherently — or at least reasonable grammatically — when dropping their guesses. Fail that, and you’ve just got charades, and nobody came to watch that.

Luckily, the above video contains neither of those problems.

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Archive of Fools: Chain Murder Mystery

Here’s the next video from the set of clips from a April 2004 Ship of Fools performance at Tarkington Hall:

Chain Murder Mystery – A murder has taken place! Only Chuck Allen has witnessed the location of the murder (a desert), the occupation of the murderer (a stripper), and the murder weapon (a silent fart). He must convey these three things to Paul Kuliniewicz, using only mime and gibberish. Paul must then convey them to Colin Reindl, who must then in turn convey them to Jon Heffley. After watching this hybrid of Clue and Telephone, you will understand why real murder investigations don’t work like this. Scott Yost is the emcee.

Archive of Fools: Two Person Story

In the process of setting up my new backup hard drive, I came across a small cache of Ship of Fools videos dating back from April 2004. Here’s one of them; I’ll let the description I wrote for YouTube set it up:

Two Person Story – two performers tell a story based on suggestions from the audience. Like all good stories, it starts with “once upon a time” and ends with a moral. The catch: they can only speak one word at a time. Here, Scott Yost (left) and Paul Kuliniewicz (right) relate the timeless classic, “Charlotte’s Web of Fighting”. Colin Reindl is the emcee.

I think this was from a performance at Tarkington Hall, but I can’t tell from the background for sure which residence hall this was at.

There’s another four videos where this came from. Stay tuned.

Science confirms it: men trainwreck Continuous Story

No, seriously.

Prof. Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire conducted an experiment on his blog wherein commenters contributed to a story, one sentence at a time. The catch was that men and women contributed to separate stories, although both stories began with the same opening line.

The results:

The men’s story quickly veers into borderline incoherence as contributors keep throwing stuff in with little regard to the narrative thus far. The women’s story stays cohesive longer before losing control and resorting to the despicable all-just-a-dream-or-is-it ending. (Whereas the men introduced all-just-a-dream in the middle and kept going anyway, ultimate ending in a self-referential charlie foxtrot.)

Prof. Wiseman’s findings are independent replication of earlier experiments by Kuliniewicz et al, Purdue University, where repeated attempts at forming such collaborative narratives were made weekly. In those experiments, the results almost invariably fell within the “borderline incoherence” category, and the experimental population was overwhelming (90%+) male.

[Alas, the findings of Kuliniewicz et al remained unpublished, due to failure to follow proper experimental protocol with human subjects: subjects were led to believe they were attending a meeting of an organization called the “Purdue Improv Club”, but were not made aware of the deception and the true nature of the experiment afterwards. Also, there was a failure to establish a proper control group.]

Clearly, this is Prof. Wiseman’s most significant work in psychology since his infamous color-changing card trick:

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The Duck

You see, there’s this duck.

It’s a little stuffed Aflac duck. When you squeeze it, it says “Aflac. Aflac. AFLAAAAAAAC!”

Back when Benji and I were roommates, we used to find creative ways to pass it back and forth. For example, one time Benji came back from class to see The Duck sitting on his laptop’s keyboard, looking at duck porn. Another time I found that The Duck had hung himself in my closet, complete with suicide note. (Which eventually led to the infamous Naked Yogurt Time incident, but that’s another story.)

But that was all two years ago, during my final year at Purdue, finishing my Masters’ degree. These days, several hundred miles of separation kind of makes it harder to do that sort of thing.

Anyway, upon returning from a recent business trip, I found that my checked bag had won the TSA lottery. Aside from having the mandatory “yeah, we looked in your bag, deal with it” note (I’m loosely paraphrasing here), everything seemed pretty much how I left it. However, after unloading the clothes, I noticed that the garment bag that I normally leave unused in the bottom look a bit higher than normal. I lifted it up to reposition it, and underneath I discovered…

The Duck.

I can only assume that when I visited Purdue last month, someone snuck The Duck down there when I wasn’t looking. I didn’t notice anything when unpacking from that trip, since the way the bag is shaped, there is a little space beneath where the garment bag goes. Which means The Duck spent several weeks in my luggage, in my closet, with me none the wiser, and if not for TSA it’d still be there.

I can only imagine what the TSA guy rummaging through my bag must have thought when he found The Duck in an otherwise painfully dull bag. (Clothes, shoes, more clothes, toiletries, and wait, something’s hidden down here, aha, it’s… a stuffed duck?!)

Actually, The Duck does have a funny story about that, but I’ll let The Duck tell it for himself.

[And since I couldn’t resist the pun in the filename, you can also listen to The Duck with lossless audio compression, fully capturing the richness of sound provided by the cheap little microphone that came with holly.]

Now The Duck is out of my luggage, and perched atop my backup hard drive. I told him he’s welcome to stay as long as he likes, as long as he stays away from those two pidgeons that hang out on my balcony. They’d be a bad influence on him. I mean, you can’t make a mountain out of a molehill, but you can make a mountain out of the mounds of pidgeon droppings they’ve been leaving. Seriously, it’s three-dimensional, and I can’t have The Duck pulling that sort of thing indoors.

Back in black

Last weekend I returned to Purdue for the big annual Ship of Fools / Andy Ober Orchestra show that Saturday.

Getting in to West Lafayette Saturday morning was mostly uneventful. The only thing worth noting is that apparently Indiana has diverted funds from road maintenance to violating the establishment clause on their license plates. Seriously, Indiana, World War I-era France called; they want their crater-pocked wastelands back.

Anyway, Ryan and Tripod graciously let me crash at their apartment as they did last time I had been town over a year prior. As it turned out, it was the very same apartment, a fact I somehow failed to realize until Ryan pointed out where I should park my rental car.

After unloading my bags, Ryan and Tripod set about seeing how many other Fools they could round up for lunch, during which I discovered that Tripod had become Ryan’s wacky sidekick, the Pinky to Ryan’s Brain. The efforts proved largely in vain, but we did manage to pick up Beard for lunch at the local Cracker Barrel.

After lunch, Ryan, Tripod, and I returned to their apartment and played video games for several hours with other roommate Alex and some other people. First up was Brawl, which plays a lot like Melee, especially if you’re using a Gamecube controller. Fun fact: with the exceptions of PK Flash and his physical weapons, none of Ness’s abilities are ones he actually has in EarthBound. Also, why Nintendo made Lucas a playable character when they clearly have no intention of releasing Mother 3 here, I have no idea. But at least Mr. Game & Watch’s Final Smash transformation into a giant octopus only had a characteristic two frames of animation, or things could’ve gotten ugly.

The apartment also had a MAME cabinet in the kitchen, so we started playing random games until starting a two-player game of Tetris, in which I utterly demolished all challengers. The key to victory is having grown up on an old DOS Tetris game that only had one rotate button, so I was unfazed by the arcade version’s inability to rotate in both directions. (Also, back in those days, I’d disable the piece preview, since the game would award more points for that. That’s hardcore.)

Having played video games for several hours, it was time to head on over to Matthews Hall and set up for the show. Apparently, some time after I graduated, the university decided to replace the audio controls for the room with some kind of telepathic interface, not realizing that telepathy is bunk. Or at least, that’s the only explanation I can come up with for the utter lack of any apparent non-fictional audio controls anywhere. Or maybe they took them out to make room for yet another redundant set of light switches.

Eventually it was time for the show to get under way. The Fools’ set went quite well, though the audience was kind of reluctant to volunteer to come up on stage. I ended up getting volunteered to be the audience participant in Chain Murder Mystery when nobody else did, which was fine by me. I mean, the only reason I didn’t volunteer in the first place was so as not to be an obvious ringer, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Whenever a YouTube-able form of the video becomes available, you’ll be the, let’s say, sixth to know. (Keep in mind how long I waited before putting this up, after all.)

The AOO’s subsequent performance was as good as I anticipated. The audience did continue to seem a bit lethargic, though. I wonder how much overlap these shows have in terms of audience from one year to the next, and if that has something to do with it. I’m not saying that All Of Their Music Sounds The Same, but I did notice that their new songs got a bigger reaction than anything else. (Also, I’m not sayin’ that Scorpion is the new bin Laden, I’m just sayin’.)

Also, for the record, I’m not bitter that AOO broke my old-as-dirt MP3 player, in that I tried to bootleg the performance with its record function, and at some point it locked up hard until the battery ran out, and won’t even recharge any more, let alone turn on. I was kind of looking for a new one anyway, and now I guess I’m all the more motivated to get on with it.

But I’ve still got to give it up to Andy Ober, without whose music I would never had been able to remember that π is about 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944. (Getting all the way to the Feynman point is a bit trickier.)

After the show, we formed a throng of people and crammed ourselves into Kyle’s apartment for the afterparty. Therein I learned two critical facts. First, Jamie, possibly the Fools’ biggest fan, is my willing lackey, the The Cheat to my Strong Bad. For those of you without lackeys, they are useful for tasks such as lending you their iPhone for deleting blog spam and explaining complex mathematics in terms of pie. However, they are not so good for remembering to tell you their blog’s new URL, hint hint.

Second, the powers that be have seriously dumbed down Uno by removing any traces of English from the cards, leaving even seasoned Uno players baffled as they try to interpret mysterious glyphs such as how “circle with a slash through it” is supposed to mean “skip”. It’s not as though Uno ever required deep linguistic skill, but is basic literacy really too high a bar to set? What next?

Finally, the Fools’ set at Relay for Life came, despite being delayed from 2 am to 3 am. This time I performed with them as a proper Fool, with adequate results despite not having done any improv since graduation. The show went ok considering the venue (which at least this time was indoors, so shivering was kept to a minimum), and the lack of good acoustics didn’t help much either. But the show is something of a tradition, and besides, it’s not like any of us like cancer. (And don’t think you’re getting off easy, capricorn; once we beat cancer, you’re next.)

By the time it was all over and we got back to Ryan’s and Tripod’s apartment, it was already approaching 4:30 am. Sleep == good.

In the, um, “morning”, John introduced me to Portal, a game which I would be all over right now if not for not having a platform to run it on. I managed to get up through the first (?) level where you face the adorable little gun turrets. In retrospect, my strategy of opening portals above them from which to drop weighted storage cubes was not necessarily the most efficient way to knock them over, but it was the most fun. I learned that dropping corncob pipes on them is not nearly as effective. Also, the little buggers are bulletproof. So much for my brilliant plan to position one between myself and another turret. The force of the gunfire didn’t even knock it over, since it was too close to a window (also bulletproof), keeping it propped up. Sigh.

Early in the afternoon a bunch of us headed en masse across town to the IHOP for lunch, whereat the service took entirely too long, especially given how the area we were seated in empied out shortly after we arrived. In hindsight, having driven over myself would’ve been a much better idea, since the highway was right there but I need to go back to the apartment afterwards to get the car, and time was getting to be a factor. Nevertheless, I did make it to the airport with a little time to spare, despite fate conspiring against me in the end (No paper in the receipt printer at the gas pump! Seeing the shuttle from the car rental to the airport pull away as I parked! Long security line!)

It’s a shame finances and geography prevent me from making the trip out there to see everyone again more frequently, but what little time I did have out there was great. It’s also wonderful to see the Fools still going strong long after all the first-generation members have left.


Comeback against cancer

I probably should have posted about this earlier, but I’m going to be up around Purdue this weekend for the big Ship of Fools / Andy Ober Orchestra show, and hanging around for the Ship of Fools‘ performance much later Saturday evening / Sunday morning for Relay for Life, to raise funds for against cancer.

Also, I’ll be performing a bit in that latter show.

Sorry, chess fans, but I probably won’t be doing much to advance the ongoing game while I’m there.

Trivia Question

Which member of the Ship of Fools, past or present, has a tattoo of Kurt Vonnegut‘s signature?

The answer whenever I get around to posting it.

Strange But True

It’s been a while since I posted any shocking secrets about me on here — in fact, I think it’s been almost one year exactly. And since I don’t have much of interest otherwise to be posting at the moment, here goes.

I once had fangirls.

Now, I’m not talking about scantily clad slave girls armed with large fans used solely to direct a breeze my way, preferably while sitting on some sort of gilded throne. Though now that I think about it, that doesn’t sound too bad. Hmm. The Thirteenth Amendment prohibits the “slave” part, but the rest of that would probably still be legal….

Focus. Right.

Fangirls, as in “more than one female fanboy.”

This was all several years ago, back before I had finished BSing my way through Purdue’s Computer Science program, back in the days when I was in the Ship of Fools. Of course, the fangirls in question were in regards to the latter, rather than the former. As everyone knows, there’s no such thing as a CS fangirl.

I can’t recall any other Fools ever accruing fangirls of their own. Why I have been the only one to attract some, I have no idea. I mean, if I were picking a Fool to be a fanboy of, it certainly wouldn’t be me, and not just because I don’t think the reflexive property holds for fanboyism.

Now, lest the reader become jealous of my seeming good fortune, I have another shocking revelation to make. Having fangirls isn’t nearly as great as you might think. In fact, it can get fairly creepy.

Perhaps that’s an overgeneralization; after all, I am extrapolating from a sample size of two. If you have your own experience of having fanpersons, I would be interested in hearing if yours differed significantly.

At first my fangirls (who shall remain anonymous to protect their identity and definitely not because I can’t remember their names) were relatively benign. They’d get excited and cheer whenever I was in a game. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But then they started getting disruptive when I wasn’t in a game. For instance, if I were to be tagged out during Freeze, they would complain loudly. I mean yeah, the “leave one person in the entire time” gag is funny once, but not every time. Especially when I’m that guy.

OK, you may be saying, that certainly would count as “annoying” or “obnoxious,” but “creepy”? And you’d be right, if this were the end of the story. Which it isn’t.

The creepy came into play when I went over to their apartment one night.

Now while my former fellow Fools were likely aware of the fangirls, they surely weren’t aware of this part of the story, as I have never before told this tale to anyone.

Now lest you think my intentions in going to their apartment were untoward, I assure you they were not. Not that if they had been untoward, I wouldn’t have likely been successful. I mean, come on, fangirls. But even if that had been the case, one of the other Fools (who shall also remain nameless, even though I do remember his name for the same reason as before), who was their friend and in fact was how they first started coming to our weekly meetings, came along as well.

Once inside their apartment, I began to understand that my two fangirls had a bit of an obsessive streak about them. For example, they showed off a door completely covered with wrappers from York Peppermint Patties. They also had a bit of an Angelina Jolie fixation, with one of the fangirls having an entire wall of her bedroom covered with pictures of her, with varying degrees of safe-for-work-ness.

But it was when they started showing an earnest interest in sniffing the bean bags and pillows that had come in contact with me during my visit that I officially became Weirded Out.

Eventually I was able to leave with my fellow Fool unscathed. As it turned out, shortly after that incident they transfered out of Purdue, so I didn’t see much of them after that night. Which probably was for the best, at least for avoiding any awkwardness after that experience.

The moral of the story is: fangirls are kind of creepy.

Fool Lore

For those of you who haven’t been to the SoF-pedia in a while, I recently added a few classic stories:

Naked Yogurt Time

As you may be aware, there’s a little project to set up a Ship of Fools wiki. There’s not much there yet, but it is steadily growing.

There’s an article about me up there that contains a few fun facts (though not labeled as such). There’s even a page for the classic Naked Yogurt Time story which even adheres to the dialogue format essential for telling it.

Video! Video! Video!

Remember that big Ship of Fools / Andy Ober Orchestra show back in March?

Well, a video of that improv show is now available! Now you can relive your favorite moments, or experience them for the first time if you missed it live, or print each frame on a separate piece of paper and make a giant flip book out of it, if deforestation’s your thing.

Helpful Google Video tip: a higher-quality version can be obtained by clicking the “Download” link to the right of the video. The version of the video displayed on that page is at a much lower resolution to save bandwidth.

If you’re wondering where the second half of the evening is, the one with Andy Ober Orchestra, well, the recording of that didn’t come out so well. The image is fine, but a lot of the lyrics are awfully hard to hear. If there’s enough call for it I can upload that video too, but a lot of that AOO magic is sadly lost.

[Crossposted to the main Ship of Fools website.]

For those who know anything about audio…

I’m working on encoding videos from the big Ship of Fools / Andy Ober Orchestra show this past March. The video’s coming through OK (though I’m still fiddling with mencoder’s various knobs to get a good-looking video without taking up too much disk space).

However, making the audio come out well is giving me some problems. I fear there’s no real solution to this, but I’m going to throw this out there in case someone reading this in the near future knows anything about this topic.

Here’s the situation: I have a live recording that has four basic sources of sound in it: a keyboard, an electric guitar, vocals and speech (primarily but not exclusively male), and an audience. On the recording, the instruments and audience come through quite well, but the vocals and speech are way too quiet, sometimes to the extent that they’re completely drowned out. (The imbalance was a bit of a problem live, but on the recording it’s much worse.)

I’d like to somehow remedy that, or at least ameliorate the problem, so that you can actually hear what’s being sung or said. Unfortunately, everything’s on one audio track, which means I have no simple way of adjusting a single source. Whatever I do, it has to be done on the entire audio stream.

So, is there any way to make the vocals and speech louder without distorting everything else too much? The only thing I can think of is to tweak the audio equalization to make some frequency ranges louder and others quieter. Is there a frequency range that primarily only the vocals will fall within? A little random experimentation suggests not, but this is definitely out of my area of expertise.

Or might there be some other trick I’m missing?

Of course the “proper” solution would require having recorded separate audio tracks for each instrument and vocalist, but that presupposes access to equipment we don’t (and didn’t) have access to. And it’s too late to argue about that now, since the recording’s already been made.

The recording is mostly servicable as it is, but it’s hard to fully appreciate song parodies when you can barely hear the lyrics.

I promise a free copy of the video to anyone who offers a good solution. (Pay no heed to that it’s my intention to distribute the video free to the world once I’ve got a good encoding.)

Metastasizing in Your Funny Bone

Four in the morning. It’s when sane people are asleep. But other people are crazy — crazy about fighting cancer, that is. Purdue’s Relay for Life was held last weekend to raise money for the American Cancer Society (which, despite its name, is actually against cancer).

You see, Relay for Life is an annual 24-hour event where participating groups of people walk around a track. Naturally, this gets a little boring after a while, so there’s various and sundry things to do when you yourself aren’t walking in circles.

That’s where we come in, where by “we”, I mean “the Ship of Fools“. We were slated to take the stage at 4 am to entertain the tired and sleepy participants.

Of course, before you can perform at 4 am, you have to stay awake until 4 am. Ryan secured us a study room in Hillenbrand where we could spend the pre-show night keeping each other awake. It was at this time that the rest of the group was introduced to 1000 Blank White Cards.

The way the game works is simple: you literally draw the cards you use during the game during the game. Each card has a title, a graphic, and an effect. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

One of the great things about playing 1000 Blank White Cards in a dorky, creative group like ours is that most of the cards you wind up with are awesome. It’s especially great when someone is dorky enough (John, a.k.a. Freshman, a.k.a. Tripod) to appreciate cards you draw like “Doctor Who‘s On First” or “R2-D2 v. The Daleks” (or, presumably, had we not had to adjourn before getting through the entire deck, “Babel On (Line) 5“). Which isn’t to disparage my “Stephen Colbert Gives You a Truth Enema” (tell everyone what your score is, but don’t look at the score card, because that’s facts, not truth), though sadly “Tiktaalik Attacks!” had no effect (all players originally from coastal states lose points). Stupid midwest.

Anyway, the show. Now, let me preface this by saying that this week we’ve been having some very nice weather. Last weekend, however, was freezing cold. We skipped straight from winter coat weather to T-shirt and shorts weather. Stupid midwest.

So year, middle of the night, freezing weather, performing outside. But despite that and some scheduling snafus, The Show Must Go On (TM), and we took the slippery, frost-covered stage as scheduled.

Despite those conditions and everything, the show actually went quite well. We even managed to keep ourselves down to only one off-the-cuff cancer joke (Ashley [to audience]: “GIve me something you do once a year.” Ryan: “Fight cancer!”). Overall, it was worth the shivering and demihypothermia.

The Show To End All Shows

Last Friday’s big Ship of Fools / Andy Ober Orchestra Show was fantastic. I bet all those people who went to see John Mellencamp perform at Elliott instead are regretting that decision.

The improv portion of the evening was easily the best performance we’ve ever done at Purdue. And the performance by Andy Ober Orchestra, featuring several cameos by Fools and friends-of-Fools alike, simply cannot be described in words.

Luckily, reports indicate that top men are working to put together a video of the show now. Top men. (Not to be confused with Top Man, who’s too busy spinning to be any help.)

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