December 13th, 2011

Boomer Bluth

The Incredible Tale of the Gay Robot Cops

Oh my God, you guys, please show me some love in the HOLIDAY LOVE MEME! It's been that kind

Last Sunday, I auditioned for GuyWriters' Eat Our Shorts short-play festival because I had met one of the writers. GuyWriters, as its name implies, is a group of guy writers: gay male writers writing about the gay male lifestyle. Now, that is not my lifestyle, but I am an ACT-OR! I can act or something, right? As it turns out, I can't! I felt strangely uncomfortable reading the sides, as it was apparently out of my comfort zone to pretend to find men sexually attractive. I also wasn't sure if I was, you know, acting gay enough. Was I supposed to speak in a fey voice? Most of the gay men I know don't really sound like the stereotypical gay dude, but some of the characters' dialogue felt like it was supposed to be delivered that way, yet I didn't want to be, like, offensive. Was I doing it wrong? Why did it feel so weird to me? I did my best and had some fun with it when I could, but on my way to BART, I laughed, certain that they wouldn't want to see me again, confident that my lack of confidence was apparent.

I got a callback.

So, completely bewildered, I went back on Saturday to read again. I felt more comfortable this time around, even when saying lines like "We hired a cocksucker."

Which, as it turns out, is a line I will get to say onstage in front of people because I was cast! I'm playing a character named Cliche, of all things. He and his partner tease their workout instructor at the gym, and we have a discussion about tops and bottoms, and there's also a pretty funny song. The second time I read for the character that day, the director told me he wanted me for the part, which was neat. I'm still pretty baffled because I expected to be cast as another character who seemed to be much more appropriate for me (lots of sarcastic lines), and I don't know what the director saw in me, although I did make everyone laugh, so there's that. One of the other actors there told me how funny I was; he loved the expressions I was making. So this'll be fun!

Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson, is basically World War Z with robots. It was even preceded by an instruction manual, How to Survive a Robot Uprising, which would probably be very helpful, given that Wilson has a Ph.D. in robotics.

The book details the, well, robopocalypse, as it were, from the moment that the A.I. known as Archos comes into being and decides to KILL ALL HUMANS to the end of the New War. Wilson takes a different storytelling tack than Brooks, though. While Brooks created a sprawling epic compiling dozens of different voices to give a worldwide picture of the zombie war from as many perspectives as possible, Wilson is more focused. In the beginning, however, they seem similar. Each chapter introduces a new character or characters as they describe the initial signs of the robot uprising. What isn't apparent, however, is that these are our heroes. Unlike World War Z, this book has actual characters and follows a fairly linear story. Wilson chooses to tell the story from the perspectives of key figures in the war against the robots, and it's exciting to find out the important roles they all play in humanity's survival.

On paper, I should have loved the crap out of this book, maybe even more than World War Z, but for some odd reason—especially because the audiobook for World War Z is supposed to be amazing—I think this book suffers as an audiobook, read by Mike Chamberlain. This is not to say that it's not wonderfully effective at some points, but Chamberlain's rough monotone made everything seem so goddamn serious. I mean, the book doesn't have a lot of humor at all, but hearing the words out loud seemed to make them sound incredibly overwrought at times. Like, we get it, HUMANITY! or whatever. I think I would have enjoyed it more if they were just words on a page for me to appreciate.

Yet, I did honestly want more from the book, which didn't really feel as fleshed-out and imaginative as World War Z. I never got a real sense of what society was like, what the world was doing, or what was up with the robots. For some people, that may be a plus; there's clearly a lot of story that goes on between the lines. It's definitely worth a read if you think it's up your alley. And it'll make a hell of a movie!

So for a while, I had been interested in The Resistance, a social deduction game in the vein of Werewolves and Mafia. There's a group of people connected to my East Bay theatre crowd who play Werewolves every week, and I thought they would love it. So I bought it, and for almost two weeks, I eagerly anticipated the night I would introduce them to it. Ron, leader of the pack, told me to bring it by at 8.

I showed up promptly at 8. Ron was exhausted and wasn't going to be able to stay for games. Strike one. The stand-up comedy class was still going on, so I had no idea why he had told me to come at 8. Strike two. We played We Didn't Playtest This at All, which was actually pretty fun, if ridiculous. It was almost 9:30 when the class finally let out. Strike three. I was told by a couple people that the Werewolves crowd were very resistant to change and may not want to try a new game. Strike four. There were only five or six people, which wasn't enough for Werewolves but was enough for Resistance. I explained the game. They feigned interest. Strike five. They kept calling and texting people to come play Werewolves. Few people were coming. Strike six. I suggested we play The Resistance while we wait. They wanted to keep calling and texting people to come play Werewolves. Strike seven. They started doing stand-up and improv to pass the time. Strike eight. I again suggested that we play The Resistance. No response. Strike nine.

At about 10:30, I had fucking had it. I had basically wasted two-and-a-half hours that I had expected to have been having fun playing this new game I had bought specifically to play with them. I packed up the game and left without saying a word. I heard someone call my name as I left, but I didn't care. I wasn't in any mood to play anything now.

I was pissed, and I drove like it. Now, I usually drive pretty fast on the way back from Concord because the roads are pretty empty, but I'm still pretty circumspect. I saw the shape of the police car too late, and although I immediately slowed down and hoped nothing would happen, it wasn't long before the lights were behind me. I pulled over.

The cop came over, and I put the window down. He said he pulled me over for my speed, did I know how fast I was going? Uh...70-something? 83. Oooh. Where was I coming from? Concord. What was I doing? Playing games (more like not playing games). Video games? No, social games, like Werewolves. License and registration? Sure, here you go. Insurance?

How many times had I thought, oh, I should put my new insurance card in the car? One, two, many.

He let me look for my insurance information while he searched my history for past misdeeds. I searched my glove compartment to no avail. But, but, WAIT. Could my smartphone save me? I went to the Geico mobile site and tried to make it easily display my insurance information, and it seemed to be pretty silly, BUT there was an option to e-mail my ID cards! Which I did. And then I went to my e-mail, and there was a PDF! I downloaded the PDF and opened it just in time, as the cop returned just a few moments later. I told him I couldn't find the paper, but I did have it on my phone.

"Would you look at that," he said. "This is the first time someone has actually managed to do it. They always say they can do it." He looked it over. "Well, good enough for me!" He crossed out the No Proof of Insurance citation and had me sign.

Then he asked me how to play Werewolves. Like he was genuinely curious or something. And I explained about handing out cards and trying to guess who's who and WHY WAS I EVEN HAVING THIS CONVERSATION I DIDN'T EVEN PLAY WEREWOLVES TONIGHT. I hoped maybe he would let me off with a warning for being awesome with my phone or for playing social games about lycanthropy, but that is not how the law operates, apparently.